The Wires

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."

Medlar's Sports Report. New York Times: "Tiger Woods’s comeback from personal and professional adversity is complete: He captured his fifth Masters title and his 15th major tournament on Sunday, snapping a championship drought of nearly 11 years. It was a monumental triumph for Woods, a magical, come-from-behind win for a player who had not won a major championship since his personal life began to unravel on Thanksgiving night in 2009, when a marital dispute led to a car accident and a succession of lurid tabloid headlines. On the golf course, he had a series of back and leg injuries that led to an addiction to painkillers and culminated in pain so searing that, before surgery in 2017, he had questioned whether he could play professionally again." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh yeah? Trump can beat Tiger any day.

Tom Jones of Poynter picks the top 25 movies ever about journalism.

New York Times: "For 340 days, Scott Kelly circled the Earth aboard the International Space Station, gathering data about himself." His twin brother Mark Kelly, planted on Earth, did the same. "On Thursday..., NASA researchers reported that [Scott Kelly's] body experienced a vast number of changes while in orbit. DNA mutated in some of his cells. His immune system produced a host of new signals. His microbiome gained new species of bacteria. Many of these biological changes seemed harmless, disappearing after he returned to Earth. But others — including genetic mutations and, after his return, declines in cognitive test scores — did not correct themselves, provoking concern among scientists."

Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times: now does his first drafts of columns as well as other traditional writing tasks by speaking into his phone. "I open RecUp, a cloud-connected voice-recording app on my phone.... Every few days, I load the recordings into Descript, an app that bills itself as a “word processor for audio.” Some of my voice memos are more than an hour long, but Descript quickly (and cheaply) transcribes the text, truncates the silences and renders my speech editable and searchable.... New advances — like smarter and more ubiquitous voice assistants; better text-to-speech synthesis; easy-to-use audio and video production apps like Descript and Anchor; and gadgets that burrow the internet into your ears, like Apple’s AirPods and Amazon’s reported forthcoming AirPod clones — point to a profound shift in computing. Soon it might be possible to conduct a large slice of digital life, including work, without being glued to a screen."

New York Times: "In a cave in the Philippines, scientists have discovered a new branch of the human family tree. At least 50,000 years ago, an extinct human species lived on what is now the island of Luzon, researchers reported on Wednesday. It’s possible that Homo luzonensis, as they’re calling the species, stood less than three feet tall. The discovery adds growing complexity to the story of human evolution. It was not a simple march forward, as it once seemed. Instead, our lineage assumed an exuberant burst of strange forms along the way.Our species, Homo sapiens, now inhabits a comparatively lonely world. 'The more fossils that people pull out of the ground, the more we realize that the variation that was present in the past far exceeds what we see in us today,' said Matthew Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist at Lakehead University in Canada, who was not involved in the new discovery."

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 8


Along with tax cuts for the wealthy, the other party's main economic proposal is that they'll stop government spending. ... But ... when these same Republicans – including Mr. Boehner – were in charge, the number of earmarks and pet projects went up, not down. These same Republicans turned a record surplus that Bill Clinton left into a record deficit. Just this year, these same Republicans voted against a bipartisan fiscal commission that they themselves proposed. And when you ask them what programs they'd actually cut, they usually don't have an answer. -- Barack Obama

If I'm an independent voter ... I sure as heck am worried about people who want to do away with the 14th amendment. I'm sure as heck worried about people who don't think the president was born in the United States of America. I sure as heck am worried about people who think that workers are staying home because of unemployment benefits. They are nuts. They are flat-out crazy. -- Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, on Republican Congressional candidates

Torture Training, U.S. Style. Adam Goldman of the AP: "A former CIA officer accused of revving an electric drill near the head of an imprisoned terror suspect has returned to US intelligence as a contractor training CIA operatives. The CIA officer wielded the drill, which was bitless, and an unloaded handgun — unauthorized interrogation techniques — to menace suspected USS Cole bombing plotter Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri inside a secret CIA prison in Poland in late 2002 and early 2003...."

Mark Thompson of Time: in case you didn't notice, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with President Obama Tuesday. Thompson gives an account of Rasmussen's discussions with reporters -- his meeting with President Obama was hush-hush. ...

... What We're Fighting For. New York Times: "Kabul Bank sits at the center of a financial crisis that has exposed the shadowy workings of the country’s business and political elite, and how such connections shielded the bank from scrutiny. The panic surrounding Kabul Bank is threatening to pull down the Afghan banking system and has drawn in the United States."

In an extraordinary New York Times op-ed, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf invokes the Love Commandments. ...

How did '9/11 victim' become sloppy shorthand for 'white Christian'? -- writer Alissa Torres, whose husband Eddie died in the World Trade Center attack

"Fuck the UAW!" Michael Moore writes an open letter, in which he gives an economics lesson, to Rahm Emanuel.

There is so seldom good news coming out of the White House that this item came as a welcome surprise. Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "President Obama on Wednesday will make clear that he opposes any compromise that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy beyond this year, officials said, adding a populist twist to an election-season economic package that is otherwise designed to entice support from big businesses and their Republican allies." Here's Lori Montgomery's entry in the Washington Post. CW: Oh, let it be Veto Time!

When the Solution is Worse than the Problem. Ken Dilanian in the Los Angeles Times: "...the Border Patrol is grappling with a spate of misconduct cases in its ranks, which have expanded from 4,000 agents in the early 1990s to 21,000 today. In the last 18 months, five Border Patrol agents have been accused or convicted of sex crimes.... Another agent ... is jailed in San Diego on $10-million bail, awaiting trial on attempted murder charges in a hatchet attack that paralyzed a man."

Robert Reich: President Obama's cynical corporation tax cut proposal sends the wrong message & is a big mistake -- especially if Republicans call the President's bluff & pass it.

Charity Begins in Congress. Eric Lipton: "A review by The New York Times of federal tax records and House and Senate disclosure reports found at least two dozen charities that lawmakers or their families helped create or run that routinely accept donations from businesses seeking to influence them. The sponsors — AT&T, Chevron, General Dynamics, Morgan Stanley, Eli Lilly and dozens of others — contribute millions of dollars annually in gifts ranging from token amounts to a check for $5 million." ...

... New York Times Editorial Board: "...charities set up by a score of lawmakers from both parties have become an important — and completely unregulated — way for corporations and lobbyists to get their voices heard and to curry favor on Capitol Hill.... The real purpose [of the "donations"] is to make lawmakers look good while skirting limits on campaign contributions and open another door to Washington’s pay-to-play culture."

Dave Clarke of Reuters: "President Barack Obama is expected to announce as soon as this week his nominee to lead the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau], a position which requires Senate confirmation." But, especially if Elizabeth Warren is the nominee, Republicans may make the confirmation process "protracted," which could cause a "setback in establishing the authority of the" agency.

"Wall Street Buys Some New Friends." In Salon, Andrew Leonard argues that Wall Street is backing Republicans now, not because the boys on the Street are disappointed in Democrats but because, as usual, they're going with the winners.

On Leno, Valley Girl Meghan McCain disses everybody, including Sarah Palin. McCain is a complete ditz, but she's more entertaining & thoughtful than most well-known Republicans:

     ... Here's a related CNN story.


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.