December 9, 2016

GORGEOUS: This telltale tail shows dinosaur feathers in ‘exquisite detail’ after 99 million years.

The amber hunters who dug up the segment in Burma (Myanmar) assumed the encased remains were vegetation, making the amber valuable when carved into jewelry. It probably did not occur to them that their discovery could be a dinosaur tail with secrets to tell. But a Chinese paleontologist named Xing Lida, perusing a Burmese amber market in 2015 for objects of scientific interest, recognized the amber’s true value.

“With the new specimen from Myanmar, we finally get that association between identifiable bones and feathers preserved in exquisite detail,” said Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada, a paleontologist and an author of the study, in an email to The Washington Post. Lida, McKellar and their Chinese and Canadian colleagues published an analysis of the tail on Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

This was not the first time that paleontologists examined feathers trapped in Cretaceous amber. But without underlying body parts, doubt remained that the plumage once sprouted from dinosaurs. This amber held eight vertebral segments as well as soft tissues. Beneath the feathers were, McKellar and his co-authors wrote, “presumably muscles, ligaments, and skin” — rarities in a discipline historically reliant on fossilized bones. (Chemical analysis even found traces of iron oxides in the tail, suggesting dino blood contained hemoglobin.)

This is a stunning find — photos at the link.

UPDATE: More from Kruiser.

ED MORRISSEY: Trump’s Cabinet: A Conservative About Face Toward Growth and Change. “Trump seems intent on creating the most conservative and business-oriented Cabinet in decades.” Personnel is policy.

BLUE MODEL BLUES: Desperate Chicago School System Looks to Shield Debt from Potential Bankruptcy.

Facing junk-bond status as it drowns in underfunded pension obligations, the Chicago public school system is trying to induce investors to buy its debt through an accounting scheme that will (theoretically) allow the bonds to keep paying interest even if the system goes belly-up. . . .

Yields on ordinary debt from CPS have reached nine percent in recent months. The latest effort to market its debt reflects a new level of desperation on the part of the district, which has failed for years to put enough money aside to fund teacher pensions even though residents of the state of Illinois and the Windy City pay above-average tax burdens.

The presence of the term “hypothetical bankruptcy” in the bond prospectus also highlights the fact that the district’s policymakers have given more than idle thought to the possibility that the school system may be forced into Title IX proceedings. (There have also been rumblings about bankruptcy for the entire city).

A handful of local governments have been forced into bankruptcy in the wake of the financial downturn, including Detroit and San Bernardino. But if pension debt keeps accumulating unchecked, the next wave of bankruptcy might extend beyond post-industrial regions in persistent decline and sweep up our mightiest urban centers as well.

When it happens, the price for help should include an end to public-employee unions, and other political reforms.

FAKE NEWSKI: Census Bureau, IRS, And St. Louis Fed Added To Washington Post’s List Of “Russian Propaganda” Websites.

WELL, GOOD: Donald Trump’s Cabinet Selections Signal Deregulation Moves Are Coming.

Business leaders are predicting a dramatic unraveling of regulations on everything from overtime pay to power-plant emission rules as Donald Trump seeks to fill his cabinet with determined adversaries of the agencies they will lead.

The president-elect’s pick Thursday to head the Labor Department, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, is an outspoken critic of the worker-pay policies advanced by the Obama administration. Mr. Trump’s choice for the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is a primary architect of legal challenges on President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations.

Other cabinet nominees critical of regulations advanced under Mr. Obama include Rep. Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, financier Wilbur Ross Jr. at the Commerce Department and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. All will require Senate confirmation.

Those picks suggest the Trump administration, backed by a Republican Congress, is determined to advance labor, environmental and financial regulatory policies more favorable to many American corporations, though not all will back his proposals.

President Obama engineered the largest increase in federal regulation in at least 40 years, when that progressive and self-described Keynesian, Richard Nixon, held office. There’s no reason to consider the results of just two years of Democratic legislative action and Obama’s “pen and phone” to be a new normal.

TO BE FAIR, EUROPE’S NEVER BEEN BIG ON FREE SPEECH: Geert Wilders is convicted of saying unpopular things. Actually, the things he’s saying are pretty popular with voters, and that’s the real worry for the Netherlands’ current rulers.

MICHAEL BARONE: The Global Collapse of the Political Left.

FORGET DRAINING THE SWAMP. MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Make D.C. a swamp again: Trump is scaring progressive hipsters away, he should send federal workers after them. “I propose that over the next several years, we transfer a lot of federal employees out of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, to parts of the country that aren’t doing so well economically. This would provide a boost to places like Buffalo, New York, or Quincy, Illinois, or Fresno, California, while getting federal bureaucrats out of the D.C. bubble.”

HISTORY: My hunting trip with Yeltsin killed off the Soviet Union.

The Belavezha Accords, which were signed in Belarus on 8 December 1991, broke up the Soviet Union and launched its constituent republics on the path to statehood.

But Stanislav Shushkevich, then chairman of the Belarus supreme soviet, had no plans “to bring up the question about what the Soviet Union is and how it should exist” as he went to meet Russia’s Boris Yeltsin and President Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine at a state resort in the Belavezha forest, he told the Guardian.

He had invited Yeltsin to a hunting trip there to try to secure Russian oil and gas supplies for Belarus during the impending winter. In the end, both the hunting and the energy talks gave way to more serious matters.

As the delegations gathered, they realised the political crisis would have to be solved first. After the August 1991 hardliner coup against Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempts at reform, the Soviet Union had become “essentially ungoverned”, Shushkevich said.

The agreement they signed started the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of 11 of 15 former Soviet republics. But its greatest achievement was dissolving the USSR after 70 years without large-scale violence, Shushkevich said. Western leaders had feared that a Soviet breakup would lead to civil war in the nuclear power.

Russian President Vladimir Putin once said that the fall of the USSR “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” But in fact, the Soviet Union was a “prison house of nations,” and its peaceful dissolution was a modern miracle.

WHATEVER THE GOP IS PAYING JILL STEIN, THEY SHOULD DOUBLE IT: Thanks, Jill: Michigan House passes voter-ID bill after vote-fraud hyperbole.

OUT: RUSSIAN ELECTION HACKING. IN: U.S. GOVERNMENT ELECTION HACKING. State of Georgia allegedly accusing Homeland Security of attempted hack.

The state of Georgia is accusing the Department of Homeland Security of trying to hack its voter registration database, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal says it has seen a copy of a letter to DHS making those allegations, wherein Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp writes “At no time has my office agreed to or permitted DHS to conduct penetration testing or security scans of our network. Moreover, your department has not contacted my office since this unsuccessful incident to alert us of any security event that would require testing or scanning of our network.”

Prediction: Now that there will be a Republican in the White House, calls to declare U.S. voting equipment “critical infrastructure” under Homeland Security supervision will dry up.

MICHAEL WARREN: GOP’s game plan for undoing Obamacare.

It didn’t take long for Republican leadership in both houses of Congress to get over the shock of winning the election last month and start gaming out a repeal plan. The details remain under discussion, but House speaker Paul Ryan, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and Vice President-elect Mike Pence (who is working closely with Ryan and McConnell on repeal) are already coalescing around a rough legislative framework. The plan might be summed up as: repeal, delay, replace. More precisely, Republicans plan to repeal most of the law, delay the implementation of most of that repeal for at least two years—and figure out what to replace it with in the interim.

It’s a legislative strategy adopted largely from the Heritage Foundation’s recommendations. The think tank’s health care experts Nina Owcharenko and Edmund F. Haislmaier authored a brief in November that advocated a four-step process that begins: “Maximize the reconciliation process for repeal.” According to Mitch McConnell, this will come in the form of an “Obamacare repeal resolution” on January 3, the first day of the new Congress.

Why start here and not a straightforward repeal bill? While such a repeal could pass the House of Representatives with a party-line vote, the small majority Republicans hold in the Senate (likely 52 to the Democrats’ 48) means there’s no supermajority of 60 to override an almost-certain Democratic filibuster. So the GOP plans to repeal Obamacare the same way Democrats passed it: through budget reconciliation, because Senate rules limit debate (and thereby avoid the filibuster threat) on budget legislation.

This process, however, also limits what Republicans can repeal.

Read the whole thing, although it did leave me with one nagging question: ObamaCare was passed in its entirety via reconciliation, so I don’t understand why it can’t be repealed in its entirety via reconciliation.

CAMPUS TRUMP SUPPORTERS PUNCHING BACK AGAINST BIAS AND DOUBLE STANDARDS:

Conservative students who voted for Mr. Trump say that even though their candidate won, their views are not respected. Some are adopting the language of the left, saying they need a “safe space” to express their opinions — a twist resented by left-leaning protesters.

Administrators are struggling to maintain a balance between political factions. But some college presidents have entered the fray with statements that seem more sympathetic to the left, in some cases provoking a backlash. . . .

For conservative students like Ms. Deletka, the messages from university officials, seemingly assuming that everyone on campus was upset about the election result, were particularly offensive. . . .

Ms. Delekta described how she had been offended when a classmate wondered why as a “white female,” she had not voted for Hillary Clinton. She resented what she saw as identity politics on campus.

“My identity is so much more than my race and my gender,” Ms. Delekta said. “We’re all so much more similar than we think.”

She was able to separate Mr. Trump’s policies from his personal attitudes toward women, she said later. “I’m not electing a grandpa or a babysitter,” Ms. Delekta said.

Ibtihal Makki, a self-confident senior in a pink hijab who is studying biopsychology and neuroscience and is chairwoman of a student government diversity committee, objected to conservatives on campus saying they needed safe spaces to express their views.

Of course she did. And it looks like I was ahead of the curve here. And Pres. Mark Schlissel’s really blown it at Michigan.

And students should be punching back. Despite all the talk about “diversity” and “inclusion,” many campuses — Michigan clearly among them — are marginalizing and “othering” Trump supporters and conservative/libertarian students in general.

But conservative/libertarian students are members of the “university community” too and deserve to be treated with respect, and to have their political views treated as legitimate. Students should demand this from administrators, and alumni, parents, and legislators should demand it from universities.

LOUISE MENSCH: Saudi Arabia is just “Isis with an embassy.”

Also, thanks to fracking we don’t need their oil anymore.

JAYVEE: ISIS has flooded Europe with 1,500 highly-trained terrorists ‘ready to launch attacks’, chilling EU report claims.

An estimated 5,000 European ISIS fanatics went to Syria and Iraq and 15 to 20 per cent of them died on the battlefield.

Around 30 to 35 per cent have returned with “specific missions”, while the other half remained in the battle theatre – which amounted to between 2,000 and 2,500 Europeans.

This means as many as 1,750 may have returned, based on the percentages listed in the report which EU counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove will present to EU interior ministers on Friday.

The report said there were two types of ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ returning.

It warned: “It is important to share information on returnees who are already back in Europe, those that are in transit and … (those) still in the conflict zone.”

“There are largely two categories of returnees: those in the majority who will drift back and those who will be sent back on specific missions, which are of most concern.”

Add this to today’s report of 100-200 ISIS jihadis in Trinidad , and the next couple of years look to be all-too interesting.

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HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, TRUMP DERANGEMENT EDITION: Lawyer: Students were caught up in Babson College ‘witch hunt’ following Donald Trump win; Attorney says college report clears students of using racist, homophobic slurs. But Babson is still pursuing a double-secret investigation, apparently. Plus:

“(Babson) cannot properly punish Parker for celebrating an election, however unwelcome that celebration or how people ‘experienced’ it. We are talking about fundamental First Amendment rights here; a college should be the very last place that indulges, let alone actively promotes, a witch hunt against students for celebrating the election of a President who disappointed groups demanding retribution regard as abhorrent.

“During that discussion, one of you said that you understood my point because you ‘wrote my thesis on the right of Nazis to march in Skokie.’ Respectfully, that is not what we are talking about here, and that such a comparison could be drawn by a Babson official indicates that something is severely out of control at Babson, and elsewhere, when it comes to this matter,” Robbins wrote.

Alumni, parents, and students need to push back against this sort of behavior — as does the Department of Education once the Trump Administration is in place.

Annual cost of attending Babson College: $58,692.

CIVIL RIGHTS UPDATE: Second Amendment challenge to New York state stun gun ban.

IT’S COME TO THIS: Washington Post now relying on Badger Pundit to fact-check its articles.

GOING… GOING… South Korea President Park Geun-hye, country’s first female leader, impeached in stunning fall.

Once formal documents are handed over to the presidential Blue House later Friday, Park will be stripped of her power and her No. 2, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, will assume leadership until the country’s Constitutional Court rules on whether Park must permanently step down.

Park did not immediately comment, but she convened a Cabinet meeting for later Friday where she was expected to speak publicly. The hand-over of power prompted the prime minister to order South Korea’s defense minister to put the military on a state of heightened readiness to brace for any potential provocation by North Korea. No suspicious movements by the North were reported, however.

The Constitutional Court has up to 180 days to decide on Park’s fate. She will be formally removed from office if at least six of the court’s nine justices support her impeachment, and the country would then hold a presidential election within 60 days.

JAYVEE: ISIS in the Caribbean. Trinidad has the highest rate of Islamic State recruitment in the Western hemisphere. How did this happen?

In a recent paper in the journal Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, John McCoy and W. Andy Knight posit that between 89-125 Trinidadians—or Trinis, to use the standard T&T idiom—have joined ISIS. Roodal Moonilal, an opposition Member of Parliament in T&T, insists that the total number is considerably higher, claiming that, according to a leaked security document passed on to him, over 400 have left since 2013. Even the figure of 125 would easily place Trinidad, with a population of 1.3 million, including 104,000 Muslims, top of the list of Western countries with the highest rates of foreign-fighter radicalization; it’s by far the largest recruitment hub in the Western Hemisphere, about a four and a half hour flight from the U.S. capital.

How did this happen?

I’m guessing that dismissing the terror group as “jayvee” for a couple of years and then taking our own sweet time on a half-assed effort at rooting them out didn’t help.

SELECTED NOT ELECTED II: Clinton blasts ‘epidemic’ of fake news.

Hillary Clinton on Thursday decried the spread of fake news online, calling it an “epidemic” that Congress should take action against.

“The epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year — it’s now clear the so-called fake news can have real-world consequences,” Clinton said during a speech on Capitol Hill.

Some Democrats have argued the spread of anti-Clinton fake news online contributed to her electoral loss to Donald Trump.

Emphasis added.

This is all about discrediting Donald Trump, and the First Amendment be damned. Besides, it isn’t like Democrats haven’t tried at least once in recent years to repeal free speech.

UPDATE (FROM GLENN): Trump should troll the Democrats by taking this seriously, then announcing he’s going to act against fake news, then listing all the bogus stories about him from the New York Times. . . . Or maybe the GOP Congress should invite Hillary to testify on the subject. How long before she smells the trap? I mean, normally when one has lost the Executive and Legislative branches to the other party is not the time to call for government censorship of political speech on vague and mutable grounds.

PARTY OF OLD WHITE PEOPLE: Dems attend Harry Reid’s portrait unveil and this hilarious photo happened. Spot anything?

NOT THE ONION: It Wasn’t Me: Obama Blames ISIS On Bush, Climate Change and the 2nd Amendment.

SOMETHING I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT JOHN GLENN: “Glenn flew 149 combat missions in World War II and Korea, where his wingman and eventual lifelong friend was baseball legend Ted Williams.”

MEMORIES PIZZA: WHERE THE TRUMP REVOLUTION BEGAN? “I don’t know that I ever would have recommended watching a Milo video, but this one is genuinely informative, even moving. The interview with owners Kevin O’Connor and his daughter Crystal doesn’t start until the nine-minute mark, so fast-forward. They are gentle, kind, normal, small-town people. This interview really amplifies the horror of what the Social Justice Warrior mob did to them. It’s a relief to see that their business still thrives. Milo points out in the interview that the O’Connors have no problem serving gay clientele — they served him, after all. He also says in the interview that he believes the liberal mob descending on their heads is one of the events that shocked a lot of Americans into voting for Donald Trump. Trump was not a candidate at that point, of course; what he means is that seeing what the left can and will do to the little guy, all in the name of #LoveWins™, helped radicalize a lot of middle-American people towards Trump.”

Related: “Actually, ‘Love Wins’ Wants Hate to Win — It’s just another attempt to equate ‘good’ with ‘left.’”

December 8, 2016

BEN STEIN: They’ve Gone Insane: And hating Trump hasn’t made them any nicer either. “The media powerhouses and the morons on college campuses cannot accept that someone with views different from theirs will be president. They riot. They burn Old Glory. They stop speaking to me. This is exactly the opposite of how a free country should be run. . . . The real problem is not Trump. The problem is the big, spoiled, sulking babies of the left who cannot believe that America made up its own mind instead of following their orders. They are the control freaks, not Trump.”

Related: I accidentally slept with a Donald Trump supporter. Naturally, he was, well. . . : “He showed up at the bar, and he was super handsome. Like, really tall—six-foot-four or something absurd. We were wearing matching leather jackets. His Triumph Bonneville was parked outside. This guy looked badass.”

AN OPEN APOLOGY to Dolly Parton.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, LEGAL EDUCATION EDITION: UMass Law School Gains Full ABA Accreditation, Needs To Double Enrollment (From 66 1Ls) To Be Financially Sustainable.

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TODAY IN MILITARY HISTORY: December 8 is also December 7. (See the chart for the history and the explanation.)

Also, a terrible command decision still stirring rancor in the ranks:

1830 U.S. Army Adjutant General Order No. 72 ends the daily ration of one gill of whiskey to enlisted men, substituting an issue of coffee and sugar.

Yes, late in the day for this link, but better late than never.

RELATED: A gill.

MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN: In France, le Pen Opposes Public Education for Illegal Immigrant Kids.

THIS IS STUPID, BUT ALSO IRRESISTIBLE SINCE IT OFFERS BOTH A FACE-SAVING EXCUSE FOR HILLARY’S LOSS AND A BASIS FOR TRYING TO SILENCE POLITICAL OPPONENTS: In The Rush To Blame Facebook, Come The Calls To Suppress Ideas People Disagree With.

Of course, to the people pushing this — who include a lot of members of the press — suppressing ideas isn’t a bug, but a feature.

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CHANGE: US Steel wants to accelerate investments, bring back jobs, CEO says.

United States Steel would like to accelerate its investments and hire back laid-off employees now that Donald Trump will be occupying the Oval Office, CEO Mario Longhi told CNBC on Wednesday.

“We already structured to do some things, but when you see in the near future improvement to the tax laws, improvements to regulation, those two things by themselves may be a significant driver to what we’re going to do,” he said in an interview with CNBC’s “Power Lunch.”

In addition, the belief that the U.S. economy can grow at least 3.5 percent also adds to what the company can do, Longhi noted.

Huh.

JUST NBC THE HACKWORK! Brian Williams, who fabricated stories, says fake news swayed the election.

Will Williams ever return to his old gig anchoring the nightly news at NBC after slumming it in network’s  bargain basement cable spinoff channel? Just ask him!

brian_williams_macarthur_returns_2-8-15-1

MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN: The Top Ten Reasons Andy Puzder Is a Great Pick for Labor Secretary.

From the home office in the third booth in the Ardmore, Oklahoma Carl’s Jr.

MAKING MEN OBSOLETE: AWESOME!

Making women obsolete: Problematic.

FORGET DRAINING THE SWAMP. MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Make D.C. a swamp again: Trump is scaring progressive hipsters away, he should send federal workers after them. “I propose that over the next several years, we transfer a lot of federal employees out of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, to parts of the country that aren’t doing so well economically. This would provide a boost to places like Buffalo, New York, or Quincy, Illinois, or Fresno, California, while getting federal bureaucrats out of the D.C. bubble.”

CRYING WOLF’S LAIR: TINA FEY CAN SEE THE REICHSTAG FROM HER HOUSE.

Shot: Tina Fey Warns: Prepare for Nazi America Under a Donald Trump Presidency.

— Kristine Marsh, NewsBusters, yesterday.

Chaser: No, This Isn’t Weimar or the 1930s.

— Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, yesterday.

By the way, Kellogg’s recently made some very public virtue signaling of eliminating Breitbart.com from the group of Websites on which they run Internet advertising, “on the grounds that Breitbart does not reflect the company’s ‘values,’” as Mark Steyn wrote last week. In December of 2010, Geico dropped Lee Ermey as a spokesman, after the star of Full Metal Jacket said Obama’s administration “was trying to ‘impose socialism’ on the American people and was “destroying the country,’” as TMZ reported. Will American Express continue to employ Fey as a pitch woman after her Godwinizing of Trump? Or do only conservatives receive pink slips when they publicly commit crimethink?

HILLARY BLASTS ‘EPIDEMIC’ OF FAKE NEWS.

Related: Hillary Clinton, dead broke after leaving the White House, rejected by the Marines, and by NASA, and named after Sir Edmund Hillary, despite his climbing Mount Everest six years after she was born, living on Tuzla time:

YEP:

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-1-47-55-pm

Fake news.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, LEGAL EDUCATION EDITION: Valparaiso Law School Faces Two Bleak Choices — ‘Admit More Unprepared Students Or Face Reality And Close.’

FIRST CAME KANGAROO-PUNCHING, NOW THIS: French Farmers Strike Sultry Poses with Their Animals in This 2017 Calendar.

CHANGE: From Victims to Victimizers: The Left’s Long Journey.

Some of the shock of Trump’s victory is surely due to the bubble that exists in Hollywood and New York, the Pauline Kael–esque sense that nobody could have voted for Trump. But some of it also derives from celebrities’ self-assured belief that they have an outsized impact in the world of politics.

Clearly that view infused the Clinton campaign: Hillary trotted out Lena Dunham of Girls fame, she of the false rape accusations and gleeful admissions of sexually abusing her sister, on the campaign trail all year long; Clinton advocates such as Elizabeth Banks took time off from producing bad a cappella sequels to film ads; singers and actors all joined to make a difference by producing a glossy version of Rachel Platten’s maddening “Fight Song.”

And not only didn’t those things matter, they actually helped drive voters away from Clinton. They exacerbated the image of Clinton as an out-of-touch elitist who spent her free time hanging out with Katy Perry, even as Donald Trump, at a stadium in rural Ohio, took yet another boisterous swipe at elitism. But it wasn’t just because these celebrities were rich and out of touch that Americans were put off by them.

It’s because those celebrities were the people most likely to judge red-state Americans as rubes — nasties intent on targeting Muslims and gays and blacks and women. The unearned moral superiority of America’s celebrity class rests in their open condemnation of flyover Americans as brutish louts, and their self-parodying belief that they are civil-rights heroes.

We are patronized by our inferiors.

PROMISES, PROMISES: If You Like Your Longevity, You Can Keep Your Longevity.

WELL, THIS IS SAD: Mazda has no plans for an RX-9, despite ongoing rotary development.

THE TOP TEN SPORTS GRINCHES OF 2016.

In case you’re wondering, Kaepernick is merely number two.

2016, MAN: Boy claims he was fat-shamed by Santa Claus.

FORGET DRAINING THE SWAMP. MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Make D.C. a swamp again: Trump is scaring progressive hipsters away, he should send federal workers after them. “I propose that over the next several years, we transfer a lot of federal employees out of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, to parts of the country that aren’t doing so well economically. This would provide a boost to places like Buffalo, New York, or Quincy, Illinois, or Fresno, California, while getting federal bureaucrats out of the D.C. bubble.”

I PLAN TO SAY “I WISH I’D WORKED MORE HOURS,” so that from then on, when people say “nobody ever wishes on their deathbed that they’d worked more hours,” they’ll have to add, “well, except for Glenn Reynolds, actually.”

RIP: JOHN GLENN, FORMER ASTRONAUT AND US SENATOR, DIES AT 95.

CHINESE INTERNET CENSORSHIP SOFTWARE: Jim Dunnigan examines Beijing’s capabilities.

THE HILL: McCarthy’s ghost smiles as Dems point the finger at Russia.

YOU CAN, BUT IT’S NOT EASY: Can You Get Too Much Protein?

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Why you might want to think twice before shaving your pubic hair. I don’t think that this study shows that pubic hair protects against STI’s, but rather that people who have more sex partners are more likely to go bare.

DESIGNER CAROLINA HERRERA: ‘Of Course’ I Would Dress Melania Trump.

Good for her. The politicalization of everything up to and including fashion does nothing to hurt Trump — either Trump — and everything to reinforce Flyover Country’s suspicions of the coastal “elites.”

NEW FROM AUDRA COLDIRON: The Amishland Storyteller: Battling cancer with family, friends, and faith.

WELL, THIS IS THE 21ST CENTURY, YOU KNOW: Controlling a Hand Exoskeleton with Your Mind. “Six quadriplegic individuals tested the device in everyday situations; they successfully picked up coffee cups, ate donuts, squeezed sponges, and signed documents, the researchers reported. The fact that the system functions outside the laboratory, in busy, unsupervised environments, is a dramatic improvement upon previous brain-controlled robotic limbs.”

PRIVACY: Baltimore’s aerial surveillance continues unchecked.

The Baltimore surveillance program broke new ground by bringing wide-area persistent surveillance—a technology that the military has been developing for a decade—to municipal law enforcement. The police department kept the program secret from the public, as well as from the city’s mayor and other local officials, until it was detailed in August by Bloomberg Businessweek. Privacy advocates, defense attorneys, and some local legislators called for the program to be suspended immediately, until the technology could be evaluated in public hearings.

But in the three months since the public discussion began, the police have continued to use the surveillance plane to monitor large events, such as the Baltimore Marathon, and essential questions remain unanswered. The police continue to classify the program as an ongoing trial, but the private company that operates it for the police—Persistent Surveillance Systems—doesn’t have a permanent contract and no specific regulations govern its operations.

Why are Democrat-run cities such cesspits of militarized police surveillance?

NEWS YOU CAN USE: The erotic carp calendar you never knew you needed is here in time for Christmas.

I THINK WE SHOULD RETURN TO THE PRE-KENNEDY RULE AGAINST UNIONIZATION FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES: Federal government workers union is ready to “fight back” against Trump.

HERE WE GO AGAIN:

As Glenn noted years ago, the mainstream media only makes an issue out of homelessness when a Republican is in the White House.

NEWS-READING GRIN: Pope Warns That ‘Fake News’ Is a ‘Sickness’ Comparable to Eating Excrement.

TRUMP, OBAMA, AND “GIRLY JOBS” FOR “MANLY MEN.”

FORTUNATELY, SHE ADDED, I HAVEN’T HAD ONE OF THOSE SINCE 1979: Valerie Jarrett: Trump’s Win Was ‘Soul-Crushing.’

SO THIS IS STARTING TO SOUND LIKE “RECKLESS DISREGARD:” Washington Post Appends “Russian Propaganda Fake News” Story, Admits It May Be Fake.

In the latest example why the “mainstream media” is facing a historic crisis of confidence among its readership, facing unprecedented blowback following Craig Timberg November 24 Washington Post story “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say”, on Wednesday a lengthy editor’s note appeared on top of the original article in which the editor not only distances the WaPo from the “experts” quoted in the original article whose “work” served as the basis for the entire article (and which became the most read WaPo story the day it was published) but also admits the Post could not “vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s finding regarding any individual media outlet”, in effect admitting the entire story may have been, drumroll “fake news” and conceding the Bezos-owned publication may have engaged in defamation by smearing numerous websites.

Here’s the note:

Editor’s Note: The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have examined what they say are Russian propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy and interests. One of them was PropOrNot, a group that insists on public anonymity, which issued a report identifying more than 200 websites that, in its view, wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda. A number of those sites have objected to being included on PropOrNot’s list, and some of the sites, as well as others not on the list, have publicly challenged the group’s methodology and conclusions. The Post, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so. Since publication of The Post’s story, PropOrNot has removed some sites from its list.

So in reliance on an un-checked list by an outside group that insists on anonymity, the WaPo designated a bunch of sites as Russian propaganda tools. And this is the “real news” outfit that is getting all uppity about “fake news.”

PAYBACK’S A… YOU KNOW: Republicans Explore Budget Maneuver to Chip Away at Dodd-Frank.

They are exploring use of a tactic known as reconciliation, a procedural shortcut tied to the budget, which would allow them to make legislative changes to the 2010 regulatory-overhaul law with just a simple majority in the Senate. Republicans are likely to hold 52 seats in the 100-seat chamber, meaning they could pass such changes with just GOP votes.

They would otherwise need 60 votes to get the legislation through the Senate, putting them in the difficult position of needing support from some Democrats, who generally oppose rolling back the landmark law.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) is leading the charge to use reconciliation to pare back pieces of the law, which President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly said he wanted to scale back or scrap.

“We need to make a number of really substantial reforms to Dodd-Frank,” Mr. Toomey said in an interview Wednesday. While he said he would prefer to make legislative changes with Democrats’ support, he is open to more partisan methods. “I am very much in favor of making sure we have all the tools to do this,” he said.

Republicans are weighing using the tool to chip away at two Dodd-Frank creations in particular: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of Financial Research.

The upcoming session of Congress promises at the least to be wildly entertaining.

THIS JUST IN — 2016 CONTINUES ITS SUCKAGE: Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer dies at age 69.

Keith Emerson died in March; what a brutal year this has been for pop culture.

MORGAN CHILDS FOR GQ: The Libertarian Utopia That’s Just a Bunch of White Guys on a Tiny Island.

This is the most sneering and hate-filled piece I recall seeing in a major publication.

IN THE MAIL: From D.G. Voda, State Slave.

Plus, today only at Amazon: Up to 50% Off Levi’s.

And, also today only: Up to 60% Off Cold-Weather Accessories. Hats, gloves, scarves, etc. Keep warm!

Plus: Memorex Sing Stand 3 MKSSS3 Home Karaoke System with Bluetooth, $49.99 (44% off).

And: “Mission Impossible:” The 5-Movie Collection, $18.99.

BRICK AND MORTAR BLUES: Sears Says It’s Likely to Close Many More Stores as Sales Slide Worsens.

TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 1309.

JOHN ELLIS: The Best Albums of 2016.

Mostly solid picks, including a near-handful I’d missed. And I’d have put David Bowie’s Blackstar higher on the list.

FAKE-NEWS HYSTERIA IS WHY OUR ELITES AREN’T TRUSTED:

Jack Shafer of Politico has the best piece yet examining the post-election phenomenon of “fake news” panic—the idea, which spread rapidly among establishment figures in the wake of the election, that Americans were fooled en masse into voting for Donald Trump by nefarious propaganda, funded in part by the Russians. His key contribution is to highlight the elitism at the heart of this idea:

The shrillness of the propaganda debate reveals a deep distrust of citizens by the elites. The Ignatiuses and Stengels of media and government don’t worry about propaganda infecting them. Proud of their breeding and life experience, they seem confident they can decode fact from fiction. What they dread is propaganda’s effect on the non-elites, whom they paternalistically imagine believe everything they read or view. But they don’t. The idea that naïve and vulnerable audiences can be easily influenced by the injection of tiny but potent messages into their media feedbag was dismissed as bunk by social scientists as early as the 1930s and 1940s. According to what academics call the hypodermic needle theory (aka magic bullet theory, aka transmission-belt model), there is little evidence that the public was the defenseless prey of mini-doses of propagandists. Larger doses don’t seem to be very effective, either.

We noted earlier this week that elite media figures actually were fooled on a large scale by a fake story about fake news because it seemed to confirmed their pre-existing assumptions. Everyone is vulnerable to misinformation and spin—to suspend disbelief when it is convenient to do so. As Shafer says, the self-righteous conceit behind the sudden preoccupation with fake news is that this tendency is somehow more pronounced among Trump voters than everyone else—indeed, that many people could only have voted for him because they were misinformed. . . .

But the collapse in public trust in the mainstream press is also driven by politics and social divides. Much of the public believes that big city reporters do not understand them or their way of life, and hold their values in contempt. And the degree of hysteria that media elites are exhibiting about “fake news,” and the rubes who were supposedly taken in, will only reinforce this perception further.

Yep.

WHITTLE, OTT, GREEN: Man’s inhumanity to kangaroo.

Full disclosure: I’m Green.

ANALYSIS: TRUE. Syria President Says Victory in Aleppo Won’t End the War.

Assad, in an interview published on Thursday in the state-owned newspaper al-Watan, said he will no longer consider truce offers, adding that such offers, particularly from Americans, often come when the rebels are in a “difficult spot.”

“That is why we hear wailing and screaming and pleas for truces as the only political discourse now,” Assad said. He described his forces’ fight in Aleppo as one “against terrorism and a conspiracy” to destroy and divide Syria, allegedly led by Turkey.

“Liberating Aleppo from the terrorists deals a blow to the whole foundation of this project,” he said. But he added, “to be realistic, it doesn’t mean the end of the war.”

With Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and former commercial heart, the capital of Damascus and Homs, the third largest city under his control, Assad says “terrorists” no longer hold any cards.

“Even if we finish in Aleppo, we will carry on with the war against them,” Assad added.

It doesn’t seem possible that any amount of force or any attainable political solution will ever make Syria whole again. Iraq either, for that matter.

VIETNAM COUNTERS CHINA IN SOUTH CHINA SEA: Get ready for more of this. At the moment it’s a war of barges and dredges slowly turning reefs into islands. But the game’s changing. Trump’s already told Beijing that America won’t play by Chinese rules.

COLLEGE STUDENTS NEED FREE-SPEECH ORIENTATION THESE DAYS, and Purdue’s program offers a good model. I have to say, Mitch Daniels is doing an excellent job there.

WELL, YES. AND TRUMP IS A MASTER AT ELICITING THOSE. Conservatives often win elections because of the hysterical, overblown reaction their common-sense plans receive from the left.

PERHAPS SARAH HOYT WILL LET ME BORROW HER SHOCKED FACE: OPEC expected to deliver only half of target production cut.

Most energy professionals expect OPEC output will decline to around 33.0 million barrels per day in January 2017, down from 33.6 million bpd in October but well above the deal’s target of 32.5 million bpd.

Most of the 260 respondents to the survey think the organisation will succeed in cutting output, but on average by only 600,000 bpd, or half its stated target of 1.2 million bpd.

Less than 8 percent thought OPEC would achieve its target in full. More than twice as many thought output would stay the same or rise.

HMM: Leonardo DiCaprio Just Met with Trump on Green Jobs.

DAMON LINKER IN THE WEEK: How conservatives out-intellectualized progressives.

Profitably read along with Freddie de Boer’s comments.

SALENA ZITO: Even anti-Trump working-class voters are having second thoughts.

What is astounding, post-election, is the total lack of contrition Democrats have displayed for ignoring the workingman and -woman bloc that has been the party’s horn of plenty. The only regret they display is that they lost the election, not the voters.

What Democrats, academics and pundits keep refusing to see is that the loss was never about Trump’s candidacy; it was all about how Democrats have increasingly lost touch with their voters outside of coastal America — until those voters finally hit their breaking point.

“The Democratic Party has become a coastal elitist club and if there is any decision or discussion made to broaden that within the ranks it is squashed,” said Dane Strother, a legendary Washington, DC-based Democratic strategist.

“We have completely lost touch with Middle America,” he admits, “How did we go from the party of the little man to the party of the elite?” Then he answers; “Yes, we rightfully should protect the rights of minorities, African-Americans, Hispanics, the LBGTQ communities and we always should — but we can’t forget the rest of the country along the way,” he said.

It isn’t that the Democrats forgot the rest of the country, it’s that they disdain the rest of the country.

THIS IS ALL ABOUT DELEGITIMIZING TRUMP: Dems push for panel to probe Russian interference in election.

Two Democratic House members on Wednesday announced legislation to create an independent commission to investigate efforts by Russia to interfere with the U.S. election.

The bill comes from Oversight Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee’s CIA subcommittee.

The structure of the nongovernmental panel would be modeled after the 9/11 Commission, and would include 12 bipartisan members.

Specifically, the commission will be charged with investigating Russian hacks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and former Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta’s personal email, as well as the scanning of electoral systems in some states and the dissemination of fake news and propaganda.

Republicans should probably encourage Democrats’ obsession with this stuff, though, as it will distract them from thinking about why they actually lost.

OBAMACARE: IS THERE ANYTHING IT CAN’T RUIN? Drug price hikes put sex beyond reach.

Soaring prices for prescription medicines for impotence and other problems have put the remedies out of reach for some.

Without insurance coverage, Viagra and Cialis cost about $50 a pill, triple their 2010 list prices. The new “female Viagra,” a daily pill for low sex drive called Addyi, costs $800 per month. Older products for women also have seen huge price run-ups, Truven Health Analytics data show.

“Many of them don’t get past the pharmacy counter once they see the price,” says Sheryl Kingsberg, a University Hospitals-Cleveland Medical Center behavioral psychologist and researcher who counsels men and women.

What people actually pay out of pocket varies. Some insurance prescription plans, including Medicare, cover some of the medicines. Some plans don’t cover any, arguing they’re not medically necessary. Many require steep copayments or limit the number of impotence pills per prescription.

“Once you get to a certain price point, sex becomes a financial decision,” says Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler, a sexual dysfunction specialist at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital. “It takes a lot of the joy out of this.”

Indeed.

AT AMAZON, The Best Boots of the Season.