The Ledes

Sunday, January 20, 2019.

Hill: "A fire Sunday morning in Northeast Washington, D.C., damaged studios for Fox News, C-SPAN and MSNBC, and forced 'Fox News Sunday' to relocate its broadcast to a local affiliate's studio. Washington, D.C., Fire and EMS tweeted that an electrical fire broke out in the 8th floor television studio, but that nobody was injured. Steve Scully, the political editor for C-SPAN, tweeted shortly after 7 a.m. that  the Fox News and C-SPAN studios sustained 'extensive damage,' and MSNBC's studio took on 'extensive smoke and water damage.'"

New York Times: "Heavy snowfall, high winds and a dangerous mix of rain and sleet were expected to hit swaths of the Northeast on Sunday, prompting officials to warn of icy roadways and power outages from a vast winter storm that had been pummeling the Great Plains and the Great Lakes. The storm, which complicated travel on Saturday and busted plans for the three-day weekend across much of the country, had already caused problems from Kansas, where the governor declared an emergency, to Chicago, where a United Airlines plane slid off a concrete surface. Flights have been canceled by the thousands, and rapidly dropping temperatures on Sunday in parts of the Northeast would freeze anything wet, creating 'extremely dangerous' conditions on the roadways."

USA Today: "John Coughlin, a two-time U.S. pairs champion who was suspended Thursday evening by the U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating, died Friday, according to a Facebook post from his sister.... Kansas City police confirmed Coughlin's suicide.... Coughlin, 33, was a fixture at skating competitions and rinks around the country as a coach, TV commentator and a rising star within both USFS and the International Skating Union, the sport’s worldwide federation.”

The Wires
The Ledes

Saturday, January 19, 2019.

AP: " Forensic experts attempted to separate and count charred heaps of corpses in central Mexico on Saturday after a massive fireball erupted at an illegal pipeline tap, killing at least 66 people. More than 85 other people on Saturday were listed as missing as relatives of the deceased and onlookers gathered around the scene of carnage. Just a few feet from where the pipeline passed through an alfalfa field, the dead seem to have fallen in heaps, perhaps as they stumbled over each other or tried to help one another in the moments after a geyser of gasoline shot into the air Friday. The leak was caused by an illegal pipeline tap in the small town of Tlahuelilpan, about 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of Mexico City, according to state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex."

Public Service Announcement

November 26: Washington Post: "Federal health officials said Monday that only romaine lettuce from certain parts of California is unsafe to eat and that romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled to give consumers information about when and where it was harvested. If consumers, retailers and food service facilities cannot determine whether the romaine was grown outside California, they should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one got sick, according to a lengthy statement from Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. FDA officials said the most likely source of contamination is from the Central Coast growing regions in northern and central California. Romaine lettuce harvested outside those regions 'does not appear to be related to the current outbreak,' the FDA said. Hydroponically grown and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be affected in the outbreak. Romaine from those sources is safe to eat, the FDA said."

... November 20: New York Times: "In a sweeping alert, federal health officials warned people not to eat romaine lettuce anywhere in the country, after 32 people in 11 states fell sick with a virulent form of E. coli, a bacteria blamed for a number of food-borne outbreaks in recent years. The notice, issued Tuesday afternoon by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said consumers should not buy or eat any kind of romaine, whether chopped or whole, and restaurants should stop serving it. Anyone who has romaine, the health agency said, should throw it out." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Okay then, guess I'll throw out that romaine. Already ate one head, and I ain't dead yet.

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If you're a shut-out Trump Shutdown victim tooling around the Internets with nothing to do today, let's assume that some day some time, Trump will de-furlough you and you can get back to work enthusiastically serving the American people in your appointed capacity. In case Trump has rendered you a bit rusty in the area of job skills, Conan here provides some useful tools that may help you get to work on time, even on casual Friday:

ABC News: "Breathtaking drone video of a pod of friendly, playful dolphins joining a surfer as he took to the waves near the coast of Ventura, California, is making the rounds on social media and bringing smiles -- and wow's -- to viewers. ABC station KABC-TV's meteorologist Kimi Evans met the drone's owner Craig Badger, who shared the footage, and spoke to surfer Alden Blair.... The video has been seen more than 3 million times on social media." ...

NBC Suits Are Such Geniuses. New York Times: "After a drawn-out negotiation period, NBC and Megyn Kelly have formally agreed to part ways. The network and the onetime cable news star reached a final agreement on Friday, nearly three months after she wondered aloud on-air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween. NBC and a representative for Ms. Kelly declined to reveal the details of the exit package. But according to two people familiar with the negotiations, Ms. Kelly was paid the outstanding balance on her contract, a figure that amounts to roughly $30 million. At the time of the separation, Ms. Kelly was in the middle of a three-year, $69 million contract with the network."

New York Times: "The Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the novelist MacKenzie Bezos announced on Twitter Wednesday that they are getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. In a statement posted on Mr. Bezos’s Twitter account, the couple said they had been separated for a long period of time, but planned to remain involved as 'parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects.' According to a 1999 profile in Wired, the two met when they both worked at D.E. Shaw, a New York-based hedge fund, before moving in 1994 to Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered. They have four children.... As is the case in any celebrity split, the financial details of the divorce are sure to be complicated despite the couple’s vow to “remain cherished friends.” According to Forbes, which publishes an annual list of billionaires, his net worth is estimated at $137 billion and he is the richest man in the world. While much of his wealth is tied up in Amazon stock, Mr. Bezos, 54, the company’s chief executive, is also the owner of several companies, including The Washington Post and Blue Origin, a space travel company."

Here's a list of the Golden Globe winners, via Market Watch. CNN has posted highlights on a liveblog & currently has a whole buncha links to related stories on CNN Entertainment. And if you're in it for the red carpet, there's this:

New York Times : "Archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved, 4,400-year-old tomb of a royal priest and his family in Egypt, in a 'one of a kind' find, the Egyptian authorities announced on Saturday. The tomb was unearthed in Saqqara, a city south of Cairo and a vast necropolis from ancient Egypt. The discovery dates from the rule of Neferirkare Kakai, the third king of the fifth dynasty of ancient Egypt, according to Khaled al-Anani, Egypt’s minister of antiquities. The fifth dynasty governed for less than two centuries, from 2,500 B.C. to about 2,350 B.C., according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tomb had remained untouched, said Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s supreme council of antiquities, according to Reuters."

"The Christmas Comet Returneth." New York Times: "Look into the night sky on Sunday [December 16] and you just might see a bright, fuzzy ball with a greenish-gray tint. That’s because a comet that orbits between Jupiter and the sun will make its closest approach to Earth in centuries, right on the heels of this year’s most stunning meteor shower. 'The fuzziness is just because it’s a ball of gas basically,' Tony Farnham, a research scientist in the astronomy department at the University of Maryland, said on Saturday morning.... 'You’ve got a one-kilometer solid nucleus in the middle, and gas is going out hundreds of thousands of miles.' The comet glows green because the gases emit light in green wavelengths. The ball of gas and dust, sometimes referred to as the 'Christmas comet,' was named 46P/Wirtanen, after the astronomer Carl Wirtanen, who discovered it in 1948. It orbits the sun once every 5.4 years, passing by Earth approximately every 11 years, but its distance varies and it is rarely this close. As the comet passes by, it will be 30 times farther from Earth than the moon, NASA said.”

By George O'Keefe or somebody.Maybe the Best Gift Would Be a Spell-Check App. Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Way back in November (so Slate has had plenty of time to make corrections), someone named Angela Serratore (hope I spelled that right), wrote a post for Slate, which is featured on its main page now, suggesting gifts from small museum shops. That's a nice thought, but it would have been even nicer if the story had not misspelled Georgia O'Keeffe three times: twice as "Georgia O'Keefe" & once as "George O'Keefe." But never "Georgia O'Keeffe."

Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi leaving the White House Wednesday, Dec. 12, after making mincemeat of Donald Trump.Everybody Loved Nancy's Coat! It's turns out it's from a 2013 Max Mara collection. According to Ana Colón of Glamour, "the Italian fashion house sent out a press release that not only confirmed the origins of Pelosi's coat but also announced that Max Mara would be reinstating the Glamis into its outerwear collection in 2019. 'In a variety of colorways,' no less! A spokesperson for the brand confirmed to Glamour that the decision to bring it back was inspired by Pelosi."

Constant Comments


Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling


American Amnesia

Maureen Dowd may hanker to move to the arts section of the Times because lately all she writes about is movies. She just saw "Fair Game," a film about the Valerie Plame affair, which she says "we should all remember." I'm mystified as to why the Times axed my brief comment, but I've reproduced it here:

We should all remember the Plame Affair? That happened way back in 2003, and it didn't happen to most of us.

Americans can't even remember back to September 2008, when the fruits of lazy laissez-faire government & greedy financiers burst the great American bubble for every single one of us. We are a nation without a memory. We live in the moment. The moment doesn't feel good, so the best thing to do is make it worse by bringing back the bubbleheads.

We don't have time to go to the movies right now. We have to go out and cheer on the clowns. Maybe after election day, we'll have time to go see "Fair Game." It might be a hit. After all, in a nation without a memory, it's not some boring old history lesson. The Plame Affair is a brand new story.

Here's the movie ´╗┐trailer:


The Commentariat -- October 12

It's Columbus Day, so what better occasion to use an ethnic slur to describe the Italian-American opponent of your boss, who also is Italian-American (I guess)? Carl Paladino's (of course) campaign manager Michael Caputo (sounds Italian, too, doesn't it?) calls Andrew Cuomo "a very oily kind of career politician."

Katrina vanden Heuvel in a Washington Post op-ed: "Even before Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau take on the most deceptive, exploitative consumer rip-offs in the financial services industry, Republicans are maneuvering to make the mission extremely difficult -- if not downright impossible.... The remarkable coalition that took on the financial titans during the reform debate, and then successfully waged a campaign for Warren's appointment to build the bureau, now needs to reinvigorate its effort to create a truly strong and independent agency."

Will Bunch in the Huffington Post: Tea partier say they got into the movement to "save American for their children & grandchildren." But if they are successful in electing their candidates,

... the children and grandchildren of the Tea Partiers (and the rest of us, unfortunately) would attend crumbling schools that lag increasingly behind other industrialized and emerging nations, assuming their school bus can even make it through traffic-clogged highways. Unable to find jobs, many will instead enlist to fight new wars overseas for the world's shrinking oil supply, while savvier nations reap the benefits of alternative energy.

Jim Rutenberg, Don Van Natta Jr. & Mike McIntire of the New York Times: "Anonymous" goes on the attack, mostly against Democrats. The writers ferret out a few of the anonymous donors to anodyne-sound front groups and what the donors' financial interests are in whacking certain candidates. Needless to say, the donors have their own pocketbooks, not the public interest, at heart. ...

... Tom Hamburger & Kim Geiger in the Los Angeles Times: "In a potential sign of Democratic unease with the White House midterm political strategy, some of President Obama's allies have begun to question his sustained attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has long claimed bipartisanship but is being increasingly identified as a GOP ally." ...

... Nick Baumann of Mother Jones: "If Democrats really want to criticize the Chamber of Commerce, they should stop harping on accounting and focus on the larger issue: the vast sums of money that domestic corporations are spending, without any disclosure or accountability."

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "Let the political scholars debate whether this is the most contentious, partisan midterm election in modern memory, as some insist. But there is widespread agreement that it is certainly among the strangest."

Stephen Colbert discusses the Rich Iott case & his disappointment in Republicans. "Thankfully, dressing the President as a Nazi? Still okay":

Stephen Gandel of Time looks at the findings of Nobel Prize-winning economists Peter Diamond, Dale Mortensen & Christopher Pissarides, all of whom are experts on employment & unemployment patterns. Generally speaking, Gandel notes, these economists would say the Democrats' approach to job creation is more effective than the Republicans'. ...

... Steve Benin is still pissed off at Richard Shelby, as he should be: Peter "Diamond's nomination has been pending since April.... The nomination has cleared committee, is ready for a floor vote, and if Shelby opposes Diamond, he can vote against him.... Shelby has decided one of the nation's most accomplished economists, a celebrated expert in employment policy, not only failed to earn his support, but is so offensive to Shelby's far-right sensibilities that he's forbidding the Senate from voting at all."

Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent, who -- among other anti-terrorist duties -- investigated the al Qaeda attack on the U.S.S. Cole when it was in Yemen, writes an op-ed in the New York Times about the investigation. Soufan concludes,

We long ago realized that if the American government had not let the Cole attack go unanswered, and if our investigation had not been so constrained, we could have undermined Al Qaeda and perhaps even averted the 9/11 attack. After 10 years, we need to finally put that lesson to use.

Glenn Greenwald: way back when, even Donald Rumsfeld knew Muslim terrorists don't "hate us for our freedoms"; they hate us for our support of Israel, for our backing of "Islamic tyrannies" -- Egypt & Saudi Arabia --  & most of all, for our occupations of Muslim nations. University of Chicago Prof. Robert Pape is scheduled to present evidence to Congress today that military occupation is the responsible for most suicide terrorism.

Historian Sean Wilentz in The New Yorker: Glenn Beck's paranoid view of American history derives from extremists who fell to the right of the old John Birch Society & who had no purchase on mainstream Republican views. Wilentz concludes this long article:

For the moment, though, it appears that the extreme right wing is on the verge of securing a degree of power over Congress and the Republican Party that is unprecedented in modern American history. For defenders of national cohesion and tempered adversity in our politics, it is an alarming state of affairs.

Greg Sargent: "... right wing commentators who claim lefty groups and unions are running ads funded by anonymous donors -- just as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other righty groups are doing -- are just flat out lying. This lie is so easily debunked that Joe Scarborough actually retracted it today (Monday) on Morning Joe after making the claim and getting corrected. Will Karl Rove and Fox News and others spreading this falsehood or letting it go unchecked do the same? ...

... AND, speaking of Joe Scarborough, check out his column in Politico on Newt Gingrich. If I recall correctly Scarborough rode into Congress on the Newt's 1994 train:

The same man who once compared himself to Napoleon (and grandly told his lieutenants that he was at “the center of a worldwide revolution”) now grabs cheap headlines by launching bizarre rhetorical attacks. The same politician who once saw himself as a latter-day Winston Churchill — sent by God to save Western civilization — now gets rich off political hate speech.

Matthew Wald of the New York Times: "Google and [Good Energies,] a New York financial firm, have each agreed to invest heavily in a proposed $5 billion transmission backbone for future offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Seaboard that could ultimately transform the region’s electrical map. The 350-mile underwater spine, which could remove some critical obstacles to wind power development, has stirred excitement among investors, government officials and environmentalists who have been briefed on it.


The Constant Weader Disagrees with -- Herself

David Brooks writes that the main reason states do little to improve infrastructure or make other investments in the future is that they are too invested in their pasts. Brooks writes that "New Jersey can’t afford to build its tunnel, but benefits packages for the state’s employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company." He notes that California & New York City are in the same bind. "All in all," Brooks writes, "governments can’t promote future prosperity because they are strangling on their own self-indulgence."

Early this morning, at about 12:30 am, I responded. After a few hours sleep, however, I realized I got it wrong. This is what I wrote in the wee hours:

Back in the day, people took government jobs for the security, not for the pay, because government jobs paid less than equivalent jobs in the private sector. That balance should be the goal of today's officials -- that is, jobs that guarantee secure retirements should pay less than equivalent jobs that don't. Private- & public-sector employees should, on balance, receive "equal" remuneration, whether they get it up-front in higher pay or down the road in retirement benefits.

Government entities cannot break the commitments they have made & on which current public employees & retirees rely, but they do need to re-calibrate pay grades for incoming government workers.

That alone would do a lot to enhance the public's opinion of government. There is nothing so aggravating to a citizen as being forced to haggle with a bureaucrat who has the luxury to be unhelpful, careless & unstoppable. To know that the bureaucrat is also overpaid on your tax dollar just adds insult to injury. When I see those tea party ladies railing against the government, I know that some of them aren't mad at the President; they're mad at the last "public servant" who refused them some service that was their due.

There are plenty of good public employees who do their jobs well & go above & beyond the call when necessary. But I'm with the tea party gang on this much: I want to "take my country back" from public employees who give no indication they know they're working for me.

The Perp. New York Times photo.Oh my. I let Brooks seduce me. What a repulsive realization. It was late. I'd had a glass of wine. Call it date rape. Yuck!

What I should have written is obvious

Brooks is always wrong.

It isn't public workers who are paid too much. It's private-sector workers who are paid too little. It isn't so much that unions have captured states; it's that state & federal laws have made it difficult for unions to keep or get a toehold in private industry.

Update: or as David Dayan of Firedoglake puts it: "Shorter David Brooks: We’d have a hell of a country if only we didn’t have to pay the public employees."