The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, December 11, 2017.

Washington Post: Simeon "Booker, the Washington bureau chief of Jet and Ebony magazines for five decades, died Dec. 10 at an assisted-living community in Solomons, Md. He was 99 and had recently been hospitalized for pneumonia, said his wife, Carol Booker. Few reporters risked more to chronicle the civil rights movement than Mr. Booker. He was the first full-time black reporter for The Washington Post, serving on the newspaper’s staff for two years before joining Johnson Publishing Co. to write for Jet, a weekly, and Ebony, a monthly modeled on Life magazine, in 1954."

New York Times: "... the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting 'Salvator Mundi,' which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show. The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region. Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most of the Saudi Arabian elite, including members of the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment."

Politico: "PBS announced on Monday that CNN International correspondent Christiane Amanpour would be the interim replacement for Charlie Rose after he was fired and his long-running interview show was canceled over multiple allegations of sexual harassment.... 'Amanpour on PBS' will begin airing on New York’s PBS station on Monday and will roll out to other stations beginning Dec. 11."

Variety: "Netflix has reached an agreement to resume production on 'House of Cards' season 6 — the show’s final season — in early 2018, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos. Production of 'House of Cards' season 6 was suspended in October, following sexual assault allegations against star Kevin Spacey. Season 6 of the political thriller will be eight episodes, starring Robin Wright, Sarandos said. The final season will not include Spacey, as previously announced. Each of the previous season have comprised 13 episodes."

In reaction to the horrors of what happened in Charlottesville, which is named after this queen, her ancestry is very relevant. -- historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom, on Queen Charlotte of Britain's biracial heritage ...

... Washington Post: "When Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle announced their engagement Monday (Nov. 27), Twitter erupted with the news that the newest princess in the royal family would be bi-racial. 'We got us a Black princess ya’ll,” GirlTyler exulted. “Shout out to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Their wedding will be my Super Bowl.'... But Markle, whose mother is black and whose father is white, may not be the first mixed-race royal. Some historians suspect that Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III who bore the king 15 children, was of African descent. Historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom argues that Queen Charlotte was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family: Alfonso III and his concubine, Ouruana, a black Moor.” The report on Charlotte's heritage is fascinating.

... Mrs. McCrabbie: One of the best things about Southern white bigots is that, slavery being what it was, they're very likely to be less than 99 & 44/100ths percent pure white. For instance, these two young fellas have facial features that are remarkably similar:

But, um, one of them is David Duke & the other is Jesse Jackson. Separated at birth? Give Duke a 'fro, & he'd easily pass for African-American. Maybe a hood kinda relaxes curls.

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.

New Yorker: Thomas Hargrove, a retired journalist, is developing an algorithm to solve serial murders. Interesting & not a bit nutty. Hargrove's research suggests that the number of serial killers still out their doing their jobs is much greater than police departments realize (or will admit -- serial killers are bad for local tourism). Also too, the percentage of murders that get solved has dropped precipitously in the last half-century.

Donaldo da Trumpo. Guardian: "On Wednesday, a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting sold for $450.3m, rocking the art world.... On Thursday, that same art world was given a reality check, when a sketch by the less celebrated Donald Trump sold for just $6,875 at an auction in Los Angeles. Trump’s untitled piece, which depicts the Manhattan skyline, barely cleared its minimum price of $5,000.... The president took on his project in 2009 for a charity event. Trump seems to have used either pencil or ballpoint pen for the piece, which measures 8in x 5in. The sketch shows what appear to be skyscrapers, alongside something representing the Empire State Building. Nate D Sanders, the auction house handling the sale, presented the sketch in a 15in x 18in frame, along with a signed photo of Trump."

New York Times: "After 19 minutes of dueling, with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room, Leonardo da Vinci’s 'Salvator Mundi' sold on Wednesday night for $450.3 million with fees, shattering the high for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed Picasso’s 'Women of Algiers,' which fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015. The buyer was not immediately disclosed." ...

... New York Times critic Jason Farago calls the painting "a proficient but not especially distinguished religious picture from turn-of-the-16th-century Lombardy, put through a wringer of restorations.... The painting, when purchased at an estate sale in 2005 for less than $10,000, was initially considered a copy of a lost Leonardo, completed around 1500 and once in the collection of Charles I of England. [Some experts still think it's a copy.] Over time, its wood surface became cracked and chafed, and it had been crudely overpainted.... Cleaned by the conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini, the painting now appears in some limbo state between its original form and an exacting, though partially imagined, rehabilitation."

Wednesday
Dec062017

The Commentariat -- December 6, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Heather Caygle of Politico: "A former Democratic congressional aide said Al Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006, three years before he became a U.S. senator. The aide, whose name Politico is withholding to protect her identity, said Franken (D-Minn.) pursued her after her boss had left the studio. She said she was gathering her belongings to follow her boss out of the room. When she turned around, Franken was in her face. The former staffer ducked to avoid Franken’s lips. As she hastily left the room, she said, Franken told her: 'It’s my right as an entertainer.'... Franken, who has been accused by six other women of groping or trying to forcibly kiss them, denied the accusation.” ...

... Elana Schor & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "A half-dozen female senators on Wednesday called on Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign in the wake of multiple sexual misconduct allegations against him. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was the first of Franken's fellow Senate Democrats to take that step and was quickly followed by Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Patty Murray of Washington and Kamala Harris of California." ...

... Lindsey Bever & Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post: "Time magazine has named 'The Silence Breakers' as its 2017 Person of the Year, recognizing the women (and some men) who came forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault and helped force a nationwide reckoning. The magazine calls them 'the voices that launched a movement.' Among them Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, the actresses whose stunning accusations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein helped lead to his downfall; and activist Tarana Burke, creator of the #MeToo movement, along with the Hollywood star who amplified it on social media, Alyssa Milano.” ...

... Here's the Time cover story. ...

... Abettor of the Year. Julia Manchester of the Hill: "White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended President Trump's endorsement of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore on Wednesday.... 'The president has tremendous moral standards. He has said, the White House has said the allegations are troubling,' Conway told CNN's Chris Cuomo on 'New Day,' after Cuomo said 'the president seems to have no moral standard at play.'" This would appear to be another alternative fact in which the allegations are "troubling" only because the women are all liars ...

... Lachlan Markay & Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast: "... Donald Trump has privately told confidants over the past week that he firmly believes Roy Moore’s innocence and feels no hesitation at all about endorsing the embattled Alabama Senate candidate, three sources close to the president tell The Daily Beast." ...

Kelly Weill & Katie Zavadski of the Daily Beast: "Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Company are the subjects of a new class-action lawsuit in federal court that accuses them of a pattern of racketeering to cover up Weinstein's alleged serial sexual assaults. The plaintiffs, six women, seek to be certified as a class to sue on grounds of racketeering, civil battery, assault, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. All six women say Weinstein sexually assaulted them when they auditioned for him or met him at a company-sponsored events."

Pope Pops Trump. Philip Pullella of Reuters: "Pope Francis, speaking hours before ... Donald Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem, called on Wednesday for the city’s 'status quo' to be respected, saying new tension in the Middle East would further inflame world conflicts."

*****

Mark Landler & David Halbfinger of the New York Times: "President Trump told Israeli and Arab leaders on Tuesday that he plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a symbolically fraught move that would upend decades of American policy and upset efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Trump is expected to announce his decision on Wednesday, two days after the expiration of a deadline for him to decide whether to keep the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. Palestinian officials said Mr. Trump told the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, that the United States would move the embassy to Jerusalem. Jordan said the president gave a similar message to King Abdullah II. American officials, however, said such a move could not occur immediately for logistical reasons.... As a result, Mr. Trump is expected to sign a national security waiver that would authorize the administration to keep it in Tel Aviv for an additional six months. Still, Mr. Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital — and to set in motion an embassy move — is his riskiest foray yet into the thicket of Middle East diplomacy." (Also linked yesterday afternoon. The story has been updated.) ...

... Nick Wadhams, et al., of Bloomberg: "... in a sign the announcement could be more symbolic than substantive, the White House warned that any actual move would take years and that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem are still subject to peace talks that have bedeviled U.S. presidents for decades." ...

... Sarah Wildman of Vox: "The administration’s planned announcement is already sparking fury across the Arab world. A spokeswoman for [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas’s office issued a statement early Tuesday warning of 'dangerous consequences' if Trump moves forward with plans to eventually move the embassy. King Abdullah [of Jordan] was equally critical, saying in a statement that the White House shift on Jerusalem 'will undermine the efforts of the American administration to resume the peace process.' Right-wing Israeli leaders, by contrast, didn’t try to disguise their happiness.”

... Yanqui Go Home. Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s reception in Brussels was distinctly chilly, as disappointment among European diplomats in President Trump’s nationalistic tone and insulting messages on Twitter built into quiet fury on the eve of an expected announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Such a move could infuriate the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be their capital in a future Palestinian state. In a brief public appearance beside Mr. Tillerson, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat ... made clear that the European Union saw the Trump administration’s possible announcement on Jerusalem as a threat to peace in the Middle East.... Ms. Mogherini also warned the United States not to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal, something President Trump has said he may do.... Ms. Mogherini’s remarks came just hours after Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of Germany declared at a foreign policy conference in Berlin that relations with the United States 'will never be the same' and said that the Trump administration increasingly viewed Europe as a 'competitor or economic rival' rather than an ally. On Monday, President Emmanuel Macron of France warned Mr. Trump in a phone call that recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a bad idea, joining leaders from Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and the Arab League in speaking out publicly against the move." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: In less than a year, Donald Trump has alienated all our allies & foes alike. We are now a second-tier nation -- the Turkey of North America. That's quite a feat. Was that the plan all along? It looks that way; that is, Trump's desire for an alliance with Russia was just one leg of a plan to make the U.S. & Russia, along with some other authoritarian nations (like Turkey) a new "Axis of Evil." 

The Russia Scandal, Ctd.

Steven Arons of Bloomberg: "Special prosecutor Robert Mueller zeroed in on ... Donald Trump’s business dealings with Deutsche Bank AG as his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections widens. Mueller issued a subpoena to Germany’s largest lender several weeks ago, forcing the bank to submit documents on its relationship with Trump and his family, according to a person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the action has not been announced.... Deutsche Bank for months has rebuffed calls by Democratic lawmakers to provide more transparency over the roughly $300 million Trump owed to the bank for his real estate dealings prior to becoming president. Representative Maxine Waters of California and other Democrats have asked whether the bank’s loans to Trump, made years before he ran for president, were in any way connected to Russia. The bank previously rejected those demands.... Handelsblatt reported the subpoena earlier on Tuesday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Josh Marshall: "This is a critical development. As we’ve discussed before..., all major banks have for years refused to do business with Donald Trump. The exception is Deutsche Bank, which is of course not a US bank but does substantial business in the US and is on the scale of other big banks that have refused to do business with the now President. Why Deutsche Bank still works with Trump (they financed most of the DC Trump hotel project, for instance) is a basic question running through the Russia story.... Lots of Russian money goes through Deutsche Bank and indeed the bank has been repeatedly fined for Russian money laundering. The Deutsche Bank subpoena is certainly about probing the President’s financial ties to Russia.... This is the kind of move Trump has suggested might provoke him to fire Mueller." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Stephen Collinson of CNN: "... Donald Trump's legal defense against Robert Mueller's unrelenting special counsel investigation is beginning to look as chaotic as his early days in the White House. A sequence of reflexive tweets and comments about the Russia probe from the White House and Trump's legal team has spectacularly backfired, suggesting that the administration was knocked off balance by news of Michael Flynn's plea deal and raising questions about whether its struggles reflect a deteriorating legal position for the President." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Don't Tell Mikey? Elizabeth Landers, et al., of CNN: "New revelations about Michael Flynn's lies to the FBI are laying bare Vice President Mike Pence's in-the-dark strategy when it comes to Russia's election meddling, raising new questions about whether he could have been left in the dark as he has argued for nearly a year.... Pence -- who was in charge of Trump's transition -- knew Flynn had contacted Russia, but was left unaware of the sanctions discussion, according to transition officials.... In the days since Flynn's guilty plea was unveiled last week, seven people close to the vice president continue to maintain that Pence did not know Flynn spoke with Kislyak about Russian sanctions, despite being the head of the Trump transition.But among top transition officials, Pence would have been largely alone in his lack of knowledge." ...

... Donald Trump Jr. asked a Russian lawyer at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting whether she had evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation, the lawyer told the Senate Judiciary Committee in answers to written questions obtained exclusively by NBC News. The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told the committee that she didn't have any such evidence, and that she believes Trump misunderstood the nature of the meeting after receiving emails from a music promoter promising incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump's Democratic opponent. Once it became apparent that she did not have meaningful information about Clinton, Trump seemed to lose interest, Veselnitskaya said, and the meeting petered out.... Veselnitskaya said there was no discussion at the Trump Tower meeting of hacked or leaked emails, social media campaigns or any of the other main aspects of Russian interference in the U.S. election." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: It is illegal in the U.S. for a campaign to accept "something of value" from a foreign entity or person. I don't know if it's illegal to request something of value which you don't receive. But of course Junior anticipated obtaining something of value. He set up the meeting & invited Kushner & Manafort because "On June 3, [Rob] Goldstone wrote ... that 'the Crown prosecutor of Russia ... offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.'" ...

... Katelyn Polantz of CNN: “Robert Mueller may not be through with Rick Gates, a deputy Trump campaign aide and one of the four people who have been charged as part of the special counsel probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. In a court appearance Monday in Manhattan, Gates' attorney Walter Mack said that federal prosecutors have told him that more charges, called superseding indictments, may be coming."


AND More Sad! News for Trumpelthinskin. Rebecca Savransky
of the Hill: "No tweets by President Trump made Twitter's list of the year's most retweeted posts. But three tweets by former President Barack Obama made the list. Obama's tweets on 'The 9 Most Retweeted Tweets of 2017' include one with a Nelson Mandela quote that says: 'No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.' The tweet received 1.7 million retweets and 4.6 million likes." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Consumer Fiancial Protection Bureau. Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Stacy Cowley of the New York Times: "The defanging of a federal consumer watchdog agency began last week in a federal courthouse in San Francisco. After a nearly three-year legal skirmish, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau appeared to have been victorious. A judge agreed in September with the bureau that a financial company had misled more than 100,000 mortgage customers. As punishment, the judge ordered the Ohio company, Nationwide Biweekly Administration, to pay nearly $8 million in penalties. All that was left was to collect the cash. Last week, lawyers from the consumer bureau filed an 11-page brief asking the judge to force Nationwide to post an $8 million bond while the proceedings wrapped up. Then Mick Mulvaney was named the consumer bureau’s acting director. Barely 48 hours later, the same lawyers filed a new two-sentence brief. Their request: to withdraw their earlier submission and no longer take a position on whether Nationwide should put up the cash."

Noah Bierman of the Los Angeles Times: "The White House press briefing reached an ignominious milestone this week when a spokesman stood before reporters aboard Air Force One, read a series of prepared statements, then refused to take on-the-record questions during one of the newsiest days of the Trump presidency. The briefing for decades has been a mix of spin and information. But under President Trump, a practice established to keep the public informed and the president accountable has increasingly failed to do either, according to academic experts and current and former journalists." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: What if Mrs. Huckleberry gave a "briefing" & nobody showed up? I don't see why reporters waste their time unless it's to get a surreal quote for their papers. This is worse than it was back in the day when Stephen Colbert said, "The President makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home." Now they have to add, "But Democrats say that isn't true." I don't know if April Ryan ever got her fake "homemade" pecan pie from Mrs. H., but I do know the White House didn't invite her to its Christmas party for the press. Ryan has been on the guest list for a couple of decades.

Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "The Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm Kirstjen Nielsen as the secretary of homeland security, elevating a top White House aide and former agency official to oversee the department central to President Trump’s plan to crack down on illegal immigration and beef up border security. The vote was 62 to 37."

This is gonna cost me a fortune. -- Donald Trump, at a speech in Missouri, November 29 ...

... Patricia Cohen & Jesse Drucker of the New York Times: The biggest winners in the Republican Tax Sweepstakes? -- the Trump & Kushner family businesses. "Most businesses were hit with new limits on deductions for interest payments, but not real estate.... The real estate industry ended up with an even more generous depreciation timetable, allowing owners to shelter more income. And in a break from previous practice, rental and mortgage-interest income qualifies for a lower tax rate, the kind of special treatment traditionally reserved for long-term capital gains and certain qualified dividends." ...

     ... The Trump Cabal. Mrs. McCrabbie: The most troubling part about this is not that Trump & family get a bigger tax break than other types of corporations -- it's that this is more evidence that nearly the entire Republican party has joined a corrupt scheme to enrich its titular leader. There is no chance they will impeach & convict Trump for anything. They are intentional enablers of & participants in an American coup -- the first in our history. ...

... Brian Faler of Politico: "Republicans’ tax-rewrite plans are riddled with bugs, loopholes and other potential problems that could plague lawmakers long after their legislation is signed into law. Some of the provisions could be easily gamed, tax lawyers say. Their plans to cut taxes on 'pass-through' businesses in particular could open broad avenues for tax avoidance. Others would have unintended results, like a last-minute decision by the Senate to keep the alternative minimum tax, which was designed to make sure wealthy people and corporations don't escape taxes altogether. For many businesses, that would nullify the value of a hugely popular break for research and development expenses. Some provisions are so vaguely written they leave experts scratching their heads, like a proposal to begin taxing the investment earnings of rich private universities’ endowments. The legislation H.R. 1 (115) doesn’t explain what’s considered an endowment, and some colleges have more than 1,000 accounts." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: That "pass-through"/tax-avoidance provision is another gift from Congress to Trump.

We Believe the Women. But So What? Jonathan Martin & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "President Trump’s sudden decision on Monday to endorse Roy S. Moore and direct the Republican National Committee to restore funding for the embattled Senate candidate in Alabama undercut party officials who have disavowed him. On Tuesday, Senate leaders appeared dismayed about — but also resigned to — being linked to Mr. Moore’s candidacy.... Mr. Trump’s improvisational, and often impulsive, political decision making has become ... routine.... Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, conceded that he could not stop Mr. Moore, a former state judge, from being seated if he won the special election next Tuesday. But in an illustration of how uneasy Senate Republicans are about Mr. Moore joining their ranks, Mr. McConnell pointedly said that if Mr. Moore was elected, “he would immediately have an issue with the Ethics Committee.” ...

... Kevin Drum: "This is the most depraved conduct possible from the Republican Party.... They publicly accepted that the charges against Moore were credible. They agreed that this made him unfit for office. But then, when it looked like he might win, they turned around and decided to support him anyway." ...

... The Party of Gross Old Pervs. Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post: "One can criticize the unapologetic manner in which [Conyers] left and the cheesy effort to install his son, but the important point is that the Democratic Party forced him out.... The contrast with the GOP, which stood behind President Trump even after the 'Access Hollywood' tape and now has thrown its full support behind an accused child molester, could not be greater — or more toxic — for the GOP. To be blunt, one party has adopted a zero-tolerance position (with Sen. Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, set to go before the ethics committee) and another party opens its arms to people it believes are miscreants." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Gabby Morrongiello, et al., of the Washington Examiner: "Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore's account of when he began dating his wife Kayla would place the start of their courtship before her divorce from her first husband, according to court documents.... Divorce records obtained by the Washington Examiner show that Kayla, however, had not yet even filed for divorce from her first husband, John Charles Heald, by the time she caught Moore’s attention at [a] Christmas gathering [in December 1984]. In fact, Kayla and Heald had only just separated on Dec. 1, 1984, two weeks before her and Moore’s serendipitous introduction." Mrs. McC: Moore had first become interested in Kayla when he saw her performing at a dance recital when she was 15 or 16 years old. ...

... Seung Min Kim & Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Senate Republicans are still trying to keep their distance from Roy Moore, creating a fresh break with ...  Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee, which have re-embraced Moore less than a week before a key special Senate election despite accusations of child molestation against the Alabama Republican. Both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC controlled by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said they plan on staying out of the contest. Several Republican senators furiously protested the RNC’s decision on Tuesday." Mrs. McC: I'm not convinced. They're trying to have their cake & eat it, too. ...

... Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "Sen. Jeff Flake [R-Az.] tweeted an image of a completed check for $100 for [Democrat Doug] Jones’ Senate campaign.... The check to Jones’ campaign ...  is for 'Country over Party,' Flake wrote on Twitter." Mrs. McC: Very nice. You didn't put country over party when you voted for the Tax Heist. You could have sent that $100 to Medlar & me -- or to any of the other taxpayers who are going to be paying a lot more than $100 in new taxes, thanks to your vote on the bill. There are no Republican heroes. There are plenty of grandstanding hypocrites, tho.

Elise Viebeck & Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) resigned as Congress’s longest-serving member on Tuesday, becoming the first lawmaker to step down as Capitol Hill grapples with allegations of inappropriate behavior by lawmakers. Conyers, who represented the Detroit area for 52 years, yielded to mounting pressure from Democratic leaders to step aside as a growing number of female former aides accused him of unwanted advances and mistreatment. He has denied wrongdoing. From a hospital in Detroit, the 88-year-old congressman said he was 'putting his retirement plans together' and endorsed his son John Conyers III to replace him. Another Conyers family member has already declared his intention to run for the seat, raising the specter of an intrafamily contest.... Now that Conyers has resigned, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) will call a special election to replace him." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Megan Twohey, et al., of the New York Times: "Harvey Weinstein built his complicity machine out of the witting, the unwitting and those in between. He commanded enablers, silencers and spies, warning others who discovered his secrets to say nothing. He courted those who could provide the money or prestige to enhance his reputation as well as his power to intimidate. In the weeks and months before allegations of his methodical abuse of women were exposed in October, Mr. Weinstein, the Hollywood producer, pulled on all the levers of his carefully constructed apparatus." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In the end, Weinstein is just a fat, pathetic mogul who filled his hollow soul with shit. Citizen Kane without Rosebud.

When have we ever given protection to a food? -- Justice Sonia Sotomayor, oral arguments, Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, December 5 ...

... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who almost certainly holds the crucial vote in the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, sent sharply contradictory messages when it was argued Tuesday at the Supreme Court.... The case, which pits claims of religious freedom against the fight for gay rights, has attracted extraordinary public attention and about 100 friend-of-the-court briefs.... Tuesday’s argument, which lasted almost 90 minutes instead of the usual hour, appeared to divide the justices along the usual lines." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Dana Milbank: "Piece of cake: If you can’t do it to racial and religious minorities, women and the disabled, you shouldn’t be able to do it to gay people." ...

... BUT Amy Howe of ScotusBlog, a disinterested & acute observer, sees the vote going 5-4 for the bigoted baker. ...

... Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker seems to agree with Howe: "The briefs in the case were full of testimonials about the artistic qualities of icing, and the argument veered at times into the metaphysical. (Does a four-year-old’s cake say 'happy birthday' from the baker, or from the kid’s mom?) But the message in the courtroom was, in the end, deeply sombre. Discrimination against gay people (and others) is clearly fine with the Trump Administration, and, in this case, it may be fine with the Supreme Court, as well." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is another of those cases that invites an easy fix: Congress (ha ha) could pass a law and the presidunce* could sign it (ha ha) protecting LGBT persons in the same way minorities & women are legally (if not actually) protected under civil rights laws. Of course, Colorado has such a law, but state laws can't override the U.S. Constitution. The bigoted baker is claiming a First Amendment right to free speech, arguing that baking a cake is "speech," just the way confederates think money is speech.

Unsolved Mystery. Josh Lederman of the AP: "Doctors treating the U.S. Embassy victims of mysterious, invisible attacks in Cuba have discovered brain abnormalities as they search for clues to explain the hearing, vision, balance and memory damage, The Associated Press has learned. It’s the most specific finding to date about physical damage, showing that whatever it was that harmed the Americans, it led to perceptible changes in their brains. The finding is also one of several factors fueling growing skepticism that some kind of sonic weapon was involved.... Acoustic waves have never been shown to alter the brain’s white matter tracts, said Elisa Konofagou, a biomedical engineering professor at Columbia University who is not involved in the government’s investigation."

David Faber of CNBC: "Disney and Twenty-First Century Fox are closing in on a deal, and it could come as soon as next week, according to sources familiar with the matter. CNBC has been reporting that Disney has held talks with the Rupert Murdoch-controlled media company to acquire its studio and television production assets, leaving Fox with its news and sports assets. Fox is also talking with CNBC parent company Comcast, but the talks with Disney have progressed more significantly. The deal contemplates the sale of Fox's Nat Geo, Star, regional sports networks, movie studios and stakes in Sky and Hulu, among other properties. What would remain at Fox includes its news and business news divisions, broadcast network and Fox sports." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh, crap. And here I was hoping that Hannity & Dobbs would have to appear on-air in Mickey Mouse costumes.

Medlar's Sports Report. Rebecca Ruiz & Tariq Panja of the New York Times: "Russia’s Olympic team has been barred from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The country’s government officials are forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and its anthem will not sound. Any athletes from Russia who receive special dispensation to compete will do so as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals. That was the punishment issued Tuesday to the proud sports juggernaut that has long used the Olympics as a show of global force but was exposed for systematic doping in previously unfathomable ways. The International Olympic Committee, after completing its own prolonged investigations that reiterated what had been known for more than a year, handed Russia penalties for doping so severe they were without precedent in Olympics history." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Reader Comments (16)

In the same way Trump keeps proving his guilt with regards to Russian collusion by shooting off his mouth, child miolester Roy Moore, in trying to demonstrate what a harmless young coot he was back when everyone is saying what a pervert he was, reveals that he was first attracted to his wife when he saw her as a 15 year old girl at a dance recital.

Seriously? What adult male, unmarried with no kids hangs around at dance recitals for young girls?

A fucking pervert, that’s who. A pervert now endorsed by a president who is also a pervert.

The Family Values Party.

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

But wait, wait...one of the “leaders” of the Family Values Party, Turtle Man McConnell, sez if Child Molester Moore is elected (gee, how could that happen? Oh, maybe cuz we’re giving him out full support including millions from our national committee?) he’ll have “...trouble with the ethics committee!” Really? A CONFEDERATE ethics committee? Oh yeah. BIG trouble.

“Sen. Moore, did you habitually, for years, pursue young girls, ply them with liquor, drive them to your home, unbeknownst to their parents, and sexually molest them? Didn’t they even ban your pervy ass from the local mall (really, kids, who gets banned from the mall?) because young girls were afraid of you? Didn’t you then lie about all of the above and try to paint your accusers as liars themselves, saying you had never even met them, even the ones who have physical evidence you knew them?

“Um, well, no.”

“Oh. Okay. You can go. And let’s hurry. There’s a vote on whether Lord Trump should be made King for life. Hearing is adjourned!”

You mean like that kind of trouble, Mitch?

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Bibi is breaking out the bubbly! Trump's latest edict is another example of undoing anything that smacks of smart foreign policy. Ain't we got fun!

On another matter: Jeet Heer writes of the weaponized outrage that is a threat to journalist's free speech featuring Jack Posobiec (he of the pizzagate smear) an alt=right bottom feeder and friend of that sleeze, Roger Stone whose dirty tricks stink to high heaven.

https://newrepublic.com/article/146117/weaponized-outrage-threat-journalists-free-speech

Re: Ak's comments on the Roy Moore debacle: The Republicans have lost all credibility, all sense of responsibility and present themselves as credible legislators. The "have you no shame–-at long last, have you no shame?" echoed decades ago but heard now in those sacred halls of congress to obviously, deaf ears.

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

We need some smiles:
Came across this while reading an essay about King Hussein of Jordon that I thought you'd appreciate:

Now that access to Hussein's papers has been made possible here is a gem:

Reagan's understanding of the middle eastern quagmire was so limited that in private he seems hastily to agree with Hussein about almost everything. At a 1981 meeting, according to the future king, Prince Abdullah,

the King had spent thirty minutes alone with the president, who had come out agreeing with much of what he had said. Reagan's staff had had to back-pedal hastily and thereafter he was never allowed to spend any time alone with Hussein.

More light-heartily, Reagan attempted small talk by inquiring about the quality of fishing in the (fatally saline) Dead Sea, and whether to introduce Californian fish into it. He even pursued this uncompromising topic by letter. It was typical of Hussein's good manners that he drew the line so delicately under the absurdity:

Mr. President, a while ago I received your message pertaining to the subject of the possibility of introducing fish into the Dead Sea. I was most touched by your thoughtfulness in this regard which prompted your investigating the possibility. We had, in any event, reconciled ourselves to the fact that the Dead Sea is dead...

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

The Dead Sea is, um, dead.

Very funny. I realize that no president can or should be expected to have detailed knowledge about obscure geographical regions or local customs, but when you have something named "dead" you might be able to hazard a guess as to why.

Wingers have long taken umbrage at the notion that Reagan was somewhat of an amiable dunce. He was an effective politician, no doubt, but wouldn't have done all that well on Jeopardy, even Celebrity Jeopardy where contestants are often challenged by categories like "Cities Beginning With New and Ending With York".

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

President* Flippy Floppy

Here's a thought about the little king's latest stupidity, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

First, it ain't gonna happen soon. Probably never. He might open a storefront with his picture in the window and a flag hanging over the door, but it won't be a real embassy.

Besides the fact that it will take years to accomplish, Trump is famous for making bold, outrageous statements then backtracking. He's done it numerous times. The wall? Mexico will build it! Ooops. I guess not. Okay, we'll build it. DACA. Send those little creeps back where they came from. Well, okay, maybe not right away. We'll look at it. Paris Accords. We're out, dammit! But we'll think about it and see. Obama never called the families of dead service members! Well...I guess he did, but I was much nicer. Charlottesville: racism is bad. Well, maybe not all that bad. In fact, Nazis are nice. And both sides are to blame. H1-B visas. We need talented people even if they're foreigners. Next day: we don't need talented foreigners. Alabama election: He's all for Luther Strange. Next day: I think I made a mistake. Torture? We need it! Next day: we have to abide by the law. The Access Hollywood tape: yeah, that was me. A few months later: Me? That wasn't me. Are you crazy?

He flip flops like a fish out of water.

He's like a kid who loves to hear his name. He can't stand it if no one is talking about him so he continually says crazy shit. This isn't to say that his blundering about has some kind of sly wit to it. He's just so in need of attention he'll say and do anything to get in the news. And maybe he will eventually move the US embassy out of Tel Aviv, but let's not forget that unhinged flying off the handle is not exactly the best way to conduct reasonable and rational foreign policy. Whether he moves the embassy or not, Trump demonstrates to the rest of the world, on a daily basis, that he is an unreliable jerk who cannot be counted on for anything other than grabbing headlines for himself. His psychosis has become a problem for everyone, not just us.

This morning, a government run newspaper in China published a guide to trying to live through a nuclear holocaust. This is a direct result of the little king's irresponsible saber rattling and talk of nuking North Korea. I didn't see the "Kids, get under your desk and kiss your asses goodbye" advice, but my favorite is "Go jump in a lake". Seriously. That's one of their suggestions.

Good advice for the Donald as well.

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Al Franken has to go. Time’s up, pal. Get your stuff and go home. If that first one was all there was maybe he could have toughed it out, but not now. If there are this many incidents, there’s got to be more. Bite the bullet and resign. It sucks to lose a Democratic senator when a Confederate child molester is on the way, but that’s how it’ll have to be. Adios.

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Fortunately Democratic governor Dayton will name Franken's replacement.

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNJC

Pretty hysterical that the Trumpies trumpet the move of the US embassy in Israel as a “recognition of reality”. This administration, the most disconnected from the actual world, the most delusional, most mired in hard core winger fantasy in US history, couldn’t find reality with a Geiger counter. Even though, in Trump World, reality, like truth, is optional, the choice is almost always made for fantasy and lies.

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

This is a reprint of a text sent to me by a friend, a cardiologist, regarding the CVS/Aetna deal.

“Headline of section B of today’s WSJ: Aetna CEO in line for $500 million payout ( as a result of CVS purchase of Aetna). You know it’s egregious if the WSJ banners it.

Shares up 6 fold since he became CEO 7 years ago. Of course, other healthcare companies have all gone up 4-5 times per the article. But he deserves that amount. For 7 years of work. Money siphoned out of...the healthcare economy!”

Here is a piece on this possible golden parachute for Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini. The rich get richer. In Trump World, they get a lot richer.


http://money.cnn.com/2017/12/05/news/companies/aetna-ceo-cvs-payout/index.html

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: It isn't insurance -- it's a ripoff -- if a so-called insurance company can shell out $500MM as a golden parachute. I'd tax those payouts at 90 percent (at least). Let them have their bragging rights -- and let the public reap the majority of the profits. Nobody should get to keep that kind of money. Or maybe the $500MM came from CVS as part of the deal. If so, it's because sick people overpaid for prescription medications.

Time for single-payer, although as unwashed (I think it was) wrote the other day, the CVS-Aetna deal is a kind of single-payer -- if not exactly the one we had in mind. Just disgusting -- all of it.

December 6, 2017 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Good thing the little king “rejected” the honor of being Time’s Person of the Year, even though it was never offered. But I’m sure he’ll be pissed that the women who fingered him as a sexual predator are among those who have been chosen. And they were chosen for exactly that: calling out sexual abusers and perennial predators like Trumpy. Nice going, ladies. Congrats. We owe you.

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Trump seems to want to spill a little blood to upgrade his authoritarian bona fides. This Israel speech will definitely do the trick. And better yet, he has just etched his name in stone regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict forever. He's like a rabid dog frantically marking his territory for fear of invaders replacing him.

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Safari,

Not only that, but how do the Trumpies think this will aid the so-called "Jared Peace Process"? Does pissing on the Palestinians make them want to sit at the table and say "Okay, Jared, we agree to whatever you and Bibi want", especially since it makes them look like wussies to the rest of the Arab world?

Here's the thing. If you want to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, fine. We've pretty much agreed to that back in 1995 when we said we'd move the embassy out of Tel Aviv. But wouldn't it be better to make that declaration in conjunction with Palestinians as part of an orderly, agreed-to process? This gives them cover and it achieves this goal without dumping on them. BUT doing it like that doesn't let King Trumpy lord it over everyone while shouting that HE'S the BOSS and everyone has to do what he sez.

A partisan, narcissistic psychopath is not the best choice for negotiating a peace process in one of the hottest trouble spots in the modern world.

At this point, anyone sitting down at a table with Young Jared will understand what a complete and total clusterfuck is afoot. He will be treated just exactly as he should be, as a weakling, a moron, a cheap shill for his douchebag of a father-in-law, and an ignorant pretender who has nothing to offer but a kick in the balls for anyone not Israeli.

Christ, these people make idiots like Bush and Cheney look like a combination of von Metternich, Talleyrand, and Kemal Atatürk.

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: Obviously, if Trump knew so much about the art of the deal, he would know that -- if the U.S. was going to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and (maybe) move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem -- that would be a carrot for Israel in peace negotiations. Giving it up now makes no sense -- unless, as you suggested earlier, he just wants to make noise to distract from his shitstorm of a presidency.

December 6, 2017 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Marie,

Quite. Trump is no more a savvy deal maker than I am Harry Potter. The problem is that the real deal makers do their best work under cover and out of sight. Pounding your chest and shouting about how you screwed the other side makes the likelihood that future potential partners would bet their reputation on the very real chance that you would humiliate them, loudly, whether you came out ahead or not, slim and none.

The best and most savvy deal makers allow both sides to look like winners. Indeed, in the best deals, both sides do come out ahead. But that’s not the Trump Way. Even if he gets fucked, he has to make it look like he won big and the side is a bunch of losers.

The art of the deal? Hardly. More like heart of the squeal.

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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