December 14, 2017

MATT WELCH: JOURNALISTS ARE AT WAR WITH THEIR CRITICS — AND THEY’RE LOSING BADLY.

After President Trump recently tweeted another sophomoric insult at CNN anchor Don Lemon, for example, the network opted for not a bemused stoicism but a condescending whine: “In a world where bullies torment kids on social media to devastating effect on a regular basis with insults and name-calling, it is sad to see our president engaging in the very same behavior himself. Leaders should lead by example.” Boo-frickity-hoo.

As the above illustrates, the two opposing views on media are self-reinforcing and increasingly dominate American politics. Anti-media fervor is arguably the strongest glue left holding together the Republican coalition, as evidenced by our troll president; his troll-Svengali, Breitbart editor Stephen K. Bannon; and the uber-troll, twice-defrocked Alabama jurist Roy Moore.

The legacy media and its left-of-center customer base, meanwhile, cannot resist taking the bait, leading to too much anti-Trump error and an off-putting haughtiness when caught out. Reliable Sources this weekend used the occasion of a bad CNN mistake — the network had reported that Trump and his son received a WikiLeaks web address and encryption key before they were made public, when in fact they got them after — to have several guests bemoan Trump’s attacks on the media, rather than, I don’t know, delve into exactly how CNN messed up.

The struggle against Trump’s norms-shattering presidency is real. So is the decreasing marginal utility of crying wolf at every opportunity. How to thread that needle? Another CNN anchor, Jake Tapper, pointed the way at the L.A. Press Clubs awards this year.

“We don’t need to give the enemies of the Fourth Estate any ammunition,” Tapper warned. “That means we need to be squeaky clean. We’re not the resistance. We’re not the opposition. We’re here to tell the truth, report the facts, regardless of whom those facts favor one way or the other.”

That’s nice. How’s the search for Anderson Cooper’s “hacker” coming along?

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MSNBC ANALYST: “It’s ‘Unfortunate’ Voters Shape Public Policy.” I think what MSNBC’s Elise Jordan *really* means is that it’s unfortunate that those knuckle-dragging, gun-and-bible-clinging, fly-over proles who work with their hands have a vote at all:

“I think it’s unfortunate that we are designing — that we are designing public policy in a way that, you know, comes down to how you voted in an election.”

FLASHBACK: Elections have consequences.

UNEXPECTEDLY! US retail sales rose 0.8% in Nov, vs 0.3% increase expected.

THIS IS GOLD: Those Trump-Hating FBI Tweets Came Out As A Result of Democratic Complaints About FBI Bias:

Ironically, Democrats pushed for the investigation. Many Clinton supporters blamed then-FBI Director James Comey’s actions during that investigation for Clinton’s election loss.

“This is highly encouraging and to be expected given Director Comey’s drastic deviation from Justice Department protocol,” Clinton campaign communications director Brian Fallon said back in January. “A probe of this sort, however long it takes to conduct, is utterly necessary in order to take the first step to restore the FBI’s reputation as a non-partisan institution.:

Horowitz, writing to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, said that his office obtained the Strzok texts after asking the FBI to produce communications from bureau-issued phones for a select group of employees who worked on the Clinton email probe.

Back when Democrats thought political bias at the FBI was a Very Serious Problem.

ANDREW MCCARTHY IN THE WASHINGTON POST: Mueller Needs To Make A Change.

Mueller’s investigation was triggered when former FBI director James B. Comey, no fan of the president who dismissed him, leaked a memo of a meeting with President Trump. Comey admitted hoping this revelation would lead to appointment of a special counsel. Furthermore, the investigative team Mueller has assembled includes Democratic donors and supporters, including one lawyer who represented the Clinton Foundation and one who represented a subject in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. This month, moreover, it came to light that two members of the team, who had also worked on the Clinton email investigation, were having an extramarital affair and exchanged text messages expressing partisan political views — favoring Clinton and depicting Trump as ‘loathsome.’

Worse, in one August 2016 text, one of them, FBI agent Peter Strzok, asserted that the FBI “can’t take that risk” that Trump could be elected, equating some unspecified action against this seemingly unlikely possibility to “an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.” Dismayingly, this text, which crosses the line between political banter and tainted law enforcement, refers to a meeting in the office of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, then (and now) the bureau’s No. 2 official. While not as weighty, legitimate questions have been raised about McCabe’s own objectivity, his wife’s state Senate campaign having been lavishly funded by groups tied to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a Clinton insider.

Read the whole thing.

ASHLEY HAMILTON: Dismantling The Scaffolding Of the Administrative State.

GOOD! University of Illinois cracks down on ‘heckler’s veto.’

The University of Illinois system released a new set of guiding principles Friday that explicitly prohibit students from exercising a “heckler’s veto” to prevent free speech on campus.

“An unyielding allegiance to freedom of speech—even controversial, contentious, and unpopular speech—is indispensable to developing the analytical and communication skills of our students and empowering all members of our university communities to be active and informed citizens,” the document asserts before outlining measures designed to safeguard that freedom.

While the university system vows to “vigorously and even-handedly protect community members against conduct that falls outside the First Amendment—including true threats, pervasive harassment, incitement to imminent lawless action, and libel—regardless of whether that illegal conduct happens to be undertaken for expressive purposes,” it also makes clear that conduct intended to disrupt lawful speech will not be tolerated.

More like this, please.

WHEN STORIES DON’T HOLD UP: Apple or banana? We’re STILL very curious about Anderson Cooper’s assistant and that tweet.

A REMINDER THAT The Volokh Conspiracy is now at Reason, with no paywall.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Arkansas State sued for banning students from telling peers they have First Amendment rights.

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BREACHER HITS THE BEACH: A USMC M1A1 assault breacher vehicle (ABV) rolls off a landing craft in exercise Steel Knight 2018. (The ABV is a M1A1 Abrams tank modified for combat engineer missions such as breaching a minefield. Here’s a basic description of the vehicle.)

VERY RELATED: The Orange County Register describes the full-scale USMC Steel Knight exercise. It is an annual exercise — but this year remember Inchon.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIALIZES: The FBI’s Trump ‘Insurance:’ More troubling evidence of election meddling at the bureau.

Democrats and the media are accusing anyone who criticizes special counsel Robert Mueller as Trumpian conspirators trying to undermine his probe. But who needs critics when Mr. Mueller’s team is doing so much to undermine its own credibility?

Wednesday’s revelations—they’re coming almost daily—include the Justice Department’s release of 2016 text messages to and from Peter Strzok, the FBI counterintelligence agent whom Mr. Mueller demoted this summer. The texts, which he exchanged with senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page, contain expletive-laced tirades against Mr. Trump. Such Trump hatred is no surprise and not by itself disqualifying. More troubling are texts that suggest that some FBI officials may have gone beyond antipathy to anti-Trump plotting.

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Mr. Strzok wrote Ms. Page in an Aug. 15, 2016 text. He added: “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

What “policy” would that be? The “Andy” in question is Andrew McCabe, the deputy FBI director. FBI officials are allowed to have political opinions, but what kind of action were they discussing that would amount to anti-Trump “insurance”?

In another exchange that month, Ms. Page forwarded a Trump-related article and wrote: “Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace.” He thanked her and assured: “Of course I’ll try and approach it that way.” Mr. Strzok, recall, is the man who changed the words “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless” in James Comey’s July 2016 public exoneration of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The McCabe meeting came on the heels of the FBI’s launch of its counterintelligence probe into Trump-Russia ties. July is also when former British spook Christopher Steele briefed the FBI on his Clinton-financed dossier of salacious allegations against Mr. Trump. The texts explain why Mr. Mueller would remove Mr. Strzok, though a straight shooter wouldn’t typically resist turning those messages over to Congress for as long as Mr. Mueller did.

Meanwhile, we’re learning more about the political motives of Mr. Mueller’s lieutenant, Andrew Weissmann.

Related: Fusion DOJ: It’s getting hard to tell where the Clinton campaign ends and the federal law enforcement apparatus begins.

Is animus toward President Donald Trump a prerequisite for landing a job with special counsel Robert Mueller ? Recent revelations in Washington also raise again the question of what former President Barack Obama knew about the decisions of his FBI Director James Comey to exonerate Hillary Clinton and investigate Mr. Trump in 2016. . . .

Mr. Trump does not have to be paranoid to believe that the indigenous creatures of the Beltway swamp are out to get him. A number of them have put it in writing. This column can only imagine what the two political lawyers Ms. Page and Mr. Strzok said about Mr. Trump when they weren’t creating electronic records of their conversations.

Plus: Why did a federal judge overseeing a major Fusion GPS court case never disclose that she worked for multiple firms that hired Fusion GPS?

HARMEET DHILLON: Here’s How The Defeat Of Hillary Clinton Led To The Sexual Harassment Revolution.. “If President Hillary Clinton ran the country, and Bill Clinton were the First Gentlemen, would we be experiencing this cultural moment recognizing the problem of sexual harassment, and would the 2017 Person of the Year be those who spoke out about being harassed? Certainly not. More likely, Harvey Weinstein would be sipping Chardonnay in the Rose Garden and eating canapes while ogling his next victim, with Bill Clinton doing the same. President Hillary Clinton would be smugly presiding over a brittle edifice of equality, beneath which lurked decades of enabling, shaming, attacking, suppressing, and silencing. Consider the lessons that the Clintons taught generations of young people growing up in the 1990s.”

APRIL RYAN: OMAROSA WAS DRAGGED OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE BY THE SECRET SERVICE. Secret Service: Yeah, that never happened. Fake news is everywhere.

BYRON YORK: After mysterious ‘insurance policy’ text, will Justice Department reveal more on FBI agent bounced from Mueller probe?

Yes, the release of texts sent between top FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page show that both loathed Donald Trump while they were working on investigations involving Trump as a presidential candidate and later as president. Of course, lots of federal employees loathe Trump. It would be hard for all of them to recuse themselves from government matters, although it is probably not a great idea to have them play key roles in high-stakes probes that could have a momentous effect on the presidency.

More troubling, in the set of texts released Tuesday night, is a single message, from Strzok to Page, dated Aug. 15, 2016. Here is what it said:

I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40….

What does that mean? “Andy” apparently refers to FBI No. 2 Andrew McCabe, who was overseeing the bureau’s Trump investigation. “He” apparently refers to Trump. And “insurance policy” apparently refers to…well, it is not known what that refers to. Actually, we don’t know with absolute confidence what any of it refers to.

It’s suspicious. And I’d still like to know whether Lisa Page approved Peter Strzok’s warrant applications to the FISA court. I asked Mueller’s office about that, but they said no comment.

PERHAPS, GIVEN OUR NEW SENSITIVITY TO “TRIGGERING,” REVEALING ATTIRE IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT, OF MEN: Dem congresswoman says revealing clothing invites sexual harassment. “Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the longest-serving woman in the House, said Wednesday that some congresswomen and staffers dress so inappropriately that their clothing is ‘an invitation’ to sexual harassment. . . . Kaptur also said she thinks the Hill should have a stricter dress code for females.”

If you want a prim, sexless workplace, it probably involves prim, sexless attire.

PBS HAS SUSPENDED LATE-NIGHT TALK SHOW “TAVIS SMILEY” AMID MISCONDUCT ALLEGATIONS AGAINST ITS HOST AND NAMESAKE:

In a February piece in the Observer, Jacques Hyzagi, a former producer on Smiley’s television show, wrote that Smiley’s “misogyny is always creeping around, barely camouflaged by Midwestern good manners.” Hyzagi described Smiley picking up a woman at the Orlando airport and bringing her along on a reporting trip as a “fuck buddy”; alleged that Smiley had a romantic relationship with another producer; and quoted Smiley denigrating PBS executives.

Smiley currently has a development deal with Warner Bros. Television. Among the projects in the works under that deal is an adaptation of Smiley’s book “Before You Judge Me: The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson’s Last Days,” about the pop singer, with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot.

The decision to halt Smiley’s program comes just weeks after the public broadcaster made a similar move to end Charlie Rose’s interview show following claims of sexual harassment levied at the host.

At the beginning of 2009, NewsBusters reported on Smiley’s biases:

Chris Matthews won’t be working alone.  Back in November, the Hardball host said it was his job to make Barack Obama’s presidency a success.  Today, another TV journalist expressed a similar sentiment. Tavis Smiley has declared that “we’re all working for Barack Obama” and that “we have to help make Obama a great president.” [H/t reader dronetek.]

The host of Tavis Smiley on PBS was a guest on Morning Joe.  Reacting to Harry Reid’s claim last week that he doesn’t work for Barack Obama, Smiley said Reid should “put down the crack pipe.”  Smiley added “we’re all working for Barack Obama.” It soon became clear that was no passing quip, but a literal description of how he sees his role.

And now it’s time to take one for the team.

SPEND LESS; REVENUES ARE AT RECORD HIGHS AND WE’RE STILL RUNNING A DEFICIT: House GOP Charts Spending Collision With Senate.

DOUG JONES: In ‘gracious’ call, Trump invited me to the White House.

December 13, 2017

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THE SCIENCE WAS SETTLED: Investigation finds Swedish scientists committed scientific misconduct: Probe centered on controversial paper that claimed microplastic pollution harms fish.

Two Swedish scientists have been found guilty of “misconduct in research” in a paper that they published in Science1 and later retracted. Their highly publicized work had suggested that tiny particles of plastic in the ocean harm fish.

The misconduct ruling was made by an investigative board from Uppsala University in Sweden, where the researchers work.

Marine biologist Oona Lönnstedt and limnologist Peter Eklöv originally reported in their 2016 paper that microplastic particles had negative effects on young fish, including reducing their efforts to avoid predators. The duo’s report described a series of experiments on an island in the Baltic Sea. After other researchers raised questions about data availability and details of the experiments, Uppsala conducted an initial investigation and found no evidence of misconduct.

However, an expert group of Sweden’s Central Ethical Review Board, which was also tasked with vetting the study, concluded in April 2017 that Lönnstedt and Eklöv “have been guilty of scientific misconduct”. The researchers defended the paper but requested that Science retract it in light of questions about their findings. . . .

In its decision, announced on 7 December, the board finds Lönnstedt guilty of having intentionally fabricated data; it alleges that Lönnstedt did not conduct the experiments during the period — and to the extent — described in the Science paper.

Well, it’s hard to argue that’s not fraud.

SPACE: Blue Origin Launches New Crew Capsule on Third New Shepard Rocket: The suborbital booster took the new capsule to the edge of space and then returned for a controlled vertical landing.

Blue Origin launched and landed a New Shepard rocket for the first time since October 2016 at their launch facility in West Texas. The launch, which took place Tuesday, December 12, was the first of a new rocket booster and the company’s Crew Capsule 2.0, which has been upgraded from a previous test capsule by adding large windows and some internal amenities. Ultimately Blue Origin plans to use the New Shepard rocket to launch paying customers on suborbital flights to space.

The seventh flight of New Shepard was the first flight of a new rocket booster, the third Blue Origin has built. The capsule achieved an altitude of 326,075 feet (99.39 kilometers), which is just shy of the internationally recognized boundary for space at 100 kilometers, known as the Karman line. The booster then returned for a propulsive vertical landing and the capsule landed using a parachute.

Faster, please.

HELPFUL KNOWLEDGE: A Visual Guide To Lock-Picking.

ANOTHER OPEN THREAD: Because you folks have a lot to say.

KYLE SMITH RESPONDS TO A NEW YORKER STORY: Dear “Cat Person” Girl: Here’s how to avoid soul-crushingly bad sex. “I’m sorry about what happened to you, Margot. But I don’t think you have thought through how you got into a terrible situation.”

Frankly, I don’t understand why Cat Person Girl wasn’t called out for fat-shaming.

PAUL MIRENGOFF: Trey Gowdy grills Rod Rosenstein.

SAD: Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens Passes. Great band, nice guy.

Here’s Blood and Roses.

AND ANOTHER ONE: PBS suspends “Tavis Smiley” for sexual misconduct.

Understatement of the Year: “It’s probably long overdue.” — Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times.

WE’D BE BETTER OFF LEGALIZING PROSTITUTION, BUT THIS IS A TERRIBLE BILL REGARDLESS: Prostitution Ad Ban Creeps Forward, Threatening Social Media and Sex Workers: The bill would gut Section 230 and make sex advertising a federal crime.. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is what has allowed a free Internet.

SALMA HAYEK IN THE NEW YORK TIMES: Harvey Weinstein Is My Monster Too.

One of the forces that gave me the determination to pursue my career was the story of Frida Kahlo, who in the golden age of the Mexican muralists would do small intimate paintings that everybody looked down on. She had the courage to express herself while disregarding skepticism. My greatest ambition was to tell her story. It became my mission to portray the life of this extraordinary artist and to show my native Mexico in a way that combated stereotypes.

* * * * * * * *

And with every refusal came Harvey’s Machiavellian rage.

I don’t think he hated anything more than the word “no.” The absurdity of his demands went from getting a furious call in the middle of the night asking me to fire my agent for a fight he was having with him about a different movie with a different client to physically dragging me out of the opening gala of the Venice Film Festival, which was in honor of “Frida,” so I could hang out at his private party with him and some women I thought were models but I was told later were high-priced prostitutes.

The range of his persuasion tactics went from sweet-talking me to that one time when, in an attack of fury, he said the terrifying words, “I will kill you, don’t think I can’t.”

When he was finally convinced that I was not going to earn the movie the way he had expected, he told me he had offered my role and my script with my years of research to another actress.

In his eyes, I was not an artist. I wasn’t even a person. I was a thing: not a nobody, but a body.

One of Kahlo’s final paintings before her death at age 47 in 1954 was titled “Self Portrait with Stalin.” As Nick Gillespie wrote at Reason last year, “That is some fucked-up art right there. Uncle Joe had died the year before and only the most deluded bitter-clingers were under any illusions about his reign of terror.”

When Hayek writes, that in Weinstein’s eyes, “I was not an artist. I wasn’t even a person. I was a thing: not a nobody, but a body,” she’s also neatly describing how the dictator whom Kahlo worshipped viewed his subjects in the Soviet Union, where, the Times staggeringly claimed earlier in August, the sex was awesome. I wonder if the Gray Lady would still have the chutzpah to run that article today, seeing as how the Weinstein allegations set in motion an ongoing Soviet-style cultural purge by the American left.

THE PAST IS ANOTHER COUNTRY: THEY DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY THERE. Former SI cover girl: Sexual harassment was once ‘a compliment.’ “As a matter of fact, you almost got offended if you did not get harassed. Like, if this photographer is known for hitting on [models] — or goes for all the brunettes — and you show up at the studio and you are a brunette and he does not hit on you . . . it is like, ‘What is wrong with me?’”

WITH NO PAYWALL! The Volokh Conspiracy has moved from the WaPo to Reason. A better home for a lot of, er, reasons.

VIDEO: Butchering A Complete Beef Round. “I had never heard of an Oyster Steak. The butchers have been holding out on us.”

BUT OF COURSE: Conservative Student Group Defunded After Hosting Dennis Prager.

MARY KATHARINE HAM: The Sad People Who Watched ‘A Christmas Prince’ 18 Days In A Row Craft A Statement.

Names have not been changed to protect the innocent.

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‘GUT-WRENCHING’: Salma Hayek shares HORRIFIC stories of ‘monster’ Harvey Weinstein.

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BILL O’REILLY CLAIM: There’s Audio of Someone Trying to Bribe a Woman to Accuse Trump of ‘Untoward Behavior.’

JEFF DUNETZ: 18 Differences Between Chanukah & Christmas.

WHAT DOES YOUR BODY NEED MORE? SLEEP, OR EXERCISE? “That’s a terrible choice.”

JON GABRIEL: End net neutrality. Federal meddling can’t improve the Internet.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, EXACTLY? FBI Officials Discussed ‘Insurance Policy’ Against Trump Presidency.

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok wrote in a cryptic text message to Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer and his mistress.

“It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” Strzok wrote in the text, dated Aug. 15, 2016.

Andy is likely Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

Read the whole thing.

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Why You Should Get More Magnesium In Your Diet.

MICHAEL WALSH: Twenty Steps to Last Night’s GOP Disaster.

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QUESTION ASKED: Can Democrats Take Back the House in 2018?

Mr. Moore was a seriously flawed candidate, controversial enough to have been tossed off his own state’s Supreme Court twice, and more recently accused of having made improper sexual advances on teenage girls. (He denies the allegations.) Thus, much of the loss to Mr. Jones will be laid at the candidate’s feet. Still, the loss is a huge blow to Mr. Trump personally. He now has backed three straight candidates for statewide office who have lost. And the implications are enormous. “The challenges the GOP faced remain and the finger pointing will only increase,” said Douglas Heye, a longtime top Republican congressional aide. “We remain bitterly divided.”

For Democrats, the victory in a state they never dreamed of winning just a few months ago delivers a jolt of energy—and, perhaps as important, could encourage balky donors who have left the party’s national machinery seriously underfunded this year. Perhaps most encouraging for Democrats, the same coalition of voters that propelled the party to victory in Virginia last month also emerged in Alabama.

I’ve been arguing for a while now that the Republicans need to legislate as though there’s no tomorrow, and if they had, maybe things would have turned out differently in Alabama.

MEN HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN THIS: Study says flu hits men harder than women. As usual, the lived experience of men has been overridden by prejudice-based womansplaining. But now the science is settled!

Vox Day’s Castalia House publishing company has a new book out by Moira Greyland entitled The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon.

BRUCE BAWER: Rigging the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

LAWPROF SENATOR IGNORANT ABOUT HOW ELECTION TO THE SENATE WORKS: Elizabeth Warren embarasses herself — BADLY — over demand for McConnell to seat Doug Jones ‘without delay.’ And yesterday she was “slut-shaming” fellow Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Kind of an embarrassment to the people of Massachusetts, huh?

NFL NETWORK NIGHTMARE: EXEC ASKED IF I PLANNED TO GET ‘KNOCKED UP.’

 As disturbing allegations of sexual misconduct mount against several NFL Network employees, Tuesday on Instagram broadcaster Lindsay McCormick detailed her experience with a network executive.

“I’ve been quiet about this for too long,” wrote McCormick, 30. “In my last interview with NFL Network a few years ago, the head of hiring talent said to me, ‘If we hire you, do you plan on getting knocked up immediately like the rest of them?’

Why are Democrat-dominated industries such cesspits of misogyny?

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Package of marijuana mysteriously delivered to Colorado Springs home.

Marian Goss tells 11 News the special delivery arrived at her door with a failure to deliver notice. Goss’ home was listed as the sender. The recipient was listed as an address in Virginia. Somehow, the package ended up at her home and she had no idea what she would find inside.

“I never thought in a million years that I would see what I saw in that box,” said Goss.

Goss opened the package because she feared it might be someone else’s Christmas present that was sent to the wrong house. She opened it up to find bundles of marijuana, stuffed in a dog food container, then into a cardboard box.

“It was in a dog food container, so we thought it was dog food,” Goss said. “But that’s not something you want to feed to your dog.”

Goss said she has no idea how it ended up at her house with her address on it.

“They attempted to deliver the package once and it came back to us, saying that it failed to be sent to the person in Virginia. It said that we are the sender and it came back to us, and we are definitely not the sender of that.

“I actually panicked.”

She thinks maybe someone else wanted to snag the box off her porch before she did.

Merry Christmas?

IN THE WASHINGTON POST: Democrats should ditch Robert Menendez.. Their principles will not demand that until there’s a Democratic governor to appoint a Democrat replacement.

A COMPLETELY, TOTALLY, 100% UNBIASED AND NONPARTISAN INVESTIGATION, WE SWEAR, PART 1,000,008: “Trump Should Go F Himself” – Texts Leak From FBI Agents On Russia Probe, Hillary Emails Investigation.

IN THE WAKE OF HARVEY WEINSTEIN, THE ART WORLD BEGINS TO PURGE “THE HIDDEN ENEMY:”

Forgive my cynicism, but I cannot help but think that the key to the timing of the letter is that the “workers of the art world” who signed it, having already achieved the desired “institutional access and career advancement,” and emboldened by the long-overdue disclosures around rape and sexual violence in the entertainment industry, decided to take this opportunity finally to cleanse the environment of what they perceive as undesirable elements. In the process, they risk going into a purging mode strikingly reminiscent of what happened under Comrade Stalin in my native country, the former ussr. It seems to me that despite the bombastic phrasing that recalls the furious tone of Russian avant-garde manifestos, these women do not realize where the primrose path of purging is likely to lead. If Soviet history is any indication, we should be seriously concerned by such ignorance. Once the processes are initiated, the enemy is identified, and the cogs of the apparatus are set in motion, there will be little reason to stop the purging at alleged sexual harassers. The clean-up will continue until the ranks of the art world are rid of any and all offensive elements. It is by no means impossible that even the righteous signatories of this letter may one day find themselves denounced for racism, classism, transphobia, ableism, homophobia, or any of the proliferating multitude of microagressive offenses.

Read the whole thing.

HMM: Kim Jong Un’s Mount Paektu visit may signal big decision.

“It’s unlikely that Kim went up the so-called sacred mountain for fresh air. He is likely to have considered how he will formulate external policies after having declared the regime a nuclear state,” a Seoul-based source told Dong-A Ilbo.

Some have suggested the regime may shift its external policy to seek dialogue with the United States, after declaring itself a nuclear state with its Hwasong-15 ICBM launch on Nov. 29.

“Resorting to further provocations could be difficult for North Korea since further nuclear tests at the Punggyeri site have become impossible due to safety concerns and there is growing talk in the U.S. Congress of a pre-emptive strike,” a former diplomat told Chosun Ilbo.

However, other analysts believe these speculations are merely guesswork, noting how Kim visited a symbolic palace after the Hwasong-14 missile launch on July 4.

In short, Kimology is probably no better a predictor than Kremlinology ever was.

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ROGER SIMON ON STEVE BANNON’S BIG LOSS IN ALABAMA.

As featured, shortly after the election was called, atop the Drudge Report.

(Bumped.)

BITCOIN MAY OR MAY NOT BE SOUND LONG-TERM, BUT IT’S A BUBBLE RIGHT NOW: The Force Behind Bitcoin’s Meteoric Rise: Millions of Asian Investors: Retail investors, mostly in Asia, are pushing the price of bitcoin to new heights.

Despite the attention focused on the launch of bitcoin futures in the U.S. last weekend, the center of gravity for trading the virtual currency, measured by volumes, has been in the East—starting in China, before shifting earlier this year to Japan and recently to South Korea as the latest hot spot.

Unlike past financial frenzies—such as the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, when U.S. retail investors only piled in at the later stages of the rally—individual investors have been first to the party, fueling bitcoin’s 1,600% rise this year. . . .

Various forces have stoked Asia’s bitcoin fever. While individual wealth has been growing in recent years, particularly in China and South Korea, lucrative investment opportunities can be hard to find, with property markets expensive and stock markets fully valued.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Asians are more comfortable with the concept of virtual currencies such as bitcoin, particularly younger people who have grown up in a world of e-commerce and mobile payments.

When bitcoin pops — and it will — a lot of these people are going to be ruined, and angry. While people look at the Middle East, it’s entirely possible that a bitcoin crash will be the most destabilizing event of the decade. I wonder if anyone’s prepping for that.

THE REAL CHALLENGES FOR AMERICAN INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES.

BILL GERTZ: Russia Sharply Expanding Nuclear Arsenal, Upgrading Underground Facilities.

Russia is aggressively building up its nuclear forces and is expected to deploy a total force of 8,000 warheads by 2026 along with modernizing deep underground bunkers, according to Pentagon officials.

The 8,000 warheads will include both large strategic warheads and thousands of new low-yield and very low-yield warheads to circumvent arms treaty limits and support Moscow’s new doctrine of using nuclear arms early in any conflict.

In addition to expanding its warheads, Russia also is fortifying underground facilities for command and control during a nuclear conflict.

That’s disconcerting.

RED HOT ENGINES, COLD WHITE SNOW: A B-1B takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base in snow-covered South Dakota.

BUT OF COURSE: Fusion GPS Paid Top DOJ Official’s Wife To Dig Up Dirt On Trump.

There is no part of this which does not stink.

IT’S THE SPENDING, STUPID: Feds Collect Record Taxes Through November; Still Run $201.8B Deficit.

Despite these record tax revenues, the federal government still ran a deficit of $201,761,000,000 for those same two months.

That is because the government spent $645,476,000,000 in October and November.

The $443,715,000,000 that the federal government collected in taxes in the first two months of this fiscal year was $12,873,120,000 more in constant 2018 dollars than it collected in the first two months of fiscal 2017 and $11,352,180,000 more than it collected in the first two months of fiscal 2016.

We’re on track for the second consecutive $600 billion-plus deficit, absent an economic downturn or major war.

SO GIVEN THE PARTY-DEFLATOR FACTOR, THAT WOULD BE FOUR IF SHE WERE A REPUBLICAN: Three Pinocchios for Pelosi on Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act.

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LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Jones Wins, FBI Agents’ Shocking Trump-Hating Texts Revealed and Much, Much More.

PETER HASSON: Steve Bannon Blamed, Mocked After Roy Moore Loss.

“Luther Strange would have won in a landslide… Just too much crazy in nerve racking times,” influential news kingpin Matt Drudge wrote on Twitter following Moore’s loss. “There IS a limit!”

“This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running,” Steve Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, said in a statement. “Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco,” Law said.

Democratic strategist Paul Begala mockingly thanked Bannon for making Democratic candidate Doug Jones’ victory possible.

“Special thanks to the genius strategist who did so much to make this happen: Steve Bannon,” Begala gloated.

Roger L. Simon predicted weeks ago that Bannon had overplayed his hand.

BONFIRE OF THE ACADEMIES: Two professors on how leftist intolerance is killing higher education.

At colleges and universities all over the country, students are protesting in increasingly virulent and sometimes violent ways. They demand safe spaces and trigger warnings, shouting down those with whom they disagree. It has become rote for outsiders to claim that the inmates are running the asylum; that this is analogous to Mao’s Red Guard, Germany’s brown shirts, the French Revolution’s Jacobins; and, when those being attacked are politically “left” themselves, that the Left is eating its own. These stories seem to validate every fantasy the Right ever had about the Left.

As two professors who recently resigned from positions at a college we loved, and who have always been on the progressive-left end of the political spectrum, we can say that, while none of those characterizations is exactly right, there is truth in each of them. . . .

Hateful white nationalists comprise a tiny but exceedingly loud minority of people on the Right. The analogous group on the Left is the virulent social justice crowd. Those who would have us destroy Martin Luther King’s dream comprise a small but disproportionately loud minority of people on the Left. Also, we would argue that “Right” and “Left” make little sense in either of these contexts. Both fringe groups, extremists wherever they are found, are more accurately described as authoritarian.

We come from the Left, and our values and worldview have not changed. But our understanding of the landscape has, as has our understanding of who is most likely to be interested in pursuing democratic goals through democratic means. A democratic system needs intelligent dissent, which means that it must create and protect the conditions in which people can learn how to think critically, and how to critique ideas and proposals. Those are longstanding values on the Left, but today, they are hanging by a thread. . . .

At Evergreen, a small fraction of students was the face of the protests, some even going so far as to patrol campus with baseball bats, threatening people, and vandalizing property. But the vast majority of students were not part of the protests. Some were yelled at, insulted, assaulted, even battered. Some left the school. Some graduated. Some are keeping their heads down, angry and scared, until they, too, graduate, while they wonder why their experiences are apparently of no interest to the college administration.

Read the whole thing.

WASHINGTON GOP BLEW THE ALABAMA RACE BUT NOT LIKE YOU THINK: LifeZette’s Brendan Kirby quotes a former Alabama Republican State Chairman Marty Connors pointed to the GOP’s failure to produce on its promises as a determining factor:

“If you go to any watering hole in suburban Alabama or rural Alabama, everybody is very, very angry at Washington and they are blaming Republicans, which is the rise of Roy Moore in this race. Had tax reform had been passed two or three months ago, this would not have been an issue. If Obamacare had been repealed, this would not have been an issue.”

Hmmm, maybe that Barnett feller at Georgetown has a point!

PROCUREMENT: A newly completed comprehensive Navy analysis says producing more Virginia-Class attack submarines on a much faster timetable is “achievable” and necessary.

The Navy report, titled The Submarine Industrial Base and the Viability of Producing Additional Attack Submarines Beyond the Fiscal Year 2017 Shipbuilding Plan in the 2017–2030 Timeframe, was delivered to Congress on July 5, 2017, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

The current or previous status quo had been for the Navy to drop from building two Virginia-Class boats per year to one in the early 2020s when construction of the new Columbia-Class nuclear armed submarines begins.

The completed study, however, maintains that the Navy and industry can produce two Virginia-Class boats and one Columbia-Class submarine per year, increasing the current plan by one Virginia-Class boat per year.

Navy leaders have consistently talked about an expected submarine shortfall in the mid 2020s and that more attack submarines were needed to strengthen the fleet and keep stay in front of near-peer rivals such as Russia and China.

Maintaining a two-per year Virginia Class build-rate will help the Navy reach its goal of 66 SSNs, as identified in the December 2016 Force Structure Assessment, Navy officials added.

The Virginia-class attack boats have been a rare procurement success story for the Navy this century. The most recent boat completed — the USS South Dakota — was christened back in October. And even though it was built with new “acoustic superiority” technology and other innovations, was delivered on-time and on-budget.

AFTER LAST NIGHT’S UNFORCED DEFEAT, RANDY BARNETT OFFERS A SOLUTION FOR THE GOP THAT’S SO CRAZY, IT JUST MIGHT WORK:

D.C. MCALLISTER OFFERS HER TAKE ON REALITY AND RELATIONSHIPS: Can We Be Honest About Women? Here’s a little secret we have to say out loud: Women love the sexual interplay they experience with men, and they relish men desiring their beauty.

Women want to be desired by men, to attract them, to be the only woman in the world for that man. Their beauty is an essential part of their allure, especially when men and women first meet. They have little else to go on because they don’t know each other, and beauty serves as a guidepost to greater interest.

Outside of a woman looking for a mate, her beauty is a source of power because men and other women value it. This is why married women still want to be beautiful. It’s an expression of their femininity, which doesn’t disappear at the altar.

We don’t need studies to bear this out, though we do have them. A recent Pew Research study says society values physical attractiveness in women the most. Nurturing and empathy are second. The top traits most valued in men are morality and professional success. In other words, men want women who are attractive and emotionally connective, and women want good men who are financially successful.

Read the whole thing.

BRIDGET JOHNSON: Transgender Military Recruits to be Accepted in New Year Per Court Orders.

Meanwhile, Bridget’s unexplained and unacknowledged Twitter banishment remains unexplained and unacknowledged by Twitter management.

I HAD BEEN ASSURED THIS KIND OF THING NEVER HAPPENED: Firms reach $7.8-million settlement over allegations of selling fetal tissue.

Prosecutors opened an investigation into the companies in September 2015 after a complaint was submitted by Irvine-based Center for Medical Progress. The anti-abortion group gained national attention in 2015 after releasing a video showing Planned Parenthood affiliates discussing the sale of aborted fetuses.

In October 2016, prosecutors filed a complaint against the companies in Orange County Superior Court alleging unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices.

The lawsuit accused the companies of illegally selling cells from fetal brain tissue for up to $1,100 per vial from 2009 to 2015, prosecutors said. Fetal tissue and cells were sold to pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions in Japan, China, Singapore, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada and the United Kingdom, authorities said.

Furthermore, “DV Biologics LLC and sister company DaVinci Biosciences LLC, both based in Yorba Linda, must cease all operations in California within 60 to 120 days.”

CHANGE: Trump Poised To Set Record In Appeals Court Judges.

Senate Republicans are set to confirm three more of President Donald Trump’s appeals court picks this week, a push that will help set a record for the most such appointments in a president’s first year in office.

The Senate is expected to confirm Steve Grasz for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, and James Ho and Don Willett for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, over the objections of Democrats who question whether they can be unbiased.

That would mean at least a dozen Trump appointees would join the nation’s appeals courts — which have the last word in all but the 100 or so cases that the Supreme Court decides each year — in his first year in the White House. That comes in a year the Senate also confirmed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch in April.

Compare that to Barack Obama, who successfully appointed three appeals court judges in his first year in office in 2009, as well as Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Obama followed up with 13 appeals court appointments in his second year in 2010. Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy successfully appointed 11 appeals court judges in their first year in the White House.

“Each of these nominees will make strong additions to the federal bench and I look forward to considering them in the coming days,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday.

There are currently 17 vacancies on the nation’s 13 appeals courts, with seven nominees pending, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

You should give Mitch McConnell credit for speeding these through. And Harry Reid, too!

THE MOST 2017 HEADLINE EVER (EARLY WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 13 EDITION): North Korea Hacks Bitcoin Exchanges Attempting To Steal Amid Bubble Warnings.

ALLIES: Turkey Places Bounty on Two Former U.S. Government Officials.

A bounty of three million Turkish lira, or nearly $800,000, was placed on the heads of former Pentagon official Michael Rubin and former top CIA official Graham Fuller for what Erdogan’s allies claim is their role in a 2016 failed coup that nearly toppled Erdogan’s ruling government.

Both Rubin and Fuller have been vocal critics of Erdogan’s, often publicly highlighting his widespread corruption. Rubin, in particular, has been in constant conflict with Erdogan, who once filed a lawsuit against the former Pentagon official in a bid to silence him.

The Turkish prosecutors office has issued arrest warrants for both Rubin and Fuller.

Current and former U.S. officials who spoke to the Free Beacon about the situation called allegations that Rubin and Fuller played any role in the coup attempt “absurd,” and said the bounty is part of a larger effort by Erdogan to silence dissent against his government across the globe.

Some also criticized the State Department for doing very little to combat Turkey’s threats on former American officials.

Erdogan’s government has threatened and intimidated several prominent Americans in recent years and is currently holding hostage U.S. citizens who his government claims played a role in the failed 2016 coup.

What to do? The Turkish military’s size, strength, and location makes it NATO’s southern and Middle Eastern pillar, but the country’s political leadership is increasingly retrograde and even hostile.

THE HILL: Senate Dem warns of lack of diversity in AI engineering.. Priorities!

WE DON’T HAVE TO HANDICAP OURSELVES TO MAKE THEM HAPPY:  Europeans Endorse GOP Tax Plan.

THIS IS MY SHOCKED FACE:  Strzok-Page texts show hatred of Trump by the two ex-Team Mueller members.

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