The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, May 21, 2015.

Washington Post: "California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Santa Barbara County late Wednesday after an onshore pipeline burst, spewing thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean — blackening beaches and endangering West Coast wildlife. The area, a popular camping spot some 20 miles from Santa Barbara, known for its palm tree-lined seashore and pristine surf, has been “closed indefinitely.” The extent of the damage is not known."

New York Times: "Islamic State militants on Thursday solidified their rout of Syrian government forces in the historic desert city of Palmyra, moving to the outskirts to seize its airport and the notorious Tadmur Prison, according to residents and statements from the group. It was the first time that the ISIS militants seized an entire city from Syrian government forces; it won control of its first major city, Raqqa, from Syrian insurgents and the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front after the two became rivals."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 22

10:00 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement ceremony (audio only)

11:00 am ET: President Obama speaks at the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

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Monday
Dec192011

December 19 -- Gifts for the Kids!

Fred Drumlevitch has assembled a nice toy collection to help you if you're having difficulty deciding on those last-minute gifts for the little kids on your list. The theme here: teach your children well -- so they'll grow up to respect police brutality. Drumlevitch's shopping catalogue is a bit limited, so perhaps you can suggest some more ideas for great educational toys. I, for instance, have been looking for Protester Barbie.

Write on this or something sensible.

P.S. My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's amazement that "believers" actually liked Christopher Hitchens, an atheist. Would someone please explain to me why Hitchens' death has been treated to so much hype & remembrance while comparatively little attention has been paid to the death of Vaclav Havel, who, you know, sort of brought down the Iron Curtain?

Reader Comments (14)

How can I be sensible when I was just as good as Fred all year long and I'm gettin' squat for Christmas? No coal, no nothin'. Fred is getting everything including Dr. Denton's with the built-in foot slippers and back side drop pocket in state police blue. Lucky bastard... Hey Fred, can I come over and play? I promise I won't fly the drone into the Christmas tree or cover the Leggos with peanut butter and watch the dog eat them. Marie and Karen want to come over too; but they're girls and girls got cotties.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@"Doubthat" I'm an atheist that believes in all religions just not the followers of them. As to "The Answer"; we'll know when we get there. Till then, just guessing.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

Hmmmm is there a Mitch McConnell doll in Fred's bag of gifts? Squeeze it and it lies. Automatically. Any time, day or night.

I see on the front page of RC that ol' Mitchy is up to his usual tricks, making demands that a Democratic president not do things he supported when they were done with impunity by the last Republican president. So Mitchy is apoplectic that Obama might make some recess appointments. It never bothered him that Bush made scores of recess appointments that included such lights of intellectual honesty and sobriety as raving lunatic John Bolton. But one recess appointment caught my eye as I reviewed the many wildly inappropriate and downright incompetents candidates set up by Bush when congress' back was turned (seven in one day in 2003!).

In January of 2002 Bush appointed one Eugene Scalia to be Solicitor for the US Department of Labor. If the name sounds familiar, it is. And it wouldn't be at all a problem that the guy is Nino Scalia's son. What made it bad were these facts: Scalia worked night and day to discount problems experienced by workers, especially those who suffered repetitive motion injuries. Some solicitor for Labor. But Bush specialized in fox-in-henhouse appointments, much as Reagan did (remember James Watt as Sec'y of Interior?????). One other interesting nugget about Scalia was that Bush had hired Scalia's law firm to represent him in his 2000 bid to make sure that legitimate votes in Florida that did not support his bid to become King were not counted. He won that bid because Scalia's dad did not recuse himself from case, the outcome of which had direct impact, personally, professionally, and financially, on his son. Two years later, Bush rewarded both Scalias by appointing little Eugene to a post in which he could continue his work of harassing American workers and standing up for the rights of corporations to fuck them over.

I don't recall Mitchy ever once demanding that Bush not make those appointments.

One other thing. Mitch had no problem with Bush's recess appointments, likely because most of those appointees were outrageously unqualified or inappropriate for the positions they were handed. He has a problem with a possible Obama appointment because he's afraid the appointee to oversee corruption on Wall Street WILL be competent and appropriate.

Welcome to Right Wing World.

Send that McConnell Doll COD. I may not want it after all.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@ Akilleus. Thanks. Nino's little boy Gino slipped right by me. In the Department of Nepotism, I do remember Bush's appointing Michael son of Colin Powell to chair the FCC (Powell the Younger was a holdover to the FCC, having been appointed by President Clinton to be a Republican member of the commission, and as such did not have to be confirmed by the Senate when Bush promoted him.) At the FCC, Powell made himself Deregulator-in-Chief, which was his most important bad work, but his most famous act of stupid was fining Viacom/CBS more than half a million bucks for briefly airing Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.

I don't much care for Howard Stern, but he has his moments. To little Michael's face he said, "Guys like me who came from nowhere out of nothing and worked their way up and committed themselves to broadcasting and making a career of broadcasting have to answer to you. And it is a question as to how you got to where you got to. And let's face it: You got to where you got to, you got to the head of the class the way George W. Bush got out of the draft."

These legacies are just more reminders of why it's better to have a Democrat -- no matter how bad -- in the White House than a Republican. Don't like Eric Holder? (I don't.) Reminisce a moment about Alberto Gonzoles. Think Ken Salazar sucks? (I do.) Think back to Gail Norton & -- as Akhilleus reminds us -- James Watt.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

@Akhilleus;
Great comment as usual, but I just had to mention Elaine Chao (Labor Secretary January 29, 2001 – January 20, 2009), the only person who served under both Bush terms all the way through... here are the highlights of her tenure from wikipedia;

{"...After analyzing 70,000 closed case files from 2005 to 2007, the Government Accountability Office reported that the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division inadequately investigated complaints from low-wage and minimum wage workers alleging that employers failed to pay the federal minimum wage, required overtime, and failed to issue a last paycheck.
A 2008 report by the department's inspector general found that despite implementation of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (MINER Act), mine safety regulators did not conduct federally required inspections at more than 14 percent of the country's 731 underground coal mines during the previous year. The number of worker deaths in mining accidents more than doubled to 47. A 2009 internal audit appraising an Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiative under the Bush administration to focus special attention on problem workplaces revealed that OSHA employees failed to gather needed data, conducted uneven inspections and enforcement, and sometimes failed to discern repeat fatalities because records misspelled the companies' names or failed to notice when two subsidiaries with the same owner were involved, resulting in preventable workplace fatalities.
During Chao's tenure, Labor Department gave Congress inaccurate and unreliable numbers that understated the expense of contracting out its employees' work to private firms, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued on November 24, 2008.
A report by the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform alleged that Chao and other White House officials campaigned for Republican candidates at taxpayer expense. The report describes this as a violation of the Hatch Act of 1939, which restricts the use of public funds for partisan gain, but no action was taken by any entity with responsibility for enforcing the Hatch Act...."}

The esteemed Mr McConnell came into office with a net worth of approx. half a million dollars, he is now worth well over 10 times that amount. When he got married his father-in-law gave him a Mansion. His father-in-law is a billionaire Chinese shipping magnate. His wife is Elaine Chao, beautiful, powerful and incredibly wealthy. Mr. McConnell has all the charm and good looks of spoiled offal... He and his wife are arguably two of the most powerful people in the world, a world which they have had a large part in shaping.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Doktor

@Marie Burns:

Thanks for the mention and link.

It's a good point you've made (via your comment at my blog): Where are the protest toys?

At TOYS R US, TARGET, and WALMART, a search for "protest", "protester", and "protestor" either under "toys", or their "all categories" (or equivalent) doesn't produce any toys whatsoever.

Nothing at all at Toys R Us. Under some searches at Target and Walmart, served up are some books and CDs (any seemingly interesting ones requiring an online order, so not something to be picked up locally on impulse). There is (online) a "Protest Stencil Toolkit", which, not being under "toys", seems more directed at adults than kids. (It's also $10 cheaper at Walmart than Target!). Walmart does list "Gandhi: The Young Protester Who Founded a Nation", a National Geographic Society Childrens Book. I have no idea whether it's any good --- and it also requires an online order.

Which brings us back to your question: Where are the protest toys? Perhaps they are available via smaller manufacturers and retailers. Perhaps we should we glad that the majors aren't selling them --- appearance there might mean, like peace symbol pendants, that they are not considered to be a threat to the status-quo by the political and economic powers-that-be.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch

Dok,

Thanks for that reminder of how much the McConnell/Chao family has profited off the backs of American taxpayers while using their lofty positions to ensure that their corporate buddies never have to worry about pesky things like complaints from workers damaged or killed by corporate negligence.

I love Marie's point about considering how bad things could have been with Republicans in the White House. You think Alberto Gonzales was bad? Just imagine who the kind of whack jobs the Teabaggers would have insisted John McCain install in the various seats of power. We already know what kind of upside down cloud cuckoo land can obtain with out of control right wing extremists in the White House. In addition to good ol' Gonzales, just think of the many other scary characters Bush foisted on the American public. Many of these were people, like David Addington and John Yoo, who most people didn't even know about. Then we had idiots like Rumsfeld, Michael Brown, John Ashcroft, Douglas Feith, Hank Paulson, Monica Goodling, Paul Bremer, Bradley Schlozman, Ari Fleischer, and the lowest of the low, Karl Rove. And plenty more.

Wow. Just remembering how bad it was give me a migraine.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus, The Doktor, & Marie Burns:

The whole propensity to nepotism shouldn't surprise. Beyond the usual family enrichment, nepotism is simply the most effective way of insuring that the head political honcho's desired agenda moves forward, with reduced risk that the underling will at some future point testify or otherwise expose illegal directives.

For the above reasons, nepotism can occur in administrations of either political party. (Consider the Chicago Democratic machine). The real difference between Republican and Democratic nepotism is that Republican nepotism more directly and deliberately advances an agenda of reducing the effectiveness of government with regard to what I consider some essential functions, whereas most efficacy reduction under Democratic nepotism is probably incidental.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch

@Fred; I know you are a big kidder by your writing style but you can only yank my chain so far. Protest toys? Come on; your target market is protesting the very carp that you'd be trying to sell them. The real protest toys are the same ones I played with as a kid. My folks did not buy weaponry of any kind. We made our swords out of broom handles, shields out of garbage can lids and guns out of sticks. That's what the real occupy protest is about. People are sick and tired of having commercialism occupy their imaginations. They just don't know that yet. Corporate America wants to occupy your soul and they will sell you a little Lenin doll with a little coil of capitalistic rope if they can just open your wallet.
@nepotism; Not such a bad thing; think about Jesus and his Dad. Now that's a joke. But really it depends on the characters, certainly you all know someone who took over the family business or got a job by knowing somebody who knew somebody. Deny that and you live in a world I don't know. Whether the person is up to the job is another matter. Public office is different; civil service jobs should not be offered as a reward for being geneticly connected otherwise I think nepotism doesn't have to be bad. And, No. My father said I would never make it in the blue no collar world because my family was not of that world.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@Marie. Vaclav Havel's problem is that he wasn't an alzheimers addled murrican. He should've thought about that if he wanted us to revere him in death.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer

@FD;
I was alluding to something much more insidious. mcconnell is from a backwoodsy state of people who may be easily manipulated into voting for him repeatedly. he is no catch. his wife comes from a society with a distinct history of arranged marriages. while the Chinese think in terms of centuries Americans think about a new flat screen in 3D that'll just fit on their credit card. think trade deficit. think outsourced jobs. think stolen intellectual property that China has no cultural concept of. think about the fact that the U.S.has done almost nothing while China has eaten our lunch for almost 20 years.
That might be the only good thing that has come out of the economic crisis... Americans are finally starting to notice what country their widgits are made in.

The best protest toys are books.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Doktor

@Dok; couldn't agree more. Salud.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

On NPR this afternoon, moving tribute to Havel by Madeleine Albright.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCalyban

@JJG

Yes, I know that "protest toys" might be considered an oxymoron. But the fact is, unless they have grown up without exposure to television, computers, and contact with other children, most of today's kids have had enormous exposure to consumer products and slick sophisticated toys, and I believe that they are quite impressed — overly impressed — by such things. Unless they are dirt-poor, many kids nowadays aren't likely to be satisfied with the homemade toys familiar to someone your age or mine. Many of the toys I see advertised seem absurd to me — but probably are objects of envy to many kids.

Sure, it would be better if parents encouraged basic creative play by their kids rather than look for a ready-made, slick solution — better for the kids, and better for the family budget, which all-too-often takes an unaffordable hit from the spending done for Christmas presents. It would be better if parents could communicate to their kids what commercialism and other manipulations are all about, and why they aren't going to succumb to them. It would be better if parents spent adequate time with their kids, rather than try to substitute presents for attention.

But fact is, different parents vary greatly on how well they would rate with regard to those above considerations. Despite the political polarization in the country, I'd bet that parents would be distributed along a much smoother continuum with regard to toy-buying behavior. And unless the parents are willing to go against some very strong forces, they'll probably buy something.

So it's in that context that I actually see a place for "protest toys". IF parents buy their child a Barbie, I'd rather it was a "protest Barbie" than a fashion or paramilitary one. Better yet might be a cloth protest doll made by a small entrepreneur. If parents buy their child a toy vehicle, I'd rather it was a hippie VW bus replica — or a plumber's truck — than a police car. As far as the "Protest Stencil Toolkit" I mentioned is concerned, that's a true product, but yeah, my mention of it was sort of tongue-in-cheek, an example of what these stores were actually carrying.

With regard to my comment about nepotism, I was thinking about nepotism in government. As far as nepotism in private enterprise is concerned, while it may be within the business owner's right to operate that way, he or she should be careful, even if for no other reason than a purely business one. Nepotism can be awfully disheartening to loyal unrelated employees who may have done more over a long period of time to build up that business than the newly-installed relative of the owner ever will.


@The Doktor:

I do agree that, in general, the best protest toys are books. But my point about "protest toys" was related (as was my piece about police toys) to younger kids who are probably not yet big readers.

Your point about the dynamic with McConell wasn't what I was thinking about, but it's well taken, and correct.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch
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