The Slatest
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Nov. 20 2017 1:31 PM

Report: H.R. McMaster, Like Rex Tillerson, Has Said Privately That Trump Is Real Dumb

Remember when NBC reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had called Donald Trump a “fucking moron” during a meeting in which the president was not involved, triggering a process of escalating stupidity that culminated in Trump challenging Tillerson to an I.Q. test that sadly did not ever take place? Well, going by a report by BuzzFeed’s Joe Bernstein, it looks like national security adviser H.R. McMaster wanted a piece of that action:

Over a July dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz—who has been mentioned as a candidate for several potential administration jobs—McMaster bluntly trashed his boss, said the sources, four of whom told BuzzFeed News they heard about the exchange directly from Catz. The top national security official dismissed the president variously as an “idiot” and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner,” the sources said.
A sixth source who was not familiar with the details of the dinner told BuzzFeed News that McMaster had made similarly derogatory comments about Trump’s intelligence to him in private, including that the president lacked the necessary brainpower to understand the matters before the National Security Council.
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Both Oracle and the National Security Council are denying BuzzFeed’s report. On the other hand ... H.R. McMaster is a respected author who has a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, and POTUS’ thoughts on geopolitics look like this:

BuzzFeed’s report is plausible.

Nov. 20 2017 12:31 PM

New York Times Suspends Glenn Thrush While Investigating Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

The New York Times has suspended White House correspondent Glenn Thrush after allegations of sexual misconduct toward young female reporters.

The allegations against Thrush, one of the paper’s star reporters, were detailed in a piece published by Vox on Monday. In the article, Vox’s Laura McGann, the site’s editorial director who worked with Thrush when the two were at Politico, wrote about a personal incident five years ago in which Thrush allegedly started kissing her at a bar and later spread rumors that she had come onto him instead. She also reported that three other female journalists, all in their 20s, had allegedly experienced similar incidents and felt they could not challenge such a respected figure in the field.

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McGann published text messages between the 50-year-old Thrush and the friend of a 23-year-old woman who said she had been left “in tears” after resisting Thrush’s advances after a colleague’s going-away party in June. In the messages, the friend confronted Thrush, who apologized but said he had “spent the better part of 20 years advocating for women journalists.” He also said he "got drunk because [he] got some shitty health news" but needed to “be more understanding of the power dynamics in casual situations.”

In another instance, a young Politico staffer in the winter of 2012–2013 said she and Thrush wound up drunk and at her place after a Politico going-away party and that she stopped him and reminded him he was married. A third woman told McGann that after a 2013 Politico party, Thrush “suddenly ... leaned in and landed a wet kiss on her ear.”

McGann wrote that in her own case, Thrush had no formal power over her. “But he was an incredibly influential person in the newsroom and in political journalism, a world I was still trying to break into in a meaningful way at the time,” she wrote. “Thrush, just by his stature, put women in a position of feeling they had to suck up and move on from an uncomfortable encounter.”

In a statement, Thrush apologized “to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately” and that “[a]ny behavior that makes a woman feel disrespected or uncomfortable is unacceptable.” He also disagreed with McGann’s version of events between them and said the June incident in which he left a young woman in tears “was a life-changing event” and that he was “deeply sorry.”

The New York Times suspended Thrush pending an investigation. In a statement, the newspaper’s senior vice president of communications said the “behavior attributed to Glenn in this Vox story is very concerning and not in keeping with the standards and values of the New York Times” and that they “support his decision to enter a substance abuse program,” according to Vox.

Thrush is the fifth major media figure to face allegations during the recent weeks. Political journalist Mark Halperin lost a book deal and was shunned by TV news networks, NPR editorial director Michael Oreskes resigned, Vox Media editorial director Lockhart Steele was fired, and prominent fomer New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier lost funding for a new magazine.

Nov. 20 2017 11:25 AM

Border Agent Who May Have Been Attacked Dies in West Texas

A border agent in West Texas died Sunday morning of injuries sustained "responding to activity while on patrol," U.S. Customs and Border Patrol announced in a statement. Authorities have not yet said how 36-year-old Rogelio Martinez was hurt, but Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and a border agents' union official have suggested he was physically attacked.

Martinez' partner is reportedly still hospitalized in serious condition; the pair were working in the CBP's Big Bend Sector some 100 miles east of El Paso when they were injured. The last border agent who appears to have been killed during patrol was Nicholas Ivie, who died in 2012.

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Martinez was a native of El Paso.

Nov. 20 2017 10:28 AM

Woman Accuses Al Franken of Groping Her While Posing for Photo

A second allegation against Sen. Al Franken emerged Monday, this time from a woman who has accused Franken of grabbing her buttocks while taking a photo in 2010, according to a report from CNN.

The allegation follows an article published Thursday in which Leeann Tweeden, a radio news anchor in California, wrote that Franken forcibly kissed her in 2006. She also provided a photo showing Franken apparently groping her while she slept. Franken issued an apology, but he has still faced calls for him to resign and a potential ethics investigation.

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On Monday, CNN reported that 33-year-old Lindsay Menz from Frisco, Texas, told the network after Tweeden’s announcement that she had her own “uncomfortable” interaction with Franken.

Menz said in 2010 she went to the Minnesota State Fair with her husband and father and met various officials and celebrities while there, as her father’s business was sponsoring a local radio booth. Franken had been elected to the Senate in 2008.

When she met Franken, she said she had a short exchange with the senator and lined up with him to take a photo. According to CNN:

Franken "pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear," Menz said. "It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek."
"It wasn't around my waist. It wasn't around my hip or side. It was definitely on my butt," she said, recalling that the brazen act lasted three or four seconds. "I was like, oh my God, what's happening."

She said she didn’t say anything to the senator but later told her husband and father soon after, as the two men confirmed to CNN.

Franken said in a statement to CNN that he did not remember the incident and that he felt “badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected."

Nov. 20 2017 9:15 AM

Famed Cult Leader Charles Manson Has Died at 83

Charles Manson, the leader of a murderous cult behind the gruesome 1969 killings of actress Sharon Tate and six others, died Sunday at age 83 of natural causes, according to a press release from the California Department of Corrections.

Manson, who has remained one of the most famous murderers of the past 50 years and a constant source of public fascination, died in the hospital in Kern County, California, after serving most of his life in prison.

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Before the murders, Manson had espoused an erratic ideology that drew on anti-authoritarianism and hippie culture, racial animosity, Scientology, the biblical end times, and Hitler’s writings, and included a belief that an apocalyptic race war called Helter Skelter—named after a Beatles song—was coming. By the summer of 1969, Manson had accrued a small cult following in what became known as the Manson family, composed primarily of young women from middle-class backgrounds.

On Aug. 9, 1969, three of Manson’s followers slaughtered the pregnant actress Sharon Tate, who was then married to the director Roman Polanski, at her home, as well as an heiress to the Folgers Coffee fortune, a celebrity hairdresser, a Polish movie director, and a friend of the estate’s caretaker. The next night, his followers stabbed to death a wealthy grocer and his wife. Manson and his followers believed the murders would hasten the race war, according to prosecutors.

Manson and the involved followers were convicted on several counts of murder and sentenced to death, but before their sentences could be carried out, the California Supreme Court ruled the death penalty to be illegal. Manson remained in prison for the rest of his life, and he always maintained he hadn’t ordered the murders and felt no guilt, according to the New York Times. Three of his followers remain in prison.

According to the Associated Press, Manson has no known next of kin, and the California Department of Corrections doesn’t yet know what will happen with the body.

Nov. 19 2017 6:39 PM

Bills Quarterback Nathan Peterman Ties Keith Null for NFL Record. (It's a Record for Being Bad.)

Tyrod Taylor had a rough game last Sunday. Going against an excellent Saints team, the Bills’ normally solid quarterback passed for 56 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. It was the worst game of his career, but rather than let him bounce back against the Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo coach Sean McDermott made a befuddling and awful move, deciding to start rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman in Taylor’s place on Sunday.

Taylor is not a bad quarterback. He was a huge part of the Bills’ 5-4 start, which put them in the thick of the playoff hunt. Peterman, meanwhile, can proudly say that he led the Bills back from a 47-3 deficit to a 47-10 loss against the Saints after Taylor was benched. That’s the extent of Peterman’s NFL career. To sit Taylor after a single bad game was, in a word, stupid. Wait, let’s give it two words: insanely stupid.

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When McDermott announced the switch on Wednesday, he said he was “impressed” by Peterman’s “maturity,” calling the move a “calculated risk.” It now joins history’s other notable calculated risks, including invading Russia in the wintertime and giving Chevy Chase a talk show.

In the first half against the Chargers, Peterman threw for 66 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions in leading the Bills into the locker room down 37-7. He tied the Rams’ Keith Null for most interceptions thrown by a player in his first start, a record set in 2009. I would advise Peterman not to check the trajectory of Null’s career from that point forward.

We saw some bad quarterback play on Sunday, but this was the Mona Lisa of incompetence under center. Heck, it was the entire Louvre. There is really no explanation as to why McDermott kept sending Peterman back out there. Perhaps two billionaires had made a wager that they could turn a street urchin into a starting NFL quarterback, and McDermott had to at least wait until halftime to see the bet out?

Throughout that nightmare first half, the Twitter account of Mike Rodak, ESPN’s Bills reporter, became a Peterman tracking service, alerting disbelieving readers each time the quarterback ran onto the field, and informing us all about just how just loudly the traveling Buffalo fans booed him when he did.

Five interceptions is a lot. For reference, over the first nine games of the season, Taylor had thrown only three. That’s pretty good! I bet the Bills wished they had a quarterback like that.

In conclusion, McDermott managed to aggrieve his starting quarterback, destroy the confidence of the rookie backup, and perhaps throw away his team’s playoff chances, all in one fell swoop.

Taylor replaced Peterman for the Bills’ first offensive series of the second half, but he was joined on the field by hundreds of horses who had escaped before McDermott could shut the barn doors at the StubHub Center.

Peterman, meanwhile, attempted to return to his home planet.

Nov. 19 2017 5:24 PM

Trump Tweets “I Should Have Left Them in Jail” About UCLA Basketball Players Arrested in China

President Donald Trump’s caudillo-like insistence on injecting himself into all aspects of American life continued on Sunday morning, when the president of the United States made another gallingly unnecessary tweet, this time about the legal case of three UCLA basketball players who had been briefly held in China on the suspicion of shoplifting. One of the three freshman players involved in the incident was LiAngelo Ball, brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball and son of professional father, LaVar Ball.

Trump, shockingly, was aggrieved that he wasn’t getting more appreciation for helping facilitate their release from the country (aka doing his job).

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The UCLA players were on a team trip to China to play a game against Georgia Tech when they were arrested on Nov. 7 on suspicion of stealing a pair of sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store as well as items from two other high-end stores near the team hotel in Hangzhou. The incident escalated quickly and the players’ passports were taken and their travel restricted by Chinese authorities. The players missed the team’s game with Georgia Tech in Shanghai and were forced to remain behind in China to deal with the fallout of the charges even after the rest of the team returned to Los Angeles.

President Trump said he raised the players’ case with China President Xi Jinping while on his Asian tour earlier this month. The players returned home to the U.S. on Tuesday. By Wednesday, Donald Trump managed to be pre-emptively offended that he wasn't being sufficiently feted.

During a Wednesday press conference, the teenage players, themselves, issued apologies for their behavior and thanked everyone involved for helping to resolve the matter and bringing them home, including President Trump. “I’d also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provided as well,” LiAngelo Ball said. All three players were suspended from the Bruins basketball team indefinitely.

That seemed to please our leader who took a pass at dishing sage, almost father-like tweet advice.

LaVar Ball, who has made a name for himself as a professional talker while attempting to build a brand around his three basketball playing sons, was in China during the week-long incident. It’s not totally clear what the exact circumstances of the players’ release were, and when asked about the president’s role, Ball told ESPN Friday: “Who? What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

Ball’s comments, while not particularly gracious given the circumstances, once again proved no slight is too small to pierce the president’s thin candy shell. Sunday’s tweet from the president of the United States calling out Lavar Ball by name somehow seemed like a foregone conclusion. And, in the end, that’s surely exactly what Ball wanted.

Nov. 19 2017 4:26 PM

Quarterback Statistics That May or May Not Be Referenced in Pending Grievances

In October, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL. He and his lawyer argue that team owners are colluding to keep Kaepernick out of the league. It’s a coordinated effort, the grievance alleges, to punish a player who protested performances of the national anthem throughout the 2016 season.

In a statement, Mark Geragos, Kaepernick’s lawyer, said, “Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance…Colin Kaepernick’s goal has always been, and remains, to simply be treated fairly by the league he performed at the highest level for and to return to the football playing field.”

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In order to win the case, NFL team owners will have to convincingly prove that Kaepernick simply doesn’t belong on an NFL roster due to his abilities (or, more appropriately, lack thereof). Their argument will be: we don’t need Colin Kaepernick.

In somewhat related news, here are a few quarterback stat lines from Sunday’s early slate of games. Evidence, if you will, of the fact that these players are on NFL rosters.

Jay Cutler: 6-12, 83 yards. 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions.

Brett Hundley: 21-36, 239 yards. 0 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble, 0 points scored.

DeShone Kizer: 16-32, 179 yards. 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 3 fumbles.

Eli Manning: 19-35, 205 yards. 0 touchdowns. (Including overtime.)

Alex Smith: 27-40, 230 yards. 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions. (Including overtime.)

Surely going unmentioned by the aggrieved party will be the quarterback statistics from Sunday’s inexplicable Blaine Gabbert-Tom Savage shootout in Houston. Theoretical physicists, however, will spend decades studying the game tape, struggling to explain what exactly happened there.

Nov. 19 2017 1:34 PM

How to Rescue Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell's Relationship

The NFL is in the midst of a palace drama deserving of its own PBS mini-series. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is reportedly doing everything in his power to undermine and hamstring commissioner Roger Goodell, just as Goodell is angling for a lucrative contract extension. According to ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham, Jones has pledged to “to make Goodell's life miserable.”

The reporting of Van Natta Jr. and Wickersham (as well as ESPN's Chris Mortensen) has been so revealing that one can only assume they have all been shrunk down in order to eavesdrop from within the fibers of the league office’s carpeting. According to their ESPN The Magazine story, tensions between Goodell and Jones arose after the commissioner doled out a six-game suspension to Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott in response to a domestic violence investigation. When Goodell informed Jones of the decision over the phone in August, the Cowboys owner reportedly shot back, ”I’m gonna come after you with everything I have…If you think [New England Patriots owner] Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p---y compared to what I'm going to do."

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The two were thick as thieves until Goodell’s handling of the Elliott affair. For years, Jones had been one of Goodell’s most reliable backers, and his sway helped Goodell rise to the position of commissioner in 2006. Goodell returned the favor by supporting Jones’ efforts to build a lavish, $1.3 billion stadium. Despite all this, their love story has come to a tumultuous end. Jones has fervently (and effectively) fought the Elliott suspension in court, but he hasn’t stopped there. Now, he’s going after Goodell’s job, and it has taken a toll on the commissioner. According to the ESPN story, “[Goodell’s] face has changed due to relentless stress; it is now sallow and lined and tired.”

Other team owners have been forced to take sides, and the league is “teetering on an all-out, unprecedented civil war.” If Goodell and Jones can’t patch things up, there’s no telling what could happen to the NFL. In order to “protect the shield,” it is imperative that these two warring parties do the sensible thing and Google “how to rescue a bad relationship.”

WikiHow, the internet’s freest and most animated advice network, has some tips. On their “How to Rescue a Relationship” page, they suggest that you first “decide if you are both committed to saving the relationship” and then “consider the reasons why you are still together with your partner.” The latter is obvious: Goodell and Jones are together to manufacture leverage against the players in order to maximize profits for team owners, who then pass along their thanks to the commissioner in the form of an embarrassingly rich contract.

If WikiHow’s sensible guidance isn’t satisfactory, Goodell and Jones would be well served to consult Yahoo Answers, which is like an advice column crowdsourced by deviant illeterates. There, a user asks, “Should I break up with my girlfriend? She doesn't work and I would be lucky to get sex 2 times a week.” The top-rated answer should give the quibbling Goodell and Jones a lot to chew on:

“u expect that without commitment? maybe she will be the one looking for someone who really loves her...u are lucky...think about that”

Think about that, gentlemen. As a wise sage once wrote, “u are lucky.”

Nov. 19 2017 12:46 PM

New Orleans Elects First Woman Mayor in City’s 300-Year History

Voters in the city of New Orleans elected City Council member LaToya Cantrell as mayor Saturday, the city’s first woman to be elected mayor in its 300-year history. A woman was already assured to be in the mayor’s office, as Cantrell, a Democrat, took on another female Democrat in Judge Desiree Charbonnet in the run-off to replace departing mayor Mitch Landrieu. Cantrell won with 60 percent of the vote.

Katrina was a theme in the backstory of both candidates. Cantrell moved to the city from California. Her work as a neighborhood activist in the aftermath of Katrina in the hard-hit Broadmoor neighborhood helped her win a seat on council in 2012.
Charbonnet, from a well-known political family in New Orleans, was the city’s elected recorder of mortgages before she was a judge. In the campaign she made a point of saying hers was the first city office to re-open after Katrina, providing critical property records to the displaced.
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Cantrell will take office with a few questions surrounding her political career that still need to be answered. During the race, the 45-year-old faced criticism from the Charbonnet campaign over her City Council credit card usage. “Some of Cantrell’s spending remains unexplained, particularly the usefulness of her international travel,” the Times-Picayune reports. “The Louisiana Legislative Auditor is investigating all City Council credit card spending, which has totaled more than $400,000 since 2013.”

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