The Ledes

Wednesday, June 19, 2019.

New York Times: “David Ortiz, the former Boston Red Sox slugger, was not the intended target of a shooting in the Dominican Republic that seriously injured him last week, the authorities in the country said in a news conference Wednesday. It was a stunning revelation in a wild case that has captivated many in the baseball-crazed nation, and across the world. Jean Alain Rodríguez, the country’s top prosecutor, said Ortiz, who was shot in the back and underwent emergency surgery that night before being transported to Boston, was wearing similar clothing to a friend, Sixto David Fernandez, who was the intended target of the shooting. Fernandez was sitting at the same table as Ortiz at the Dial Bar and Lounge, a regular hangout for Ortiz in the eastern part of Santo Domingo. Rodríguez also revealed for the first time the man suspected of organizing the entire operation: It was Victor Hugo Gomez, he said, a wanted criminal in the U.S. and member of the Gulf Cartel.”

The Wires

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

New York Times: Navy pilots flying along the East Coast of the U.S. spotted UFOs "almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015.... The sightings were reported to the Pentagon’s shadowy, little-known Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzed the radar data, video footage and accounts provided by senior officers from the Roosevelt. Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who ran the program until he resigned in 2017, called the sightings 'a striking series of incidents.'” In one incident, the UFO flew between two Navy jets "flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach.... It looked to the pilot ... like a sphere encasing a cube."

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.

Guardian: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have introduced their newborn son to the world and revealed he is to be called Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. The name was announced shortly after the Queen met her eighth great-grandchild for the first time at Windsor Castle, where earlier the couple showed him off to the cameras."

Guardian: “The Duchess of Sussex has given birth to a baby son, weighing 7lbs 3oz. Mother and child were both doing well, Buckingham Palace announced. The Duke of Sussex was present for the birth, which happened at 5.26am on Monday. The child is seventh in line to the throne, and an eighth great-grandchild for the 93-year-old Queen.”

Washington Post: "Cheap Chinese caviar is flooding the U.S. market, causing prices to plummet, and with it, the product’s cachet. Wholesale prices have fallen more than 50 percent since 2012, down 13 percent just in the past year. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the import price has gone from $850,000 per ton in January 2012 to $350,000 per ton in November 2018." Mrs. McC: This makes me very happy. I love caviar (I've only had the cheaper kind), but I seldom buy it because of the expense. I have some in the pantry now, but I'm going to check the price at the grocery store now in hopes it's something I can enjoy more often. Status symbol? I couldn't care less.

New York Times: "Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on Monday [April 15] to news organizations that uncovered instances of malfeasance and outright fraud in President Trump’s financial past, a nod to journalists’ perseverance in the face of the president’s ever-sharper attacks on a free press. The New York Times received the explanatory reporting prize for an 18-month investigation that revealed how the future president and his relatives avoided paying roughly half a billion dollars’ worth of taxes. The Wall Street Journal won the national reporting prize for disclosing clandestine payoffs by the president’s associates to two women who were said to have had affairs with Mr. Trump in the weeks before the 2016 election. The South Florida Sun Sentinel won the prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, for documenting the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The paper’s in-depth articles revealed a series of failures by local officials and law enforcement that, the paper wrote, cost children their lives."

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 -- December 2

President Obama & Vice President Biden meet with new governors:

AP: "President Barack Obama firmly defended his signature health care bill to a roomful of newly elected governors Thursday, many of them Republicans elected by railing against him and the expanding reach of the federal government."

Reid Wilson of the National Journal: "Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget."

Arthur Delaney of the Huffington Post: Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy) blocked an unemployment bill which in a Senate speech he said he deplored because it extended unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks. But the bill does not extend benefits beyond 99 weeks; it extends benefits beyond 26 weeks.

Igor Volsky of the Wonk Room: "McCain ... openly impl[ied] that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen was not living up to the expectations of leadership because he did not ask the troops if they favored repealing the [DADT] policy." With video. ...

... Adm. Mullen & Secretary Gates tear into Sen. McCain's objections to DADT repeal:

... More here, with a bit of repetition, but compelling exchanges:

With all due respect, Mr. Chairman and Sen. McCain, it is true that, as chairman, I am not in charge of troops. But I have commanded three ships, a carrier battle group and two fleets. And I was most recently a service chief myself. For more than 40 years I have made decisions that affected and even risked the lives of young men and women. You do not have to agree with me on this issue. But don't think for one moment that I haven't carefully considered the impact of the advice I give on those who will have to live with the decisions that that advice informs. I would not recommend repeal of this law if I did not believe in my soul that it was the right thing to do for our military, for our nation and for our collective honor. -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, reacting to John McCain's criticism of his leadership

Defense Secretary Robert Gates' opening testimony before a Senate Committee on DADT:

AP: "Directly challenging the Pentagon's top leadership, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain on Thursday snubbed a military study on gays as flawed and said letting gays serve openly would be dangerous in a time of war." ...

... AND Yahoo News: Update: "Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen shot back at Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for implying that Mullen is not in charge of troops and is thus not qualified to say that the military should end its ban on openly gay service."

At least David Brooks doesn't like Republicans, either:

Two segments in which Rachel Maddow compares racial integration of the military & repealing DADT:

... Here's the New York Times report on the Pentagon's DADT study. You can read the report here. ...

     ... Politico Update: "President Obama says the Pentagon's 'don't ask, don't tell' review 'confirms' that most service members are comfortable working alongside gays. Obama also called on the Senate on Tuesday to 'act as soon as possible' on legislation repealing the ban on gays serving in the military so he could sign it 'this year.'"

Andrew Sullivan on "The Dickishness of the GOP": "I see no other coherent message or strategy since 2008. Just opposition to everything, zero support for a president grappling with a recession their own party did much to precipitate, and facing a fiscal crisis the GOP alone made far worse with their spending in the Bush-Cheney years. There is not a scintilla of responsibility for their past; not a sliver of good will for a duly elected president. Worse, figures like Cantor and McCain actively seek to back foreign governments against the duly elected president of their own country."

Peter Goodman in the Huffington Post: "In Washington, the agenda has long since moved on from bailing out megabanks to figuring out how to stop paying for things that regular people need -- luxuries like health care, retirement benefits and unemployment insurance." ...

... Daniel Indiviglio of The Atlantic: See? Goldman Sachs is bullish on the economy. ...

** "Too Big to Succeed." Thomas Hoenig, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, in a New York Times op-ed, says that to restore integrity to the financial system, Congress must enact legislation similar to Glass-Steagall: "Taking similar actions today to reduce the scope and size of banks, combined with legislatively mandated debt-to-equity requirements, would restore the integrity of the financial system and enhance equity of access to credit for consumers and businesses. Studies show that most operational efficiencies are captured when financial firms are substantially smaller than the largest ones are today."

Neil Irwin & Jia Lin Yang of the Washington Post: "The Federal Reserve pumped trillions of dollars into all manner of banks, investment firms and major companies during the financial crisis, according to documents released Wednesday that reveal for the first time the full scope of the Fed's emergency lending.... The Fed said it does not anticipate incurring any losses; indeed, many of the programs have turned a profit for shareholders." ...

... Junk for Cash. Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Lehman Brother’s collapse in the fall of 2008 inspired panic on Wall Street, but it also presented a little-noticed opportunity for the country’s remaining elite banks: They could now receive cheap Federal Reserve loans without posting quality collateral. As part of an emergency loan program, the Fed accepted as collateral more than $1 trillion in junk-rated investments from Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and others...." ...

We’re talking about huge sums of money going to bail out large foreign banks. Has the Federal Reserve become the central bank of the world? I think that is a question that needs to be examined. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders, "who wrote the provision in the Dodd-Frank Act that required the Fed disclosures" ...

... Sen. Bernie Sanders & Eliot Spitzer discuss the Fed's generosity to Wall Street:

... Sudeep Reddy of the Wall Street Journal: "Top Federal Reserve officials are pressing lawmakers to pair a long-term plan for deficit reduction with new short-term fiscal stimulus to boost an economy that the central bank admits needs more help than it can provide."

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio wonders out loud how Democrats are losing a fight where Republican plan to extend massive tax cuts for the rich & Democrats want to extend of jobless benefits.

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama appears to be building momentum for Senate approval of a new arms control treaty with Russia by the end of the year, but it may have to come at the expense of other legislative priorities with far greater support among his liberal base."

Alissa Rubin of the New York Times: "The results of parliamentary elections in Afghanistan have brought a new period of uncertainty, deepened skepticism of the government and stirred volatile ethnic fault lines."

When everything is classified, nothing is classified.... The hallmark of a truly effective internal security system would be the maximum possible disclosure, recognizing that secrecy can best be preserved only when credibility is truly maintained. -- Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, in his Pentagon Papers opinion, 1971

"WikiLeaks' War on Secrecy." Massimo Calabresi of Time: "The number of new secrets designated as such by the U.S. government has risen 75%, from 105,163 in 1996 to 183,224 in 2009.... The number of documents and other communications created using those secrets has skyrocketed nearly 10 times, from 5,685,462 in 1996 to 54,651,765 in 2009. Not surprisingly, the number of people with access to that Everest of information has grown too.... As more individuals handle more secrets in more places around the world, it naturally becomes harder to keep track of them. But more than that, it diminishes the credibility of the government's judgment about what should be secret."

... Fareed Zakaria in Time: "The WikiLeaks documents, by contrast [with the Pentagon Papers], show Washington pursuing privately pretty much the policies it has articulated publicly.... The cables also show an American diplomatic establishment that is pretty good at analysis." ...

... David Corn of Mother Jones: WikiLeaks cables show that "the Obama administration, working with Republicans, was actively pressuring the Spaniards to drop the investigation" of Bush administration officials who participated in authorizing the torture of suspected enemy combatants. The six officials Obama & Republicans got off the hook were Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Douglas Feith, Jay Bybee & John Yoo. ...

AP: "Sweden's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a court order to detain WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual molestation. The 39-year-old Australian, who denies the accusations made by two Swedish women after his visit to the country in August, had appealed two lower court rulings allowing investigators to bring him into custody and issue an international arrest warrant."

C. J. Chivers of the New York Times: "scores of secret American cables from recent years, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations, show that beneath the public efforts at warmer ties, the United States harbors a dim view of the post-Soviet Kremlin and its leadership, and little hope that Russia will become more democratic or reliable." ...

... C. J. Chivers: "In Georgia, diplomats appeared to set aside skepticism and embrace Georgian versions of important and disputed events.... The last cables before the eruption of the brief Russian-Georgian war showed an embassy relaying statements that would with time be proved wrong." ...

Today, we are all Georgians. -- John McCain, August 12, 2008 ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "A trove of diplomatic cables, obtained by WikiLeaks ... disclose a perception by American diplomats that Canadians 'always carry a chip on their shoulder' in part because of a feeling that their country 'is condemned to always play "Robin" to the U.S. "Batman."'” ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... the self-proclaimed whistleblower website [WikiLeaks] and its eccentric founder, Julian Assange, were the subjects of bellicose threats from politicians and world leaders, but to this day have faced fewer immediate legal consequences than those selling fake Coach handbags and unauthorized Disney DVDs."


Gail Collins makes sport of the lame duck Senate. She notes that they did get one bill passed: one that is supposed to bring the FDA into the 21st century. Collins notes that

... the bipartisan bill, which would overhaul the nation’s food safety system, still has to go back to the House, so there’s plenty of time to screw it up.

The Times moderators have again held back my comment, so here it is, with an additional boost from Rachel Maddow & Sen. Stabenow:

According to Roll Call, the Senate has already screwed up the food safety bill. It seems the Senate added tax provisions, and only the House has the Constitutional authority to initiate revenue-raisers. House Democrats are planning to block the bill. How about that? The Senate can't pass a bill without violating the Constitution!

As for Lamar Alexander's confidence in the "White House’s willingness to negotiate away taxes on the rich," I'm with Alexander. The minute we learned President Obama had outsourced negotiating duties to Tim Geithner, I figured the die was cast. Does anybody really think Geithner is going to draw a line in the sand and refuse to repeal tax breaks for his millionaire & billionaire friends on Wall Street? What a terrible thing to do as the holiday season is upon us.

I got a kick of the President today when he claimed Republicans were just engaging in political posturing and that "at the end of the day people of good will can come together and recognize that ... we're going to be able to solve this problem (of the tax cuts)." You would think he didn't notice that all 42 Republican Senators signed a letter saying they were going to obstruct everything until they got their way. And then, as we all know, once they get their way, they're going to obstruct everything. Here are Rachel Maddow & Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow forcefully making the same point:

I hope Congress does get "in a holiday mood," because they're going to be spending the holidays in Washington, D.C. Let's hope it snows, so the Jim Inhofe family can build another igloo this year as proof positive there's no such thing as global warming.

The Inhofe family builds an igloo at their Washington, D.C. home. Winter 2009-2010.


The Commentariat -- December 1

Politico: "House Republicans will scrap the committee set up by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to investigate global warming, the panel’s top Republican announced Wednesday. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) made official what many had already expected — the GOP majority will axe the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming...."

Bloomberg News: "The Federal Reserve, under orders from Congress, today named the counterparties of about 21,000 transactions from $3.3 trillion in aid provided to stem the worst financial panic since the Great Depression." ...

New York Times: "The Obama administration is rescinding its decision to expand offshore oil exploration into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast because of the BP oil spill, administration officials said Tuesday."

President Obama meets with Gen. Colin Powell:

Bruce Bartlett of Capital Gains & Games on an "important" economic speech by Republican Rep. Mike Pence, who is likely to run for governor of Indiana: "Pence's speech ... was a hackneyed rehash of every simplistic idea ever floated on Larry Kudlow's TV show, which appears to be the only source of information Pence has on the economy. I don't know how else to explain his obsession with inflation, a strong dollar, Fed bashing, tax cuts and the gold standard."

Sen. Chris Dodd sings his swan song:

Politics as Criminal Exercise. Michael Scherer of Time on the Tom DeLay verdict: "In Washington, it is widely assumed that the difference between bribery and proper business practices is not being stupid: Don't write down any evidence of a quid pro quo. Always maintain plausible deniability. Always maintain that financial backscratching is a result of deep respect, mutual admiration and altruism, not transactional value."

Shailagh Murray & Perry Bacon of the Washington Post on yesterday White House meeting with Congressional leaders: "... according to people in the room, both sides engaged in the kind of cross-party dealmaking that seems to have faded away in today's Washington. The participants emerged smiling and with a loose framework - though they did not outline it publicly - that could result in the temporary extension of all the tax cuts, as well as the ratification of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, the continuation of unemployment benefits and funding for government operations into next year." ...

... Dana Milbank was less impressed with the non-results: "Boehner, in his news conference, wasn't unduly optimistic as he explained: 'We had a very nice meeting today. Of course, we've had a lot of very nice meetings....' That was about the time Obama began his competing statement, which included a lament about the 'hyperpartisan climate' in which 'both sides come to the table. They read their talking points. Then they head out to the microphones, trying to win the news cycle instead of solving problems.' Obama called that 'a game that we can't afford.' The statement might have carried more weight if Obama hadn't just preempted his opponents' news conference." ...

... So was David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "Much of the recent commentary about the tax cuts has skipped over this political reality." Leonhardt goes into what the limited Democratic options are, but his bottom line is that -- once again -- they will cave to Republicans. ...

... Sam Stein: Obama outsources negotiations with Republicans, Democrats are in their usual disarray & Schumer touts his million-dollar deal.

... Let's factor in this AP story in today's news: "Senate Republicans intend to block action on virtually all Democratic-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending in the current postelection session of Congress." ...

     ... Update: here's the Republican leaders' hostage letter, now signed by all 42 Senate Republicans.

... Jena McGregor of the Washington Post: "Never mind that Senate Republicans have obstinately fought most Democratic legislation for the past two years already. Now they want to make it official. Whether it's a political gimmick or a real effort to force a focus on urgent deadlines, the letter sets aside a reality of productive leadership we expect from the people we elect."

Jackie Calmes & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The chairmen of President Obama’s debt-reduction commission have been unable to win support from any of the panel’s elected officials for their proposed spending cuts and tax increases, underscoring the reluctance of both parties to risk short-term political backlash in pursuit of the nation’s long-term fiscal health. The chairmen of the commission ... delayed for two days, until Friday, a final vote by its 18 members."...

     ... Here's a pdf of the report, via Firedoglake.

     ... AP Update: "A tough new cost-cutting playbook submitted by the co-chairmen of President Barack Obama's deficit commission has been embraced by Sens. Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg, the first two elected officials to endorse it."

... Paul Krugman: "Bowles-Simpson, the revision, is out. It has not improved." ...

... Matt Yglesias: "Surely the strangest thing about the Bowles-Simpson debt reduction plan is that, relative to current law, it . . . increases the public debt load over the next ten years.... Barack Obama saying 'I will veto any laws that increase the deficit relative to current law' would do more to reduce the debt over the next 2 or 6 years than would adopting Simpson-Bowles."

Richard Stengel of Time interviews Julian Assange. ...

... Glenn Greenwald on the attacks on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. ...

... Edward Djerjian & Christoper Bronk of Foreign Policy: "While the Times has worked with the Obama administration to remove information of potential harm to national security, unredacted release of the cables by WikiLeaks may hold a cost measured in lives.... The leak of U.S. diplomatic cables may well produce an environment in which American diplomats will be shut out of confidential exchanges and the decision-making processes of U.S. allies and friends around the globe."

Millionaires Club, Washington Chapter. Erika Lovely & Jake Sherman of Politico: more than a quarter of the new Republicans coming to Congress are millionaires.

George W. Bush, in a Washington Post op-ed, recounts progress, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, on the U.S.'s fight against AIDS but says more must be done.