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


The Commentariat -- September 7

Lulu Moretti was cleaning out her computer files today when she came across this item from 2002. Sadly, not much has changed:

Government Announcement:

The government announced today that it is changing its emblem to a condom because it more clearly reflects the government's political stance. A condom stands up to inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while it's actually screwing you.

Plouffe Wants You:

And over the last two years, that's meant taking on some powerful interests.... And they're not always happy with me. They talk about me like a dog. That's not in my prepared remarks, it's just -- but it's true. -- Barack Obama, Labor Day speech

Once again, they’re striking right at the capillaries -- Paul Krugman, on the President's itty-bitty infrastructure spending proposal

... Bob Herbert liked the President's Labor Day speech: "Leaning toward the microphone, with his shirt collar unbuttoned, Mr. Obama spoke in a way that belied his reputation for aloofness, for struggling to connect in a visceral way with ordinary working people." ...

... Peter Slevin of the New York Times reports on the speech. ...

... AND from Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Mary Williams Walsh, the President's Labor Day speech in Milwaukee: "President Obama, looking to stimulate a sluggish economy and create jobs, called Monday for Congress to approve major upgrades to the nation’s roads, rail lines and runways — part of a six-year plan that would cost tens of billions of dollars and create a government-run bank to finance innovative transportation projects."

      ... Paul Krugman responds to the proposal for $50 billion in new spending on infrastructure:

1. It’s a good idea
2. It’s much too small
3. It won’t pass anyway — which makes you wonder why the administration didn’t propose a bigger plan, so as to at least make the point that the other party is standing in the way of much needed repair to our roads, ports, sewers, and more– not to mention creating jobs.

Because what the New York Times op-ed page really needs right now is another white male columnist, & the best bet would be a careless womanizer who knocked up his super-rich girlfriend, then dumped her for a hotter babe -- they now bring us Peter Orszag. Orszag, Obama's nerdy, burned-out budget director, naturally has something to say about budgets & taxes. It's long. You might want to read it. I don't. So I didn't. ...

... Fortunately, John Chandley/Scarecrow at Firedoglake read it for me & tore into Orszag more-or-less as I would have if I had the stomach to read that creep: "For the thousandth time, tax cuts aren’t very effective, and those applied to rich people suck." ...

     ... Greg Sargent Update: Orszag tries to walk back his "rift" with President Obama. CW: sorry, Petie; I know you're a numbers guy, but words count, too.

... John Cole gets in a fight with Jake Tapper, which is not worth reading about unless you like that stuff, but Cole's summary of Orszag's op-ed will spare your reading the original. ...

... Ben Smith of Politico reported on Orszag's new gig last week. Smith has a humorous comment on the move.

Peter Boyer of The New Yorker: "Inside C Street, Washington's Frat House for Jesus." CW: I haven't read this long piece yet, but it looks great. I will be reading it.

Devona Walker in TruthOut: "The real estate and foreclosure crisis ... has stripped black families of more wealth than any single event in U.S. history. Due entirely to subprime loans, black borrowers are expected to lose between $71 billion and $92 billion.... Black and Latino minorities have been disproportionately targeted and affected by subprime loans."

Not satisified with his Rachel Maddow appearance calling out Haley Barbour's wholesale lies about the "history" of "Republican support" for civil rights, Gene Robinson covers Barbour's disgusting revisionist -- i.e., totally invented -- history in his WashPo column. (You can watch Robinson's discussion with Maddow here.)

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had a rule: all his clerks must first have trained with appeals court judges appointed by Republican presidents. The other justices, on both right & left, also routinely make ideological hires. "The polarization among law clerks has had consequences for the development of the law, a 2008 study published in the DePaul Law Review found." Liptak covers several aspects of the Justices' hiring practices & dips into the history of how hiring practices have changed.

Driftglass assesses Tom Friedman's Sunday morning performance on ABC's "This Week with Whoever Christiane Amanpour." You can watch all the segments of the gabfest here, including more footage of Tony Blair (who, in case you forgot, Driftglass reminds us was "once the tribal chieftain of a group called the Britons") than you'll ever care to see. In the segment below, Paul Krugman reminds his colleague Friedman, et al., that Obama did the stimulus package before he did healthcare. Because everybody, right on Republican message, fucking "forgot":


Iraq -- Mistakes Were Made

Frank Rich: "President Obama’s bloodless speech on the 'end' of the Iraq war showed how the whitewashing of our recent past is well under way. It's a mystery," Rich writes, "why a candidate so attuned to the nation’s pulse, most especially on the matter of war, has grown tone deaf in office."

The Constant Weader solves the mystery:

It's the drapes.

If you think the District of Columbia has numbed the minds of the members of Congress, what do you suppose living in the White Fishbowl does? Unlike his predecessor, Barack Obama actually works there, from morning till late at night. It isn't just his hair that's gone gray from the stresses of the job; his soul seems to have grizzled, too.

I was more struck by Brian Williams' interview of the President (transcript & video here) than I was by the bland, check-off-the-boxes Oval Office speech: Iraq, check; Afghanistan, check; economy, check. At one point in the Williams interview, the President said that he wasn't concerned about the false stories about his background "because I trusted in the American people's capacity to get beyond all this nonsense and focus on is this somebody who cares about me and cares about my family and has a vision for the future?"

What Mr. Obama fails to understand is that to most of us, the answer to that question is "No." He reveals neither enthusiasm for his job nor advocacy for those who put our trust in him. His staff likes to boast about the President's calm decisiveness under fire. That is indeed an important quality. But there is a corollary to dispassion in crisis: the President must also display passion for our economic needs, for our Constitutional rights & for our founding principles. He must be willing to fight the forces in this country who are doing their best to further distribute the nation's wealth to the rich & the connected, who are constantly chipping away at basic rights & who have no idea about our national values.

The reason the President appears not to care is that he doesn't. It isn't just that he's got more accustomed to hanging out with the privileged elite -- that's probably a very minor part of it. Rather, he has just become disconnected & distracted. You can see it in is body language -- stiff & aloof; you can see it in his face -- expressionless.

Maureen Dowd made a big joke on Wednesday about the new, expensive Oval Office decor & Obama's "talking rug." Of course it isn't the drapes or the rug, per se, that have cocooned the President & turned him into the pea in the pod. But it is that office. Not only is the Oval Office uniquely staid & depressing, the person who holds the office of the presidency is supposed to behave "appropriately." When Mr. Obama became President, Republicans were almost as upset that he was pictured in the Oval Office without a tie as they were when President Clinton "disrespected" the Oval with Monica Lewinsky. (Only after a few pictures surfaced of Dubya & Ronnie going tieless & jacketless in the Oval did the the horrified critics shut up.)

There's a reason Presidents don't give many Oval Office speeches. At the beginning of their terms, they think they're going to be giving Roosevelt-style fireside chats. They soon find out they're giving morose recitations to the red light on the camera. A person just can't give a rip-roaring speech sitting at that desk. In fact, it's hard to give a good speech sitting down anywhere, but the Oval Office commands a unique, funereal reserve. The setting saps the passion.

If Barack Obama wants to get his groove back, he had better figure out a way to escape the cocoon. And he had better remember that although it's mostly the fat cats who feed the kitty, it is ultimately the voters who decide his fate & the fates of everyone running for Congress.

Maureen Dowd pans Tony Blair's New autobiography: "... in the section on Iraq, Blair loses his C.E.O. fluency and engages in tortured arguments, including one on how many people really died in the war, and does a Shylock lament.... The reasoning of the man known in England as Phony Tony or Blair amounts to this: They had to invade Iraq because Saddam could hypothetically hook up with Al Qaeda. But they didn’t properly prepare for the insurgency because they knew that Saddam had no link to Al Qaeda."

The Constant Weader explains the dynamic:

The human psyche has a great capacity for lying to itself & that capacity is best exemplified in the rationalizations of politicians. They might feel a flash of regret for the occasional major blunder, but they are quickly able to conjure up & internalize a swell excuse, & all is well with the world.

It helps to have sycophantic aides. If they question the politician, s/he just fires them: adios, Paul O'Neill; ta ta, Greg Craig.

In Tony Blair's case, he is able to rationalize not only his own horrid mistakes, but also the peccadilloes of his friends. While he didn't necessary approve of it, Blair wrote in his memoir that Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky because of his "inordinate interest in and curiosity about people." Only a politician could make the Lewinsky affair into a shining example of Clinton's "caring about people."

The people in Dublin were throwing shoes & eggs at Blair yesterday as he made the rounds on his book tour.

I deplore violence of course, but how much can it hurt that a man who bears partial responsibility for the deaths of thousands ends up with a little egg on his face? Besides, in the mind of the politician, mistreatment by enemies & detractors is but one more proof he was right all along.

Constant Weader: while I'm at it, I might as well comment on Tom Friedman's column. Friedman, who was captain of the Iraq War cheerleading team, in his usual smarmy, know-it-all manner, informs us "pacifists" that we "need not worry any more about 'wars of choice.' ... We can’t afford to invade Grenada today." Friedman waxes on about all the cuts in defense spending we'll have to make because of the recession & Medicare & Social Security & all, & how the world will be less safe because of it. Oh, belt-tightening hurts when there are so many little wars we should be starting in the name of freedom.

But lately, with his war dreams interrupted & the economy in the tank (in large part because of Tommy's war games), Friedman has been all about fiscal, social & ecological responsibility. He devotes his New York Times platform to promoting green energy sources and encouraging us to break our addiction to oil, and telling Boomers we must accept deep cuts in services so the "kids can have jobs and not be saddled with debts tomorrow," pushing legislators to "get our fiscal house in order" and just generally thinking up all kinds of ways everybody else could do a better job of saving America from itself. Everybody has to sacrifice. Everybody, evidently, except Tommy Fucking Friedman. My pal Akhilleus sent me this aerial shot of Chez Friedman:

For some perspective, note the comparative size of the mansion next door. What do you suppose the Friedmans' carbon footprint is? I'll let one of his majesty's former neighbors have the last word:

Friedman ... tore down the huge older house [that was on the property] and constructed an [over 11,000] square foot residence, with 7.5 bathrooms, on the hilltop. It is beautifully landscaped..., and the foliage likely requires a lot of water. The property is listed on the tax rolls for [well over $9,000,000]. It makes me feel better that those who preach environmentalism practice such a modest intrusion on the environment itself.

For a very fine commentary on President Obama's Oval Office speech, see my friend Lulu's "original draft." This post also has video of the President's address.



The Commentariat -- September 5

While the Obamas were on Martha's Vineyard, the Oval Office got a redo, first revealed to the public during the President's address last week. Washington Post story here. Picture gallery here.

The Oval Office, redecorated by decorator to the stars Michael Smith. Washington Post photo. CLICK PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

** More about the Rug. In a fascinating Washington Post op-ed about the quotations woven into the new Oval Office rug, Jamie Stiehm finds the true source of two of the quotations: the original authors were not Martin Luther King., Jr. & Abraham Lincoln, but Theodore Parker, an early-19th-century abolitionist, Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist thinker.

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. -- Theodore Parker (1853), cited by MLK

A democracy -- that is a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people. -- Theodore Parker (1850), borrowed by Lincoln for his Gettysburg Address

Jeff Zeleny & Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "In the next two weeks, Democratic leaders will review new polls and other data that show whether vulnerable incumbents have a path to victory. If not, the party is poised to redirect money to concentrate on trying to protect up to two dozen lawmakers who appear to be in the strongest position to fend off their challengers."

** Sharpen Your Pitchforks. Glenn Greenwald: Alan Simpson's "recent outbursts have unmasked this [Deficit] Commission and shed light on its true character.  Unlike his fellow Commission members, who imperiously dismiss public inquiries..., Simpson -- to his genuine credit -- has been aggressively engaging critics, making it impossible to ignore what the Commission is really up to." CW: this is a real must-read. Greenwald makes a nearly irrefutable case that Democrats have a stealth plan to enact the Commission's recommended Social Security cuts.

Eliot Spitzer, in Slate: President Obama's economic policies are not ambitious enough & the policies promoted by the right-wing nuts, policies that are gaining traction with the know-nothings, will only make a bad situation worse.

Dennis Cauchon of USA Today: "The worst summer on record for young people who wanted a job is staggering to an end this Labor Day weekend. Only 47.6% of people ages 16 to 24 had jobs in August, the lowest level since the government began keeping track in 1948, the Labor Department said Friday. By comparison, 62.8% of that age group was employed in August 2000."

Dina ElBoghdady of the Washington Post: "... Around the country, the expectations of buyers and sellers are out of whack, thwarting deals that could potentially lift the U.S. housing sector from its long funk. The nascent rebirth of the market earlier this year proved to be a mirage."

Gretchen Morgenson & Geraldine Fabrikant of the New York Times: "Earlier this year, Florida earmarked $9.6 million to set up foreclosures-only courts across the state, staffed by retired judges. The goal of the program, which began in July, is to reduce the foreclosures backlog by 62 percent within a year.... But lawyers representing troubled borrowers contend that many of the retired judges ... to oversee these matters are so focused on cutting the caseload that they are unfairly favoring financial institutions at the expense of homeowners."

Dan Balz of the Washington Post: scholars agree -- Barack Obama, the "post-partisan" President, was always a polarizing figure.

Mark Landler of the New York Times: Secretary of State Hillary "Clinton will be in the thick of the negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, when they meet on Sept. 14 in Egypt. Her role, several officials say, will be to take over from the administration’s special envoy, George J. Mitchell, when the two sides run into serious obstacles. It may prove the greatest test yet for Mrs. Clinton, one that could cement her legacy as a diplomat if she solves the riddle that foiled even her husband, former President Bill Clinton."

John Cassidy of The New Yorker: testifying before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, Ben Bernanke changes his story about the collapse of Lehman Brothers, shifting from "giving them a loan was illegal" to "they would have failed whether or not we gave them a loan." Cassidy is not convinced inasmuch as Barklays Bank was negotiating a takeover of Lehman, which could have occurred within days. A bridge loan might have saved Lehman & possibly averted the collapse.

Jad Mouawad of the New York Times: "Air fares have marched steadily upward in recent months and are now close to pre-recession levels — and that’s not even counting all the new fees that airlines have introduced lately."

Inventing an Enemies List. Dahlia Lithwick, in Slate: why Democrat-in-Name-Only Ben Nelson voted against Elena Kagan's confirmation, & why the NRA would not endorse gun-friendly Harry Reid. As  Dennis Henigan of the Brady Campaign put it, "It may be that the NRA simply could not endorse Senator Reid once he had attacked its core belief that the Second Amendment really is about armed revolt against our government."

Ruth Marcus: Sarah Palin caterwauls at every hint of a sexist comment about her, but she doesn't mind making overtly sexual & emasculating comments about men, as when she recently described a gay writer as "limp" & "impotent." CW: Marcus doesn't mention it, but Palin used similar language when she accused President Obama of "not having the cojones" to take on illegal immigration. (Weirdly, she said Jan Brewer did have cojones.)