Midday open thread: Carter recuperating at home; IG dings Pruitt; Saudis blame Iran for drone attack

Today’s comic by Ruben Bolling is The ladies will just love Georgia’s new anti-abortion law:

Jimmy Carter now recuperating at home from hip replacement surgery: The Carter Center has issued a statement announcing that “President Carter was released from Phoebe Sumter Medical Center today and will continue to recuperate at home. He will undergo physical therapy as part of his recovery from hip replacement surgery. President Carter plans to teach Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church this weekend. In addition, yesterday, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter felt faint and was admitted overnight to the hospital for observation and testing. She left the hospital with President Carter.” The former president and first lady should teach all of us how to be so unstoppable.

Before Boeing’s second of two 737 Max crashes that killed 346, the company resisted calls by pilots for aggressive action on a fix.

Donald Trump pardons fraudster Conrad Black without reminding anybody that the British-born newspaper publisher had written a sycophantic book about him. Black, who used to own the Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily Telegraph in England, was convicted of defrauding investors and was sentenced to six years in prison in 2007, serving three and a half years. He had praised Trump publicly in print more than once and wrote a flattering bio titled Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.  After Wednesday’s full pardon was granted, Black made a whiny statement noting that his trial, conviction, and imprisonment was “never anything but a confluence of unlucky events, the belligerence of several corporate governance charlatans, and grandstanding local and American judges, all fanned by an unusually frenzied international media showing exceptional interest in the case because I was a media owner.” In other words, what he did was no big thing, just a biased attack on a good guy. But all’s well that end’s well since, he said, noting that Trump had said he would pardon him and “Expunge the bad wrap you got.” 


Talk of a carbon tax reached House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday:

A coalition of business and environmental groups, working with the support of some major oil companies, took a carbon pricing plan to the U.S. House’s main tax-writing committee on Wednesday. It was the Ways and Means Committee’s first climate-related hearing in a dozen years, and members of both parties treated the topic with kid gloves.

For the panel to be talking at all about climate change is momentous—it signals that carbon taxing has moved into the realm of the possible. But members were cautious to avoid endorsing any specific idea.

The Democrats, now in control of the House, weren’t there to back any particular legislative plan, but they called the group to make its pitch as part of an effort to explore “the economic and health consequences of climate change.” Committee Republicans, meanwhile, sought to convey serious concern about the costs of global warming, even though they opposed any solution that included a tax.

Newspaper close to Saudi leadership calls for U.S. “surgical” strike on Iran for whom government officials blame a drone attack that destroyed pumping stations on a key pipeline: The attack was claimed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels fighting a civil war in Yemen in which Riyadh is heavily involved, using weapons acquired from the United States. Civilians are the primary victims, and the Yemen Health Ministry Thursday reported six deaths, including four children, in Saudi attacks on alleged Houthi targets in the rebel-held capital of Sanaa. Any U.S. attack on Iran, surgical or otherwise, would escalate an already tense situation between the two nations, with unpredictable, but easily imaginable results. 

EPA inspector general gives an official squint to the handling of Scott Pruitt’s outrageous travel expenditures. The agency’s IG estimated that the former EPA Administrator had billed the taxpayers “excessive costs” of $123,942 to provide him and his personal security detail’s first-class and business-class flights. The flights were authorized by the agency without “sufficient justification and, initially, without appropriate approval authority,” according to the IG’s 84-page report. Pruitt racked up 86 first-class flights, 13 in business, and 36 in coach. Total cost of the 40 trips the IG scrutinized was nearly a million dollars. Sixteen were trips to or included stopovers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Pruitt’s home turf. He also stayed in hotels numerous times that cost more than 150% of the allowable per diem. Greenwire reports that the EPA responded with a memo disclaiming any failures on its part in deciding the travel expenditures were legit. It said that trying to recover these costs would therefore be inappropriate. Prominent Democrats objected to this. In a joint statement, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said: “We urge Administrator Wheeler to immediately reverse course on this irresponsible decision, and conduct much needed internal oversight, reform policies at the agency and take every step needed to recover these costs,” said Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). 

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show: Greg Dworkin rounds up Trump‘s latest pardons & payoffs. Iran knows they can’t beat us in war, but think they might be able to take us in negotiations. Arliss Bunny has the lowdown on tariffs. WH counsel once again goes where no others dare.

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