The Wires

Public Service Announcement

November 26: Washington Post: "Federal health officials said Monday that only romaine lettuce from certain parts of California is unsafe to eat and that romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled to give consumers information about when and where it was harvested. If consumers, retailers and food service facilities cannot determine whether the romaine was grown outside California, they should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one got sick, according to a lengthy statement from Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. FDA officials said the most likely source of contamination is from the Central Coast growing regions in northern and central California. Romaine lettuce harvested outside those regions 'does not appear to be related to the current outbreak,' the FDA said. Hydroponically grown and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be affected in the outbreak. Romaine from those sources is safe to eat, the FDA said."

... November 20: New York Times: "In a sweeping alert, federal health officials warned people not to eat romaine lettuce anywhere in the country, after 32 people in 11 states fell sick with a virulent form of E. coli, a bacteria blamed for a number of food-borne outbreaks in recent years. The notice, issued Tuesday afternoon by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said consumers should not buy or eat any kind of romaine, whether chopped or whole, and restaurants should stop serving it. Anyone who has romaine, the health agency said, should throw it out." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Okay then, guess I'll throw out that romaine. Already ate one head, and I ain't dead yet.

"The Christmas Comet Returneth." New York Times: "Look into the night sky on Sunday [December 16] and you just might see a bright, fuzzy ball with a greenish-gray tint. That’s because a comet that orbits between Jupiter and the sun will make its closest approach to Earth in centuries, right on the heels of this year’s most stunning meteor shower. 'The fuzziness is just because it’s a ball of gas basically,' Tony Farnham, a research scientist in the astronomy department at the University of Maryland, said on Saturday morning.... 'You’ve got a one-kilometer solid nucleus in the middle, and gas is going out hundreds of thousands of miles.' The comet glows green because the gases emit light in green wavelengths. The ball of gas and dust, sometimes referred to as the 'Christmas comet,' was named 46P/Wirtanen, after the astronomer Carl Wirtanen, who discovered it in 1948. It orbits the sun once every 5.4 years, passing by Earth approximately every 11 years, but its distance varies and it is rarely this close. As the comet passes by, it will be 30 times farther from Earth than the moon, NASA said.”

By George O'Keefe or somebody.Maybe the Best Gift Would Be a Spell-Check App. Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Way back in November (so Slate has had plenty of time to make corrections), someone named Angela Serratore (hope I spelled that right), wrote a post for Slate, which is featured on its main page now, suggesting gifts from small museum shops. That's a nice thought, but it would have been even nicer if the story had not misspelled Georgia O'Keeffe three times: twice as "Georgia O'Keefe" & once as "George O'Keefe." But never "Georgia O'Keeffe."

Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi leaving the White House Wednesday, Dec. 12, after making mincemeat of Donald Trump.Everybody Loved Nancy's Coat! It's turns out it's from a 2013 Max Mara collection. According to Ana Colón of Glamour, "the Italian fashion house sent out a press release that not only confirmed the origins of Pelosi's coat but also announced that Max Mara would be reinstating the Glamis into its outerwear collection in 2019. 'In a variety of colorways,' no less! A spokesperson for the brand confirmed to Glamour that the decision to bring it back was inspired by Pelosi."

Isabel Wilkerson reports, in the New York Times, on Michelle Obama's book Becoming. It's quite a compelling read.

Reality Chex Bargain. Someone will pay $1 million or more for a letter written by Albert Einstein. You can read it for free. ...

... New York Times: The "God Letter," "written [in German] in 1954 by Albert Einstein ... is being auctioned this week.... He sent the handwritten letter to Eric Gutkind, a German philosopher who had written a book called 'Choose Life: The biblical Call to Revolt' that, apparently, Einstein did not much like.... Einstein wrote dozens of letters in which he mentioned God or Judaism. 'Nobody should read one Einstein letter and think that solves what he thinks about God,' Walter Isaacson, the author of the 2007 biography 'Einstein,' said in an interview.... The letter surfaced in 2008. Until then, it had apparently been in the hands of Gutkind’s heirs (he died in 1965). And it rocketed into the universe of big-money auctions, selling for $404,000 in London.... It will go on the block at Christie’s on Tuesday. Christie’s set a presale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million."

Here's New York magazine's take on A Very Melanie Christmas:

... AND Rhonda Garelick of New York has some thoughts on why Melanie's Red Forest is so empty of holiday cheer.

Chris Hayes reviews this year's White House holiday decor:

So if you'd like to read all about Mika Brzezinski's wedding to Joe Scarborough, Emily Fox of Vanity Fair obliges. It sounds as if it was a very nice ceremony. Except, you know, Mika & Joe.

Kwitcherbitchin. Think things are bad now? They were way worse in 536 C.E. A report in Science explains.

Click on picture to see larger image.

... New York Times: "A celebrated and enigmatic painting of two men and a turquoise pool by David Hockney sold at Christie’s on Thursday night for $90.3 million with fees, shattering the auction record for a living artist and cementing a major broadening of tastes at the turbocharged top end of the market. The price for the 1972 painting, 'Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),' easily surpassed the previous high of $58.4 million, held by Jeff Koons for one of his 'Balloon Dog' sculptures."

Jennifer Szalai of the New York Times reviews Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming.


Anatomy of a Eulogy

By Akhilleus

Reading Jon Meacham's eulogy of 41, it struck me that, in a single paragraph, he encapsulated the problem with holding HW up as an avatar of American political greatness and courage.

For Lincoln and Bush both called on us to choose the right over the convenient, to hope rather than to fear, and to heed not our worst impulses, but our best instincts.

Let's set aside the absurd Lincoln comparison. 41 was no more Lincolnesque than so many of the Johnny-come-lately R's who try to burnish their record of racism, greed, and stupidity with some laughably spurious connection to Honest Abe.

Right over the convenient? Nope. When Bush had the opportunity to spill the beans on Iran Contra, an illegal, astoundingly unconstitutional move to sell weapons to our sworn enemies for political gain, he knuckled under and went along to get along. So much for courage.

Hope rather than fear? Forget that thousand points of light scam. The whole idea there was a Reaganesque "government is bad so it's all up to you" broadside. And leave us not forget that Poppy routinely went along with the up and coming troglodytes led by the lying scam artist Newt Gingrich, who preached fear, fear, fear, and hatred of anyone who didn't agree with our side. So much for hope.

As for heeding our best instincts as opposed to worst impulses, Bush went along with the government haters and did his infamously stupid John Wayne "Read My Lips" bullshit in order to stoke the fires of ignorance in hopes of getting re-elected. Also, deciding to invade Iraq so that he wouldn't look wimpy, he opened the door to a Middle East malaise that makes the 1970's problems look positively quaint. So much for best instincts.

Did he do some good things? Sure. Unlike Trump (and most of his son's history), he did a few good things. But to con the public into comparing this guy with Lincoln is the sort of canard that a real historian should be ashamed of. I hearby resolve never to read another bullshit book (or article) by Jon Meacham.


Reader Comments (9)

Thank you, Akhilleus, for your excellent take-down of Meacham’s praises sung (both self-reflected and sycophantic).

Let us also not forget Herbert Walker’s silence regarding AIDS and his belief that LGBT persons were not “normal”. I can attest that none of my gay buddies feel any gratitude at his having “mellowed” (self-attribution) regarding these subjects until long out of office and, perhaps, contemplating his own mortality.

December 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAuntHattie

Several days ago Chris Hayes had on Jennifer Rubin and Charlie Pierce and they were discussing Poppy Bush's legacy. Ole Charlie started in on Bush's Iran/Contra involvement among other things but Rubin wouldn't have it––the two of them started in on each other–-reminded me of two cats in an alley. Chris, not wanting any claw scratching spoiling his space went for a commercial and said bye, bye to J. and C.

I suppose it's bad form to diss the dead, especially in this era where our "Fatty" in charge is charged with so much corruption. Instead of Meachan's encomium of Bush, wouldn't it been grand to have him compared to the guy sitting out front in the first row. But of course that would not have been cricket.

It's clear that Bush was beloved by his family and friends and that he had some wonderful qualities. The fact that he could be ruthless and insensitive in some policy decisions is par for the course even though as many said today–-"He was always for the country not for himself" which almost made me lose my grilled cheese.

I started watching these proceedings a little late––missed Meachan's speech and the next speaker but got into Alan Simpson's very amusing speech. I have always loved listening to Simpson–-seldom agreed with him, ( he'd slaughter you in a nano second) but his folksy way of drawing you in was charming. I turned off the sound during the sermons–-but thought the music was splendid. I thought Bush's speech about his father was done well and at the end the grief spilling over brought tears.

And watching the contrast between Trump's face and Obama's was interesting. Obama was reacting–-you could almost hear him "thinking" while Trump remained sullen with arms folded. He was sitting on the outside of the row––absolutely fitting, I'd say.

December 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Meachem is the perfect historian to represent a cervical symbolism of our times: a combination of laziness and intellectual chicanery.

Reaching into the history of the GOP today only requires a superficial façade of knowledge of two leaders: Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. Every one else in the history of the Republican party has been stuck in a box and suffocated somewhere out of sight.

Conservative "intellectuals" have decided that hitching their wagons to these two Presidents gives them their best opportunity to sell their party's "values", regardless of the lack of continuity in policies and practices. Rather than looking at the (oftentimes) harsh light of reality, conservatives cherry pick quotes or ideas and then build their imagined reality upon those shaky foundations.

Meacham thus looks for a way to evoke Lincoln to prove his intellectual "bona fides" of today's stale historians, and grasps on to Lincoln's "better angels" wisdom. From what I've gathered about his speech (full disclosure, I skipped the Bush accolades) it seemed to be a recycled version of the book he's been hawking on teevee for the last few months about how Lincoln's appeal to a better nation inspired generations of civil rights leaders and ordinary Americans who fought for a more inclusive society. The problem is, it seems he geared up his intellectual laziness to recycle his analysis of America as a better nation by parachuting George HW Bush right into the middle of a story that was largely absent of his presence.

As others have noted, Poppy Bush was far from exemplary as a Lincoln-esque figure of promoting our "better angels". His politically-convenient go ahead with the racial fear-mongering Willie Horton ad, fomenting the nation's worst racial impulses, automatically disqualifies him from any "better angels" qualification, rendering any Lincoln comparison obsolete. Meacham should know that, but he's a book to sell.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Last night PBS aired a splendid documentary (American Experience) on Bush 41. It presented a man of high standards, high expectations, and clay feet like most. Someone said that Bush was what Reagan pretended to be. I think that's exactly right.

Something I hadn't known or just forgot was Bush's negation of LBJ's Civil Right's bill (at the time Bush was chairman of the Republican Party–-a position Nixon put him on after Bush had been the UN Ambassador –-to be "used" as a promoter of Nixon's polices or scams). But eventually Bush sided with LBJ –-said he had to do "the right thing". His people turned against him–-hate mail, hate phone messages, etc. Bush finally said he had to give a speech explaining his thinking on this but was warned not to do it. He did it and he did it beautifully and at the end got a standing ovation. He had swayed the crowd. This was in 1968.

As for the Willy Horton ad, James Baker swears it was not their campaign but some rogue group that put the ad on. Even if that is true, why would the Bush people leave that ad on for weeks?

Lee Atwater gave Bush the deranged muscle he needed to win–-the message being you can't win being the kinder, gentler kind of politician–-he won, but lost in a significant way.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

The basic theme of Meacham's book, The Soul of America, is do not worry, everything will be alright. He does not recognize the deterioration of our democracy. He has no fear. He is a dangerous supporter of our oligarchy. He is an eloquent cheer leader.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercarlyle

I've always found Meacham to be a bit glib, as are so many who seem to have to reach with all their earnest intellect and academic credentials to attain some sort of grasp of the obvious. That's about all the praise I can muster for him.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterFleeting Expletive

@Fleeting Expletive: Meacham has relatively meager academic credentials. He holds a bachelor's degree from Sewanee. That's it except for some honorary doctorates. There's nothing wrong with being self-taught, but Meacham hasn't learned much.

December 6, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Fleeting Expletive,

(Love that name, by the way), to corroborate Marie's sense of the abilities of the autodidact, I give you the great Barbara Tuchman, who held a BA from Radcliffe College in the 30's but bolstered her credentials as a historian with life experience, excellent research and writing chops, and, as she put it, freedom from the expectations of an academic appointment.

She has long been one of my favorite historians.

Jon Meacham, not so much. Well, okay. Not at all. Meacham is a TV show historian in that his narratives eschew the complexities and nuances of serious historiography (at least in that venue) for EZ Hist-O-Ree that can be absorbed without much effort by viewers with one eye on the TV, another on their Facebook page, and the occasional glance at the stove or microwave to make sure the soup doesn't boil over.

Tuchman he ain't.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@AK: Tuchman: the best! Her "March of Folly" ends with this:


“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us. But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind us.”___Samuel Coleridge

The image is beautiful but the message misleading, for the light on the waves we have passed through should enable us to infer the nature of the waves ahead.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe
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