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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Surveying our political wreckage, Bill Maher observes that the culture of the American presidency under Trump is coming to resemble the kind of backward dictatorships that we used to despise (and most of us still do), with surging nepotism, corruption, pomposity, and authoritarian tendencies. Topping it all off is the absurdly exaggerated praise routinely heaped upon the president by courtiers and other toadies, which increasingly sound like the mad encomiums to the “Dear Leader” that have long made North Korea an object of world ridicule.

To mark this decline in national dignity, the HBO host has established a new “Ass-Kisser of the Month Award.” You won’t be surprised by the runners up — including Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro and former campaign functionary turned lobbyist Corey Lewandowksi — or the winner, who currently works in the White House. But it’s still funny to watch these already debased personalities grovel before their orange idol. (With Jim Vandehei of Axios Media, Rebecca Traister of New York magazine, and former New York governor Eliot Spitzer.)

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Attorney General Merrick Garland

The coming weeks will be the most consequential of Merrick Garland's life — not just for the attorney general himself but for our country. Garland will have to decide, presumably with the support of President Joe Biden, how to address the looming authoritarian threat of former President Donald J. Trump and his insurrectionary gang. His first fateful choice will be how to deal with Stephen K. Bannon, the fascism-friendly, criminally pardoned former Trump senior adviser who has defied a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the events of Jan. 6.

That panel has issued a contempt citation of Bannon, which will reach the floor for approval by the full House early next week. When that resolution passes, as it assuredly will, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will ask the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to open a prosecution of Bannon, which could ultimately cost him a year behind bars and a fine of $100,000. (Trump won't be able to deliver a pardon, as he did last January to save Bannon from prison for defrauding gullible Trumpists in a "build the wall" scheme.)

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By Lisa Richwine and Bhargav Acharya

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A union that represents about 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers in film and television reached a tentative deal with producers on Saturday, averting a strike that threatened to cause widespread disruption in Hollywood, negotiators said.

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