The Wires

Hollywood Reporter: "Michael Wolff's controversial Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House is coming to television. Endeavor Content — the financing and sales arm formed in October between sister companies William Morris Endeavor and IMG — has purchased film and television rights to the No. 1 best-selling book. The massive deal is said to be in the seven-figure range. Endeavor Content plans to adapt the book as a TV series. A network is not yet attached, as Endeavor will now begin shopping the project."

New York Times: "CBS said on Tuesday that it had chosen [John] Dickerson, 49, to replace Charlie Rose as the third co-host of “CBS This Morning,” a spot left empty since Mr. Rose was fired in November after allegations of sexual harassment. Mr. Dickerson is to join the lineup of Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell, who have carved a niche as a relatively serious, news-driven morning team. Mr. Dickerson — whose mother, Nancy Dickerson, became in 1960 the first female correspondent at CBS News — plans to move to New York and leave 'Face the Nation,' which he joined in 2015. CBS has not yet chosen his successor, effectively setting off a horse race at the network for one of television’s most influential political roles."

Oprah Gives Moving Speech, Celebrities Nominate Her for President. For full coverage of the Golden Globe awards, the Los Angeles Times has a pageful of blurbs & links.

Medlar's Amazing Sports Report (Is about Sports!):

New York Times: "Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota [executed] ... what would prove to be the critical play of the Titans’ shocking 22-21 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in an N.F.L. wild-card playoff game on Saturday.... [The Titans were] trailing by 18 points in the third quarter..., i and as Mariota scrambled toward the line of scrimmage, he appeared to throw the ball away.... But when Darrelle Revis of the Chiefs batted the pass back toward Mariota, the quarterback snagged it out of the air. And ... Mariota sprinted forward for a touchdown that went into the books as a 6-yard pass from Mariota to Mariota."

New York Times: "Hoda Kotb, a longtime NBC News correspondent, will permanently replace Matt Lauer as co-anchor of NBC’s flagship morning program, 'Today,' the network said on Tuesday. Ms. Kotb (pronounced COT-bee) had replaced Mr. Lauer on an interim basis since he was fired in November over allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior with a subordinate. The appointment is the first time that two women will be the program’s official main hosts; 'Today' has an overwhelmingly female audience and is the network’s most profitable franchise. The decision signals a turning point of sorts for NBC: In addition to the Lauer scandal, the network also reviewed 2005 footage from an NBC-owned show in which President Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitalia but was beaten to publication by The Washington Post, and passed on an exposé of [Harvey] Weinstein by an MSNBC contributor." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: I forgot this part of the tape saga: that NBC suits sat on it until someone at the "Today" show leaked it to David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post.

 

Here's one of the film's trailers:

So finally they called me up because it got so late, and the argument got so tense, and said you're going to have to decide this. And I said, well, why do we have to do it right away? The Times took three months. And they - the editors all got on the phone. And the businesspeople were on the other phone saying wait a day. The editors were saying we mustn't wait a day. Everybody knows we have these papers. And we have to maintain the momentum that was stopped when the Times was enjoined. And it's very important. People have their eyes on us. And we have to publish.... And finally after talking to both sides, I asked my colleague Fritz Beebe what he would do. And he was a lawyer. And he said, I guess I would not. And that made it hard but not impossible. He said it in such a way that I thought he's leaving it up to me. And I can do this. And so I said let's go. Let's publish. And I hung up because I was so freaked out by having had to make that decision so fast. -- Katherine Graham, on her decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, in an interview, 1997 ...

... Terry Gross of NPR interviewed Katherine Graham in 1997 about her 1971 decision to publish the Pentagon papers -- and other things. Graham died in 2001. Audio & transcript. Via David Von Drehle of the Washington Post.

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

 

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

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Thursday
Dec282017

The Commentariat -- December 29, 2017

Sorry about the light entries today. Busy morning here in the frozen Northeast (1 degree & snowing in my neck of the woods). I'm adding some entries below; they're marked "NEW."

There was tremendous collusion on behalf of the Russians and the Democrats. -- Donald Trump, in an interview with New York Times reporters

Since Trump always accuses his enemies of doing what he has done, we can safely assume there was "tremendous collusion on behalf of the Russians and the Trumpies." -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie ...

... Michael Schmidt & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump said Thursday that he believes Robert S. Mueller III ... will treat him fairly, contradicting some members of his party who have waged a weekslong campaign to try to discredit Mr. Mueller and the continuing inquiry. During an impromptu 30-minute interview with The New York Times at his golf club in West Palm Beach, the president did not demand an end to the Russia investigations swirling around his administration, but insisted 16 times that there has been 'no collusion' discovered by the inquiry. 'It makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position,' Mr. Trump said of the investigation. 'So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.'” Read on, as the interview covers other topics....

     ... Here are excerpts, which are not too infurating to read, because it's like reading what crazy Uncle Fred said at the family holiday dinner, only instead of having to listen to that lying, bloviating ass, you can skim the speeches & chuckle. ...

... NEW. Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "As we’ve almost come to expect by now, when Trump speaks at length without a script, he skitters back and forth along the line that divides the comical from the terrifying, telling one obvious lie after another, making endless digressions that devolve into incomprehensible word salad, and generally sounding like someone with only the most tenuous grip on his faculties.... For someone who fancies himself a genius, he is almost completely lacking in any real guile. He doesn’t play eight-dimensional chess. His lies are obvious and straightforward, clearly false at the moment they leave his lips. His strategies require no deconstruction or disentanglement to understand." ...

... NEW. Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly: "As is often the case with Trump, he feels the need to lie about Obama as a way to justify his own actions. 'I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the I.R.S. scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems they had, not made-up problems like Russian collusion, these were real problems. When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president.' At least one former U.S. Attorney felt the need to respond directly to that lie. 'The first time President Obama met with his US Attorneys, he told us, “I appointed you but you don’t serve me. You serve the American people. And I expect you to act with independence & integrity.” None of us ever forgot that." -- Joyce White Vance" ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York recounts how Angela Merkel tried to school Trump on basic international political realities, and failed. Here's one incident: "... a senior German official told the Times of London that Trump also tried to pursue a bilateral trade deal with Germany. 'Ten times Trump asked [Merkel] if he could negotiate a trade deal with Germany. Every time she replied, "You can’t do a trade deal with Germany, only the E.U.,’” the official said. 'On the eleventh refusal, Trump finally got the message, "Oh, we’ll do a deal with Europe then."’”

Ken Starr Is Still a Subversive. David Kendall, in a Washington Post op-ed: "In his Dec. 24 Sunday Opinion commentary, former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr proposed a 'reset' of the Russia investigation in which Congress 'steps up' to establish a bipartisan investigative panel and the 'executive branch’s approach' changes from criminal law enforcement to some kind of nebulous fact-finding. Despite its bland profession of respect for the probe, Starr’s column was really just a subtler version of suddenly pervasive efforts by Trump apologists to undermine the investigation into Russian tampering with the 2016 election. The reasons given for Starr’s reset are wholly specious[.]" A useful read & a good summary of the those wholly specious arguments. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In fairness to Starr, he has nothing else to do but write op-eds since Baylor fired his ass for enabling members of the school's football team to violently assault women.

NEW. ... Donald Trump proved once again in a tweet Thursday that he doesn't seem to understand the difference between weather and climate. – Pam Wright & Bob Henson of the Weather Channel

Dino Grandoni of the Washington Post: Trump shoots an Inhofe-style global warming tweet (from Palm Beach, Florida, where the temps are in the 70s) because he's completely ignorant of the fact that it's warmer than usual in the Southern Hemisphere right now & of the possibility that manmade global warming may cause "the jet stream encircling the Arctic to wobble southward." Mrs. McC (writing from a place where it's currently -7 degrees): Apparently the way to convince Trump of global warming is to ask him to step outside the Oval on a steaming hot day in August. Alas, like the jet stream, his conviction will wobble if there's a chilly night in September.  ...

     ... Here's How It Works. Sammy Roth of USA Today: "Even this week's cold weather is probably being caused at least in part by global warming, said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan. The Arctic is warming much faster than most of the planet, leading to a dramatic decline in the amount of sea ice that covers the region each winter. That loss of ice has allowed more heat to transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere, causing a weakening of the polar vortex winds over the Arctic. Those winds usually 'insulate the rest of the Northern Hemisphere' from freezing Arctic temperatures, Overpeck said. But as the winds have weakened, it's gotten easier for freezing Arctic air to swoop further south, he said. 'That is due to the warming of the Arctic, which in turn is due to human emissions of greenhouse gases and primarily burning of fossil fuels,' Overpeck said in an interview." Mrs. McC: This isn't rocket science; it's climate science. But a person has to be able to grasp at least six concepts in succession to understand cause & effect, & Trump could not do that even if he tried, which he won't. (See Margaret Hartmann's post above, if you think I'm just being snide.)

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If you were wondering why Rex Tillerson decided to write an op-ed in the failing New York Times (linked yesterday) about how President Trump & the State Department were doing a great job handling the international relations stuff, no doubt the answer is that the Times gave Tillerson a heads-up on this feature story:

... ** Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Nearly a year into his presidency, Mr. Trump remains an erratic, idiosyncratic leader on the global stage, an insurgent who attacks allies the United States has nurtured since World War II and who can seem more at home with America’s adversaries. His Twitter posts, delivered without warning or consultation, often make a mockery of his administration’s policies and subvert the messages his emissaries are trying to deliver abroad. Mr. Trump has pulled out of trade and climate change agreements and denounced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He has broken with decades of American policy in the Middle East by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And he has taunted Kim Jong-un of North Korea as 'short and fat,' fanning fears of war on the peninsula. He has assiduously cultivated President Xi Jinping of China and avoided criticizing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — leaders of the two countries that his own national security strategy calls the greatest geopolitical threats to America. Above all, Mr. Trump has transformed the world’s view of the United States from a reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable. That is a seminal change from the role the country has played for 70 years, under presidents from both parties, and it has lasting implications for how other countries chart their futures."

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Romanian hackers took over two-thirds of the District’s outdoor surveillance cameras just before President Trump’s inauguration, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday. The January attack affected 123 of the D.C. police department’s 187 outdoor surveillance cameras, leaving them unable to record for several days. Two Romanians, whom law enforcement officials describe as part of a bigger extortionist hacking group, are being charged in D.C. federal court with fraud and ­computer crimes. 'This case was of the highest priority due to its impact on the Secret Service’s protective mission and its potential effect on the security plan for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration,' Bill Miller, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, said in a statement."

NEW. Daily Beast: "The remaining 16 members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS were told they were being fired Wednesday, via a FedExed letter from the White House. Six members resigned in June in protest of what they called the Trump administration’s inaction on the issue." Many are Obama appointees.

NEW. The Best Interns, Too. Martin Gould of the Daily Mail: "A former White House intern is coming under fire after flashing a known 'white power' sign during a photo-op with President Donald Trump. Jack Breuer ... is clearly bucking orders — personally given by the president — to give a thumbs-up in the picture that was taken in the White House in November. While the other hundred or so interns smile and follow Trump's command, Breuer ... stands stony-faced giving the 'OK' sign that has been linked with far-right groups. It is the same sign that white nationalist Richard Spencer gave on the steps of the Trump International Hotel on election night and that right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos posed with in front of the White House.... Breuer worked for Stephen Miller, the president's senior advisor for policy." Mrs. McC: Just a coincidence, I'm sure, that a white nationalist (Miller) hired a white-nationalist intern. I seldom link to Daily Mail stories, but they've got clear pictoral proof on this one.

Happy Trails to Roy. Hope We Don't Meet Again. Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "Alabama officials on Thursday unhesitatingly pushed aside a legal challenge from Roy S. Moore and certified Doug Jones as the winner of this month’s Senate election. The action, during a brief meeting at the State Capitol, was essentially the state’s final step before the seating of the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in a quarter century. It was also a swift rejection, by some of the state’s most powerful Republicans, of Mr. Moore’s complaint that he was the victim of 'systematic voter fraud.' Mr. Jones’s margin of victory was 21,924 votes, with more than 1.3 million ballots cast. The certification leaves Mr. Moore, 70, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court whose campaign faltered partly because of allegations of sexual misconduct against teenage girls, with almost no avenues to derail Mr. Jones’s ascension to the Senate. The election aftermath followed a familiar pattern for Mr. Moore, who in the past has been eager to declare victories and pronounce grievances — but loathe to concede defeats.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Sadly, as Blinder reports, we may not have seen the backside of Moore's horse for the last time: "... there is already speculation in Montgomery that he might run for governor or attorney general next year."

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Judd Legum of ThinkProgress: "Breitbart News is covering up its recent promotion of an openly white nationalist and anti-Semitic congressional candidate, Paul Nehlen. Meanwhile, Joel Pollak, the site’s senior editor-a-large and frequent spokesman, is falsely claiming the site hasn’t covered him in 'months.' In reality, Nehlen’s public association with white nationalists dates back more than a year and was contemporaneous with Beitbart’s relentless promotion of his primary challenge to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). On December 18, just 10 days ago, Nehlen was a guest on a Breitbart radio show, Whatever It Takes with Curt Schilling. The interview was posted to Breitbart’s account on SoundCloud but quietly removed in the last few days.... The interview occurred weeks after Nehlen began regularly using the phrase 'It’s OK to be white,' which has been adopted as a motto of white supremacists, including former KKK grand wizard David Duke.”

Beyond the Beltway

"Son of a Hanging Chad." Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: In response to Florida's nightmare 2000 presidential vote recount, Virginia "began writing a guidebook on how to handle [questionable ballots]. The latest edition includes pictographs of ballots marked in unconventional ways — names crossed out, several boxes checked, 'My guy' scrawled over a candidate’s name. Despite the best intentions to avoid a Florida-style snafu, that is where Virginia now finds itself, with lawyers fighting over how to interpret one questionable ballot. And at stake is possible control of the Legislature."

How to Get Free Tickets to a Colts Game. Justin Mack & Kaitlin Lange of the Indianapolis Star: "An Indiana lawmaker is filing legislation that would require the Indianapolis Colts to offer fans refunds if Colts players kneel during the national anthem at home games. Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, said his bill would allow fans who feel disrespected by the kneeling to ask for a refund during the first quarter.... Smith is a social conservative who played a key role in advancing a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage onto the Indiana House floor in 2014. His son, who is gay, criticized his father for his vote at the time."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Shivering, snowbound cities are scrapping their outdoor New Year’s Eve countdowns. Polar-bear plunges are being canceled because of fears of frostbite and hypothermia. Winter-hardened towns are gaping at their new lows: 32 degrees below zero in Watertown, N.Y. Minus 36 in International Falls, Minn. Record-breaking snowfalls have stranded older and disabled residents inside their homes for days. Cars are buried under mountains of snow, and lethally low temperatures are forcing cities across the Northeast and Midwest to open emergency'“warming centers' for homeless residents and people whose furnaces are no match for the cold. A mass of Arctic air now has much of the north half of the country wrapped in an icy bear hug, and meteorologists expect the single-digit temperatures to stick around for at least another week."

New York Times: "Rose Marie, who became a radio star as a toddler in the 1920s and a television star on the hit sitcom 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' in the 1960s — and who continued performing into the 21st century — died on Thursday in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles. She was 94." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you were a young woman who watched "The Dick Van Dyke Show," Rose Marie's character Sally Rogers told you three things: (1) a woman could be smart, funny & successful, (2) but she'd still have to play a supporting role, & (3) she'd have to remain unmarried as ordinary men couldn't handle a woman who was a whole person. A mixed message, for sure.

Thursday
Dec282017

Clueless

It's time for an update of the old game of Clue.

 

 

The Mystery: Who Killed American Democracy?

 

Possible Solutions:

Mr. Sessions did it in the Cabinet Room with an 1859 Kerrs Patent Revolver.

 

Miss Ivanka did it in the China Room with a lead purse.

 

General Flynn did it in the Situation Room with a Turkish saber.

 

Mr. Pence did it in the Library with the Lincoln Bible.

 

Miss Huckleberry Sanders did it in the Press Room with a homemade ptomaine pie.

 

Mr. Kushner did it in the Green Room with a stack of loan agreements.

 

Mr. Trump did it in the Oval Office with a Sharpie.

 

Mr. Bannon did it on the South Lawn with a KKK torch.

 

Miss Conway did it in the Lincoln Bedroom with a candlestick.

 

General Kelly did it in the Blue Room with a Coast Guard sword.

 

Donald Junior did it in the Map Room with an elephant tail.

 

Mr. Putin did it the Red Room with a hammer & sickle.

Wednesday
Dec272017

The Commentariat -- December 28, 2017

** IRS Hits Brakes on Tax Prepayments. Washington Post: "Many Americans have rushed to prepay their 2018 property taxes and save on their federal taxes, hoping to take advantage of a tax deduction that will be scaled back in the new tax law passed by Republicans last week. The Internal Revenue Service confirmed Wednesday that taxpayers will be able to take advantage of the maneuver — but only under limited circumstances. The IRS said that taxpayers can claim an additional property tax deduction when paying their 2017 taxes if they pay the tax this year and if the local tax authority has notified homeowners prior to 2018 of how much they owe in property taxes, known as a tax assessment. State and local laws vary as to when this occurs." This is a developing story. Mrs. McC: Looks like Medlar & I are screwed as I don't think the 2018 assessments in our town will be out for months. Florida, BTW, does not allow propertyowners to prepay their 2018 taxes in 2017. ...

... Here's the New York Times story, by Ben Casselman. ...

... The IRS advisory notice is here. ...

Already, lawyers and accountants are eyeing several provisions [of the tax overhaul] that investors and companies could potentially exploit. The bill, for example, lowers the taxes on so-called pass-through income, which is earned by partnerships and other types of businesses. Congress sold the provision as a way to help smaller companies. But lawmakers added language that allowed big real estate developers to benefit. The result could be a tax break for any company that buys and operates a building for its business. The new law is also supposed to encourage companies to make investments in the United States. But the rules were written in such a way that they could give businesses an incentive to keep their money in foreign countries and build factories abroad." And so forth. Mrs. McC: Fortunately, the IRS is making it difficult for middle-class Americans to even mitigate the downsides the law aims at us. Thanks, Republicans!

Daily Beast: "... Donald Trump on Wednesday told firefighters that he had signed more legislation at this point in his presidential career than any previous president.... In actuality, Trump has signed 96 bills, the fewest of any president since before Truman."

Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "President Trump’s legal team plans to cast former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn as a liar seeking to protect himself if he accuses the president or his senior aides of any wrongdoing, according to three people familiar with the strategy. The approach would mark a sharp break from Trump’s previously sympathetic posture toward Flynn, whom he called a 'wonderful man' when Flynn was ousted from the White House in February. Earlier this month, the president did not rule out a possible pardon for Flynn, who is cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election." ...

... digby: "I'm sure Flynn was told by his attorneys that Trump was going to turn on him and make him into a lying, treasonous Benedict Arnold. At this point one doubts that his feelings will be hurt. He has to know by now that cozying up to Trump was the biggest mistake of his life. He could have been making millions quietly lobbying for all those foreign countries right now and instead his life is ruined."

Kevin Hall of McClatchy News: "A jailed Russian who says he hacked into the Democratic National Committee computers on the Kremlin’s orders to steal emails released during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign now claims he left behind a data signature to prove his assertion. In an interview with Russia’s RAIN television channel made public Wednesday, Konstantin Kozlovsky provided further details about what he said was a hacking operation led by the Russian intelligence agency known by its initials FSB. Among them, Kozlovsky said he worked with the FSB to develop computer viruses that were first tested on large, unsuspecting Russian companies, such as the oil giant Rosneft, later turning them loose on multinational corporations. Kozlovsky first came to public attention in early December when word spread about his confession last Aug. 15 in a Russian courtroom that he was the person who hacked into DNC computers on behalf of Russian intelligence. The Russian was jailed earlier this year, alleged to have been part of a hacking group there that stole more than $50 million from Russian bank accounts through what’s called the Lurk computer virus."

Josh Marshall: "From the Devin Nunes Intelligence Agency, we have theory 14 why Donald Trump should be immune from the rule of law." Nunes is attempting to prove the Steele dossier was part & parcel of the Russia disinformation campaign. "This is not an inherently nonsensical idea.... We shouldn’t think that because Russia wanted to elect Donald Trump that they couldn’t simultaneously be involved in undermining Trump. But there are numerous reasons to doubt this new theory. First and foremost is that it comes from Devin Nunes and House ‘investigators’ working on his behalf.... Next, when counter-intelligence agents at the FBI first got hold of Steele’s materials this is basically the first trap they would have run.... Congressional Republicans have increasingly focused in on the Steele dossier as the lynchpin undergirding the entire Russia probe. Discredit its origins or invalidate its claims and the whole Russia probe falls apart. But that’s clearly not true.... Nothing Mueller’s team is doing now relies on Steele’s work...."


Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article191857354.html#storylink=cpy

Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News: "In just the last few weeks, [Robert Mueller's] prosecutors have begun questioning Republican National Committee staffers about the party digital operation that worked with the Trump campaign to target voters in key swing states. They are seeking to determine if the joint effort was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing the American electorate, according to two of the sources."

Michael Kranish of the Washington Post: "Federal prosecutors have requested records related to a $285 million loan that Deutsche Bank gave Jared Kushner’s family real estate company one month before Election Day, the company confirmed this week. The records were sought by prosecutors in Brooklyn and do not appear related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. A Kushner Cos. spokeswoman said that the firm is cooperating in the review of what it called a 'routine' transaction."

Michael Weiss of The Daily Beast: "This [article] is the first of a three-part series based on never-before-published training manuals for the KGB, the Soviet intelligence organization that Vladimir Putin served as an operative, and that shaped his view of the world. Its veterans still make up an important part of now-Russian President Vladimir Putin’s power base.... The first installment of this series, directly relevant to the question of how Putin’s minions played members of the Trump campaign, looks specifically at the use of third parties to target individuals and organizations." --safari...

...Russian Snowflakes. Adam Raymond of New York: "A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman with a sense of humor accused the U.S. of 'direct interference in our electoral process and internal affairs' after the State Department chided the Kremlin for barring a political opponent of Vladimir Putin’s from challenging him in next year’s presidential election.... [T]he Kremlin is still keeping Alexey Navalny, a charismatic opposition activist, from running." --safari

** Richard Haass in The Atlantic: "When great powers fade, as they inevitably must, it’s normally for one of two reasons. Some powers exhaust themselves through overreach abroad, underinvestment at home, or a mixture of the two. This was the case for the Soviet Union. Other powers lose their privileged position with the emergence of new, stronger powers. This describes what happened with France and Great Britain in the case of Germany’s emergence after World War I.... But the United States has now introduced a third means by which a major power forfeits international advantage. It is abdication, the voluntary relinquishing of power and responsibility.... Trump is the first post–World War II American president to view the burdens of world leadership as outweighing the benefits. As a result, the United States has changed from the principal preserver of order to a principal disrupter." --safari ...

... Aaron Miller & Richard Sokolsky in a Washington Post op-ed: "At the end of his first year in office, the president’s approach to foreign affairs doesn’t fit the platitude-ridden narrative laid out in [his national security strategy] speech as much as it lines up with six key components that define the Trumpian way abroad: America first, politics over policy, ego, deconstruction, risk aversion and dictators over democrats. They don’t make a neatly defined doctrine, but these components have a certain cohesion — at least in Trump’s mind — that hints at how he’ll operate for the rest of his tenure." Read on. ...

... BUT. Rex Tillerson, in a New York Times op-ed, says he & Trump are doing a great job meeting international challenges, especially compared to do-nothing previous administrations.

Preaching to the Choir. Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian: "A senior Church of England bishop has lambasted conservative evangelical Christians in the US for their 'uncritical support' of Donald Trump, urging them to reflect on how their endorsement of the president relates to their faith. Paul Bayes, the bishop of Liverpool, said 'self-styled evangelicals' risked bringing the word evangelical into disrepute.... Last month, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said he could not comprehend the strength of support for Trump among conservative evangelicals in the US. 'I really genuinely do not understand where that is coming from.'... According to the Washington-based Pew Research Center, 80% of self-identified white evangelical Christians said they voted for Trump in the 2016 election, and three-quarters have since said they approve of his presidency." --safari...

...Rachel Cohen of The Intercept, tells the story of how, "A Manhattan playboy, who campaigned as friendly to the LGBTQ community and has dubbed himself “very pro-choice,” is now leading the most extreme anti-choice, transphobic, and anti-gay administration in modern history. The movement’s prayers have been answered." --safari

Katie Van Syckle of New York: "Ivanka Trump has stepped away from her namesake label, but that doesn’t mean she’s stopped wearing her brand’s pumps, shoes, dresses, bags, and jewelry. In fact, a Wall Street Journal investigation tracked one hundred of her outfits and found that she wore her own brand to official appearances 68% of the time...[S]he still gets some financial information about the brand..Despite all the photo opportunities, sales at the company are reportedly down, and she was dropped from Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus earlier this year. Ethically, of course, she’s in uncharted territory." --safari

Pigs at the Taxpayer Trough. Nicole Goodkind of Newsweek: "Omarosa Manigault Newman ... is still on the public payroll despite resigning from her position in mid-December.... The White House announced on December 13 that Omarosa ... had resigned 'to pursue other opportunities' but that her departure would 'not be effective until January 20, 2018.' Still, the Secret Service said it had deactivated her pass to the White House, which means she is no longer working there.... Omarosa ... continues to be paid her full, $179,700 annual salary despite not showing up for work." --safari

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions retracted an Obama-era guidance to state courts that was meant to end debtors’ prisons, which throw people who are too poor to pay fines into jail. This practice is blatantly unconstitutional, and the guidance had helped jump-start reform around the country. Its withdrawal is the latest sign that the federal government is retreating from protecting civil rights for the most vulnerable among us. The Justice Department helped shine a light on the harms of fine and fees when it investigated Ferguson, Mo.... As one of the lawyers on that case, I saw firsthand the damage that the city had wrought on its black community."

Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast: "The Trump administration is poised to make it harder for members of Congress to help immigrants deal with the government.... [An] email, sent Dec. 18 from a top official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), says the agency will put new restrictions on how members of Congress can help immigrants looking to get green cards or citizenship. It indicates that the agency will soon be demanding extra forms in many circumstances, as well as requiring certified translations and notarized signatures. USCIS insists this is all to protect immigrants’ privacy and that any claims it’s intended to make things more difficult for them are 'baseless.'” -safari

** Hotbed of Hate. Liz Posner of Alternet: "Since the beginning of 2017, [Whitefish, Montana]'s name has popped up repeatedly in stories about the far right. Whitefish is the home base for Trump’s potential private spy agency [Amyntor Group], as well as the tiny company contracted to restore power in Puerto Rico, and early in the year, the town drew media attention as the proposed meeting point for an anti-Semitic rally. [O]n closer examination, all three are clearly linked to the Trump White House.... Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke grew up in Whitefish and has personal and business ties to the energy group contracted for the work in Puerto Rico.... The town is home to white supremacist leader Richard Spencer and Chuck Baldwin, a radical-right extremist minister who preaches Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and homophobia among other strains of hate.... This year, journalist Wayne Madsen reported that Zinkes' two sons 'were friends of former Whitefish resident Richard Spencer,' and that part of the reason Spencer moved his headquarters to Washington, D.C., after Trump’s election was to be closer to the Zinkes, as well as his friend Stephen Miller." --safari

Democracy Now! looks into the effects of the Trump minions packing the courts at record pace. --safari

Senate Race. Sore Bigoted Loser. AP in the Guardian: "Republican Roy Moore has filed a lawsuit to try to stop Alabama from certifying Democrat Doug Jones as the winner of the state’s special Senate election on 12 December. The court filing occurred about 14 hours before Thursday’s meeting of a state canvassing board to officially declare Jones the winner. Jones defeated Moore by about 20,000 votes." --safari

House Race. Oliver Darcy of CNN: "Breitbart executive chairman Steve Bannon has cut ties with Paul Nehlen, the far-right activist who is challenging Paul Ryan for his congressional seat and who has received extremely favorable coverage from Breitbart in the past. 'Nehlen is dead to us,' said Arthur Schwartz, an adviser of Bannon's who is familiar with the former White House chief strategist's thinking. Nehlen, who became a lightning rod for his anti-immigrant views, has escalated his rhetoric in recent days with a number of incendiary tweets. In one tweet, Nehlen proudly revealed that he is reading 'The Culture of Critique,' a book about Jewish culture widely considered to be anti-semitic. In other tweets, he has used the '#ItsOkayToBeWhite' hashtag.... Schwartz told CNN the decision was made earlier this month after Bannon was alerted that Nehlen had appeared on a white nationalist podcast."

More Fucking Morons. Sarah Kliff of Vox: "One-third of American adults believe that President Trump has successfully repealed Obamacare, a new poll from the Economist and YouGov finds. The poll of 1,000 adults shows that 31 percent believe Trump has repealed the Affordable Care Act, 49 percent say he hasn’t, and 21 percent are unsure. Of those who identify as Republican voters, 44 percent say that Trump has repealed Obamacare." --safari

Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "Americans once again are most likely to name Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as the man and woman living anywhere in the world they admire most, as they have for the past 10 years. The pair retain their titles this year, although by much narrower margins than in the past. Obama edges out Donald Trump, 17% to 14%, while Clinton edges out Michelle Obama, 9% to 7%."

Patrick Wintour of the Guardian: "Politicians, and others in positions of power, should stop corroding civil discourse and seek to unify society, the former US president Barack Obama said in a rare interview conducted by Prince Harry for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Obama did not mention his successor, Donald Trump, by name, but said social media could lead to facts being discarded and prejudices being reinforced, making public conversation harder. 'All of us in leadership have to find ways to recreate a common space on the internet,' he said.... Trump has been fiercely critical of Obama personally and politically since he entered the Oval Office, but Obama in his first interview since leaving office did not take the chance to hit back, possibly reflecting his wife Michelle’s famous dictum: 'When they go low, you go high'.” (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Here is reputedly audio of the full interview. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Mrs. McC: I have no idea if this is true, considering the source. News.au: "BRITISH government bureaucrats are urging Prince Harry not to invite the Obamas to his wedding for fear of infuriating Donald Trump. Harry and fiancee Meghan Markle have told aides they want the former US president and wife Michelle at their big day on May 19, according to The Sun." (Also linked yesterday.) 

Way Beyond the Beltway

Ben Doherty of the Guardian: "Children caught in war zones are increasingly being used as weapons of war– recruited to fight, forced to act as suicide bombers, and used as human shields – the United Nations children’s agency has warned.... Rape, forced marriage, abduction and enslavement had become standard tactics in conflicts across Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as in Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar.Some children, abducted by extremist groups, are abused again by security forces when they are released. Others are indirectly harmed by fighting, through malnutrition and disease, as access to food, water and sanitation are denied or restricted." --safari

Juan Cole: "The US military says that the number of ISIL fighters in eastern Syria has fallen from 3000 a month ago to only 1000 today. Moreover a lot of the latter are fleeing into al-Assad-controlled territory, a severe security concern for the Syrian state. The US is apparently declining to intervene, watching with some satisfaction as the fighters flee into the country’s urban areas.... [Putin] expects to continue to fight terrorism (the Nusra front) and to maintain two bases in the country. Obviously, the withdrawal noises are propaganda." --safari

** "New Arctic". Eric Holthaus of Mother Jones: "Last week ... a group of polar scientists made a startling declaration: The Arctic as we once knew it is no more. The region is now definitively trending toward an ice-free state, the scientists said, with wide-ranging ramifications for ecosystems, national security, and the stability of the global climate system.... In the NOAA report, Arctic scientists lay out their best ideas of what this shift could mean for the world. Their depictions are sobering." --safari