I took a week off from writing this column over the Thanksgiving holiday. This time of year is typically slow in political circles, and it was obvious to me that Democratic wins in the midterm election would continue to accumulate. (And they have!)
These aren’t typical times, however. My morning meander through the media looking for topics, seemed like more work than trying to make a choice from one the many excellent New Orleans restaurant menus I viewed last week.
Rather than make a choice, I’m offering up a buffet today in the hope you’ll discover something you might not have seen before.
(Another) Trump administration figure proves to be a worthless scumbag. President Trump’s secretary of labor, Alexander Acosta, who’s reportedly on a short list for Attorney General position, is the focus of a Miami Herald investigation into how billionaire Jeffrey Epstein avoided most of the consequences for years of sexually exploiting underaged women.
Investigations into how Epstein assembled a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day, by local, state and federal authorities all just disappeared.
Acosta, who at the time was the U.S. attorney in Miami, allowed the billionaire’s defense attorneys the participate in crafting a plea bargain.
Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.
The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.
As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims. As a result, the non-prosecution agreement was sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls — or anyone else — might show up in court and try to derail it.
It’s been speculated Epstein’s nasty business may have included well-known celebrities and politicans, including Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Based on what I read in the Miami Herald piece, that part of his activities will never see the light of day. But it is possible some the more than 80 victims identified by the paper may get their day in court.
You can lead Donald Trump to facts, but his big brain won’t let him understand. The President gave the Washington Post twenty minutes of
ranting an interview.
Trump on climate change: “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers. You look at our air and our water and it’s right now at a record clean.”
Meanwhile, asked Tuesday about the findings of the nearly 1,700-page climate report the administration released on Black Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders echoed her boss.
“We think that this is the most extreme version and it’s not based on facts,” Sanders said of the National Climate Assessment. “It’s not data-driven. We’d like to see something that is more data-driven. It’s based on modeling, which is extremely hard to do when you’re talking about the climate. Again, our focus is on making sure we have the safest, cleanest air and water.”
Asked to name three EPA policies that are contributing to cleaner air, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler struggled to answer.
“I’m not sure I’m going to be able to give three off the top of my head,” he said.
— David P Gelles (@gelles) November 28, 2018
Make salads great again. The government has narrowed down the source of romaine lettuce responsible for this year’s e coli outbreaks to California’s central coast. So if your salad mix comes from Yuma–last year’s likely source– go ahead and toss that Caesar.
You should know, however, there will be another round of green leafy sickness. And another one after that.
Laura Clawson at Daily Kos explains:
The lettuce is being contaminated by dirty water, and stronger regulations could fix that. “Regulations,” however, is a dirty word to the Trump administration, and, in a familiar story, the Obama Food and Drug Administration had put in place a rule requiring water-testing by growers, only to have the Trump FDA roll it back for at least the next four years. What’s at stake?
While postponing the water-testing rules would save growers $12 million per year, it also would cost consumers $108 million per year in medical expenses, according to an FDA analysis.
Seriously, to save businesses $12 million a year, Trump is costing regular people $108 million a year—and to those dollar costs, add the suffering of people who’ve been gruesomely ill. Add the five deaths from the Arizona romaine contamination last spring. The dollar amounts are disproportionate enough—$12 million to $108 million, FFS—but this is also about people’s lives. And the Trump administration does not care.
If you aim at the queen, you’d best not miss. The so-called insurrection in the House of Representatives against Nancy Pelosi is over. Although the actual vote on who will be speaker isn’t until after the new Congress is seated, it’s a done deal.
Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce has praise for the savvy of newly elected progressives and a few choice words for the backers of this waste of our time.
The whole challenge, of course, was an attempt by the well-funded corporate gnomes of the Third Way, and No Labels, and the Problem Solvers Caucus—which is notable in political history for never having solved a single problem—to defang the new Democratic majority before it really gets rolling even in the mildest leftward direction…
The man pulling the strings here was political and corporate consultant Mark Penn:
Mark Penn is the Typhoid Mary of bad political strategy. He is the Patient Zero of terrible political ideas. This guy couldn’t get Jesus elected to a parish council. That he was involved in this cabal is only slightly less surprising than the fact that, because he was involved in it, it augured in after only a couple of weeks…
And finally, because it’s not over until it’s over:
The centrist gooning is not yet over. There’s yet another letter circulating among Democrats who flipped districts in 2018, and demanding the kind of institutional changes that will make Pelosi less effective as a Speaker of the House—in which capacity, these people don’t seem to understand, she is under no obligation to “reach across the aisle,” or whatever else they find in their Joe Lieberman Starter Kits this Christmas.
Cadet Bone Spur is having a meltdown. Perhaps it’s finally Mueller Time. My prediction: the indictments/report will make Trump even crazier. Consider the following, retweeted by the President earlier today:
— The Trump Train 🚂🇺🇸 (@The_Trump_Train) November 28, 2018
Countdown to The End. Friday, December 14, will mark the end of this version of the San Diego Free Press, along with this column.
I have been asked about my future plans, and the answer is: I’m still figuring it out. So if you or your organization have a niche for my talents, this would be a good time for us to talk. firstname.lastname@example.org