The temperature here in the Boston area was 1 degree this morning. We had wind chill temperatures around -20 overnight and today will see -11 wind chills. Winter weather this year has been weird everywhere. For the past couple of weeks here, we have been alternating between freezing cold and unseasonably warm days.
Today a massive winter storm is moving from the upper Midwest into the South. Eventually the storm will move up the coast and into New England as a “southeaster.” So far it looks like my area will miss the heavy snow. I hope that prediction holds! I feel for those of you who live down south.
A massive storm system that’s dumping several inches of snow on the central US is expected to move toward the southeast Saturday, prompting the governors of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to declare states of emergency ahead of a crippling ice and snow event.
More than 65 million people in the affected areas are under winter weather alerts, the National Weather Service said.
“A strong developing storm over the Lower Mississippi Valley will move eastward to the Southeast by Sunday morning, then head northeastward to the northern mid-Atlantic by Monday,” the National Weather Service Prediction Center said early Saturday.
Rain, snow, sleet, and freezing rain — or a combination of all of those — will make travel difficult over the three-day holiday weekend across the Eastern US.
A swath of 8 to 12 inches of snow was recorded across portions of North Dakota on Friday.
From there, the system dove deeper south, heading into Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas where it delivered rain and snowfall.
“How fast surface temperatures fall below freezing, and therefore, how fast rain changes to snow will play a big role in determining just how much snow accumulates,” said the NWS office in Topeka, Kansas.
Throughout Saturday the storm system will bring heavy bands of snowfall to the Mid-South and Tennessee Valley.
Localized areas of Tennessee could see snow totals exceeding 6 inches as the storm continues its eastward track toward the Southern Appalachians.
There’s lots more winter weather news to read at that CNN link.
Out on the West Coast, there’s another type of natural disaster warning. The New York Times: Tsunami Reported in Tonga After an Underwater Volcano Eruption.
A four-foot tsunami wave was reported to have hit Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, on Saturday, sending people rushing to higher ground. Witnesses said ash had fallen from the sky, after an underwater volcano erupted earlier near the remote Pacific nation.
The volcano, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, is about 40 miles north of the Pacific archipelago’s main island, Tongatapu.
The Bureau of Meteorology in Australia reported the tsunami on Twitter. But communication with Tonga was disrupted, according to The Associated Press, so there were no immediate official reports of injuries or the extent of the damage.
The Tonga Meteorological Service issued a tsunami warning for the archipelago on Saturday evening. On their Facebook pages, the meteorological services for nearby Fiji and Samoa also issued alerts, advising people to stay away from low-lying coastal areas.
The National Tsunami WarninI g Center in the United States issued a tsunami advisory for the West Coast on Saturday morning Pacific time, including the Washington and Oregon coast, with the National Weather Service in Portland reporting possible one- to three-foot waves in Newport, Ore., Long Beach, Wash., and Seaside, Ore. “First wave may not be the highest,” and later waves may “be larger,” the tweet said.
I think I’d rather have a snowstorm.
Unfortunately, I guess I’ll have to get to the politics news now. I want to recommend three long reads and then I’ll list some links to other interesting stories.
First a piece by Yale philosophy professor and fascism expert Jason Stanley at The Guardian, published last month: America is now in fascism’s legal phase.
Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.”
So began Toni Morrison’s 1995 address to Howard University, entitled Racism and Fascism, which delineated 10 step-by-step procedures to carry a society from first to last.
Morrison saw, in the history of US racism, fascist practices – ones that could enable a fascist social and political movement in the United States.
Writing in the era of the “super-predator” myth (a Newsweek headline the next year read, “Superpredators: Should we cage the new breed of vicious kids?”), Morrison unflinchingly read fascism into the practices of US racism. Twenty-five years later, those “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems” are closer than ever to winning a multi-decade national fight.
The contemporary American fascist movement is led by oligarchical interests for whom the public good is an impediment, such as those in the hydrocarbon business, as well as a social, political, and religious movement with roots in the Confederacy. As in all fascist movements, these forces have found a popular leader unconstrained by the rules of democracy, this time in the figure of Donald Trump.
Morrison’s interest was not in fascist demagogues or fascist regimes. It was rather in “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems”. The procedures she described were methods to normalize such solutions, to “construct an internal enemy”, isolate, demonize and criminalize it and sympathizers to its ideology and their allies, and, using the media, provide the illusion of power and influence to one’s supporters.
Philosophers have always been at the forefront in the analysis of fascist ideology and movements. In keeping with a tradition that includes the philosophers Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, I have been writing for a decade on the way politicians and movement leaders employ propaganda, centrally including fascist propaganda, to win elections and gain power.
Often, those who employ fascist tactics do so cynically – they do not really believe the enemies they target are so malign, or so powerful, as their rhetoric suggests. Nevertheless, there comes a tipping point, where rhetoric becomes policy. Donald Trump and the party that is now in thrall to him have long been exploiting fascist propaganda. They are now inscribing it into fascist policy.
The article is very long, but well worth reading. Remember, Hitler got many of his ideas from the Jim Crow South.
In the lead-up to the Capitol siege, the FBI received at least a dozen warnings about the possibility of violence that day (see timeline below.) When the day came and the Capitol barricades fell, it became evident the FBI largely ignored them all.
The warnings came from all sides: regional law enforcement, social media platforms, Congress (specifically the House and Senate intelligence committees), a top defense official, extremist watchdogs, right-wing experts, journalists and even three different components within the FBI itself.
Grid reviewed every public statement FBI officials made about the bureau’s intelligence leading up to the siege to understand how the FBI explained its posture on Jan. 6. We read hundreds of pages of FBI briefings and press statements, FBI officials’ testimony before Congress and public comments in news reports.
We found that the FBI has given at least five different explanations for why it failed to heed these warnings and take steps to foil the Capitol attack or help other agencies prepare a sufficient response. Some of them support arguments the FBI should get more money and legal authorities. But given what we now know, none of them holds up.
“They’re following the same blueprint as 9/11,” said Mike German, a former undercover FBI agent and author of “Disrupt, Discredit and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy.” He is a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. “First they say, ‘We had no intelligence,’ then say, ‘Our authorities prevented us from getting the intelligence,’ which is not true.”
The institutional lack of introspection, while unsurprising, is deeply worrisome, German and others agree. The threat of political violence — particularly from the right, and targeting democratic institutions and political leaders — is higher than at any point in modern history. Many key indicators point in one direction: Extremist violence is reportedly surging, and threats against election officials and members of Congress are increasing. The threat of lethality from domestic violent extremist groups “is higher than it ever was,” Attorney General Merrick Garland told Congress last May.
If the FBI remains blinkered to the most serious and likely threats, Jan. 6 might not be its last major failure. American democracy has largely survived the violence of Jan. 6, and the Department of Justice has undertaken a historic effort to investigate, indict and prosecute hundreds of participants — who might never have stormed the Capitol in the first place if the FBI had heeded clear warnings and taken proper steps to prevent the attack.
Palidino goes on to refute the five main excuses the FBI has given for it’s failure to respond to the many warnings they received before January 6. It appears that the bureau is still focusing more on left wing protestors than on right wing violence, despite the public claims of director Chris Wray.
The final long read is by Jennifer Taub at The Washington Monthly: Merrick Garland’s Trump Problem—and Ours.
Timing is everything. When it comes to free and fair elections and ensuring that Donald Trump and fellow authoritarians do not pull off a successful coup, we are nearly out of time. At least 19 states have added laws that make it more difficult to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, and 49 state legislatures are considering voting restrictions, including, most ominously, measures that would take election management out of the hands of secretaries of state and hand it over to GOP-controlled legislatures. We have until November 8to fix this.
The prosecution of the former president is on a slower timeline. This includes not only the criminal investigations being pursued in Georgia by the Fulton County district attorney, and in New York by the state attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney, but also any investigations emanating from the U.S. Department of Justice. But that’s okay; Merrick Garland is no longer the problem or the solution.
I came to this conclusion after Attorney General Garland delivered a much-hyped speech commemorating the anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. After considering his words, I opened a calendar and did the math. We’ll get to that math in a moment. But first, let’s be clear about what Garland did and didn’t promise.
After watching his talk and then reading the prepared remarks published on the DOJ website, I have this take: I fully trust Garland to prosecute Trump in connection with the events directly leading up to and surrounding the certification of the electoral vote on January 6. But I’m less sure how much Trump mischief that will include.
Why do I believe DOJ is currently investigating the former president? Some doubt it. There have been no leaks to the press. By comparison, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has been less circumspect. Committee members, including Republican Representative Liz Cheney, have made it clear that they are examining Trump’s legal culpability on a number of grounds. Garland will have access to whatever the committee uncovers, including the report they plan to issue as early as this summer. And if the panel, chaired by Representative Bennie Thompson, makes criminal referrals to DOJ, committee staff will turn over the evidence they have gathered.
In such a referral, the committee might reference several statutes that DOJ can use to prosecute the former president and others, including obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy, and seditious conspiracy. They might also use the wire fraud statute to charge those who raised funds off the Big Lie.
Read the rest at The Washington Monthly link.
More stories to check out:
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Kevin McCarthy’s coverup for Trump may be hiding knowledge of possible crimes.
Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: The conservative knives come out for Brett Kavanaugh.
The New York Times: Census Memo Cites ‘Unprecedented’ Meddling by Trump Administration.
What’s on your mind today? What stories are you following?
Jim Cantore is in Rockport on the North Shore and another Weather Channel guy is on the South Shore, in Plymouth, so I guess the storm is going to be bad here in New England. Bombogenesis is still expected to happen off the New England Coast later today. Here’s the explanation of what’s happening from the Boston Globe: Bombogenesis? Bomb cyclone? What exactly these terms mean and how they relate to Thursday’s storm.
The terms were popularized by a 1980 paper by MIT professors Frederick Sanders and John R. Gyakum, who studied “explosive cyclogenesis” (the rapid development of a storm) in the Northern Hemisphere in the 1970s.
According to the NOAA, bombogenesis is a “popular term” to describe the process in which a storm rapidly strengthes. Specifically, it refers to when the storm’s pressure system drops more than 24 millibars in 24 hours.
“This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters,” says the agency’s website.
According to Sanders and Gyakum’s paper, bombogenesis is predominantly a cold-season event and occurs over water. The National Weather Service says it is “solely a meteorological term” and does not describe the effects of the storm.
That said, the resulting storm from bombogenesis is called a “bomb” or “bomb cyclone.”
We’re supposed to get at least winds around 60-70 mph and 12 to 18 inches of snow, so it’s basically a just a blizzard with caused by the crazy weather happening out over the ocean.
More from The Washington Post: No need to duck and cover — this is the ‘bomb cyclone,’ explained.
Though it seems as if meteorologists are using hyperbole to draw in more viewers, for a storm to be classified as a “bomb” it actually has to meet a stringent set of criteria. “Explosive bombogenesis” occurs most often in the winter, and it’s almost always referring to a storm that tracks up the East Coast. Nor’easters tend to be bombs.
A cyclone’s strength depends on its air pressure. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. Air pressure is the weight of the atmosphere. In a storm, air is rising, so the pressure is lower.
Typical surface-air pressure tends toward 1010 millibars. That’s how we measure how much air is sitting over us. Most of the big storm systems that sweep rain and snow across the United States clock in around 995 or 990. But for a storm to rank a “bomb,” it must rapidly intensify — it has to drop at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.
The storm expected to ride up the East Coast and strike New England looks as if it will be a classic bomb cyclone, with the expectation of a 50-millibar drop in about 24 hours
When a storm strengthens this quickly, it’s a signal of how much air is being drawn into the storm’s circulation. It then spirals inward toward the center, rises and exits through the top. If more air is leaving the storm than is sucked inward, the pressure falls even more and the system will continue to grow.
It’s not rare, but bombogenesis is still a sight to behold from a meteorological perspective. It is most common in nor’easters, the fierce gales that spin up off the East Coast in the late fall and winter. They feed off the temperature contrast between the cold land and adjacent Atlantic waters still holding on to heat left over from the summertime.
More details at the WaPo.
Of course there’s another cyclone happening in Washington, D.C.–a metaphorical one anyway. Yesterday New York Magazine published an excerpt from Michael Wolff’s soon-to-be-released book, Fire and Fury. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to. I know the media has been highlighting bits of it constantly, but reading the whole thing is a whole different experience. The piece is so shocking that I had to read it in sections over the course of the day yesterday.
Today Wolff has released another excerpt in The Hollywood Reporter: “You Can’t Make This S— Up”: My Year Inside Trump’s Insane White House. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but it begins as a background piece on how Wolff got nearly unrestricted access to Trump and his minions.
I interviewed Donald Trump for The Hollywood Reporter in June 2016, and he seemed to have liked — or not disliked — the piece I wrote. “Great cover!” his press assistant, Hope Hicks, emailed me after it came out (it was a picture of a belligerent Trump in mirrored sunglasses). After the election, I proposed to him that I come to the White House and report an inside story for later publication — journalistically, as a fly on the wall — which he seemed to misconstrue as a request for a job. No, I said. I’d like to just watch and write a book. “A book?” he responded, losing interest. “I hear a lot of people want to write books,” he added, clearly not understanding why anybody would. “Do you know Ed Klein?”— author of several virulently anti-Hillary books. “Great guy. I think he should write a book about me.” But sure, Trump seemed to say, knock yourself out.
Since the new White House was often uncertain about what the president meant or did not mean in any given utterance, his non-disapproval became a kind of passport for me to hang around — checking in each week at the Hay-Adams hotel, making appointments with various senior staffers who put my name in the “system,” and then wandering across the street to the White House and plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch.
The West Wing is configured in such a way that the anteroom is quite a thoroughfare — everybody passes by. Assistants — young women in the Trump uniform of short skirts, high boots, long and loose hair — as well as, in situation-comedy proximity, all the new stars of the show: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, Gary Cohn, Michael Flynn (and after Flynn’s abrupt departure less than a month into the job for his involvement in the Russia affair, his replacement, H.R. McMaster), all neatly accessible.
The nature of the comedy, it was soon clear, was that here was a group of ambitious men and women who had reached the pinnacle of power, a high-ranking White House appointment — with the punchline that Donald Trump was president. Their estimable accomplishment of getting to the West Wing risked at any moment becoming farce.
A bit more:
“You can’t make this shit up,” Sean Spicer, soon to be portrayed as the most hapless man in America, muttered to himself after his tortured press briefing on the first day of the new administration, when he was called to justify the president’s inaugural crowd numbers — and soon enough, he adopted this as a personal mantra. Reince Priebus, the new chief of staff, had, shortly after the announcement of his appointment in November, started to think he would not last until the inauguration. Then, making it to the White House, he hoped he could last a respectable year, but he quickly scaled back his goal to six months. Kellyanne Conway, who would put a finger-gun to her head in private about Trump’s public comments, continued to mount an implacable defense on cable television, until she was pulled off the air by others in the White House who, however much the president enjoyed her, found her militancy idiotic. (Even Ivanka and Jared regarded Conway’s fulsome defenses as cringeworthy.)
Steve Bannon tried to gamely suggest that Trump was mere front man and that he, with plan and purpose and intellect, was, more reasonably, running the show — commanding a whiteboard of policies and initiatives that he claimed to have assembled from Trump’s off-the-cuff ramblings and utterances. His adoption of the Saturday Night Live sobriquet “President Bannon” was less than entirely humorous. Within the first few weeks, even rote conversations with senior staff trying to explain the new White House’s policies and positions would turn into a body-language ballet of eye-rolling and shrugs and pantomime of jaws dropping. Leaking became the political manifestation of the don’t-blame-me eye roll.
The surreal sense of the Trump presidency was being lived as intensely inside the White House as out. Trump was, for the people closest to him, the ultimate enigma. He had been elected president, that through-the-eye-of-the-needle feat, but obviously, he was yet … Trump. Indeed, he seemed as confused as anyone to find himself in the White House, even attempting to barricade himself into his bedroom with his own lock over the protests of the Secret Service.
With all this insanity finally on public display, there is more public discussion of exactly how crazy Trump actually is.
Lawmakers concerned about President Donald Trump’s mental state summoned Yale University psychiatry professor Dr. Bandy X. Lee to Capitol Hill last month for two days of briefings about his recent behavior.
In private meetings with more than a dozen members of Congress held on Dec. 5 and 6, Lee briefed lawmakers — all Democrats except for one Republican senator, whom Lee declined to identify. Her professional warning to Capitol Hill: “He’s going to unravel, and we are seeing the signs.”
In an interview, she pointed to Trump “going back to conspiracy theories, denying things he has admitted before, his being drawn to violent videos.” Lee also warned, “We feel that the rush of tweeting is an indication of his falling apart under stress. Trump is going to get worse and will become uncontainable with the pressures of the presidency.”
Lee, editor of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” which includes testimonials from 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts assessing the president’s level of “dangerousness,” said that she was surprised by the interest in her findings during her two days in Washington. “One senator said that it was the meeting he most looked forward to in 11 years,” Lee recalled. “Their level of concern about the president’s dangerousness was surprisingly high.”
Many of us, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, saw the signs during the 2016 campaign and tried to raise alarms. Unfortunately, the media was too busy focusing on Hillary’s emails to notice that Russia was using active measures to infiltrate Trump’s campaign and make him POTUS. They convinced themselves that Trump could never win no matter how much they hammered Hillary. After he won, many of these “journalists” argued that Trump would “pivot” and suddenly begin acting like a normal, sane person.
And now here we are with an insane would-be tyrant in the While House and a Republican Party that refuses to put any kind checks on his power.
In honor of the “bomb cyclone” I give you Toots and the Maytals.
The snow has finally begun falling here, and now they say it will continue all night and into tomorrow. We expect around 6-8 inches. That still may not be as bad as what happened down where JJ lives in Georgia and other parts of the South. The LA Times reports: Snowmen in Alabama? Sledding in Mississippi? From Texas to Georgia, snow blankets the South.
Snow blanketed a vast swath of the Deep South on Friday, triggering a flurry of winter weather warnings that closed businesses and schools, canceled hundreds of flights and caused traffic gridlock. It also unleashed a flurry of snowman construction and sledding in places more accustomed to sunshine than snow.
The storm dropped a rare coating of snow as far south as Brownsville, Texas — near the border of Mexico — up through southern Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the southern Appalachians.
“This is an unusual event — to see snow falling this early in the season all the way from Texas and the Gulf Coast region to Georgia,” said Laura Pagano, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Atlanta/Peachtree City office. “It has happened before, but not often.”
More than 200,000 customers across the region lost power as snow downed branches and power lines.
Since I can’t go out, I plan to escape into a good book. I finished reading Luke Harding’s excellent Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, and I’ve begun reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser.
Fraser is a brilliant writer, and so far the book is fascinating. She adds context to the sentimental version of Wilder’s life portrayed in the “Little House” books. Of course in many ways it’s a tragic story of the horrendous treatment of Native Americans as well as the hardships suffered by poor people like the Ingalls family who were lured west by promised of free or cheap land. Anyway, I’m glad to have a good book to help me escape from our dreadful current reality.
As the mainstream media continues to demonstrate the tremendous progress the Mueller investigation has been making, the Trump state media made up of Fox News, Breitbart, and other right wing outlets has turned up the heat with their fake news.
Please read this excellent piece by Jonathan Chait: The Mueller Investigation Is in Mortal Danger. Chait opens by describing the process by which the GOP first claims to be shocked by bad behavior (e.g. the Access Hollywood tape), but within begins denying and finally excusing that same behavior. We’ve seen this again and again, and now it’s happening with Roy Moore. Here’s the gist of Chait’s argument:
The next step in the sequence is almost insultingly obvious. Trump is preparing to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 election.
The administration and its allied media organs, especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch, have spent months floating a series of rationales, of varying degrees of implausibility, for why a deeply respected Republican law-enforcement veteran is disqualified to lead the inquiry: He is friends with James Comey, who is biased because Trump fired him; Comey is biased because he pursued leads turned up in Christopher Steele’s investigation, which was financed by Democrats; Mueller has failed to investigate Hillary Clinton’s marginal-to-nonexistent role in a uranium sale.
The newest pseudo-scandal fixates on the role of Peter Strzok, an FBI official who helped tweak the language Comey employed in his statement condemning Clinton’s email carelessness and has also worked for Mueller.
His alleged crime is a series of text messages criticizing Trump. Mueller removed Strzok from his team, but that is not enough for Trump’s supporters, who are seizing on Strzok’s role as a pretext to discredit and remove Mueller, too. The notion that a law-enforcement official should be disqualified for privately expressing partisan views is a novel one, and certainly did not trouble Republicans last year, when Rudy Giuliani was boasting on television about his network of friendly agents. Yet in the conservative media, Mueller and Comey have assumed fiendish personae of almost Clintonian proportions.
It’s happening, folks. Yesterday we learned that Hope Hicks was interviewed by Mueller’s team all day Thursday and Friday. Hicks knows everything that has happened. There is no way Trump is going to sit still while she either tells the truth or may get caught in a lie and have to cooperate with Mueller. The investigation is getting closer and closer to Trump and his family.
The New York Times: F.B.I. Warned Hope Hicks About Emails From Russian Operatives.
F.B.I. officials warned one of President Trump’s top advisers, Hope Hicks, earlier this year about repeated attempts by Russian operatives to make contact with her during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the events.
The Russian outreach efforts show that, even after American intelligence agencies publicly accused Moscow of trying to influence the outcome of last year’s presidential election, Russian operatives were undaunted in their efforts to establish contacts with Mr. Trump’s advisers….
After he took office, senior F.B.I. counterintelligence agents met with Ms. Hicks in the White House Situation Room at least twice, gave her the names of the Russians who had contacted her, and said that they were not who they claimed to be. The F.B.I. was concerned that the emails to Ms. Hicks may have been part of a Russian intelligence operation, and they urged Ms. Hicks to be cautious.
The meetings with Ms. Hicks, what the F.B.I. calls a “defensive briefing,” went beyond the standard security advice that senior White House officials routinely receive upon taking office. Defensive briefings are intended to warn government officials about specific concerns or risks.
Meanwhile, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the Justice Department has announced “investigations” into fake scandals like Planned Parenthood supposedly selling fetal body parts and the Uranium One non-scandal. And the GOP Congress is going to turn the sexual harassment scandal into a Democratic problem. The Democrats pushed Al Franken out without due process for minor accusations that may have been orchestrated, and now more Democrats are going to be revealed as abusers so the public will forget about Trump and Moore.
The Treasury Department paid $220,000 in a previously undisclosed agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that involved Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings, according to documents obtained by Roll Call.
Winsome Packer, a former staff member of a congressional commission that promotes international human rights, said in documents that the congressman touched her, made unwanted sexual advances, and threatened her job. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Packer worked.
Hastings has called Packer’s charges “ludicrous” and in documents said he never sexually harassed her.
“Until this evening, I had not seen the settlement agreement between the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and Ms. Packer,” the congressman said in a statement Friday night. “This matter was handled solely by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made.”
Hastings said that the lawsuit that Packer filed against him and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee were ultimately dismissed.
“I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer,” he said.
Will another member of the Black Caucus be forced out now?
Sarah Kendzior issued a stark waning this morning in response to this tweet:
Here’s a Trump scandal; will it gain any traction? The New York Times: Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument.
A uranium company launched a concerted lobbying campaign to scale back Bears Ears National Monument, saying such action would give it easier access to the area’s uranium deposits and help it operate a nearby processing mill, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans have said repeatedly that questions of mining or drilling played no role in President Trump’s announcement Monday that he was cutting the site by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent. Trump also signed a proclamation nearly halving the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is also in southern Utah and has significant coal deposits.
“This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”
But the nation’s sole uranium processing mill sits directly next to the boundaries that President Barack Obama designated a year ago when he established Bears Ears. The documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, urged the Trump administration to limit the monument to the smallest size needed to protect key objects and areas, such as archeological sites, to make it easier to access the radioactive ore.
In a May 25 letter to the Interior Department, Chief Operating Officer Mark Chalmers wrote that the 1.35 million-acre expanse Obama created “could affect existing and future mill operations.” He later noted, “There are also many other known uranium and vanadium deposits located within the [original boundaries] that could provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.”
There is soooo much news today. I’ll have to add some links in the comment thread, but I’ll end this post with the latest NYT gossipy insider report on Trump’s defensive maneuvers: Inside Trumps Hour-by-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation.
Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to “Fox & Friends” for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day.
Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Mr. Trump grabs his iPhone. Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides. Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for the day, sometimes still in bedclothes, where he begins his official and unofficial calls.
As he ends his first year in office, Mr. Trump is redefining what it means to be president. He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.
For other presidents, every day is a test of how to lead a country, not just a faction, balancing competing interests. For Mr. Trump, every day is an hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation. He still relitigates last year’s election, convinced that the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s interference is a plot to delegitimize him. Color-coded maps highlighting the counties he won were hung on the White House walls.
Read more about the madman in the White House at the NYT link.
What stories are you following today?
Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French, the last day to celebrate before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday fall on different days every year, depending on the date of Easter Sunday. It begins 46 days before Easter (Sundays aren’t counted). Lent in the Catholic Church was meant to be symbolic of the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus spent fasting in the desert while enduring temptations from the Devil. Traditionally Christians gave up meat during lent and spent time in prayer and meditation. As kids, we gave up candy or chose some activity to perform during the Lenten season.
So how is the date of Easter determined each year? You guessed it, it depends on the date of the Vernal Equinox–one more example of how Christians absorbed Pagan holidays into their calendar. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is the culmination of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, beginning on The Epiphany, January 6–the day of the supposed arrival of Three Kings (or Wise Men) bearing gifts of frankincense and myrrh for the newborn child. This year Easter falls on April 5.
The time between Epiphany and Mardi Gras is commonly referred to as Carnival, during which parades take place in Catholic strongholds like Brazil, Venice, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, and New Orleans.
Like many Catholic holidays, Mardi Gras bears resemblances to ancient pagan rituals, particularly Saturnalia and Lupercalia. The former honored the god Saturn, an agricultural deity, and was marked by gift-giving, revelry and gambling. The latter was conducted in mid-February to honor Faunus, the god of fertility, which involved feasting, drinking and debauched behavior.
When Rome was Christianized, the Catholic Church adapted popular pagan holidays into the new faith. Mardi Gras season became a time to celebrate before the 40 days of Lent marked by prayer, repentance and atonement. As Christianity spread throughout Europe and the New World, so did Mardi Gras traditions. The pre-Lenten festivals continue to be marked by drinking, dancing and feasting on fatty foods containing meat, eggs, milk and cheese – ingredients that are restricted during Lent.
Shrove Tuesday falls on the same day as Fat Tuesday. It is the day before Ash Wednesday when Christians are reminded they will soon enter a season of penance. “Shrove” comes from the word “shrive,” which means to confess. In the Middle Ages, Catholics began marking Shrove Tuesday as a time to confess their sins before Lent.
In places where many Polish immigrants settled in the U.S. Fat Tuesday is celebrated as “Pakzi Day.” From Michigan Live, Fat Tuesday means paczki: One generation prepares the next for the biggest day of the year at Davison Home Bakery.
DAVISON, MI — Lydia Herron is a bit nervous. And excited.
After about five months of working at Davison Home Bakery, she’s preparing for the biggest day of the year: Fat Tuesday.
“They tell me it’s going to be pretty insane,” she said, standing in the bakery the morning of Monday, Feb. 16, wearing a white baker’s apron.
Fat Tuesday is the day before the Christian tradition of Lent, when practitioners give up something for 40 days and 40 nights. Sweets are a common thing to give up, and for many, Fat Tuesday is one last chance to splurge. And the favorite way to splurge on Fat Tuesday?
Paczki are like doughnuts, if you’re the kind of person who thinks there just aren’t enough calories in cream- or jelly-filled doughnuts as it is.
Diane Henson, a baker at Davison Home Bakery, has been making paczki since 1972. The morning of Feb. 16, she and baker Mitch French had already made 200 dozen, having been there since 9 p.m. the night before. They plan on having 600 dozen baked by the time Fat Tuesday rolls around.
She said to make paczki,they use their doughnut batter but add more sugar, butter, and eggs.
Of course the biggest celebration of Mardi Gras is in New Orleans. Here’s a schedule of activities for today that includes links to watch video of the parade. I’m sure Dakinikat can also fill us in on what’s happening down there.
Time Magazine has an interesting article about how Mardi Gras was liberated from being a celebration only for the rich and influential people in New Orleans.
These days, Mardi Gras in New Orleans — which falls on Feb. 17 this year — is a party for all. But, not that long ago, Mardi Gras celebrations were more exclusive affairs.
As TIME reported in the Feb. 9, 1948, issue, balls and “krewes” were for the city’s elites only, and that situation lasted for decades after the first Mardi Gras parade was held in the 1850s. In the 20th century, however, the celebration expanded:
For half a century, New Orleans’ fantastic Mardi Gras balls were strictly for the upper crust. Nobody without money, blue blood, or both gained membership in the secret men’s clubs or “krewes” which staged them. Before 1900 there were only five clubs: Comus, Momus, Twelfth Night, Rex and Proteus. They culled guest lists with pernickety care, asked only the fairest of debutantes to serve as carnival queens. But times changed. The socially ambitious began forming their own krewes.
In 1928 New Orleans had 16 Mardi Gras balls. In 1946 there were 36. This year, a record-breaking total of 49 are being held. Last week, with Carnival Day (Shrove Tuesday) fast approaching, New Orleans’ social whirl had assumed the proportions of a maelstrom.
By the 1940s, there were krewe options galore. “Italian krewes, Irish krewes, German krewes… krewes for college men, businessmen, professional men,” TIME wrote. “To the horror of New Orleans’ old guard, there are even krewes for women.”
But that didn’t mean Mardi Gras was an all-inclusive celebration. The krewes may have multiplied, but they were still separated along racial and gender lines.
As recently as 1991, the relative exclusivity of the Mardi Gras krewes was a source of controversy in New Orleans. That December, the city council voted to require the krewes to integrate by 1994, or else lose the right to hold parades. (The krewes are private clubs, but the city controls the streets.)
Read more history at the link. The photo at the top of this post is from Time in 1960.
In winter weather news . . .
The latest winter storm hit the South hard yesterday. NBC News reports, Ice Storm Coats South from Oklahoma to Carolinas, Heads to Northeast.
A band of snow and ice sliced across the South on Monday from Oklahoma to the Carolinas, cutting off power for more than a quarter of a million customers and threatening to paralyze major cities on its way to the Northeast.
For once, Boston wasn’t the center of the winter weather. Instead, New England-like snow fell on parts of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia: 17 inches near Coleman, Kentucky; 15 inches in Logan, West Virginia; 14½ inches near Oceana, West Virginia; and 12 inches in Dickenson County, Virginia.At 3:45 a.m. ET, The Weather Channel reported that 26 million Americans were under winter storm warnings — with three million in Tennessee and South Carolina under an ice storm warning.
Ice coated power lines in Georgia where 174,000 customers were without power early Tuesday.
I sure hope JJ, RalphB, and Mouse are doing OK. Beata too–my sister reports that southern Indiana has been hit hard for the past couple of days.
At least 55,000 customers were without power in Tennessee, the state Emergency Management Agency said late Monday. It also declared a state of emergency late Monday.
Trees and power lines came down in Arkansas, where Entergy Corp. said about 17,000 customers were without power, and in Mississippi, where the state Emergency Operations Center said 10,000 customers were in the dark.
Power failures were affecting nearly 62,000 early Tuesday in South Carolina and an additional 19,000 in North Carolina.
The hardest hit areas, according to NBC today:
About 22 million people across parts of the South and the Mid-Atlantic are under winter storm warnings as a band of ice and snow continues its assault. More than 330,000 people across 13 states and Washington, D.C., are without power, according to The Weather Channel. Parts of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia got the brunt of the snow Monday, including more than a foot in several areas. Now, as the system starts to pull away, forecasters say D.C. could see about 8 inches of snow, New York could get 3 inches and parts of New Jersey, 7 inches.
Take care, Janicen, Delphyne and Joanelle. For once, it wasn’t Boston in the eye of the storm. A man came to my door last night and offered to shovel my car out and clear off my sidewalk for $40, and I took him up on it. I don’t know if I can actually get out. He didn’t shovel down to the pavement, but at least I don’t have to deal with that wall the plows left at the end of my driveway. I’ll go out and look at it later on.
More news links
NYT, Obama Immigration Policy Halted by Federal Judge in Texas. Sigh . . .
The White House responded with a statement explaining why the policy is constitutional.
The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws—which is exactly what the President did when he announced commonsense policies to help fix our broken immigration system. Those policies are consistent with the laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws.
The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts, and the district court in Washington, D.C. have determined that the President’s actions are well within his legal authority. Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe. The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.
IB Times, via Raw Story, Who is the Texas judge obstructing Obama’s immigration plan?
Frankly, I doubt that “most” Americans have the slightest idea of what is going on with “ISIS” or a clue about how Obama his “handling” the “threat.”
Karoli at Crooks and Liars, The Islamophobia Fear Factory And The Billionaires Who Pay For It.
And speaking of Islamophobia, what’s with the supposedly intellectual “movement atheists” who are so obsessed with Islam? Amanda Marcotte, an atheist herself, writes: Time for atheists to take a hard look at ourselves.
One of the reasons that I was attracted to movement atheism was I believed that, by rejecting the gods-and-masters idea, it was inoculated against that knee-jerk tribalism that characterizes so many religions. Without a supernatural cover story for why we’re the chosen people/the righteous/the holy ones, I thought, we would have to rationally accept that we are nothing special. I thought it was protection against the special pleading you often see from people who are wed to conservative movements and institutions and identities. That hope of mine is being sorely tested in the light of Craig Hicks shooting, execution-style, his three Muslim neighbors that witnesses say he had an ongoing bug up his ass about. Hicks was an outspoken and aggressive New Atheist sort, but that’s all we really know about him, alongside his apparent gun-loving tendencies.
Yes, yes, I know we don’t know if it was over religion or a parking space, but it’s clear as hell that many in the atheist world are hoping—dare I say praying—that there’s some kind of exonerating evidence to show that he barely even noticed the headscarfs on the heads of two of his victims. To which I say, why? If we are, as we purport to be, rational people who are above the knee-jerk tribalism of our religious brethren, then we should be open, without any defensiveness, to an open and honest discussion about how the rhetoric of some of the big names in atheism—Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher—treads past the ordinary criticisms of faith and turns into ugly and demonstrably silly arguments about how Islam is somehow uniquely poisonous as a religion. While claiming to oppose Christianity, these men have allowed themselves to be useful idiots for the cause of the Christian right, giving them an “even the atheists agree!” cover for their desire to stoke religious animosity and drumming up support for even more unnecessary wars in the Middle East.
Read the rest at the link.
Furthermore, what about the misogyny among these (mostly) male atheist obsessives? Here’s an earlier post by Marcotte: Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?
At first blush, it would seem that an atheist movement would be exactly the sort of thing that would attract many women. After all, much of the oppression of women—from forced veiling to restricting abortion rights—is a direct result of religion. Unsurprisingly, then, feminism has a long tradition of outspoken atheists and religious skeptics within its ranks.Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton preferred “rational ideas based on scientific facts” to “religious superstition.” Major feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir argued that belief in God exists in part to “repress any impulse toward revolt in the downtrodden female.” Modern feminist writer Katha Pollitt received the “Emperor Has No Clothes” award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2001, where she said that religion is dangerous because “it connects with very terrible social energies that have lain in civilization for a very long time.”
But despite the natural and cozy fit of atheism and feminism, the much-ballyhooed “New Atheism” that was supposed to be a more aggressive, political form of atheism has instead been surprisingly male-dominated. The reason has, in recent years, become quite apparent: Many of the most prominent leaders of the New Atheism are quick to express deeply sexist ideas. Despite their supposed love of science and rationality, many of them are nearly as quick as their religious counterparts to abandon reason in order to justify regressive views about women.
Atheism needs some new spokespeople. These guys are nearly as ugly and nasty as their fundamentalist christian counterparts. I nominate Dakinikat.
So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share your links and storm updates in the comment thread, and have a great Fat Tuesday!!
Lazy Saturday Reads: Will Roger Goodell’s Handling of #DeflateGate Be the Final Straw for NFL Owners? And Other News . . .Posted: January 31, 2015
I’m so tired of being cold. The Boston area tends to get a lot of snow–especially late in winter–but we rarely experience the frigid temperatures we’ve had this year. We usually get a lot of sun and temperatures in the 20-30+ range in the winter months. This year we have had many gloomy days in the teens and nighttime temperature in the single numbers. My house isn’t particularly well-insulated, and my furnace isn’t powerful enough to keep the house at 70 degrees when it’s that cold. Fortunately we enter February tomorrow and spring is on the way, even though it doesn’t feel like it yet.
On mornings like this one, I wish I could drape myself over a radiator and sleep for 16 hours a day like a cat. Honestly, I have to admit I’ve been taking a lot of catnaps lately to deal with a cold that isn’t all that bad but just keeps hanging on. Between that and following the buildup to the Super Bowl, I’ve been kind of ignoring politics for the time being. The 2016 race will begin to heat up soon enough, and the antics of the GOP Congress are just too depressing for me to want to know the gory details.
I haven’t written anything yet about the recent attacks on my beloved New England Patriots, but since it’s the Saturday before the Super Bowl, I’m going to write a little about it today.
I understand that most people around the country hate the Pats for the same reasons everyone hated the Yankees when I was a kid. They always seemed to be winning, and we got so sick of having to watch them in the World Series. Not to mention that their fans were unbearably arrogant and obnoxious. Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, I learned to root for the underdog.
At the beginning of the football season this year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in hot water over the mild 2-game suspension he handed out to Ray Rice after the league learned that the Baltimore Ravens running back had punched his then-girlfriend Janay Palmer in the face in a Las Vegas elevator in February 2014, knocking her unconscious. Rice was arrested and charged with aggravated assault.
After video surfaced of the incident, Goodell turned around and suspended Rice indefinitely (this arbitrary decision was later overturned). After that the media began calling attention to other cases of domestic violence by NFL players, and many people called for Goodell to be fired. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was one of the few team owners to publicly support the commissioner. Goodell survived and the controversy died down temporarily.
Now Goodell has made an enemy of Kraft. Will a silly controversy about deflated footballs lead to Goodell’s final downfall? I’m not going to get into the details of “Deflate Gate,” but I’ve followed the story closely, and at this point I’m convinced that whole thing is ridiculous.
At first I was stunned by the accusations and then I began to believe that the Patriots must have done something wrong. But over time, I’ve concluded that the whole thing was a tempest in a teapot, and I’ve reached the point where I’m embracing the hatred and laughing about the whole thing.
I’m not a huge fan of the Super Bowl, but to me it seems stupid that this year’s game has been overshadowed by this ludicrous controversy. I think it’s time for Roger Goodell to go, and now that he has lost the support of one of the NFL’s most powerful owners–and one of Goodell’s bosses–it might actually happen. As former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue told CQ Magazine, Goodell doesn’t seem to understand the value of treating the players like adults and working for peace and understanding rather than enraging everyone.
Tagliabue also said that Goodell hasn’t spoken to him since the former commissioner vacated Goodell’s ridiculously over-the-top punishment of another winning team–the New Orleans Saints–for supposedly paying bounties to players for big hits during games in 2011. This practice was common around the league and none of the hits by Saints players had lead to serious injuries. Tagliabue felt that it was unfair to penalize one team so harshly for behavior that was widely tolerated around the league, and he overturned the punishment after Goodell asked him to review the case.
Why would the NFL commissioner want to tear down winning teams? It doesn’t make sense unless you understand that the NFL doesn’t like dynasties. Here’s a piece from the Bleacher Report from 2009 about another scandal involving the New England Patriots.
Excellence isn’t against NFL rules—at least not yet.
But, the league punishes success anyway.
They punish success to achieve parity among the teams. In theory, when more teams have a chance to win it all, the ratings are higher. That means more advertising dollars for the networks and bigger TV contracts for the league.
Twelve games into the season and your team has four wins and eight losses?
They still have a chance, just like the 2008 Chargers.
Current rules allow scenarios where nine win teams make the playoffs and go to Super Bowls, while 11 win teams miss the playoffs….
They don’t want dominant teams. They want mediocrity. They don’t want dynasties.
They want to spread the wealth.
So, the league punishes successful teams, hoping to weaken them, and rewards bad teams, hoping to strengthen them.
Read the rest of that article to learn why the Patriots were punished with a trumped-up scandal over something every other team was doing.
So far the strategy has worked with the Saints, but maybe they can still turn it around. I hope so. After “spygate,” the Patriots refused to lie down and die. They just kept winning, and Goodell and some other team owners and coaches resented it. I think Goodell’s ham-handed strategy for promoting parity is bullshit. There have to be other ways of doing it than ruining the NFL’s most important event–the Super Bowl–and humiliating players and coaches who have worked their asses off to achieve excellence.
Rhode Island sportswriter Tom E. Curran has followed the Patriots since the late 1990s. At the beginning of “deflategate,” he thought that the Pats had cheated, but he gradually learned that the NFL had zero evidence to show any wrongdoing by the team; and yesterday after Roger Goodell gave his “state of the NFL” speech, Curran wrote a scathing response.
Congrats, Roger. You successfully debased your marquee event.
You allowed one of your marquee franchises to be devalued.
You allowed the legacies of a Hall of Fame quarterback and coach to be battered.
You watched with disinterest as one of the league’s visionary owners and most influential proponents had his influence siphoned and his investment diminished.
Your NFL has bookended the 2014 season with two perfect embarrassments.
First, the wink, wink “investigation” into Ray Rice punching his fiancee into unconsciousness which exploded on the Monday morning after the season openers.
Now, a vindictive, self-important, spare-no-expense investigation into footballs being less than 12.5 PSI during the AFC Championship.
And there you were Friday, Roger, on a rainy morning in Phoenix – two days before the best two teams in the NFL will play a game that’s been terribly overshadowed – puffing out your chest.
Read about Curran’s evolution on the deflategate issue at the link.
Here’s his conclusion:
The NFL had to know it had no numbers written down before Monday dawned. But the leaks of leaky balls flowed. The NFL had a choice. Step up and say, “Look, this is standard stuff, we frequently do a review of procedures and we are not alleging any wrongdoing by anyone. We just have to make sure our footballs aren’t defective.” Or do nothing and let the whisper campaign turn into a full-throated, planetary roar that the Patriots are cheaters.
The NFL chose the latter.
And everybody’s paying for it.
The league itself. The players. The coaches. The fans.
The revenue streams keep cascading and because of that, Goodell’s 32 bosses can go to sleep every night knowing that, no matter how bad it gets, it will never slow to a trickle.
Still, he’s got to be congratulated for finding a way to let the Super Bowl be overshadowed. Seemed impossible.
The only thing that can save the week now will be the game itself. I think it will.
What will save the reputation of Roger Goodell? Nothing.
We’ll find out about the game tomorrow night. Goodell may stick around for a little while, but I think his goose is cooked.
I’ll end this diatribe with a hilarious video that finally dissolved all my resentment over what has happened over the past two weeks of deflate gate hype.
Now that I’ve bored you stiff with my obnoxious Boston fan routine, here are some other stories you may find interesting.
Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone: While Deflategate and Chaitgate Rage, America Quietly Robs Its Elderly.
Reihan Salam at Slate: The Upper Middle Class Is Ruining America. And I want it to stop.
Michael Moore on Facebook: The Day Clint Eastwood Said He Would “Kill” Me, 10 Years Ago This Week.
Michael Schiavo at Politico: Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’.
Talking Points Memo: Jeb Bush’s Former Classmates Say He Was A Hash-Smoking Bully.
Nina Burleigh at Newsweek: What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women.
Talking Points Memo: The Sounds of Solidarity: Remembering Pete Seeger at Selma.
From The New Yorker, April 10, 1965: Letter from Selma, by Renata Adler.
RedOrbit via Raw Story: ‘Horrific’ pre-historic shark makes a rare appearance in Australian waters.
Georg Gray: Rare Historic Photos You’ll Never Forget.
What else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread and have a fabulous Super Bowl weekend!