Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

... has been cancelled due to a change in management.

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, January 20, 2017.

Washington Post: "The world’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, was extradited to the United States on Thursday night, whisked away from the country where he built an empire that delivered tons of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the world." -- CW ...

     ... New York Times Update: "While most Americans were turned toward Washington and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump..., prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn held a news conference on Friday morning detailing the charges against Mr. Guzmán, who was flown out of Mexico on Thursday afternoon and arrived that night at MacArthur Airport on Long Island.... The government’s detention memo also gave an early glimpse of the case against Mr. Guzmán. It said that prosecutors planned to call several witnesses who would testify about the staggering scope of Mr. Guzmán’s criminal enterprise: including its multi-ton shipments of drugs in planes and submersibles and its numerous killings of witnesses, law enforcement agents, public officials and rival cartel members." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

New York Times: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

Daniel Politi of Slate: "Los Angeles residents got a little surprise when they woke up on the first day of the year and realized one of the city’s most famous landmarks had been vandalized to read 'HOLLYWeeD' — at least for a few hours. Police say the vandal used tarps to change the sign’s O’s into E’s. Security cameras caught the vandal — likely a man — changing the sign between midnight and 2 a.m. but police can’t tell the person’s race or height from the footage, reports KTLA. If caught, the vandal could face a misdemeanor trespassing charge." -- CW 

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Washington Post: "The Kennedy Center Honors showcased the breadth of American music Sunday night [Dec. 4] with emotionally charged performances celebrating the gospel roots of Mavis Staples, the honeyed vocals of James Taylor and the Southern California harmonies of the Eagles. The 39th annual celebration of lifetime achievement in the performing arts also honored actor Al Pacino and pianist Martha Argerich in a three-hour party that offered a wistful goodbye to Barack and Michelle Obama, who were hosting their last Honors tribute. The sold-out audience stood and cheered for several minutes when the president and first lady were introduced."

A Night at the Opera. Los Angeles Times: "The curtain rose on Act 2 of 'The Daughter of the Regiment,' revealing the figure of a tiny woman barely visible in a large dome chair with her back to the audience. Suddenly, she swiveled around — and there was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Cheers and prolonged applause rang out from the crowd at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night even before Ginsburg, a life-long opera lover who was making her official operatic debut, opened her mouth to speak as the imperious Duchess of Krakenthorp.... Her biggest laugh came when — in apparent reference to the bogus 'birther' campaign against President Obama — she asked whether [the character] Marie could produce a birth certificate and added: 'We must take precautions against fraudulent pretenders.' Ginsburg herself wrote her dialogue, in collaboration with ... [the] dramaturge for the Washington National Opera...." -- CW 

Bruce Springsteen performs at Hillary Clinton's rally in Philadelphia, November 7:

Washington Post: "Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday evening in London, becoming the first American ever to take home the prestigious award. His satirical novel 'The Sellout' beat five other finalists for the $60,000 prize, which also essentially guarantees substantial new sales and interest around the world. Amanda Foreman, chair of the Booker judges, called 'The Sellout' 'a novel for our times. . . . Its humor disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.' Originally published last year in the United States, 'The Sellout' is an outrageously funny satire of American race relations. The protagonist, a black man whose father was killed by police, wants to reinstitute segregation in his California town. He eventually lands before the Supreme Court in a bizarre case involving slavery. 'The Sellout' also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in March." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Comic actor, movie star and America’s best friend Bill Murray tried to sum up the emotions of being honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night [Oct. 23] at the Kennedy Center. 'My theme tonight is what is it like to be beloved,' a straight-faced Murray told the crowd at the end of the two-hour salute. 'It’s hard to listen to all those people be nice to you. You just get so suspicious.'”

Hill: Actor Bill Murray "spoke with President Obama, who congratulated him for winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a White House official said. Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if he met with Murray, Obama said 'absolutely,' but didn’t reveal what else they discussed."

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Monday
Dec262016

The Commentariat -- December 26, 2016

Behold! Our Savior Is Come Again. Merry Christmas to all! Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King. -- Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee, in a public message

I did not make this up. These people are flat-out insane, not to mention sacrilegious, anti-American, hyperbolic & butt-ass ignorant. AND they control the government. Meanwhile, the Trump team (with a new spokesman after the old spokesman had to quit after two days probably on accounta some philandering) finds it "offensive" that people are questioning the new king's herald. -- Constant Weader

BTW, Trump's "Christmas greeting" was equally bizarre. At least one tweeter was relieved that Drumpf went with the raised white power fist over the Nazi salute, which I suppose he's saving for next year.

** Paul Krugman: Donald Trump is about to bring on the trade wars, and they're not going to help the chumps who voted for him. "Why would a Trump administration impose restrictions on imports? One answer is those working-class voters, whose supposed champion is set to pursue a radically antiworker domestic agenda. There's an obvious incentive for Mr. Trump to make a big show of doing something to fulfill campaign promises. And if this creates international conflict, that's actually a plus when it comes to diverting attention from collapsing health care and so on.... So what will happen when the Trump tariffs come? There will be retaliation, big time." ...

     ... CW: Even though Krugman's prognostications are always depressing, that downer is counterbalanced by the satisfaction of having a reliable MSM figure shine a bright, true light on Trump's perfidy. Few catch on to Trumpster Tricks as quickly as Krugman.

Washington Post Editors write a scathing indictment of Donald Trump's taking on Carl Icahn as an unpaid (in salary anyway) "special advisor." "If anything, this proposed status only compounds the problematic lack of an institutional check on what Mr. Icahn does when 'Donald' is president, with the power to move markets. Mr. Trump praised Mr. Icahn, extravagantly,'as someone who is innately able to predict the future especially having to do with finances and economies.' Perhaps. Neither man, however, seems able to foresee the quite obvious ethical problems they may be creating for the next administration -- and themselves." -- CW

Philip Rucker & Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump is set to inherit an uncommon number of vacancies in the federal courts in addition to the open Supreme Court seat, giving the president-elect a monumental opportunity to reshape the judiciary after taking office. The estimated 103 judicial vacancies that President Obama is expected to hand over to Trump in the Jan. 20 transition of power is nearly double the 54 openings Obama found eight years ago following George W. Bush's presidency. Confirmation of Obama's judicial nominees slowed to a crawl after Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015. Obama White House officials blame Senate Republicans for what they characterize as an unprecedented level of obstruction in blocking the Democratic president's court picks." -- CW ...

     ... CW: This is one of the most troubling realities of the coming Trump era. And the judges he picks will not care one whit about what ordinary people conceive of as "justice." Rather, they will use the law as cudgel against common fairness. Some of Trump's picks will make us fondly recall that fair-minded Scalia.

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: The Supreme Court will soon decide if you can be charged a fee for getting arrested, or for enjoying hoosegow hospitality, even if you're found not guilty or charges are dismissed. -- CW

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker on Michelle Obama's conquest of fear. ...

     ... CW: Davidson cites, without linking, a 2008 Newsweek report about Obama's "assimilaton" that was so offensive she was too polite to name the author. So I looked it up. I wasn't even a little surprised to find it was that self-righteous know-it-all prick Evan Thomas, who used to edit Newsweek. Factory workers in Milwaukee are not wrong to despise the "East Coast liberal elite media." There are far too many of the media who smell of Eau d'Evan Thomas.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Vera Rubin, an astronomer who proved the existence of dark matter, one of the fundamental principles in the study of the universe, but who battled sex discrimination throughout her career, died Dec. 25 at an assisted living facility in Princeton, N.J. She was 88.... Dr. Rubin's groundbreaking discoveries, made primarily with physicist W. Kent Ford, have revolutionized the way scientists observe, measure and understand the universe. The concept of 'dark matter,' an unknown substance among stars in distant galaxies, had existed since the 1930s, but it was not proved until Dr. Rubin's studies with Ford in the 1970s. It is considered one of the most significant and fundamental advances in astronomy during the 20th century." -- CW ...

... Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post, published hours before the announcement of Rubin's death: "... let's take a second to talk about Vera Rubin.... The Nobel Prize is not fair. Plenty of men who deserve the honor will never get that early-morning call from Stockholm, either. But someone (or sometwo or somethree) has to win it each year. It would be nice if the committee had honored a woman just once or twice in the past half-century." -- CW

New York Times: "George Michael, the creamy-voiced English songwriter who sold tens of millions of albums as a member of the duo Wham! and on his own, was found dead on Sunday at his home in Goring in Oxfordshire, England. He was 53." -- CW

Saturday
Dec242016

The Commentariat -- December 25, 2016

President & Michelle Obama celebrated Hanukkah early this year (it began at sundown December 24):

Early last week, contributor NJC shared this video with us:

...  Alexandra Rosenmann of AlterNet: "Karim Sulayman is a an Arab-American tenor and activist from Chicago. Ten days after Donald Trump was elected president, Sulayman teamed up with filmmaker Meredith Kaufman Younger for a different kind of trust test. Blindfolded outside Trump International Hotel in New York City, Sulayman held a handwritten poster board sign. It read:

Hello, my name is Karim and I am Arab-American. Like many people who are black, brown, women, LGBTQIA, Latinix, Muslim, Jewish, immigrants and Other, I am very scared. We are anxious and uneasy in our own country and it's difficult to see what lies ahead for us. But, I have hope that I am safe with you. Together, we can build a community of caring, rather than one of fear. You can trust me to care for you no matter who you are, what you look like, or where you are from. Will you embrace me as willingly as I embrace you? Will you shake my hand and/or hug me and/or take a photo with me and post it as a sign that I am safe here with you? I trust you.

CW: Here is Sulayman working his regular job:

Hearing Monteverdi's simple tune here reminded me of his more complex Vespers, or Magnificat. It turns out Sulayman has performed Monteverdi's Magnificat, too:

... The text of the Magnifcat comes from the Gospel of Luke (1:46-55) and is spoken by Mary:

My soul doth magnify the Lord: and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded: the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth: all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him: throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel: as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.

This is, of course, a Jewish poem, which the author of the Gospel borrowed from the Old Testament Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10) and other earlier Jewish writings. What strikes me about the Magnificat is its repudiation of All Things Confederate: The God of Israel glorifies women, most particularly the "lowliest" women; he exalts the meek; he feeds the hungry. God despises the proud, the powerful, the rich -- the Trumps. Much of the Bible, Old Testament and New, is a political reaction to oppression, a revolutionary manifesto against systemic corruption and abuse of power. This is the true core of our Judeo-Christian heritage, a core that the hypocrites who "sound their trumpets before them" have lost or rejected.

Donald Trump may invoke a phony culture war and insist that we all say "Merry Christmas," but the religion he pretends to defend in fact casts him as an agent of evil. The true keepers of the Judeo-Christian tradition are the humble, the poor and the powerless. They are the Drifters, who had to pay to record "White Christmas" (see below), the needy women who seek health care at Planned Parenthood clinics, the Arab-American who stands blindfolded in the street.

*****


Here's a Christmas miracle. Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" can be made to sound even worse than the original:

... Thanks, Obama!

Meanwhile, here in Florida ...,

... An earlier recording:

*****

CW: Even as I am enjoying the sounds of gunshots fired in celebration the birth of the Baby Jesus (I'm not kidding -- apparently it's a cultural thing), reporters are otherwise occupied, obliging me to compile a review of the news. It will be short, which does not mean I have been shot during the festivities.

Megan Twohey, et al., of the New York Times: "With extensive entanglements around the world, many packaged in a network of licensing agreements and limited liability companies, the Trump Organization poses a raft of potential conflicts of interest for a president-elect who has long exerted such control over his company that, as he told The New York Times in a recent interview, he is the one who signs the checks.... Mr. Trump -- owner of all but the smallest sliver of the privately held company -- has said that, while the law does not require it, he is formulating plans to remove himself and his older daughter, Ivanka, from the company's operations. (Ms. Trump's husband, Jared Kushner, is likely to have a role in the White House.)... People involved in the planning have said that Mr. Trump intends to keep a stake in the business. But in recent weeks, amid rising pressure, Mr. Trump and his advisers have been intensely debating further measures." -- CW

Cristiano Lima of Politico: "... Donald Trump claimed Saturday that NBC News 'purposely' misquoted his call for an expansion of the U.S. nuclear program earlier this week, despite reports to the contrary. Trump on Thursday said the United States 'must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.' Saturday he accused NBC of intentionally leaving out the latter, more measure portion of his statements. '.@NBCNews purposely left out this part of my nuclear qoute: "until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." Dishonest!' the president-elect tweeted Saturday afternoon.... NBC News' initial report covering Trump's comments on nuclear expansion, however, cited his comments in full. And the Thursday broadcast of NBC's 'Nightly News with Lester Holt' displayed his comments in their entirety." -- CW

Eric Schlosser, in the New Yorker: "Today, the odds of a nuclear war being started by mistake are low — and yet the risk is growing, as the United States and Russia drift toward a new cold war." Schlosser details one chilling account after another of what already did happen during the Cold War. -- CW

Yastreblyansky Explains TrumpSpeak to Very Serious People: "People need to start understanding that what Trump says ... is to be taken neither literally nor seriously; you should assume that whatever he says is meant not to convey a denotative meaning but a picture of how he'd like to be regarded; he's trying to give you his impression of what a Real Leader looks and sounds like, and as with Sid Caesar's bogus German, the meaning, if there is any, is just for laughs.... He's pure emotion, and his emotions succeed each other pretty swiftly. Policy in the Trump administration, to the extent he himself has any influence on it, is going to be arbitrary." -- CW

Rich Schapiro of the New York Daily News: "Donald Trump's inner circle was thrown into turmoil Saturday when his newly-named White House communications director resigned after a transition team staffer posted cryptic tweets suggesting he's a philanderer. Jason Miller announced that he won't be joining the Trump administration just two days after he was tapped to lead the White House communications team. Miller said in a statement that he wanted to spend more time with his family.... AJ Delgado, a senior advisor in Trump's transition team, posted several tweets hinting that Miller was at the center of a sex scandal.... Delgado later deleted her Twitter account." ...

     ... CW: Other news organizations that have reported on Miller's resignation have not cited the Delgado allegations.

'Tis the Season. Today in Holiday Recriminations:

     Bloomberg News in the Washington Post: House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and his Republican lieutenants want to hit fellow lawmakers with fines and potential ethics violations if they engage in live-streaming or other disruptions on the House floor. The move is a belated response to this summer's 25-hour sit-in by Democrats protesting Republican inaction on gun-control legislation. Under the proposed new rules package, which was seen by Bloomberg News, members could face a $500 fine through deductions to their paychecks for a first offense of using electronic photography or audio or visual recording, as well as for broadcasting from the chamber's floor. A $2,500 fine would be leveled for the next such offense and each subsequent violation." -- CW

     Ruth Eglash of the Washington Post: "Israel summoned to Jerusalem on Sunday, Christmas Day, ambassadors representing countries that voted in favor of a U.N. Security Council resolution that harshly criticizes Israeli settlement activity, calling them an obstacle to peace. Ambassadors of four of the five permanent Security Council members -- the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia -- as well as nonpermanent members with diplomatic relations with Israel -- Egypt, Japan, New Zealand, Uruguay, Ukraine and Spain — were issued a sharp reprimand by Israeli Foreign Ministry officials.... The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, was not summoned to Jerusalem because the United States did not vote in favor of the resolution, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said." -- CW


... By Contrast.... Joanna Walters
of the Guardian: "From smaller local organizations to household names such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, nonprofit organizations across the US reported fundraising tallies many magnitudes higher than in previous years as they approached their end-of-year donation drives.... Progressive causes in the US saw a spike in donations immediately after the election on 8 November from voters dismayed, outraged or even frightened by the outcome. In the weeks since, this wave of strategic giving has compounded." -- CW

Kirk Johnson of the New York Times: "... in one of the coldest parts of the coldest state, there is an only-in-Alaska pollution story: At about minus 20 Fahrenheit -- a fairly regular occurrence here in winter -- smoke that goes up comes right back down, to linger at ground level and, therefore, lung level. The average from 2013 to 2015 for dangerous small-particle pollution, called PM 2.5, which can be deeply inhaled into the lungs, was by far the highest in the nation in North Pole, just southeast of Fairbanks, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency." ...

     ... CW: Contrast Alaska with Burlington, Vermont, a sustainable-energy city (see yesterday's Commentariat), to see the difference between confederate & liberal government -- it's a difference of life and death.

Katie Thomas & Reed Abelson of the New York Times: "The American Kidney Fund is one of the largest charities in the country, with an annual budget of over $250 million. Its marquee program helps pay insurance premiums for thousands of people who need dialysis, a lifesaving and expensive treatment for kidney failure.... Under an agreement with the federal government, the Kidney Fund must distribute the aid based on a patient's financial need. But the charity has resisted giving aid to patients at clinics that do not donate money to the fund, an investigation by The New York Times has found.... The agreement governing the relationship between the group and the companies forbids choosing patients based on their clinic.... The findings also add to a list of concerns about the group's relationship with the dialysis industry." -- CW

News Lede

New York Times: "All 92 people on board a Russian military aircraft, including members of a famed military choir bound for Syria to entertain Russian forces there, are believed to have died when their plane crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday after takeoff, the authorities said." -- CW

Friday
Dec232016

The Commentariat -- December 24, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Eric Lipton & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Realizing that his presidency could face potentially crippling questions over conflicts of interest, Donald J. Trump and his family are rushing to resolve potential controversies -- like shuttering foundations and terminating development deals -- even as [Trump] ... publicly maintains that no legal conflicts exist. In recent days, [Trump] and his aides have said that he intends to distribute the assets of his personal charity and then close it down, has examined a plan to hire an outside monitor to oversee the Trump Organization and has terminated CW

Russell Goldman of the New York Times: "The Tunisian authorities have arrested three men 'linked to the perpetrator of the terrorist attack' at a Berlin Christmas market, including the suspect's nephew, the government said in a statement on Saturday. The three men, whose ages ranged from 18 to 27, were arrested on Friday. They were described as members of a 'cell' that had been in contact with the suspect, Anis Amri, 24, a Tunisian citizen accused of killing 12 people on Monday when he plowed a stolen truck into a crowd of holiday shoppers." -- CW

Dancing Girls! Kristine Guerra of the Washington Post: "The Radio City Rockettes will be performing at ... Donald Trump's inauguration, but its members will not be forced to do so, Madison Square Garden Co., which employs the dancers, said in a statement after concerns and calls for a boycott surfaced on social media. The company said on Thursday that the dance group will participate in inauguration festivities next month. The announcement prompted some, including one of the dancers, to voice their concerns on social media. Phoebe Pearl said in a now-deleted Instagram post that she's 'embarrassed and disappointed' by the gig, according to media reports." -- CW

Colin Woodard in Politico Magazine: Burlington, Vermont, is the nation's first all-renewable-energy city. CW: You may remember a certain former mayor of Burlington.

*****

Somini Sengupta & Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "Defying extraordinary pressure from ... Donald J. Trump and furious lobbying by Israel, the Obama administration on Friday allowed the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction. The administration's decision not to veto the measure broke a longstanding American policy of serving as Israel's sturdiest diplomatic shield at the United Nations.... Applause broke out in the 15-member Security Council's chambers following the vote on the measure, which passed 14-0, with the United States abstaining." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Mr. Obama's decision on Friday not to block a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements laid bare all the grievances [he & Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu] have nursed since shortly after they took office in 2009. For Mr. Netanyahu, it was the final betrayal by a president who was supposed to be an ally but never really was. For Mr. Obama, it was the inevitable result of Mr. Netanyahu's own stubborn defiance of international concerns with his policies." -- CW ...

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "... with Mr. Trump staking out starkly different positions from Mr. Obama on Israel and other sensitive issues, and the president acting aggressively to protect his legacy, the two have become leaders of what amounts to dueling administrations.... The split widened on Friday when the Obama administration abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote that condemned Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.... A day earlier, Mr. Trump had publicly demanded that Mr. Obama veto the measure, even intervening with Egypt at the request of Israel to pressure the administration to shelve the effort. 'As to the U.N.,' Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter after the vote, 'things will be different after Jan. 20.' It was the latest in a rapid-fire series of Twitter posts and public statements over the last week in which Mr. Trump has weighed in on Israel, terrorism and nuclear proliferation -- contradicting Mr. Obama and flouting the notion that the country can have only one president at a time." -- CW ...

     ... See also comments in today's thread. ...

... Uri Friedman of the Atlantic: "America has two presidents.... Donald Trump has involved himself in international affairs like no U.S. president-elect in recent memory.... [Trump's contradicting the Obama administration & general interference] have created such confusion in recent weeks that Jared Huffman, a Democratic congressman from California, has introduced legislation to amend the 1799 Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized private citizens from conducting U.S. foreign policy. Huffman wants to clarify that the law applies to presidents-elect...." -- CW

Major Kong Learning to Love the Bomb. Michael Shear of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump on Friday welcomed a new nuclear weapons arms race, vowing in an off-camera interview with a television host that America would 'outmatch' any adversary. The comment came one day after he said in a post on Twitter that the United States should 'strengthen and expand' its own nuclear capabilities.... [Trump] escalated his comments about nuclear weapons with the show of bravado during a brief, off-air telephone conversation from his estate in Florida, according to Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' program." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Trump Staff to Media: He Doesn't Mean What He Says. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: Trump's staff repeatedly pushes back against his threats to re-start a nuclear arms race. CW: The spokespeople are pretty much saying the boss in bananas. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Max Fisher of the New York Times: "If ... Donald J. Trump meant what he said, then the world may one day look back to recall that the first superpower nuclear arms race since the Cold War was announced by two pajama-clad talk show hosts. 'Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,' Mika Brzezinski, of MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' program, said on Friday. She and her co-host, curled up in holiday-themed nightwear in front of a fake fireplace, said the quote was a statement from Mr. Trump, elaborating on a Twitter message on nuclear weapons. Mr. Trump has a history of bluster and his declarations may turn out to be bluffs. But should he follow through on instigating a nuclear arms race, the consequences could be severe." -- CW ...

... CW: I think as Congressional Republicans sit around their own fake fireplaces this holiday season & contemplate Trump's threat to nuclear disarmament, it will begin to dawn on them that they have to dump Drumpf sooner rather than later. That of course means President Mike Pence, which is yet another horrifying thought. ...

... Paul Waldman: "When liberals joked during the campaign that if Donald Trump became president we might all be consumed in a nuclear apocalypse, many people considered it absurd hyperbole. They may have felt the same way about Democrats' regular criticism that someone as impulsive and vindictive as Trump shouldn't be allowed near the nuclear codes.... Trump ... seems to believe that a situation like the one we have with Russia now -- long-term nuclear stability created by mutual deterrence -- is unacceptable, probably because we're not 'winning.'... He also has a deep-seated need to display dominance.... That kind of mentality is obviously dangerous when combined with the power to initiate a nuclear cataclysm.... One thing he can do quickly and on his own is make sure that we're all living in a world of fear, where our thoughts are regularly taken over not just by the specter of terrorism, but now by nuclear holocaust as well.... And that's probably just how he wants it." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Not as Crazy as Drumpf. Neil MacFarquhar & Ivan Nechepurenko of the New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Friday that a statement by Donald J. Trump, the American president-elect, that the United States should expand its nuclear capabilities was not a surprise because he had said the same thing during the election campaign. Asked about the American election, Mr. Putin, who has made no secret of his distaste for Hillary Clinton, said her defeat was a 'humiliation' for the Democratic Party. The Russian president, speaking at his annual marathon news conference, also said that Russia would continue to modernize its armed forces, including nuclear weapons, but he added that the level of spending would diminish somewhat in coming years." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update. Brook Seipel of the Hill: "Trump tweeted his praise for Russian president Vladimir Putin's criticism of Hillary Clinton Friday night, agreeing with a statement he [Putin] made earlier in the day that it was 'humiliating' Democrats did not 'lose with dignity.'... It was not the first time Friday that Trump praised Putin. Earlier in the day ... [Trump] shared a Christmas letter the Russian president sent him. 'A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct,' Trump said in a statement. 'I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path.'" -- CW ...

... In Like Flynn -- With the KGB. Jerry Markon of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump's nominee for national security adviser partnered in recent months with a technology company co-led by a businessman who pleaded guilty to trying to sell stolen scientific material in the 1980s to the KGB, the former Soviet intelligence service. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn joined the advisory board of Brainwave Science in February, company documents show. The Massachusetts firm develops controversial 'brain fingerprinting' technology designed to assess whether people under interrogation are being truthful by measuring their brain waves. The firm offers training in how to use the technology, in partnership with Flynn's consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, according to Brainwave's website." -- CW

Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "The Hateful Racism of Team Trump. Carl Paladino, a former Republican nominee for governor of New York and an adviser to [Donald] Trump, included the death of President Obama and 'return' of first lady Michelle Obama to Africa on his list of things he wanted for 2017. Paladino was responding to a survey by an alternative weekly magazine, Artvoice. Asked what he would like to happen in 2017, he said he hopes that 'Obama catches mad cow disease' and dies after having relations with a Hereford, a type of cow. Asked what he would most like to see go, Paladino responded that Michelle Obama would 'return to being male' and be 'let loose' in Zimbabwe.... In a statement to The Post, Paladino denied that the comments were racist." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update: Okay, the "Trump team" is not as racist as the New York co-chair of Trump's campaign. Brian Flood of the Wrap: "... Donald Trump's transition team has denounced comments made by campaign surrogate Carl Paladino, who recently wished death on President Obama and made crude comments about the First Lady. 'Carl's comments are absolutely reprehensible, and they serve no place in our public discourse,' the transition team said in a statement." -- CW ...

... What We've Come to. Emma Brown of the Washington Post: "In the wake of the presidential election, dozens of the best teachers in the nation have banded together to say with a unified voice that public schools are valuable and that they must be safe places for students of every background, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation and gender identity.... The 44 teachers are all state teacher of the year award recipients. They said they were moved to speak out after a rash of troubling bullying incidents -- at their own schools, in some cases, and in news reports nationwide -- following Donald Trump's presidential election victory on Nov. 8." CW: These brave teachers are on the front lines of the resistance to Trumpism. They deserve our thanks. ...

Michelle Goldberg of Slate on lessons learned from Planned Parenthood focus groups that concentrated on Trump voters. CW: Worth reading. Here's what I learned -- Trump voters aren't all racists & misogynists. A lot of them are just woefully ignorant. Part of the reason that's so is that Hillary Clinton ran a lousy campaign, seldom mentioning Trump's horrible policies. Even so, it's difficult to run an effective one if you're committed to something approaching "reality-based" campaigning & every word your opponent utters is a lie. That's a problem for Democrats in most races because Republicans lie incessantly. They have to; their policies suck.

News Lede

New York Times: "Marion Pritchard, a gentile whose shock at watching Nazi soldiers storm a home for Jewish children in Amsterdam and load them into a truck for deportation inspired her to enter a clandestine world of rescuing Jews, died on Dec. 11 at her home in Washington. She was 96. The cause was cerebral arteriosclerosis, her family said. 'By 1945, I had lied, stolen, cheated, deceived and even killed,' Ms. Pritchard said in a lecture in 1996 at the University of Michigan, where she received the Wallenberg Medal, a humanitarian award given by the university in memory of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who rescued tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II." -- CW

Friday
Dec232016

The Commentariat -- December 23, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Somini Sengupta & Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "Defying extraordinary pressure from ... Donald J. Trump and furious lobbying by Israel, the Obama administration on Friday allowed the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction. The administration&'s decision not to veto the measure broke a longstanding American policy of serving as Israel's sturdiest diplomatic shield at the United Nations.... Applause broke out in the 15-member Security Council's chambers following the vote on the measure, which passed 14-0, with the United States abstaining." -- CW

Major Kong Learning to Love the Bomb. Michael Shear of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump on Friday welcomed a new nuclear weapons arms race, vowing in an off-camera interview with a television host that America would 'outmatch' any adversary. The comment came one day after he said in a post on Twitter that the United States should 'strengthen and expand' its own nuclear capabilities.... [Trump] escalated his comments about nuclear weapons with the show of bravado during a brief, off-air telephone conversation from his estate in Florida, according to Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' program." -- CW ...

... Trump Staff to Media: He Doesn't Mean What He Says. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: Trump's staff repeatedly pushes back against his threats to re-start a nuclear arms race. CW: The spokespeople are pretty much saying the boss in bananas. ...

... Paul Waldman: "When liberals joked during the campaign that if Donald Trump became president we might all be consumed in a nuclear apocalypse, many people considered it absurd hyperbole. They may have felt the same way about Democrats' regular criticism that someone as impulsive and vindictive as Trump shouldn't be allowed near the nuclear codes.... Trump ... seems to believe that a situation like the one we have with Russia now -- long-term nuclear stability created by mutual deterrence -- is unacceptable, probably because we're not 'winning.'... He also has a deep-seated need to display dominance.... That kind of mentality is obviously dangerous when combined with the power to initiate a nuclear cataclysm.... One thing he can do quickly and on his own is make sure that we're all living in a world of fear, where our thoughts are regularly taken over not just by the specter of terrorism, but now by nuclear holocaust as well.... And that's probably just how he wants it." -- CW ...

Not as Crazy as Drumpf. Neil MacFarquhar & Ivan Nechepurenko of the New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Friday that a statement by Donald J. Trump, the American president-elect, that the United States should expand its nuclear capabilities was not a surprise because he had said the same thing during the election campaign. Asked about the American election, Mr. Putin, who has made no secret of his distaste for Hillary Clinton, said her defeat was a 'humiliation' for the Democratic Party. The Russian president, speaking at his annual marathon news conference, also said that Russia would continue to modernize its armed forces, including nuclear weapons, but he added that the level of spending would diminish somewhat in coming years." -- CW

The Hateful Racism of Team Trump. Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "Carl Paladino, a former Republican nominee for governor of New York and an adviser to [Donald] Trump, included the death of President Obama and 'return' of first lady Michelle Obama to Africa on his list of things he wanted for 2017. Paladino was responding to a survey by an alternative weekly magazine, Artvoice. Asked what he would like to happen in 2017, he said he hopes that 'Obama catches mad cow disease' and dies after having relations with a Hereford, a type of cow. Asked what he would most like to see go, Paladino responded that Michelle Obama would 'return to being male' and be 'let loose' in Zimbabwe.... In a statement to The Post, Paladino denied that the comments were racist." -- CW

*****

** Man about to Get U.S. Nuclear Codes Tweets a Threat of Nuclear War. Michael Shear & James Glanz of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump said on Thursday that the United States should greatly 'expand its nuclear capability,' appearing to suggest an end to decades of efforts by presidents of both parties to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in American defenses and strategy.Mr. Trump's statement, in a midafternoon Twitter post, may have been a response to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who in a speech to his military's leadership in Moscow earlier on Thursday vowed to strengthen Russia's nuclear missiles. Mr. Putin said nuclear forces needed to be bolstered so they could 'reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems,' apparently a reference to the Pentagon's efforts to develop systems capable of shooting down nuclear-armed rockets.... The vagueness of Mr. Trump's posting made it difficult to assess its possible impact on American foreign policy, and further illustrated the potential dangers in setting policy, especially on such grave matters, in Twitter bursts and offhand remarks." (Emphasis added.) --CW ...

... Missy Ryan & Aaron Gregg of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump piled on fresh criticism of the Pentagon's most sophisticated aircraft on Thursday, suggesting that he might abandon the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in favor of a cheaper plane because of the F-35's high costs. In a message on Twitter, Trump said that cost overruns in Lockheed Martin's $400 billion program to develop the stealth jet had prompted him to ask Boeing, another major aircraft manufacturer, to 'price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet.'... Lockheed shares fell 2 percent in after-hours trading, wiping out about $1.5 billion in shareholder value, while Boeing rose 0.67 percent immediately following ... [Trump's] tweet." ...

... Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "Before lunchtime Thursday..., Donald Trump said he would expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal, upending a reduction course set by presidents of both parties over the past four decades, and called for the United States to veto a pending U.N. resolution that criticized Israel's settlements policy. The policy prescriptions, communicated in morning tweets, followed calls since last month's election to reconsider the arms-length U.S. relationship with Taiwan and to let China keep an underwater U.S. vessel seized by its navy. Trump declared within hours of this week's Berlin terrorist attack that it was part of a global Islamic State campaign to 'slaughter Christians' and later said it reaffirmed the wisdom of his plans to bar Muslim immigrants. Late Thursday, Trump suggested in another tweet that the U.S. military's years-in-the-making plans for a new stealth fighter, Lockheed Martin's F-35, might be reconsidered.... [Trump's] pronouncements have privately riled a White House that has repeatedly insisted in public that the transition has been smooth sailing.... Even as the White House has held its tongue, however, others have not." -- CW ...

... Abby Phillip & Abigail Hauslohner of the Washington Post: "Weeks before he is sworn in as president, Donald Trump and his advisers are issuing conflicting statements about the status of a signature tenet of his candidacy: restrictions on Muslims entering the United States.... In the past 12 months, Trump has veered widely on the issue.... The public back-and-forth reflects the degree to which Trump's aides have struggled to reshape his initial pronouncement into something more palatable to the public than an all-out ban on a religion. And it highlights Trump's propensity to double down on his original statements even as his advisers seek to shift the focus to other issues." -- CW ...

... Obama Heads off Trump. Dara Lind of Vox: "For nine years, from 2002 to 2011, a version of one of Donald Trump's most extreme proposals was standard US government policy: requiring certain people in the US on visas from Muslim-majority countries to register with the government. President Barack Obama suspended the program in 2011.... But it had never been fully dismantled -- it was still sitting around for the Trump administration to dust off. Until now. On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security published a regulation that would totally get rid of the National Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) -- forcing the Trump administration to take the time to create something new, and giving civil rights groups an opportunity to stop them." -- CW

Patricia Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Federal ethics experts for former Democratic and Republican administrations warned Thursday that ... Donald Trump is creating a major conflict of interest by allowing his Virginia vineyard to seek special temporary visas for foreign workers.... Trump Vineyard Estates LLC filed a request Dec. 2 with the Labor Department for six H2 visas, which permit U.S. employers to hire foreigners for seasonal jobs such as pruning grapevines, which is what the request said.... Although Trump, during a campaign event in May said of the winery, 'I own it 100 percent, no mortgage, no debt,' the winery's website says it is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC and is 'not owned, managed or affiliated with Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their affiliates.' Eric Trump ... is part of his father's transition team and has been sitting in on meetings that his father has held with high-level technology leaders and others. The winery, however, is on land owned by Trump Vineyard Estates LLC. Trump reported in his campaign's federally required financial disclosure statement in May 2016 that he was president of that entity." CW: Trump lied??? Quelle surprise.

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "Some of ... Donald J. Trump's most prominent cabinet nominees -- with their millions in assets and complex business arrangements -- are moving unusually slowly through the government's arduous financial disclosure examinations, threatening the quick start promised for the new administration and raising Democratic concerns that their confirmations could short-circuit customary ethical safeguards. On Thursday, the ranking Democrats on all 16 Senate committees released a joint statement saying they would block confirmation votes until each nominee of Mr. Trump had cleared an F.B.I. background check, completed a financial disclosure statement and ethics agreement approved by the federal Office of Government Ethics, and 'satisfied reasonable requests for additional information.' Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, that panel's ranking Democrat, engaged in a public spat over Mr. Cardin's request for three years of tax returns from Exxon Mobil's chief executive, Rex Tillerson, who has been picked to be the next secretary of state." -- CW

Now This Is a Real Witch Hunt. Josh Rogin of the Washington Post: "The Trump transition team instructed the State Department to turn over all information Wednesday about 'gender-related staffing, programming, and funding,' setting off alarm bells among those who fear that the new administration is going to purge programs that promote women's equality along with the people who work on them. Only a week after being embroiled in a controversy over collecting information on Energy Department climate change officials, the Trump team seems to be at it again. On Wednesday morning, the State Department leadership sent out what's called a 'Flash Transition Tasker' to a long list of offices and bureaus. This official request mandated that all State Department offices provide to the Trump team by 5 p.m. Wednesday full reports on the positions and programs at the State Department dedicated to promoting a range of women's and gender issues around the world." -- CW

Paul Krugman: "... the movement that's about to take power here isn't the same as Europe's far-right movements. It may share their racism and contempt for democracy; but European populism is at least partly real, while Trumpist populism is turning out to be entirely fake, a scam sold to working-class voters who are in for a rude awakening. Will the new regime pay a political price?... This epic bait-and-switch, this betrayal of supporters, certainly offers Democrats a political opportunity. But you know that there will be huge efforts to shift the blame.... Opponents need to do all they can to defeat such strategies of distraction. Above all, they shouldn't let themselves be sucked into cooperation that leaves them sharing part of the blame. The perpetrators of this scam should be forced to own it." -- CW ...

... The Swampiest. Paul Waldman: "... Trump is making the swamp about a hundred times swampier. You thought Washington was corrupt before? Well just you wait. Trump has appointed a cabinet full of multimillionaires and billionaires (and guys from Goldman Sachs), his D.C. hotel is strongly encouraging (wink, wink) foreign dignitaries to stay there, he's holding on to a web of businesses that will allow people to keep putting money in his pocket as long as he's president, his sons tried to sell access to him and themselves for $1 million a pop, and his inaugural committee is still selling access to policymakers -- just to mention a few of the ways the swamp seems remarkably intact." -- CW ...

... BUT It Will Be a Handsome, Clean-Shaven Swamp. Philip Rucker & Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post on Trump's "casting-call" method of choosing nominees for top posts: "Several of Trump's associates said they thought that John R. Bolton's brush-like mustache was one of the factors that handicapped the bombastic former United Nations ambassador in the sweepstakes for secretary of state. 'Donald was not going to like that mustache,' said one associate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly. 'I can't think of anyone that's really close to Donald that has a beard that he likes.' Trump was drawn to [Rex] Tillerson and 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney for secretary of state because of their presence and the way they command a room when they walk in." -- CW ...

     ... AND Tall. According to the Daily Caller, the best news source on the Internets, Trump thought Sen. Bob Corker (R.-Tenn.) had the smarts, but was way too short to be secretary of state. Also, too, the transition team was concerned Corker had some conflicts-of-interest. Because Rex Tillerson doesn't? Because Donald Trump doesn't? Etc. ...

... Adele Stan of the American Prospect: "As horrendous as is the white nationalist rhetoric that helped Trump enough of a constituency to tilt the electoral map in his favor -- even as the emails of highly placed Democrats, apparently hacked by Russia and dumped into the media stream via WikiLeaks put the damper on Democratic turnout -- the hate-peddling is the sideshow designed to distract the populace from the real act, which is the diversion of the nation's assets in the service of financial flows between the private capitalists of the United States and the oligarchs of the world -- especially those of Russia." -- CW ...

... Suckers Will Always Be Suckers. Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Democratic policies probably would help the white working class. But the white working class doesn't seem to buy that they're the ones who'd really benefit. Across rural America, the Rust Belt, Coal Country and other hotbeds of Trumpism, voters have repeatedly expressed frustration that the lazy and less deserving are getting a bigger chunk of government cheese.... We've known for a long time ... that Americans (A) generally associate government spending with undeserving, nonworking, nonwhite people; and (B) are really bad at recognizing when they personally benefit from government programs." -- CW ...

... Tim Egan: "As we say goodbye to a dreadful year..., Democrats should not forget that they have the majority on their side on almost every major issue. It's time they got reacquainted with the millions of other people who make up that majority." -- CW

A Divider, Not a Uniter. Ron Brownstein of the Atlantic: "... through his tumultuous transition, Trump has made little attempt at national reconciliation. At his post-election rallies, he has continued to launch sweeping denunciations of the news media; he's regularly directed disparaging tweets toward voices critical of him (an Indiana union leader, Bill Clinton, the cast of Broadway's Hamilton) and belittled the intelligence community's conclusions about Russian hacking; he's made the inflammatory and unfounded accusation that 'millions of people ... voted illegally'; and he's claimed 'a historic electoral landslide victory' -- even though his electoral college margin ranked in the bottom fourth of elections to date, and even though he lost the popular vote by more votes than any winner ever. In short, in tone and temperament, the distance between Trump the president-elect and Trump the presidential candidate has been vanishingly small." -- CW

Jill Filipovic in Cosmopolitan: "For women around the world, a Donald Trump/Mike Pence administration spells a policy of active hostility to reproductive rights and using U.S. dollars to hold other countries hostage to American abortion politics. For women who aren't American and who had no say in this election, Trump and Pence are going to have an awful lot of influence over their futures -- and it's not going to be good. Some of them likely won't live through it." Via Paul Waldman. -- CW

Four out of Five Dictators and Their Families Choose Trump! Adam Edelman of the New York Daily News. "Saddam Hussein's daughter praised ... Donald Trump Thursday as a leader with a 'high level of political sensibility. This man has just arrived to the leadership ... But from what is apparent, this man has a high level of political sensibility, that is vastly different than the one who preceded him,' Raghad Saddam Hussein, the daughter of the late Iraqi dictator, told CNN. 'He exposed the mistakes of the others, specifically in terms of Iraq, which means he is very aware of the mistakes made in Iraq and what happened to my father,' she said, apparently returning compliments Trump has offered her late father in recent months." -- Akhilleus (Also linked yesterday.)

TMZ: "Ivanka [Trump] was on a JetBlue flight leaving JFK Thursday morning with her family when a passenger started screaming, 'Your father is ruining the country.' The guy went on, 'Why is she on our flight? She should be flying private.' JetBlue personnel removed the passenger from the flight. CW: I'd guess Ivanka won't be flying JetBlue coach any more.

Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "Vice President Biden believes Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election in part because she never figured why she was running for the nation's highest office. 'I don't think she ever really figured it out,' Biden told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Thursday." -- CW ...

I was trying to be as tactful as I could in making it clear that I thought we constantly made a mistake of not speaking to the fears, aspirations, concerns of middle class people. -- Joe Biden, to the L.A. Times

... The L.A. Times interview, by Michael Memoli, is here. CW: Biden's insights are useful, but it's also useful to remember that Biden himself was an ineffective presidential candidate. He dropped out of the 2008 race early on, when, as I recall, his poll numbers in a crowded field were at about 4 percent. far behind Clinton's. It not too surprising that his advice to the Clinton campaign received a perfunctory, "Thank you, Mr. Vice President."

Drew Harwell & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "German financial giant Deutsche Bank said it will pay $7.2 billion to settle a landmark mortgage-abuse case with the Department of Justice. If approved, the proposed settlement could help dampen concern about a conflict facing ... Donald Trump, whose businesses have borrowed more than $300 million from the troubled German bank. The settlement, which the bank announced late Thursday, follows a months-long Justice Department investigation into Deutsche mortgage-securities abuses at the dawn of the financial crisis. The bank will pay roughly half what the department had suggested for a penalty earlier this year." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The Florida Supreme Court said Thursday that some death-row prisoners there may be able to seek new sentences, a decision that could impact hundreds of inmates and ends months of uncertainty surrounding capital punishment in one of the country's leading death penalty states. While the court's ruling means that many inmates could potentially avoid execution, many others on the state's death row -- the second-largest in the country, trailing only California -- were deemed ineligible for this resentencing in a separate ruling Thursday. The decisions Thursday, along with doubt that has suffused Florida's death penalty for most of this year, stemmed from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January striking down the state's death sentencing scheme as unconstitutional." -- CW

First They Came for the Muslims, Now They've Come for the Jews.... Esme Crib of TPM: "A Jewish family has temporarily left its Lancaster County, Pennsylvania home, citing fear of retribution after coming under fire from conservative news outlets that blamed it for the cancellation of an elementary school production of 'A Christmas Carol.'... Fox News, which painted the incident as part of a larger 'war on Christmas' narrative in a column that blared 'SCROOGE!', and Breitbart both ran stories over the weekend about the cancellation. Both Fox News' and Breitbart's articles cited parents who claimed to a local news station that the cancellation was the result of two unnamed parents' complaints about a single line in the play: 'God bless us, every one.' The Hempsfield School District said in a statement that ... the play was 'absolutely not' canceled because of complaints about the 'God bless us' line and "had nothing to do with a religious concern.... 'It became clear that the teachers had concerns about committing roughly 20 hours of instructional time to something that is not part of the fifth grade curriculum.'" ...

     ... CW: Don't kid yourselves. It may be Roman Catholics next. As Akhilleus noted yesterday, when he told some red-state rednecks he had been reared Catholic, they accused him of "not being a Christian," & Trump has picked a fight with Pope Francis. Nontheists & agnostics? We don't stand a chance.

Way Beyond

Alison Smale, et al., of the New York Times: "... Anis Amri, who turned 24 on Thursday, was able to ignore deportation orders and brushes with the law, roaming freely until he apparently hijacked a truck and rammed it into a Christmas market in Berlin this week, killing 12 and wounding dozens. He remains on the run.... By their own intention or because of the authorities' failings, some ... stateless wanders..., like Mr. Amri, slip through the fingers of law enforcement. Fake documents, an absence of papers and a lack of cooperation from home countries that have little incentive to take them back only widen the bureaucratic gaps they fall through. Mr. Amri, who was reported to have used perhaps six aliases, arrived in Germany only after Italy, unable to get Tunisia to take him back, ordered him out. Germany decided this was no refugee from war and refused him asylum over the summer. But he could not be deported without a Tunisian passport, which finally arrived this week -- after the Berlin attack." -- CW ...

     ** ... Update. Gaia Pianigiani of the New York Times: "Anis Amri, the chief suspect in the deadly terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin this week, was killed by the police in a shootout outside Milan early Friday morning, Italian officials said. Mr. Amri, during a routine traffic stop, was asked to show identification papers. He immediately opened fire and shot at the officer who had asked for his papers, and a second police officer shot Mr. Amri, officials said in Rome." -- CW ...

     ... The Guardian has live updates on developments here. -- CW

The Guardian is liveblogging Vladimir Putin's year-end press conference, ongoing at 5:30 am ET. "On hacking the US election, Putin says that he won't reveal his private conversations with [President] Obama. He says: 'Losers always look for ways to accuse someone else. The always forget the most important thing. Let's say some hackers hacked Democratic emails. As Trump said: 'Who knows who did it?' Putin repeats Trump's comments that 'maybe it was some guy sitting on a couch who did it'. He says that 'the truth came out'. We discovered that the Democrats were manipulating the election to help Hillary Clinton and hurt Bernie Sanders, Putin says.'" -- CW

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