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 -- January 12, 2018

It appears my host Squarespace is nowhere near solving the Comments problem. I did discover a semi-solution that MAG tested, and it worked. Like MAG, you too can become a Reality Chex member! Yeah, yeah, I know you wouldn't become a member of any club that would have you. If you've commented here before & have a burning desire to speak your mind before the Comments submissions function gets fixed -- e-mail me at . Send a login ID & password (they have to be at least 6 characters long), & I'll tell you how you can exercise the (I hope quite temporary) exclusive privilege of being a Reality Chex member. PLEASE don't give me a log-in or password you currently use anyplace else. I don't want to be the No. 1 suspect when some crook uses your Macy's card. When you're logged in, your comments should take -- at least for now.

If you'd rather just e-mail your comments to me, that's okay, too. The downside is that I will be IDed as the writer (tho of course I'll credit you). BTW, two contributors who already have log-ins also can comment while they're logged in. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie ...

... UPDATE: The Bad News: The host won't be able to fix this right away. The Good News: It's a system-wide problem, so they'll likely get right on it.

(Not much of an) Afternoon Update:

Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump on Friday offered a vague denial about the language he chose to use about immigrants during a private meeting with lawmakers at the White House on Thursday, when he reportedly referred to African nations as 'shithole countries.' But Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said on Friday that the president did use the term 'shithole' during the course of the meeting on immigration -- which Mr. Durbin attended. The senator described Mr. Trump as saying 'things which were hate-filled, vile and racist.' In a Twitter post on Friday, just hours before the president signed a proclamation to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is Monday, Mr. Trump appeared to parse the language he used when he spoke about immigrants from different regions of the world.... 'It's not true,' Mr. Durbin said of Mr. Trump's denial. 'He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.'... After Mr. Trump signed the proclamation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day later on Friday morning, the president ignored a question from a reporter about whether he is a racist."...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Who ya gonna believe? Dick Durbin or this crackpot. ...

... Glenn Kessler & Meg Kelly of the Washington Post: "President Trump has broken 2,000. With just 10 days before he finishes his first year as president, Trump has made 2,001 false or misleading claims in 355 days, according to our database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. That's an average of more than 5.6 claims a day." ...

... ** "The 'Shithole Countries -- and the Rest of the World -- Respond to President Trump." Robin Wright of the New Yorker: "President Trump's credibility as a world leader has been, to borrow his vulgarity, shot to shit. With one word -- just the latest in a string of slurs about other nations and peoples -- he has demolished his ability to be taken seriously on the global stage. 'There is no other word one can use but "racist,"' the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said at a briefing in Geneva. 'You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 'shitholes,' whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.'... Trump's world view is tragic for so many reasons. First, he's just wrong on the basics.... Trump's bigoted world view also ignores history.... Having strong alliances with African nations is also crucial to Trump's national-security challenges.... Perhaps the ultimate irony is that Trump's own ancestors came from Africa, as did all mankind." Thanks to David R. for the link.

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Trump again stopped short of reimposing punitive sanctions on Iran that could break up its nuclear deal with world powers, the White House said on Friday. But Mr. Trump gave European allies only 120 days to agree to an overhaul of the deal or administration officials said he would pull the United States out of it. He also approved sanctions against the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, a powerful figure whom the administration holds culpable for the violent crackdown on recent antigovernment protests. Mr. Trump's action, which was widely expected, is the third time he has given a reprieve to the agreement brokered by President Barack Obama, despite having labeled it 'the worst deal ever' and threatening repeatedly to rip it up."

Adam Taylor of the Washington Post: "In a tweet sent late Thursday evening, President Trump said he had canceled his trip to Britain next month because he was unhappy with the new U.S. Embassy in London -- and accused the Obama administration of making a 'bad deal' for an 'off location.' Many Britons disagreed, suggesting instead the president was simply worried his arrival in London would be greeted by mass protests. Those involved in the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in London also say Trump, a former real estate mogul in New York City, has a bad understanding of the deal. 'As usual, he's dead wrong,' said former ambassador Louis Susman, who served under the Obama administration between 2009 and 2013. 'He's 100 percent wrong.'" Taylor goes on to relay the explanations -- from people involved in the move, some from the Bush II administration -- of how Trump is wrong in every particular." Mrs. McC: I don't think Trump would tell the truth about the time of day.

YOU: What time is it, Mr. President?

TRUMP: 3:30.

PENCE: Uh, begging your pardon, your royal highness; it's 4:30, not 3:30. Maybe your watch is set to Daylight Savings Time.

TRUMP: I never said it was 3:30.

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Hayley Peterson of Business Insider on WalMart's closing 63 Sam's Clubs yesterday: "In some cases, employees were not told their store had closed before showing up to work on Thursday. Those employees learned their store would be closing when they found the store's doors locked and a notice announcing the closing, Sam's Club workers told Business Insider. At some stores, employees were turned away by police officers." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: How nice that a multi-trillion-dollar company (I guess) decided to screw these hourly-wage employees one last time. Obviously, there are expense of both time & $$ to get from home to work & back. Many of these workers had to take public transportation, for instance. And some probably had incurred extra expenses like daycare for children or disabled dependents. But WalMart doesn't care.


Politico: "... Donald Trump on Friday appeared to deny that used the phrase 'shithole countries' during a meeting with bi-partisan lawmakers, tweeting that 'this was not the language used.' 'The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!' the president tweeted Friday. Trump also denied he made derogatory comments about Haitians, including 'Why do we want people from Haiti here?' and saying that all Haitians have AIDS. 'Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country,' Trump tweeted. 'Never said "take them out." Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings -- unfortunately, no trust!'... In a series of Tweets leading up to that statement, Trump also criticized the 'so-called' bi-partisan Dreamers deal that lawmakers reached this week, calling it 'a big step backwards.'"

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: None of Trump's denials, of course, is remotely believable. ...

...safari: "Derogatory" and "outlandish" are both words with far too many syllables for Trump's stable brain. He obviously didn't write these tweets....

... Trump Has Lost It. Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to two people briefed on the meeting. 'Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?' Trump said, according to these people, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met Wednesday. The comments left lawmakers taken aback.... Trump had seemed amenable to a deal earlier in the day during phone calls, aides said, but shifted his position in the meeting and did not seem interested.... The meeting was impromptu and came after phone calls Thursday morning, Capitol Hill aides said." Mrs. McC: At 7 pm ET, the article has almost 5,000 comments. ...

... Our White Supremacist President, Ctd. Julie Davis & Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times: "President Trump on Thursday balked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and African countries, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from 'shithole countries' rather than people from places like Norway, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation. Mr. Trump's remarks left members of Congress attending the meeting in the Cabinet Room alarmed and mystified. They were there discussing an emerging bipartisan deal to give legal status to immigrants illegally brought to the United States as children, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity without authorization to discuss the explosive proceedings of the private meeting. When Mr. Trump heard that Haitians were among those who would benefit, he asked if they could be left out of the plan, according to the people familiar with the conversation, asking, 'Why do we want people from Haiti here?'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Second day in a row the NYT has used the word "shit" in covering the news. The Post puts "shithole" in its headline. Now, will you Congressional clunkweasels please roll out the 25th Amendment? ...

... Judd Legum of ThinkProgress: "[T]here is one group that is embracing Trump's comments wholeheartedly: white supremacists.... Trump's comments were also popular on Stormfront, a message board for white supremacists.... White House officials told journalists that they weren't worried about Trump's comments because they would be popular with his base." --safari...

... Henrik Libell & Catherine Porter: Prominent Norwegian journalists, Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., the U.N. human rights office & many others condemned President Trump's remarks.

... James Downie of the Washington Post: "In September, ESPN anchor Jemele Hill tweeted that President Trump is a 'white supremacist.' An avalanche of criticism followed.... On Thursday, Trump proved once and for all that Hill wasn't crossing a line, but merely stating a fact: The president is, by definition a white supremacist.... It's hard to imagine how the president could have been more plainly racist [than his comments today proved]. The White House did not deny the quotes. Indeed, White House staffers told CNN they weren't worried about the comment because it would 'resonate with his base ... much like his attacks on NFL players.' Sorry, there are no prizes for guessing what NFL players and African immigrants have in common. The evidence for Trump's racism has long been overwhelming.... Admitting Trump is a white supremacist ... means reckoning with how it affects his administration's priorities." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The White House just asserted that Trump's fans were all racists.

... Jonathan Alter in The Daily Beast: "On Dec. 28, Army Pvt. Emmanuel Mensah rushed twice into a burning building in the Bronx and rescued four people. On his third trip in, he died. Mensah was from Ghana, one of President Trump's 'shithole countries.'... [J]ust because the president can't be impeached (at least not yet), court-martialed or fired doesn't mean he can't be punished. It's time to stop wringing our hands. There are remedies that lie between removal from office and doing nothing. The best short-term remedy is censure by both Houses of Congress, a move that would begin the essential process of checking Trump. Andrew Jackson -- whose painting Steve Bannon told Trump to hang in the Oval Office -- is the only president ever censured (for not turning over certain bank documents)... Members wouldn't have to debate immigration or foreign policy or even racism, merely vote that the president's conduct was ... unbecoming. Who can argue with that?" --safari...

...**Richard Wolfe of the Guardian: "Donald Trump knows a thing or two about 'shitholes'.'... His own father was reportedly so ashamed of coming from Germany ... that he pretended for most of his life that he was Swedish. These Aryan dreams glowed all blond and bright through Trump's seminal book, The Art of the Deal, in which he claimed his father arrived as a child from Sweden like some kind of Nordic dreamer.... Far too many people are surprised by your racism, which is as ignorant as it is blatant. This is confusing because you've made no secret of your attitudes.... With a depressing frequency, you have made it clear that you are literally a neo-Nazi sympathizer. If at some stage you promote eugenics on Twitter, we will save a few letters on our character counts and simply call you a neo-Nazi.... We could spend some time celebrating the fact that there's still consensus about hating your blithering racism. But we're far better off if we understand that you aren't some alien invasion....There's a clear thread connecting your racism about immigration to historic racism in the country your family adopted as home." --safari

Cristiano Lima of Politico: "... Donald Trump said he 'probably' has 'a very good relationship' with Kim Jong Un but would not say whether he has spoken to the North Korean leader during an interview with The Wall Street Journal Thursday.... Trump's relationship with Kim in his first year has been marked by antagonistic exchanges and threats, with the U.S. president deriding the North Korean leader with the nickname 'Lil' Rocket Man.' Last week, the combative rhetoric between world leaders reached a fever pitch as the two sparred over the size of their nuclear 'buttons.' The fiery exchanges, Trump told the newspaper, were part of his approach to personal relationships with foreign officials." ...

... Matt Shuham of TPM: "... Donald Trump said Thursday that text messages critical of him shared by FBI employees amounted to treason, the Wall Street Journal reported. Journal reporters interviewed Trump for 45 minutes, the paper reported, in a conversation that touched on everything from North Korea to Steve Bannon.... Trump also told the Journal, referring to ousted FBI Director James Comey, that everybody wanted Comey fired. I should be given credit for having great insight,' he added."

House Defies Fox Administration, Passes Bill. Karoun Demirjian & Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "The House voted decisively Thursday to reauthorize a powerful government authority to conduct foreign surveillance on U.S. soil, overcoming opposition from privacy advocates and confusion sown by contradictory and seemingly misinformed tweets from President Trump questioning his administration's support for the program. The 256-to-164 vote sets up the legislation for consideration in the Senate, where leaders have said they think they can pass it before the program's statutory authorization expires on Jan. 19.... But the fate of the program appeared to be in jeopardy Thursday morning, after the president tweeted his doubts about it ... after seeing a segment about it on Fox News Channel. '"House votes on controversial FISA ACT today,"' Trump wrote, citing a Fox News headline. 'This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?' Trump attempted to walk back the tweet about 90 minutes later, urging lawmakers to reauthorize the program. But top Democrats seized on the confusion, calling on Republican leaders to withdraw the bill from consideration 'in light of the irresponsible and inherently contradictory messages coming out of the White House today,' Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on the floor." For more on Trump's big boo-boo, see Jonathan Chait's post, linked yesterday. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Susan Hennessey & Benjamin Wittes have a more serious discussion of what might be, so far, Trump's "most destructive, most irresponsible tweet.... Let's not mince words here: The lapse of Section 702 surveillance capabilities, even for a short time, would constitute a full-fledged national security emergency." Mrs. McC: If you read this story, remember who's got the big button. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jonathan Swan of Axios: Here's Trump's second & supposed CYA tweet: "With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!" BUT, "The White House put out a statement last night supporting FISA renewal and opposing an amendment by Rep. Justin Amash and others that would limit the amount of information intelligence officials are allowed to gather on Americans." Mrs. McC: That is, the House rejected what Trump says was a "fix" he "personally directed," the one he believes allowed President Obama to "tapp his wires." Moron, idiot -- take your pick. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

It's official: we're living in Idiocracy --safari

** Russ Choma of Mother Jones: "In a new letter, five top Democrats on the House financial services committee, led by ranking member Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), are demanding Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin offer up his agency's resources in tracking financial crimes to investigate possible money laundering by the Trumps Kushners.... Additionally, Waters and her fellow committee Democrats are requesting that Mnuchin, who was the Trump campaign's finance chairman, answer questions about any improper foreign influence on the campaign's finances -- and recuse himself from any law enforcement or regulatory activity involving Trump and his family." --safari

Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "President Trump said he has called off a planned ceremonial visit to Britain because he didn't want to be associated with what he called a bad real estate deal in which the U.S. Embassy is being relocated from central London to 'an off location.' In a Twitter message shortly before midnight Thursday, Trump implicitly rejected reports that the trip -- never announced but widely assumed to be in February -- was being scrapped over concerns that the U.S. leader would be met with widespread protests. 'Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for "peanuts," only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO,' Trump wrote." ...

... Heather Stewart & David Smith of the Guardian: "Donald Trump has cancelled a visit to Britain next month to open the new US embassy in London, amid fears of mass protests. The president claimed on Twitter that the reason for calling off the trip was his displeasure at Barack Obama.... But the embassy's plan to move from Mayfair to Nine Elms in London was first reported in October 2008, when George W Bush was still president." --safari...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: How would a normal leader bow out of a foreign country visit to avoid expected protests? Cite "security concerns." It wouldn't be a lie. But no. Trump has to cover his ass with self-aggrandizing boasts: by implying he's a desirable guy ("wanted there") & President Obama doesn't measure up to Donald Trump, real estate genius. Oh, & Gearan's reports: "The George W. Bush administration had decided more than a decade ago to relocate the embassy from offices on prime land in the tony neighborhood of Mayfair in central London to a plot on the banks of the Thames in the south of the city. Security concerns drove the move, in line with a worldwide upgrade and redesign of embassy facilities to better protect them from vehicle bombs and other terrorism." This is the Cliff Clavin presidency. But worse. ...

     ... CBS News: "A short time before the president's tweet, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had disputed a report in the British newspaper the Daily Mail that the trip had been scrapped. Sanders said, 'The invitation was made [by U.K.] and we accepted. We are still finalizing dates for the state visit.'"

U.S. Delivers Fictional Fighter Jet to Norway (or to Fictional Country Normay). Alex Horton of the Washington Post: "... alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the White House on Wednesday..., President Trump ... [announced] that the United States had delivered F-52 fighter jets to Norway.... The 'F-52' is a fictional jet only available to fly if you're a gamer at the controls of 'Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.'" Mrs. McC: Which raises the question -- Does Trump spend some of that "executive time" playing childish military video games?

Amy Sorkin of the New Yorker: "As has become increasingly clear over the first year of Trump's Presidency, he cannot stop himself from turning almost any occasion -- almost any critical note -- into a cue for a complaint about Clinton. The Hillary test he seems to administer is simple, illogical, repetitive, and tiresome: yes, he is in the White House -- but why isn't she in prison?" Sorkin goes on to fact-check Trump's latest false claims about Clinton & her FBI interview.

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post: "Trump ... proved [Michael] Wolff's account stunningly accurate this week. Thursday, however, was a three-alarm fire for the White House and its effort to convince the country that Trump is capable of performing his job.... In the morning he attacked reauthorization of the FISA surveillance program -- apparently based on what he heard on a 'Fox & Friends'” segment.... He then reversed himself -- or had an aide draft a tweet with a 180-degree reversal so as not to prevent reauthorization of a program he is supposed to support.... Then came his boast that he had a great relationship with North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong Un.... Next came his assertion about immigrants.... This was a two-for -- that is, a demonstration of utter ignorance and out-and-out racism. White, European country good! Black and brown countries bad!"

Frank Rich: Michael "Wolff's re-creations of scenes are no more or less plausible than [Bob] Woodward's, and Wolff should not be faulted for favoring direct editorialization over Woodward's technique of encoding his judgments in subtext. People are reading and buying Fire and Fury because the story rings true. It would also be highly entertaining, as pure and utter farce, if only the fate of America and perhaps the world were not at stake." Mrs. McC: Sorry I missed this Wednesday & thanks to MAG for the lead. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Russia Today

Max Greenwood of the Hill: "Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are calling on the panel's Republican chairman to subpoena documents from the Trump Organization. In a letter to Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Thursday, 17 panel Democrats called for a 'serious investigation' into whether President Trump's businesses are violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars federal officials from accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments.... he letter to Gowdy comes exactly a year after Trump held a news conference announcing that he would not liquidate his business assets or put them into a blind trust, but would instead hand day-to-day control of the Trump Organization over to his two adult sons.... The Democrats are seeking documents regarding how the Trump Organization identifies payments from foreign governments, as well as documents on whether Trump is making good on his promise to donate such payments to the U.S. Treasury." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Sloppy Steve Lawyers Up. Betsy Woodruff, et al., of the Daily Beast: "Steve Bannon is lawyering up as he gets ready to face investigators looking into the Trump-Russia nexus. The Daily Beast has learned that the former top White House strategist has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel. Two sources tell us Burck is helping Bannon prepare for an interview with the House intelligence committee, which is currently scheduled for next week." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

From Russia with Love. Denise Clifton of Mother Jones: "While the vast majority of the attacks from the 600 Twitter accounts tracked in real time by the Hamilton 68 dashboard are aimed at Democrats, the trolls also turn their sights on Republicans who sometimes stand up to Trump. Repeat targets have included Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. National security adviser H.R. McMaster has also been a target. But no Republican has faced more persistent wrath from the Russian-linked accounts than [John] McCain.... And those attacks on McCain have intensified in recent weeks. [T]he trolls tend to spread disinformation from far-right American sites rather than content from explicitly Russian ones.... In fact, the most prominent theme recently among the Russian-backed accounts is a growing campaign to discredit the Justice Department and FBI." --safari: EVERY DAY Putin's bots sow doubt into the minds of Confederates about our democratic institutions, and the Republicans in turn provide him daily cover and assistance. Treasonous bastards all the lot of 'em...

... **Raphael Satter of the AP: "The same Russian government-aligned hackers who penetrated the Democratic Party have spent the past few months laying the groundwork for an espionage campaign against the U.S. Senate, a cybersecurity firm said Friday.... 'They're still very active -- in making preparations at least -- to influence public opinion again,' said Feike Hacquebord, a security researcher at Trend Micro Inc., which published the report.... Hacquebord said he based his report on the discovery of a clutch of suspicious-looking websites dressed up to look like the U.S. Senate's internal email system.... Tend Micro, which has followed Fancy Bear for years, said there could be no doubt ... Fancy Bear's interests aren't limited to U.S. politics; the group also appears to have the Olympics in mind.... On Wednesday, a group ... began publishing what appeared to be Olympics and doping-related emails from between September 2016 and March 2017. The contents were largely unremarkable but their publication was covered extensively by Russian state media." --safari

Keepin' It in the Family. Lachlan Markay of The Daily Beast: "Eric Trump's controversial charitable foundation paid nearly $150,000 to Trump Organization companies in 2016, as donations to the group skyrocketed amid Donald Trump's presidential campaign.... Fundraising events brought in more than $1.7 million for the foundation in 2016, the new tax filing shows. It says that it paid $1.3 million of that sum to the events' charitable beneficiaries, and spent all of the remaining income — to the dollar -- on event expenses, leaving it with exactly $0 in net income." --safari

Cheri Jacobi
of USA Today: "Steve Bannon -- the loathed architect of President Trump's alt-right hate machine, Breitbart lies, racism, misogyny and Twitter thug troll factory -- is banished to political Siberia.... Bannon is a deplorable human being who has no business being in a position of power or having the ear of any lawmaker. But as deplorable as he may be, his destruction by Trump and the sycophantic army Bannon helped incubate should frighten every American.... When Bannon promoted white nationalism, misogyny, an accused child molester, severe online bullying and conspiracy theories, he was a king to the right-wing media, Trump and most of the Republicans in Congress. But when he dared to tell the truth..., Bannon was cut out like a member of Tony Soprano's 'family' who turned state's evidence."

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Trump administration said Thursday that it would allow states to impose work requirements in Medicaid, a major policy shift in the health program for low-income people.... Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ... said the Trump administration was responding to requests from Medicaid officials in 10 states that wanted to run demonstration projects testing requirements for work or other types of community engagement.... The proposals, she said, came from Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Khorri Atkinson of Axios: "The Environmental Protection Agency's internal inspector general said in an internal memo that he is expanding his investigation into agency head Scott Pruitt's air travel. A probe last year had found Pruitt's 'non-commercial' flights between June and August cost taxpayers more than $58,000." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Heather Caygle of Politico: "Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi complained Thursday that immigration negotiations are being led by 'five white guys' -- and was quickly rebuked by her No. 2, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, himself one of those white guys involved in the talks. 'The five white guys I call them, you know,' Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. 'Are they going to open a hamburger stand next or what?' Pelosi said, complaining that minority members of Congress were not involved in deciding the fate of Dreamers. Pelosi's quip was a reference to the hamburger chain Five Guys and the five white men leading the immigration negotiations.... 'That comment is offensive. I am committed to ensuring DREAMers are protected and I will welcome everyone to the table who wants to get this done,' Hoyer said to Politico in a statement."

Paul Krugman: "G.O.P. opposition to programs helping the less fortunate, from food stamps to Medicaid, is usually framed in monetary terms.... But ... it's about ... cruelty. Over the past few years it has become increasingly clear that the suffering imposed by Republican opposition to safety-net programs isn't a bug, it's a feature. Inflicting pain is the point." Krugman cites Republican positions on three issues -- ObamaCare Medicaid expansion, Medicaid work requirements, & children's health insurance. "Making lower-income Americans worse off has become a goal in itself for the modern G.O.P., a goal the party is actually willing to spend money and increase deficits to achieve."

E.A. Crunden of ThinkProgress: "The Trump administration recently denied a fourth young undocumented immigrant the right to an abortion, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said on Thursday.... She has access to private funds to cover the cost of the procedure and staff at the shelter where she is living have indicated a willingness to accompany her. However, the government is refusing to allow her access to an abortion — making this case the fourth time in four months that the Trump administration has prevented an undocumented minor from obtaining the legal procedure." --safari

Michael Corkery of the New York Times: "Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, waded into the bumpy waters of partisan politics on Thursday, announcing that it will use some of its savings under the new tax bill to provide wage increases, bonuses and expanded benefits to its hourly workers. The giant retailer ... said it would raise its minimum starting wage to $11 an hour, from $9. It will also expand maternity and family leave benefits, and give bonuses of up to $1,000 to eligible employees. By tying its pay increases to the tax break it expects to receive, as other large companies have done in recent weeks, Walmart provided support for claims by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress that the new tax law will benefit not just the wealthy but also working-class Americans.... But within hours, Walmart had undercut its triumphal message when news leaked that it was closing 63 of its Sam's Club stores. Labor groups and Senate Democrats seized on the news to question Walmart's motives and criticize the tax bill as failing to protect low-wage workers." ...

... Charles Bethea of the New Yorker: "Carrier Corporation..., owned by United Technologies Corporation -- a federal contractor whose climate, controls, and security division, of which Carrier is a part, reported three billion dollars in operating profit in 2016 -- is letting go of more than two hundred employees in its second and final wave of Indiana-based layoffs, which began last July. In total, the company will be laying off more than five hundred employees as it moves manufacturing jobs to Monterrey, Mexico. Many of those employees voted for Donald Trump, who made saving Carrier's 'big, beautiful plant' [in Indianapolis] one of his most repeated campaign promises.... Organizers with Good Jobs Nation, a Washington, D.C.-based labor-advocacy group, and a handful of local Democratic politicians and political hopefuls stood before a small crowd at Sully's [Bar & Grill, across the street from Carrier's Indianapolis plant] and denounced Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence, Indiana's former governor. Obscenities were liberally employed. The most pointed denunciation came from Chuck Jones, the former president of United Steel Workers Local 1999, in Indianapolis, who disputed Trump's initial characterization of the Carrier deal and was targeted by Trump on Twitter as a result. 'Trump is a liar and an idiot,' Jones told the crowd, adding, 'He's a con man, pure and simple, who sold us a bag of shit.'"

Issa Considers Change of Venue. Scott Wong & Katie Williams of the Hill: "GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, who said Wednesday he is not seeking reelection in California's 49th district, has been discussing with colleagues the possibility of running in a neighboring San Diego district if embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) resigns, multiple sources told The Hill. Some of these discussions happened as recently as Wednesday, the day Issa announced he would not be running for reelection in his coastal Southern California district after 15 years in the House." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Dana Ferguson of The Argus Leader: "Sen. Neal Tapio, R-Watertown [South Dakota], watched as about 50 people representing various religions ... prayed at the Capitol rotunda Wednesday morning. The faith leaders prayed for tolerance and religious acceptance on what was the Legislature's second day in session. Members of the group invited Tapio to join them for a group photo. Tapio, looking uncomfortable, stood with them as cameras clicked and flashed. Then he ... began yelling at those around him, 'I don't like being called a racist.' [He] then launched into a speech.... He stressed the need to ban travel to the United States by Muslim individuals, particularly from Muslim-majority countries where groups have supported Sharia law." --safari

Tom Dart of the Guardian: "It would rank as one of the greatest political upsets of 2018 and a stunning rebuke to Trumpism: a gay Latina Democrat grabbing hold of the country's biggest red state. But is Texas ready for Lupe Valdez? The question was first posed in Dallas in 2004, when Valdez scored a surprise victory to become the nation's first openly gay female Hispanic sheriff on the same night that George W Bush secured a second term in the White House. She won re-election three times in Dallas county before announcing last month that she would resign to stand for Texas governor.... Texas's Hispanic population grew by over 60% from 2000 to 2015, according to the Pew Research Center, and Latino people now comprise 39% of the state's 28 million residents; 43% of Texans are white.... A Democrat has not won a statewide race in Texas since 1994." --safari

Rob Haskell in Vogue writes a long portrait of Serena Williams' life post-pregnancy, and how she almost died after giving birth. --safari

Way Beyond

William Branigin & Simeon Tegel of the Washington Post: "Ecuador has granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the South American nation's foreign minister announced Thursday, in a bid to resolve an 'unsustainable' situation at its embassy in London, where Assange sought refuge more than five years ago. But a standoff with British authorities continued, as the Foreign Office rejected an Ecuadoran request that it grant diplomatic status to Assange, insisting instead that the Australian national 'leave the embassy to face justice.' Ecuador's foreign minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, subsequently said that Assange would not leave the embassy in the absence of security guarantees. She said in a news conference Thursday in Quito, the Ecuadoran capital, that Assange was granted citizenship on Dec. 12, after having applied for it in September.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Robert Tait of the Guardian: "The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, has been accused of promoting a climate of 'vulgarity, incompetence and corruption' as the Czech Republic heads into a presidential election [this Friday and Saturday] widely seen as a referendum on his controversial brand of anti-immigrant populism and the country's place in the western alliance. The scathing critique has been issued by a rival candidate, Jiří Drahoš, a former chairman of the Czech academy of sciences, who has emerged as the main challenger to Zeman in this week's poll.... Drahoš pledged to 'restore the moral authority' once associated with former Czech leaders such as the late Vaclav Havel, which he said had been squandered by Zeman’s penchant for incendiary statements and the rise of populist parties in parliament. He vowed to reverse the president's friendly approach to Russia and instead reaffirm the Czech Republic's commitment to the EU and Nato." --safari

Reader Comments (3)

Comment by MAG:

Should anyone be surprised by Trump's remarks of yesterday?

Page 25 of ... Michael Wolff's book (Fire and Fury) includes this detail about Trump understanding his own essential nature.

Returning on his plane with a billionaire friend who had brought along a foreign model, Trump, trying to move in on his friend's date, urged a stop in Atlantic City to provide a tour of his casino. His friend assured the model that there was nothing to recommend Atlantic City. It was a place overrun by white trash.

"What is this 'white trash'?" asked the model.

"They're people just like me," said Trump, "only they're poor."

-- MAG

January 12, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Comment by Unwashed (attempted yesterday):

I believe that our PO(tu)S has a serious genetic defect. His oral orifice got mixed up with his anal orifice.

By Unwashed

January 12, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Just reading the words of the great Faux defenders of Trump's slur over on HuffPost as they compare his common man phrasing to such as Joe Biden's live mike incident or per Jake Novak over on CNBC, Obama used the word 'stupid' when talking about conditions in Kenya. Right, so so similar.

January 12, 2018 | Registered CommenterMAG
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