The Ledes

Sunday, January 20, 2019.

Hill: "A fire Sunday morning in Northeast Washington, D.C., damaged studios for Fox News, C-SPAN and MSNBC, and forced 'Fox News Sunday' to relocate its broadcast to a local affiliate's studio. Washington, D.C., Fire and EMS tweeted that an electrical fire broke out in the 8th floor television studio, but that nobody was injured. Steve Scully, the political editor for C-SPAN, tweeted shortly after 7 a.m. that  the Fox News and C-SPAN studios sustained 'extensive damage,' and MSNBC's studio took on 'extensive smoke and water damage.'"

New York Times: "Heavy snowfall, high winds and a dangerous mix of rain and sleet were expected to hit swaths of the Northeast on Sunday, prompting officials to warn of icy roadways and power outages from a vast winter storm that had been pummeling the Great Plains and the Great Lakes. The storm, which complicated travel on Saturday and busted plans for the three-day weekend across much of the country, had already caused problems from Kansas, where the governor declared an emergency, to Chicago, where a United Airlines plane slid off a concrete surface. Flights have been canceled by the thousands, and rapidly dropping temperatures on Sunday in parts of the Northeast would freeze anything wet, creating 'extremely dangerous' conditions on the roadways."

USA Today: "John Coughlin, a two-time U.S. pairs champion who was suspended Thursday evening by the U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating, died Friday, according to a Facebook post from his sister.... Kansas City police confirmed Coughlin's suicide.... Coughlin, 33, was a fixture at skating competitions and rinks around the country as a coach, TV commentator and a rising star within both USFS and the International Skating Union, the sport’s worldwide federation.”

The Wires
The Ledes

Saturday, January 19, 2019.

AP: " Forensic experts attempted to separate and count charred heaps of corpses in central Mexico on Saturday after a massive fireball erupted at an illegal pipeline tap, killing at least 66 people. More than 85 other people on Saturday were listed as missing as relatives of the deceased and onlookers gathered around the scene of carnage. Just a few feet from where the pipeline passed through an alfalfa field, the dead seem to have fallen in heaps, perhaps as they stumbled over each other or tried to help one another in the moments after a geyser of gasoline shot into the air Friday. The leak was caused by an illegal pipeline tap in the small town of Tlahuelilpan, about 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of Mexico City, according to state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex."

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.

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If you're a shut-out Trump Shutdown victim tooling around the Internets with nothing to do today, let's assume that some day some time, Trump will de-furlough you and you can get back to work enthusiastically serving the American people in your appointed capacity. In case Trump has rendered you a bit rusty in the area of job skills, Conan here provides some useful tools that may help you get to work on time, even on casual Friday:

ABC News: "Breathtaking drone video of a pod of friendly, playful dolphins joining a surfer as he took to the waves near the coast of Ventura, California, is making the rounds on social media and bringing smiles -- and wow's -- to viewers. ABC station KABC-TV's meteorologist Kimi Evans met the drone's owner Craig Badger, who shared the footage, and spoke to surfer Alden Blair.... The video has been seen more than 3 million times on social media." ...

NBC Suits Are Such Geniuses. New York Times: "After a drawn-out negotiation period, NBC and Megyn Kelly have formally agreed to part ways. The network and the onetime cable news star reached a final agreement on Friday, nearly three months after she wondered aloud on-air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween. NBC and a representative for Ms. Kelly declined to reveal the details of the exit package. But according to two people familiar with the negotiations, Ms. Kelly was paid the outstanding balance on her contract, a figure that amounts to roughly $30 million. At the time of the separation, Ms. Kelly was in the middle of a three-year, $69 million contract with the network."

New York Times: "The Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the novelist MacKenzie Bezos announced on Twitter Wednesday that they are getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. In a statement posted on Mr. Bezos’s Twitter account, the couple said they had been separated for a long period of time, but planned to remain involved as 'parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects.' According to a 1999 profile in Wired, the two met when they both worked at D.E. Shaw, a New York-based hedge fund, before moving in 1994 to Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered. They have four children.... As is the case in any celebrity split, the financial details of the divorce are sure to be complicated despite the couple’s vow to “remain cherished friends.” According to Forbes, which publishes an annual list of billionaires, his net worth is estimated at $137 billion and he is the richest man in the world. While much of his wealth is tied up in Amazon stock, Mr. Bezos, 54, the company’s chief executive, is also the owner of several companies, including The Washington Post and Blue Origin, a space travel company."

Here's a list of the Golden Globe winners, via Market Watch. CNN has posted highlights on a liveblog & currently has a whole buncha links to related stories on CNN Entertainment. And if you're in it for the red carpet, there's this:

New York Times : "Archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved, 4,400-year-old tomb of a royal priest and his family in Egypt, in a 'one of a kind' find, the Egyptian authorities announced on Saturday. The tomb was unearthed in Saqqara, a city south of Cairo and a vast necropolis from ancient Egypt. The discovery dates from the rule of Neferirkare Kakai, the third king of the fifth dynasty of ancient Egypt, according to Khaled al-Anani, Egypt’s minister of antiquities. The fifth dynasty governed for less than two centuries, from 2,500 B.C. to about 2,350 B.C., according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tomb had remained untouched, said Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s supreme council of antiquities, according to Reuters."

"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."

Friday
Jan112019

The Commentariat -- January 12, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

David Boddiger of Splinter: "Trump responded to the [New York Times] report [about the FBI's investigation targeting him] on Saturday with a fury of tweets accusing the FBI of corruption. 'Wow, just learned in the Failing New York Times that the corrupt former leaders of the FBI, almost all fired or forced to leave the agency for some very bad reasons, opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof, after I fired Lyin' James Comey, a total sleaze!' Trump tweeted.... He continued ranting in several more tweets with a word salad of allegations against 'Crooked Hillary Clinton,' 'Bob Mueller, & the 13 Angry Democrats,' and 'Crooked Cop' Comey, among others." ...

... Isaac Chotiner of the New Yorker interviews Adam Goldman, the lead reporter on the New York Times story, about his reporting on the story.

Roger Cohen of the New York Times: "When Trump was in business, his shtick was stiffing contractors. If confronted, he would try some bombast and storm out of meetings, as he did the other day with congressional leaders, ending talks on the partial government shutdown caused by a crisis he has manufactured. His shtick now is stiffing all Americans. The technique is the same: Keep reality at a distance through hyperactive fakery. I have been fascinated by Trump's compulsion.... Like the scorpion that stings the frog ferrying it across the torrent, he cannot help it. It's his nature, you see.... In Trump the element of sadistic cruelty in his personality (mocking the disabled, for example), and the sheer gall of his fakery, make of him a malignant, rather than a benign, bullshit artist." Thanks to PD Pepe for the link. Well worth the read.

*****

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

** Adam Goldman, et al., of the New York Times: "In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president'behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation. The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president's own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow's influence. The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.... The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, took over the inquiry into Mr. Trump when he was appointed, days after F.B.I. officials opened it." Read the whole report. It's a blockbuster. ...

... Ben Wittes of Lawfare: "Observers of the Russia investigation have generally understood Special Counsel Robert Mueller's work as focusing on at least two separate tracks: collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, on the one hand, and potential obstruction of justice by the president, on the other. But what if the obstruction was the collusion...?" Testimony from both Jim Comey & FBI general counsel James Baker "is that the investigation was something of a criminal-counterintelligence hybrid from early on.... To the extent that firing Comey was the result of a decision to shut down the investigation, [Baker] said, that would frustrate the FBI's ability to ascertain what the Russians and their confederates had done." ...

     ... Martin Longman in the Washington Monthly: "... Wittes seems to be realizing for the first time that Trump's efforts to obstruct the investigation may be little more than an element of the underlying problem, which is that Trump has been working on the behalf of Russian interests all along. For this reason, his obstruction is just as much about protecting Russia as it is about protecting himself.... When Trump made himself an enemy of the investigation into Russia, he turned himself into a national security threat.... The firing of Comey ... wasn't just an effort to obstruct an investigation of himself. It was an effort to prevent the FBI from investigating Russia.... Ever since [Comey's firing], the investigation has operated on the assumption that Trump and Russia are coconspirators both before and after the fact.... While Trump has acquiesced in some tough measures against Russia, the overall picture is indistinguishable from what a Manchurian president would do if they wanted to press Russia's interests as far as possible while still retaining enough deniability to maintain their hold on power. That is certainly how the intelligence community sees things...."

Niall Stanage of the Hill: "Rudy Giuliani says President Trump's legal team should be allowed to 'correct' special counsel Robert Mueller's final report before Congress or the American people get the chance to read it. The claim, made in a telephone interview with The Hill on Thursday evening, goes further than the president's legal advisers have ever gone before in arguing they have a right to review the conclusions of Mueller's probe.... 'As a matter of fairness, they should show it to you -- so we can correct it if they're wrong,' said the former New York City mayor.... 'They're not God, after all. They could be wrong.'"

Katy Tur of NBC News: "Senate intelligence committee investigators are interviewing former members of ... Donald Trump's campaign as they hunt for evidence of possible collusion with Russia, asking one witness Friday fresh questions about the president's business dealings and how he formulated his policies toward Moscow. Sam Nunberg, who worked for Trump and his campaign in 2015, said he was questioned in a closed-door session on Capitol Hill about Trump's trip to Moscow in 2013, his company's interest in building a tower there and specific relationships between past members of the campaign and foreign actors who may have worked with Russia." ...

... Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast: "All the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter on Friday to the Justice Department's inspector general calling for him to scrutinize and potentially investigate the department's ethics practices. In the letter, the lawmakers expressed concern about Attorney General Matt Whitaker's decision to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, despite having previously criticized the investigation and claimed it would find no evidence of coordination between Trump World and the Kremlin. The letter will not necessarily result in any action from the DOJ's government watchdog.... Michael Bromwich, formerly the inspector general for the Justice Department, told The Daily Beast a request like this one wouldn't necessarily result in any action. 'Letters like this come in all the time,' he told The Daily Beast."

Christian Caryl of the Washington Post: "... MIT scholars have developed a robust methodology for assessing how social media campaigns influence the behavior of their targets -- and now they want to bring it to bear on the Russian meddling in 2016.... To conduct such a study properly, we'd probably need far more information from the social media platforms than they've been willing to release so far.... Given access to adequate data, the researchers claim they can estimate the impact of the Russian influence campaign in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida 'with 95% to 99% confidence.'... And it certainly wouldn't hurt to know more about how the Russians did their targeting and any of the help they received on that front from outsiders. (Manafort?)"

Dan Alexander of Forbes: "Donald Trump sold an estimated $35 million worth of real estate while serving in the White House last year, according to a Forbes analysis of local property records and federal filings. Although the president delegated day-to-day management of his assets to his sons Eric and Don Jr. upon taking office, he maintained ownership of his business, which continued to liquidate properties. More than half of that $35 million came from a single deal, in which Trump and business partners offloaded a federally subsidized housing complex in Brooklyn for about $900 million. The president held a 4% stake in the property...."

The Trump Shutdown ...
... Is Now the Longest Shutdown in U.S. History

Trump Dawdles on Declaring Fake Emergency. John Wagner, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Friday threw cold water on the idea of immediately declaring a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, reversing days of signals that he might soon declare the emergency amid a protracted standoff with Democrats over a partial shutdown of the federal government. 'What we're not looking to do right now is national emergency,' he said Friday afternoon, surrounded by law enforcement officials at a White House roundtable. 'I'm not going to do it so fast.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Apparently words or phrases associated with Trump's "policies" do not require (an) article; ergo, "wall" instead of "a wall" or "the wall" & "national emergency" instead of "a national emergency." Anyway, if it were real national emergency, a real president would not dawdle.  ...

     ... Here's Why Trump Is Dawdling. Melanie Zanona & Sarah Ferris of Politico: "A core group of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus is urging ... Donald Trump against the explosive step of declaring a national emergency to build his wall. Multiple Republicans in the conservative group have privately raised their concerns with the Trump administration, fearing it would lead to a years-long legal standoff that Democrats could win while setting a dangerous precedent for the presidency, according to more than a dozen lawmakers and GOP aides. They want Trump to hold out for a deal with Democrats, regardless of how long the partial government shutdown drags on. Trump's possible pursuit of an emergency declaration on the border divided the caucus during an animated meeting Wednesday night, according to lawmakers who attended the meeting." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Ole Trump has got hisself caught between Nancy Pelosi & Mark Meadows. Sadly, he ain't half as smart as Br'er Rabbit. Meaning we is all stuck in tar. ...

     ... AND This. Shannon Vavra of Axios: "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said Friday he opposes redirecting Hurricane Harvey disaster relief funds to build President Trump's border wall." ...

     ... AND This. Matt Belvedere of CNBC: "... Donald Trump should not declare a national emergency over illegal immigration in order to bypass Congress to get his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Sen. Chuck Grassley, a veteran Republican from Iowa, told CNBC on Friday.... 'I believe you're going to find it in the courts almost immediately. And the courts are going to make a decision' if Trump declares an emergency.... 'The president is threatening emergency action, a national emergency declaration. I don't think he should do that. I think it's a bad precedent. And it contravenes the power of the purse that comes from the elected representatives of the people,' said Grassley, who was elected to Congress in 1974 and the Senate in 1980." ...

     ... AND This. Emily Maloney of the Tampa Bay Times: "Ron DeSantis hasn't even finished his first week as Florida governor and he already appears to be on a collision course with the man who helped him get the job: ... Donald Trump. On Friday, DeSantis said that it would not be acceptable for Trump to take funds from hurricane relief to be used toward the border wall.... DeSantis' comments came after news broke Thursday night that Trump ... was considering using disaster funding intended for storm-damaged Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and for wildfire recovery in California to pay for the wall at the border." ...

Julie Davis & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Officially, Republicans blame Democrats for what is now the longest government shutdown in the nation's history. Privately, many concede, the stalemate over President Trump's demand for a border wall has been made exponentially worse by White House ineptitude on Capitol Hill, where two years of contradictory statements and actions have built up a profound lack of trust. Republican lawmakers and aides worry that Mr. Trump has misunderstood Democrats' incentives to stand firm and that he has deputized the wrong aides to press his case. And they question who -- if anyone other than the president -- has the authority to resolve the impasse. They describe a dysfunctional dynamic where even senior leaders in Mr. Trump's own party never know quite what to expect from the president.... The president has now repeatedly undercut Vice President Mike Pence, to whom he has delegated the task of negotiating an end to a seemingly intractable stalemate.... Mr. Trump's assumptions about what Democrats will give in on, and what is motivating them, have also been almost comically wrong."

... Melanie Should Give Hubby That "I Really Don't Care" Jacket. Gabby Orr of Politico: "White House officials are warning congressional Republicans not to expect an immediate end to the government shutdown even if ... Donald Trump declares a national emergency at the southern border. The warning came during Trump's Thursday visit to the southern U.S. border.... Many Democrats and some Republicans have grown hopeful that a national emergency declaration ... might end a political standoff that has partially shut down the government.... Their thinking is that such an effort by Trump would allow him to declare victory and strike a deal with Congress to reopen the federal government, even though his extreme legal move would then face severe court challenges. But Trump's allies say the president is reluctant to hand Democrats a 'win' by reopening the government after he's invoked emergency powers."

Joe Ward & Anjali Singhvi of the New York Times: President Trump has frequently called the situation at the southern border with Mexico a crisis and insists that building his long-promised border wall will fix it. Here are some of Mr. Trump's most common assertions of a crisis, and the reality of what we know about immigrants and the border." ...

     ... Mrs McCrabbie: I guessed right the other day when I said one of Trump's incomprehensibe tweets might be about supposed drug smuggling. Somebody changed the tweet to, "Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border." As to the utility of that claim vis-a-vis wall, Ward & Singhvi write, "most heroin is brought into the country in vehicles entering through legal border crossings, not through the areas where walls are proposed or already exist." In a chart based on CBP stats, 90 percent of the heroin coming into the U.S. via all borders is brought in at legal ports of entry. So assuming (and this is not accurate) that all heroin came in thru the U.S.-Mexico border & that Trump's 300 heroin deaths/week figure is accurate, each week 30 Americans, not 300, die because of heroin smuggled across border areas that wall might make more difficult.

Gail Collins: "It’s as if we’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and landed in a Wonderland totally devoid of wonder. Even if you really, really want Donald Trump to be a total failure hurtling his way back toward civilian life, it's not comforting to have a president who's so out to lunch. Just think about that trip to Texas. McAllen, the city Trump chose to demonstrate the terror of wall-free borders, was recently listed by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best places to retire in the nation. But the president, who was making only his second trip to the border since he took office, assured the public he knew how terrible things are because 'I have been there numerous times.' And that was just one tiny piece of his week!"

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "In his political fight for a border wall, President Trump has enlisted a new group of surrogates to join conservative talk show hosts and Republican allies in making a public case — Border Patrol agents. On a tour of a patrol station in McAllen, Tex., this week, Trump gathered 15 agents, dressed in uniforms and tactical gear, to stand next to him as he filmed a minute-long video. 'They have done an incredible job,' said Trump, sporting a 'Make America Great Again' hat. 'But we all want to see a wall or a barrier because that will make your job even easier ... Everybody knows we need a barrier; we need a wall.' The agents remained silent, but the visual message was clear: Trump wanted viewers to believe Customs and Border Protection, an agency of 59,000 employees, is firmly behind him in a political skirmish that has resulted in a partial government shutdown. For Trump, the episode offered the latest example of his willingness to stretch the boundaries of using law enforcement agencies for political messaging. Last week, he brought leaders of unions for Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the White House briefing room to tout the wall." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Just his wearing that campaign cap at a supposedly official visit is way out of line. Taxpayers should not be paying for this crap -- but we are. ...

...

... They Were Against It Before They Were For It. Ted Hesson of CNN: "A union that represents Border Patrol agents recently deleted a webpage that said building walls and fences along the border to stop illegal immigration would be 'wasting taxpayer money.' The deleted webpage, posted in 2012, argued that border barriers don't tackle the root causes of migration -- and could potentially encourage more migrants to enter the U.S. fraudulently or overstay visas. The webpage was taken down after the union's president endorsed the wall at a White House news briefing earlier this month."

How to Prove You're Totally Out of Touch with Real People. Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "Federal workers furloughed because of the government shutdown might be 'better off' after they return to work because they essentially are getting a free vacation, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said this week.... Donald Trump's chief economic adviser made the suggestion in an interview on 'PBS NewsHour.' He said many of the 800,000 federal employees affected by the three-week partial government shutdown had been planning to take vacation days around the Christmas and New Year holidays, and thus wouldn't have worked during parts of the shutdown anyway -- but now they get to keep their vacation days.... He did, however, allow that the shutdown would have cost the economy around $20 billion in output through Friday and an additional $10 billion per week after that."

Lisa Rein & Jeff Stein of the Washington Post: "After an intense lobbying campaign by the mortgage industry, the Treasury Department this week restarted a program that had been sidelined by the partial government shutdown, allowing hundreds of Internal Revenue Service clerks to collect paychecks as they process forms vital to the lending industry. The hasty intervention to restore the IRS's income verification service by drawing on revenue from fees -- even as 800,000 federal employees across the country are going without their salaries -- has intensified questions about the Trump administration's unorthodox efforts to bring certain government functions back online to contain the shutdown's impacts. Critics, including many former IRS officials, described the move as an act of favoritism to ease the burden on a powerful industry. 'It seems crazy to me that a powerful bank or lobby gets to bring their people back to do their work,' said Marvin Friedlander, who served as a senior IRS official in the mid-2000s.... Because of the shutdown, the IRS was unable to process a key form that lenders use to confirm borrowers' incomes before they can grant home loans -- a roadblock that threatened to bring the mortgage industry to a halt."

Remember the Turtle! Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: "President Trump is not the only person in Washington who could end this government shutdown now. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could bring a 'clean' funding bill to the floor, free up his GOP caucus to support it and could quite possibly secure enough votes to override a presidential veto. McConnell already did it once, when he believed he had Trump's blessing. Before the holidays he allowed a vote to keep the government running until Feb. 8, to avoid a shutdown and buy more time to negotiate Trump's demand for border wall funding. It passed easily [Mrs. McC: by voice vote. But when Trump balked, McConnell] ... left the shutdown public relations to other Republicans, skipping news conferences and keeping a low profile."

The Great Wall of Stupid. Lachlan Markay & Will Sommer of the Daily Beast: "A decorated veteran who raised more than $20 million to finance construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border has announced that he will instead use the money to finance a new nonprofit group that will build the wall itself -- or at least a couple miles of it. Brian Kolfage's crowdfunding campaign on the website GoFundMe went viral in December, before news outlets uncovered previous instances in which the triple-amputee veteran appeared to have pocketed funds raised through similar, if far smaller, campaigns billed as efforts to assist wounded warriors. Now Kolfage, a prolific operator of conspiracy theory Facebook pages, has recruited a team of prominent figures in ... Donald Trump's orbit to run a new 501(c)(4) nonprofit, named We Fund The Wall, to do some wall construction of its own. The new group's board, Kolfage announced on Friday, includes Erik Prince, the founder of infamous military contract Blackwater; David Clarke, the former scandal-plagued sheriff of Milwaukee County; Fox News contributor Sara Carter; Tom Tancredo, an immigration hardliner and former Colorado congressman; and former Kansas Secretary of State and voter fraud crusader Kris Kobach[.]"...

... What? An Unethical Trumpbot? Unpossible! Brandy Zadrozny & Ben Collins of NBC News: "The GoFundMe fundraiser that promised to help privately fund ... Donald Trump's plan for a wall spanning the length of the U.S.-Mexico border surpassed $20 million dollars in donations this week. But the man behind it -- Brian Kolfage, a rising conservative media star -- may have had another goal. Through his border-wall campaign, he claims to have gathered 3.5 million email addresses, which are essential to his broader operation -- a wide-ranging and multipronged effort to collect a list of Trump supporters who have proven to be sources of donations for conservative efforts, former employees told NBC News. According to former employees and public records including website archives, Nevada business registrations and property records, Kolfage has repeatedly created GoFundMe campaigns and published inflammatory fake news articles, pushing them both from websites that he sought to hide behind shell companies and false identities, in part to harvest email addresses. Those addresses were then used to push people back to Kolfage's websites, to sell a brand of coffee he owns, or to be stockpiled for future use by conservative campaigns.... The [wall] campaign ... is only the most high-profile part of Kolfage's email harvesting operation, which former employees told NBC News extends back to his creation of far-right news websites -- an effort that resulted in a Facebook ban."


Mark Landler
of the New York Times: "President Trump has long claimed that he puts 'America first' overseas. But in two remarkable statements on Thursday, Mr. Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, explicitly favored foreign autocrats over elected American leaders. Mr. Pompeo chose Cairo, the site of President Barack Obama's 2009 address to the Islamic world, to deliver a caustic, point-by-point repudiation of Mr. Obama's message. He paid tribute to Egypt's repressive president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, for his courage in supporting Mr. Trump's alternative approach. About an hour later, on the South Lawn of the White House, Mr. Trump said that China's Communist Party bosses negotiated in better faith than the Democratic leaders in Congress.... 'I find China, frankly, in many ways to be far more honorable than Cryin' Chuck and Nancy. I really do,' Mr. Trump said, referring to the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 'China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party.' This is the same China that Mr. Trump's national security strategy designated as one of the greatest threats to American interests...."

Eric Schmitt, et al., of the New York Times: "The American military has started withdrawing some equipment, but not yet troops, from Syria as part of President Trump's order to wind down that battleground against the Islamic State, two Defense Department officials said on Friday amid continuing confusion over plans to disengage from one of the Middle East's most complex conflicts. The officials said the number of American troops might actually increase slightly in Syria, to help protect the final process of pulling out -- an operation that is still expected to take at least four to six months to complete. There are currently about 2,000 troops -- mostly Army soldiers and Marines -- in northeast Syria or in the Middle Euphrates River Valley to oust the remaining pockets of Islamic State fighters and secure newly-liberated areas from their return. A vaguely worded statement from the American military headquarters in Baghdad ... said the withdrawal process from Syria had begun."

Grace Panetta of Business Insider: "... Ivanka Trump ... is one of the names being considered as a replacement for The World Bank's outgoing president, Jim Yong Kim, the Financial Times reported Friday. The DC-based World Bank, founded after World War II to finance economic-development projects in emerging economies, has traditionally been led by an American. Kim's sudden departure from the bank came as a surprise to employees and leaves the bank's future uncertain. The Trump administration, which has been wary of and even hostile toward Western-led international institutions like the World Bank, will now be tasked with submitting a recommendation to the bank's board." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: It seems superfluous to mention (but I'm doing it anyway) that an institution like the World Bank is highly-susceptible to Trump-style corruption. Ivanka would have a field day. As Reuters reported a few days ago, Kim resigned three years early because he "was at odds with the Trump administration's policies on climate change.... Kim, 59, a physician and public health advocate, was nominated by ... Barack Obama for a first and second term. Kim had pushed financing for green energy projects and largely dropped support for coal power investments, but had avoided public clashes with the Trump administration. Two people familiar with Kim's announcement to the World Bank executive board said he was leaving of his own accord and was 'not pushed out' by the Trump administration."

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), in a Washington Post op-ed: "... Republicans ... are often still struggling when it comes to civility and fairness. This was driven home once again Thursday as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) wondered aloud: 'White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization -- how did that language become offensive?'... When people with opinions similar to King's open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole.... Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism -- it is because of our silence when things like this are said.... King's comments are not conservative views but separate views that should be ridiculed at every turn possible." ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Lis Power, et al., of Media Matters: "When it comes to a congresswoman cursing versus a congressman embracing white supremacy, cable news apparently believes the cursing deserves more coverage -- five times more coverage, to be exact. On January 4, the day after Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) referred to ... Donald Trump by saying 'Impeach the motherfucker' during a reception with supporters, cable news outlets (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) spent over two and a half hours discussing the topic. In comparison, in the roughly 24 hours following the publication of Rep. Steve King's (R-IA) comments in The New York Times that showed him embracing white supremacy, cable news devoted just under 30 minutes of coverage to the congressman's racism."

Aaron Katersky of ABC News: "Six families of victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School won a legal victory Friday in their fight against controversial radio and internet personality Alex Jones. A judge in Connecticut has granted the families' discovery requests, allowing them access to, among other things, Infowars' internal marketing and financial documents. The judge has scheduled a hearing next week to decide whether to allow the plaintiffs' attorneys to depose Jones."

Presidential Race 2020. Mrs. McCrabbie: Okay, here's a Democratic presidential contender who makes Michael Avenatti look pretty good.

Beyond the Beltway

Florida. Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald: "After nearly 70 years, all members of the Groveland Four -- four young black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in Lake County -- were pardoned by a unanimous vote Friday. The Florida Cabinet met for the first time as the state Clemency Board Friday, where it heard from family members of the men who were either imprisoned, tortured or murdered by mobs and a racist sheriff. The Groveland Four matter was only supposed to be up for discussion, and families were not expecting to hear a vote Friday. But at the very end of the meeting, Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a vote. 'I believe in the principles of the Constitution. I believe in getting a fair shake,' he said. 'I don't think there's any way that you can look at this case and see justice was carried out.' Some call the treatment of the four men one of the worst episodes of racism in American history."

News Lede

Guardian: "Two firefighters have died in a massive explosion caused by a 'pocket of gas' in a six-storey building in Paris. Another 47 people were injured, 10 of them critically, including a third fire officer, in the blast in the 9th arrondissement of the capital on Saturday morning."

Reader Comments (12)

Speaking of patriotism:

I promised a friend and labor educator whom I will be interviewing next week that I would write up an outline of our proposed discussion and get it to him this weekend.

His topic: a new presentation he will be unveiling at a large labor gathering in Houston before the end of the month, whose subject is patriotism and its relationship to American labor over the years. His message is always progressive, so I suspect he will not emphasize the times when unions came down on the wrong side of progress (I'm thinking of the recent building trades support for the Pretender, among many other instances), nor that he will come near defining patriotism the way Sam Johnson famously did.

I've always taken this "my country, right or wrong" thing as flat stupid on its face. Wrong would seem just wrong, no matter who perpetrates it. From my very early years, I've believed that if patriotism is that thoughtless, I'm happy to be shed of it.

Furthermore, if moral values are indeed universal, not tied only to the benefit of a particular interest group, then they must apply to all people, and if they do apply to all, then when we speak of love of country, we have to mean the love of all those within it.

I can go with that.

That's why I'm still proud of my country for all the things it has accomplished toward meeting the ideals set forth at its founding. Even more for the revisions and extensions of those ideals that have taken place over the years in the direction of justice. Those ideals and that movement define my patriotism, just as the progress we have not made and the backsliding that too often occurs limits its extent.

Since labor has not always managed that idealistic a view, I will be interested to see how my friend handles the subject.

Blame the Pretender and Pompeo for the above. Judging from both their actions and words, patriotism in their sense of "America First" means only Me and Evangelical Christianity above all.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Home agin with reel keyboard. Hear link to artical mentioned yesterday about trumpbots and evangenitals.

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed

@unwashed: Thanks. For his own good, Trump should forget about buying up land for wall & concentrate on using eminent domain to develop a great landing spot in a Midwestern purple state for the Second Coming.

P.S. "Evangenitals" is a great word. I hope it appears in a Trumpertweet soon.

January 12, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

"Howdy , Brer Rabbit' sez Brer Fox, sezee. 'You look sorter stuck up dis mawnin' en den he rolled on de groun en laughed en laughed twel he couldn't laugh no mo."

And he who thinks it's "peachy dory" to shut down the government in order to get what he wants and he whose mouth continues to do words that mean nothing anyone can count on and he who tells us all that a wheel is older than a wall (and if you don't believe that ask Wilber Ross for conformation) is now stuck in some pretty sticky stuff. TICK TOCK MOFO!!!!!!!!

@Ken: Funny, I never would describe myself as a patriot. I would never have the American flag displayed on my property like many people do. I am uncomfortable with the "God blesses" and certainly the "my country right or wrong." Because I love my country I can criticize it without impunity––I want it to be the best it can be and when it is failing I can call it out. And you said it rightly:

"Furthermore, if moral values are indeed universal, not tied only to the benefit of a particular interest group, then they must apply to all people, and if they do apply to all, then when we speak of love of country, we have to mean the love of all those within it."

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

I'm just as qualified as Ivanka to head up the World Bank. I have
checking accounts at 2 different banks and I'm able to balance
them every month. So there!
Don't know about the corruption part or money laundering though.
It just ain't in me.

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterforrest morris

@forrest morris: Unless you are planning to make low-interest loans, give interest-free credit and grant millions or billions to Ivanka Sweatshops International, Ltd., Kushner International Bad-Deal Enterprises & the Trump Organization's Shady International Development division, you are totally unqualified. On the other hand, if you're good with all that, be sure to put it at the top of your job application. You're a shoo-in.

January 12, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

"When Trump made himself an enemy of the investigation into Russia, he turned himself into a national security threat."

I've got an inkling ol' Devin Nunes has an open file at the FBI right about now, too. His carry-watering for the distraction campaign was legendary, fanatic even. Then again, it was Lyin' Paul Ryan that gave him the loose leash and abetted the vicious anti-FBI propaganda. Maybe he deserves some scrutiny too. Nah. The FBI looked into his background and just dug up dirt of him extolling anti-poverty rants on the Ayn Rand chat groups and a few shady wire transfers from Job Makers Gratitude, Inc.

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

DONALD TRUMP JUST CANNOT HELP IT: by Roger Cohen who cites Harry Frankfurt's seminal essay "On Bullshit"––here he says he must excuse himself with readers who who may find the word "bull" offensive––but–-:

"There really is no alternative to it. Donald Trump is the Michelangelo of bullshit artists."

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/11/opinion/donald-trump-illegal-immigration-border-wall.html

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@Unwashed: Thanks much for the link––I found that piece most interesting ––had no idea Pompeo was so close to God––he and Pence must fist-bump in the hallways. So these lovers of biblical myths are a steadfast base for Trump? It's like rape victims championing a serial rapist.

And speaking of religion: Why do we still use "So help me God" at the end of the swearing in of Congress critters. Doesn't anyone find that –-what's the word–-anachronistic? It portends to suggest that by George, if you don't comply by the rules this Deity is gonna smite you proper or does it mean that this Deity is gonna help you do your job. Either way, I find it ridiculous but then I seem to be in the minority–-no blessings doth fall on me, I'm afraid.

Sad

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

People have noticed recently that DiJiT eschews articles, definite and in-, in his speech. Hence he refers to "wall" the way Brick refers to "lamp" -- lack of article. And he talks about how he can "do national emergency" if he wants, using "do" as a generic helper verb rather than the more accurate (and common, and articulate) "declare a national emergency."

Where are these speech patterns common? In Russian and other slavic languages, among others, which don't have articles and many of whose verbs rely on auxiliary verb signifiers such as "do", "go", "make" etc. ... such as "do emergency".

Maybe he has a receiver in his head where someone who speaks ESL gives him all the best words, but comes out sounding like Boris Badenov.

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

@PD,

Back in the 1970's when I visited my Irish Catholic grandmother in her last months in the rest home and on this plane of existence, she occasionally thought I was the priest. Not to disappoint her, and maybe because I had been fully trained in the Catholic rituals, this back in the day when they were accoutered in Latin, while I did not go so far as to hear her confession or perform extreme unction, I did at least once go along with her delusion far enough to bless her, "In nomine patris et fillii...."

So, having practiced, let me bless you, too.

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Dear Ken: Thank you–-being blessed by you actually means something.
What you did with your grandmother I did with my own mother when at almost 100 I went along with her delusions and we were dancing in her favorite taffeta dress with the pink roses around the edge in Morocco–-a place she once visited and loved. What you and I did was, so I've now been told by those in the know, the best thing to do with loved ones who have dementia or Alzheimers: don't correct them–-just go with them wherever they are.You could be a priest and I could dance in Morocco–-players on the stage of a life well lived.

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe
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