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 -- March 14, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Former Cheesy TV Personality Chooses Cheesy TV Personality as Economic Advisor. Eamon Javers & Jacob Pramuk of CNBC: "... Donald Trump plans to name Larry Kudlow as his top economic advisor, sources told CNBC. Trump could announce his decision to choose Kudlow as his National Economic Council director as soon as Thursday. The president offered the CNBC senior contributor and on-air personality the job on Tuesday night, and Kudlow accepted, a person familiar told CNBC."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Rand Paul is vowing to do everything he can to stop Mike Pompeo from becoming secretary of state. The libertarian-leaning GOP senator said Wednesday that Pompeo's earlier support for the Iraq war and defense of enhanced interrogation techniques -- or 'torture' in the view of Paul and many other senators -- is disqualifying. And the Kentucky senator indicated he may be willing to filibuster both Pompeo's nomination and CIA director nominee Gina Haspel, who he says is 'gleeful' in her defense of torture techniques."

Rene Marsh & Gregory Wallace of CNN: "Newly released emails cast doubt on claims by Secretary Ben Carson and his spokesman that he had little or no involvement in the purchase of a $31,000 furniture set for his Department of Housing and Urban Development dining room. Emails [obtained through an FOIA request] show Carson and his wife selected the furniture themselves.... HUD spokesman Raffi Williams initially denied the Carsons had any involvement in the dining set selection.... A HUD spokesman went further at the time, blaming the purchase on an unnamed career staffer." Actually, staffers "asked for repairs to the chairs of the existing furniture."

Pamela Brown & Laura Jarrett of CNN: "Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was set to officially retire on March 18, but according to a source familiar with the matter, he could be fired just days before and lose his pension after a more than two-decade career at the bureau. The embattled official abruptly stepped down at the end of January and has been on leave since that time. CNN has learned the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility has recommended McCabe be fired and now the decision is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions . The issue stems from findings in an internal Justice Department watchdog report that claims he misled investigators about his decision to authorize FBI officials to speak to the media about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation."

NBC News: "Exactly one month after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, survivors of the massacre joined tens of thousands of students across the U.S. by walking out of school on Wednesday morning. The mass protests were held at 10 a.m. local time in each time zone and lasted 17 minutes, one for each of the Parkland victims. Organizers said the purpose was to highlight 'Congress' inaction against the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.'" ...

... The New York Times report, by Alan Blinder & Julie Turkewitz, cites numerous schools' walkouts. ...

... Arm Teachers! Amy Larson of KSBW: "A teacher who also serves as a reserve police officer accidentally fired a gun inside a Seaside [California] High School classroom Tuesday, police said, and three students were injured. Dennis Alexander was teaching a course about gun safety for his Administration of Justice class when his gun went off at 1:20 p.m. Alexander was pointing his gun at the ceiling when it fired. Pieces of the ceiling fell to the ground. A news release from the Seaside Police Department said no one suffered 'serious injuries.' One 17-year-old boy suffered moderate injuries when fragments from the bullet ricocheted off the ceiling and lodged into his neck, the student's father, Fermin Gonzales, told KSBW." See also commentary by P.D. Pepe & Akhilleus below.

Harry Enten of CNN: "... at the present time, [Democrat Conor] Lamb's performance in Pennsylvania 18 is merely the latest sign Democrats are surging right now, spelling trouble for Republicans heading into the midterm elections.... The overperformance in special elections by Democrats is key to understanding the national environment heading into the midterms. When parties do well in special elections, they usually do well in the midterms. When they do poorly in special elections, they usually do poorly in the midterms." ...

... BUT. "Porn Stache." GOP Blames Candidate for Poor Showing in Pennsylvania. Amanda Terkel, et al., of the Huffington Post: "Saccone was overwhelmingly favored to win the race. The district was so solidly Republican that Democrats didn't even field a congressional candidate here in 2014 and 2016. GOP groups dumped nearly $11 million into the campaign on advertising and media messaging ― an astounding amount for a district that will not exist due to redistricting next year.... An anonymous Pennsylvania GOP strategist told The Washington Examiner they had a very specific complaint about Saccone: His moustache was disgusting. It' a porn stache,' the strategist said."


Jonathan Martin & Alexander Burns of the New York Times, Updated Again: "The Democrat and Republican in a special House election in the heart of Pennsylvania's Trump country were divided by a few hundred votes in a race that was too close to call early Wednesday -- an ominous sign for Republicans in a district that Donald J. Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points. With 100 percent of votes counted,Conor Lamb, a Democrat, was clinging to a 641-vote lead over Rick Saccone, a Republican. But one county in the four-county district had not yet counted its absentee ballots, so no winner had been declared as of Wednesday morning. And it was possible that, if Mr. Saccone challenged the results, a legal battle could ensue. Taking the stage to applause at 12:45 a.m., Mr. Lamb was introduced as 'Congressman-elect' and exulted, 'It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it!' House Democrats also did not wait for a final count to claim victory, and House Republicans were already talking about a legal challenge. Under Pennsylvania law, there is no automatic recount in such a race, no matter how close." ...

... The New York Times is publishing results in the special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District here. As of 8:10 pm ET, no results have been reported. With 1% of results in, Lamb (D) leads Saccone (R) 51-47%. With 5% in, Lamb leads 60-39%. With 13% counted, Lamb leads 59-40%. With 45% counted, Lamb leads 53-46%. With 62% of the vote in, Lamb leads 53-47%. With 87% of the vote in, Lamb is leading by slightly more than 1 point. with 94% counted, Lamb is ahead by 0.4%. With 95% counted, Saccone is leading with 0.5%. With 96% in, Lamb leads by 0.6%. Lamb's lead has been reduced to 0.4%. With 98% of votes counted, Lamb leads by 0.3% (755 votes). With 99% of the vote in, Lamb leads by 95 votes. A graph showing the shift from the 2016 election is interesting -- the shifts are almost all toward the Democratic candidate. CNN is reporting that election officials are beginning to count absentee ballots. With the Allegheny County absentee ballots now counted, Lamb is leading by 0.4% or 847 votes. Absentee ballots from the more rural counties have not been reported. At 11:20 pm ET Tuesday, Steve Kornacki of MSNBC says that of the remaining uncounted votes, Saccone will have to "overperform" to win. With 100% of the on-site vote counted, Lamb leads by 579 votes. Two counties' -- Green & Washington -- absentee ballots have not been reported. Kornacki reckons Saccone would have to get something like 90% of those absentee votes, which is not likely. There's a question of law on whether or not an automatic recount is required. With only one county's absentee ballots outstanding, Lamb increased his lead by about 60 votes to 641. ...

... Peter Baker & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "While the president hobnobbed with wealthy donors in the exclusive enclave of Beverly Park, the voters in the suburbs south of Pittsburgh were in revolt, giving the Democratic candidate a narrow lead in a special election in Pennsylvania that was taking on outsize proportions. Just as they did outside Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala., in December, and Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C., in November, energized and angry suburban voters were swamping the Trump stalwarts in the more rural parts of those regions, sending a clear message to Republicans around the country. While Republican turnout in a district that Mr. Trump won by 20 percentage points was healthy, Democrats showed once again that they could tap unions and other traditionally friendly groups to get their voters out in droves." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie Note to Democratic Leadership: Find yourself some attractive young candidates who express views that more-or-less track with their districts. It's true that ConservoDems will be harder to corral during legislative debates, but it's far better to pass bills that are less than ideal than to have perfect party agreement against horrible bills that Republicans handily pass. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie Note to Democratic Primary Voters: Vote for the Democratic candidate who best fits your district, not necessarily the one who most agrees with you. Also, go for young, good-looking & energetic. (Lamb looks about 14, but he's been a Marine & a prosecutor and comes across as a sincere guy who "feels your pain.")

@RealDonald Trump. Worst President Ever Just Got Worse. David Nakamura & Damian Paletta
of the Washington Post: "For much of his tumultuous tenure, President Trump has made impulsive, gut-level pronouncements -- about dealing with Democrats on immigration, tearing up the Iran nuclear deal and supporting stricter gun control -- only to be walked back by his more cautious staff. Those days, it appears, are over. In the past two weeks, Trump has ordered tariffs on steel and aluminum imports over the fierce objections of his top economic adviser and agreed to an unprecedented meeting with North Korea's dictator despite concerns from national security aides. On Tuesday, Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had forged a tight working relationship with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to try to rein in some of Trump's most impetuous decisions.... Trump's moves have shaken and alarmed a West Wing staff who fear the president has felt less restrained about acting on his whims amid the recent departures of several longtime aides.... Critics warned that Trump was overseeing a massive consolidation of groupthink within the West Wing...."

Karoun Demirjian, et al., of the Washington Post: "The confirmation of President Trump's picks for secretary of state and CIA director is likely to be hampered but not stymied by a mostly partisan backlash to their past statements and actions, and to the decision that led to their nominations -- the termination of Rex Tillerson for being one of the few Cabinet members, Democrats argued Tuesday, who was willing to stand up to the president on foreign policy. Leaders of both parties predicted it could take a while to confirm CIA Director Mike Pompeo as the new secretary of state and Gina Haspel as Pompeo's replacement at the CIA, leaving the State Department officially rudderless at a time when the administration faces pressing challenges surrounding newly announced talks with North Korea, looming deadlines for continued compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, Russian aggression in advance of the 2018 midterm elections, the rollout of new tariffs and a deteriorating situation in Syria." ...

... Andrew Desiderio & Sam Stein of the Daily Beast: "... Donald Trump's announcement on Tuesday that he would be re-shuffling his foreign policy team gave congressional Democrats two new, high-profile opportunities to press the administration on a host of sensitive political matters. Early indications suggest that they will try to turn the upcoming confirmation hearings for Mike Pompeo and Gina Haspel into a fresh political hell for the administration.... 'There's so many issues. Russia sanctions, North Korea, Syria, the Middle East -- it's a fertile field for questioning,' Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told The Daily Beast.... 'It's the best opportunity for oversight of the executive branch, and we have to use that opportunity on a bipartisan basis on Russia, on Iran, on North Korea, on the question of the dismantling of the professional staff at the State Department -- all of that will be discussed in the confirmation hearings,' Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) told The Daily Beast." ...

... David Sanger of the New York Times: "Mr. Tillerson's anticipated replacement, Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, was among the harshest critics of the 2015 nuclear agreement that world powers brokered with Iran. If confirmed, Mr. Pompeo will take over the State Department just as the president is weighing whether to ditch the deal altogether -- even if it outrages European allies. The move would also put Mr. Pompeo, who has been immersed in the details of Pyongyang's nuclear program, in a central role in running the negotiations with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator whom Mr. Trump has said he will meet by May. For all the criticisms of Mr. Tillerson -- and there were many, particularly in the State Department as he moved to slash its size -- he was considered a restraining influence on Mr. Trump. Mr. Pompeo, in contrast, has been an enthusiastic defender of the president's policies, to the point that many senior current and former C.I.A. officials worried that he was far too political for the job." ...

... Chris Mooney of the Washington Post: "Mike Pompeo's coming elevation to secretary of state would put an official who has expressed doubts about climate science in charge of the department tasked with representing the United State at a crucial upcoming international climate summit. President Trump on Tuesday announced Pompeo would replace the outgoing Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO who supported the Paris climate agreement and agreed that greenhouse gases warm the planet and cause climate change. Tillerson called climate change an 'engineering problem.'... In contrast to Tillerson, Pompeo said on C-SPAN in 2013 that 'there are scientists that think lots of different things about climate change. There's some who think we're warming, there's some who think we're cooling, there's some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.'"

Eliza Relman of Business Insider: "... Donald Trump's controversial nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency helped implement the agency's torture program under the George W. Bush administration, a record that will make her confirmation process difficult and likely ugly. Gina Haspel, who joined the CIA in 1985 and spent most of her career undercover, oversaw the waterboarding and use of other 'enhanced interrogation techniques' - authorized by the Bush administration and later outlawed by President Barack Obama and Congress -- at a secret CIA prison in Thailand in 2002.... In 2005, Haspel signed a cable ordering the destruction of 92 video tapes of [Abu] Zubaydah's interrogations -- a decision that became the subject of a lengthy criminal investigation by the Justice Department that did not result in charges. Haspel also helped facilitate the 'extraordinary rendition program,' in which the US government handed detainees over to foreign officials, who detained and tortured them in secret prisons.... Trump repeatedly expressed his support for torture, including waterboarding, on the campaign trail." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Here's the New York Times' February 2, 2017, story by Matthew Rosenberg, on Gina Haspel, which was updated Tuesday. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Spencer Ackerman of the Daily Beast: "Haspel, whom under Pompeo became the agency's deputy director, briefly ran the off-the-books prison in Thailand used as a torture laboratory for the earliest detained terrorism suspects. There, in 2002 -- including while Haspel ran the so-called black site -- the man known as Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times; stuffed into a wooden box barely bigger than a coffin; had his body shackled in painful contorted positions; and had his head slammed into walls.... Years later, Haspel drafted an instruction to CIA officers in the field to destroy videotapes of torturous interrogations at the site. Though the Justice Department later declined to bring charges, the destruction of the tapes was widely considered in human-rights circles to be a key moment in covering up the torture -- and it prompted the Senate intelligence committee's landmark 2014 investigation, which occurred amid the backdrop of the agency spying on the work product of the Senate investigators."

... Ed Kilgore: "In 2013, when then-CIA Director John Brennan sought to promote Haspel into the position of directing all of the agency's covert operations, Senator Diane Feinstein objected and blocked the move, citing her involvement in the illegal torture program.... Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, is already saying that her torturous background makes her 'unsuitable to serve as CIA director.' And civil liberties groups are even more determined to oppose her[.]" (Also linked yesterday.)

The Tick-Tock on Trump's Class Act. Ashley Parker, et al., of the Washington Post: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asleep in his Nairobi hotel room early Saturday morning fighting a stomach bug when White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly called to wake him around 2 a.m. to relay a terse message from President Trump: The boss was not happy. The president was so eager to fire Tillerson that he wanted to do so in a tweet on Friday, but Kelly persuaded Trump to wait until his secretary of state was back in the United States from Africa, two people familiar with the conversation said. It was Tillerson's first trip there since Trump disparaged parts of the continent as 'shithole countries.' But Kelly had also warned Tillerson to possibly expect a pejorative tweet from Trump over the weekend, a State Department official said. Tillerson failed to fully understand that the chief of staff was gently signaling to him that he was about to be fired. And so, just over four hours after Tillerson's government plane touched down at Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday morning, the secretary of state learned of his dismissal from a tweet Trump issued just minutes after The Washington Post first reported the news." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Sounds like the classic cat-on-the-roof joke. ...

... Andy Borowitz: "Millions of Americans on Tuesday marvelled at Donald J. Trump's ability to transform the former C.E.O. of ExxonMobil into a figure deserving of their sympathy."

... Peter Baker, et al., of the New York Times: "[Rex] Tillerson learned he had been fired on Tuesday morning when a top aide showed him a tweet from Mr. Trump announcing the change, according to a senior State Department official. But he had gotten an oblique warning of what was coming the previous Friday from the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, who called to tell him to cut short a trip to Africa and advised him 'you may get a tweet.' It was an abrupt end -- after months of speculation -- to a rocky tenure for a former oil executive who never meshed with the president who hired him. Mr. Tillerson clashed repeatedly with the White House staff and broke publicly with Mr. Trump on issues ranging from the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the American response to Russia's cyber aggression. 'We were not really thinking the same,' Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House, explaining his decision to replace Mr. Tillerson. He added: 'Really, it was a different mind-set, a different thinking.'" (This is an update of a story linked Tuesday morning.) ...

... Kevin Drum: "We've now heard from Rex Tillerson. In a wavering voice, he held a press briefing in which he thanked everyone for their contributions over the past year. He thanked State Department workers. He thanked Defense Secretary James Mattis. He literally thanked all 300 million Americans. Except for Donald Trump. He didn't thank Donald Trump." And Drum reminds us of an October BuzzFeed report: "'a so-called 'suicide pact' forged between Defense Secretary James Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Tillerson....'... I guess the suicide pact is no longer operative.... Tillerson has never denied saying [that Trump is a 'fucking moron'], but he's never admitted it either. Now that he's been fired, I wonder if he'll open up a bit about just how big a moron Trump is?" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Asawin Suebsaeng, et al., of the Daily Beast: "'On Tillerson: hallelujah!' one State Department official said.... State Department officials were horrified by what they perceived as his disdain for them. His reforms left many experienced diplomats internally marginalized -- with little to do but vent to reporters about Tillerson presiding over a decline of American diplomacy that many felt was the entire point of his tenure.... As news of Tillerson's ouster spread on Tuesday morning -- as Tillerson was supposed to be wrapping up a weeklong trip to five African countries -- diplomats who talked to The Daily Beast whipsawed between euphoria at his departure and fear about their likely new boss, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, emboldening Trump's ignorance, bellicosity and impulsiveness.... 'Pompeo will have the president's trust but enable his worst foreign policy instincts. Sanity has never been the guiding principle of this White House, [a] diplomat said."

John Kelly Cleans House

... Trump Didn't Have Guts to Fire Tillerson in Person. Ali Vitali, et al., of NBC News: "NBC News learned Tuesday from sources familiar with the situation that Chief of Staff John Kelly spoke with Tillerson by phone on Friday and told him that Trump intended to ask him to 'step aside.' In that call -- which came while Tillerson was traveling through Africa -- Kelly did not specify when that change might come. Kelly also called Tillerson again on Saturday, a senior White House official said, expressing once again the president's 'imminent' intention to replace his secretary of state. The Associated Press, citing senior State Department officials, reported Tuesday that Tillerson had been even more blindsided, saying that Kelly had warned him on that Friday call that there might be a tweet from the president coming that would concern him, but did not detail what the tweet might say or when it would post." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jonathan Chait: "... one thing that stands out about the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is that Tillerson explicitly identified Russia as the culprit in the [Mrs. McC: attempted] murder of Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom, and Donald Trump did not.... [Monday] night, Rex Tillerson told reporters the attack 'clearly' was undertaken by Russia. Then [Tuesday] morning Trump fired Tillerson, without any advance notice whatsoever. After that, Trump briefly appeared on the White House lawn, and when asked about the murder, said, 'We will condemn Russia ... or whoever it may be.' Whoever it might be? Round up all the 400-pound guys! The fact Tillerson was fired almost immediately after contradicting the official White House line on the murder of a Russian double agent might, or might not, be a coincidence. But what possible innocent explanation can be provided for the administration's refusal to concede Russian involvement when our closest ally, on whose territory the murder took place, is perfectly clear about who committed it?" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As far as I know, Skripal is still alive, if in critical condition. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.) See also related story re: readout of Trump's conversation with British PM Theresa May, linked below. The New York Times has published the full transcript of Trump's remarks to reporters on the White House lawn Tuesday regarding this issue & the dismissal of Tillerson. On Russia, Trump seems to want to have it two ways. If history is any indicator, he will soon forget his assertion that British intelligence could be right about Russia's culpability in the poisoning, just as he keeps forgetting that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, even as he has once or twice conceded the fact immediately after intelligence officials presented him with the evidence. ...

... AND. John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "If Tillerson did know that the President was about to can him, his statement on Russia was perhaps a final act of defiance. On Tuesday, the Russian government again denied responsibility for the attack in Salisbury and said it wouldn't respond to British claims unless it was provided with samples of the nerve agent used. Trump also spoke with [Theresa] May, finally, and, after the call, the White House issued a statement saying he agreed with her 'that the Government of the Russian Federation must provide unambiguous answers regarding how this chemical weapon, developed in Russia, came to be used in the United Kingdom.' However, the statement stopped short of saying Trump agreed with the British assessment that the Russian government was very likely responsible.... With Tillerson's departure so closely following the resignation of Gary Cohn..., the circle around the President is getting even tighter. Pompeo, Tillerson's replacement, is a Trump loyalist who has tried to downplay Russian interference in the 2016 election. And so it goes on." ...

... AND. David Frum of the Atlantic: "The White House’s account of the Tillerson firing collapsed within minutes.... A lot turns on [the] timing. On March 12, Tillerson had backed the British government's accusation that Russia was culpable for a nerve-agent attack on United Kingdom soil. If Tillerson had been fired March 9, then his words of support for Britain could not explain his firing three days before. But if the White House was lying about the timing, it could be lying about the motive. And since it now seems all but certain that the White House was lying about the timing, it looks more probable that it was lying about the motive too.... It echoes the approach [Trump] took toward Russian intervention in the U.S. election to help elect him in 2016: Feign uncertainty about what is not uncertain in order to justify inaction." ...

... New York Times Editors: "If Rex Tillerson had ended his professional career as chief executive officer of ExxonMobil, his reputation would have been that of a successful leader of one of the world's largest companies and a devoted supporter of the Boy Scouts. Instead he will be remembered as one of the country's weakest and least effective secretaries of state. With no experience in foreign policy or government, he provided little leadership and eviscerated the department he was chosen to lead, enthusiastically carrying out the budget-cutting orders of a hot-headed president uninterested in diplomacy. Scores of senior diplomats and other professionals, the core of America's foreign service, were either forced out or chose to flee. And yet we have cause to regret his departure, because his replacement is likely to be worse." The editors share their assessments of Mike Pompeo & Gina Haspel. ...

... "You'll Miss Him When He's Gone." Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "Some on the left are declaring Tillerson among the worst secretaries of state, ever.... But Tillerson was far from the worst modern secretary of state in terms of the actual consequences of his actions. Nothing in his short tenure matches the horrors inflicted on the world by predecessors such as Dean Rusk (the Vietnam War), Henry Kissinger (the secret bombing of Cambodia, the support for the coup in Chile) or Colin Powell (the Iraq war). In purely policy terms, Tillerson was a moderating force in the Trump White House, pushing Trump to stay in the Paris climate agreement, uphold the Iran nuclear deal, condemn Russian interference in the 2016 election, and engage in diplomacy with North Korea. On all these issues, Pompeo will be much more hawkish and closer to Trump.... The question of Tillerson versus Pompeo comes down to whether it is better to be incompetent and have the right policies (as Tillerson does) or be competent but with more dangerous policies." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... It's Not Just the Left. Conservative Max Boot in the Washington Post: "... I stand by my judgment that Tillerson was the worst secretary of state since the United States' rise to global power began in 1898. If he had any self-respect, he would have resigned long ago. And yet the manner in which 'Rexit' finally occurred was despicable. Trump became famous on television for saying 'you're fired,' but it turns out that in real life he is too cowardly to look people in the face when he is getting rid of them. FBI Director James B. Comey found out he was canned from seeing the news on television; Tillerson reportedly from Twitter. No one deserves to be treated this way. Trump demands maximum loyalty from his followers, but he does not give any loyalty -- or respect -- in return...."

... Emily Stewart of Vox: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's pride might be hurt by his forced ouster on Tuesday, but his pocketbook won't be. The former Exxon Mobil CEO will still get to enjoy the millions of dollars in tax deferrals he got when he joined the Trump administration in the first place, even though he spent just a little over a year on the job. Tillerson and Exxon reached an agreement when then-President-elect Donald Trump tapped Tillerson to head the State Department. The deal outlined steps for Tillerson to sever all ties with the company to comply with conflict of interest requirements while at the same time defining what he was to do with his multimillion-dollar retirement package and hundreds of thousands of Exxon shares. As a result, Tillerson got a major tax break -- and is one of several Trump Cabinet appointees with immense personal wealth who did so. He'll continue to benefit from that arrangement even after he leaves the public sector." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Contributor Patrick wrote yesterday that Tillerson had to stay on the job for a year, & that was my recollection as well, thanks to Patrick's reminder. But Stewart writes, "... there's no requirement for how long officials remain in their posts to enjoy the tax benefit." This October 2017 story by Bill Alpert in Barron's backs up Stewart: "To dispute the tax deferral of an administration short-timer, the Internal Revenue Service would have to show that the official took office just to beat the tax code." It looks as if the one-year requirement was more rumor than fact.

... Mike Calia & Dan Mangan of CNBC: "Steve Goldstein, Rex Tillerson's top spokesman at the State Department, was fired Tuesday for contradicting the official administration account of Tillerson's firing, a White House official told NBC News. A State Department official confirmed the firing of Goldstein, who was an undersecretary of State, to NBC News, as well.... Trump announced over Twitter on Tuesday that he was replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Goldstein had said soon afterward that Tillerson had not spoken directly about the move with the president.... NBC News reported that Tillerson had learned of his firing from Trump's tweet." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Elise Labott of CNN: "Tillerson's chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, and deputy chief of staff, Christine Ciccone, also submitted their resignations on Tuesday, according to two senior State Department officials. Both are expected to serve until Tillerson leaves on March 31."

Michael Shear & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "John McEntee, who has served as President Trump's personal assistant since Mr. Trump won the presidency, was forced out of his position and escorted from the White House on Monday after his security clearance was revoked, officials with knowledge of the incident said. But Mr. McEntee will remain in the president's orbit despite his abrupt departure from the White House. Mr. Trump's re-election campaign announced Tuesday that Mr. McEntee has been named Senior Adviser for Campaign Operations, putting him in a position to remain as a close aide during the next several years. The campaign's decision underscores Mr. Trump's tolerance for -- and often encouragement of — dueling centers of power around him. And it highlights the extent to which the re-election campaign has already become a landing pad for former Trump associates who have left the White House but remain loyal to the president.... A senior administration official said that many of the president's top aides were shocked and dismayed by the abrupt departure.... John F. Kelly ... has said in recent weeks that too many staff members were operating on interim security clearances because they could not pass F.B.I. background checks. A White House spokesman declined to comment on Mr. McEntee's firing." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Kaitlan Collins, et al., of CNN: "... Donald Trump's longtime personal aide John McEntee was fired because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes, a source familiar with his firing told CNN. The charges are not related to the President, the source said. Minutes after news of his departure broke, the Trump campaign announced McEntee would be joining the reelection effort as a senior adviser for campaign operations.... His abrupt firing came out of nowhere and there was no warning, [White House aides] said.... He was scheduled to travel to California with Trump on Tuesday, but then he was fired." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Brent Samuels of the Hill: "The Secret Service is investigating McEntee over his alleged online gambling problems and 'mishandling' of taxes, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing senior administration officials." ...

... Nicole Lafond of TPM: "House Oversight Committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has requested the White House hand over documents related to the firing of ... Donald Trump's personal assistant Tuesday.... Cummings addressed the letter to Chief of Staff John Kelly and scolded the White House official for the 'deficient background check process' in the West Wing. McEntee was reportedly escorted out of the White House after his firing on Tuesday and was not even given time to collect his personal belongings, including his jacket." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: AND the next questions are, "What does the bodyman know & will he spill it to Bob Mueller in exchange for a get-out-of-jail card for his "financial crimes"?

... Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly runs down Tuesday's terminations: "Frankly, I've run out of words for what a train wreck this administration has become. People who lie are valued for their loyalty and staff who tell the truth are fired. If aides engage in financial misconduct or beat their wife, that's cool as long as they can keep it under wraps. When that becomes impossible, they&'re offered a job with the re-election campaign. Given the one industry where Trump excelled, perhaps the best metaphor is television. But the characters in 'The Americans' and 'House of Cards' had way to[o] much class for this crew. Even 'The Apprentice' had more structure than we're witnessing. It's like having 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' running the White House." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Maggie Haberman & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "President Trump, fresh off replacing his secretary of state and C.I.A. director, is considering firing his secretary of veterans affairs and installing Energy Secretary Rick Perry in the post, according to two people close to the White House. Mr. Trump did not make a formal offer to Mr. Perry when the two men met on Monday. But the people said the president has grown impatient with the department's current secretary, Dr. David Shulkin, and may want to replace him with someone already in his cabinet. It was unclear if Mr. Perry, who was an Air Force pilot before entering politics, would accept the change in position if Mr. Trump offered it, or if Mr. Trump had a successor in mind to lead the Energy Department."

Jonathan Kesh of Outer Places: "Robert Lightfoot, the current Acting Administrator of NASA, just announced his retirement [Monday] in a surprise statement. As of now, Lightfoot will be stepping down on April 30, 2018 after having served as the de facto chief of NASA for over a year, when he took over for his predecessor Charles Bolden. It's worth noting that as the Acting Administrator, Lightfoot was never officially confirmed as the head of the space agency, but since the Senate never confirmed anybody to be Bolden's replacement, leadership duties fell to Lightfoot. The current frontrunner for the job has been Trump's appointee Jim Bridenstine, but there's still no clear indication that he'll be confirmed for the position - Senate Democrats and even a few Republicans like Marco Rubio have opposed Bridenstine on the grounds that he has zero qualifications in science or engineering, and he's dismissive of scientific consensus that humans caused climate change (NASA also studies our home planet's climate)."

Brian Bennett & Noah Bierman
of the Los Angeles Times: "President Trump broke from his inspection of border wall prototypes near San Diego on Tuesday to castigate California's Democratic state government, saying that Gov. Jerry Brown is 'doing a terrible job running the state.' Trump's first visit to the nation's most populous state is brief -- just one day -- but long on symbolism. He spent about an hour inspecting border wall prototypes built at his direction, plans to speak at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar then travel to a fundraiser in near Beverly Hills that is expected to raise $5 million for the Republican National Committee. The attention Trump wanted to bring to his signature issue, the border wall and related immigration crackdowns, was overshadowed, as often happens by the president's own distracting actions -- in this case a new round of chaos within his leadership team after his abrupt firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump called Tillerson as Air Force One was flying him to California, hours after firing his secretary via a morning tweet."

David Lynch of the Washington Post: "President Trump has ordered his chief trade negotiator to develop tougher tariff proposals to punish China for years of stealing U.S. trade secrets, according to industry executives familiar with the matter. The order came after Trump last week rejected as inadequate a proposal from U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to levy import taxes on $30 billion in Chinese imports, the people said. The president's message to his trade chief was 'make it bigger,' said one lobbyist familiar with the discussion."

Cristiano Lima of Politico: "... Donald Trump and Theresa May of Britain say that Russian officials 'must provide unambiguous answers' about the attempted murder of a former spy in southern England, according to a White House readout of a call between the two leaders released on Tuesday. The White House said that Trump expressed his 'solidarity' with May during a call on Tuesday and that he vowed 'to provide any assistance the United Kingdom requests for its investigation' of the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter that took place in Salisbury last week.... 'It sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all the evidence they have,' Trump told reporters outside the White House. 'It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia, and I would certainly take that finding as fact.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

This Russia Thing

Mary Jalonick of the AP: House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam "Schiff [D-Calif.] on Tuesday released a 22-page report detailing threads that Democrats still believe the committee should pursue and witnesses they still want to hear from. Those include White House officials, campaign officials and people in the intelligence community. As examples of evidence of coordination, Schiff cited multiple contacts between Trump's campaign and Russia, including a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 and information passed on to an Australian diplomat by a former Trump campaign aide, George Papadopolous, that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Schiff said Democrats would try to release all committee interview transcripts in their report. He also signaled that he would reopen or begin certain lines of inquiry if Democrats retake the majority of the House this November." ...

... Blair Guild of CBS News: "Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said Tuesday night that 'there is significant evidence, much of it in the public domain, on the issue of collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia, although the committee has officially concluded its Russia investigation interviews. The Texas Republican leading the House's investigation, Rep. Mike Conaway, announced Monday that the committee has finished interviewing witnesses after its yearlong investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as well as potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.... California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat leading the investigation, says that there are select individuals who will continue to work with the committee.... House Intelligence Democrats plan to release a 22-page report detailing relevant evidence the committee has found regarding Russian meddling in U.S. affairs. Schiff claimed there are other non-public details that may allude to Trump campaign collusion." ...

... Karoun Demirjian: "The leader of the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation seemed to back off Tuesday from the most surprising finding in the GOP's report that Russia was not trying to help President Trump as the panel's top Democrat trashed the product as a political gift to the White House. Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.) told reporters Tuesday that 'it's clear [Russian officials] were trying to hurt Hillary [Clinton]' by interfering in the 2016 election, and that 'everybody gets to make up their own mind, whether they were trying to hurt Hillary, help Trump, it's kind of glass half-full, glass half-empty.' That equivalence stands in sharp contrast to the conclusions of a 150-page, GOP-drafted report Conaway announced to the press on Monday, which concluded the intelligence community 'didn't meet the standards' of proof necessary to determine that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election with the aim of helping Trump. When it comes to determining whether Russia interfered to hurt clinton or help Trump, 'you can pitch that either way,' Conaway said Tuesday. His comments come after other panel Republicans, including Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) gave interviews in which they stressed that there was evidence that Russia had tried to damage Clinton's candidacy."

... Kevin Breuninger of CNBC: "Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., on Tuesday contradicted his own GOP-led committee's findings in its probe of Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. election. In a statement, Gowdy said it was 'clear, based on the evidence, Russia had disdain for Secretary Clinton and was motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm her candidacy or undermine her Presidency had she prevailed.' The statement from Gowdy, who is not seeking re-election at the end of his current term, cuts against conclusions announced Monday by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, runs a significant risk of spending the rest of his life in prison and the evidence against him by special counsel Robert Mueller's office seems strong, a federal judge declared in an order made public on Tuesday. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who is based in Alexandria, Virginia, and is assigned to a newly filed indictment against Manafort dealing with bank fraud and tax evasion, said the veteran lobbyist and political consultant posed 'a substantial risk of flight' because of his assets and the gravity of his legal predicament. 'The defendant is a person of great wealth who has the financial means and international connections to flee and remain at large, as well as every incentive to do so,' Ellis wrote in an order setting the terms of what the judge called 'home incarceration' for Manafort...."

Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "Facebook has banned from its platform the pages of the far-right British group Britain First and its two leaders, one of whom President Trump retweeted last year. Facebook said in a statement that content posted by the Britain First Facebook page and the pages of its party leaders, Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, have 'repeatedly broken our Community Standards.'... Trump sparked controversy last year after he retweeted unverified videos that purported to show Muslims engaged in acts of violence, which were shared by Fransen.... The tweets sparked swift backlash from lawmakers in the U.S. and Britain, including British Prime Minister Theresa May." ...

... Blake Montgomery, et al., of BuzzFeed: "YouTube will accompany conspiracy theory videos with links to Wikipedia to better inform viewers, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference on Tuesday in Austin, Texas. 'If there is an important news event, we want to be delivering the right information,' Wojcicki said on stage. She qualified that by saying, 'we are not a news organization.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: You might say that crass, for-profit social media behemoths are more responsible & civic-minded than are the POTUS* & Congressional Republicans. You may remember the old days when it was the government that reined in corporate behemoths; now we the people have to hope the corporations are run by CEOs & directors with some minimal level of decency because our leaders are crass, for-profit loons.

Beyond the Beltway

Jeremy Roebuck of the Philadelphia Daily News: "A former political strategist for U.S. Rep. Bob Brady [D] was targeted in a murder-for-hire plot to stop him from cooperating with an ongoing corruption probe in Arkansas and Missouri, federal authorities said. Prosecutors detailed the previously undisclosed scheme to silence Donald 'D.A.' Jones, 62, of Willingboro, in federal court filings late Monday in Missouri. They say Milton Russel 'Rusty' Cranford, a prominent Arkansas lobbyist, tried to set up Jones’ slaying earlier this year. Cranford, 56, was arrested last month in Bentonville, Ark., carrying a .45-caliber, derringer-style pistol and $17,700 in cash that authorities say he intended to pay to a contract killer. 'He needs to go away,' the lobbyist purportedly said in a caught-on-tape conversation with Jones' would-be killer. Miming a shooting motion with his hands, a transcript states, Cranford added: 'He needs to be gone.'"

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "A Florida prosecutor said Tuesday that he would seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing 17 people last month at a high school in Parkland, moving the state closer to a rare trial for someone charged in a mass shooting. Michael J. Satz, the state attorney for Broward County, made his decision public less than a month after the rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and one day before students nationwide were expected to stage walkouts to demand new gun-control measures." ...

... Marc Caputo of Politico: "Led by the congressman who represents Parkland [Ted Deutch (D)] and a neighboring mayor [Coral Springs Mayor Skip Campbell], a new Florida political committee called Ban Assault Weapons Now is advocating for a state constitutional amendment to halt the sale of tactical semiautomatic rifles. The committee has a dual purpose: support a proposed 2018 constitutional amendment under consideration by the state's Constitution Revision Commission or, if the amendment is rejected by the commission, draft a new proposal for the 2020 ballot."

Michael Tarm & Amy Forliti of the AP: "Federal authorities on Tuesday charged three men from rural central Illinois with the bombing of a Minnesota mosque last year and said one of the suspects told an investigator the goal of the attack was to 'scare' Muslims out of the United States. A statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Springfield, Illinois, says the men also are suspected in the attempted bombing of an abortion clinic in November. The Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, was bombed just before morning prayers on Aug. 5, causing a fire and extensive damage although no one was injured or killed. There was an attempted bombing of the Champaign, Illinois, Women's Health Practice on Nov. 7. The three men are identified as Michael B. Hari, 47; Joe Morris, 22; Michael McWhorter, 29. All are from Clarence, a rural community 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of Champaign-Urbana. A fourth man was charged with a gun offense, but he was not identified as a suspect in the bombing or attempted bombing." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Mind you, these sick bastards who (allegedly) were running around the Midwest setting off bombs are not "terrorists."

Way Beyond

Zach Sayer of Politico: "Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian exile and former close associate of the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky, was found dead in his London home Monday night, the Telegraph reported. The death of Glushkov, who worked for Berezovsky's car company as well as Russian state airline Aeroflot in the 1990s, was confirmed by his lawyer on Russia's Business FM radio. No cause of death was given. When the oligarch Berezovsky clashed with Vladimir Putin in 1999, he fled to the U.K. and obtained political asylum. Glushkov was subsequently charged with money laundering and fraud and served five years in jail in Russia. After another sentencing for fraud, Glushkov also fled to the U.K. Last March, he was charged with allegedly defrauding Aeroflot of $122 million and was sentenced to eight years in jail. In March 2013, Berezovsky was found hanged in his ex-wife's home. Glushkov maintained that he believed the death was murder, though police said a post mortem showed no signs of a struggle." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... The lede grafs in the Telegraph story, which is firewalled: "Counter terrorism police have launched an investigation into the 'unexplained' death of a Russian business partner of Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Putin's arch enemy. Nikolai Grushkov, 69, was found dead at his home in New Malden in south London on Monday evening." ...

... Ellen Barry of the New York Times: "Russia now has more intelligence agents deployed in London than at the height of the Cold War, former British intelligence officials have said. They serve a variety of functions, including building contacts among British politicians. But the most important task is to keep an eye on the hundreds of heavyweight Russians -- those aligned with President Vladimir V. Putin, and those arrayed against him -- who have built lives in Britain, attracted by its property market and banking system. The poisoning last week of Sergei V. Skripal, a retired Russian double agent, and his daughter has put pressure on the British government to rein them in." ...

... Peter Walker & Jessica Elgot of the Guardian: "The UK is to expel 23 Russian diplomats, consider new laws to combat spying and impose sanctions in response to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, Theresa May has said. Announcing a sweeping response to the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the prime minister told parliament the expulsions were the biggest such move for 30 years. The UK would also cut off all top-level ties with Russia, and would send no ministers or royals to the World Cup this summer, she said. May said Russia had treated a UK request to explain how the military-grade nerve agent novichok was used in the attack with 'sarcasm, contempt and defiance', and had offered no credible explanation for it."

Reader Comments (16)

Confederates eager to place a rendition and torture enthusiast, Gina Haspel, in charge of the CIA, brush aside concerns about her Spanish Inquisition past, saying that she was “just following orders”.

Hmmm...where have we heard that before?

In other news, Oskar Gröning, the infamous “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz” who kept track of the belongings, money, and body parts belonging to Jews gassed by his Nazi pals, died at age 96. His lawyers complained that he should not be imprisoned because of poor health. Pretty sure he didn’t make that case for the tens of thousands of Jews he helped murder.

He was just following orders.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

The House (un)intelligence Committee gets right to the doorstep of collusion then decides that’s enough. Plenty of other crooks to interview, including the Al Capone of collusion, the little dictator himself, but they figured enough was enough.

Just imagine if Watson and Crick stopped at the single helix, or if Darwin had decided those finches were just weird. Or if Einstein had thought his theory of relativity was not so special after all.

Can you imagine Sherlock Holmes saying “Jesus, Watson, this case is a pain in my ass. How ‘bout we just say the butler did it?” Or if Woodward and Bernstein didn’t follow the money?

Any of those would be far more likely than a committee looking treason straight in the face and saying “Nah...we got nothin’.”

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Tight race in Pennsylvania. But I won’t be a bit surprised if some Republican election official “discovers” 1,000 previously uncounted votes—all for his guy—by the morning.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

So, the Shining Beacon on the Hill, the Leader of the Free World, is appealing again to its darkest demons by empowering the Torture Caucus of the Dubya years. Not even a decade out of power and they're back, scheming about black sites and filling up buckets of stale water to "enhance" their "interrogation techniques". Dick Cheney's a happy man today, "proving him right" by going back to his playbook. Did we learn anything after Abu Graib? Gitmo's still open and about to get some new visitors, welcomed with feeding tubes and random rubber bullets.

The fear this time around is every Republican-affiliated official has had their spine surgically removed by the Trump Org., and every single one will look the other way when egregious abuses come to light again. There will be even less accountability than the Cheney years, meaning, zero.

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commentersafari


Thanks for the cat joke. It was laugh out loud funny.

Just wondering when we can say that the Trump presidency* is up on the roof and won’t come down.

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

But, then we all knew this already!

Theresa May has more balls than Trump! (Wapo): Britain to expel 23 Russian diplomats in nerve agent case and will block all high-level contacts with Moscow.

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

As I said yesterday, the word crazy is gone. Now it's time to ignore another word: 'chaos'. I mean, firing two important people, planing on moving others is just another day.

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

"And bravo to Marie for being able to keep up with it all EVERY DAY to help make sense of our new (ab)normal." safari

This from yesterday's comments: I concur with great appreciation, but would also thank the author here for all HIS contributions––you, safari, give us lots of goodies.

During my teaching career there were, in about twelve years, four different principals, each having their own way of running the school. With each change there was some chaos, some grumbling, some, "Oh, shit, we have a new paradigm again?" But one of these principals, a woman, who actually knew her abc's along with knowing how to run a school efficiently made such a difference we now think of that time as a golden era. And this experience in one school in New England!

The situation we have now in the W.H. is almost unimaginable in its fury and firings, but imagine we do if we have had just a wit of change in our occupations. This is no way to run a country––I want to say of old men, but...Tillerson leaving at this crucial time with N.K is problematic. Pompeo stepping in to fill this role is also problematic: It's important that a Secretary of State be able to tell the president when he's wrong––Kerry and Obama were close but he and Kerry disagreed at times–-and usually, from what I understand, Obama acquiesced.

Am looking forward to these confirmation hearings, especially the one on Ms Waterboarding––if she gets through I'm gonna climb up on the roof with the cat!

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe


A teacher who is also a reserve police officer trained in firearm use accidentally discharged a gun yesterday at a school in California during a class devoted to public safety and one of the students was struck in the neck by the blast fragments.

Hey, Betsy, put that in your quiver full of poisoned arrows, then pass it on to your buddies at the NRA.

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe


My thoughts exactly about May v Trumpy. She's taking no shit from the Russians. Trump? He eats it by the pound. A more obsequious, craven mouse I couldn't imagine. Thanks Trump voters! You picked a winner.

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


So...a student...hurt by an accidental discharge from a weapon. In a class on public safety. Very nice. Was she demonstrating how NOT to do safety?

Maybe she was shooting at a grizzly bear outside the window. Next thing you know, Trump will order all kids to wear Kevlar body armor because you know, it's not about guns.

This is the problem. Guns can go off. They can be accidentally fired. We hear about it all the time. I read about another teacher last week who brought a weapon to school to show other teachers how it can be used. He shot himself in the leg. I can hear all the NRA boobs and gun knobbers in their camo with their Navy Seal hats on proclaiming that if a weapon is handled properly this sort of thing will never happen. Yeah, and if you drive a car correctly, you'll never get into an accident, right? But never is a long time. And accidents DO happen.

The problem is, if there is an accident with a weapon, people could die. And now I hear them saying, well the problem is with the people, not with the guns. Correct. So the solution is to take people out of the equation.

There. Problem solved.

We have plenty of idiocy to go around already. We don't need more, thank you very much.

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I'm wondering if Trump pays any attention to anything outside his own small window?

Putin is killing people right and left in Britain. Another Russian ex-pat was found dead yesterday. Maybe it's a coincidence, but if it were me, I wouldn't want to discount it.

Putin is a vicious criminal. Trump thinks he's just this nice man who likes him and got him laid when he visited Moscow (and helped him get elected). But Putin is a soulless murderer. He's a real deal hard guy. Trump is a marshmallow. Is he not able to put things together? If Putin feels confident enough to murder people in broad daylight in a western country, and to interfere, with impunity, in elections in the US, Britain, France, what will he stop at? He is someone to take seriously.

Trump is compounding his treason by allowing Putin to keep on keepin' on with no response--none--from the United States.

Clearly Putin has something big on Trump. But at what point does Trump say to himself, "Wait a minute. I'm the president of this country and I can't put up with this shit any longer, no matter what happens to me"?

Alas, that point is never. Trump is too cowardly, too wrapped up in his own image, too obsequious in the face of true toughness, not the faux kind he likes to demonstrate, where he gets on a stage at a rally full of furious haters and talks about how he'd kick this guy's ass and smack that guy around, and encourages the droolers to reach out and attack someone in the audience they don't think fits in with their kind.

He admires the strong men, the authoritarians, the thugs, the murderers.

Unqualified is too nice a description of what he is. He is a sad, sick, perverted, craven asshole. And he's the president*.

At least for now.

I fervently hope that what happened yesterday in Pennsylvania is indicative of a wave of Democratic victories in the fall. We need it.

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I noticed last night when Lawrence O'Donnell interviewed Rob Porter's second ex-wife that neither he nor she mentioned that she had sought advice from her Mormon clergy. I wonder if that is MSNBC policy or what? When he was fired from the WH, that religious affiliation was noted, but now we won't at least peek at the principles of that Church's expectations for married women? Like, "be more submissive" and try harder to be a good wife?

She was the initiator of that hashtag #So I Stayed, (if I have that name right), enumerating the many factors that left her in an abusive marriage. So why didn't that come up?

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterFleeting Expletive

I do have to wonder how Dear Leader would have reacted had the Russian spy.double agent been offed here in the states. Would Putin have gotten an inquiry as to the use of nerve agents? More likely that Trump would have shoved the blame off on MS 13 or Muslim terrorists.

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBobby Lee

Hillary Redux (sort of)

We make endless sport of the little dictator trying to relive (and re-litigate) the campaign and his (Russian backed) election.

He's not the only one.

Hillary Clinton seems bent on making the case that she was right all along. Or something.

Was she screwed? Yes. Is she right about those "deplorables"? Absolutely.

Should she shut up about it?


Look, I know she has an axe to grind, but that ship has sailed and she's not on it. Democrats need to look forward, not backward. It's been almost 18 months since the election. We're working our way through the various Trump shenanigans pulled by him and on his behalf by a foreign power to weasel his way into the White House. Let's concentrate on that and, even more importantly, on the midterm elections. We need more young candidates who can appeal to voters in a way that old-time machine party-line voting never did. As Marie points out, new blood is sorely needed. Whenever I hear that Joe Biden, or John Kerry, or Hubert Humphrey are thinking of running in 2020, I want to join that cat on the roof.

Hillary needs to ratchet that shit back. She is not helping. There are likely a lot of other things she can do to help the cause, but declaring that women who voted for Trump did so because their husbands or bosses (male) told them to, isn't one of them.

Confederates have a nice trick of tying all Democratic candidates to Clinton or Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer or, I dunno, Mike Dukakis, and Willie Horton, and welfare Cadillac queens. It's worked for them for a long time and Clinton's continued presence gives them plenty of free spins in that game. But people like Conor Lamb, Seth Moulton in Massachusetts, and Kamala Harris in California are blazing a new trail.

Let them.

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Look for this poor woman to disappear into a Chinese work camp for the next 20 to 30 years.

March 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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