The Wires

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August 8: About to give birth? About to get a new job? Beware the poppy-seed bagel. Seriously. Washington Post: "... poppy seeds really can make you fail a drug test, both peer-reviewed scientific studies and unofficial experiments conducted by journalists have found. Because they’re derived from opium poppies, they sometimes contain traces of morphine ― not enough to get you high, obviously, but potentially enough to register on a highly sensitive drug test." The report cites several instances in which mothers lost custody of their newborns because the mothers failed routine (but outdated) drug tests.

July 13: Washington Post: "A salmonella outbreak linked to a popular Kellogg's cereal has infected 100 people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday. The agency is urging consumers to avoid Honey Smacks, a sugary puffed wheat cereal which has been the subject of a recall by the company since mid-June. At least 30 of the 100 have been hospitalized, while no deaths have been reported, the CDC said. 'Do not eat Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal of any size package or with any "best if used by" date,' it wrote."

A Toke Before They Croak. Guardian: "For decades, seafood lovers have struggled with a confounding ethical dilemma: how do you balance out the delight of a lobster dinner with the discomfort of boiling one alive, generally regarded as the proper way to prepare the crustacean delicacy?... Sedating lobsters by blowing marijuana smoke on to them sounds like the type of idea you might come up with while smoking a bit of grass yourself, but Charlotte Gill, owner of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, is convinced it can help to ease the pain lobsters might feel while being boiled alive. An animal rights supporter who has owned the restaurant for seven years, Gill told the Mount Desert Island publication that she’s long struggled with the ethical implications of her line of work. After conducting an experiment in which she 'hot-boxed' a particularly aggressive lobster named Roscoe, she came away convinced the high significantly mellowed him out. 'The animal is already going to be killed,' she said in the interview. 'It is far more humane to make it a kinder passage.'”

 

Here's the Los Angeles Times' Emmy page. ...

... New York Times: "'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' won five [Emmys] on Monday night, including best comedy series, and “Game of Thrones” picked up the award for best drama. HBO and Netflix tied with 23 Emmys each. See a full list of winners here. Talk of #MeToo was largely absent from this year’s ceremony, with no one mentioning Leslie Moonves from the stage. Read our critic’s review of the show, which he said lacked diversity. See red carpet photos."

Guardian: "A pair of ruby red slippers, produced for Judy Garland to wear in the Wizard of Oz, have been discovered by police over a decade after they were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minneapolis [sic, Minnesota]. The discovery ends years of intrigue and scandal surrounding the whereabouts of the shoes. The slippers were recovered during an undercover operation in Minneapolis, the FBI revealed in a news conference today. Their lead came in summer 2017 when an individual approached the company that insured the slippers, claiming he had information about the shoes and how they could be returned. It quickly became clear he was attempting to extort the slippers’ owners and police were contacted.

You can see why Trump is insanely jealous of this guy:

There will be an answer. Best #CarpoolKaraoke evah:

     ... You're welcome. ...

... Matthew Dessem of Slate: "The only fly in the ointment is the knowledge that, demographically speaking, this video will make a lot of horrible people happy."

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

Monday
Dec062010

The Commentariat -- December 7

President Obama holds a news conference to defend his tax deal with Republicans:

NAUSEA!

... Here's the transcript.

We truly live in a bizzaro world when a call for immediate 'shared sacrifice' from middle class federal employees is soon after followed by a massively costly extension of tax cuts for millionaires.
-- Jon Walker, Firedoglake

Getting Republicans to agree to more tax cuts in return for preserving existing tax cuts is roughly equivalent to getting crack addicts to agree to try a different brand of cocaine in return for allowing them to keep their existing stash. -- John Cassidy, The New Yorker

... AP: "... President Barack Obama announced agreement with Republicans Monday night on a plan to extend expiring income tax cuts for all Americans, renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and grant a one-year reduction in Social Security taxes. The emerging agreement also includes tax breaks for businesses.... Obama's announcement marked a dramatic reversal of his long-held insistence, originally laid out in his 2008 campaign, that tax cuts should only be extended at incomes up to $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples." New York Times story here: "The package would cost about $900 billion over the next two years, to be financed entirely by adding to the national debt, at a time when both parties are professing a desire to begin addressing long-term fiscal imbalances." ...

... Adam Serwer makes several good points about the tax deal, but this is one to keep in mind: "This deal [was] made necessary only by the Democrats' bungling of a strong, popular position on tax cuts in advance of the midterm elections...." ...

... Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "Although his liberal supporters are furious about the decision, President Obama's willingness to extend all of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts is part of what White House officials say is a deliberate strategy: to demonstrate his ability to compromise with Republicans and portray the president as the last reasonable man in a sharply partisan Washington." CW: Hah! ...

... Here are the White House talking points on the tax deal, sent in a memo to "Congressional allies," via Ben Smith. ...

... Krugman comments on the tax plan here and here and here.

... Here's Peter Baker's view of our pragmatic President: "For the first time since his party’s drubbing in last month’s election, and arguably for the first time on a major domestic policy since he took office, Mr. Obama forged a deal with the Republican opposition.... In that deal come the first clues to how he plans to govern for the next two years.... He made clear he was willing to alienate his liberal base...."

... Anderson Cooper on President Obama's broken promise:

... The Huff Post has another nice roundup of clips of President Obama deriding "tax cuts for millionaires & billionaires." He still says he doesn't like them, but he's endorsed them in his "compromise." ...

... Pat Garofalo of the Wonk Room: "So in return for continuing the fiscally irresponsible and economically unsuccessful Bush tax policy, Democrats receive an desperately necessary extension of jobless benefits of the sort that used to be completely uncontroversial until this Congress came to town, as well as some helpful tax breaks for the working class that Republicans likely would have supported under any circumstance.... But the most pernicious piece of this deal is the estate tax cut. It will amount to another $7 billion in tax breaks in 2011 that benefit no one but the ultra-wealthy." ...

... As Ezra Klein sees it, "... rather than paring the tax cuts and the deficit back, they're making both larger. If you're of the mind that the economy needs all the extra help it can get right now..., this is a lot more extra help than anyone expected Republicans and Democrats would agree to give it. And from a political perspective, if you believe that what matters for elections is the economy -- and you should -- then it's worth it for the White House to lose news cycles in 2010 if it means adding jobs by 2012.... The next fight over the tax cuts will be part of the 2012 election.... The White House's problem is that they handled the politics of this argument so poorly in 2010 that their allies on the Hill don't trust them to do better in 2012. One Senate staffer summed up his reaction to the deal in one word: 'Nausea.' ...

... John Cassidy of The New Yorker: "From a political perspective, the agreement is a humiliating moment for President Obama, and one that may forever rupture his relations with the liberal wing of his party....   From an egalitarian standpoint, the failure to end Bush’s giveaway to the rich is an inexplicable failure. It will only strengthen the impression that the United States is ... a country in which a small group of rich people wield an inordinate amount of political power. But from an immediate macroeconomic perspective, and, hence, from the perspective of a President preparing for a reëlection campaign in 2012, the tax-cutting agreement makes some sense. By boosting the overall level of spending power, it will reduce the chances of the economy falling back into recession sometime next year or in 2012." ...

... Low Expectations, Part 1. Later, after reading more of the President's deal, Klein says the deal is not as bad as it might have been. Money quote, so to speak: "The tax cuts for income over $250,000 are a bad way to spend $100 billion or so, and the estate tax deal is really noxious." ...

... Low Expectations, Part 2. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones says the same: "This isn't anyone's idea of dream legislation, but it could be a lot worse. But how stimulative is it? Answer: not much in a positive way, but it does prevent the elimination of current programs that would have been contractionary." ...

... Low Expectations, Part 3. New York Times Editors: "President Obama’s deal with the Republicans to extend all the Bush-era income tax cuts is a win for the Republicans and their strategy of obstructionism and a disappointing retreat by the White House. We suppose it could have been worse." ...

... More on Why I Love Bernie!

... Katrina vanden Heuvel in a Washington Post op-ed on Obama's right turns, on Afghanistan, on the Korea trade deal, on deficits, on jobs: "This is political self-immolation." ...

... Obama gives away the store just after Krugman recommends you see the film "Inside Job." That's appropriate. Here's the trailer for "Inside Job":

"I Want It All for Christmas":

Tom Toles, Washington Post.... those of you who bought the idea that electing more Republicans would be the path to reform here in the Emerald City .... have been gamed yet again, and the name of that game is still the same: money in politics. And the money comes from...oh!...the rich! Now watch in surprise as your newly duly elected representatives vote to serve the interests of the rich! Who could have guessed. -- Tom Toles

Manu Raju of Politico: "Members of Congress requested almost 40,000 earmarks that exceeded $100 billion directed to their home districts and states for the current fiscal year, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis to be released Tuesday."

Peter Boyer of The New Yorker profiles Speaker-in-Waiting John Boehner, who will not have an easy time controlling his caucus, especially the new tea party members.

CW: based on yesterdays oral arguments & precedent, it appears the conservatives on the Supreme Court are prepared to deprive veterans of their benefits when their illnesses or injuries cause them to miss filing deadlines. Justice Scalia's cruel, vindictive, closed-minded rigidity, as reported in this article by Adam Liptak of the New York Times, makes clear that he is a sociopath.

I'm not particularly optimistic that they're going to get this done. -- Defense Secetary Robert Gates, on repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Evelyn Rusli of the New York Times: economist Nouriel Roubini, a/k/a Dr. Doom, "says he’s increasingly worried about ... America’s real estate mess. The country’s real estate problems are 'underappreciated,' and banks could face another $1 trillion in housing-related losses, Mr. Roubini said.... The United States 'real estate market, for sure, is double dipping,' Mr. Roubini said. 'The apparent increase in prices has been fully reversed, demand is falling, and supply is going to increase.'”

I think we have to blow up the place. -- Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), on how to fix Congress

"Keith Chaudruc, left, of Madison, tries to get a word in (but he can't) as Gov. Chris Christie berates him at a town hall meeting in Parsippany on Friday." Photo & caption by Star-Ledger.

CW: Republicans are begging New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie to run for President. The editors of the Star-Ledger, New Jersey's largest-circulation newspaper, call him a bully

Christie has turned state politics into one never-ending yo’ mama joke. It doesn’t matter who you are — school superintendent, teacher, student, U.S. senator, state Assembly leader, former education commissioner or just a regular guy trying to have a conversation: If you disagree with him, Christie will try to humiliate you publicly. -- Editors, Star-Ledger

      ... CW: the editorial, which includes an account of one incident in which Christie bullied a citizen -- & involved Christie's ordering state trooper to effectively manhandle the guy -- is entertaining. Includes video.

Ho Ho Ho! Steve Benen: Christmas is just around the corner and "they" are picking on Christians again. Happy Holidays! ...

Farah Stockman & Matt Viser of the Boston Globe: "The latest trove of diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks provides a rare glimpse into behind-the-scenes meetings Senator John F. Kerry has held with world leaders.... The cables ... portray him as a statesman who is constantly seeking a middle ground...." ...

... Mark Thompson of Time points to Denver Nick's profile of Bradley Manning, who is suspected of providing classified documents to WikiLeaks.

President Obama speaking yesterday in North Carolina on education, innovation & the economy:

     ... AP: "President Barack Obama warned Monday the United States faces a new 'Sputnik moment' in an increasingly one-world economy and said it must move dramatically to hold its place as global leader."

New York Times: "In the latest twist in the drama swirling around the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group, British police officials said on Tuesday they had arrested Julian Assange ... on a warrant issued in Sweden in connection with alleged sex offenses." Story has been updated: "Assange ... was denied bail by a London court on Tuesday.... Mr. Assange said he would fight extradition" [to Sweden].

Sunday
Dec052010

The Commentariat -- December 6

New York Times: "The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said in an interview broadcast on Sunday evening that rising inequality was eroding social cohesion and that Congress could help economic growth by making the tax code more efficient." Bloomberg story here.  Here's the video:

Julie Pace & Ken Thomas of ABC News, December 4: "The White House says the Korean agreement could put as many as 70,000 Americans to work...." CW: I'm pretty sure I repeated this assertion somewhere ...

... BUT Paul Krugman says trade deals do not produce jobs. He even provides a fancy formula -- which I don't understand -- to explain why. If you also don't quite get it, here's a good rule to apply: a sentence that begins "The White House says" is less likely to be true than one that begins "Paul Krugman says."

There is a war ... in this country..., a war being waged by some of the wealthiest & more powerful people in this country against the working families of the United States of America, against the disappearing & shrinking middle class of our country.
-- Sen. Bernie Sanders ...

Chicken Crap? Jay Newton-Small of Time thinks Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is crowing before he counts his chickens. ...

... Howard Fineman: "While the public focus of the Great Tax Battle remains riveted on the U.S. Senate, top Democratic insiders are privately worried about the real lame-duck end game: a last-minute, potentially deal-breaking revolt by Democrats in the House." CW: I hope the House Dems do revolt; the capitulation to the rich is revolting. ...

... Jonathan Chait of The New Republic: "So now that President Obama has given up on his campaign pledge of ending the Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000, what is Plan B?" (a) Get re-elected. (b) assuming he does win, he'll be in much stronger position on taxes two years from now.... Eliminating the Bush tax cuts would reduce the deficit by $4.6 trillion over ten years, considerably more than the $3.8 trillion that the Bowles-Simpson plan would save." ...

... Paul Krugman: "Democrats should not give in to Republican blackmail on extending tax cuts." ...

... Oh, the Worries of the Rich. Louise Story & Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times: "Worried that lawmakers will allow taxes to rise for the wealthiest Americans beginning next year, financial firms are discussing whether to move up their bonus payouts from next year to this month.... If Congress does not extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest income levels, a typical worker who earns a $1 million bonus would pay $40,000 to $50,000 more in taxes next year than this year, depending on base salary." ...

... Matt Yglesias: "Even though Social Security is only a very mildly redistributive program, inequality of wealth is such that it’s a vital element of the bottom 60 percent’s living standards but kind of small beer to the top twenty percent":

New York Times Editors: "Schwarzenegger v. Plata ... is the most important case in years about prison conditions. The [Supreme Court] justices should uphold the lower court’s remedy for addressing the horrors." ...

... AND Times Editors: the Senate Ethics Committee must make "a decisive report" or take "disciplinary action" against Sen. John Ensign, "since the facts suggest the use of both influence and money to hush up the affair" he had with an aide.

Sunday Times, via Fox News: "Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has circulated across the internet an encrypted 'poison pill' cache of uncensored documents suspected to include files on BP and Guantanamo Bay. One of the files identified this weekend by The Sunday Times — called the 'insurance' file — has been downloaded from the WikiLeaks website by tens of thousands of supporters, from America to Australia. Assange warns that any government that tries to curtail his activities risks triggering a new deluge of state and commercial secrets." ...

... CBS News: "WikiLeaks has been condemned by British and U.S. officials for publishing a secret State Department inventory of sites across the world deemed vital to American security. The document, dubbed the Critical Foreign Dependencies Initiative according to a report in The Telegraph, lists everything from British pharmaceutical factories churning out vaccines and insulin, to a Bauxite mine in the African nation of Guinea." ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Obama administration officials reminded rank-and-file federal workers and contractors late Friday to steer clear of WikiLeaks, the controversial document-sharing Web site." ...

Judy Woodruff's interview of former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski & Stephen Hadley is a week old, but it's still worth hearing:

     ... The transcript is here. ...

... Andy Borowitz Scoop: "WikiLeaks Attempts to Expose Palin's Thoughts, Finds Nothing":

For her part, Gov. Palin seemed to be relishing her role as the one politician in the world who has nothing to fear from WikiLeaks. On Twitter, she addressed the following message to Mr. Assange: 'How’s that Wiki-Leaky thing workin out for ya?' ...

... If you're interested in knowing how Julian Assange thinks & why he's doing what he's doing, here are links to pdfs of a couple of his, well, position papers. The first is titled, "State & Terrorist Conspiracies"; the second is "Conspiracy as Governance." Assange distributed both in late 2006. If you want a short course, Michael Collins, writing on AlterNet, has an overview, tho I think he misunderstands Assange's comment about 9/11. Warning: maybe if you're planning a diplomatic career, you should stay away from this stuff.

Welcome to America. Holbrook Mohr, et al. of the AP: "Lured by unsupervised, third-party brokers with promises of steady jobs and a chance to sightsee, some foreign college students on summer work programs in the U.S. get a far different taste of life in America. An Associated Press investigation found students forced to work in strip clubs instead of restaurants. Others take home $1 an hour or even less. Some live in apartments so crowded that they sleep in shifts because there aren't enough beds. Others have to eat on floors. They are among more than 100,000 college students who come to the U.S. each year on popular J-1 visas, which supply resorts with cheap seasonal labor as part of a program aimed at fostering cultural understanding." ...

... Tougher by the Numbers. Andrew Becker of the Washington Post: "For much of this year, the Obama administration touted its tougher-than-ever approach to immigration enforcement, culminating in a record number of deportations. But in reaching 392,862 deportations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement included more than 19,000 immigrants who had exited the previous fiscal year. When ICE officials realized in the final weeks of the fiscal year..., that the agency still was in jeopardy of falling short of last year's mark..., officials quietly directed immigration officers to bypass backlogged immigration courts and time-consuming deportation hearings whenever possible...."

Illustration by Tomer Hanuka for New York Magazine.New York Magazine: "Ten years ago this month, a Supreme Court ruling ushered in George W. Bush as our 43rd president. We asked five (sometime) novelists to imagine the past decade as if the election had gone the other way. America: This is your parallel life." The five writers are Kurt Andersen, Kevin Baker, Glenn Beck!, Jane Smiley & Walter  Kirn.

Sunday
Dec052010