Lazy Caturday Reads

Glenn Harrington

By Glenn Harrington

Happy Caturday!!

As predicted, it got really cold here yesterday and overnight. It got down to -9 where I am, lower in other parts of Massachusetts and New England. My newly installed air heat pump worked very well. I had it set at 72, and it stayed very warm in my apartment. The temperature is back up to -1 now (feels like -16) and will continue rising into the teens today. Tomorrow we will be back up to warmer than normal temperatures in the 40s and 50s for the rest of the week. Pretty freaky. Of course, my parents, who grew up in North Dakota, wouldn’t have thought these temperatures were a big deal.

The really dramatic weather was at Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. It’s not that big a mountain, but it gets the “worst weather in the world.” They get hurricane-force winds up there all the time. Once in the 1930s, Mt. Washington recorded 231 mph winds! Last night it got to a wind chill of -109 degrees, the lowest ever recorded in the U.S.

From The Washington Post: ‘Historic Arctic outbreak’ crushes records in New England.

Parts of the Northeast woke up to the coldest morning in decades on Saturday, with temperatures 30 degrees or more below average and wind chills in the extremely dangerous category. Virtually the entirety of New England was included in wind chill warnings, while Mount Washington’s minus-109 degree wind chill set a record for the entire United States.

The National Weather Service office serving the Boston region described the cold as “a historic Arctic outbreak for the modern era,” and warned that “this is about as cold as it will ever get.”

In Boston, the morning low fell to minus-10 degrees at 5:15 a.m., the coldest reading observed in the city since Jan. 15, 1957, when Boston hit minus-12. The episode resembled the brutal Arctic blast on Valentine’s Day 2016, when Logan Airport dropped to minus-9 degrees.

Coupled with winds gusting near 40 mph, Boston witnessed its lowest wind chill ever recorded at minus-39 degrees. Records date back to 1944. Wind chill is an index that attempts to quantity the combined impact of cold and wind on the human body, since strong winds blow away one’s body heat.

Robin Freedenfeld

By Robin Freedenfeld

The temperatures were so extreme in Maine that residents reported “frost quakes,” or cryoseisms. The earthquake-like tremors are caused by rapidly plummeting temperatures, which cause water trapped in cracks in the ground to expand.

The city of Portland, Maine, recorded its all-time lowest wind chill at minus-45 degrees. A weather balloon launched by the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, reported the all-time lowest 850 millibar (an air pressure level corresponding to approximately 5,000 feet in altitude) temperature ever observed by that office at minus-35.5 degrees.

Farther north in Maine, Frenchville Airport in Aroostook County recorded a wind chill to minus-61 degrees, while Cadillac Mountain in Hancock County had a minus-62 degree wind chill. Even Bar Harbor, on the coast, logged a wind chill of minus-48. Greenville in Piscataquis County faced a wind chill of minus-58.

So that was interesting for those of us who are excited by extreme weather; now we go back to unseasonably warm daytime temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Freaky.

Yesterday, the right wing nuts on Twitter–including Congressional Republicans–were totally losing their minds over that Chinese balloon that was spotted over the U.S. The wingnuts demanded that the government shoot the thing down. Of course it’s flying way up in the atmosphere, beyond reach of any kind of weapon, plus it’s huge and would probably kill people if it came down, but whatever. It’s Biden’s fault. This moron is chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

Justin Baragona at The Daily Beast: GOP Rep Warns That Chinese Balloon May Have ‘Bioweapons’ From ‘Wuhan.’

House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-KY) casually suggested to Fox News on Friday that the suspected Chinese spy balloon floating over the United States could contain “bioweapons” from “Wuhan,” invoking the “lab leak theory” that’s been embraced by Republicans.

After a Chinese surveillance balloon was spotted over the northern U.S. this week, Republicans have lashed out at President Joe Biden over his perceived “weakness” in his administration’s policy towards China. Calling for the president to “shoot down” the craft, some in the GOP called the president “Beijing Biden” while claiming this is further proof that “Communist China” doesn’t “fear or respect” Biden.

By Bruce Bingham

By Bruce Bingham

While the Pentagon has balked over conservative demands to take down the balloon, noting that falling debris could injure or kill civilians, the Biden administration has postponed Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s upcoming trip to China. China, meanwhile, has insisted the suspected spycraft is really just a “civilian airship” that “deviated far from its planned course.”

Amid the Republican handwringing over the Chinese balloon, Comer appeared on Fox News’ The Faulkner Focus to react. And he immediately jumped into conspiratorial waters.

“I have concern this will be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale,” he declared. “You look at what happened in Afghanistan. That hurt the reputation of America’s military strength. That hurt the reputation of our commander-in-chief. And now we have China clearly playing games with the United States.”

After saying the balloon “never should have been allowed” to cross over into the U.S., the Kentucky lawmaker then fear-mongered that the craft could be loaded down with weaponized viruses. “My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon,” he asserted. “Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?”

Um . . . Okay.

For some actual news about the situation, here’s Lily Kuo at The Washington Post: China rushes to cap damage over suspected spy balloon as Blinken delays trip.

Beijing on Saturday offered a subdued rebuttal to Washington’s decision to delay a high-level visit after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was discovered hovering over the United States, derailing China’s recent efforts to repair its most important bilateral relationship.

Hours before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to take off, Washington postponed the trip, saying it “would not be appropriate” after the discovery of the airship floating around 60,000 feet above the central United States.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday that the presence of a Chinese airship in U.S. airspace was “completely an accident,” and was caused by westerly winds knocking the balloon off course. It reiterated claims that the balloon was for scientific research such as collecting weather data, and accused “some U.S. politicians and media” of taking advantage of the situation to discredit China, which “firmly opposes this.” [….]

Blinken had been expected to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the trip, and while few expected concrete results, officials on both sides hoped it would start the process of capping tensions over issues such as Taiwan, U.S. sanctions targeting Chinese tech companies, human rights and China’s friendship with Russia. The trip would help pave the way for a potential visit to the United States by Xi when San Francisco hosts an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting in November.

The balloon incident, on the eve of such a critical meeting, raises questions over whether it was an accident or a deliberate effort by Beijing to send a message to Washington. (The Pentagon said Thursday that the air vehicle is not currently considered a threat to people on the ground.) In either case, it is a setback for China’s leadership.

Linda Lee NELSON - Catherine La Rose

By Linda Lee Nelson

Ariane de Vogue has a scoop at CNN on the Supreme Court’s careless handling of sensitive information: Exclusive: Supreme Court justices used personal emails for work and ‘burn bags’ were left open in hallways, sources say.

Long before the leak of a draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade, some Supreme Court justices often used personal email accounts for sensitive transmissions instead of secure servers set up to guard such information, among other security lapses not made public in the court’s report on the investigation last month.

New details revealed to CNN by multiple sources familiar with the court’s operations offer an even more detailed picture of yearslong lax internal procedures that could have endangered security, led to the leak and hindered an investigation into the culprit.

Supreme Court employees also used printers that didn’t produce logs – or were able to print sensitive documents off-site without tracking – and “burn bags” meant to ensure the safe destruction of materials were left open and unattended in hallways.

“This has been going on for years,” one former employee said.

The problem with the justices’ use of emails persisted in part because some justices were slow to adopt to the technology and some court employees were nervous about confronting them to urge them to take precautions, one person said. Such behavior meant that justices weren’t setting an example to take security seriously.

The justices were “not masters of information security protocol,” one former court employee told CNN.

In a statement attached to the final report, the court called the leak a “grave assault” on the court’s legitimacy and the marshal of the court issued a road map to improve security.

More details at the CNN link.

We’re getting more information about what’s in that new tell-all book by Mark Pomerantz, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office–one of the two who resigned in disgust when incoming DA Alvin Bragg decided not to prosecute Trump.

Former prosecutor Andrew Weissman reviews the book at The New York Times: An insider’s critical view of an investigation of Donald Trump.

In February 2022, Mark Pomerantz was a lead attorney in the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation of former president Donald Trump and his business practices when he abruptly resigned. He cited frustration over what he saw as the office’s flagging commitment to the inquiry. Pomerantz, a renowned former prosecutor and defense lawyer, had been recruited in February 2021 by then-district attorney Cyrus Vance to assist in the long-running investigation. In his resignation letter, Pomerantz asserted that the new DA, Alvin Bragg, had “suspended indefinitely” the investigation and said that Pomerantz did not want “to become a passive participant in what I believe to be a grave failure of justice.”

Elena Berezina - Portrait of K.F. Venevtseva

Elena Berezina – Portrait of K.F. Venevtseva

Pomerantz has now expanded on his views in a book, “People vs. Donald Trump: An Inside Account.” However, in the time between Pomerantz’s resignation and the book’s publication, Bragg’s investigation of Trump has taken another turn. The district attorney’s office has impaneled a grand jury and begun hearing evidence in a sharp ramping up of its inquiry into, among other things, Trump’s role in payments to adult-film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. As the office pushes forward on work that could lead to criminal charges against Trump, Bragg has publicly raised concerns that Pomerantz’s book could jeopardize any subsequent prosecution.

It is in this climate that Pomerantz’s book lands next week. His intent is to reveal what happened within the district attorney’s office during his year there. As he frames the question: “Why had the investigation, which by all accounts had been gaining steam and seemed likely to lead to criminal charges against the former president, come to a sudden stop?”

His assessment of the inner workings of the Manhattan district attorney’s office is brutal. Pomerantz contends that no criminal case emerged against Trump because the DA’s team of career prosecutors was simply not up to the task. He paints an unflattering portrait of the career assistant district attorneys, particularly the many who disagreed with his own assessment of the potential criminal case. “They spoke about the need to follow the evidence,” Pomerantz writes, “but to my knowledge they had not actually looked at much of it.”

In his telling, the prosecutors come across as fainthearted, lacking “energy” and “enthusiasm,” and “relentlessly negative.” The team was faced with a possible first-of-its-kind prosecution of a former president, and, Pomerantz writes, the prosecutors were perhaps “a bit fearful about bringing charges against Trump,” given his well-known penchant for public retaliation. “They seemed to me,” Pomerantz observes, “to be exactly the kind of traditional, ‘let’s do things the way we have always done them’ prosecutors that kept the district attorney’s office from being resourceful and successful in white-collar cases.” Pomerantz reveals that Vance had “privately complained many times to me … about the slow-moving and ‘gun shy’ culture in the office.” Pomerantz believed the office needed a chief of staff, “a drill sergeant,” as he puts it, to “keep the team moving.” But out of the hundreds of assistant district attorneys, he argues, “there was no suitable candidate from within the office.”

Read the rest at the NYT.

Also at The New York Times, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, and Jonah E. Bromwich write: Trump Likened to Mob Boss John Gotti in Ex-Prosecutor’s New Book.

Donald J. Trump grew his business, fortune and fame “through a pattern of criminal activity,” according to a new book by a veteran prosecutor, who reveals that the Manhattan district attorney’s office once considered charging the former president with racketeering, a law often used against the Mafia.

The prosecutor, Mark F. Pomerantz, resigned in protest early last year after the newly elected district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, decided not to seek an indictment of Mr. Trump at that time. By then, the inquiry was more narrowly focused on whether the former president had fraudulently inflated the value of his assets to secure loans.

But for months beforehand, Mr. Pomerantz had mapped out a wide-ranging possible case against the former president under the state racketeering law, according to the soon-to-be published book, “People vs. Donald Trump.” That broader approach was based on the theory that Mr. Trump had presided over a corrupt business empire for years, a previously unreported aspect of the long-running inquiry.


Girl with cat, by Merle Keller

Mr. Pomerantz and his colleagues cast a wide net, examining a host of Trump enterprises — including Trump University, his for-profit real estate education venture, and his family charitable foundation.

“He demanded absolute loyalty and would go after anyone who crossed him. He seemed always to stay one step ahead of the law,” Mr. Pomerantz, a prominent litigator who has prosecuted and defended organized crime cases, writes of Mr. Trump. “In my career as a lawyer, I had encountered only one other person who touched all of these bases: John Gotti, the head of the Gambino organized crime family.”

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, is a chronicle of the complicated and circuitous investigation, which produced charges against Mr. Trump’s longtime chief financial officer and his family business, but has yet to yield formal accusations against the former president himself.

Mr. Pomerantz’s book arrives as the investigation is ramping up once again, with prosecutors impaneling a new grand jury to hear evidence about Mr. Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Bragg’s administration, which has raised ethical and legal concerns about Mr. Pomerantz’s revealing details of the inquiry, is also applying additional pressure on the former chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, seeking to secure his cooperation against the former president.

That’s it for me today; what stories have piqued your interest? Have a great Caturday, Sky Dancers!!

20 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    This is really sad, but Feinstein needs to go. Even Nancy Pelosi has kind of endorsed Adam Schiff (depending on if Feinstein runs, but you know Pelosi thinks she should retire.)

    • Feinstein should have retired in 2018, and I say that as one who lived and worked in San Francisco for many years and always voted for her.

      I’m very glad your heat pump works. Yes, in North Dakota, we’re used to extreme cold, but buildings here are built to withstand it.
      We’re having a heatwave – 40 degrees right now.

      • bostonboomer says:

        My building is really solid and well insulated. Also there’s a closed balcony the whole length of my apartment. There are screens, but the structure breaks the wind. If anything, it tends to too warm in here, but this new system really keeps the temperature steady.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      Thanks for info on Mt. Washington. I don’t know much about it but have heard about it for years. A weird place for sure. I would not pick a mountain in NH for the weirdest weather in the U.S.

      Hope all are coping with the cold. It’s chilly here in the ATL but sunny.

    • NW Luna says:

      Yes, Republican hearts — if they exist — are colder than Mt. Washington in winter.

    • NW Luna says:

      Re: “wind-chill temperature.” This is the temp after applying a certain formula. The actual air temperature is higher. It only applies if you’re out unprotected in the wind. A rainproof jacket, a building, a clump of trees can block wind to some degree, so if you’re out walking between buildings the wind-chill factor will give an exaggerated low temp compared to what you’re feeling.

      This is not to negate that it’s really, really cold in the NE!

      Many formulas exist for wind chill because, unlike temperature, wind chill has no universally agreed upon standard definition or measurement. All the formulas attempt to qualitatively predict the effect of wind on the temperature humans perceive.

  4. MsMass says:

    Good to hear about your heat pump, BB.I’m jealous! We had to switch to oil at 10PM, pump was working at maximum and couldn’t get temp above 64, basement temp dropped to 35 and worried about pipes freezing. Putting condenser in basement is not SOP, but it is warmer than outside although we didn’t know how much it would drop in the winter. Still chilly here- 12 degrees- woot woot!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Maybe it’s because you are heating a whole house? I have a separate heat pump just for my one bedroom apartment. Hope you can keep warm!

      • MsMass says:

        That’s probably the reason although you may be more protected with apartments on the sides,top, and bottom. The rest of the year, heat pump is great, especially for a/c in the summer. It does use a bunch of electricity but we’re making it from the roof panels .

        • NW Luna says:

          That’s great that you can use solar panels to get significant energy. Up here in the PNW it’s not really cost-effective yet — too many cloudy or rainy days.

  5. NW Luna says:

    U.S. downs suspected Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic coast

    Biden had authorized the takedown on Wednesday, instructing the Pentagon to act “as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path,”

    With a single [air-to-air Sidewinder missile at an altitude of 60,000 to 65,000 ft] fired from an F-22 Raptor, the balloon was brought down over the Atlantic Ocean around 2:40 p.m., shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration ordered ground stops for all flights in and out of Wilmington, N.C., Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Charleston, S.C.

    An array of U.S. Coast Guard and Navy vessels were descending on the debris field to recover as much of the balloon as possible, officials said. It’s located in an area where the water is about 47 feet deep, a relatively shallow depth that will assist in the recovery.

    A defense official cast the balloon’s transit across the United States as an intelligence coup for the United States, rebutting Republican criticism that allowing the balloon to drift uncontested for days was a failure of Biden administration to protect American airspace from the top U.S. adversary. “This actually provided us with a number of days to analyze this balloon, and through a number of means — which I can’t get into at this level of classification — to learn a lot about what this balloon was doing