Welcome to the end o’ the week: Friday, December 9, 2022, and National Pastry Day. Here is a lovely pastry: a strawberry pie (not my photo), the speciality of Anna Miller’s in Honolulu, where I’ve had one:
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the December 9 Wikipedia page.
*Most important: WISDOM IS BACK!!!!, though without her mate. That probably means that, at 71, her chick-producing days are done (she’s the oldest confirmed-age bird in the world, and has fledged at least 30 chicks during her lifetime—about as many as Honey). We all love Wisdom! (Tweet from Matthew). She’s probably as old as I am.
The ageless Wisdom, with her well-known band number of Z333, was first spotted this nesting season on Thanksgiving Day.
Her long-time mate has yet to be seen and was absent last nesting season, too. Males typically return to the breeding site first. pic.twitter.com/C0jmpDEld5
— USFWS Pacific (@USFWSPacific) December 8, 2022
*I’m not exactly sure what it means to hold an “office” in contempt of court, but that’s what the Justice Department asked a judge to do to Donald Trump’s “office” (he and his lawyers?). The issue is their failure to return classified documents to the government.
In recent days, Justice Department lawyers have asked U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell to hold Trump’s office in contempt, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sealed court proceedings. But the judge has not yet held a hearing or ruled on the request, they said.
The request came after months of mounting frustration from the Justice Department with Trump’s team — frustration that spiked in June after the former president’s lawyers provided assurances that a diligent search had been conducted for classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago Club and residence. But the FBI amassed evidence suggesting — and later confirmed through a court-authorized search — that many more remained.
One of the key areas of disagreement centers on the Trump legal team’s repeated refusal to designate a custodian of records to sign a document attesting that all classified materials have been returned to the federal government, according to two of these people. The Justice Department has repeatedly sought an unequivocal sworn written assurance from Trump’s team that all such documents have been returned, and Trump’s team has been unwilling to designate a custodian of records to sign such a statement while also giving assurances that they have handed documents back.
What a bunch of weasels! It goes on:
The precise wording of the filing could not be determined because it remains under seal. Trump is under investigation for three potential crimes: mishandling classified documents, obstruction, and destruction of government records.
Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said the former president’s lawyers “continue to cooperative and transparent.” He added: “This is a political witch hunt unlike anything like this country has ever seen.”
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
The government will continue to get Trump held in contempt until somebody on the team takes responsibility for saying that all classified documents have been turned over. Nobody’s willing to do that. And if they don’t?
If the judge were to agree, the most likely scenario would be a daily fine until the demands of the contempt motion are met. How large of a fine, or who would be forced to pay it, would be up to the judge.
That’s ridiculous—no amount would be a hit to Trump’s pocketbook. I want someone behind bars!
*With the help of Republicans, a bill to protect same-sex marriage (mostly against Clarence Thomas and the Supreme Court) passed the House, and will soon become law. About damn time! This bill arose from remarks by the reprobate Clarence Thomas, who said in his opinion on the Dobbs abortion case that the court “’should reconsider’ precedents enshrining marriage equality and access to contraception.” WHAT? Contraception, too? These are already established precedents and he’d better keep the court’s hands off condoms, birth-control pills, and the like. Fortunately, the legislative branch acted quickly to protect same-sex marriage:
With a vote of 258-169, the landmark legislation cleared Congress, sending it to President Biden to be signed into law and capping an improbable path for a measure that only months ago appeared to have little chance at enactment.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the tally triumphantly, banging the gavel repeatedly as if to applaud as members of the House cheered.
It was the second time in five months that the House had taken up the Respect for Marriage Act. Last summer, 47 House Republicans joined Democrats in support of the legislation, a level of G.O.P. enthusiasm for same-sex marriage rights that surprised and delighted its supporters. That set off an intensive effort among a bipartisan group of proponents in the Senate — boosted quietly by a coalition of influential Republican donors and operatives, some of them gay — to find the 10 Republican votes necessary in that chamber to move it forward.
In the Senate, the legislation was revised to address concerns among some Republicans that it would punish or restrict the religious freedom of institutions that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. That version passed last month, forcing it back to the House for a second vote to approve the changes.
. . .The fact that the bill managed to attract decisive, bipartisan majorities in both the Senate and the House proves a significant shift in American politics and culture on an issue that was once considered politically divisive. Over the past decade, same-sex marriage has become widely accepted by members of both parties, and polls show that more than 70 percent of voters support same-sex marriage.
Still, the majority of Republicans remained opposed. During debate on Thursday, they argued that the measure was a response to a nonexistent threat to same-sex marriage rights, and condemned the bill as immoral.
Immoral? What planet are these people from?
*After ten months, basketball star Britney Greiner has finally been freed from custody in Russia (she was in a labor camp, sentenced to nine years of prison for bringing hash oil, for vaping, into the country). As I write, she’s on her way back to the U.S. and will be back by the time you read this. I’m sure she’s elated to be out of Russia.
It was of course a prisoner swap, and the U.S. had to trade a really bad actor for Greiner, whose “crime” was far more innocuous.
Brittney Griner, the American basketball star imprisoned in Russia, was released in an exchange for the convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, President Biden announced on Thursday. The trade ended 10 months of captivity for Ms. Griner, whose conviction on drug smuggling charges became an international cause, entangled in Russia’s deteriorating relations with the United States since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking from the White House with Ms. Griner’s wife Cherelle by his side, Mr. Biden said that he had spoken with Ms. Griner and that she would be back in the United States within 24 hours. “Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones — and she should have been there all along,” he said.
Here is what to know:
Russian officials refused to free another jailed American, Paul Whelan, despite “ceaseless efforts” by U.S. diplomats to include him in an exchange, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said. “While we celebrate Brittney’s release, Paul Whelan and his family continue to suffer needlessly,” Mr. Blinken said.
The trade freed Viktor Bout, one of the most notorious arms dealers of modern times, who earned the nickname “Merchant of Death” as he evaded capture for years. He was convicted in 2011 by a New York jury on four counts that included conspiring to kill Americans and sentenced to 25 years.
U.S. officials said Ms. Griner, 32, was flown from Russia to the United Arab Emirates, and there boarded a plane to the United States. Arrested in February at an airport outside Moscow for carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage, she had been convicted of drug smuggling and been transferred to one of Russia’s most feared penal colonies, where former inmates have described torture, harsh beatings and slave labor conditions.
The swap may have been an effort by President Vladimir V. Putin government to divert attention from Russia’s flailing war effort in Ukraine. In recent days, Ukrainian forces have struck military bases inside Russian territory with long-range drones, demonstrating their intent to bring the conflict closer to Moscow. On Wednesday, Mr. Putin acknowledged in a televised speech that Russians should expect a protracted war.
A fair trade would have been Griner PLUS Paul Whelan in exchange for Bout, but Whelan’s still in Russian custody, charged with espionage; and who ever said that Putin is fair? He knows that, to Americans, Griner is more valuable than Whelan.
*The Wall Street Journal doesn’t think much of the new Netflix series “Harry and Meghan,” about You Know Who, criticizing it for being one-sided and trying to make a name for the couple in the U.S. (Remember that they also did a self-serving interview with Oprah Winfrey not long ago; I guess I’ve turned that into a series). The first three episodes (of six) sound like a big pity party:
Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, stick to a familiar script in a new Netflix series that chronicles the couple’s estrangement from the royal family, chastising Britain’s media and the societal racism they believe has fueled coverage of their relationship.
The first three episodes of “Harry and Meghan,” released Thursday, dissect the symbiotic relationship between tabloid newspapers a nd the royal family and examine the history of racism across the British Empire, and how it persists.
The storytelling relies on interviews with the couple, their friends, and experts on race and the media. The series does not include dissenting voices, and there is no response from any of the media organizations mentioned.
. . . Promoted with two dramatically edited trailers that hinted at a “war against Meghan,” the Netflix show is the couple’s lat est effort to tell their stor y after a series of interviews with U.S. media organizations, most notably a two-hour sit down in 2021 with Oprah Winfrey.
The first three episodes break little new ground on royal intrigue, leading one British-based analyst to conclude that the main audience Harry and Meghan are trying to reach is in the United States.
The series is an effort by Harry and Meghan to cement their place in American society, where fame and riches await, says David Haigh, chief executive of Brand Finance, which has analyzed the monarchy’s value to the UK economy.
“They are trying to become the next Kardashian family. And they are using the fame and notoriety of the monarchy as their stepping stone to get there,” he said. “No one would take the remotest bit of interest in either of them if they weren’t strongly associated with the UK monarchy.”
That’s pretty harsh; has anyone seen it? Here’s one trailer:
*If you want a festive bottle of bubbly for the holiday season, the Wall Street Journal recommends five bottles for less thatn $40 (well, one is $44). Here they are:
Buying real French champagne at its usual inflated price (even $40 is above my psychological price barrier) should be done only if you have to impress fancy friends. Otherwise, I’d recommend looking for a good Spanish cava, a sparkling wine made in the same way as champagne. It can be very good (especially when dry), and is certainly less expensive than the wines above, though pricey cavas can be had.
You can find a guide to the wine here, and a “best value” cava list here (I’d recommend anything with the name Llopart on it (the family of my ex postdoc). The one listed for $42 is their top of the line, but any of their cavas are tasty and good value. For a pink one, recommend their Brut Rosé.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s passing judgment on life:
Hili: My opinion is that it’s not worth arguing with fools.A: Unfortunately, it’s not always possible.Hili: Yes, sometimes it complicates life.
Hili: Stoję na stanowisku, że nie warto spierać się z głupcami.Ja: Niestety, to nie zawsze jest możliwe.Hili: Tak, to czasem komplikuje życie.
From Peter: an oldie but a goodie from Gary Larson’s “The Far Side“:
From Masih; I don’t know if this is true, but it has been reported in the news.
Rulers of the Islamist regime in Iran are scared
4 high-ranking Iranian officials visited Venezuela in October to ensure regime officials will be granted asylum there if the regime collapses
Unity of dictators!
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) December 7, 2022
From Simon. Soccer fans will know what it means, but I think it means that Brazil has had more than its share.
— Out Of Context Football (@nocontextfooty) December 7, 2022
From Ken, who notes, “Ukraine is definitely winning the battle for hearts & minds.” Indeed! How cool!
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) December 5, 2022
From Malcolm. I’m so happy that both were rescued and adopted together:
A man found a goose that was shaking with cold in Montana. As he got closer he realized, wrapped up in her wings, was a puppy she was shielding from the freezing cold. We have so much to learn from animals.(The goose & the puppy recovered & were adopted together
Life With Animals pic.twitter.com/tJTi3ShXoR
— peace1 💙🇺🇸 (@peace1) November 29, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a reminder that you didn’t have to be Jewish or Roma to be imprisoned and perhaps killed. This is a lucky survivor.
9 December 1910 | A German, Kurt Brüssow, was born in Stettin (Szczecin). An actor.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) December 9, 2022
And another Auschwitz related tweet sent by Matthew. This man was very fortunate to have lived, though his entire family was murdered. He lives in the same town as Matthew!
Ike Alterman's entire family were murdered by Germans in the Holocaust. As a boy, he survived 4 concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and a death march, before settling in Manchester. Today aged 94 Ike tells his story to British schoolchildren.
— Stephen Uzzell (@StephenUzzell2) December 9, 2022
More from Professor Cobb, who says, for the first one, that he knows the tense but not what it’s called. There are some guesses in the thread.
— Nïck Brown🌻 (@sTeamTraen) December 7, 2022
An amphipod has found itself a cozy home inside a tunicate:
— Yuuki Niimi (@yniimi808) December 7, 2022
Yep, this is a real bird!
Potoos don't look real. pic.twitter.com/t91H0wXlbx
— Fascinating (@fasc1nate) December 6, 2022