December 1, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


'I Love You, Too': George Bush's Final Days (Peter Baker, Dec. 1, 2018, NY Times)

George Bush had been fading in the last few days. He had not gotten out of bed, he had stopped eating and he was mostly sleeping. For a man who had defied death multiple times over the years, it seemed that the moment might finally be arriving.

His longtime friend and former secretary of state, James A. Baker III, arrived at his Houston home on Friday morning to check on him.

Mr. Bush suddenly grew alert, his eyes wide open. "Where are we going, Bake?" he asked.

"We're going to heaven," Mr. Baker answered.

"That's where I want to go," Mr. Bush said.

Barely 13 hours later, Mr. Bush was dead. The 41st president died in his home in a gated community in Houston, surrounded by several friends and members of his family. As the end neared on Friday night, his son George W. Bush was put on the speaker phone to say goodbye. He told him that he had been a "wonderful dad" and that he loved him.

"I love you, too," Mr. Bush told his son.

Those were his last words. [...]

Mr. Bush did not get out of bed the last few days. Former President Barack Obama visited him on Tuesday while in town for an event with Mr. Baker. [...]

Ronan Tynan, the Irish tenor, had called earlier in the day to ask if he could drop by, and when he showed up, Ms. Becker asked him to sing to the president. Mr. Tynan sang two songs, the first "Silent Night" and the second a Gaelic song.

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM


Rest in Peace: George H.W. Bush, a conservative at heart (Washington Examiner, December 01, 2018)

Character and comportment are part of conservatism. On those scores, Bush was a role model for the Right.

Bush was no pushover. In fact, in 1980, Bush was perhaps the most notoriously combative of the Republican presidential candidates. But he was thoroughly decent. When he lost his cool on reporters, he wrote personal notes of apology. When he lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, he was impeccably polite and gracious in defeat.

Bush was also a family man. Everyone, including politicians and journalists, who got to see behind the scenes on his life saw that. In his old age, Bush basked in the payoff of his lifelong dedication to his family. Having leaders who can shine as examples of family men and women is valuable to the country.

And even among the Greatest Generation, Bush stood out as a man of public service. He was a member of Congress, and ambassador to the United Nations, envoy to China, director of the CIA, vice president, and president. He was also a combat veteran and a legitimate war hero.

Decency, dedication to family, service to country. These are all virtues that conservatives, along with most non-conservatives, hold dear.

But there was a deeper conservatism in Bush's way of seeing the world. Specifically, he knew politics and government weren't everything.

Bush fought hard on politics, but he tried not to let those fights define his relations with his adversaries.

When he left office, Bush declined to insert himself into the middle of political fights. He didn't stay out of the public square. He spoke up on political and diplomatic issues, but mostly just offering his opinion when asked. Where he really asserted himself was in volunteering and rallying the public to charitable giving.

He teamed up with Bill Clinton to raise money for victims of the devastating 2004 tsunami and then Hurricane Katrina. He served on the board of his church and chaired the Thousand Points of Light foundation, which aimed to highlight the noble works of private individuals. That foundation sprung from Bush's speech at the 1988 convention.

"We're a nation of community," he said, listing voluntary organizations: "the Knights of Columbus, the Grange, Hadassah, the Disabled American Veterans, the Order of Ahepa, the Business and Professional Women of America, the union hall, the Bible study group, LULAC, 'Holy Name' -- a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky."

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


Party celebrating Rudy Giuliani nixed because no one wants to go (BRIAN NIEMIETZ  and CHRIS SOMMERFELDT, 12/01/18,  NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Plans for a party celebrating the 25-year anniversary of Rudy Giuliani becoming the mayor of New York City are "fizzling out" because the 74-year-old politico is "too toxic," according to a source who was invited.

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Some 2020 warning signs Elizabeth Warren needs to pay attention to -- stat (Harry Enten, 12/01/18, CNN)

Warren's performance in 2018 was one of the weakest for a Democratic Senate candidate. I created a simple statistical formula explaining the results of the 34 Senate races with at least one Democrat (or independent who caucuses with the Democrats) and one Republican. Controlling for a state's weighted average partisanship and incumbency, Warren's performance was the sixth worst of all Democrats. She did 7 points worse than expected. (For comparison, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders outperformed their baselines by 9 and 12 points respectively.)

It's not the only bad number for Warren published this week. A UMass/YouGov study of Massachusetts Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents finds former Vice President Joe Biden at 19% to Sanders' 14% to Warren's 11% in a hypothetical Democratic presidential primary. A large 27% answered "don't know." YouGov's polling does not meet CNN's standards because it doesn't use probability sampling.

Of course, it's very early in the 2020 Democratic primary process, which is probably why 27% of Massachusetts Democrats don't know who they support.

Yet you would think that candidates who just ran major statewide races in their home states would be favorites in their home states. In this case, Warren isn't only not in first place, but she's also not even in second place. A full 89% of Massachusetts Democrats are not behind her at this point.

The lack of home state love should, in theory, be worrisome for Warren. These are the voters who know her best. If she is underperforming with them, then it follows that she may do worse than expected when exposed more fully to Democrats nationally.

Even this early, eventual nominees are usually winning in hypothetical primary polling in their home states. Ronald Reagan was winning among California Republicans in 1980, Bill Clinton was winning among Arkansas Democrats in 1992, Bob Dole was crushing the field among Kansas Republicans in 1996 and the list goes on. The one poll taken this year of a hypothetical 2020 Delaware Democratic presidential primary had Biden ahead by nearly 40 points.

One of the first signs that Sanders was going to perform better in 2016 than early national polling indicated was that he was beating Clinton in 2014 Vermont polling. This was when he was stuck in the single digits nationally.

In the podcast linked below, Ron Brownstein quite dismissive of her candidacy.  As he points out, white liberals who cast themselves as the leaders of people of color do not fare well.  On that end of the Democratic spectrum--where Progressives want to spend the whole election confronting Donald's racism--she is an inferior choice to Kamala Harris or Cory Booker. Meanwhile, if Democrats want to reassure potential swing voters, she obviously can't compete with the avuncular Joe Biden, nor even the John Hickenlooper types.


Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


How Devin Nunes Helped Robert Mueller (DAVID R. LURIE, NOV 30, 2018, Slate)

 Incoming Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff has made it clear that one of the first items on the new majority's agenda next year will be to forward those transcripts to the special counsel. Those transcripts will likely be accompanied by expressions of concern regarding the veracity of the testimony of several witnesses, in light of facts that have recently come to light, including as a result of Mueller's recently filed charging documents in the Cohen case and other cases.

The irony of this new situation is that, as Susan Hennessey has observed, outgoing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Rep. Mike Conaway (who purportedly led the Russia inquiry after Nunes' quasi-recusal), lead interrogator Trey Gowdy, and the other GOP members of the committee may, wholly unintentionally, prove to have been devastatingly effective questioners in the service of future false-statement prosecutions.

This is because, as the House Intelligence Committee majority's publicly released report indicates, the GOP appears to have all but openly encouraged its witnesses to deny any and all potential wrongdoing, regardless of the plausibility of their denials. Thus, the GOP members and their staffs appear to have been singularly uninterested in testing the veracity of witnesses' testimony or even inquiring into elemental questions, such as whether Donald Trump Jr. called his father regarding his Trump Tower meeting with representatives of the Russian government, or whether Blackwater founder Erik Prince lied regarding yet another Trump Tower meeting, this one including Don Jr. and, among others, representatives of two Gulf states.*

As a result, some witnesses affiliated with Trump and his campaign may have been lulled into thinking they could lie with particular impunity. It is therefore possible, if not likely, that a fairly substantial number of witnesses, including possibly the president's eldest son, will soon find themselves facing the unusual prospect of being criminally charged for lying before a House panel that all but welcomed their dishonesty.

And as Mueller's prior felony charges for lying against individuals including Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and Alex van der Zwaan have demonstrated, the threat of such criminal liability can often be just what it takes to induce liars to tell important truths to investigators.

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


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Posted by orrinj at 10:37 AM


'They had us fooled': Inside Payless's elaborate prank to dupe people into paying $600 for shoes (Kristine Phillips November 30, 2018, Washington Post)

A mini-runway, lined with stiletto heels, glistens in bright fluorescent lighting. Shoes of various types sit neatly in individual glass shelves. A statue of an angel carrying several shopping bags stands in the middle as Los Angeles fashionistas mill about, trying on shoes, posing on the red carpet, drinking champagne served in tall, slender glasses.

It was a private launch party of a new luxury brand of shoes called Palessi, designed by Italian designer Bruno Palessi.

"I would pay $400, $500. People are going to be like, 'Where did you get those? Those are amazing,' " a woman said as she tried on a pair of bright-gold sneakers with leopard prints.

The woman was not actually buying a Palessi because there's no such brand, and there's no Bruno Palessi.

There is, however, Payless ShoeSource, a discount shoe retailer hoping to shake things up through an elaborate -- and expensive -- advertising prank to attract new customers and change the perception that the company sells cheap, unfashionable shoes.

"We felt like this campaign would be a great way to get a lot of people to consider Payless again, and to realize it's more than just a shoe store in the mall," said Sarah Couch, Payless's chief marketing officer.

But the prank also points to a reality about the human mind: Consumers are not capable of discerning the quality and value of the things they buy, said Philip Graves, a consumer behavior consultant from Britain. Slap a fancy-sounding European label on $30 shoes, and you have an illusion of status that people will pay an exorbitant amount of money for.

Posted by orrinj at 10:17 AM


George Bush and the Price of Politics: For every compromise he made to political expedience on the campaign trail, in office he ultimately did the right thing. (Jon Meacham, Dec. 1, 2018, NY Times)

His guests were just about everything George H.W. Bush had never been, and never could be: ideological, hard edged and spoiling for a partisan revolution. It was the spring of 1989, and Newt Gingrich, a young congressman from Georgia, had been elected the House Republican whip, a key leadership post in the Washington of the 41st president. Mr. Bush, who was more comfortable in the fading moderate precincts of the Republican Party, didn't know Mr. Gingrich well, but the perennially hospitable president invited him and Vin Weber, the Minnesota Republican congressman who had managed Mr. Gingrich's whip campaign, down to the White House for a beer. The conversation was pleasant, but the visitors felt there was something Bush was not quite saying. Mr. Weber decided to put the question to the president directly.

"Mr. President, you've been very nice to us," Mr. Weber said as they were preparing to leave. "Tell us what your biggest fear is about us."

"Well," Mr. Bush answered, "I'm worried that sometimes your idealism will get in the way of what I think is sound governance." In the most polite way possible, in a single sentence, Mr. Bush had summarized his anxiety that when politics and principle clashed, politics was going to win.

Mr. Weber recalled that he appreciated the president's use of the word "idealism" -- he hadn't said "extremism" or "partisanship," though that was what he meant. The two congressmen represented a harsh new kind of politics that would, in five years' time, lead to the first Republican takeover of the House in four decades. By then George Bush would be back in Texas, a one-term president done in by the right wing of his own party -- a conservative cabal that rebelled against Mr. Bush's statesmanlike deal with Democrats to raise some taxes in exchange for spending controls to rein in the deficit. [...]

As an 18 year old, he volunteered for hazardous duty as a carrier-based naval aviator in World War II. As commander in chief, nearly half a century later, he, with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and building on the work of presidents of both parties down the decades, ended the deadliest standoff in human history, the Cold War. Before he got to the White House, a nuclear Armageddon between America and the Soviet Union was always a possibility; after him, it was unthinkable.

On the home front, his 1990 budget agreement codified controls on spending and created the conditions for the elimination of the federal budget deficit under his successor, Bill Clinton. He negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed the Americans with Disabilities Act and passed historic clean-air legislation. It's virtually impossible to imagine a Republican president doing so much today.

It's an inescapable fact of history, though, that as Bush struggled to govern like Ike, the world around him was beginning to resemble a Joe McCarthy rally. In the Bush years conservative Republicans girded for total war, talk radio was on the rise, cable news shows were busy turning politics into a kind of professional wrestling for wonks, and populists such as Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan -- forerunners, in their way, of Donald J. Trump -- were waiting for their chance to pounce. (Mr. Bush did think an overture from Lee Atwater, his campaign manager, to consider Mr. Trump for the 1988 vice-presidential nomination the most puzzling of notions. "Strange," Mr. Bush told his diary. "Unbelievable.")

Posted by orrinj at 10:03 AM


Baseball 'held a special place' in Bush's life (Richard Justice, 10/29/17,

Once when George and Barbara Bush were taking in a game in what became their regular seats behind home plate at Minute Maid Park, Drayton McLane, who owned the Astros at the time, threw out a question.

"George," he asked, "what was your favorite day at the White House?"

Bush smiled and said he wasn't sure there'd been a single one. However, a couple days later, McLane received a package.

Inside was a large framed photograph of Bush standing between Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams in the Rose Garden. The photo was autographed by all three men, and Bush had attached a note:


You asked about my favorite day at the White House. This was it.

-- George

McLane cherishes that photograph because he believes it -- and the story behind it -- speak volumes about the 41st president of the United States.

"Here's what's amazing about that," McLane said. "President Bush said he was so nervous the day those two guys visited the White House."  [...]

Bush became a favorite son of Texas A&M and made frequent appearances at Aggie games. And some at the school believe Bush played a significant role in the women's basketball team winning the 2011 National Championship.

"Here's the story," former A&M athletics director Bill Byrne said. "President Bush and Barbara would sometimes sit in a small suite I had at our home football games.

"It was not long after we'd hired Gary Blair to be our women's basketball coach, and Gary was obsessed with recruiting a player named La Toya Micheaux from the Houston area.

"Gary was trying to get her away from LSU and asked if he could bring her by my booth before a game."

La Toya is the daughter of a legendary University of Houston men's player, Larry Micheaux, a member of the Phi Slamma Jamma era of UH basketball.

"So here we are, a couple of hours before a game, and Gary nonchalantly sticks his head in the door and sees the Bushes," Byrne remembered.

George and Barbara say hello, and in walks Larry Micheaux behind Gary.

"Larry Micheaux! Phi Slamma Jamma!" Bush shouts. "What a team you guys had."

And then La Toya appears behind her father.

"And you must be Larry's daughter," Bush says. "Barbara and I have been talking about how much we're looking forward to watching you play for the Aggies."

All these years later, Bryne still laughs at the story.

"That was the end of La Toya's recruiting," he said. "There was no chance she was going to go any place else. And she opened doors for us into the Houston area we hadn't been able to open. And from her coming to Texas A&M in 2005 had to have played a role in us winning the National Championship in 2011.

"That championship raised the profile of the school in so many ways, and it's not a stretch to trace it back to George and Barbara Bush making Larry and La Toya feel special."

Byrne has another point to make.

"When the president and Barbara came to a football game, they insisted on arriving early and leaving early," Byrne said. "Because they have Secret Service protection, they didn't want to disrupt traffic.

"There were times when the game was tight in the fourth quarter, and we'd ask them to stay. No, they didn't want to disrupt anyone else from getting home." [...]

When the Washington Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI in 1992, Bush wanted to do more than honor the hometown team with the traditional Rose Garden ceremony.

So he invited the Redskins to come later in the day and to bring their families and stay over for a cookout and round of horseshoes. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and his players and staff stayed late into the night playing a very loud, very competitive round of horseshoes.

"The horseshoe tournament came down to two Redskins against President Bush and his partner, a Secret Service agent," former Redskins and Texans general manager Charley Casserly said.

On the next-to-last throw of the night, one of the Redskins players -- possibly linebacker Monte Coleman -- made a leaner, which appeared to have won the tournament.

Bush had the final throw of the night.

"We're thinking, `Wow, there's some pressure on the president," Casserly said. "Then it hits us what we've just said. Pressure? Are you kidding me? This guy knows what real pressure is."


"President Bush threw a ringer to win the tournament," Casserly said. "No one believes the story, but I was there. It happened."

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


George H.W. Bush, 1924 - 2018: What it was like to work for the man.   (ANDREW FERGUSON, 12/01/18, Weekly Standard)

Late one afternoon I got a call from a higher-up in the White House (I had lots of higher-ups).

"What do you know about the battle of Guadalcanal?" he asked.


"I figured," he said. He told me a gathering of Marines who fought at Guadalcanal was to be held the next morning at the Iwo Jima memorial, across the river in Arlington, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the battle. Campaign strategists had appropriated the ceremony as a fitting occasion to reacquaint Americans with the fact that their president was a war hero. And I was to write his remarks.

One of the White House's tireless, endlessly resourceful researchers came to my rescue and deep into the night we learned everything we could about the battle of Guadalcanal. The first thing we learned was that it wasn't a battle--more like a campaign, six months long, to dislodge an entrenched army from an island the Japanese saw, correctly, as the key to their defense of the Pacific. No sooner had the Marines landed than the American fleet was hammered by the Japanese from the sea and air, forcing a hasty retreat and leaving the Marines with only sporadic resupply as they engaged the enemy. Our attacks involved not only air assaults but episodes of savage hand-to-hand combat in the steaming jungles and along the jagged hillsides. As the months wore on, as their fellow soldiers watched from around the world, the scope of the fighting grew to legendary proportions. The researcher unearthed a bit of doggerel that had circulated among troops in the Pacific and even Europe: "Say a prayer for your pal on Guadalcanal."

My higher-up had told me the speech had two requirements. The first was political. The campaign strategists insisted it contain a reference to the heroes of the Gulf War--the year before Bush had commanded the war with great subtlety and courage, but voters seemed to have forgotten it and they needed reminding. The second condition came from the president: no sentimental stuff. Not gonna make me cry! I didn't know whether "say a prayer" would make the cut.

The president arrived in Arlington the next morning. Under a brilliant sun hundreds of Marine veterans were spread across the hillside that slopes gently away from the statue of the flag raising at Iwo Jima. They gave Bush a splendid ovation. For forty years, much longer than my (then) lifetime, the president of the United States had been a veteran of World War 2. No matter what happened in November, Bush would be the last of them, and the thought lent a special poignancy to the event. [...]

Bush had revised the remarks that morning and worked on them some more on the drive from the White House. The aide who rode with him in the limousine told me the president liked the speech, including the old bit of doggerel. "It doesn't get too emotional," the aide said.

Bush delivered it with a few of his usual improvisations--shout outs to a clergy member, hat tips to other honored guests. He praised the courage of the men who hadn't made it off the island fifty years earlier and, by implication, the courage of the men who sat before him now, who had survived, only to continue the bloody hopscotch from island to island for three more years

"There was a rhyme passed around during those dark months that I'm sure many of the marines here remember . . . Every Marine who wasn't fighting on the island knew the lines. 'Say a prayer for your pal on Guadalcanal.'"

At the words many of the men roared approval; others rose and applauded, obviously pleased. I stood off to the side behind a rope line, feeling an intruder.

They are nearly all of them gone now, of course. And Bush joins them. No one could ask for a greater honor than serving such a man, and by extension serving them too.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM



Here are the four key developments we learned about this week:

Mueller has identified collusion. In the draft plea agreement provided to Jerome Corsi, Mueller details how Roger Stone, who Mueller notes was in frequent contact with Donald Trump and senior campaign officials, directed Corsi to connect with WikiLeaks about the trove of stolen materials it received from Russia. Corsi subsequently communicated back to Stone WikiLeaks' release plan. Laid bare, this means that a Trump associate engaged with a Russian-affiliated organization to learn about its plans to disseminate information the Trump campaign knew had been stolen by a foreign adversary, all for the purpose of benefitting Trump. That is collusion.

Key takeaway: Mueller has evidence that the Trump team in fact colluded with Russia. They coordinated with WikiLeaks, which they knew was a Russian front, about the release of the emails, which they knew had been stolen by Russia.

Trump is compromised by a hostile foreign power. Michael Cohen's plea revealed that Trump repeatedly lied during the campaign about Russia's financial leverage over him. While Trump falsely claimed to have no business ties to Russia during the campaign, the Trump Organization was having discussions with high-ranking Kremlin officials to build a lucrative Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump's team even tried to bribe Russian President Vladimir Putin by offering him a $50 million penthouse. Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, then lied to Congress about the discussions to hide them from investigators.

Key takeaway: Trump knowingly and repeatedly lied to the American people about a business deal he was negotiating with the Kremlin during the campaign. Worse, Trump gave the Russians leverage over him because they knew he was lying and helped him do so. We now have direct evidence that the president of the United States is compromised by a hostile foreign power. People have wondered why the American president has kowtowed to Putin rather than standing up for America's interests. Now we know.

Trump is engaged in a vast cover-up. The events of this week further demonstrate that Trump is engaged in a vast effort to cover up his actions during the campaign and is working aggressively to obstruct and undermine the investigation. We now know that:

Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress to protect Trump.

Trump illegally put in charge of the Justice Department a political crony who had previously outlined a strategy to shut down the investigation.

Trump's legal team sought to use Paul Manafort's cooperation with the Mueller investigation to gain information on the direction of the investigation.

Trump's legal team has established joint-defense agreements with 32 individuals, indicating the breadth of their concern. Trump has encouraged others to lie and deceive investigators, dangling pardons to those who obstruct the investigation.

Key takeaway: Trump is acting guilty. You don't work this hard to obstruct an investigation and engineer a vast cover-up if you're innocent. Trump is trying to hide even more damning evidence that he and his campaign conspired with the Russian attack on our democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM

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Does 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' Make Satanists Look Bad? (Wired, 12/01/18)

THE NEW NETFLIX series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a dark comedy about a teenage witch who engages in devil worship and human sacrifice. Screenwriter Rafael Jordan enjoyed the show, but notes that not everyone was so fond of it.

"People that actually identify as pagans or wiccans or Satanists did not appreciate it," Jordan says in Episode 337 of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. "They basically thought it cast them in a pretty bad light, and perpetuated misconceptions about Satanism."

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM


How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime (JULIE K. BROWN, NOV. 28, 2018, Miami Herald)

A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break.

On a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami's top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay Lefkowitz. 
It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.

Instead of meeting at the prosecutor's Miami headquarters, the two men -- both with professional roots in the prestigious Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis -- convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Lefkowitz, 44, a U.S. special envoy to North Korea and corporate lawyer, the meeting was critical.

His client, Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, 54, was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls -- with the help of young female recruiters -- to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day, the Town of Palm Beach police found.

The eccentric hedge fund manager, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.

Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life.

But on the morning of the breakfast meeting, a deal was struck -- an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein's crimes and the number of people involved.

Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal -- called a non-prosecution agreement -- essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein's sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.

The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to "any potential co-conspirators'' who were also involved in Epstein's crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein's various homes or on his plane.

As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims. As a result, the non-prosecution agreement was sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls -- or anyone else -- might show up in court and try to derail it.
This is the story of how Epstein, bolstered by unlimited funds and represented by a powerhouse legal team, was able to manipulate the criminal justice system, and how his accusers, still traumatized by their pasts, believe they were betrayed by the very prosecutors who pledged to protect them.

"I don't think anyone has been told the truth about what Jeffrey Epstein did,'' said one of Epstein's victims, Michelle Licata, now 30. "He ruined my life and a lot of girls' lives. People need to know what he did and why he wasn't prosecuted so it never happens again."

Now President Trump's secretary of labor, Acosta, 49, oversees a massive federal agency that provides oversight of the country's labor laws, including human trafficking. He also has been on a list of possible replacements for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned under pressure earlier this month.

...but is it just the dirt he has on Donald that's letting him keep his Cabinet post?

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Lopez Obrador Spells Trouble for Mexico: His personalistic presidency threatens years of hard-won institutional gains. (Shannon K O'Neil, November 30, 2018, Bloomberg)

Over the last three decades Mexico has changed. What was once a closed commodity-driven economy is now open, globally competitive and dominated by manufacturing. A nation once known for its few haves and many have-nots has seen extreme poverty fall to 2.5 percent, infant mortality cut to a third, average lifespans rise by a decade, and the number of years children stay in school grow by half. Politically, decades of one-party rule ended in competitive if at times messy democracy.

This slow-moving transformation also embodies a bigger achievement: a shift away from informal, personalistic, and centralized power through the strengthening of institutions. Pushed by opposition politicians, civil society organizations, investigative journalists, entrepreneurs and the decisions of millions of business owners, workers, and voters, Mexico has become a place with a diverse and increasingly independent private sector, with greater transparency and access to information and incipient but growing political checks and balances.

Mexico's transformation hasn't been all good, and the good parts have been uneven. Crime, violence, and corruption (or at least public awareness of it) have surged, affecting everyday life for too many. Economic growth, access to healthcare, quality education, and jobs with benefits diverge dramatically between the north and the south: In Nuevo Leon, home to Mexico's industrial center, fewer than 2 in 10 citizens live in poverty, similar to their nearby Texan counterparts; in the South, nearly 8 in 10 face this daily economic hardship.

And the transformation remains incomplete. NAFTA helped open up Mexico to international markets, but it did little to take on the monopolies and oligopolies that drove up prices at home and made it hard for the less-connected to get ahead.  Recent structural reforms are beginning to chip away at these barriers: Financial reform has increased access to credit, telecom reform has lowered prices, energy reform has brought new finds and more stable supplies, anti-trust crusaders have taken on unfair business practices, and education reform is just beginning to better prepare Mexico's youth for 21st century jobs.

Political institutions also have a ways to go. Power still matters too much. And rule of law in particular remains weak.

Yet the Fourth Transformation doesn't look to build on this base, making the benefits, such as they are, more inclusive and widespread. Instead, it looks to roll back the institutional gains so important to Mexico's transformation, as Lopez Obrador -- a leader obsessed with his place in history -- pushes a return to the more personalistic approach of the past.

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Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


1991 Gulf War looms large over Bush's Mideast legacy: The events of Washington's first armed conflict with Saddam Hussein have helped shape the region's last three decades (HUSSAIN AL-QATARI and JON GAMBRELL, 12/01/18, AP)

On the outskirts of Kuwait City, the love Kuwaitis have for former US President George H.W. Bush could be seen in 2016 on a billboard one Bedouin family put up to announce their son's wedding.

That son being Bush al-Widhan, born in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War that saw US-led forces expel the occupying Iraqi troops of dictator Saddam Hussein.

"He was a real man, a lion," said Mubarak al-Widhan, the father of the Kuwaiti Bush, of the American president. "He stood for our right for freedom, and he gave us back our country."

With Bush's death Friday, his legacy across the Middle East takes root in that 100-hour ground war that routed Iraqi forces. That war gave birth to the network of military bases America now operates across the Persian Gulf supporting troops in Afghanistan and forces fighting against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

However, Bush ultimately would leave the Shiite and Kurdish insurgents he urged to rise up against Saddam in 1991 to face the dictator's wrath alone, leading to thousands of deaths.

America nearly always goes to war to vindicate the principals of the Founding:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 

And we generally achieve the core goal of the war quite easily.

Unfortunately, we then seek to abandon the unwanted duty rather too quickly, often sowing the seeds for the next war or making the gains transitory.

Thus, we defeated the Confederacy, but allowed the South to segregate; won WWI for the Allies, but then failed to strip them of their colonies; crushed the Nazis and Japs, but left the Soviet Union in place; stopped North Korean aggression but left the regime in place; Vietnamized the war successfully, but then withdrew our support; drove Saddam out of Kuwait but failed to establish Kurd, Shi'a and democratic Sunni governance in a former Iraq; removed Saddam from power, but refused to allow the sorts of reprisals that de-Baathification required; and while we have routed ISIS without losing an American life, we continue to dodge our obligation to remove Assad.

Once is a mistake, two hundred years is just our reality.  We can be rallied to war when our sensibilities are offended (the Crusader State of Walter McDougall's formulation), but we don't have much stomach for being the aggressor.  And, because of the democratic nature of the state and the armed forces, the demand to bring the boys home always prevails (back to our Promised Land).

As a result, the End of History comes to everyone, just much more slowly than it might have with more steadfast help and with tragic results in the meantime.

(N.B. Arguably, the manner in which GHWB oversaw the end of the Cold War without bloodshed was a great achievement, though, even if true, that must be balanced against failing to push to topple the PRC during Tiananmen Square.)

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


Bush, a president who grappled with Jewish leaders, engineered rescue of Jews (RON KAMPEAS, 12/01/18, Times of Israel)

In 1991, Bush lashed out at pro-Israel activists who had flooded Congress in response to the president's reluctance to approve loan guarantees requested by Israel to help absorb hundreds of thousands of Jews from the just-collapsed Soviet Union.

Bush called himself "one lonely guy" battling "a thousand lobbyists on the Hill." Jewish leaders saw the insinuation that the pro-Israel community was possessed of a power sinister enough to unsettle the leader of the free world as borderline anti-Semitic. The "one lonely guy" comment haunted Bush thereafter, with even Republican Jews apt to use the first Bush presidency as a signifier of how far they had traveled in attracting Jewish support.

Yet, that was hardly the whole story. Less remembered was how, as Ronald Reagan's vice president, Bush quietly helped engineer some of the pivotal moments in the effort to bring Jews out of the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia and Syria.

"When you add up the Jews he saved, he will be a great tzaddik," Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League's former national director, said in 2013, using the Hebrew word for "righteous man."

Bush was deeply involved in foreign policy as vice president, and Jewish leaders said he helped orchestrate the dramatic seder hosted by Secretary of State George Schultz at the American embassy in Moscow in 1987.

He also ignored advice from much of his national security team in 1991 - the very period that he was in the throes of his most difficult arguments with Jewish leaders - and approved American overtures to the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia that resulted in Operation Solomon, which brought 15,000 Jews to Israel. Among other things, Bush secured a "golden parachute" for Mengistu Haile Mariam, the dictator who was already plotting his escape to luxurious exile in Zimbabwe.

Bush was also instrumental in persuading Hafez Assad, the Syrian dictator, to allow young Jewish women to leave Syria for New York so they could be matched with men in the Syrian Jewish community.

While some of these actions were secret at the time, Bush was averse to claiming responsibility even in subsequent years.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


Trump aides caught in web of deception over Russia contacts (ERIC TUCKER, 12/01/18, AP)

One lied about his knowledge of Russian-hacked emails, another about a Russian real estate deal, a third about dialogue over sanctions with a Russian ambassador.

A pattern of deception by advisers to President Donald Trump, aimed at covering up Russia-related contacts during the 2016 campaign and transition period, has unraveled bit by bit in criminal cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The lies to the FBI and to Congress, including by Trump's former fixer and his national security adviser, have raised new questions about Trump's connections to Russia, revealed key details about the special counsel's findings and painted a portrait of aides eager to protect the president and the administration by concealing communications they presumably recognized as problematic.

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The false statements cut to the heart of Mueller's mission to untangle ties between the Trump campaign and Russia and to establish whether they colluded to sway the election.