Tuesday Reads: Omicron, Trump, and Cuomo

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, there isn’t a lot of good news out there to talk about. The media is still “freaking out” about the Covid omicron variant, and we still don’t actually know much about it. Trump and his goons are still threatening U.S. democracy, and the DOJ appears to be doing nothing to stop them. Finally, in another media issue: CNN’s top talking head, Chris Cuomo needs to go, but the network is still dithering.

From Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post:

The media freaked out during Thanksgiving weekend over the discovery of the omicron variant. The New York Stock Exchange dropped 900 points. Both were irrational, exaggerated responses based on little information.

The World Health Organization on Friday put out a balanced statement, advising, “This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other [variants of concern].” The WHO promised to keep member countries updated about this “detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology.” That was it.

Columbia Journalism Review recounted with a hint of exasperation:

Despite the massive uncertainty, the world’s media instantly swelled with content: “What we know about the Omicron variant”; “The Omicron Variant: We Still Know Almost Nothing”; “Opinion | The Omicron Variant Is Creating a Lot of Anxiety,” and so on and so on. Over the weekend, a debate took shape, among experts and journalists, as to whether all the coverage was too much. David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, accused fellow scientists of shamefully overselling fears about Omicron despite the paucity of hard data on the variant; Erin Biba, a freelance science journalist, tweeted that it is “completely and utterly exhausting” when “doomsday headlines and uninformed reporters create mass hysteria before we even have any details or information.”

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s top coronavirus adviser, patiently explained in TV interviews over the weekend that we really did not know a lot about the variant. It would take a couple of weeks, they said, to answer questions about its severity and ability to spread. The WHO on Sunday also explained that we did not know much about the variant’s transmissibility, severity and the degree of protection afforded by existing vaccines.

Such nuance and caution were shoved aside. The cable TV news, mainstream news headlines and social media devolved into wild speculation and near-hysteria. Nations “scrambled” and “panicked,” we were told. The variant “stoked fear,” others relayed. Breathless reporting announced each new country in which omicron appeared.

It now looks like the omicron variant didn’t originate in South Africa. NBC News: Omicron COVID variant was in Europe before South African scientists detected and flagged it to the world.

Dutch health authorities announced on Tuesday that they found the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus in cases dating back as long as 11 days, indicating that it was already spreading in western Europe before the first cases were identified in southern Africa. The RIVM health institute said it found Omicron in samples dating from November 19 and 23.

Those findings predate the positive cases found among passengers who came from South Africa last Friday and were tested at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

“It is not yet clear whether the people concerned [in the earlier cases] have also been to southern Africa,” the RIVM said, adding that the individuals had been informed of their Omicron infections and that local health services had started contact tracing.

“In the coming period, various studies will be conducted into the distribution of the Omicron variant in the Netherlands,” the institute said, noting that it would also re-examine more samples from previous COVID test results.

In any case, travel restrictions aren’t likely to keep the variant out of the U.S. On the other hand, according to the doctor who identified omicron, the people she saw who were infected had very mild symptoms.

The South African doctor who first identified the omicron variant that is spreading in the country and abroad has described the symptoms as she observed them in her patients, stating that the strain is so far producing “very, very mild” effects in them.

Dr Angelique Coetzee told BBC News that she had first noticed the symptoms in a young, male patient around the age of 30 whom she normally knew to be very healthy. He was “extremely tired” as well as having “body aches and pains with a bit of a headache,” a “scratchy” rather than sore throat, and no cough or loss of taste or smell, she said. The doctor was speaking about her experience of a small group of patients, and not making general comments about how all patients will experience it.

Coetzee tested the man for covid-19 and found him to be positive, then tested his family and found them all to have the virus, despite showing only “very, very mild symptoms,” she said. For the rest of the day, people kept presenting at her surgery with similar symptoms, and all tested positive. Noticing that the symptoms seemed to differ from the delta variant, which had hitherto been the most prevalent form of covid globally, she alerted the country’s vaccines committee, of which she is a member. They announced their resultant discovery of the omicron variant a few days later.

Perhaps reassuringly for those who are worrying about this new development, Coetzee noted that none of the cases she knew of were serious. “What we are seeing clinically in South Africa, and remember that I’m at the epicenter, that’s where I’m practicing, is extremely mild…We haven’t admitted anyone [to hospital]. I spoke to other colleagues of mine: The same picture,” she told the BBC.

Obviously, that could change, but it’s not time to panic yet.

The latest on Trump’s coup attempt at The Guardian: Trump called aides hours before Capitol riot to discuss how to stop Biden victory.

Hours before the deadly attack on the US Capitol this year, Donald Trump made several calls from the White House to top lieutenants at the Willard hotel in Washington and talked about ways to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win from taking place on 6 January.

The former president first told the lieutenants his vice-president, Mike Pence, was reluctant to go along with the plan to commandeer his largely ceremonial role at the joint session of Congress in a way that would allow Trump to retain the presidency for a second term.

But as Trump relayed to them the situation with Pence, he pressed his lieutenants about how to stop Biden’s certification from taking place on 6 January, and delay the certification process to get alternate slates of electors for Trump sent to Congress.

The former president’s remarks came as part of strategy discussions he had from the White House with the lieutenants at the Willard – a team led by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn and Trump strategist Steve Bannon – about delaying the certification.

Multiple sources, speaking to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity, described Trump’s involvement in the effort to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

Trump’s remarks reveal a direct line from the White House and the command center at the Willard. The conversations also show Trump’s thoughts appear to be in line with the motivations of the pro-Trump mob that carried out the Capitol attack and halted Biden’s certification, until it was later ratified by Congress.

The former president’s call to the Willard hotel about stopping Biden’s certification is increasingly a central focus of the House select committee’s investigation into the Capitol attack, as it raises the specter of a possible connection between Trump and the insurrection.

Trump also called the “command center” at the Willard multiple times on January 5.

Trump’s call to the lieutenants came a day after Eastman, a late addition to the Trump legal team, outlined at a 4 January meeting at the White House how he thought Pence could usurp his role in order to stop Biden’s certification from happening at the joint session.

At the meeting, which was held in the Oval Office and attended by Trump, Pence, Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, and his legal counsel, Greg Jacob, Eastman presented a memo that detailed how Pence could insert himself into the certification and delay the process.

The memo outlined several ways for Pence to commandeer his role at the joint session, including throwing the election to the House, or adjourning the session to give states time to send slates of electors for Trump on the basis of election fraud – Eastman’s preference.

The then acting attorney general, Jeff Rosen, and his predecessor, Bill Barr, who had both been appointed by Trump, had already determined there was no evidence of fraud sufficient to change the outcome of the 2020 election.

There’s a court hearing going on today about Trump’s attempts to exert executive privilege over his communications about the planned coup when he was “president.” From the CNN article:

A federal appeals court posed tough questions for lawyers for former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, as Trump attempts to convince the court that he should be able to keep records from his presidency from the House select committee that’s investigating the January 6 US Capitol riot.

“This all boils down to who decides. Who decides when it is in the best interest of the United States to disclose presidential records? Is it the current occupant of the White House or the former?” said Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

The arguments are likely to be an uphill battle for the former President. The Biden administration and the House are aligned against him in wanting transparency about communications in the West Wing as Trump sought to overturn the 2020 election result and his supporters raided the Capitol. Trump lost his first round in court in the case, more quickly and resoundingly than his losses when he tried to claim broad protections from investigations while he was President.

Yet by raising major, unsettled questions about the power of former presidents to control information from their time in office, the case appears to be on a path to the Supreme Court.

Read more at the link.

3000Finally, CNN must fire Chris Cuomo. That link goes an Atlantic piece by David A. Graham. Yesterday, The New York Times published a shocking story on how Cuomo tried to help his brother Andrew escape accountability for his treatment of women: Chris Cuomo Played Outsize Role in Ex-Gov. Cuomo’s Defense.

Thousands of pages of new evidence and sworn testimony released on Monday show the extent to which former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo relied on a group of allies, including his younger brother, the CNN host Chris Cuomo, to strategize how to deflect and survive a cascade of sexual harassment charges that eventually engulfed him.

Beginning last December with the first public accusation by a former aide, Lindsey Boylan, the records lay out in unvarnished detail how the tight-knit group of advisers discussed a series of increasingly drastic steps to manipulate the press, discredit his accusers and retain a grip on power that became less and less tenable.

After debating the legality of the move, they agreed to pass Ms. Boylan’s personnel file to reporters, portraying her as politically motivated and unhinged. They sought — and failed — to rally dozens of former female aides and supporters to pen an op-ed defending him.

Chris Cuomo pressed to take on a greater role in crafting his brother’s defense, including phoning into strategy calls and using his media contacts to keep tabs on reporters pursuing stories about the governor. At one point, he even ran down a secondhand tip that another woman accusing the governor of unwanted advances at a wedding was lying. (She was not.)

“You need to trust me,” Chris Cuomo pleaded with Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s secretary, at one point in March, arguing that she should rely on him and other outside advisers like the political consultant Lis Smith and the pollster Jefrey Pollock.

He added: “We are making mistakes we can’t afford.”

Yet Cuomo appeared in his usual time slot last night.

An even more pointed headline from CNBC: CNN host Chris Cuomo used his media sources to find out info on brother Andrew’s accusers, records show.

CNN host Chris Cuomo used his sources in the media world to seek information on women who accused his brother Andrew Cuomo, then the governor of New York, of sexual harassment, according to documents released Monday by the New York Attorney General’s Office.

While Chris Cuomo has previously acknowledged advising his brother and his team on the response to the scandals, the records show that his role in helping the then-governor was much larger and more intimate than previously known.

Chris Cuomo was actively in touch with Melissa DeRosa, who was the then-governor’s top aide, about incoming media reports that detailed alleged sexual harassment by Andrew Cuomo, according to exhibits from the Attorney General’s probe and a transcript of his interview with the state’s investigators. He also lobbied to help the governor’s office as it sought to weather the storm of accusations, and he dictated statements for the then-governor to use.

“Please let me help with the prep,” Chris Cuomo said to DeRosa in one message in early March. Then, three days after the New York Times reported in March about how Andrew Cuomo attempted to kiss a woman, Anna Ruch, in an unwanted advance at a wedding, Chris Cuomo texted DeRosa: “I have a lead on the wedding girl.”

CNN says they are “conducting a thorough review of the documents.”  Frankly, it’s difficult to understand why CNN kept Cuomo on after the initial revelations. If they don’t get rid of him now, they will lose all credibility as a news organization.

There are plenty of other stories out there. Which ones have caught your interest?


Friday Reads: The Fourth Estate is Failing Us

Lessons of history: How to boost newspaper sales with Sarah Bernhardt

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

My body is screaming for our brief respite from Daylight Savings time!  It switched maybe a month ago while the clock changes over the weekend.  So while I know I’m late for everything recently, my body tells me that sleeping is ok because this should be standard time. So, go ahead and do it!

My brain is also telling me to turn off the tv and stay away from most of today’s headlines.  We’ve never been at a place in history where journalism is more required and all we get is a group of hacks with very narrow vantage points.

This conversation is going on between a group of us on the Facebook page of a retired CNN producer.

Just wanted to let you know that all your whining about Dems’ “messaging” means absolutely nothing when my beloved colleagues aren’t gonna talk about what they say anyway.If a Dem shouts from the rooftops but those colleagues only care what Republicans say, will anybody hear the message?

No, my friends, no they won’t. And it’s bad enough that CNN, MSNBC, and the Big Three can barely be bothered to talk about anything beyond the Republican viewpoint, but in many parts of rural America, cable only has Fox News, which outright lies about what’s going on.

So think of some other way to get the “message” across. Better yet, ask yourselves why YOU think it’s not being heard. Is it really because no one’s delivering it? Or is it because the message gets delivered to and processed through a delusional political press that hasn’t learned anything since at least 2016 and probably much earlier?

The first response to her post brings the receipts. He explains why he’s given up on cable news altogether.

I stopped watching cable news when we cut the cord a couple of years ago. Usually watch NBC News Now in the morning, which is free, on YouTube. Not a single mention today of Biden when covering the jobs report. In fact, “Today’s job report wasn’t that good compared to previous months,” was the only comparison made. Cherry on top for me? A long rambling story about how everyone is getting a taste of winter “early” cause it is chilly for the NYC marathon, despite the fact that many frost and freeze warnings are running 2 weeks later than average. No one’s getting a taste of winter “early.”

This brings us back to a few more revolting recent headlines where research was the last thing on a reporter’s mind.  This one is recent from CNN.  Joshua Espinoza points a few things out at this independent media outlet that weren’t particularly well-searched.

So, many folks didn’t realize that the family has 10 kids which include foster and adopted children. So, 12 gallons of milk a week could be a reasonable amount. But, the real story is what’s the average price of milk been over the last few years?  Is there really that much inflation in ag products?  Is this truth or perception formed by sloppy reporting? Also, check the grocery cart out. Maybe buying less brandnames would help you make ends meet?

Even after adjusting for inflation, this concern really does hold up to the data.

I think this story should have been left on the cutting floor.  Either that or they need to talk to Texas about the amount of money they’re allotting homes with so many foster children.  This just isn’t adding up.

Then, I saw this on Brian Williams last night.  Maybe Brian got one thing right this year.

He has a point so watch this.

So, where are we at today?

And our politics girl has something to say about the inflation/shortage thing too …

Reporters in Washington in 1920

So, I’m with her on that. My other piece of advice is to go on a sabbatical for a year every few years if your journalist life is spent in Washington D.C  or New York City. Try existing somewhere with the rest of us.  I’m old enough to remember when a right-wing activist on CRT tricked you–New York Times–into thinking he just tripped across it because someone was mean to his granddaughter and you didn’t background check him either.  You seem to be always chasing the elusive characters in Hillbilly Elegy rather than talking to the majority of us who are real.

You should offset Fox New’s lies rather than compete with them! Like, take this turkey and deep fry it! From Vice: “Tucker Carlson Pumped Full of Fentanyl, Emerges With New Understanding of the Opioid Crisis.”  As if he wasn’t insane enough before.

Something happened to Tucker Carlson Monday morning that caused him to get emergency back surgery later in the week. It was, he said, according to a recording obtained by Motherboard, “one of the most traumatic things that’s ever happened to me in my whole life, ever.”

What exactly was so traumatic isn’t clear. A Fox News spokesperson said, “Tucker Carlson had emergency back surgery yesterday and did the show anyway. He thanks all those who tuned in and watched closely.”But before Wednesday night’s broadcast of his Tucker Carlson Tonight program, Carlson—who by all accounts doesn’t drink or use drugs—spoke in detail on set to his production team about what he experienced, and said that because he was treated with intravenous fentanyl and other powerful painkillers, he now understands America’s opioid crisis in a deeper way.

Carlson is the most-watched news host in America, a hugely influential figure whose team, as he says on the recording, “changed American politics.” His newfound insight into the suffering opioids cause is thus of potentially immense importance. (Motherboard described the comments to the Fox News spokesperson, who did not dispute their authenticity. Carlson, they said, would “take a pass” on discussing the topic with a reporter.)

“This is just like a miracle,” a production worker told him. “I, like, truly cannot believe you’re standing right now.”

“That was one of the most intense experiences of my life,” said Carlson. “They hit me up, they told me this morning, with such a huge dose of dilaudid, which is more powerful than morphine, when I got there, that I had trouble breathing.” (Dilaudid is a powerful opioid painkiller.) “Scared the shit out of me. Didn’t have any effect at all. And then all night, I lay there, the nurse finally upped my dosage of dilaudid to the point where every eight minutes I hit it and it was like getting shot. Just like bam, feel it hit me, and it didn’t touch the pain.”

1937 photograph of the offices of the Louisville Courier Journal. Photograph: Margaret Bourke-White/Getty

I’m also old enough to remember watching Geraldo Rivera open an empty vault on live tv in 1986 and later in 2003 , he broadcast his position from an active battle site in Iraq.  The military promptly kicked him out of there. He was just one of thousands of journalism who were more in love with being war time reporters than caring about the truth and saving American lives.

Still, all these hacks are still around some one and still creating ‘look at me ma!’ moments passing as news.  Like Politics Girl says and my friends, the media is really not going to address anything that makes Biden or the Democratic party look good. They better step up and serve their message cold and consider the press hostile.

Just an additional thought while I’m at this.  When is the last time a Democratic pol showed up on the Sunday Talk shows? (via Vox) “The staggering overrepresentation of white, conservative men on Sunday political shows. ”  This is from 2016 but still holds true. Here’s a study from 2020.

This research will compare guests between the first two years of Barack Obama’s
presidency and the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency. A quantitative content analysis of television transcripts was used to identify changes in both the political affiliations and profession of the guests who appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” ABC’s “This Week” and “Fox News Sunday” between the two administrations. Findings indicated that the dominant political viewpoint of guests differed by show during the Obama administration, while all shows hosted more Republicans than Democrats during the Trump administration. Furthermore, U.S. Senators and TV/Radio journalists were cumulatively the most frequent guests on the programs.

“That’s just the way it is Somethings, they never change.”

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Media Works Tirelessly to Help Trump Destroy U.S. Democracy

Good Afternoon!!

If Trump succeeds in destroying our democracy and becoming Hitler 2.0, the responsibility will be equally shared between the GOP and the U.S. political media. Yesterday Robert Mueller confirmed that Trump has committed high crimes and implied that Congress should impeach him. The media responded by reviewing the style and “optics” of his presentation, paying little attention to its content.

The ever-shallow Chuck Todd led the charge on Twitter. I won’t subject you to the video.

So-called leftist Michael Moore agreed with Todd.

The Columbia Journalism Review critiqued Chuck Todd’s remarks as well as those of other MSNBC hosts: MSNBC public editor: The Chuck Todd show.

Todd’s focus on the “entertainment” aspect of politics coverage is often in evidence—for example, in his own recent performance as moderator in the Democratic presidential debate. He managed to talk more than all but three of the candidates, even as he demanded that they keep their own answers brief….

For Chuck Todd all the political world’s a stage, and he’s the star….

And it’s not just Todd. Other MSNBC anchors reacted to the Mueller hearings similarly, finding fault with the Democrats’, and Mueller’s, lack of pizazz as performers. Brian Williams referred to “the caffeine gap” in the Judiciary Committee’s questioning. I can’t help pointing out that excessive concern with caffeinated pizzazz can warp a journalist’s judgement pretty severely, and is best avoided.

At a moment of particular gravity for the country, with the sitting president credibly accused of obstructing justice, and many of his campaign staff and associates under investigation and indictment, may I suggest that if you, a journalist, are bored with the politics of this—if you are demanding somehow to be entertained, right now—you’re not doing your job.

Politics isn’t entertainment, it is not a performance to be critiqued. Reporting on national politics is a public trust of solemn importance that affects hundreds of millions of people.

A sample of headlines from the “savvy” Washington press:

Peter Baker at The New York Times: The Blockbuster That Wasn’t: Mueller Disappoints the Democrats. [I skimmed the story, and could find no quotes from Democrats holding elected office. Several prominent experts were quoted arguing Mueller’s testimony was valuable.]

Sharon LaFraniere, Michael S. Schmidt, Noah Weiland and Adam Goldman at The New York Times: Mueller’s Labored Performance Was a Departure From His Once-Fabled Stamina.

Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: “Accountability”? The Mueller Hearing Is How Trump Escapes. [FYI: Susan Glasser is married to Peter Baker of the NYT.]

Some serious reactions to Mueller’s testimony:

Former Republican Jennifer Rubin: Mueller didn’t fail. The country did.

Being thousands of miles away from home in Portugal, a country that 45 years ago was in the grasp of a brutal dictatorship, gives me an interesting perspective on former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Wednesday testimony and on the now nearly forgotten — was it only a week ago? — racist call for four nonwhite congresswomen to “go back” to where they came from.

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

I worry that we — the media, voters, Congress — are dangerously unserious when it comes to preservation of our democracy. To spend hours of airtime and write hundreds of print and online reports pontificating about the “optics” of Mueller’s performance — when he confirmed that President Trump accepted help from a hostile foreign power and lied about it, that he lied when he claimed exoneration, that he was not completely truthful in written answers, that he could be prosecuted after leaving office and that he misled Americans by calling the investigation a hoax — tells me that we have become untrustworthy guardians of democracy.

The “failure” is not of a prosecutor who found the facts but might be ill equipped to make the political case, but instead, of a country that won’t read his report and a media obsessed with scoring contests rather than focusing on the damning facts at issue.

David Corn at Mother Jones: Mueller Reminds the Public: Trump Betrayed the United States.

There’s an old saying in newsrooms: News is stuff that people have forgotten. Robert Mueller’s dramatic appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning was a striking reminder of this adage. The former special counsel did not drop any new revelations about the Trump-Russia affair. Yet in a simple but important manner, he reiterated the basics of this scandal—perhaps the most consequential political scandal in American history. These are the fundamentals that have often been subsumed by all the never-ending partisan squabbling and by the ongoing crusade mounted by Donald Trump and his defenders to distract from his perfidy. These are the facts that Trump has refused to acknowledge, and they are the facts that taint his presidency and undermine its legitimacy.

In his opening statement, Mueller emphasized the key finding from his report: “The Russian government interfered in our election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” And during the questioning, Mueller repeated the conclusion previously reached by the US intelligence community that Russia conducted this covert operation to help Trump get elected. “Did your investigation find that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning?” Mueller was asked by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). He replied with one word: “Yes.” Lofgren followed up: “And which candidate would that be?” Mueller responded, “Well, it would be Trump.”

So Russia attacked an American election to help Trump. And what did Trump do? “The Trump campaign wasn’t exactly reluctant to take Russian help,” Lofgren remarked to Mueller. “You wrote it expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, isn’t that correct.”

Mueller answered with another brief sentence: “That’s correct.” That is, Trump sought to exploit a foreign adversary’s clandestine assault. And as Mueller noted in his report, during the campaign Trump dismissed the notion that Russia was intervening in the election, and after he was elected he continued to deny “that Russia aided his election.”

Click the link to read the rest.

David Graham at The Atlantic: The Most Revealing Exchange of the Mueller Hearing.

There’s a logical disconnect in volume 2 of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report that is unmissable to any careful reader.

As Mueller explains in the report, a charge of obstruction of justice requires three elements: an obstructive act, a nexus with an official proceeding, and corrupt intent. And in the report, Mueller’s team laid out several cases where President Donald Trump committed an obstructive act, in connection with an official proceeding, with what Mueller’s team concluded could be a corrupt intent.

But because Mueller had decided at the outset of his report that he could not and would not charge the president with crimes, thanks to Justice Department guidance and in the interest of fairness, Mueller did not make the otherwise obvious jump from laying out the ways that Trump’s behavior met the three-prong test to actually stating that Trump obstructed justice.

During today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries sought to demonstrate the disconnect by walking Mueller through the three-prong test.

“Let me refer you to page 87 and 88 of volume 2 where you conclude the attempt to remove the special counsel would qualify as an obstructive act if it would naturally obstruct the investigation and any grand-jury proceedings that might flow from the inquiry. Correct?” Jeffries asked.

“Yes,” Mueller said, confirming the obstructive act.

“Yes,” Mueller said, confirming the obstructive act.

“Your report found on page 89, volume 2, that substantial evidence indicates that by June 17, the president knew his conduct was under investigation by a federal prosecutor who would present any evidence of federal crimes to a grand jury. True?” Jeffries asked.

“True,” Mueller said, confirming the nexus to an official proceeding.

Jeffries then moved on to the third element, corrupt intent, and Mueller once again effectively affirmed the point:

Jeffries: Is it fair to say the president viewed the special counsel’s investigation as adverse to his own interest?

Mueller: I think that generally is true.

Jeffries: The investigation found evidence, quote, “that the president knew that he should not have directed Don McGahn to fire the special counsel.” Correct?

Mueller: Where do you have that quote?

Jeffries: Page 90, volume 2. “There’s evidence that the president knew he should not have made those calls to McGahn,” closed quote.

Mueller: I see that. Yes, that’s accurate.

Mueller, seeing the trick, tried to cut it off. “Let me just say, if I might, I don’t subscribe necessarily to your—the way you analyzed that. I’m not saying it’s out of the ballpark, but I’m not supportive of that analytical charge,” he said.

Graham writes that Mueller tried to backtrack, but the cat was out of the bag. Ted Lieu did something similar; head over the The Atlantic to read more.

This piece by Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg is worth a read: Worst Part of the Mueller Hearings? Republican Conspiracy Theories.

Instead of reading carefully into the evidence and finding contradictions or loose ends, House Republicans largely busied themselves with conspiracy theories. It wasn’t Donald Trump and his campaign who welcomed and benefited from Russian interference in the 2016 election; it was Hillary Clinton! Never mind what U.S. intelligence agencies and Senate investigators have concluded. Never mind that this reality-denying line of inquiry left lawmakers defending Wikileaks and even, seemingly, the Russian agents indicted by Mueller.

For these Republicans, it’s still supposedly inexplicable that the FBI started investigating in the first place. In their stated conception of things, only partisanship and hatred of the president could explain such an otherwise odd decision to look into the rich web of shady contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. And yet those partisan and hateful investigators didn’t leak anything about the probe when it would’ve put Trump’s election in jeopardy; didn’t indict or recommend impeachment of the president; and didn’t rush to testify to Congress about any of it.

Meanwhile, with the notable exception of Texas Representative Will Hurd, Republicans showed no interest at all in the national-security implications of Russia’s interference. And remember, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still blocking bipartisan legislation to strengthen U.S. defenses against future attacks.

These are the same Republicans, after all, who spent years looking into conspiracy theories about the deaths of Americans in Benghazi in 2012 without ever attending to the real security vulnerabilities that contributed to them. It was far more important to feed the Republican marketplace with loony ideas about how President Barack Obama (or Hillary Clinton) actively welcomed the disaster than to figure out what had actually gone wrong or what to do about it.

I’ll end with this tweet from the woman who should be president, written after Trump’s latest Nazi/KKK rally.


Lazy Caturday Reads

By Jackie Morris

Good Afternoon!!

The lies come thick and fast from the Trump administration. It’s not just Trump; it’s his entire gang of shameless prevaricators.

Remember those MAGA hats that Trump signed for service members in Iraq? The White House swore up and down to CNN that they didn’t distribute the campaign merchandise, but people who were there say otherwise.

Of course we can’t be sure these tweets are legit, but come on! Who actually believes these soldiers bought Trump hats and banners and had them shipped to Iraq? Give me a break. I know this is a minor scandal in the scheme of things Trump, but still…

And besides, this was supposed to be a secret, surprise visit, so are we supposed to believe these folks always carry their MAGA hats and banners around with them and to the mess hall?

OK, I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I get so tired of all the gaslighting.

Now check this out. Remember that NYT story awhile back about undocumented immigrants working at Trump’s New Jersey golf club?

The New York Daily News: New Jersey AG has obtained evidence of possible crimes at Trump’s golf club — and Mueller, FBI are involved in probe.

New Jersey prosecutors have collected evidence that supervisors at President Trump’s Garden State golf club may have committed federal immigration crimes — and the FBI as well as special counsel Robert Mueller have played part in the inquiry, the Daily News has learned.

Anibal Romero, a Newark attorney who represents several undocumented immigrants who used to work at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, said Friday he recently met with investigators from the state attorney general’s office and handed over fraudulent green cards and Social Security numbers that management at the club allegedly procured and gave his clients, Victorina Morales and Sandra Diaz.

Before he met with the state prosecutors, Romero said he reached out to Mueller’s office because, while he wanted to contact federal authorities, he was concerned about looping in the Justice Department, which was headed by Jeff Sessions at the time.

Mueller’s office got back to Romero and said the issue was out of their jurisdiction, but they apparently passed the information on to the FBI.

A few weeks later, an FBI agent in New Jersey called Romero.

“He said to me that he had received a referral from Robert Mueller’s office and that he already knew the specifics and that he wanted to meet with me in person,” Romero said.

By S. Telari, Deviant Art

Romero then met with two agents at a federal office in Branchburg, N.J., and outlined the same evidence he had already given the AG prosecutors. The agents said they would “coordinate” with the AG’s office, according to Romero.

Romero said he’s stayed in touch with the FBI and the attorney general’s office but declined to confirm whether either of the agencies have formally opened investigations.

“I’m confident that federal and state authorities will conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” Romero said.

How many states is Trump under investigation in now? I’ve lost count.

Here’s a funny media story from by Ashley Feinberg at HuffPost: The Thinnest Skins In Media In 2018. Their diapers runneth over. You’ll have to click on the link to read the details, but here’s the list of included media figures:

Jake Tapper, CNN Anchor And Respecter Of Troops

Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine Columnist And Scab

Jim VandeHei, Axios CEO And Co-founder, Unofficial Spokesman For Zuckerberg 2020

Maggie Haberman, Nonpartisan New York Times Non-non-reporter

Jonathan Swan, Axios-Branded Dictaphone

Chris Cillizza, CNN Something-Or-Other

Glenn Greenwald, Prophet Of Civil Liberties And Ironic Capitalization

Salena Zito, Gas Station Oracle

Chris Cuomo, Famous Brother Haver

Ben Wittes, Prose Torturer

Ashley Feinberg, Professional Corncob

Now go read. You won’t be sorry.

Here in Massachusetts, the Governor just signed a new law regulation short-term rentals. The Boston Globe: Baker signs long-awaited Airbnb bill, opening new era for industry.

Governor Charlie Baker on Friday signed first-of-its-kind legislation to tax and regulate the short-term housing rental market in Massachusetts, capping years of debate over how to navigate an industry that has exploded through companies like Airbnb.

The new rules will take effect July 1 and could transform a market that spans the state, from Cape Cod summer homes to Boston apartment buildings to Western Massachusetts vacation retreats.

The bill requires every rental host to register with the state, mandates they carry insurance, and opens the potential for local taxes on top of a new state levy. A chief negotiator for the House said the goal is to register every short-term rental in the state by September, and local officials, including in Boston, say the new law will help buttress their own efforts to regulate the booming market.

Airbnb is fighting back.

But before Baker’s ink could dry, the law drew a sharp rebuke from Airbnb, which called it “flawed” and unnecessarily complex. Advocates who have closely followed the process — including Airbnb’s decision to sue in federal court to overturn Boston’s municipal regulations — warn a lawsuit against the state could also follow.

More details on the law:

Beyond requiring all hosts to register and carry insurance, it also subjects short-term rentals to the same 5.7 percent state levy now paid by hotels — but exempts people who rent their homes 14 or fewer nights a year. Officials have estimated that tax could raise at least $25 million annually.

It also would allow cities and towns to impose their own taxes of up to 6 percent, except in Boston, where it would be 6.5 percent, with occasional hosts also exempted.

Additional taxes would be levied on hosts who own multiple units. And an extra fee would also fall on units in Boston, Cambridge, and a handful of other cities that support the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, but only after bonds are paid off on the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston.

Some cities, including New York and San Francisco, have used short-term rental registries to rein in the industry, but this law makes Massachusetts the first state to require all hosts to register. That, more than the taxes, has been the focus of debate in recent months.

It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Time Magazine has a new story on Paul Manafort: Exclusive: Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts to an Oligarch.

When the U.S. government put out its latest sanctions list on Dec. 19, the man named at the top did not seem especially important. Described in the document as a former Russian intelligence officer, he was accused of handling money and negotiations on behalf of a powerful Russian oligarch. The document did not mention that the man, Victor Boyarkin, had links to the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.

Jackie Morris for Amnesty International

A months-long investigation by TIME, however, found that Boyarkin, a former arms dealer with a high forehead and a very low profile, was a key link between a senior member of the Trump campaign and a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In his only interview with the media about those connections, Boyarkin told TIME this fall that he was in touch with Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in the heat of the presidential race on behalf of the Russian oligarch. “He owed us a lot of money,” Boyarkin says. “And he was offering ways to pay it back.”

The former Russian intelligence officer says he has been approached by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Boyarkin’s response to those investigators? “I told them to go dig a ditch,” he says. Peter Carr, the spokesman for the Special Counsel’s Office, declined to comment. Through his spokesman, Manafort likewise declined to comment on his alleged connections with Boyarkin.

But those connections could be potentially important to the Special Counsel’s inquiry. They would mark some of the clearest evidence of the leverage that powerful Russians had over Trump’s campaign chairman. And they may shed light on why Manafort discussed going right back to work for pro-Russian interests in Eastern Europe after he crashed out of the Trump campaign in August 2016, according to numerous sources in the TIME investigation.

Read the rest at the link. It’s a long story.

One more from Buzzfeed: These Are 50 Of The Biggest Fake News Hits On Facebook In 2018.

By Max Carlier

After spending two years launching third-party fact-checking programs, rolling out News Feed updates, and investing in other anti-misinformation initiatives, Facebook is still the home of viral fake news.

For the third year in a row, BuzzFeed News compiled a list of 50 of the most viral false stories on Facebook and measured their total engagement on the platform. And in spite of a prediction from Facebook’s top anti-misinformation product manager that these articles would see a decline in engagement in 2018, this year’s top-performing hoaxes generated almost as many shares, reactions, and comments as last year’s.

The top 50 fake stories of 2018 identified by BuzzFeed News generated roughly 22 million total shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook between Jan. 1 and Dec. 9, 2018, according to data from BuzzSumo and Trendolizer. This was only 7% fewer engagements than the 23.5 million engagements generated by to top 50 of 2017, and slightly more than the top 50 fakes identified by BuzzFeed News in 2016, when those links generated 21.5 million engagements.

Read the whole thing at Buzzfeed. How long before Facebook goes the way of AOL?

So . . . what else is happening on this long holiday weekend? Post your recommendations in the comment thread below.


Sunday Reads: Guess Who?

Actor Max Schreck, of Nosferatu fame….

Yeah…this guy:


Today’s post is complemented with images of famous people when they were young…some may surprise you…others will not. I hope you enjoy the show.

Earlier this week, Pence came to Georgia. One of my fellow Roller Girls showed up to protest:

I am so proud of Pixie! It takes guts to stand there, by yourself…and she did get harassed by tRump supporters. Video clip of her interview with the local news station at this link.

Channel 9 Lone Protestor Outside Rally

One thing about the WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association), they are proactive when it comes to issues and politics that strike out at causes and the culture Roller Derby stands up for…for instance:

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Condemns Discriminatory Policy in the US – WFTDA

In recent days, the United States executive branch has suggested federal policy changes may be coming that would significantly harm transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer, intersex, and other gender nonconforming members of our communities. As the governing body for the sport of roller derby, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) denounces these proposed changes, which would be in direct opposition to the inclusive spirit of our roller derby community. We ask other sports governing bodies, amateur and professional, as well as organizations and individuals who recognize the value of inclusivity in sport to join us in pushing back on these discriminatory policies.

As a nonprofit proudly based in Austin, Texas, the WFTDA is saddened to hear of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ interest in defining gender as a biological condition. In the eyes of the WFTDA, this is an attack on our core values as an organization.

In 1972, Title IX was introduced as part of the U.S. Education Amendments, to end “discrimination on the basis of sex.” Title IX specifically offered protections and space for women in amateur sports, addressing the collegiate system directly. In recent years, the NCAA has taken steps to begin extending these protections to transgender athletes wishing to compete at the highest level in their chosen sports, pushing Title IX to end discrimination not just on the basis of assigned sex, but also on the basis of gender expression and transgender status.

The WFTDA has also worked throughout its existence to re-evaluate its own gender policies and create its current gender statement, at the encouragement of the WFTDA community as well as our colleagues in the Junior Roller Derby Association, the Men’s Roller Derby Association, and other organizations that have contributed significantly to gender-expansive competition. Together, we recognize that a commitment to inclusivity makes our sport brighter and more competitive. Diversity adds complexity and nuance that would not otherwise exist on eight wheels. It’s our collective obligation to advocate for the human rights of our membership — especially those who have historically faced disproportionately larger barriers to inclusion.

Please, go to the link to read the rest of the statement. There is a lot more there to chew on.

As you can also see, they encourage their teams to participate in the political discussion:

Arizona Roller Derby Announces the New Names of its International Travel Teams – Arizona Roller Derby

In 2004, AZRD agreed to play the Texas Rollergirls (TXRG) in the first interstate-bout of the modern era. As part of creating its first All-Star team, AZRD members selected the name Tent City Terrors, a satirical political statement in reference to Arizona’s notorious outdoor jail. Many of the skaters on the original team selected a second identity separate from that of their home team, such as “Sheriff Shutyerpaio”. When it was formed, it was unclear when or how many more games the team would play; at the time, there was no flat track organization nor rule set. Still, the name and uniform stuck through the first national tournament held in 2006, and has been used by the team since.

Yeah, a team name…plus derby player’s names to make a political statement. Check out a few other examples below:

Here are a few more links on politics and WFTDA and Roller Derby this:

A few articles on gender issues and concentrating on Derby as an LGBTQ inclusive sport.

WFTDA Gender Statement – WFTDA

Making Inclusivity Happen in Roller Derby – The Apex

The WFTDA Challenges ESPN to Improve Their Relationship with Non – NBC2 News

Roller derby is mashing up gender norms in sport – here’s how

Roller Derby and promoting the Indigenous Community:

Celebrating Indigenous Culture and Community in Roller Derby – WFTDA

Team Indigenous Talks Politics – WiSP Sports | conversations from the world of women’s sports-‘MICK SWAGGER’ AND ‘JUMPY MCGEE’ DISCUSS HOT TOPICS AND THE POLITICS OF TEAM INDIGENOUS AND THE WFTDA

Here is a statement back when tRump issued the fucking Muslim travel ban:

WFTDA Issues Statement Against US Travel Ban – WFTDA

It really makes me proud to be a part of the North Georgia Roller Girls ….which is a WFTDA team associated with Peach State Roller Derby; with the WFTDA backing us, we should stand up for the causes that are a part of the movement that is Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby…it is wonderful to see women like Abby/Pixie embracing the Culture of WFTDA. I applaud her efforts. Brava!

As for the NGRG…we start playing our official first games in March of 2019, so I will definitely keep you all up to date with that nugget of derby news from time to time.

Oh, yeah…more young celebrity pictures:

Milton Berle

Kate Winslet

So back to the shit storm that is tRump.

This little Nazi Youth is none other than tRump himself.

Trump’s attack on birthright citizenship betrays his ignorance – and his weakness | Corey Brettschneider | Opinion | The Guardian

The 14th amendment to the constitution confirms that all Americans are born equal. One immigrant-hating lover of dictators cannot change that with a simple stroke of his pen

In an interview that will air in full on Sunday, Donald Trump reveals that he wants to end birthright citizenship through executive order. But he doesn’t have that power. An executive order cannot reverse the guarantee of citizenship to anyone born in the United States that is enshrined in the constitution.

After the civil war, Congress sought to grant full citizenship to African Americans, who had been denied it under the Dred Scottsupreme court decision. Yet when it passed the 14th amendment in 1868, Congress went further. It wrote a rule making it clear that any person, regardless of ethnicity or national origin, had a right to citizenship upon being born in the US.

The relevant portion of the 14th amendment reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” The phrase about jurisdiction was meant to exclude the children of ambassadors and tribal Native Americans, who until 1924 were regarded as citizens of separate sovereign nations.

These words about birthright citizenship reflect the wider values of the 14th amendment, which also guarantees “equal protection of the laws” for all persons. Together with the constitution’s ban on royal titles in Article I, Section 9, the document stands for the idea that the US does not condone hereditary hierarchy – or any legal distinction based on birth or parentage, ideas associated with aristocratic societies. In the US, everyone starts on the same plane.

I also think this is yet another form of tRumpian white nationalist intimidation. Considering the past 2013 Scalia Supreme Court decision which removed the Voting Rights portion of Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Remember the Civil Rights Act will again be revisited soon enough.)

This way of sending these outright threats goes far to back the claims of fascism that Boston Boomer discuss in her post from yesterday.

But back to the the op/ed up top. It goes on to discuss the first case that came before the SCOTUS, in 1898… United States v Wong Kim Ark. Please read the rest to learn more…

I’m going to stick with the Guardian for the next few links, I think it will give us a good look from a different perspective.

Julia Roberts

‘This is Georgia’: hate, hope and history in election that shows the clash of two Americas | US news | The Guardian

Hey, what a fucking surprise. Georgia’s election shit is making news over in the UK!

“The consequences of any of us staying home really are profound because America’s at a crossroads,” he warned. “The healthcare of millions of people is on the ballot. Making sure working families get a fair shake is on the ballot. But maybe most of all, the character of our country is on the ballot.”

It was not meant to be like this. America’s first black president hoped to steer the nation on an upward trajectory. Then came Donald Trump, a man endorsed by white supremacists and the breathing embodiment of everything Obama is not. On Tuesday, these two radically opposing visions of “the character of our country” will collide at the ballot box. Georgia is ground zero.

I live in ground zero. I know the crap first hand. Ugh.

From Seinfeld to bagels, it was always easy to be a Jew in America. What changed? | Hadley Freeman | News | The Guardian by Hadley Freeman.

Recently a clutch of American relatives came to visit me in London. I don’t get to see my extended family so much these days, but thanks to the internet they see me all the time, reading my articles and sending messages so supportive they occasionally reject English as insufficiently adoring and opt for Yiddish (“I’m kvelling!”). They ask me about the different things I’ve been writing about: celebrities, feminism, and so on. But when they made the transatlantic trip this time there was a rare consensus: they all wanted to talk about the rise of antisemitism in Europe.

What is going on? It’s just crazy!” one uncle said to me after I wrote about protesting against antisemitism in British politics. We discussed the rise in verbal and physical attacks on Jews in the UK, the election of Viktor Orbán in Hungary, the Law and Justice party in Poland. He was especially horrified by the murder of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris. “It is just unimaginable,” my cousin said.

Marlene Dietrich

Dietrich was one of many German born actors/entertainers who spoke out and actively campaigned against Hitler during WWII.

‘Vaya con Dios:’ the impossible life of an immigration judge at the US border | US news | The Guardian

Robert Brack, who at one point had the heaviest caseload of any federal judge in the US, pleads for justice for the immigrants he sees every day

One more link for today’s post…

Jon Stewart is right: How long will the media continue to play Trump’s game?

A fleeting moment within the teaser for Axios’s interview with Donald Trump, the centerpiece of Sunday’s “Axios on HBO,” tells all you need to know about how the president truly feels about his relationship to the media.

Moments after Jim VandeHei admits to Trump that his “enemy of the people” rhetoric scares the hell out of him, the reporter (and co-founder of the media site) tells the president, “You are, like, the most powerful man in the world.”

Reflexively Trump looks off-camera and grins, briefly, his face flush with what appears to be self-satisfaction. There was concentrated smugness in that expression, tinged with a pugilist’s cruelty.

In that scene, VandeHei points out the extreme irresponsibility of any leader of the free world using his position and platform to vilify an entire class of people, and using that rhetoric to stoke the emotions of the people who constitute his base.

Ever the attention-hungry reality show star, Trump softly replies, “They like me more because of it,” calling his dangerous hyperbolic term the only way he can fight back. That satisfied grin says he knows he’s winning.

Axios on HBO,” premiering Sunday at 6:30 p.m., is one of many specials the news site will run on the premium cable channel as part of a partnership. HBO has been steadily expanding its news and information footprint. And that in itself indicates how malleable our concept of news has become under Trump’s administration.

This is the interview where tRump announces he is going to snap his fingers…click his heels and poof, no more “14th Amendment.”

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So what are you finding today as we count down to Tuesday’s election?

This is an open thread.