The Jury Talks Back

2/18/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 80: “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:00 am

It is the first Sunday in Lent. The title of today’s cantata is “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God). The cantata was written for Reformation Day, but that won’t fall on a Sunday until 2021, and I can’t wait that long to give you one of Bach’s best-loved cantatas. And as we will see, the text relates nicely to today’s Gospel reading — and many congregations will be singing the Martin Luther hymn today that is the basis of the cantata. Listen to Bach’s cantata and rejoice:

The most recognizable iteration of the melody, from Luther’s hymn, is contained in the final chorale at 23:20 of the recording.

Luther is said to have uttered these words: “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” These words ring true to me, especially because musical works — Bach’s cantatas in particular — have played a primary role in bringing me back to the church.

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 1:9-15, and describes Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan:

The Baptism and Testing of Jesus

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Jesus Announces the Good News

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Last week’s Gospel reading concerned the Transfiguration of our Lord — another milestone of Jesus’s life, and another one where a voice came from the heavens, proclaiming that Jesus is God’s son. We have already heard verses 9-11 this church year, on the first Sunday after the Epiphany, but now we carry on the story to Jesus’s temptation and the proclamation of good news.

The text of today’s cantata is available here. The theme of fighting Satan is also apparent in this cantata, making this an appropriate cantata for the occasion. The opening chorus speaks of God being a fortress against “the old, evil enemy … and his horrid armaments”:

Our God is a secure fortress,
a good shield and weapon;
He helps us willingly out of all troubles,
that now have encountered us.
The old, evil enemy
is earnestly bent on it,
great strength and much deceit
are his horrid armaments,
there is nothing like him on earth.

A recitative proclaims God’s victory in “the war against Satan’s host”:

Only consider, child of God, that such great love,
which Jesus Himself
with His blood signed over to you,
through which He,
in the war against Satan’s host and against the world and sin,
has won you!
Do not make a place in your soul
for Satan and depravity!

I have given up both alcohol and chips for Lent — a double sacrifice that I’m sure we can all agree is very close to spending 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan! OK, maybe not quite — but close, right?

I’ve been criticized for bringing you only Bach in these Sunday posts. I’m going to continue to present Bach cantatas, but I’ll give you some other music when it relates — and today is a perfect example, because one of my favorite composers, Felix Mendelssohn, used the same Martin Luther hymn as the basis of the fourth movement of his “Reformation Symphony”:

The entire symphony is available there for you to listen to, but I have set it up to begin at the fourth movement, so you can hear the stirring melody used in Bach’s cantata. It begins in the flute, spreads to other woodwinds, and is gradually taken up by the full orchestra. At 27:42, there is a stirring rendition of the theme to close the symphony. The symphony was labeled Mendelssohn’s Fifth, but was actually his second, and is not performed nearly often enough.

If you’re interested in hearing a beautiful performance of Luther’s hymn sung in English, there’s this performance by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.

UPDATE: A commmenter explains the meaning of the Arabic letter in the video, as to which I was previously ignorant:

The Arabic letter is a “nun,” for “Nazarene.” ISIS militants spray-painted it on the homes of Christians to mark them for terror and then seizure of their property. Some Westerners have adopted it as a symbol of solidarity.

Gorgeous.

Happy listening!

UPDATE x2: If you don’t have time to listen to anything else, make sure to listen to the duet at 19:12. It is one of the more beautiful passages Bach wrote — and that’s saying something.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

2/17/2018

Happy Blogiversary to Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 6:00 am

Today is a milestone of sorts. This blog (well, the main site, anyway) began 15 years ago today, on February 17, 2003. I was 34 years old. I turn 50 later this year. My daughter had recently had her third birthday, and my son was four months old. Now my daughter is an adult. She can vote. My son is 15 and almost old enough to drive.

A lot of you have been around an awfully long time. I appreciate every reader and commenter (OK, most of them) — especially the longtime readers.

Thanks for reading, and spread the word!

2/16/2018

Who Is Indicted Russian Oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, and What Are His Connections to Putin?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 3:45 pm

One of the key figures indicted by a grand jury in the Russia collusion investigation today is Yevgeny Prigozhin, the so-called “chef to Putin.” Who is this fellow, and what connections does he have to the Russian government, if any?

The question is important, because there are no specific allegations in the indictment showing that the Russian government was behind the efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. election decribed in the document. Still, the New York Times explains that “American intelligence agencies have said that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin authorized a multipronged campaign to boost Mr. Trump’s political chances and damage Mrs. Clinton. The indictment points out that the two Russian firms involved in financing it hold various Russian government contracts.” So Prigozhin’s ties to Putin, if any, are a significant component of any analysis of the extent to which Russian interference can be traced to the Kremlin.

It has been known since at least October 2017 that Prigozhin was the financier of a troll factory designed to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. For example, CNN reported last October:

Yevgeny Prigozhin is a Russian oligarch dubbed “chef” to President Vladimir Putin by the Russian press. In 2002, he served caviar and truffles to President George W. Bush during a summit in St. Petersburg. Before that, he renovated a boat that became the city’s most exclusive restaurant.

But his business empire has expanded far beyond the kitchen. US investigators believe it was Prigozhin’s company that financed a Russian “troll factory” that used social media to spread fake news during the 2016 US presidential campaign, according to multiple officials briefed on the investigation. One part of the factory had a particularly intriguing name and mission: a “Department of Provocations” dedicated to sowing fake news and social divisions in the West, according to internal company documents obtained by CNN.

Portraits from the past and emerging today show (unsurprisingly) an oligarch with very close ties to Putin. The New York Times today has a piece titled Meet Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian Oligarch Indicted in U.S. Election Interference. His ties to Putin as described in the piece are clear and convincing:

Mr. Prigozhin’s critics — including opposition politicians, journalists and activists, the United States Treasury and now Mr. Mueller — say he has emerged as Mr. Putin’s go-to oligarch for that and a variety of sensitive and often-unsavory missions, like recruiting contract soldiers to fight in Ukraine and Syria.

“He is not afraid of dirty tasks,” said Lyubov Sobol of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, an organization established by the prominent opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny to investigate abuse of state contracts and other illicit schemes.

“He can fulfill any task for Putin, ranging from fighting the opposition to sending mercenaries to Syria,” she said. “He serves certain interests in certain spheres, and Putin trusts him.”

Speaking of Navalny, his investigators revealed in May 2017 that the oligarch was earning billions in Kremlin-awarded defense contracts:

Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF) published its latest investigative work on Friday, revealing what it says is a cartel of businesses owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin and contracted by the Defense Ministry. Widely known as “Vladimir Putin’s favorite chef,” Prigozhin is a billionaire restaurateur with a history of catering to St. Petersburg’s elites and winning lucrative federal procurement deals. According to ACF, his cartel has won more than 23 billion rubles ($405 million) in defense contracts.

. . . .

ACF says its report concerns just one of Prigozhin’s cartels. According to Navalny, the billionaire operates several similar schemes that have won a total of 180 billion rubles ($3.2 billion) in Russian defense contracts, including multiple no-bid procurement deals.

Putin has definitely scratched Prigozhin’s back — and in setting up his troll factory, Prigozhin appears to have been scratching Putin’s in return. And the mission, according to the indictment, was to push Trump and Bernie Sanders — anybody but Hillary, Ted Cruz, or Rubio:

Indictment Language

So don’t get the idea that these were random Russians who were trying to influence our elections. This was the Russian government, acting through proxies. There is no other logical conclusion.

P.S. By coincidence, I posted this morning about Navalny and his anti-corruption investigations — and how Putin has managed to get Facebook to remove from Instagram some of the evidence supporting those investigations. My post was instantly lost in the welter of news about Mueller’s indictments, but I suggest you take a look at it. In particular, I discussed how Navalny recently provided compelling evidence that another oligarch tied to Paul Manafort, Oleg Deripaska, has met with and bribed Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko, a high-ranking Kremlin official with close ties to Putin. It has been known for months, through an email from Manafort, that Manafort had offered to give private briefings to Deripaska about the 2016 election. Navalny’s investigation suggests that those briefings actually used Deripaska as a conduit between Manafort and the Kremlin.

Thus, we may have evidence of a fairly direct link between Trump’s one-time campaign manager and the Kremlin, relating to the 2016 presidential election. This doesn’t mean Trump was tied to the Kremlin himself, of course — but the evidence is increasingly clear that his campaign manager was. I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this.

Vladimir Putin is the biggest oligarch of them all, and he uses other oligarchs (who owe their wealth to their ability to please Putin) to do his bidding. Again: there is no question but that the indictments issued today relate, not just to any random Russia operation to disrupt our election, but one directed by Vladimir Putin himself. If Russia cooperates in handing over these people for prosecution — in particular Prigozhin himself — I will be very surprised.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Facebook Caves to Putin Censorship — With Bonus COLLUSION Connection!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 10:30 am

If you don’t have your head up Donald Trump’s rear end, you know that Vladimir Putin, while nominally an elected official, is actually a feared dictator who censors his opposition (and, if he deems it necessary, kills them). What does Putin do when one of his rivals is exposing corruption based on material on a social media service like Facebook’s Instagram? Easy peasy: just tell Instagram to take it down. They’ll comply:

Facebook-owned Instagram has taken down posts related to bribery allegations made by Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny against the country’s deputy prime minister.

Navalny, who is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest rival, posted a video on YouTube earlier this month, that showed metals oligarch Oleg Deripaska allegedly meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko on the billionaire’s yacht in Norway.

In the video, Navalny used Instagram posts from a woman called Nastya Rybka, who he claimed to be an escort. Rybka was on the yacht with both Deripaska and Prikhodko. The 25 minute video, which has been watched over 5 million times, claims that bribery took place.

The Wall Street Journal has described Navalny as “the man Vladimir Putin fears most.” While this video is primarily about a corrupt oligarch and a Putin official, and not primarily about Putin himself, Facebook would presumably be willing to take down anything Putin told them to remove, including posts promoting Navalny as a candidate. Anything to keep those sweet sweet rubles coming in.

Social media giants operate in many countries located all over the world, not just in the United States. Governments everywhere have a penchant for trying to censor stuff they don’t like, but here in the U.S., there are systems to thwart that natural government desire. Not so much in places like Russia or China. Google and Facebook are still inaccessible in China, and the price of coming back is bowing to their laws promoting censorship. They may well be willing to pay that price.

The situation creates a tension between the companies’ desire (to the extent it exists at all) to avoid censorship, and their desire to spread their services far and wide, in service of their pocketbook and shareholders — and arguably also in service of access to information. A 2016 article in the Atlantic describes the tension, and the arguments in favor of following local laws:

Google’s move to pull the plug in China is an extreme example of the kinds of decisions Internet companies operating abroad are often up against: If they want to do business, they have to abide by local laws, which can include restrictions on speech. And since the United States has some of the most permissive freedom-of-speech laws in the world, American companies must adapt in order to do business even in parts of the world that are culturally very similar to the U.S.

Western European countries, which receive top marks from Freedom House for online openness, are far less tolerant than the U.S. of hateful speech and images. In Germany, where distributing swastikas is considered hate speech and is illegal, regulators recently investigated a complaint that Facebook was not adequately enforcing national hate-speech law. But it’s inconceivable that Facebook would close down its service in Germany just because the government asks for more censorship than the First Amendment would permit.

In countries with more repressive governments, companies routinely receive requests to take down a much wider range of content that violates local laws. In Russia, for example, speaking ill of public officials can lead to costly libel suits; just across the Black Sea, “insulting Turkishness” is punishable by fines and jail time.

There are a few things that companies can do to push back against censorship-happy governments without losing access to an entire country.

Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, says companies should generally submit to governments’ requests for censorship, if it means they can keep delivering their services. But when they take down content from their platform, Rowland says, the company must be transparent.

“If these companies do whatever they’re capable of doing to publicize that their content is being screened, monitored, and sometimes censored by governments, I think there’s a really good argument that maintaining a social-media presence is inherently a liberalizing force,” Rowland said.

I see Rowland’s point, but I’m skeptical. At a certain point, following local laws becomes immoral. What if local laws required promoting the ideology of ISIS and removing any material that questioned their murderous view of Islam? It’s also worth noting that Rowland’s rationalization for obeying censorship laws has the side benefit of earning the social media companies a lot of cash.

Here, Facebook can point to the fact that a Russian court has issued an injunction against the video: “Deripaska won an injunction against the video after a local court ruled that the video had violated his privacy rights.” But Russian courts dance to Vladimir Putin’s tune, and judges often literally call the Kremlin to ask what their decision will be. Russian courts also participated in the phony criminal cases against Bill Browder and the deceased Sergei Magnitsky, but that doesn’t mean Interpol has to obey the red notices issued pursuant to those farcical proceedings.

BONUS COLLUSION CONNECTION: One interesting side note in the story about Navalny: the YouTube video that is at the center of the firestorm is still online. It’s wildly entertaining, actually — and not just because of the attractive women in skimpy clothing. Navalny tells with flair the story of how they caught Prikhodko (or “Daddy,” as Nastya Rybka calls him). They really got the goods on the guy, and it’s a joy to watch the proof rain down on Prikhodko’s head.

And here’s an angle that will be interesting to those following the Trump-Putin connection, and enraging to those who casually dismiss it. The video ends by reminding us that Deripaska, the oligarch who showered gifts on Prikhodko, was also paying one Paul Manafort for years — and Manafort offered to give Deripaska private briefings about the campaign. Knowing that Manafort was so intimately tied with an oligarch who we now know was bribing a top Putin official is fascinating, even for someone like me who is skeptical of the collusion narrative.

Navalny shows the viewer video of a CNN reporter running around asking Deripaska whether the briefings offered by Manafort were intended for the Kremlin. But, Navalny says, this was unconvincing at the time — because no direct connection had been shown between Deripaska and Putin, other than the usual closeness Putin would necessarily have with any oligarch. But here, Navalny says, we have a much more direct and close link between Deripaska and the Kremlin — and therefore, potentially, between Manafort and Putin … just around the time Donald Trump was accepting the GOP nomination.

Hmmm.

You can watch the video below, with subtitles. Google hasn’t taken it down.

Yet.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

2/15/2018

Amid The Terrible Stories Of A School Shooting, A Story Of A Hero

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:15 am

The tragedy that occurred yesterday at a high school in Parkland, Florida is hard to process. Someone who would shoot and kill high school students is surely the worst humanity has to offer. I won’t speak the shooter’s name. He doesn’t deserve it. But one man’s name deserves to be spoken and remembered: Aaron Feis, who saved several students as he sacrificed himself:

Football coach Aaron Feis threw himself in front of students as bullets hailed down Wednesday at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It would become perhaps the final act undertaken by this assistant coach and security guard, who suffered a gunshot wound and later died after he was rushed into surgery, according to the school’s football program and its spokeswoman, Denise Lehtio.

“He died the same way he lived — he put himself second,” Lehtio said. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”

Initially it looked like Feis might make it, but it was not to be:

RIP. May we all keep his example in our minds today.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

2/14/2018

Teacher Who Accused American Troops Of Being “Lowest Of The Low” Refuses To Step Down From City Council

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 12:25 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Remember Pico Rivera councilman and high school history teacher Gregory Salcido? He was recently seen on a secretly recorded video being so triggered by a student, who is the son of a combat veteran, wearing a U.S. Marine Corp sweatshirt in his classroom that he berated the student and disparaged the U.S. military as a result:

They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people; they’re the frickin’ lowest of our low… I don’t understand why we let the military guys come over here and recruit you at school. We don’t let pimps come in the school.

Last night, during a City Council meeting where overflow seating was necessary, members passed a resolution asking for Salcido’s resignation from the Council. He declined to step down. Here is his childish, conditional faux-apology, in which he assumes no responsibility for his actions:

If this situation caused a problem, I certainly do apologize for it. If anything I’ve said has hurt somebody it was unintentional.

After seeing the video go viral, after being placed on administrative leave from his classroom, after angry residents congregated both outside and inside of the chamber and at least 50 castigated Salcido for three hours at last night’s council meeting, there can be no doubt in a reasonable man’s mind – and an honest man’s heart – that, not only did he cause a problem, but he also hurt many families who have lost loved ones while serving, and certainly offended the young man who wore a sweatshirt honoring his dad’s service, and in whose footsteps he plans to follow. Clearly, Salcido knowingly disparaged the U.S. military at large as well, thus offending any number of Americans. If Salcido were really this dense, he wouldn’t belong in a classroom. But obviously, he knew exactly how deeply offensive he was being in the classroom, but it didn’t matter to him. In his book, it was mission accomplished. Which makes him unfit for the classroom for an entirely different reason.

Here is his weak-soup offering made last night :

[Salcido] addressed the meeting, saying that since the videos became public, people have threatened to kill him, rape his wife and leave his son an orphan.

“And for what? For what you expressed out here tonight? That said, the first thing that I think is important here is to apologize if it means something though,” he said.

But he also reiterated, more diplomatically, what he said in the classroom: that he thought students with lower academic standing typically end up in the military.

“I don’t think it’s all a revelation to anybody that those who aren’t stellar students usually find the military a better option … that’s not a criticism of anybody. Anything I said had nothing to do with their moral character,” he said.

“I do believe the military is not the best option for my students.… That does not mean I’m anti-military, because I’m not,” he said.

Salcido also claimed that “he was trying to get his students, most of whom are low-income minorities, not to settle for the Army or Navy. “My goal as it relates to my students is to get them to do everything to get to college,” said Salcido, who was shouted down by some angry members of the audience. “I wanted to challenge them to reach their academic potential.””

Salcido also claims to be a pacifist.

A recall petition has been started. He continues to remain on administrative leave from his teaching job.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

Judging Trump by the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:30 am

I often hear these days about how conservative Donald Trump is. I’ll grant you that, so far, he’s been more conservative than I expected. Much of that is the flag-waving I-love-a-parade brand of conservatism that doesn’t excite me much, but a sizable chunk is real conservatism: almost (almost) uniformly excellent judges, reduction of regulation, etc. Notably, so far — as long as he doesn’t get us into a stupid war — his policies have been a clear improvement on what we would have gotten from a Hillary Clinton. Especially if you can ignore his clownish public statements, pathological dishonesty, and wretched character, and focus only on what he does, you can be pretty happy with what we’ve seen. (Of course, what the President says matters — but I’m getting ahead of myself.)

But amid all the praise for the guy, here’s the thing. We’re kinda giving him a pass, even on policy, because we expected so little. It’s like when the kid with the dunce cap gets a question right: it warms your heart and everything, but it doesn’t really make the dunce smart. Put another way: if you have two kids, and one gets straight A’s, and the other fails all of their classes and does drugs, you’re disappointed when the first kid gets a B, while that same B would make you wildly ecstatic with the performance of the other kid. When the latter sort of expectation becomes ingrained, it can lead you to what George W. Bush memorably called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

So I’d like to take a moment to point out two ways in which Donald Trump is objectively horrible: 1) the debt, and 2) his support for dictators.

THE DEBT

I’m not sure it has quite sunk in for everybody just how awful the recent spending bill was. Here’s a synopsis:

Republican lawmakers in 2011 brought the U.S. government to the brink of default, refused to raise the debt ceiling, demanded huge spending cuts, and insisted on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.

On Wednesday, they formally broke free from those fiscal principles and announced a plan that would add $500 billion in new spending over two years and suspend the debt ceiling until 2019. This came several months after Republicans passed a tax law that would add more than $1 trillion to the debt over a decade.

With all these changes, the annual gap between spending and revenue in 2019 is projected to eclipse $1.1 trillion, up from $439 billion in 2015. And they are expanding the deficit at an unusual time, when the economy is growing and unemployment is low, a dynamic that often leads to shrinking budget gaps.

Ah, but that’s all Congress’s fault, I hear you say. Not so fast, Sparky! Trump’s proposed budget, released since the are all on him, and they are wretched as well. He just got through proposing that we add $7 trillion to our debt:

The White House budget request would add $984 billion to the federal deficit next year, despite proposed cuts to programs like Medicare and food stamps and despite leaner budgets across federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr. Trump’s budget statement calls deficits the harbingers of a “desolate” future, but the White House plan would add $7 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

Trump could have been a strong voice for fiscal conservatism and threatened to veto anything that added to the deficit. He has been the opposite. Our children will pay the price.

PRAISE FOR DICTATORS

I said up top that if you can ignore what Trump says, and “focus only on what he does, you can be pretty happy with what we’ve seen.” Criticizing his praise for dictators might seem to be at odds with that — but it’s not. First, what the President says always matters. Any president receives outsized news coverage, and Trump gets his share, to put it mildly. But especially in foreign affairs, what he says matters. And Trump loves to praise dictators.

Trump’s man-love for Vladimir Putin is well known, and need not be recounted here. Never mind the murders of journalists — which Trump enables by denying the proof. Never mind the political repression and corruption. We love us that Russian strongman!

But the praise and back-slapping of dictators doesn’t end with Putin. There’s the praise for Duterte’s murderous tactics, from May 2017:

President Trump praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines in a phone call last month for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” in the island nation where the government has sanctioned gunning down suspects in the streets.

Xi has made himself a virtual emperor and heads a repressive society that is perhaps the greatest threat to the U.S. He jails journalists and political opponents, and censors information with a vengeance. Trump says of Xi: he is a “very good man.”

Similarly, Trump praises al-Sisi and Erdogan without restraint or caveat. I could go on.

Much of this gets defended as good diplomacy. You want us to get along with other countries, don’t you, Patterico? Well, sure … but the U.S. has always walked a fine line when it comes to oppressive regimes. We want to get along, but we have always tried to keep human rights in mind, and send a signal that we disapprove of abuses. All that is out the window when you are openly applauding the extrajudicial murder of drug dealers.

Yes, we have some good judges and maybe regulations have been eased a bit. But the kid in the dunce cap isn’t a genius. Let’s tone down the praise to bring it in line with reality.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

2/13/2018

Trump’s Lawyer: Yeah, I Paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:30 pm

Stormy Daniels 600px

Gee, whatever for? She told us there was no affair!

Maggie Haberman at the New York Times has the scoop:

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, said on Tuesday that he paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to a pornographic-film actress who had once claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump.

In the most detailed explanation of the 2016 payment made to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, Mr. Cohen, who worked as a counsel to the Trump Organization for more than a decade, said he was not reimbursed for the payment.

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Mr. Cohen said in a statement to The New York Times. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on this payment last month, but this is the first we’ve heard that Cohen was involved. Haberman says that, according to Cohen’s statement, he gave a similar answer to Common Cause after they “filed a complaint saying that the payment, which was made through a limited liability company that Mr. Cohen established, was an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign.”

But no such thing happened. And Cohen never expected to get anything in return.

He just gave $130,000 to a porn star for … who knows what reason. And that is what happened, and stop asking questions about it. The End!

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Congratulations to Leviticus on His New Daughter

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:23 pm

Longtime commenter Leviticus tells me the following information about his new daughter:

She was born yesterday, by the way, at 1:42 am (Sunday morning). By all indicators, she is a very healthy, very enterprising little baby girl. My wife did an amazing job, and is recovering well.

Our daughter’s name is Shirley Beatrix M. We’re smitten with her.

So her birthday was February 11 — just three days after my own daughter turned 18.

Upon my request, Leviticus supplied the following information as well: “She was 6 lbs 8 oz, and 19 1/2 inches.” People always want to seem to know that.

Several of you have expressed a desire to contribute to Leviticus on behalf of his daughter. I thought about setting up a GoFundMe, but they really do take a huge bite. If you PayPal me at patterico@gmail.com and specify that the money is for Leviticus, I will see to it that the money gets to him. Choose the option for sending money to friends or family, since that’s what you’re doing, and PayPal won’t deduct a cent.

After a week or so, I plan to do a post announcing the total and the donors. If you want your gift completely anonymous, let me know. If you want your gift anonymous for purposes of the post, but known to Leviticus, let me know that too. If you don’t specify, you’re fair game for both.

I feel a weird sort of proprietary interest in Leviticus. I feel like I have watched him grow up on this blog. He can feel free to correct me on any of this, but the oldest comment I can find from him is from September 11, 2006 — more than 11 years ago. I’m not sure how old he was but I want to say he was in college. He seemed precociously smart, principled, and feisty. I like to believe he learned something at this blog about interacting with people, about people with opposite political views, and about maturity. Whether we can take any credit or not, he has certainly matured and has become one of my favorite commenters here. I hope to meet him, his wife, and young Shirley one day. In any event, let’s come together and show the family that we’re a real community here.

Thanks, and once again, congratulations to Leviticus. A little girl will change your life.

Obama’s Official Portrait Unveiled, Sean Hannity Makes Claim of “Inappropriate Sexual Innuendo”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 7:31 pm

[guest post by Dana]

The official portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle were unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery yesterday. Certainly reactions to the non-traditional renderings have run the gamut from something brilliant, to something not brilliant.

Here are their portraits:

Untitled

Untitled2

You can read several interesting perspectives about the artists, Kehinde Wiley (President Obama) and Amy Sherald (Michelle Obama) and their work here and here. Over at the National Portrait Gallery’s website, you can search for previous president’s and their wives’ portraits here. It’s a great website.

And proving once again that anything Obama still makes certain corners of the internet go batcrap insane, Sean Hannity tweeted this bit of madness:

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In the tweet, he linked to a post at his website entitled: PORTRAIT PERVERSION: Obama Portrait Features ‘SECRET SPERM,’ Artist Joked About ‘Killing Whitey,'” once again reminding the public that he has long since gone over the deep end of conspiracy lunacy, and continues to trawl the toxic, mucky waters of Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Things just aren’t always exactly what they appear to be, or what partisan hacks need them to be:

The evidence for the former claim comes from a 2008 New York Times article—conveniently not “fake news” when it supports Hannity’s agenda—that reports Wiley’s portraits “initially depicted African-American men against rich textile or wallpaper backgrounds whose patterns he has likened to abstractions of sperm.” Hannity’s piece includes a close up of a vein in Obama’s forehead in the portrait that someone on his “staff” apparently thinks looks sperm-like.

It appears that the whole “sperm” theory originated on—where else?—4chan, where a thread was posted on Monday proclaiming, “Official Portrait of Obama has SPERM on his face!!!” That post just happened to include the same close up of Obama that Hannity used on his site.

As for the “Kill Whitey” part, that dates back to a quote Wiley gave New York magazine in 2012 about a painting in which a black woman holds the severed head of a white woman in the style of Biblical depictions by artists like Caravaggio. In other words, art.

Specifically:

“Women have always been decorative,” Wiley says, gesturing at the portraits around him. ‘They’ve never been actors or possessed real agency.”

Which brings us back to the lady with the severed head. Like most Wiley paintings, this one has a backstory: Her name is Triesha Lowe, Wiley explains. She’s a stay-at-home mom whom Wiley found at the Fulton Mall. Her pose is a riff on classical depictions by Caravaggio and Gentileschi, of the biblical story of Judith beheading Holofernes. And the severed head? “She’s one of my assistants.”

Several hours later, Hannity deleted his tweet and the post at his website. He offered this explanation:

Earlier today my web staff posted content that was not reviewed by me before publication. It does not reflect my voice and message and, therefore, I had it taken down.

You’re a great American, Sean. Don’t ever change!

–Dana

“May I Touch You Here?”: Is The #MeToo Movement Emasculating Men?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:00 am

That’s not a headline I would have thought to write yesterday, or the day before that. But each new day brings a new revelation, doesn’t it?

Flash-forward a few months, and Knight, a 25-year-old Washingtonian, is sleeping with someone new. He is asking “Can I touch you here?” “Can I do this?” every step of the way, and his partner wants to know what is with all the questions. She prefers a more proactive approach.

Knight is well-prepared to date in the #MeToo era. He has completed a two-month discussion class on how to reject toxic masculinity. He still has his “Consent is sexy” T-shirt from freshman year of college. He has thought about how men have the power in courtship, and with that, the ability to abuse it. So when he meets a woman while out at a bar, rather than ask for her number and potentially make her feel pressured to give it, he will give her his number and wait for her to text.

Is it right to blame the movement? After all, this guy sounds like the sort of unreconstructed dweeb who will just never have sex, right? But the article actually opens up with an anecdote in which the poor fella does have sex, and the anecdote helps to explain where his testicles went:

Over the summer, Geoffrey Knight is in bed with a woman he is dating. He puts his hand on her breast, and she swats it away. “You need to ask before you touch me,” he recalls her saying. Knight apologizes, saying he had assumed it was okay because they had just had sex.

“You should never make that assumption,” she retorts.

Holy schnikes. It reminds one of the woman in the Aziz Ansari story, who repeatedly believed that she had sent subtle cues to suggest to Ansari how uncomfortable she was with his attempts to have sex — but muddied her message by voluntarily undressing with Ansari and fellating him more than once. Taking such silly behavior seriously apparently turns men into consent-seeking robots, offering signed contracts of consent to women who just disrobed.

None of this is to say that the #MeToo movement is not legitimate or that there is not an obvious, huge, widespread problem with men making unwanted sexual overtures and contact. There quite obviously is. But the New Norms that are being enforced by the more radical proponents of #MeToo have no effect on the men who are the real problem — while in their most extreme form they emasculate men who are trying to do right to begin with, as the quoted passages above show.

As such, these social regulations are like so many other attempts to control behavior by the left: they target the wrong people. It’s reminiscent of gun control. The thug gang members who shoot rivals on the streets couldn’t care less about your rules, while the responsible gun owners are often far too hampered by them.

As usual, leftists ruin everything with their rules, when all that is needed is a healthy dose of common sense.

P.S. Thanks to Allahpundit for the pointer on Twitter to this article, by the way. Easily half of my blog ideas come from his Twitter feed. If I thanked him every time my post was inspired by something he flagged, that’s all I’d ever do.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

WaPo Columnist Demands Apology From Writer For Calling Out Media’s Fawning Over Murderous Regime

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 7:35 am

[guest post by Dana]

As both JVW and Patterico have pointed out, there was a shameful display of adoration made by Big Media professionals over Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong at the Olympic Games this past weekend. While gushing about a “charm offensive,” many members of the media willed themselves to happily ignore the true nature of the now-dubbed “Ivanka” of North Korea, as well as the totalitarian state itself. It was an easy white-washing because Trump.

It’s unfathomable that people who should know better have behaved like adolescents in the throes of some newly discovered crush. It’s especially disturbing given what we know the brutal regime dishes out to its people on a daily basis. The brutal regime that includes Kim Yo Jong:

Critics also highlighted Kim Yo Jong’s senior role in a regime accused by a United Nations inquiry of systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

Last January, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted her along with six other North Korean officials for “severe human rights abuses” and censorship that concealed the regime’s “inhumane and oppressive behavior”.

”Among the upper class in Pyongyang, she is a frightening presence,” because of her relationship with her brother, said An Chan-il, a former North Korean military officer who now runs a think tank in Seoul.

But by all means, let’s try to normalize that which is foul and grotesque by fawning over a woman who is as brutal and craven as is her brother. An oppressor of the people, by any means necessary.

With that, writer Bethany Mandel exposed herself as an Insensitive Monster of the Worst Kind by accurately called out Big Media’s insanity:

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Enter Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, who huffed and puffed and demanded Mandel apologize for calling North Korea “the most brutal regime in human history”. Of course Weingarten, being the pompous gasbag that he is, conveniently chose to miss the spot-on point Mandel was making, and instead childishly pivoted – and proved her point:

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The exchange continued:

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When it was pointed out to Weingarten that it was at least arguable, he shut that down, “It is not arguable. Please.” Please, indeed.

Exactly to whom Mandel is supposed to apologize is unknown. And Weingarten is obviously a classic example of the person who opens his yap and removes all doubt….

Comparing degrees of evil intentionally misses the point. But of course, Weingarten knows that. Or maybe he missed this:

Under the rule of Kim Jong-Un, North Korea remains among the world’s most repressive countries. All basic freedoms have been severely restricted under the Kim family’s political dynasty. A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry found that abuses in North Korea were without parallel in the contemporary world. They include extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence. North Korea operates secretive prison camps where perceived opponents of the government are sent to face torture and abuse, starvation rations, and forced labor. Fear of collective punishment is used to silence dissent. There is no independent media, functioning civil society, or religious freedom.

Perhaps if he took some time to read his colleagues’ work, he would not be so quick to reveal himsel a fool:

North Korea’s political prisons are just as bad as — and perhaps even worse than — the Nazi concentration camps of the Holocaust, a renowned judge and Auschwitz survivor has concluded after hearing from former North Korean prisoners and guards.

Thomas Buergenthal, who served on the International Court of Justice, is one of three jurists who have concluded that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should be tried for crimes against humanity for the way his regime uses brutal political prisons to control the population.

“I believe that the conditions in the [North] Korean prison camps are as terrible, or even worse, than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps and in my long professional career in the human rights field,” said Buergenthal, who was in Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen as a child, as well as the ghetto of Kielce, Poland.

Anyway, Mandel is supporting a campaign to rescue North Koreans. If you’d like to help, go here:

Your donation goes towards rescuing North Korean refugees who have managed to make it over the border into China. LiNK provides free passage over an underground railroad across China and Southeast Asia into freedom in South Korea, where North Korean refugees enjoy full citizenship.

–Dana

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