Thursday Reads: Villagers Turn On Obama, Texas Tornadoes, West TX Investigations, and Boston Bombing NewsPosted: May 16, 2013
It’s beginning to look like Obama’s second term is pretty much over before it begins. We’re facing years of Republican scandalmongering and “investigations” of a president who won’t fight back or even fight for his own favored legislation or judicial and government appointments.
What is Obama actually doing every day? Does he spend the time he isn’t fund-raising or doing meaningless public appearances deciding which “extremist” to drone strike next? Because he certainly doesn’t seem to be governing.
Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows. All I know is that the Villagers are finished with him. We got the news yesterday from Politico’s top gossip mavens Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen in one of their trademark “Behind the Curtain” posts: D.C. turns on Obama.
The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.
Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on — so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.
Really? if powerful Democrats weren’t “big fans” of Obama, why did they work their asses off to hand him the nomination in 2008 when they could just as easily have chosen Hillary Clinton?
Of course the “establishment Democrats” that Vandehei and Allen choose to quote in their piece are hardly current insiders, as Charles Pierce pointed out:
Not to minimize the inherent political savvy of Chris Lehane, one anonymous former Obama aide, one anonymous “longtime Washingtonian,” or Vernon Jordan — who, I admit, I’d thought had long gone off to peddle influence in the Beyond — but I think they’re pretty much camouflage here for the fiery tantrum summoned up by the authors.
(And, not for nothing, but “longtime Washingtonian” may well be the beau ideal of TBOTP sourcing. They should make it the company motto. And the two presiding geniuses are going to be shocked one morning when they look in the mirror and see Sally Quinn staring back at them.)
Nevertheless, the Villagers certainly pay more attention to Vandehei and Allen’s pontifications than Pierce’s. Here’s a little more of their venom:
Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.
This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system. “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”
Even Greg Sargent acknowledges that Politico probably speaks for the DC establishment, particularly the corporate media.
Okay, so I was torn between using Hello Kitty Diary and Hello Kitty Litter Box in the title of this thread because I am so tired of seeing hacks get money and column space in what used to be the world’s great papers. Let’s face it! My cats’ litter box is a better use of a newspaper that’s filled with the inane ramblings of the likes of Ross Douthat, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, George F. Will, and well, you get my drift. There were op ed writers with whom I disagreed but whose arguments, evidence, and writing style made for compelling reading and arguments. The group that’s left to us now should still be doing penmanship exercises in second grade.
So, obviously I was inspired to write this. I use the world ‘inspired’ loosely because it was more like I was influenced by the painful awareness of cats screeching in the alley looking for attention from other heat-seeking cats. The primary source of screeching came from MoDo today who Charlie Pierce promptly diced and sliced in “In Which MoDo Loses A Fight With James Madison” in his Esquire blog
Maureen Dowd has fashioned herself another Chronic Ward of a newspaper column today on her now-regular theme of what a wimpety-wimp-wimp Barry Obama is, and why she never should have let him take her to prom instead of the hunky Andrew Shepherd from The American President who, while admittedly fictional, never would take this guff from actual human beings like John Boehner and Eric Cantor and Louie Gohmert, to which latter we give the benefit of a considerable doubt on this score. From the available evidence (again), and for all the relevance her insights have on what’s actually going on in American politics, Dowd once again seems to be writing from an assisted-living facility on the far side of a world Beyond The Planet Of The Ultra-Vixens. First of all, she, along with Jonathan Karl, seems to be overly concerned with the condition of the president’s “juice,” which she seems to feel is less fortified with essential vitamins and iron than the juice of a president should be. And, somewhere in the Beyond, Freud gives up the business entirely and opens a cigar store.
Pierce offers this more succinct explanation.
Look, I make the same criticism of the president from time to time, but mine is based on what I believe is the obvious empirical fact that the Republican party has gone insane and that the president has been painfully slow in coming to realize that he is dealing with lunatics. I don’t find this “professorial” or “high-minded.” I just find it wrong. But, then again, I don’t measure politics by the inseam, either.
What is it about reality that most of the op ed writers don’t appear to get these days? Well, I stumbled across an equally good take down and explanation over at NY magazine written by Jonathan Chait called “David Brooks and the Role of Opinion Journalism”. David Brooks is the nearly the best example of an op ed writer that is a waste of good reading time. He has the dial set to 11 for vacuity nearly every day.
Brooks likes to veer frequently from the beaten path of topicality. He wants us to associate this habit with intellectual honesty. But why should we? One could just as easily think of it as an evasive tactic designed to spare him from confronting the uncomfortable pathologies of his own side.
Brooks goes further, smuggling into his schema notions not merely unrelated to but actually at odds with intellectual honesty. The detached writer, he argues, “sees politics as a competition between partial truths.” Well, yes, sometimes it is. On the other hand, sometimes politics is not a competition between partial truths. If you’re committed a priori to always seeing politics as a competition between partial truths, you will render yourself unable to accurately describe the times when it’s not and find yourself writing things that are provably untrue. Writing things that are provably untrue — rather than, say, being irritating — ought to be the central thing to avoid.
It’s a shame Brooks has done such an injustice to the topic, since the question of standards for opinion journalism is a pretty important and underexplored one. Straight news reporters tend to lump opinion writing of all forms into the same bin — punditry, essays, agitprop — and to therefore shy away from holding it to any defined standard. (This is why, for instance, the Washington Post blithely lets George Will misstate facts about climate science on its op-ed page.)
So, I would like to say that the standard for op ed “journalism” is there is no honor among thieves, but given their platform, it’s hard to just write off 99.99% of them as hapless hacks and ignore them. Chait actually offers up some common sense advice on how to make an argument instead of publishing your dreamy-eyed Potomac platitudes. Most of them are common sense like don’t set up and attack straw men and avoid reflexive equivocation and black-and-white moralism. These last two are staples of op ed pages today. Douthat is a lousy writer who specializes in his own specious form of black-and-white moralism to the point that I wonder if he ever leaves his house or was actually weaned by his mother. This glib last bit from Chait sums up the state of op ed writing today for me. I’ve edited it to what it should be.
If you’re going to write
a guide toopinion writingthat’s completely self-aggrandizing, you should probably own up to it.
Not only should you own up to it, you should stop pretending it’s anything else but self-aggrandizing twaddle. I’m tired of seeing endless self-pleasuring in high circulation papers. I am so not into that!!!
But, I see this as the main stay of today’s opinion writers. It is always about them and never about their topic, the actual good of the country or an idea, or the greater search for truth. WAPO and NYT excel at placing free range WATBs on their op pages who only engage in self-aggrandizing and who never see the world outside the thunderdomes of Manhattan and the DC beltway. Most of them are so comfortably snuggled into their socio-economic status they probably couldn’t tell a homeless person from a fireplug.
Thankfully, there are now blogs and there are blogger/writers like Pierce and Chait or I would be one very depressed Kat who would consider reading Romance Novels or Pop! Star Magazine in lieu of David Brooks or Maureen Dowd. They are all about on the same level of intellectual discourse and reality. And for that, the NYT put up a paywall and WAPO wants to still think of itself as the paper of investigative journalism. Douthat belongs on the pages of Catholic Voice or maybe some nice rag promoting the return of The Inquisition. None of these folks are the serious human beings they presume themselves to be.
Here kitty, kitty!!! I just changed your litter box and its nicely lined!!!
We’ve certainly seen how the corporate media in the US has turned into tabloid journalism quite quickly with the influence of the likes of Rupert Murdoch in the business of buying everything up. Get ready for more propaganda and less news if this goes through. The Koch Brothers are going after the Tribune family.
Three years ago, Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and supporters of libertarian causes, held a seminar of like-minded, wealthy political donors at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, Colo. They laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes.
The first two pieces of the strategy — educating grass-roots activists and influencing politics — were not surprising, given the money they have given to policy institutes and political action groups. But the third one was: media.
Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of which Charles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.
By early May, the Tribune Company is expected to send financial data to serious suitors in what will be among the largest sales of newspapers by circulation in the country. Koch Industries is among those interested, said several people with direct knowledge of the sale who spoke on the condition they not be named. Tribune emerged from bankruptcy on Dec. 31 and has hired JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partners to sell its print properties.
The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion.
Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country, and The Tribune is No. 9, and others are in several battleground states, including two of the largest newspapers in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. A deal could include Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, which speaks to the pivotal Hispanic demographic.
Charles and David Koch’s money has been instrumental in getting anti-climate politicians into office, and in funding anti-climate science studies. The brothers have also funded with the secretive conservative network ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), which has crafted “model legislation” for voter ID laws that limit voting rights, particularly for low-income people of color. The group was also responsible for the so-called “Stand Your Ground” law that temporarily allowed Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, to walk free.
The brothers also tried to influence the latest election by warning some 45,000 employees that there would be “consequences” if they didn’t vote for Republicans.
The Koch Brothers believe that the ‘conservative’ voice has not been represented in the media. That is an unbelievable statement in the day of Fox, the WSJ, and the NYP which are a little more than propaganda networks that peddle vast right wing conspiracy theories and right wing memes. There are an increasing number of papers I refuse to read and tv news stations that I refuse to watch because they have turned into Pravda of the plutocracy. Then, there is the likes of CNN who is so overly influenced by its need for ratings that it uses similar strategies and voices to ‘compete’.
It’s a sad day for truth, justice and the American Way, folks! Let’s just cross out the word “masses” in that quote from Lenin and put in “plutocracy” and I think we got the message.
Well, it’s started. We are finding out in a very large way that some constitutional rights are much more important than others. The definition of “radicalized” religious zealot depends on which religion the nut carries to the extreme. The number of deaths in an attack by crazy people doesn’t matter. It’s the ethnicity and religion of the perpetrator and–most importantly–his choice of weapon. You can kill peaceful Sikhs in a temple, blow up a bomb at the Olympics and an abortion clinic, and attack Federal Buildings and employees AND day care centers and still not register on some folks’ list as a “terrorist” or possibly lose your right to a fair trial. You can spew religious hate at women and GLBT as long as it comes from the ‘correct’ religion because that’s a first amendment right but please don’t criticize the religious views because they’re “special”. Believe in the wrong religion and you’re on EVERY ONE’s radar and they will try to block you from building religious facilities in their neighborhood. You can do all kinds of crap and not lose access to military style weapons or get on any one’s radar. In fact, people will enable you by throwing money at elected officials to ensure you don’t get on any one’s radar. Your decisions can kill people, ecosystems, entire cities and regions and economies and you will only get off with a few fines that aren’t very large for you because your balance sheet is massive and your political power even more so. Plus, you will be left to do it over and over and over again.
Welcome to the nation that prioritizes rights by sex, race, economic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion. Now go hang out in your particular ghetto and don’t complain about anything.
This is an open thread.
The one thing that has become apparent to me recently is that privatizing anything related to important infrastructure is a recipe for one disaster after another. For-profit corporations are into maximizing profits to owners by either slashing costs or hiking prices. They rarely do anything that actually improves service or delivery quality. When you experience any kind of disaster that taxes the infrastructure, you learn quickly how negligent for-profits are when it comes to maintaining or fixing infrastructure. My reality since Hurricane Katrina is living with infrastructure that comes and goes on a windy day, on a drizzly day, on any kind of day that might cause our privately owned electric and natural gas company’s patched together infrastructure to hiccup. We get power outages at the super bowl, in my home, and in our water treatment plant. I’ve experienced two boil water orders in the last six months and dozens of electric outages for days on end. Cox cable’s infrastructure is just about as bad. They patch things up when they have to do it. I’ve heard excuses about hungry squirrels, curious racoons, and unusual wind events to the point I could just scream.
Then, there’s these oil pipe disasters. Why on earth would you trust an oil company with any kind of pipe line given their obvious neglect? There is a THIRD major oil spill in a week. This time it is in Texas.
Thousands of gallons of oil have spilled from a pipeline in Texas, the third accident of its kind in only a week.
Shell Pipeline, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, shut down their West Columbia, Texas, pipeline last Friday after electronic calculations conducted by the US National Response Center showed that upwards of 700 barrels had been lost, amounting to almost 30,000 gallons of crude oil.
By Monday, Shell spokespeople said inspectors found “no evidence” of an oil leak, but days later it was revealed that a breach did occur. Representatives with the US Coast Guard confirmed to Dow Jones on Thursday that roughly 50 barrels of oil spilled from a pipe near Houston, Texas and entered a waterway that connects to the Gulf of Mexico.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Steven Lehman said that Shell had dispatched clean-up crews that were working hard to correct any damage to Vince Bayou, a small waterway that runs for less than 20 miles from the Houston area into a shipping channel that opens into the Gulf.
The spill was contained, said Lehman, who was hesitant to offer an official number on how much crude was lost in the accident. According to Shell spokeswoman Kim Windon, though, the damage could have been quite significant. After being presented with the estimate that said as much as 700 barrels were found to have leaked from the pipeline due to an unknown cause, investigators determined that 60 barrels entered the bayou.
“That’s a very early estimate–things can change,” Officer Lehman told Dow Jones.
Meanwhile, though, rescue works in Arkansas have been getting their hands dirty responding to an emergency there. A rupture in ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline late last week send thousands of barrels of oil into the small town of Mayflower, around 25 miles outside of Little Rock. Authorities evacuated more than 20 homes in response, and by this Thursday roughly 19,000 barrels had been recovered.
Mayflower, Ark is still fighting the sludge and will likely be doing so for some time.
We tend to think of oil spills on a massive scale, so large they are hard to imagine. Millions of barrels of crude pouring into the Bering Sea from the slashed hull of the Exxon Valdez. Tens of thousands of workers and volunteers combing hundreds of miles of Gulf Coast beaches after the Deep Water Horizon spill. But in Mayflower, Ark., the scale of an oil spill there is disturbing not for its size, but its proximity. On March 29, a 20-inch buried pipeline burst under the small town, turning backyards into tar pits and suburban streets into oil slicks.
This will probably be yet another part of our new reality given the age of pipelines–around 70 years old–and the continued negligence of oil companies who continue to make record profits and enjoy stupendous tax breaks in this country.
Residents of Washington, DC are used to jokes about metaphorical hot air, humidity, and the swampy history of their city. But there’s something they may not know about the District: it’s overrun with methane, which sometimes makes manhole covers explode.
Natural gas is mostly methane, and it is carried through underground pipes to heat buildings and cook food. Those pipes are often old, and this led ecologist and chemical engineer Robert Jackson of Duke University to drive around DC over a period of two months, regularly measuring the air to take methane levels.
He and his research team found methane leaks everywhere, with thousands of places having significantly higher than normal methane concentrations, and some places reaching 50 times normal urban levels (100 ppm vs 2 ppm). A similar study in Boston last year found essentially the same results. In DC, the source wasn’t the swamp on which the city was built — it was fossil fuel. (The methane they measured had more carbon-13 rather than the normal, modern carbon-12.)
You can laugh about this but I’ve actually seen exploding manhole covers in action. I was gigging at Balconies restaurant down in the French Quarter. The piano was situated under a window and the restaurant–now defunct–was located in a building on the 600 block of Royal. It’s a really famous intersection and the building is one of those that gets photographed all the time. The window is basically to the left of the open door where they black car is passing the building. Mule drawn carriages would stop there frequently to listen to me play and to have a cocktail or cafe au lait brought out for the occupents. Anyway, one night, after a series of exploding man hole covers had been shutting down the electricity in the Quarter, one of them in the middle of this street took off like a cannon and sliced through the top part of a car right before my eyes. Of course, the electricity went off in the area and shut down the grocery across the street, the restaurants and everything in that locale. But, I’ll tell you, that manhole cover was an unbelievable projectile. Oh, it of course, the natural gas in town is Entergy-controlled. The other thing I recall was the distinct smell of ozone burning up and the wierdish green light show. This was about 15 years ago, but damn, I will never forget watching the roof of a hard top car get sliced off like a piece of salami. It’s been fixed now since the city doesn’t tolerate anything being wrong in the French Quarter, but for about 3 months of the summer 1996, it was a wild trip with a series of exploding manhole covers and black outs. It was also the same summer I got Karma so, who knows. Maybe it was just one of those summers.
Anyway, after having lived in a city where levees failed us and electricity fails us all the time, I would just like to say that no private corporation should be left on its own with unmonitored vital infrastructure. All kinds of things are at stake. Also, you can’t trust any oil company to do right by any one but themselves after a spill. I have experience in that area too.