The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

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

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

"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 13, 2018

Afternoon Update:

David Halbfinger & Isabel Kershner of the New York Times: "The Israeli police recommended on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, casting a pall over the future of a tenacious leader.... Concluding a yearlong graft investigation, the police recommended that Mr. Netanyahu face prosecution in two corruption cases: a gifts-for-favors affair known as Case 1000, and a second scandal, dubbed Case 2000, in which Mr. Netanyahu is suspected of back-room dealings with Arnon Mozes, publisher of the popular daily Yediot Aharonot, to ensure more favorable coverage." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I suggest we reserve Guantanamo (Orrin Hatch once said Guantanamo was pretty nice compared to freezing wastelands like Illinois) for Trump & all of these other right-wing corrupt dictators. Let them each have their very own suite (cell with a bucket) & get three squares of gruel a day. Gen. Kelly can come down once in awhile & strafe them with rubber bullets, which is an exercise he apparently enjoys.

Matthew Rosenberg & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "As the midterm elections approach, Russia is likely to throw more propaganda at Americans, using people sympathetic to their messages and fake personalities on social media -- many of them run by bots -- to sow further political and social divisions in the United States, the top American intelligence officials said on Tuesday. The intelligence chiefs warned the Senate Intelligence Committee, during an annual hearing on worldwide threats that Russia believes its interference in the 2016 presidential election largely achieved its chief aim -- weakening faith in American democracy. Moscow now sees the coming congressional elections as a chance to build on its gains, they said.... The warnings were striking in their contrast to President Trump's views on Russia. He has mocked the very notion of Russian interference in the last election, and lashed out at those who have suggested otherwise. He also said that he believes denials of Russian interference issued by President Vladimir V. Putin."

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, contradicted on Tuesday the White House timeline about the domestic abuse scandal involving Rob Porter, the president's former staff secretary. Mr. Wray said that the bureau delivered to the White House a partial report on problems in Mr. Porter's background in March, months earlier than the White House has admitted receiving the information.... He said the bureau received a request for a 'follow-up inquiry' and provided more information about Mr. Porter's background to the White House in November. He also said that Mr. Porter's background check investigation was 'administratively closed' in January, weeks before the allegations against Mr. Porter were publicly known.... White House officials also have insisted that the investigation into Mr. Porter's background was never completed." ...

     ... Story has been updated, with Julie Davis added to the byline: "Mr. Wray's testimony pointed up a contradictory and frequently changing story line from the White House about a scandal that has engulfed the West Wing. It has raised questions about the credibility of President Trump's most senior advisers, their awareness of serious allegations against an aide who had access to some of the nation's most sensitive information, and the degree of tolerance they may have shown to an ambitious colleague apparently eager to cover up a dark past."

Lisa Hagen of the Hill: "Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Tuesday rejected a new district map drawn by GOP lawmakers, bringing the state closer to handing its redistricting process over to a court. The GOP map was drawn after the state Supreme Court struck down the state's current map in a gerrymandering case."


... 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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Akhilleus checked out Fox "News"' reception of the portraits, & apparently the professional art critics over there didn't much care for them. See yesterday's thread. Mrs. McC: At least this is one thing that happened during the Trump administration that it's fair for them to claim is the Obamas' fault.

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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Michael Laris of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration is pushing federal officials to sell off, privatize or otherwise dispose of a broad array of government assets, from Reagan National Airport and the George Washington Memorial Parkway along the Potomac River to properties held by federal agencies across the country. The proposals are part of a long-awaited infrastructure initiative that President Trump has referred to repeatedly...." Mrs. McC: So like, Reagan International will become G.E. International & the G.W. Parkway will become Mattress Man Parkway? ...

... Matthew Yglesias of Vox: "In his State of the Union address, Donald Trump promised an infrastructure agenda that would let America 'build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land.' The actual infrastructure program he's unveiling today alongside his fiscal year 2019 budget request, however, is likely to do nothing of the sort. In part that's due to the specific elements of the program design. But more fundamentally it's because of the way the program is financed -- or, rather, not financed." Yglesias goes on to explain the financing. "By mashing up Trump's vague rhetoric with his staff's conventional hard-right politics, they've landed on a formula with no bipartisan appeal and no actual path forward." Mrs. McC: Otherwise, it's all good. ...

... Paul Krugman: "It's not a plan, it's a scam. The $1.5 trillion number is just made up; he's only proposing federal spending of $200 billion, which is somehow supposed to magically induce a vastly bigger overall increase in infrastructure investment, mainly paid for either by state and local governments (which are not exactly rolling in cash, but whatever) or by the private sector. And even the $200 billion is essentially fraudulent: The budget proposal announced the same day doesn't just impose savage cuts on the poor, it includes sharp cuts for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and other agencies that would be crucially involved in any real infrastructure plan. Realistically, Trump's offer on infrastructure is this: nothing.... [Why not a real plan, which would be beneficial to Trump in so many way?] I ... suspect that Trump is afraid to try anything substantive. To do public investment successfully, you need leadership and advice from experts. And this administration doesn't do expertise, in any field. Not only do experts have a nasty habit of telling you things you don't want to hear, their loyalty is suspect: You never know when their professional ethics might kick in." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Whyever is it that so many people refer to mobsters when writing of Trump?

... 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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

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

... First, Screw All the Poor People. Tracy Jan, et al., of the Washington Post: "The budget that President Trump proposed Monday takes a hard whack at the poorest Americans, slashing billions of dollars from food stamps, public health insurance and federal housing vouchers, while trying to tilt the programs in more conservative directions. The spending plan reaches beyond the White House's own power over the government social safety net and presumes lawmakers will overhaul long-standing entitlement programs for the poor in ways beyond what Congress so far has been willing to do. The changes call on lawmakers to eliminate the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and transform the rest of that program into a system of capped payments to states; convert food assistance into a hybrid of commodity deliveries and traditional cash benefits; and expand requirements that low-income people work to qualify for federal assistance." Read on. Boxed food! It's like Blue Apron! Uh-huh.

** Dan Alexander of Forbes: "The real money in the Trump empire comes from commercial tenants like the Chinese bank. Forbes estimates these tenants pay a collective $175 million a year or so to the president. And they do so anonymously.... Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization would provide a list of the president's tenants, much less reveal what they pay.... In other words, government ethics officials, charged with detecting conflicts of interest, have never seen the president's rent roll. So we created one on our own, identifying 164 tenants, in virtually every industry, from all around the world...Forbes discovered one deal, previously unreported, in which Trump partially serves as his own landlord: The U.S. government is paying some rent to the person who runs it.... In May the prime minister of Georgia made a visit to the White House, where, according to two of Trump's former business partners, the president asked about his old project in the former Soviet republic." --safari: The conflicts of interest are omnipresent and all this family sees is "green".

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "More than a year into his administration, President Trump is presiding over a staff in turmoil, one with a 34 percent turnover rate, higher than any White House in decades. He has struggled to fill openings, unwilling to hire Republicans he considers disloyal and unable to entice Republicans who consider him unstable. Those who do come to work for him often do not last long, burning out from a volatile, sometimes cutthroat environment exacerbated by tweets and subpoenas.... According to a report..., Mr. Trump's 34 percent turnover rate in his first year is more than three times as high as President Barack Obama's in the same period and twice as high as President Ronald Reagan's, which until now was the modern record-holder. Of 12 positions deemed most central to the president, only five are still filled by the same person as when Mr. Trump took office." ...

... Eliana Johnson of Politico: "Turbulence in this West Wing is typically generated by ... Donald Trump, but for the past week, it's been chief of staff John Kelly -- the man brought in to be a steadying hand -- who's inspiring what one White House official described as a crisis of confidence. While the president often makes a hash of the truth, aides took Kelly's word at face value until they were confronted with zigzagging accounts of the events leading up to former staff secretary Rob Porter's resignation -- and Kelly's role in them. In the hours immediately after the Daily Mail published a photograph of Porter's first ex-wife with a black eye, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders hastily arranged an off-the-record meeting in the West Wing with Porter and four reporters: the New York Times' Maggie Haberman, the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, Axios' Jonathan Swan, and the Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender. In that meeting, which hasn't previously been reported, Porter relayed his version of events and fielded questions from the group. Kelly told staff two days later that once he'd been briefed on allegations of abuse against Porter by his two ex-wives, 'he was gone 40 minutes later.'" ...

... Margaret Hartmann: "A day after White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned following reports that his two ex-wives accused him of domestic violence, Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah made a rare admission, saying the White House 'could have done better' in its response. President Trump was reportedly annoyed by this admission from Shah, who was filling in for his vacationing boss. When she returned for Monday's briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reestablished the Trump administration's usual tone: indignation even when confronted by evidence of their own wrongdoing." Read on for the highlights of Sanders' excuse conference. ...

Matthew Nussbaum & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... Donald Trump's White House on Monday said it relies on law enforcement to determine which background issues disqualify people from top jobs, as his administration seeks to distance itself from the controversy over a former aide who was accused of domestic abuse. But people familiar with the process for obtaining clearance for senior officials said the FBI's background check process does not include making any final decisions or recommendations -- and that the White House should have been closely involved in any decision to give Rob Porter a security signoff.... Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday told reporters she did not want to delve into the details of the clearance process, but she said the White House deferred to law enforcement on such decisions." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: One thing I know: the press doesn't know how security clearances work. I've read half-a-dozen versions of who is responsible for what.

... Digby, in Salon: "... this scandal is about more than the rampant misogyny surrounding Donald Trump. The irony in the fact that Trump's White House counsel, Don McGahn, and his chief of staff, John Kelly, allowed Porter to operate without a top security clearance in a job that handles the United States' most sensitive secrets cannot be overstated. This president ran an entire campaign insisting that his rival should be jailed for using a private email server for non-classified State Department correspondence. Yet here we are, a year after the inauguration, and the Trump White House is reportedly employing dozens of people who cannot qualify for a security clearance. One of them was in a job that requires the highest level of clearance and another, Jared Kushner, has apparently been given access to the same intelligence the president gets." ...

... Accidents Happen. And Happen. And Happen. Tara Palmeri of ABC News: "Hours after allegations of domestic abuse came to light -- including stark photos of one ex-wife with a black eye and a harrowing account of violence from a second ex-wife -- former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter sought to downplay the narrative, instead offering stories of household mishaps and minor squabbles.... Porter told senior staffers his first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, received a black eye and facial bruises during an argument as the two struggled over a Venetian glass vase in their hotel room while on vacation in Venice in the early 2000s after they were married.... In the case of the restraining order that his second ex-wife Jennifer Willoughby filed against him for allegedly breaking into their house with his fist, Porter said that he was merely tapping the glass pane with his index finger...." ...

... Colbie Holderness, in a Washington Post op-ed: "... I was dismayed when [Kellyanne] Conway, appearing on CNN's 'State of the Union,' [said] that she does not fear for White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who has reportedly been dating [my ex-husband Rob] Porter. 'I've rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.'... Recognizing and surviving in an abusive relationship take strength. The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant.... Telling others about the abuse takes strength.... Leaving and putting the pieces of your life back together take strength.... Being strong -- with excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts -- does not inoculate a person against abuse." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: What if the people POTUS* dismisses as liars & character assassins were more articulate & grounded that the person charged with leading the country & those he puts in positions of power? Oh, they are. If Trump had been a stellar president* in ever other regard, his & his staff's response to the women Porter abused have disqualified him to run an organization -- or country -- where he disregards & disparages more than half the people he is supposed to lead. ...

     ... Steve M.: "I know, I know -- this is the Trump White House, so I suppose Porter had reason to believe that he might get away with 'It's the bitch's fault,' and also 'Boy, did I have a terrible run of luck with seemingly violent incidents involving both of my ex-wives in which my behavior was perfectly innocent!' But whoever leaked these accounts understood how damning they are. Or did the leakers believe they were exonerating?" ...

     ... Thanks, Patrick. Thanks, Randy!

"Chain Migration" for Me But Not for Thee. Illegal Immigrants Living in White House? Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post tries unsuccessfully to find out how it is that Melania Trump's parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, have managed to emigrate from Slovenia to the U.S., where they apparently reside in Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago & maybe the White House & help care for their grandson Barron Trump. "... we gave ... the first lady's spokeswoman ample opportunity to explain the immigration status of the Knavses. It's a mystery why the White House refuses to answer such a simple question, given the president's high-profile demand to limit immigration." ...

... Jessica Kwong of Newsweek (Feb. 6): "First lady Melania Trump -- who has been distant from ... Donald Trump since reports surfaced that the president's lawyer paid off a porn star to cover up an alleged affair -- follows only five people on Twitter, her husband's favorite social media platform. The most recent addition to her Twitter feed is one of her husband's least favorite people, Barack Obama."...

...Alexia Fernández Campbell of Vox: "A Vox analysis of hiring records for seasonal workers at three Trump properties in New York and Florida revealed that only one out of 144 jobs went to a US worker from 2016 to the end of 2017. Foreign guest workers with H-2B visas got the rest." --safari

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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

This Russia Thing

Jonathan Alter & Nick Akerman in the Daily Beast (Feb. 9): One can make a "reasonable supposition that Mueller is well on his way to detailing conspiracy, wire fraud, illegal foreign campaign contributions, or all three.... One tip-off was in Michael Flynn's December 1 'allocution' -- his signed submission to the court as part of his guilty plea.... He admitted in writing that his lie 'had a material impact' on the FBI's probe 'into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the [Trump] Campaign and Russia's efforts to intervene in the 2016 election.'... Anyone associated with [Flynn's] deal [with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak on sanctions] is in deep legal trouble.... Campaign officials are criminally liable if Mueller and his team prove an overlap between the illegal Russian fake news posts and the Trump campaign's routine micro-targeted negative messages -- a painstaking but manageable set of data comparisons." Alter & Akerman outline elements of the Trump-Russia-Wikileaks conspiracy.

Manu Raju, et al., of CNN: "President Barack Obama met in January 2017 with then-FBI Director James Comey and other top national security officials to discuss sharing information related to Russia with the incoming Trump administration, where Obama stated that the Trump-Russia investigation should be handled 'by the book,' according to an email made public Monday and a source familiar with the matter. The previously undisclosed meeting was memorialized in an email written by then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Donald Trump's Inauguration Day. A person familiar with the January 5, 2017, meeting said the Obama administration wanted to know whether the FBI and others in the intelligence community believed there was a national security reason to limit conversations with the Trump transition about Russia because some on the incoming President's team could be compromised. The email was disclosed by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who sent a letter Monday to Rice asking why she had sent the email to herself on the day of Trump's inauguration.... 'There is nothing 'unusual' about the National Security Advisor memorializing an important discussion for the record,' Kathryn Ruemmler, a counsel for Rice, said in a statement. 'The Obama White House was justifiably concerned about how comprehensive they should be in their briefings regarding Russia to members of the Trump transition team, particularly Lt. General Michael Flynn, given the concerning communications between him and Russian officials.'" ...

     ... Rachel Maddow had a segment on this last night. For some strange reason, Maddow thinks it was pretty sensible for the Obama team to be concerned about Flynn, who was caught on tape kanoodling with Kislyak about dispensing with sanctions imposed by the Obama administration for Russia's election-meddling. The entire Trump White House is one big, screaming national security risk. Grassley & Graham know this, so shame on them. ...

... The Week: "A former top FBI cybersecurity official has been traveling the world over the past six months in an effort to confirm aspects of the controversial dossier on President Trump for BuzzFeed News, Foreign Policy reports. Anthony Ferrante now works for FTI Consulting, which was reportedly hired by BuzzFeed's lawyers after the publication was sued by Russian billionaire Aleksej Gubarev for libel."...

... Hannah Levintova of Mother Jones: "Last week, a 25-minute video published by Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny alleging a new link between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign made headlines around the world. Now the Russian government wants it scrubbed from the internet -- so much so that it is taking steps that could block millions of its own citizens from using YouTube or Instagram.... The video was released last Thursday, and accused Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko -- a top foreign policy official -- of having been a conduit between the Kremlin and Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch linked to the Trump campaign." --safari: You can watch the video with English subtitles. Interesting to say the least.

Trump Picks Putin as His "Honest Broker." Ed Kilgore
: "Trump administration apologists are probably delighted today to have discovered a silver lining to the president's, er, close relationship with Russian president/strongman Vladimir Putin.... Apparently Putin and Trump spoke by phone just [yesterday].... It seems Vlad is acting as something of a go-between with the Palestinians, who are enraged by Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.... it sounds like Trump wants Putin to be his back channel to the Palestinians who unsurprisingly no longer consider the U.S. an 'honest broker' in its relationship with Israel." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, this is the 8th time Trump & Putin have met or spoken & the American people found out, not from a U.S. administration readout, but from the Russian state press.

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.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Andrew Perez & Lee Fang of The Intercept: "An association of top Republican law enforcement officials has created a secret online bulletin board called the 'Briefing Room' that's allowing big donors to help shape legal policy.... Republican law enforcement officials in more than a dozen states denied having records of the bulletin board or argued that documents kept on the Briefing Room shouldn't be made public.... While communications between elected officials and RAGA and RLDF should be subject to disclosure under open records laws, the secret bulletin board can shield the correspondence from public reach.... The increasing secrecy around RAGA communications comes as RLDF has coordinated efforts to roll back federal regulations closely with the current administration." --safari

Daniel González of the Arizona Republic: "The father of a 5-year-old boy battling cancer has returned to his home in the Phoenix area after federal immigration authorities on Monday backed off attempts to deport him to Mexico. Jesus Berrones, 30, the father of five American children, including a 5-year-old with leukemia, sought sanctuary inside a north Phoenix church Friday after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told him to report on Monday to be immediately deported. But on Monday afternoon, his lawyer, Garrett Wilkes, received a call from ICE advising him that the agency had granted Berrones a one-year stay of removal."

Dominic Holden of BuzzFeed: "The Education Department has told BuzzFeed News it won't investigate or take action on any complaints filed by transgender students who are banned from restrooms that match their gender identity, charting new ground in the Trump administration's year-long broadside against LGBT rights. It's the first time officials have asserted this position publicly as an interpretation of law. No formal announcement has been made." Mrs. McC: How surprised are we that an administration headed by a bully is okay with bullying children & young people?

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.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Senate Race

Chris Massie of CNN: "Just months after Republican Kevin Nicholson announced his bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018, his own parents donated the legal maximum to her primary campaign." Mrs. McC: The obligatory happy family photo in his campaign brochure could suck.

Beyond the Beltway

Antonio Olivo of the Washington Post: "For several years, Fredy Burgos has been a controversial but tolerated figure within Virginia's Republican Party -- a verbal bomb thrower whose attacks against Muslims, immigrants and others have turned off moderates while reflecting a new brand of conservatism in the era of Donald Trump. But in the wake of a wave of Democratic victories last fall that was fueled by anti-Trump sentiment in Northern Virginia, party leaders -- worried about losing more voters — moved to force Burgos off of the state central committee this week after he posted a Facebook comment suggesting Jews should not run for political office.... Burgos shared a 19th-century quote from John Jay, the country's first chief justice of the Supreme Court, asserting that it is the privilege of a Christian nation 'to select and prefer Christian rulers.' The comment came as Burgos was campaigning for Tim Hannigan, who is running to become the next chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee. Hannigan's rival in next month's election is Mike Ginsberg, who is Jewish." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So the Virginia GOP was willing to abide Muslim- & immigrant-bashing, but anti-Semitism was a bridge too far. And I'm just going to take a wild guess that Burgos is not a world-class historian who dug up Jay's remark from some obscure historical document but that Jay's "Christian rulers" comment is one that circulates in Right Wing World.

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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Way Beyond

Krista Mahr of the Washington Post: "South Africa's ruling African National Congress party announced Tuesday it had recalled President Jacob Zuma, leaving South Africans waiting to see whether the president will abide by the party’s decision and hand in his resignation. If Zuma decides not to resign, it will force a no confidence vote in the Parliament. While he has survived many such votes in the past, the party has increasingly turned against him as corruption allegations have mounted.... Zuma came to power in 2009, but his last years in office have been mired in a series of high-profile corruption scandals and accusations of mismanagement that has seen a steady decline in the popularity of Nelson Mandela's storied liberation movement." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Yes, this could happen to us. In the meantime, Trump has found a new role model -- and he's black!

Reader Comments (26)

Well, well, well. The little dictator finally bested that horrible née-grow at something. People leave his administration at a rate three times greater than during the Obama administration.

Like rats abandoning a burning ship. All the best people. With Captain Daft at the helm.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Randy Rainbow, Stand By Your Man.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

Not sure what a nee-grow is. Maybe a swollen joint...damn auto correct.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Krugman's piece on Trump's infrastructure nonsense is right in your face clear and pointed––"it's not a plan, it's a scam." When I listened to Bumblebombast yesterday roll out this amazing plan/scam––the BEST EVER IN HISTORY–--I thought, yeah, everything you do is something nobody else has ever done except in your case it's always the WORST anybody has ever done. And once again I thought how suited he is to be the head waiter at "Merry Lago" where he goes around telling people how they are consuming the very best––"believe me, you've never tasted anything like this!"

Last night while watching Rachel, during a commercial hopped over to Fox and heard Tucker having a conniption fit over Obama's portrait painter––"The guy paints women with decapitated heads"–-and then shows two of these paintings which seem to be mythological renditions which I guess Tucker isn't familiar with –––"Can you believe it?" he says and shakes his head in disgust.
Oh, Tucker, Tucker, thou doth try so hard to be the asshole you are.

I like the fact that in Obama's portrait there are the three flowers that represent the three places where he planted his roots: Jasmine for Hawaii; blue lilies for Kenya; Chrysanthemums for Chicago. And yes, it's loud hand clapping for two black artists to paint our first black president and our first black first lady.

Gossip: Omarosa told her Big Brother clan last night that Pence would be much worse than Trump––"he actually thinks Jesus talks to him." She said she's a Christian and is all for that Jesus stuff, but holy cow... the guy is off his chomp.

Love Randy Rainbow––thanks Patrick.

Nee-grow: an enlarged growth on one's patella due to overuse of kneeling while praying. {Take Heed, Vice Pence}

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

So let me get this straight. Manly man, truth teller Rob Porter is saying now that his wife got a black eye and facial bruises argument over a Venetian glass vase? Oh, hey. I know. They had just read Henry James’ “The Golden Bowl” and since they were already in Italy, were acting out the scene where the eponymous objet d’art breaks. But let’s see. Yes, Prince Amerigo is a cad but I don’t recall the part where Maggie Verver gets a black eye. Well, ol’ Rob must have been improvising. Henry wasn’t manly enough to have the prince smack his wife around so Rob helped him out.

OR maybe he was reading a different author at the time. Maybe Jim Thompson. Yeah. That’d be about his speed.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I was wondering what happened to this guy. Lo and behold his name pops up again. Ezra Cohen-Watnick, former stooge of Devin Nunes is now a stooge at Oracle.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed

@Akhilleus: Yeah, & I liked the part where Porter just put his iddy-biddy finger on the front door & his knuckle accidentally slipped & somehow went right on through the glass. Don't have a literary reference for that, but maybe it went something like this.

February 13, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

"The [budget] blueprint, which has little to no chance of being enacted as written, amounts to a vision statement by Mr. Trump..."

The budget proposal, the infrastructure proposal, the tax cuts...these are all the constructed fever dreams of fellow elf Mick Mulvaney, doing his best to wreck the government he hates so much. Drumpf's "ideas" are nowhere to be seen, because they don't exist in long form.

Grover Norquist finally got his wish: a moronic toady with warm enough fingers to sign off on the Tea Party scams.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered Commentersafari


I’m sure we could find a literary reference for that. Maybe something from Stephen King?

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@unwashed: All roads lead to Moscow. Cohen-Watnick "married Rebecca Miller in November 2016.[7][31][32] His wife worked for Ketchum Inc., where as an intern she did public relations work for the Russian government."

February 13, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Isn't Rebecca Miller the daughter of Arthur Miller who is married to Daniel Day Lewis? Or is this a different Miller altogether.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Simply put. " He's a dick " Expressed by a Wall Streeter speaking with William D. Cohan summed up in a word, see article over on Vanity Fair.

Yeah! that about sez it all Over time, Trump’s behavior will take its toll. “If he wasn’t such a serial liar, brutish, unprincipled, semiliterate, policy-inept person with no fundamental principles or morals, putting all that aside, he hasn’t been horrible,” he said. “But he’s a complete dick. He’s even more than a total dick. You can be stylistically a total dick.

Faint praise. Though this seems a bit of a too generous cavil "he hasn't been horrible." (Boldface above, mine). I do quibble with this.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

Had this to say about the Krugman last night.

"There may not be much appearance of planning in the harum-scarum Trump administration when it comes to its WH appointments, its security screening of WH staffers or its thoughtless remarks about women and race, but when it comes to money, Republicans sure do know what they're doing.

Want a conspiracy theory? This one is being put into practice.

The Citizens United decision handed over even more political clout than they already had to the vastly wealthy, who now supply more than three quarters of the money spent in political campaigns.

Next step. Give the monied class that already owns more than eighty percent of the nation's wealth even more money--and with that money more power--with a giant tax gift to that same overly privileged minority, a gift that simultaneously provides an excuse to take even more away from those who can least afford the loss. Gotta do something about that deficit, you know, regardless of who created it.

And now the infrastructure plan which claims to rely for funding on local taxes on already over-burdened cities, counties and states but really looks to enlist those who already have all the money with promises of a hefty return, including in some cases outright infrastructure ownership, on their investment.

We have no choice. Gotta pay for an expanded military and gotta lower taxes on corporations and the ultra-rich, you know.

The result? Ever increasing inequity, political imbalance...."

And, added this morning where there's no character limit.... dysfunctional government.

In all this, if you're a greedy, looney libertarian, what's not to like?

Think the Pretender knows he's being played like a fiddle?

I don't think he knows that either.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Mr. Bergos, Va. GOP, has problems with Jews participating in U.S. leadership?

One of my first senior bosses' last name was Bergus, a good old family that happened to be Jewish.

Very close spelling.

But so what. An anti-Semite is an asshole no matter his name and progeny.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

Re Patrick's first sentence: I have problems with White Supremacists participating in US leadership. I guess that means I am anti-White Ignoramus, anti-Christianist, anti-Libertarian, anti-Trump, anti-GOP, anti-anti-Semitic. That's not going to fit on my protest button or tee shirt, so I am today wearing RESIST, and expecting in the mail today NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED. We all do our part...

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

Frogs in a Pot

Some Wall Street banker in the Vanity Fair article referenced by MAG concludes that Trump "hasn't been horrible"?

Okay. Then I'd love to hear this guy's definition of horrible. An asteroid strike in downtown Manhattan? Nuclear war? A revival of "
"The Apprentice"?

The only thing I can think of when I hear this kind of assessment is that people mean Trump hasn't declared martial law and begun rounding up enemies for internment in Soviet style re-education gulags.

Actually what he's doing is worse. That stuff at least would be hard even for Foxbots to support (although many would be thrilled), and congressional Confederates would have a difficult time selling those actions as being within the realm of how America does things.

No, Trump's deviations, big and small, have been, with the insidious cooperation of Republicans and right-wing media, carried out in ways that are rationalized and normalized almost on an hourly basis. It's the death by a thousand cuts. Trump sees the world, and the country and its citizens, through the lens of a rich, privileged, racist, misogynistic white male who's not too bright and not the least bit interested in the needs, desires, and interests of the vast majority of Americans.

If it doesn't affect him personally, he's not interested.

Rich guys don't need government sponsored health care. Fuck that. Rich white guys mostly don't care what people of color think. They don't like taxes and they don't like people telling them what to do.

This infrastructure scam is only the latest example of the Trump View. It's a hoax. Trump promises great oceans but he delivers dried up puddles. During the campaign, he was going to deliver precedent busting infrastructure rebuilds on a colossal level. He was the only one who could do it too. What do we get? Instead of rejuvenation of highways, bridges, power grids, water plants, airports, public transit, we'll get a few pot holes filled. If we're lucky.

What he has done is to use the infrastructure issue as a cover for killing regulations, especially environmental impact regulations, connected to building projects, a pet peeve of his for decades. It's all seen through his eyes. The only campaign promise he's really delivered on is an enormous tax cut for himself and other rich guys and corporations. Oh, he's working hard to fuck with immigrants and take healthcare away from the poor and middle class, but his big question is really "What does it do for me, personally?"

In pursuit of additional personal riches and easing of the road thereto, and in an attempt to keep what little support he has among the haters and white supremacists (he tosses regular sops to those groups), Trump's policy interests, such as they are, are limited to himself and his class of Richie Riches. The end result is a transformation of the priorities of the federal government away from E Pluribus Unum to "What's in it for Trump?" and that, in its devious, anti-American way, is warping the fabric of this nation in a way that re-education gulags and martial law could not. Those actions would be seen instantly and clearly as un-American. This other stuff? Well, we're like the frog in the pot of hot water, slowly boiling.

If that's not horrible, I've got to get me a new dictionary.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


Trump may be getting played but it's not like it's hard to do. It's his nature. He's just being himself: greedy, insolent, heedless to the needs of others, duplicitous, and a serial liar with no ethical or moral core. He also lacks what Poppy Bush used to deride as "that vision thing".

Here's an example. Trump claims to be a rah-rah military guy (not a surprise coming from Cadet Bone Spurs who takes every opportunity to assure everyone--himself included--of his manhood; what better way than to buy more guns and bombs and killing stuff). He also loudly spouts his bona fides as a "businessman". But then he goes out and hawks a hoax of an infrastructure plan that does nothing to help repair roads, bridges, the power grid, etc.

Ask military strategists about the importance of reliable, safe roads. Ask national security experts about the importance of a protected and up to date power grid. Ask corporations which need to move goods and deliver services the importance of not having to wait in traffic because roads are a mess or bridges out.

So it's not just Trump who lacks "the vision thing", the controlling capitalist class are not much better than Trump at being able to see beyond "What's in it for me?". Rather than do what's good for everyone, them included, they, and Trump, are like the scorpion who stings the frog carrying it to safety, assuring that they both die.

It's their nature.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Ak: Your diagnosis of Trump's malevolent, malicious, Machiavellian methods and maneuvers aptly defines him. That according to my old dictionary makes him horrible.
Also, still a dick.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

Sent the Randy Rainbow to a friend this morning (thanks, Patrick) and got this in return. More than a fair trade.

Hope the link works.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

So what I'm hearing now from non-Trumpbot Trump voters ("I just can't bring myself to vote for Hillary") is that "both sides are no good." This is how rationalization works -- they know Trump is awful, but they can't make themselves say they made a big fucking mistake.

So I'm pretty sure come November, they "just won't be able to bring themselves to vote for Democrats."

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie


Because being a Confederate means never having to say you're sorry. Or admit you made a mistake. Wingers don't make mistakes. Democrats make mistakes. And other humans. That makes wingers....

You got it.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Trump clones are everywhere.

Assholes like Trump and Kelly are not the only privileged males who think women are something less than human.

Out in Trump Country (Arizona), he-men are forced to consider issues they'd rather not. Here's an idea of what's going on out there:

"A sensitive women’s health issue came before the Committee on Military, Veterans and Regulatory Affairs on Monday: the price of pads and tampons in Arizona prisons. Not all the committee members were comfortable with the idea.

'In our prison system,' Rep. Athena Salman said, addressing nine of her male colleagues, 'a 16-count of Always ultra-thin, long pads cost $3.20.'

'Rep. Salman, Can you keep your conversation to the bill itself? Please?' Rep. Jay Lawrence interrupted.

'Yes, Mr. Chairman,' Salman replied, and she went right on talking about tampons and pads. That was, after all, what House Bill 2222 — the bill she sponsored — is about."

In other words, keep your nasty talk about women's hygiene to yourself. Bitch. (I suppose he could have read the bill first, but where's the fun in that?)

Interesting piece. At one point, after hearing descriptions of the problems women can run into being assigned 12 tampons or pads a month (more than that, they pay for themselves), this same Mr. Sensitive, Chairman Lawrence, opined that the women were liars. The whole point was that the state should take such issues seriously. He clearly disagreed.

One woman, speaking in favor of the bill told the all male committee that no woman in a corrections facility should have to pay for these products. When asked if she had any connection to the bill, she responded of course: she's human.

The bill passed, but it did so 5-4, so four cavemen still didn't see the point. Hardcore Trumpers, no doubt. And like Trump, likely extremely uncomfortable having to consider any more about women's biology than the fun stuff.

By the way, since I'm on the general topic, I watched "Battle of the Sexes" this weekend. Good movie. I remember watching the King-Riggs match in my dorm room with a bunch of guys and a few girlfriends. We were all rooting for Billie Jean to kick his ass.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


I agree with your emphasis on fundamentals such as transportation and secure electrical power in considering national security issues.

There are two other security fundamentals which Republicans seem to ignore, despite, or perhaps because of the bravado which Ken Winkes noted some weeks back.

In his recent State of the Union address, the President read, solemnly, again: "My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans—to protect their safety, their families, their communities and their right to the American dream."

Why is it not obvious to all concerned that the best ways to defend Americans and to protect their safety is to ensure that all Americans are healthy and well educated?

As you wrote, "Rather than do what's good for everyone, THEM INCLUDED...." Republicans also seem to ignore very real security issues raised by the health and educational situation of our young people. While the dismal statistics in this article are from 2009, and may have improved under President Obama's leadership, I doubt that they are improving now.

I surely do not think that military service is the only way to defend our country. In my experience parents, teachers, health care workers, careful bus drivers and millions of other ordinary citizens contribute to national defense. But again as you wrote, we all benefit, even the charlatans among us, when all of our fellow citizens are as healthy and well educated as possible.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterIslander


Unfortunately, the Party of Traitors is sorely lacking in those who think, as you do, that bullets and bombs are not the only way to keep us safe. Promoting education and healthcare gives families (and the nation) a solid base on which to grow healthy, thoughtful, creative, responsive, and responsible young citizens.

Trump and the Party of Traitors are growing a populace of frightened, ignorant, superstitious weasels attuned not to a sense of the great American Experiment and our Constitutional values, but to a prehistoric belief in every man (women don't count) for himself Weltanschauung which obliterates an E Pluribus Unum orientation.

Trumpado whines that America is sorely lacking in military wherewithal. This is so untrue. The U.S. outpaces all other nations in military expenditures. World military spending totaled more than $1.6 trillion in 2015. The U.S. accounted for 37 percent of the total.

U.S. military expenditures are roughly the size of the next seven largest military budgets around the world, combined, but Trump wants his knuckledragger, mouthbreather base to believe that Luxembourg could kick our ass, and it's all Obama's fault, but HE, Trumpy, will FIX EVERYTHING.

This isn't to say that military superiority is nothing. A few days ago we had a little back on forth on issues around the Peloponnesian War. Yes, Sparta, the military juggernaut of its day, won the war. But it took them decades to do it. And has Sparta left the West anything close to the literary, philosophical, educational heritage of Athens?

Absolutely not.

But the current vogue for bombs over books comes from an ignoramus who pretended to be a tough guy in a simpering military school and now feels the need to make up for his lack of actual military experience by sticking it to education and families and handing billions to the Pentagon so that he might not have to think of himself as some frou-frou supporter of "Edu-ma-cation" at the expense of murdering Mooslims.

It's one thing for this fraud to destroy America's longstanding support of public education, but for his entire party to do it smacks of more than pure treason. And not just to the Constitution, but to American children and to the idea of America itself.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

The education vs. the military hill is getting harder to climb every year. As this Pew poll noted last summer, (reported here as I remember) Republican anti-education attitudes have increased and hardened over the years.

Education's problem for these people is that, as Akhilleus says, it could possibly make someone think--about religion, about the environment, about what it means to be human--and for the cowardly--a fundamental characteristic of the Right, no matter how many flags and ribbons they pin on their chests--that's very scary.

Even more frightening: Ideas are tough, even immortal; you can't just shoot them to make them go away.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

God forbid, education turns people into liberals. My mom said so herself.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed
Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.