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

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

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

"The Christmas Comet Returneth." New York Times: "Look into the night sky on Sunday [December 16] and you just might see a bright, fuzzy ball with a greenish-gray tint. That’s because a comet that orbits between Jupiter and the sun will make its closest approach to Earth in centuries, right on the heels of this year’s most stunning meteor shower. 'The fuzziness is just because it’s a ball of gas basically,' Tony Farnham, a research scientist in the astronomy department at the University of Maryland, said on Saturday morning.... 'You’ve got a one-kilometer solid nucleus in the middle, and gas is going out hundreds of thousands of miles.' The comet glows green because the gases emit light in green wavelengths. The ball of gas and dust, sometimes referred to as the 'Christmas comet,' was named 46P/Wirtanen, after the astronomer Carl Wirtanen, who discovered it in 1948. It orbits the sun once every 5.4 years, passing by Earth approximately every 11 years, but its distance varies and it is rarely this close. As the comet passes by, it will be 30 times farther from Earth than the moon, NASA said.”

By George O'Keefe or somebody.Maybe the Best Gift Would Be a Spell-Check App. Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Way back in November (so Slate has had plenty of time to make corrections), someone named Angela Serratore (hope I spelled that right), wrote a post for Slate, which is featured on its main page now, suggesting gifts from small museum shops. That's a nice thought, but it would have been even nicer if the story had not misspelled Georgia O'Keeffe three times: twice as "Georgia O'Keefe" & once as "George O'Keefe." But never "Georgia O'Keeffe."

Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi leaving the White House Wednesday, Dec. 12, after making mincemeat of Donald Trump.Everybody Loved Nancy's Coat! It's turns out it's from a 2013 Max Mara collection. According to Ana Colón of Glamour, "the Italian fashion house sent out a press release that not only confirmed the origins of Pelosi's coat but also announced that Max Mara would be reinstating the Glamis into its outerwear collection in 2019. 'In a variety of colorways,' no less! A spokesperson for the brand confirmed to Glamour that the decision to bring it back was inspired by Pelosi."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click on picture to see larger image.

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

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


The Commentariat -- February 12, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post: "The National Portrait Gallery has unveiled the official portraits of former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, both painted by African American artists, and both striking additions to the museum's 'America's Presidents' exhibition." ...

How Jefferson Beauregard Sessions Celebrates Black History Month. Daily Beast: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday invoked 'Anglo-American heritage' in an off-the-cuff remark during a speech at the National Sheriffs Association winter meeting in Washington. 'The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,' Sessions said. 'We must never erode this historic office.'"

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump on Monday will propose offering $100 billion in federal incentives to encourage cities and states to invest in road, bridge and other building projects, the centerpiece of a plan to spur $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending over the next decade without devoting significant federal money. The proposal, to be unveiled the same day as Mr. Trump's 2019 budget, faces long odds on Capitol Hill, where members of both parties -- particularly Democrats -- are skeptical of any plan that fails to create a dedicated new funding stream to address the nation's crumbling infrastructure. Lawmakers are also doubtful that such a small federal investment will be sufficient to spur an infrastructure spending boom."

No sooner had MAG brought up the unsettling thought of a "Trump library" than Akhilleus located it:

... A Book for the Trump Library! Julie Davis: "President Trump on Monday sent Congress a $4.4 trillion budget with steep cuts in domestic programs and entitlements, including Medicare, and large increases for the military, envisioning deficits totaling at least $7.1 trillion over the next decade. The blueprint, which has little to no chance of being enacted as written, amounts to a vision statement by Mr. Trump, whose plan discards longtime Republican orthodoxy about balancing the budget, instead embracing last year's $1.5 trillion tax cut and new spending on a major infrastructure initiative." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The theme here seems to be, "Congressional Republicans ignore GOP President*."

Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "The Justice Department's No. 3 attorney had been unhappy with her job for months before the department announced her departure on Friday, according to multiple sources close to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand. Brand grew frustrated by vacancies at the department and feared she would be asked to oversee the Russia investigation, the sources said. She will be leaving the Justice Department in the coming weeks to take a position with Walmart as the company's executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary, a job change that had been in the works for some time, the sources said.... Should [Deputy AG Rod] Rosenstein be fired, Brand would be next in line to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, thrusting her into a political spotlight that Brand told friends she did not want to enter."

Tom Winter & Jonathan Deinst of NBC News: "... Donald Trump's daughter-in-law [Vanessa Trump] was taken to a Manhattan hospital as a precaution on Monday after a suspicious letter containing an unidentified white powder was sent to her apartment, senior law enforcement and city officials told NBC News."

Personally, I think Devin Nunes is totally out of control. And Paul Ryan is letting it happen, which is not quite as bad as pedophile Denny Hastert letting his members screw the pages but getting pretty close. -- Martin Longman of BooMan Tribune ...

... Matthew Chapman of Shareblue: Devin Nunes' fake news "website, titled 'The California Republican,' was first exposed by Politico on Sunday. Paid for by the Devin Nunes Campaign Committee, it has run headlines like, 'CNN busted for peddling fake news AGAIN!' and 'Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo.' Its Twitter account even posted an image of Nunes with the words 'This is what a hero looks like.'"

Wayne Drash of CNN: "California's insurance commissioner has launched an investigation into Aetna after learning a former medical director for the insurer admitted under oath he never looked at patients' records when deciding whether to approve or deny care. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones expressed outrage after CNN showed him a transcript of the testimony and said his office is looking into how widespread the practice is within Aetna. 'If the health insurer is making decisions to deny coverage without a physician actually ever reviewing medical records, that's of significant concern to me as insurance commissioner in California -- and potentially a violation of law,' he said."


Happy Birthday, Abe. "Great president. Most people don't even know he was a Republican. Does anyone know? Lot of people don't know that." -- Donald Trump, to attendees at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner, March 2017

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "It is hard to tell what should be more worrisome: the fact that the commander in chief doesn't bother to read his daily compilation of the nation's most urgent intelligence, or the fact that his son-in-law -- who has been unable to obtain a security clearance -- does.... There are two sets of issues to be concerned about here. The more serious one, of course, is whether the president is getting the information he needs to keep the country safe -- or alternatively, whether his handlers may be dumbing things down to avoid overtaxing his attention span or challenging his preconceptions. In the case of [Jared] Kushner, there is a potential security risk but also the more immediate question of how appropriate is it for him to have access to the material under any circumstances. That takes us back to the fact that the 37-year-old real estate scion has no credential to merit holding his current White House job, outside of whom he married."

Peter Baker & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The furor over spousal abuse allegations that forced the resignation of one of President Trump's top advisers last week has exposed fissures within the White House that had been papered over since John F. Kelly took over last summer as chief of staff with a mandate to end the dysfunction. Aides to the president said they remained confused and upset over the handling of the accusations against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who stepped down. Days after his departure, the White House was still struggling on Sunday to provide a consistent explanation of who knew what and when, even as questions swirled about whether anyone might be felled as a result." ...

... Here's One Reason. Jonathan Swan of Axios: "President Trump is defending Rob Porter even though, privately, he says he's guilty. Behind closed doors: The president has told multiple people that he believes the accusations about Porter, and finds him 'sick.'... The president has told associates he believes Porter's ex-wives' accusations." ...

... They Can't Handle the Truth. Jennie Willoughby in Time: "On Friday, a friend and I watched as the President of the United States sat in the Oval Office and praised the work of my ex-husband, Rob Porter, and wished him future success.... When Donald Trump repeated twice that Rob declared his innocence, I was floored.... My friend turned to me and said, 'The President of the United States just called you a liar.'... While I may understand President Trump and Gen. Kelly's incredulity at such a counter-image of their golden boy, I do not condone their choice to support him." ...

... David Remnick of the New Yorker: "Sooner or later, Trump's satraps and lieutenants, present and former, come to betray a vivid sense of just how imperilled and imperilling this Presidency is. In their sotto-voce remarks to the White House press, these aides seem to compete in their synonyms for the President's modesty of intelligence ('moron,' 'idiot,' 'fool'); his colossal narcissism; his lack of human empathy. They admit to reporters how little he studies the basics of domestic policy and national security; how partial he is to autocrats like himself; how indifferent he is to allies.... In the past few days, it has been Trump's misogyny, his heedless attitude toward women and issues of harassment and abuse, that has shocked them most. And those who know him best recognize the political consequences ahead.... It has come to the point when even Trump's closest aides know that a reckoning is coming." ...

The problem for Kelly is that a good number of his staff tell me he's a liar. -- Jonathan Swan of Axios, in a tweet ...

... Benjamin Hart of New York: "After a disastrous week for White House Chief of Staff John Kelly..., Trump administration talking heads were in cleanup mode on Sunday morning. Amid reports that President Trump was considering getting rid of his chief of staff, Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN's State of the Union with Jake Tapper to claim otherwise.... (Judging by past events, this assurance does not indicate that Kelly's job is completely secure.)... She defended President Trump's unwillingness to sympathize with Porter's accusers by ... pointing to job gains among women in the last year. And she dodged a question about the timeline of what Kelly and White House Chief Counsel Donald McGahn knew about Porter's behavior.... Kelly may still enjoy the confidence of the president, but he has increasingly become known for a loose relationship with the truth, so his credibility is not exactly airtight on this or any other matter." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Having "a loose relationship with the truth" should be a point of bonding between Trump & Kelly. ...

... Over on Fox "News," the crazies -- in this case, Jeanine Pirro & Sebastian Gorka -- have cooked up a conspiracy theory for all this, and you won't be surprised to learn that the Porter debacle is all Obama's fault. Mrs. McC: I'm disappointed Hillary doesn't get some credit here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Damian Paletta of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Monday will offer a budget plan that falls far short of eliminating the government's deficit over 10 years, conceding that huge tax cuts and new spending increases make this goal unattainable, three people familiar with the proposal said. Eliminating the budget deficit over 10 years has been a North Star for the Republican Party for several decades, and GOP lawmakers took the government to the brink of default in 2011 when they demanded a vote on a amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit the federal government from spending more than it takes in." ...

.... Yeah But. Sarah Ferris & Jennifer Scholtes of Politico: "Trump's budget will lay out 'an aggressive set of spending reforms' to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over a decade, according to a preview released by the White House on Sunday.... [Budget Director Mick] Mulvaney said Sunday that Trump will request more cuts to the State Department and the EPA this time, while urging Republican lawmakers to resist the urge to boost spending on social welfare programs.... The White House is expected to buy into congressional Republicans' plans for welfare reform, such as imposing work requirements for Medicaid recipients and new restrictions for food stamps. On stemming opioid addiction, for example, Trump is expected to ask Congress to shift more funding into enforcement, rather than treatment.... The budget will again reflect Trump's businessman-like commitment to shrinking the federal bureaucracy, for the first time making public the White House's plans for trimming staff and operations across the federal government."

David Leonhardt of the New York Times on "Trumpism for thee but not for me." Trump has repeatedly imposed unpopular, noxious policies, then made carveouts for his supporters, as he did with his offshore oil-drilling program -- acceding to buddy Gov. Rick Scott's plea to exempt Florida. "If Trump's agenda is as wonderful as he says, his loyal supporters should surely get to benefit from it as well. But I think it also contains an important lesson for anyone trying to stop Trump's agenda: Keep calling attention to the substance of that agenda, because it is deeply unpopular -- and even Trump's allies know it's unpopular.... The clearest example is a new tax on colleges with an endowment of at least $500,000 per full-time student. It was aimed at bastions of liberalism, like Harvard, M.I.T., Stanford and Amherst. But members of Congress eventually realized that the endowment tax would also apply to Berea College, a small institution in Kentucky with a nice-sized endowment.... So [Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] 'insisted' (his word) that last week's budget deal create a carve-out to spare Berea from the tax."

Motoko Rich & Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "... Flashing a sphinx-like smile and without ever speaking in public, Kim [Yo-jong, the sister of Kim Jong-un,] managed to outflank Mr. Trump's envoy to the Olympics, Vice President Mike Pence, in the game of diplomatic image-making. While Mr. Pence came with an old message -- that the United States would continue to ratchet up 'maximum sanctions' until the North dismantled its nuclear arsenal -- Ms. Kim delivered messages of reconciliation as well as an unexpected invitation from her brother to the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, to visit Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.... Mr. Pence is playing 'right into North Korea's hands by making it look like the U.S. is straying from its ally and actively undermining efforts for inter-Korean relations,' said Mintaro Oba, a former diplomat at the State Department specializing in the Koreas, who now works as a speechwriter in Washington. Ms. Kim, on the other hand, 'is a very effective tip of the spear for the North Korean charm offensive,' Mr. Oba said. Analysts of Korean affairs said that Mr. Pence had missed an opportunity." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Needless to say, I'm no fan of the Kim family, but I am pleased to assume that these stories comparing pence unfavorably to Kim is making Trump hopping mad. On a more serious note, it's distressing that a powerful country like the U.S. has chosen such dimwitted leaders that a rotten little nation like North Korea can show us up with the blink of an eyelash. ...

... Yeah But. Maybe. Josh Rogin of the Washington Post: "Despite the mutual chilliness between U.S. and North Korean officials in South Korea last week, behind the scenes real progress was made toward a new diplomatic opening that could result in direct talks without preconditions between Washington and Pyongyang. This window of opportunity was born out of a new understanding reached between the White House and the president of South Korea. Vice President Pence, in an interview aboard Air Force Two on the way home from the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, told me that in his two substantive conversations with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his trip, the United States and South Korea agreed on terms for further engagement with North Korea -- first by the South Koreans and potentially with the United States soon thereafter." Mrs. McC: If this is true, good. But don't tell Trump about it because if you do, he'll again put a Trumpywrench in it.

Trump Hotels Announce Outer Space Expansion. "To the Moon, Melania!" Christian Davenport of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry. The White House plans to stop funding the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post. 'The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time -- it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform,' the document states. 'NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Juliet Eilperin & Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "As he enters his second year in charge of the EPA, [Scott] Pruitt is distinguishing himself from his predecessors in ways that go beyond policy differences. His travel practices -- which tend to be secretive, costly and frequent -- are integral to how he approaches his role.... [Pruitt's] overseas trips are largely untethered to the kind of multilateral environmental summits that dominated his predecessors' schedules, and Pruitt rarely discloses where he plans to be.... The agency records show that wherever Pruitt's schedule takes him, he often flies first or business class, citing unspecified security concerns." It's unclear whether his security detail travels in coach or alongside Pruitt.

Nick Miroff & Maria Sacchetti of the Washington Post: "A week after he won the election, President Trump promised that his administration would round up millions of immigrant gang members and drug dealers. And after he took office, arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers surged 40 percent.... But as ICE officers get wider latitude to determine whom they detain, the biggest jump in arrests has been of immigrants with no criminal convictions. The agency made 37,734 'noncriminal' arrests in the government's 2017 fiscal year, more than twice the number in the previous year.... Critics say ICE is increasingly grabbing at the lowest-hanging fruit of deportation-eligible immigrants to meet the president's unrealistic goals, replacing a targeted system with a scattershot approach aimed at boosting the agency's enforcement statistics. ICE has not carried out mass roundups or major workplace raids under Trump, but nearly every week brings a contentious new arrest.... Immigrants whose only crime was living in the country illegally were largely left alone during the latter years of the Obama administration. But that policy has been scrapped." ...

... Seung Min Kim & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Usually careful with his every move, the Senate majority leader is taking a gamble this week with his pledge for a free-for-all debate over the fate of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.... McConnell has pledged to senators to devote the Senate floor solely to immigration for at least two weeks, according to senators.... But McConnell does want strong GOP backing for any final bill and will be loath to pass anything that can't get at least 30 Senate Republicans in support, according to two Republican senators." McConnell's wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chou, emigrated from Taiwan when she was eight years old. ...

... Tal Kopan of CNN: "A group of Republican senators on Sunday night released a version of ... Donald Trump's immigration proposal ahead of a floor debate on immigration this week.... The proposal is expected to be one of several amendments the Senate will consider this week as it debates immigration.The bill from Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn, James Lankford, Thom Tillis, David Perdue, Tom Cotton and Joni Ernst largely resembles what Trump has proposed. At its base is still a resolution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. Trump has decided to terminate the Obama-era program."

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Nunes Fake "News." David Siders of Politico: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a relentless critic of the media, has found a way around the often unflattering coverage of his role in the Trump-Russia investigation -- by operating his own partisan news outlet. Resembling a local, conservative news site, 'The California Republican' is classified on Facebook as a 'media/news company' and claims to deliver 'the best of US, California, and Central Valley news, sports, and analysis.' But the website is paid for by Nunes' campaign committee, according to small print at the bottom of the site. Leading the home page most recently: a photograph of Nunes over the headline, 'Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The irony here is rich. Nunes is head of a committee that is supposed to be investigating Russian interference in the U.S. election, a scheme that prominently involves manipulating Americans' sources for news. And what is Nunes doing? He's copying the Russians. He's trying to manipulate Americans' sources for news. ...

... Norman Eisen, Caroline Fredrickson & Laurence Tribe, in a New York Times op-ed, point to the possibility that Devin Nunes & his staff, if they coordinated the infamous Nunes memo with the White House, may end up in Robert Mueller's sights, as targets for conspiracy-to-obstruct-justice charges. "Endeavoring to stop an investigation, if done with corrupt intent, may constitute obstruction of justice. Plotting to assist such action may be conspiracy to obstruct justice."

Edward Helmore of the Guardian: "New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein, his brother Bob Weinstein and their film production company alleging serious violations of civil rights, human rights and state business laws. The lawsuit, which was filed on Sunday with the New York County supreme court, alleges that the Weinsteins created 'a years-long gender-based hostile work environment, a pattern of quid pro quo sexual harassment and routine misuse of corporate resources for unlawful ends that extended from in or about 2005 through at least in or about October 2017.'"

Beyond the Beltway

Pemy Levy of Mother Jones: "Top Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature aren't giving an inch in the ongoing battle over the state's congressional map. On Friday, they submitted a new map for the 2018 elections that analyses show is just as gerrymandered as the old one. It would ensure Republicans keep an outsized number of seats in a state closely divided between the two parties.... The Republicans' proposal is the result of a ruling last month in which the Pennsylvania supreme court found the state's current map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Under that map, drawn in 2011, Republicans consistently won 13 of the state's 18 congressional seats.... The map is now on the desk of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who has hired a mathematician to help him evaluate it.... The governor and the legislature have until February 15 to agree on a new map, as dictated by a court order. If they cannot reach an agreement, then the court will create a map." ...

... Mark Stern of Slate: "On Wednesday night, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court finally released its majority opinion explaining why Republicans' gerrymander of Pennsylvania's congressional districts violates the state constitution. (On Jan. 22, the court had issued a brief order directing the Legislature to redraw the illegal districts without fully explaining its reasoning.) Justice Debra McCloskey Todd's 139-page opinion for the court is thorough and persuasive -- and, critically, its reasoning isn't entirely limited to Pennsylvania. Instead, Todd illustrates how dozens of other state constitutions may be interpreted to protect voting rights more robustly than the U.S. Constitution does.... The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether partisan gerrymandering runs afoul of the First and 14th amendments. But, as Todd explained, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had no obligation to wait for SCOTUS's decision in Gill v. Whitford, because the Pennsylvania Constitution provides rights independent from the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the state constitution -- which actually predates its federal counterpart -- declares that all elections 'shall be free and equal.'"

She Persisted. If you speak truth to power in West Virginia, they'll turn off your mike & physically drag you from the podium. Russell Mokhiber of Common Dreams: Lissa Lucas stood to testify before a West Virginia House committee on a fracking bill sponsored by the oil & gas industry. Lucas "began by pointing out that 'the people who are going to be speaking in favor of this bill are all going to be paid by the industry. And the people who are going to be voting on this bill are often also paid by the industry.'... Lucas then began to read the oil and gas donations to the members of the House Judiciary Committee....” The committee chairman, John Shott, whom Lucas named first, cut off her mike, then ordered guards to remove Lucas from the podium when she persisted. ...

     ... Mrs. McC: Shott removed Lucas because, he said, she was making "personal comments." Sorry, John, Lucas was testifying about public records, not making "personal comments." If you live in Ritchie County, West Virginia, vote for Lucas for the House of Delegates seat. She's running. ...

Way Beyond

Emily Rauhala of the Washington Post: "President Rodrigo Duterte last week told soldiers to shoot female rebels in their genitals, the latest in a series of violent, misogynistic remarks. Addressing a group of former communist rebels on Feb. 7, Duterte, who served as a city mayor before becoming president, appeared to encourage Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to target women in conflict. 'Tell the soldiers. "There's a new order coming from the mayor. We won&'t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina,"' he said." Mrs. McC: Another reason, no doubt, Trump says he has a "great relationship" with Duterte.

Reader Comments (24)

More in "Whadda a conundrum" consideration!
Carl Swanson in New York magazine covers A Stage Full of Starchitects Debates the State of the Industry—and toward the end of the Q&A, a question arises, "...who will build the "...Trump Library?" " Two words that conjure an unsettling, mental double take when used together.

Hooboy! Trump and library in the same sentence boggles the mind!

I'm thinking aside from no serious architect wanting his/her legacy associated with the project, some possible locations among cities vying as the future home for this gold-gilded, biggest ever, (must be bigger than Obama's) library include Atlantic City or Moscow. It will be the tallest (fake floors added), it will have an extraordinary McDonald's restaurant (edible gold leaf applied to all Big Macs) with a 24/7, multi-lane, two-tiered drivethru. There will be no books, or presidential papers...only interactive wall displays with hundreds of archived Tweets with menu options for Most Insulting, Most Insulted, Most Grammatically-challenged, etc.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

@MAG, I suspect that the only books in that library will be of him and for sale.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed

MAG: Also, it will contain twice the number of teevee screens than your average large sports bar, all playing Faux. Outside, a working golf course with TRUMP mowed into the grass, and a sign prohibiting anyone from entering without first contacting Mr. Kushner and buying a "membership..."

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

Wait a minute. And Lincoln was a REPUBLICAN?

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


Surely the Trump Library (still sounds like a trick) will offer these prezudenshul papers!

Will the “Trump Library” (it IS a trick!) offer multi-million dollar condos for sale in the Putin Wing (“Live like a Russian Oligarch!”) with genuine reproductions of that gold toilet, autographed by president* daft his very own self? And will the “librarians” be scantily clad 15 year old beauty contest winners? Visitors surely will be treated to endless loops of Fox “experts” extolling the wonders of The little dictator, and reminding everyone to visit the 10,000 sq. Ft. “Trump Gift Shop” where they can purchase all things Trumpy.

I swear to god, when this fucker dies, his greedy rat bastard kids will set up a toll booth going into the cemetery.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Me thinks the trump library (the oxymoron of the century) should
be on the International Space Station and trump should be the head
librarian, forever in orbit.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforrest morris

Oh, I do hope that many/some? in Lissa Lucus' Ritchie County will shower her with flowers after she TRIED to expose those richie riche's money grabbers. Could she publish in the local rag? Get a megaphone, stand in front of the Five and Dime and do a shout out listing? If "they" think she'll go quietly into the night "they" just gave her an extra boost to do just the opposite.

Lincoln would not recognize "The Party of Lincoln" no how, no way. He would also tell Trump that those better angels are weeping copious tears over what they see happening in THIS presidency. Rumor has it that someone reported seeing Lincoln's statue early this morning in a sort of a mourning position––head way down cupped in his hands. It was only for a moment but a moment of great sadness.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe


Trump has no better angels of his nature. David Remnick (linked above) offers an exact description of this, the worst--by miles-- American president*: infantile, duplicitous, cold-hearted, and a self-serving greedy prick (okay, he didn't say "prick", but it's not wrong, is it?).

This sneering, cowardly, self-centered four-flusher has no better side. I don't care if he feeds the pigeons in Central Park. If he does, he probably feeds them to his cat. If he had a cat. Which is highly unlikely because then he'd have to think of something other than himself, which he doesn't.

So I thought I'd see if Trumpado has any pets.

Nyet. Double nyet. But at one point, he had to live with one. At least until he cheated on its owner and replaced her with the next model:

"Trump lived with a poodle, Chappy, with his first wife, Ivana, who wrote in her memoir, 'Raising Trump,' that "Donald was not a dog fan.

'When I told him I was bringing Chappy with me to New York, he said, 'No,' she wrote. 'It's me and Chappy or no one!' I insisted, and that was that.'

Chappy, she later said, 'had an equal dislike of Donald.'"

Good boy, Chappy. Smart dog.

Not just a bad president. An awful human being. Even fallen angels would have nothing to do with this asshole.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I googled "Trump Library", and after rebooting my computer, which immediately crashed, found that the location for this building has already been selected and it's the perfect monument to all things Trump.

Even better, the Glorious Leader himself will be working there.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Ak: A perfect setting for his future library!

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

That this is the Bizarro White House can be determined by any number of examples, but the idea that the president (who couldn't get a security clearance to drive a school bus if he wasn't president) doesn't read the classified presidential briefings but Jared fucking Kushner, who has no security clearance at all does, is one of the most egregious illustrations of how incredibly and dangerously fucked up this administration is. Some jamoke off the street, 'cause he's married to first daughter Ivanka gets to read top secret briefings? In what universe is that okay?

If I'm Putin (well, okay, Putin doesn't need this information, he gets it straight from Trump), or some other demagogue looking for an inside track on what US intelligence is offering the president, I'd make sure to find a way to have a presence at some Javanka cocktail party and see if my asset could get Young Jared talking. The smallest bit of information could be vital and because he has zero background in intelligence, never mind a clearance, how can he evaluate what information is important and what he can bandy about as proof of his insider coolness?

Or how 'bout he uses some of this information to assist his real estate or investment empire? Is that out of the realm of possibilities? Of course not. His big real estate buy in NY is hemorrhaging money; the guy is in Trump's immediate orbit and that's what Trumps do. They use whatever they can to make a buck, national security be damned.

This is Fucked Up. But Trumpy allows it, and so, obviously, does Mr. Adult in the Room, General Misogynist. And I'm guessing congressional Confederates involved in intelligence (another oxymoron there for ya, Forrest), haven't raised a stink about it either.


February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

The next time James Comey pokes his head above ground, I hope someone asks him what words he would use to describe the current White House and their approach to handling classified material, seeing as how he called Hillary Clinton "extremely careless" in an unprecedented performance that significantly tilted the election to our current situation. I nominate Comey as today's fucker.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiskyGuy

Was thinking the library might possibly could best be housed in Moscow (not the Idaho one). It's the least Pretender buddy Putin could do, and as an added incentive for such generosity, if any more were needed, the structure wouldn't have to be very big.

A repurposed WWII quonset or the Russian equivalent, maybe.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes


C'mon now. I think you're being a bit unfair to that nice Devin Nunes. Any good elementary school teacher will tell you that the best way for children to learn is by doing. Little Devin has watched Headmaster Putin clogging the information pipes in the US with fake news to help that delightful Donnie Trumpy, so now he wants to do the same. More fake news to help Donnie. Fake news to help spread the propaganda from your fake memo.

And that name, "The California Republican". Good one. Catchy. Not as spellbinding as "Failing New York Times", maybe, but not bad for a first try. Next time, how 'bout...oh, I dunno, "Pravda"! Yeah. That'd be perfect. "Republican Pravda". Oh wait, isn't that what Fox News is?

Well, anyway, good boy, Devin! A-plus in Fake News! I'd say you'll have a leg up on all those other Confederates who'll be voted out of office soon, most of whom (the ones who don't cash in on some cozy wingnut sinecure) will be looking for a soft landing at Fox as an "analyst". Or something.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


I was thinking maybe Mexico City (or more appropriately, Tijuana--better view of The Wall). I'm sure the Mexicans will be happy to pay for the Trump Library. A Quonset hut won't set them back nearly as much as the wall. Or maybe a little adobe bungalow.

Hey, they've already got a museum there named "El Trompo". Just change a letter, add a word, and bingo! Biblioteca El Trumpo! Deported Dreamers can work as ticket takers and janitors. How grateful they'll be!

But I like the Russia idea too. So many good options! Who ever thought a Trump Library could be so exciting?

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Yesterday, toward the end of the comments, Asa Watcher, in response to my somewhat dolorous complaint that presidents don't need to undergo a background or security check, given the fact that we now have an untrustworthy criminal in the White House, brought up Federalist 68, in which Hamilton pointed to the danger of just such an occurrence. Very true. But Hamilton's solution was the Electoral College, the exact mechanism by which we now find ourselves in the situation Hamilton hoped to help us avoid. Unintended consequences are a bitch.

My comment was directed more toward the system, put in place much later, of background checks for federal employees expected to review or manage sensitive intelligence, a system that excused (weirdly, and maybe unavoidably, but still weirdly) the chief executive. Still, it's always useful to go all the way back to review how we got here in the first place.

Now, for that Hitler question, you know, the one about if you were sent back in time and knew what was going to happen, would you bump him off? I'm not suggesting killing Hamilton, of course, maybe just taking him out and getting him plastered before he wrote 68. Maybe plant a hypnotic suggestion while you're at it: "NO ELECTORAL COLLEGE! Bad. Bad."

No Electoral College? No Bush, No Trump. Hey, it'd be worth a shot.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: Interesting about the Electoral College. It turns out the unwashed masses are better at picking a president than are the supposed "adults" in the Electoral College whose function it is to tamp down the excesses of the wild & crazy public. Being quite rusty on the "Federalist Papers" (um, I read a bunch of them in college a half-century ago), I don't know that they ever addressed gerrymandering. And they certainly didn't address the right to vote, because there ain't one, except -- as Michael Stern points out in a column linked today -- some states.

Thomas Jefferson thought the country needed a new Constitution every generation. That might be overdoing it, but we sure could do with an overhaul of the one we've got to meet today's needs & some of the unforeseen surprises of the way things have worked out with political parties (which the Founders didn't think would be very important). Alas, the people charged with writing a new Constitution would be folks like Mitch McConnell & Ted Cruz. So we're stuck with what we've got -- one that the Supremes seem to have adapted over the years on their whims & fancies when they couldn't find anything in the Constitution to hang their robes on.

February 12, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie


As I was reading your comment about needing a new constitution, my hair was standing up, thinking about who would be writing it, something, the consideration of which, was making my prefontal cortex light up like the Empire State building on the Fourth of July. Then I got to the part where you thought of the same thing. Never mind.

Oh, man. Can you imagine? A constitution written in the hothouse of Fox and California Republican fake news, with plenty of helpful input from Alex Jones, Vladimir Putin, Matt Drudge, the Bundys, Rodrigo Duterte, and fucking Lloyd Blankfein? Holy smokes, what a freakin' zombie nightmare that would be. First, the whole Bill of Rights would be gone. The right to carry guns into day cares and elementary schools and bars and on planes would be written into the body of the thing, none of this amendment shit.

Slavery would be reinstated and this time, black Americans wouldn't even be 3/5ths of a person, unless maybe for insurance purposes where slaveowners like Jeff Sessions could collect on any deaths that happened "accidental-like".

Okay...I'm starting to break out in hives thinking of the rest of this zombie constitution.

We'll stick with what we got.


February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: If 3/4 of the states would support the changes you fear, it is already too late.
democracy requiesce in pace

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCowichan's Opinion

Carny Don

Step right up, git yer infrastructure plan, come one, come all. While in the tent, git yerself a bottle of Dr. Don's Snake Oil, then mosey on over to see the bearded lady and the Siamese Twins. Come one, come all. What's that son? Who's paying for his sideshow? are! Now go 'way boy, ya bother me. Come one, come all. Git yer infrastructure plan!

Dr. Don's Infrastructure Snake Oil. Right here. Step right up.

He slices, he dices, he robs Peter to pay Paul, he slips you a five and takes a hundred out yer back pocket. He's tremendous, Dr. Don! The Best Words, super smart, went to Wharton! Git yer tickets, only $25 billion a state. Step right up.

This Trumpfrastructure plan is pure Republican gammon: a slab of pork. It's a farce, and not even a good one. The little dictator does his usual "10 for me 1 for you" scam in which he gives the states a small pittance and demands that they pony up the rest so he can take credit for it all.

It ain't happenin'. First, Confederates have already stiffed all the blue states. Red states continue to get money (from the blues), but they won't contribute a dime to infrastructure spending because now every state will have even less to start with. And federal tax money won't be there. The deficit will skyrocket far beyond where conniving winger "economists" are projecting.

The American Society of Civil Engineers says a minimum of $2 trillion is required to make nominal improvements. Trump offers ten percent of that. And of that, much of the money comes from other infrastructure projects. So take money from Amtrak and send it to some other pseudo-fakey bullshit project.

My sense is that this whole thing is a canard. A misdirection play that will funnel billions to Trump's cronies for jobs that will never get done. Like his wall, this will cost taxpayers trillions but they won't see a single improvement. Gammon. A carnival sideshow. It'll all end up in the pockets of FOD's (Friends of Don).

The whole thing is a cruel hoax perpetrated by a liar and a fraud and his Party of Traitors.

What's next?

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Misogyny AND Racism! A two-fer!

So, the portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama have been unveiled. Fox is incensed. They're proclaiming that criticism of the first black First Lady is (deservedly) "brutal". To Fox, Michelle Obama's portrait looks like a human being and not a gorilla. The IDEA! Horrors! It's a liberal conspiracy!

Even the "kindest" winger "commentators" claim that "It doesn't look like her!"

You know what, douchebags? Check out the idealized portrait of Ronnie Rayguns. I mean, look at the guy, he looks wide awake, and he looks like he knows what's going on! That can't be right. By the time he sat (sleeping) for this portrait, he was asking Nancy if Mars was in the Fifth House.

Official portraits are almost always idealized. Here's Mao Zedong looking slightly taller than he was, (and quite a bit more svelte).

Interestingly, Michelle's portrait, which is even more hip than her husband's, depicts a calm, cool, rational, and strong woman, in a much more idiosyncratic, graphically vigorous style: muscular without being overbearing, contemplative but not simpering and soporific (see Dubya's portrait) and without the mincy "classical" patina that portraits of Reagan and the Decider evince.

Very likely, what pisses off the knee-jerk douchebag Fox racist "art critics" like Ben Shapiro, is that it's an unconventional portrait of a black woman, painted by another black woman, without the imprimatur or nihil obstat of white racist Confederate male butt holes like himself. How dare those black bitches think for themselves!

I suppose they'll cheer wildly when we get a portrait of Melania in a skimpy bikini and one of Trumpado looking like he's 180 lbs, with real hair, because obsequious white fantasy is their reality.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: If it doesn't look like this, it isn't a real portrait.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie


Hahaha! I didn’t know what to expect but that was a good one! Maybe the Presidential Portrait gallery should have hired Matthew Brady for the Obamas’ pictures.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Most cartoon artwork is done weeks before it is published so I found this one in todays paper most timely.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBobby Lee
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