Sunday Morning Open Thread: Fruits of the Season

When I was growing up in NYC, the “Man o Manischewitz” jingle was so much a part of the holiday season that I never realized other people might not have the same memories. The Spousal Unit (raised in rural upper lower Michigan) just wandered in to ask why I was playing old radio ads. But he remembered his elderly *very* respectable Midwestern Ohio grandmother back in the same time period, after being ordered by her doctor to drink a glass of wine every evening for her heart, using Manischewitz for that purpose. So the advertising must’ve had some outside-the-Northeast impact.

In hindsight, I suspect Manischewitz might’ve been the secret ingredient in quite a few of the alcoholic-enough-to-make-the-kids-tipsy fruitcakes baked by the local Italian nonnas. (My Irish neighbors weren’t much for baking; we had Italian bakeries and Jewish delis to supply our culinary shortfalls, which given the state of Irish-American cooking in those days was probably for the best.)

Manischewitz wine has long enjoyed crossover appeal. Last year, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about its popularity in Asian-American communities and in the 1950s and 60s it was also a popular wine in the African-American community

He says when Jews first arrived to New York they needed wine for most religious ceremonies and holidays.

“The only grapes that were available was something called the Concord variety of grapes. They’re not sweet,” he says. “So in order to make them palatable, they would make this very sour grape into wine and then they would add sugar.”

It turns out, the very, very sweet wine is just the right flavor profile for Bethel’s go-to Christmas drink, sorrel. In Trinidad, she says, it’s not Christmas without the fragrant drink made from hibiscus blooms…

I’m sure some of you sophisticated readers will have OPINIONS about black cake:


 



Falwell and the Pool Boy*

*(Alternate Title: Michael Cohen: Zelig for Scumbags)

So, while we wait for the next irruption of lethal folly from Dear Hairpiece, how’s about a little fun from the Evangelosphere:

The prominent evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. has for the first time acknowledged putting up $1.8 million for a business venture managed by a young pool attendant whom he and his wife befriended during a stay at a luxury hotel in 2012.

This story has been kicking around for a while:

BuzzFeed News first reported in May on a lawsuit that claimed the Falwells had developed a “friendly relationship” with Giancarlo Granda, then 21 years old, at the lavish Fontainebleau Miami Beach, flying him in a private jet, offering “financial assistance,” and ultimately setting him up in business. [All links in quotes are from the originals.]

“Friendly relationship” is a nice way of putting…whatever.

I got no problem with whatever connection either or both professional Christians and Mr. Granda may have.  But there is a sinner, stone and glass house problem here, and I’d say the good (Narr: he was not good) Mr. Falwell is up to his neck in “got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

What makes this all a bit more than the usual sexual fear-mongering-Christianist-hypocrite schandenfreudal moment is this. Falwell was famously the first major Talibangical leader to back Trump, giving him a venue at Liberty (sic!) University and a powerful endorsement.  This didn’t come out of the blue:  “Trump visited Liberty University Sept. 24, 2012, to give the convocation address.”

The timing was convenient:

Six months after evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife befriended a Miami hotel pool attendant in 2012, the young man was introduced to Donald Trump during a visit to the large religious school Falwell runs, Liberty University, according to a photograph sent to BuzzFeed News.

Guess who connects Falwell, the pool boy, and the failed president.

No prizes for guessing Michael Freaking Cohen.

Why was Cohen there? Turns out…

Cohen was an acquaintance of Falwell’s and helped arrange Falwell’s milestone endorsement of Trump during the 2016 election campaign, BuzzFeed News reported, citing a high-ranking official at Liberty University.

But not to worry:

As BuzzFeed News had previously reported, a source close to Falwell said he was “sure” Falwell had discussed the Granda case with Cohen prior to his unexpected decision to lend his backing to Trump. There is no evidence that these discussions played any part in the endorsement.

That’s their story, and I’d say they’d best stick to it.

Open thread!

Image:  William Morris Hunt, The Bathers, 1877

 



Secretary Mattis’s Resignation Letter: That’s Going to Leave a Mark!

Here’s Secretary Mattis’s resignation letter. Professional, polite, cutting.

If we’re very, very lucky we’ll get GEN (ret) Keane as the next Secretary of Defense. If we’re not, we’ll get Senator Cotton.

Edited to Add: I have never seen a Marine sign a letter without either “Semper Fi” or “S/F” over their signature. I have former Marine teammates from when I was at USAWC who finish their informal emails to me with “S/F”. This is a tell!

Open thread!



Breaking News: LTG Flynn’s Sentencing Is????

This morning’s sentencing hearing are not going well for LTG Flynn or his lawyers. Judge Sullivan, a jurist whose rise to the Federal bench would be impossible in today’s politics, is not amused!

Judge Sullivan started off displeased and moved to furious over the course of the morning’s hearing.

Also, Eli Lake is still an idiot and a useless idiot to boot:

Don’t lie to the FBI, its rude and upsets their feelings. Don’t have your lawyers play silly semantic games in their sentencing recommendation memos, its rude and upsets the judge’s feelings.

Unfortunately we are now doomed to three more months and dozens more posts at The Federalist; hot takes by Flynn’s conspiratorial minded supporters led by Flynn Jr, who is also a useless idiot; and Fox News hosts and commentators, like the Blue Footed Booby of Budapest (also a useless idiot) asking if Flynn was set up, if he actually committed a crime, if this is not part of the actual “real” investigation that will bring down the Deep State and the global pedophile ring they’re running.

Open thread!

Update at 1:15 PM

If anyone is interested, I’ve uploaded the Flynn 302s, which the Special Counsel’s Office released with redactions last night.

Flynn 302



An Answer to Adam Weinstein’s Question Regarding Mariia Butina

In Anne Laurie’s post earlier today, one of the embedded tweets is from Adam Weinstein. As is the case for those doubly blessed to be named Adam and from Florida, he asks an excellent question:

While Mig Greengard’s response below was good, I think there is, if not a better explanation/answer, a complementary one.

As some of you are aware, I have something of a hobby of staying current with the “armed intelligentsia”. This is a combination of two things. The first is they do really good gear reviews for outdoors equipment. The second is left over from my early, first career in academia where I did comparative research into domestic American extremists, contrasting them with those in other countries. These days I’m just largely interested in how Americans understand the history of and around the 2nd amendment and how it has changed over time. As I’ve indicated several times in comments, the best real history book on the topic is Saul Cornell’s A Well Regulated Militia. I also highly recommend his edited volume dealing with the history of modern American 2nd amendment jurisprudence. However, if you want to see what gun enthusiasts – from sport shooters to hardcore 2nd amendment absolutists – you need to read the comments. It may come as a surprise to some people reading this, but it is amazing what people will write and post as a comment when using a pseudonym. I know you’re all just shocked, shocked that such a thing could happen…

I’m not looking to pick a fight with anyone, but here are the links to the heaviest trafficked firearms website/blog on the Internet and how they covered Mariia Butina, her organization Right to Bear Arms, and gun rights/issues in Russia. Take a gander into the comments, do you notice anything? A lot of wishful thinking about how “the natural, civil, and constitutional” right to keep and bear arms might just be catching on and spreading to Russia. The truth is it isn’t. But what these comments tell provide us with an answer to Adam’s excellent question. It points us back to what Rick Perlstein wrote about several years ago in The Baffler (emphasis mine).

It would be interesting, that is, to ask Coulter about the reflex of lying that’s now sutured into the modern conservative movement’s DNA—and to get her candid assessment of why conservative leaders treat their constituents like suckers.

The history of that movement echoes with the sonorous names of long-dead Austrian economists, of indefatigable door-knocking cadres, of soaring perorations on a nation finally poised to realize its rendezvous with destiny. Search high and low, however, and there’s no mention of oilfields in the placenta. Nor anything about, say, the massive intersection between the culture of “network” or “multilevel” marketing—where ordinary folks try to get rich via pyramid schemes that leave their neighbors holding the bag—and the institutions of both evangelical Christianity and Mitt Romney’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And yet this stuff is as important to understanding the conservative ascendancy as are the internecine organizational and ideological struggles that make up its official history—if not, indeed, more so. The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.

The conservative movement, and the political party that it is currently attached to, have so closed their informational system – from what sources are acceptable to what information is automatically deemed incorrect – that they are basically propagandizing themselves at this point. They only speak to each other, whether it is on Fox News, talk radio, social media, comments sections, what have you; they have imbued the language and terminology of American civic discourse with a special meaning that only really makes sense to themselves; and, as a result, they are susceptible to a variety of grifts. Once you’ve convinced yourself that the real reason for the 2nd amendment was to explicitly enumerate the natural and civil right for self defense – against both individuals and the state – in order to protect and safeguard all the other enumerated and unenumerated rights, you’ve also made yourself susceptible to believing that everyone else should be doing this too. And so when a somewhat attractive young woman shows up and tells you that a movement to establish the right that you think is the most important is taking root in Russia, you’ve already set yourself up to buy into the con. Because all of the resources that would quickly disabuse you of this notion are outside of the informational sources that you have been conditioned to find acceptable, all of the actual information that could be used for a reality check is going to be ignored, if it was even looked for at all. This is why Ben Carson thinks the 2nd Amendment has something to do with the Holocaust. It doesn’t. It is why the “armed intelligentsia” is convinced that Israeli teachers are armed. They’re not. The reason that conservatives in general, and the 2nd amendment absolutist community in specific, fell for this Russian active measure is that like with so much else, they’ve conned themselves.

Open thread.



The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Continues Its Investigations of the President: Inauguration Fundraising and Spending Edition

For almost two years an important question has gone unanswered: what happened to all that money that was raised for the President’s inauguration? The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York is now officially seeking answers. (emphasis mine)

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations, people familiar with the matter said.

The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is in its early stages, also is examining whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions, some of the people said.

Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws. Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law.

The investigation partly arises out of materials seized in the federal probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s business dealings, according to people familiar with the matter.

In April raids of Mr. Cohen’s home, office and hotel room, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents obtained a recorded conversation between Mr. Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, who worked on the inaugural events. In the recording, Ms. Wolkoff expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money, according to a person familiar with the Cohen investigation.

The Wall Street Journal couldn’t determine when the conversation between Mr. Cohen and Ms. Wolkoff took place, or why it was recorded. The recording is now in the hands of federal prosecutors in Manhattan, a person familiar with the matter said.

The inaugural committee has publicly identified vendors accounting for $61 million of the $103 million it spent, and it hasn’t provided details on those expenses, according to tax filings. As a nonprofit organization, the fund is only required to make public its top five vendors.

The committee raised more than double what former President Barack Obama’s first inaugural fund reported raising in 2009, the previous record. 

Federal prosecutors have asked Richard Gates, a former campaign aide who served as the inaugural committee’s deputy chairman, about the fund’s spending and its donors, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Gates has met with prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office and special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

Mr. Gates, who served as deputy in the inaugural fund, in February pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. involving foreign political consulting work unrelated to the campaign. The case was brought by Mr. Mueller’s office. Mr. Gates agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department in ongoing investigations.

The committee was headed by Thomas Barrack Jr., a real-estate developer and longtime friend of Mr. Trump. There is no sign the investigation is targeting Mr. Barrack, and he hasn’t been approached by investigators since he was interviewed by the special counsel’s office last year, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller’s investigators, who are probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, asked Mr. Barrack only a handful of questions about the inaugural fund, the person said.

Mr. Mueller has also probed whether any foreign money flowed to the inaugural fund, which is prohibited from accepting foreign funds. In August, the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, on a referral from Mr. Mueller, obtained a guilty plea from a Washington consultant who admitted he used a U.S. citizen to serve as a “straw purchaser” so that a “prominent Ukraine oligarch” could attend the inauguration. The names were never disclosed.

Much more at the link.

I have been thinking my way through a post on Thomas Barrack for the past week, but today’s Wall Street Journal reporting has sort of forced my hand. Not only was Barrack the chair of the President’s inaugural committee, he appears to be a key central bridging node between a number of the Gulf Arab states, like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and useless idiot Jared Kushner. Barrack advises the Emirati Crown Prince, who is himself the mentor of the Saudi Crown Prince. And Barrack is the person who recommended Paul Manafort to the President for his campaign. Barrack is a key node, if not the key node, into and out of the foreign influence campaigns – from Russia to the Emirates to Saudi – and the Trump administration and campaign. Which is why Special Counsel Mueller has expanded his investigation into these other foreign contacts and connections with the President’s 2016 campaign, his transition and inauguration, and his administration. Specifically those from the Middle East.

We are off the looking glass and through the map.

Open thread!



David Clarke, Useless Idiot for Putin’s Active Measures Campaign and Flair Aficionado Extraordinaire, Once Again Decides to Promote American Sedition

Everyone’s favorite flair aficionado, plagiarist, former Milwaukee County Sheriff, and useless idiot in Vladimir Putin’s active measures campaign against the United States, has once again decided to share his deep and profound thoughts promoting American sedition.

You all may remember Sheriff Clarke from his paid for by Russia visit to Russia to meet with a number of Russian government officials as part of an NRA junket that was cover for Russia’s penetration of the NRA as part of its active measures campaign against the US. Here’s some pics to jog the memory:

(David Clarke arm in arm with Mariia Butina. Also pictured on the left former NRA President David Keene and Russian oligarch and organized crime leader Alexander Torshin)

(David Clarke sitting with Mariia Butina)

(David Clarke, Mariia Butina, and David Keene)

And exactly who was it that David Clarke and that NRA delegation was meeting with in addition to Torshin and Butina?

(David Clarke and NRA officials meeting with Russian officials)

December 8th is not the first time that Clarke called for armed rebellion to achieve the political objectives he supports.

As I wrote at the time:

You remember Sheriff Clark, the (sheriffs aren’t actualyl mentioned in the) Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officers Association Law Enforcer of the Year Award Winner? You know, the tough guy that tried to call in the Wisconsin National Guard about six weeks ago even though he was not the law enforcement officer in charge of what was happening in Milwaukee with demonstrations, protests, and riots? The actual officer in charge would be Milwaukee Chief of Police Edward A Flynn. And he had this to say about Sheriff Clarke:

“Nobody has got more to say about law enforcement and less to do with it,” Flynn said of Clarke, calling him a self-serving man who seeks “celebrity.”

Sheriff Clarke would be the tough guy that had an inmate die of thirst in the jail*, the oversight of which is one of his few actual primary responsibilities, because his subordinates specifically and purposely cut off water to the inmate’s cell – an inmate who was mentally ill.

So what is it that Sheriff Clarke actually does/is actually supposed to be doing? His actual jurisdictionis running the jail, providing security at municipal facilities, and patrolling a part of the interstate as it runs through Milwaukee County.

“By statute and by practice, the sheriff plays only a limited role as a traditional law enforcement agency,” Abele said in his budget remarks to the County Board on Sept. 29, 2011.

“For example, in 2009 the sheriff reported only 12 crimes to the FBI, compared to 41,000 for the City of Milwaukee and 3,200 for West Allis, and even 242 for the UWM Police Department.”

There are no unincorporated areas in Milwaukee County and each of these incorporated municipalities have their own police departments.

Last year, the administration of Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele released some eyebrow-raising statistics on the Sheriff’s Department, noting that:

  • Milwaukee is the state’s only county with no unincorporated area, meaning there are municipal police patrolling every part of the county. Besides Milwaukee, there are 18 suburban police forces in action.
  • In 2009, the sheriff reported only 19 crimes to the FBI, compared to 41,375 for the Milwaukee police, 3,288 for West Allis police, 1,908 for Wauwatosa and even 242 for the UW-Milwaukee police. That’s right, the UWM campus police handled 12 times more criminals than the Sheriff’s Department.
  • Just 10 percent of Sheriff David Clarke’s requested property tax levy was for police services. As Abele put it, “the sheriff plays only a limited role as a traditional law enforcement agency.”

The deputy sheriffs staff the Milwaukee County Jail and County Correctional Facility South (formerly House of Correction), handle the courthouse’s system of bailiffs, and patrol the freeways.

Earlier in the day he was complaining about how long it took his NICS check to go through so he could buy a new AR pattern rifle. Insinuating that this is not how law enforcement should be treated (because, you know, they’re not just citizens too or something).

In case anyone was wondering, NICS checks for gun purchases are done by the FBI – law enforcement genius!

It remains to be seen whether Butina’s plea agreement to fully cooperate will ensnare Clarke, but one can hope.

The documents describe Butina’s efforts to build ties with a “gun rights organization,” which has been identified as the NRA, and “Political Party 1,” which the document makes clear is the Republicans.

The documents confirms previous reporting that Butina helped orchestrate a trip by NRA members to Moscow in December 2015.

During the Moscow trip, she helped set up a meeting between prominent NRA members and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

After that meeting, the agreement said, Butina sent Torshin a message, which was translated as saying, “We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later.”

Clarke may want to spend a little less time spouting off on twitter and a little more time consulting with a high calibre attorney who specializes in national security matters.

Open thread!