The Wires
The Ledes

Saturday, May 26, 2018.

New York Times: "Alan Bean, who became the fourth man to walk on the moon and turned to painting years later to tell the story of NASA’s Apollo missions as they began receding into history, died on Saturday at Houston Methodist Hospital. He was 86.”

You may want to cut the sound on this video so you don't go nuts before you get to move overseas:

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I found this on a political Website, so that's my excuse. Juliana Gray in McSweeney's: "The Incel Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." It begins,

"Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like an equal redistribution of sexual resources.
Let us go, through certain half-considered tweets
and form tedious arguments
about entitlement.

"In the room the women come and go
Talking of Maya Angelou."

Read on. Incels, in case you don't know,  (a portmanteau of 'involuntary' and 'celibacy') are members of an online subculture who define themselves as being unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one, a state they describe as inceldom. Self-identified incels are almost exclusively male and mostly heterosexual," according to Wikepedia.

New York Times: "A thousand-year-old English castle echoed with the exhortations of an African-American bishop and a gospel choir on Saturday, as Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle, an American actress, nudging the British royal family into a new era. Ms. Markle, who has long identified herself as a feminist, entered St. George’s Chapel alone rather than being given away by her father or any other man, a departure from tradition that in itself sent a message to the world. She was met halfway by Prince Charles, her future father-in-law and presumably the future king of Britain. Prince Harry, who is sixth in line for the throne, has long called on Britain’s monarchy to draw closer to the daily life of its people. But the most extraordinary thing he has done is to marry Ms. Markle, an American actress who is three years his senior, biracial, divorced and vocal about her views. Their choices at Saturday’s wedding, many of them heavily influenced by black culture, made it clear that they plan to project a more inclusive monarchy.” ...

Serena Williams, at the When Harry Wed Meghan rites.... Anthony Lane of the New Yorker attended the nuptials & reports back: "Love, as warmly recommended by the preacher, held sway. The sole unpleasantness that crossed my path took the form of a burly fellow wearing a fascinator, with ripped jeans and mirrored shades: not an outfit that I will soon forget." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you are wondering what a "fascinator" is, so was I. There were hundreds of them worn to Windsor Saturday. It's a ridiculous thing that otherwise sensible women attach to their heads. We are not fascinated.

Shorter Wedding:

This is the WashPo's live coverage of the wedding of Britain's Prince Harry & American actor Meghan Markle. You can supersize it:

The Guardian is posting updates re: the wedding of Britain's Prince Harry & American actor Meghan Markle. "The Queen has announced the titles given to the married couple. Prince Harry, or to give him his formal title, Prince Henry of Wales, has been made Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel.So he will be His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex and, once married, Meghan Markle will become Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex."

Here's a Guardian interview of Harry & Meghan:

An American Princess. In case you're interested in all the tabloid-induced "scandals" surrounding Meghan Markle's family, Sarah Lyall of the New York Times will bring you up-to-date. As of this writing, IT IS UNCLEAR IF MEGHAN'S FATHER WILL WALK HER DOWN THE AISLE. Oh wow.

Guardian: "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have named their baby son Louis Arthur Charles, Kensington Palace said. In a statement the palace said: 'The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are delighted to announce that they have named their son Louis Arthur Charles. The baby will be known as His Royal Highness Prince Louis of Cambridge.' The prince is the duke and duchess’s third child, the younger brother of Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s sixth great-grandchild. Lord Louis Mountbatten was Prince Charles’s beloved great-uncle who was assassinated by the IRA in 1979. Prince Louis of Battenberg was the Duke of Edinburgh’s grandfather’s name. The three names are popular choices recycled by the royal family. Prince Charles is Charles Philip Arthur George, while Prince William is William Arthur Philip Louis. Prince George’s full name is George Alexander Louis."

... Guardian: "The Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a boy. Kate and Williams’s third child was born at 11.01am at St Mary’s hospital, Paddington, central London. The baby weighed in at 8lb 7oz. The birth was announced to the public by Kensington Palace with a tweet.... The new Prince of Cambridge is fifth in line to the throne, and is Queen Elizabeth II’s sixth great-grandchild."

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie on "Why I take my political advice from country & western stars":

I would have voted for [Donald Trump] because, even though he was offensive, he seemed honest. Do you want straight or polite? Not that you shouldn’t be able to have both. If I were voting, I just don’t want bullshit. I would have voted for a feeling that it was transparent. And politics has a reputation of not being that, right? -- Shania Twain, a Canadian C&W performer

Especially if you're into very high-end decorative porcelain, here are some highlights of David & Peggy Rockefeller's collection that will go on auction beginning May 1. Unless you're a Rockefeller, your grandmother's curio cabinet never looked quite like this. To access the full Christie's catalog on the Rockefeller estate objets, start here.

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
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

Saturday
Jan162016

The Commentariat -- January 17, 2016

David Sanger of the New York Times: "International inspectors confirmed Saturday that Iran had dismantled large sections of its nuclear program, as agreed in a historic accord last summer, paving the way for the lifting of oil and financial sanctions by the United States and other world powers. The announcement came just hours after Iran said it had released four Americans, including The Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian, as part of a prisoner swap with the United States. American officials said the two deals were negotiated separately, but Secretary of State John Kerry had made it clear in recent weeks that he was engaged in behind-the-scenes talks on the fate of the Americans, and clearly wanted the issue cleared up before the nuclear agreement went into effect." ...

... Here's the statement by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. ...

... Lesley Wroughton, et al., of Reuters: "The day before the Obama administration was due to slap new sanctions on Iran late last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry the move could derail a prisoner deal the two sides had been negotiating in secret for months. Kerry and other top aides to President Barack Obama, who was vacationing in Hawaii, convened a series of conference calls and concluded they could not risk losing the chance to free Americans held by Tehran. At the last minute, the Obama administration officials decided to delay a package of limited and targeted sanctions intended to penalize Iran for recent test-firings of a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead."

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Aaron Davis & Sarah Harnack of the Washington Post: "Walmart abruptly announced Friday that it was abandoning a promise to build stores in Washington's poorest neighborhoods, an agreement that had been key to the deal allowing the retailer to begin operating in the nation's capital.... But news that Walmart would pull out of two supercenters planned for east of the Anacostia River, where its wares and jobs are wanted most, shocked D.C. leaders.... 'I'm blood mad,' D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said at a Friday news conference." CW: Corporations are people, my friend, and they lie.

Paul Egan & Tod Spangler of the Detroit Free Press: "President Barack Obama on Saturday declared a federal emergency in Flint, freeing up to $5 million in federal aid to immediately assist with the public health crisis, but he denied Gov. Rick Snyder's request for a disaster declaration. A disaster declaration would have made larger amounts of federal funding available more quickly to help Flint residents whose drinking water is contaminated with lead. But under federal law, only natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods are eligible for disaster declarations, federal and state officials said. The lead contamination of Flint's drinking water is a manmade catastrophe." CW: Yes, yes, it is. ...

... Kristen East of Politico: "Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday called on Rick Snyder to resign, charging that the Republican Michigan governor knowingly allowed a lead-poisoning crisis in Flint to continue. 'There are no excuses,' Sanders said in a campaign release. 'The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint's water. He did nothing. As a result, hundreds of children were poisoned. Thousands may have been exposed potential brain damage from lead.'"

Presidential Race

Annie Karni of Politico: "A top surrogate for Hillary Clinton is prepping a new attack in an intensifying and increasingly personal war against rival Bernie Sanders -- calling on the 74-year-old to release his medical records before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1. Clinton defender David Brock -- founder of the Correct the Record PAC, which coordinates directly with Clinton's campaign -- is expected to hit the airwaves this weekend from Charleston, the scene of the third Democratic debate on Sunday night, and challenge Sanders to cough up a clean bill of health and doctor's note in the next 16 days, according to a Democrat familiar with his thinking.... But hours later, after this report was published and Brock's planned tactics were widely criticized on Twitter, campaign chairman John Podesta distanced himself from the surrogate's attack."

Patrick Healy of the New York Times: "Advisers to Hillary Clinton, including former President Bill Clinton, believe that her campaign made serious miscalculations by forgoing early attacks on Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and failing to undercut his archliberal message before it grew into a political movement that has now put him within striking distance of beating Mrs. Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire.... The Clintons are particularly concerned that her 'rational message,' in the words of an aide, is not a fit with a restless Democratic primary electorate. Allies and advisers of the Clintons say Mr. Sanders is clearly connecting with voters through his emotional, inspiring rallying cry that the American economic and political systems are rigged for the wealthy and powerful. By contrast, Mrs. Clinton has been stressing her electability and questioning the costs of Mr. Sanders's ideas." ...

... AND, if that's not enough, count on Maureen Dowd to think of everything else Hillary is doing wrong. Because that's what Dowd does.

... Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: Donald Trump's "increasingly personal lines of attack against Mr. Cruz in a public setting mark a shift in the race for the Republican presidential nomination that started during Thursday's debate and spilled onto the campaign trail on Saturday." ...

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "... the Trump/Cruz ascendancy on the right is nonetheless a good thing for American politics. There are two principal reasons why: 1) It disempowers the conservative economic and media tycoons who created the malaise that fuels the anger of the GOP base.... 2) The Trump-Cruz electorate is shrinking, but the power of concentrated wealth is growing."

Donald at the Plaza. David Segal of the New York Times: "How [Donald] Trump came to own, operate and then lose the Plaza [Hotel] reveals a lot about his business style. For decades, Mr. Trump has boasted of his boardroom skills in self-exalting speeches and books. As the front-runner in the Republican presidential race, he frequently argues that his corner-office prowess uniquely suits him to negotiate with world leaders. What does this prowess look like up close? In the Plaza tale, Mr. Trump demonstrated both strengths (an ability to charm or strong-arm, as the occasion required) and weaknesses (a kind of hungry impatience that left him searching for new trophies as soon as one had been acquired). His methods as a political candidate mirror his methods as an executive, say those who have dealt with the latter and seen the former. In fact, the more you know about Mr. Trump's past, the more his run for high office looks like an effort to close the biggest deal of his life." ...

... Katie Glueck of Politico: "Hours before Ted Cruz and Donald Trump were slated to appear [in Myrtle Beach, S.C.,] at a tea party gathering, Cruz unloaded on Trump, taunting him over his poll numbers and ratcheting up attacks on his conservative credibility."

Beyond the Beltway

** Dan Kaufman in a New York Times op-ed: "SHORTLY after his exit from an abbreviated presidential run last fall, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin returned to a more successful undertaking: dismantling what remains of his state's century-old progressive legacy." Kaufman catalogues the horribles to remind us of this true American tragedy, a rolling crime against humanity.

Way Beyond

Tacos! Azam Ahmed of the New York Times: How the federales captured El Chapo.

New York Times: "Qaeda militants killed one American in an attack on two hotels and a cafe in the capital of Burkina Faso that left at least 28 people dead and 56 injured on Friday and Saturday, the State Department said on Saturday night. A State Department spokesman, John Kirby, identified the victim as Michael James Riddering."

Saturday
Jan162016

"Greasers"

Yesterday in the Commentariat I mentioned that I disliked the use of words like "oily" & "oleaginous" applied to Marco Rubio, as I felt (and feel) they invoke the term "greaser," a derogatory term whites called Latino men in the 1950s & '60s. Several readers objected to my objection.

As I learned from Wikipedia, use of the term greaser has a long history:

Greaser was a derogatory term for a Mexican in what is now the U.S. Southwest in the 19th century. The slur likely derived from what was considered one of the lowliest occupations typically held by Mexicans, the greasing of the axles of wagons; they also greased animal hides that were taken to California where Mexicans loaded them onto clipper ships (a greaser). It was in common usage among U.S. troops during the Mexican-American War.

By the time I heard the word greaser, in the late 1950s, my Anglo schoolmates were using it to disparage Latinos -- almost all Cubans -- and Italians. As far as I knew, it referred to their D.A. hairstyles, which they held in place with a lot of pomade. I think that was an assumption on my part, & I've read elsewhere that it also referred to their diets of greasy food. It also may relate to Hispanics' love of cars -- low-riders -- which back in the day ran on a lot of grease.

At the same time, Anglo boys adopted the greaser look: the D.A. hairstyle, T-shirts with rolled-up sleeves (a pack of Lucky Strikes fit nicely in the cuffs), waist-length leather jackets (tho not so much in the Miami, Florida, where I lived). You might remember Elvis. And James Dean. As far as I can recall, Anglos who adopted the style in my schools did not refer to themselves as greasers, & neither did anyone else. Greasers were Hispanic or Italian, and they were the rough boys or those perceived to be toughs. The president of my high school class was of Italian heritage & wore his hair in a D.A. & the cuffs of his (short-sleeved sports) shirts rolled up, but no one referred to him as a greaser.

As it passed into history, the greaser culture became an object of nostalgic recollection. Ergo, the supposedly-Italian tough but lovable Fonzie in the 1970's teevee show "Happy Days," which was set in the 1950s. And of course the play & film "Grease" (set in 1959; first performed in 1971) is all about greasers: a gang of boys from working-class families, not all of whom are Latino or Italian. A gang of greasers -- the Pharaohs -- were important in George Lucas's classic remembrance of his boyhood past, "American Graffiti."

Latinos & Italians are more apt than other ethnic groups to have oily skin. This is likey why Donald Trump has repeatedly mentioned Marco Rubio's "sweating a lot." There is something wrong with Marco's skin, see. It seeps something. It's not like white skin (even tho Marco looks white to me).

Richard Dreyfuss, playing an actor playing a Latin American dictator in "Moon Over Parador."So when Charles Pierce refers in one post to Marco Rubio as being "oily" and to Ted Cruz -- who is half-Hispanic, albeit from Spain -- as "oleaginous," I cringe. In addition, in the same piece, Pierce writes, "young Marco Rubio ... is just dying to put on a hat with some braid and stand on a balcony." Who does that? Um, Latin American dictators, at least in the movies.

Yes, Ted is oleaginous, & Marco is slick. But when a white American writer gets the adjective thesaurus out of his head, he should be careful that the adjectives he chooses don''t convey or invoke an ethnic stereotype. I don't know what was in Pierce's head when he described Rubio as "oily enough to fry chicken in."  I don't know what he was thinking when he likened Marco to a stereotype of a South American dictator. He may have done so purposely; he may be unaware of his prejudice. But I do think it betrays a prejudice, or at least an unfortunate carelessness.

If I did it myself, I'd apologize.

Both Marco & Ted merit plenty of criticism; it's easy to slam them without alluding to their cultural heritage and assumed ethnicity.

Saturday
Jan162016

The Commentariat -- January 16, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Carol Morello, et al., of the Washington Post: "Iran released Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and three other detained Iranian Americans on Saturday in exchange for seven people imprisoned or charged in the United States, U.S. and Iranian officials said, a swap linked to the imminent implementation of a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers." ...

... The Post has live updates here. ...

... From the liveblog (1:58 pm). Swati Sharma: "Yeganeh Salehi, the wife of Jason Rezaian, was arrested along with her husband on July 22, 2014. Although she was released on bail, she was ordered not to leave Iran. Until Saturday. According to U.S. officials, Salehi is allowed to leave Iran." The Post still doesn't know if Salehi is on the plane with Rezaian.

... From the liveblog (1:05 pm). Ariana Cha: "The family of an American man who disappeared in Iran in 2007 said the news of prison exchange appears to confirm their fears he may no longer be alive. Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent, traveled to the Iranian island of Kish to investigate corruption, then vanished. Iran has denied knowledge of his whereabouts but his family believes he is being held there." ...

... From the liveblog (11:39 am). Niraj Cokshi: "U.S. officials tell the Associated Press that Iran plans to release a fifth American, though that decision is unrelated to the prisoner exchange. From Vienna, AP diplomatic writer Matt Lee reports that the other released American is a student who was detained in Tehran in recent months."

We shouldn't have to swap prisoners. These [Americans] were taken illegally in violation of international law and they should have been released without condition, but you know, the Iranians have treated this president with disrespect for years and he continues to take it. I would not take it as president. -- Chris Christie

The fact of the matter is that this tells us everything we need to know about the Iranian regime. That they take people hostage in order to gain concessions. And the fact that they can get away with it with this administration I think has created an incentive for more governments to do this around the world.... Governments are taking American hostage because they believe they can gain concessions from this government under Barack Obama. -- Marco Rubio ...

... Somebody might oughta slap that little turd upside the head. -- Constant Weader

... Thomas Erdbrink & Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "Iran announced Saturday that it had released four Iranian-Americans as part of a prisoner exchange with the United States, a move that came as the United States and Iran were negotiating the final steps before the expected lifting of oil and financial sanctions related to its nuclear program. Obama administration officials confirmed the prisoner-swap arrangement, calling it the result of diplomacy that intensified after the nuclear deal had been reached last July."

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "... a surge in opinion polls has brought [Sen. Bernie] Sanders a neck-and-neck position in Iowa, a steady lead in the New Hampshire primary due a week later, and validation from the most unlikely of quarters -- Secretary Clinton's own campaign team. The surprise early state polling has provoked a flurry of activity from Clinton's Brooklyn headquarters. A gaze that had been fixed on potential Republican opponents has swung back to focus on the challenger in Clinton's own party."

*****

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama gave interviews at the White House on Friday to three popular YouTube figures: Adande Thorne, a self-described 'vlogger, time traveler, professional cuddler and professional gamer' who has 3.7 million subscribers and goes by the screen name sWooZie; Destin Sandlin, who hosts a show called 'Smarter Every Day' for 3.5 million subscribers; and Ingrid Nilsen, who goes by MissGlamorazzi and hosts a channel 'for curious minds and adventurous hearts' with 3.9 million subscribers":

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The Justice Department official overseeing President Barack Obama's drive to commute the sentences of drug offenders serving long prison terms has decided to resign.... Pardon Attorney Deborah Leff took the job on an acting basis in April 2014 and was formally appointed to the post in November of that year. Under her tenure the pace of commutations has picked up significantly, but a backlog of clemency applications has also mushroomed in response to an initiative the administration announced in 2014 to encourage commutation applications from federal drug prisoners who had served more than ten years behind bars and met other criteria.... Just last week, the Justice Department announced plans to dramatically increase the staffing of Leff's office by hiring 16 attorneys."

Julian Hattem of the Hill: "House Republicans have abandoned their ambitions to sue the Obama administration over the nuclear deal with Iran.... Now, on the eve of the deal's implementation, the dream has drifted away, and been supplanted by a handful of legislative efforts designed to prevent the U.S. from lifting sanctions against Iran."

Congressman Unable to See Own Face in Mirror. Christopher Massie of BuzzFeed: "Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks [RTP-White] said on Thursday that Barack Obama is the most 'racially divisive' president since the days when American presidents supported slavery." Here's Brooks in 2014 talking about the "war on whites."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court will decide whether former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell was rightly convicted of corruption for his efforts on behalf of a businessman who bestowed money and gifts on the governor and his family.The court announced Friday that it would intervene in the long-running saga of McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, and the case provides the justices a fresh opportunity to define what kind of political conduct crosses the line into criminal behavior....In recent years, the Supreme Court has limited the legal scope of what is considered public corruption." CW: Yes, it has. I'd say, "In recent years, the Supreme Court has all but announced it favored public corruption."

Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker on an "especially promising ... series of public-service announcements launched by the N.B.A. in late December. Directed by Spike Lee, they feature N.B.A. players voicing their personal worries about American gun violence.... Gun-rights supporters jumped all over the ads, which also feature victims of gun violence, as soon they appeared. 'You're vilifying Americans who are scared right now, who have the right to bear arms,' Meghan McCain [-- John McCain's daughter --] said. 'It doesn't help though, when it is just the President, when it's Spike Lee, when it's just these basketball players who, I assume every single person on there is liberal.'" CW: Well, sure, because they're all black or at least blackish. You'll have to check with Mo Brooks (see link above), but I'll bet they're all "racially divisive," too.

Clifford Krauss of the New York Times: "The world is awash in crude oil, with enough extra produced last year to fuel all of Britain or Thailand. And the price of oil will not stop falling until the glut shrinks. The oil glut -- the unsold crude that is piling up around the world -- is a quandary and a source of investor anxiety that once again rattled global markets on Friday."

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times: "Walmart, whose supercenters once transformed the way Americans shop, announced on Friday that it would close a record number of stores in the United States and overseas, as it fights to hold its ground in a retail landscape under siege by the behemoth Amazon. The giant retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., said in a statement that it would shutter 154 stores in the United States, or about 3 percent of its locations, as well as 115 stores overseas. It will also end its Walmart Express small-store format, which failed to catch on in urban areas. As many as 10,000 employees could lose their jobs in the United States and 6,000 elsewhere, it added." CW: Good for local retailers, bad for underserved urban areas. ...

... Patch has the full list of stores that are closing.

Presidential Race

Gail Collins: "There's a Democratic debate Sunday night! The party honchos scheduled it in the middle of a three-day weekend, obviously in a bid to ensure maximum attention. The American public, perky from eight straight hours of football playoffs, will totally be in the mood for a serious policy dialogue."

Emailgate All Over Again. Cory Bennett of the Hill: "A second congressional committee has launched an investigation into the security of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email server. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman [and the Anti-Science Guy] Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent letters this week to four companies that played roles in maintaining and protecting the server.... The investigation will run alongside a similar inquiry led by Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman [and America's Dumbest Senator] Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)." CW: This should all be riveting.

Robert Schlesinger of US News: "Dear Republican establishment: The horns of your dilemma were laid bare [Thursday] evening. You've spent the last few months worrying about the damage Donald Trump will do to the GOP brand; the latest debate proved that there is indeed a candidate who can take on the tyrant of Trump Tower directly and deftly. But that candidate is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who may actually stir more loathing in the Republican establishment breast than even Trump."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The harshest and most antagonistic phase of the Republican presidential race began in earnest on Friday as the candidates departed the debate hall for the campaign trail, leaving behind any pretense of good will that might have remained.... Mr. Trump, appearing on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe,' accused Mr. Cruz of being 'inappropriate' in raising questions about whether Mr. Trump's mother's citizenship status -- she was born in Scotland -- disqualifies him from running for president. And Mr. Trump said the Texas senator's remark about his 'New York values,' a dig at the real estate mogul's perceived liberal tendencies, was 'disgraceful.'... Though he had pledged to stay above the Republican-on-Republican attacks, Mr. Rubio on Friday was even sharper in his questioning of Mr. Cruz's devotion to conservative principles than he was during the debate." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Dana Milbank: "Republicans like to blame Trump for hijacking the party, but equally to blame are the others in the race for letting it happen -- and continuing to do so, now just two weeks from the Iowa caucuses. Thursday night's debate was another depressing development: Any of four men on the stage -- Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie or John Kasich -- could have been a viable alternative to the fear and demagoguery offered by Trump and Ted Cruz. Instead, they cluttered the stage and quarreled among themselves, offering little beyond faint echoes of Trump's rage." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

... Charles Pierce has some thoughts on the debaters. For the most part, one would not describe them as positive, although he did enjoy it when "He, Trump ... squash[ed] that demagogic bug [being Cruz] in just that way and, just for a second, I began to see the sense behind He, Trump's poll numbers." CW: I object when Pierce, or anyone, describes Marco and Tedas "oily" & "oleaginous"; Pierce means "greaser," whether he realizes it or not, & it's decidedly not P.C. to use such a term when referring to a person of the Hispanic persuasion. Pierce should cut that out. But he won't. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: Donald Trump's campaign threw Gabriel out of a Trump event. According to the operative who, along with a cop, forcibly removed Gabriel from the venue, Gabriel was being ejected on orders from Trump's Iowa state campaign director -- a day after the Times published Gabriel's piece critical of Trump's Iowa operation. CW: That's how "freedom of the press" would work in a Trump administration. As Gabriel notes, "It was not the first time the Trump campaign had excluded members of the news media from its Iowa events. After The Des Moines Register published an editorial in July calling on Mr. Trump to quit the Republican race..., reporters from The Register were barred from Mr. Trump's rallies." ...

... Hadas Gold of Politico: "The campaign has either removed from events or withheld press passes for journalists from BuzzFeed, Fusion, The Des Moines Register and The Huffington Post."

Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "Donald Trump has rented space at an Urbandale movie theater and will give Iowans free tickets to a showing of the Benghazi movie that critics of Hillary Clinton have been eagerly awaiting.... The movie depicts the terrorist raid on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012. It reportedly makes no mention of Clinton, then the U.S. Secretary of State, but has again raised the topic of the Democratic presidential candidate's role in the tragedy...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)...

     ... Adam Goldman & Greg Miller of the Washington Post: The former CIA chief in Benghazi says a pivotal scene in the movie "13 Hours" is fictional: there was never a "stand-down order." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Elliot Smilowitz of the Hill: "... Donald Trump took aim at rival Ted Cruz in a series of Saturday morning tweets, taunting Cruz over challenges to his citizenship and reports that he did not disclose campaign loans." ...

... Mike McIntire of the New York Times: "...Ted Cruz, already facing scrutiny for not disclosing a Goldman Sachs loan he used for his 2012 Senate campaign, also failed to disclose a second loan, from Citibank, for the same race, according to a letter he sent Thursday to federal election officials. The one-page letter said that the 'underlying source' of money for a series of personal loans Mr. Cruz made to his Senate campaign in Texas included both bank loans, which totaled as much as $1 million. Both loans were 'inadvertently omitted; from the required filings, the letter said.... The latest disclosure casts further doubt on his oft-stated story of having liquidated his entire family savings of slightly more than $1 million to fuel a come-from-behind win in the Republican primary. The tale has become part of a campaign narrative of a populist, scrappy Mr. Cruz putting everything on the line to overcome a wealthy establishment opponent." ...

... Will Weissert of the AP: "Ted Cruz has said that after working on George W. Bush's 2000 campaign, being passed over for a senior position with the new administration was 'a crushing blow.' Turns out, it was his own choice. Cruz was offered a job as White House associate counsel shortly after Al Gore conceded the race in December, but he rejected it, members of the Bush transition team told The Associated Press. Cruz thought he was in line for the more senior role of deputy White House counsel."

... Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "Ted Cruz made fake apologies to New Yorkers after disparaging Donald Trump as an avatar of "New York values." ...

... Birtherism 2.0. Laurel Calkins & Kevin Cirilli of Bloomberg: "... Ted Cruz should be disqualified from the race because he isn't a 'natural-born citizen,' a fellow Texan claims in a 'birther' challenge filed against the senator in a U.S. court. The suit seeks a court definition of the term to clarify whether Cruz -- who was born in Canada to an American mother -- can or can't serve if elected. 'This 229-year question has never been pled, presented to or finally decided by or resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court,' Houston attorney Newton B. Schwartz Sr. said in his 28-page complaint. 'Only the U.S. Supreme Court can finally decide, determine judicially and settle this issue now.'... Schwartz, 85, said in a phone interview he isn't connected to any particular campaign, though he personally 'probably' supports Bernie Sanders...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Peace on Earth & Mercy Mild; Shoot 'em for the Newborn Child. Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Mr. Rubio on Friday told employees of Sturm, Ruger & Co., a gun manufacturing company [in Newport, New Hampshire], that he sought to buy a weapon on Dec. 24 and found that the store he went to 'was packed' with young and old customers, some of them, he said, worried that President Obama would further restrict their right to purchase guns. He did not say whether the gun was meant as a gift or where the store was. 'I went to go purchase a handgun on the 24, on Christmas Eve,' he said, lamenting efforts by Democrats to 'stigmatize gun owners.'" ...

... The Mentalist. Steve Benen: "Marco Rubio recently launched a television ad in which he insists President Obama is trying to take away Americans' guns. ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked the senator the other day to defend the claim, which appears to be completely at odds with reality. 'Well,' Rubio replied, 'if he could he would.' In other words, the Republican presidential candidate lied in his campaign commercial, but he feels justified in doing so because of what he imagines the president might be secretly thinking.... Rubio is to play the role of a mind-reader: sure, the president isn't actually doing scary things, but if we imagine his secret thoughts, we find evidence of how correct we are about his nefarious agenda." ...

... Ed Kilgore: Marco Rubio's "long march back from a fatally miscalculated stand as a champion of comprehensive immigration reform -- a.k.a. 'amnesty' -- has now culminated in the retroactive claim that the terrorist threat justified his abrupt about-face on the subject. It is clear, he said in [Thursday] night's Republican candidates' debate, that all border crossings, legal or illegal, must now be given fresh scrutiny."

Adios, Arbusto! Anna Palmer & Ben White of Politico: "Politico talked to nearly two dozen major donors [to Jeb!'s campaign], and most say they are waiting for what one veteran Republican and former Bush 43 administration appointee described as the 'family hall pass' to jump to another campaign after the New Hampshire primary." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)...

... AND Just in the Nick of Time. Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Sen. Lindsey Graham on Friday endorsed Jeb Bush for president, a major get for the former Florida governor who has struggled to gain traction in the contest." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Greg Sargent: "And Lindsey Graham endorsed Jeb Bush... Shockingly, Donald Trump's response was basically, it's not surprising that one loser endorsed another loser. Also, you losers really are losers, losers!"

Eliza Collins & Daniel Strauss of Politico: "Chris Christie has gone into damage control mode after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio began hammering him on his record with Planned Parenthood, pointing to comments from 1994 that say he made private donations to the organization." CW: That's the GOP. A candidate has to do "damage control" for supporting women's health.

Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "John Kasich pinned his presidential campaign's future on New Hampshire in a new interview where he said he'd drop out if he struggles during the state's February primary.'If I get smoked in New Hampshire, then you know kind of the ballgame is over ... because then it becomes very hard to raise money,' Kasich said during an interview on WABC Radio's "Election Central with Rita Cosby."

MEANWHILE. Andrew Kaczynski & Megan Apper of BuzzFeed: Also-ran "Rand Paul says he's going to spend 'every waking hour' trying to stop Donald Trump from getting the Republican nomination.... Still, Paul said he would support Trump should he win the nomination." ...

... The trouble is, Li'l Randy, the Donald never sleeps.

Beyond the Beltway

Scott Atkinson, et al., of the New York Times: "Michigan's attorney general opened an investigation Friday into lead contamination in Flint's drinking water, and the governor [-- Rick Snyder (R) --] asked President Obama to declare a disaster as National Guard troops fanned out across this anxious city to help distribute bottled water, water filters and testing kits.... The governor sent two requests Thursday night to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which this week has been distributing its own surplus supplies of bottled water, saying that the crisis was beyond the state's ability to manage. One asks that the president declare a state of emergency, allowing for immediate assistance like water, food and generators; the other asks him to declare a major disaster, allowing for millions of dollars in loans and grants to residents and the state for long-term needs like new water pipes, an improved filtration plant or temporary housing for residents." ...

... CW: As Akhilleus pointed out in yesterday's commentary, Republicans hate the federal government right up until the moment they start crying, "Help me! Help me!" Then, when the feds do help, they start hating the federal government again. Also read Diane's report in yesterday's comments thread & safari's comments re: Michigan's lucky-ducky "emergency managers." Akhilleus wrote, "I doubt it was made clear to Flint residents that the Emergency Manager was there to create the emergencies, not solve them." One good thing about Snyder's cry for help is that it puts the Flint fiasco in the national spotlight; ergo, the Times story.

Laura Gunderson of the Oregonian: "Holding signs that read 'Birders against bullies,' protesters took to the street in Bend, a two-hour drive from where a group of occupiers have held the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for two weeks." ...

... Les Zaitz of the Oregonian: "Oregon State Police on Friday arrested one of the protesters occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after he drove into town, accusing him of having a stolen vehicle. The man was identified as Kenneth Medenbach, 62, of Crescent. He was arrested on suspicion of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison. He was to be booked into the Deschutes County Jail in Bend with bail set at $10,000, officials said. According to federal court records, Medenbach is currently facing federal charges in Medford[, Oregon,] and was released from custody in November. A condition of his release was that he would not 'occupy' any federal land. He was accused of illegally camping on federal property." ...

... Elliot Njus of the Oregonian: "A meeting where armed protesters occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge planned to announce their exit strategy has been called off for want of a venue.... Steven Grasty, judge of the Harney County Court, which functions as the county commission, said earlier this week that county won't let any group affiliated with the occupiers use its property.... Grasty issued a statement Friday saying Bundy didn't follow the proper procedure to use the fairgrounds. He also noted that the county 'has publicly stated it would not allow the facility to be used by those who are committing criminal activities.'"

Stephen Losey of the Air Force Times: "Robins Air Force Base in Georgia has taken down a flyer advertising a 'Martin Luther King Jr. Fun Shoot' scheduled for the holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader. In a statement to Air Force Times, Robins apologized for the advertising tying the event to the holiday honoring King, who was shot by an assassin in Memphis in 1968." CW: As a result of criticisms lodged against the event, organizers announced they would reschedule the event to February 12 & rename it "Abe Lincoln Fun Shoot." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

News Ledes

Guardian: "Burkina Faso security forces have freed more than 120 hostages from a hotel seized by al-Qaida-linked fighters in the capital of Ouagadougou, but a second assault has begun at another hotel nearby, according to reports. 'Three jihadists were killed. They were an Arab and two black Africans,' Simon Compaore, the country's security minister, said of the raid which concluded early on Saturday morning. Up to 20 people had been killed and 33 people wounded in the attack, with forces still determining the number of casualties. Islamic extremists invaded the Splendid Hotel and the Cappuccino cafe on Friday night. The militants took control of the five-storey hotel, which is popular with UN staff and foreigners, burning cars outside and firing in the air to drive back crowds." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Twenty-eight people were killed and 56 were wounded in the attack that loudly announced the end to a long, mostly peaceful stretch in Burkina Faso."

Guardian: "Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro has declared an economic emergency, seeking broad powers to address a crippling recession in the oil-dependent country after official figures showed that inflation has spiralled to 141%."