Weekly Address

The Ledes

Saturday, April 19, 2014.

Washington Post: "Poland and the United States will announce next week the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine." ...

... Washington Post: "Pro-Russian­ militants, boasting that they do not take orders from diplomats in Washington or Moscow, refused to end their armed occupation of a dozen government buildings across eastern Ukraine on Friday, upending hopes for a quick end to the standoff."

Los Angeles Times: "The captain and two crew members of a ferry that capsized off the southern coast of South Korea were detained Saturday on suspicion of negligence in the accident that left at least 28 people confirmed dead and 274 missing, officials said.

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, April 18, 2014.

Washington Post: "An avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest early Friday morning, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three others missing, officials said, in what is now said to be the single deadliest disaster to hit the world’s highest peak.”

The New York Times outlines some of the shocking errors made after the Korean ferry began to list. ...

     ... UPDATE: "Prosecutors in South Korea on Friday sought to arrest the captain, third mate and another crew member of a ferry on charges of deserting their vessel and passengers after it capsized and leaving more than 270 people missing, many of them high school students on a trip to a resort island. Prosecutors asked the court to issue arrest warrants for Captain Lee Jun-seok, 69, and the 26-year-old third mate, who they said was steering the ship at the time of accident.... The vice principal, Kang Min-kyu, 52, of Danwon High School, who survived the ferry accident on Wednesday, was found hanging from a tree on a hill near a gymnasium where families of the missing had gathered. The police suspected Mr. Kang had hanged himself."


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/04/10/3772409/fbi-rescues-kidnapped-wake-forest.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the rare step of urging doctors to stop performing a surgical procedure used on tens of thousands of women each year to remove uterine growths, saying the practice risks spreading hidden cancers within a woman’s body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, has long been used in laparoscopic operations to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the uterus itself. It involves inserting an electric device into the abdomen and slicing tissue in order to remove it through a small incision. The surgery is far less invasive than traditional abdominal operations."

White House Live Video
April 18

1:00 pm ET: Jay Carney 's press briefing

2:00 pm ET: President Obama presents the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to the US Naval Academy football team

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

MoDo loves her '65 Mustang.

USA Today: "Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she's pregnant with her first child."

New York Times: "It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday. The planet, known as Kepler 186f, named after NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, which detected it, has a diameter of 8,700 miles, 10 percent wider than Earth, and its orbit lies within the 'Goldilocks zone' of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life."

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times argues that the real king of late-night comedy is Jon Stewart.

 

Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

Josh Dickey of Mashable: "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to replace the retiring David Letterman, and has indicated that he's willing to take over the Late Show when the time comes, people familiar with both sides of the discussions tell Mashable." Via New York.

Lauren Moraski of CBS "News": "David Letterman announced Thursday that he's retiring from CBS' 'Late Show' sometime next year. He made that announcement during the taping of his program Thursday afternoon at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater."

No News, All the Time:

Igor Bobic of TPM: "In its wall-to-wall coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN has raised the possibility of the supernatural, blackholes, and North Korea; it has interviewed a psychic, tried but failed to rent its own 777 jet, and finally settled on a flight simulator it is using to 'search' for the plane.On Tuesday the network finally turned its attention to garbage."

Washington Post: "Stephen Colbert and his writing staff were in fighting form Monday night, after a controversy stemming from an out-of-context tweet had hashtag activists calling for his head." ...

... This is kinda must-see TV:

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Saturday
Mar032012

The Commentariat -- March 4, 2012

Updated: My column in in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "Joe Nocera's Phony Defense of Bipartisanship." My next column, which I haven't written yet, will be is titled "Frank Bruni's Phony Defense of Bipartisanship." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

** "Whitewashing Gay History." Frank Rich: "Liberals applaud themselves for championing gay marriage. But there are ghosts at the wedding."

Ricardo Lopez & Kim Geiger of the Los Angeles Times: "In what was surely a rare move for the conservative radio host, Rush Limbaugh apologized Saturday to the Georgetown University law school student he called a 'slut' and 'prostitute' earlier in the week. The apology, posted to his website, said he did not mean to make a 'personal attack' against Sandra Fluke." The article doesn't mention, nor does Rush's post, that he carried on these denigrating comments for days. Here's a portion of Rush's "apology":

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? ... My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

CW Translation: I'm losing my sponsors, for Christ's sake! And about those word choices -- I just couldn't think of another way to say 'slut,' 'prostitute' and 'round-heels.' Hope you like 'personal sexual recreational activities' better. BTW, Rick Santorum, I'm not the one who's 'absurd'; Ms. Fluke is. She should act more responsibly, the way I do. Never mind my constant lies, intemperate language & vilification of others, the four wives, the Oxycontin habit & the illegal drug deals.

... Maureen Dowd: "Rush and Newt Gingrich can play the studs, marrying again and again until they find the perfect adoring young wife. But women pressing for health care rights are denigrated as sluts."

We kind of got our Irish up when leaders in government seemed to be assigning an authoritative voice to Catholic groups that are not the bishops. If you want an authoritative voice, go to the bishops. They’re the ones that speak for the truths of the faith. -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. -- St. Augustine of Hippo ...

... This Is All We Need. Tim Stelloh & Andy Newman of the New York Times: "Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan told Roman Catholics on Saturday that in an era when the church was fighting the government on several fronts, they needed to make their voices heard more clearly in the political sphere." Read the whole article.

It’s state-sanctioned abuse. It borders on a definition of rape. Many states describe rape as putting any object into an orifice against a person’s will. Well, that’s what this is. A woman is coerced to do this, just as I’m coerced. The state of Texas is waging war on women and their families. The new law is demeaning and disrespectful to the women of Texas, and insulting to the doctors and nurses who care for them. -- Dr. Curtis Boyd, a Texas physician, on the new Texas law requiring women who want abortions to submit to transvaginal ultrasound probe, listen to the fetal heartbeat, view the fetus on an ultrasound screen, go to anti-abortion "crisis" centers, & listen to their doctors read "a politicized list of so-called dangers of abortion" ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "If Texas legislators wanted to reduce abortions, the obvious approach would be to reduce unwanted pregnancies. The small proportion of women and girls who aren’t using contraceptives account for half of all abortions in America.... Yet Texas has some of the weakest sex-education programs in the nation, and last year it cut spending for family planning by 66 percent."

** "Innocence Is Not Enough." In a New York Times op-ed, lawyer & former New York Times reporter Raymond Bonner recounts the case of Edward Lee Elmore, a man who served 30 years in prison, much of the time "under the threat of imminent execution," for a rape and murder he did not commit....

... Naomi Wolf in Al Jazeera: "... while Obama should continue to apologise for the Quran burnings, we must understand that Afghans' rage is a response to an even deeper, rawer wound. Obama should also apologise for kidnapping Afghans; for holding them at Bagram without due process of law; for forcing them into cages, each reportedly holding up to 30 prisoners; for denying them Red Cross/Red Crescent visits; for illegally confiscating family letters; for torturing and sexually abusing them; and for casting a pall of fear over the country. The Quran forbids that kind of injustice and cruelty. So does the Bible." Thanks to reader Victoria for the link.

Right Wing World

Newt & Callista Make Plans for Lent. For those who think all is well with "traditional Republican wives," even among those of the Roman Catholic persuasion, kept barefoot in Manolos and strangely not pregnant, our thanks go to Nicole Belle of Crooks and Liars and my friend Kate M. for setting us straight:

     ... If you need a translation, Belle obliges. Warning: clicking on the audio will throw you to Crooks & Liars, & I can't figure out how to disable that fun feature.

News Ledes

Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Thirty-one women's-rights demonstrators were arrested this afternoon in a protest at the state Capitol that drew hundreds of protesters and Virginia State Police in riot gear.... The demonstration came after the General Assembly approved hotly disputed legislation that requires women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion."

New York Times: "Russian voters overwhelmingly granted Vladimir V. Putin a six-year term as president on Sunday, a widely expected outcome that set the stage for a far more suspenseful post-election confrontation between the freshly emboldened leader and an opposition movement that has repeatedly rallied tens of thousands of protesters."

Here's the Washington Post's report on President Obama's speech before AIPAC.

Washington Post: "House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Sunday, becoming the first member of GOP leadership to back the GOP frontrunner."

Haaretz: Israeli "President Shimon Peres will meet with President Barack Obama in the U.S. capital on Sunday. Peres will also tell delegates of pro-Israel lobby AIPAC that Israel is not rushing into a war, but will defend itself if it has to."

AP: "While scattered damage was reported elsewhere, the worst destruction was in Limestone and Madison counties [Alabama], where 190 homes were damaged or destroyed."

Washington Post: "Complaints of vote-rigging were starting to pile up Sunday, even as an intensely watched presidential election is underway across Russia’s nine time zones."

Saturday
Mar032012

Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot ...

... And Al Franken is a Senator who can subpoena him.

I have some additions to make to the published comments on Rush Limbaugh.

A reader writes that a friend of hers reminded her,

Rush Limpballs was reprimanded immediately after a broadcast of Monday Night Football after making a racist comment about Donovan McNabb, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles a few years ago. He was immediately fined and taken off the air and very soon afterwards FIRED from his newly hired and long desired position of being a broadcaster for the National Football League and the sweet position of being given MNF. Clearly, one race related comment during one MNF game is worse than the toxic ugly words he has used to once again downgrade women and the strong Georgetown student during the course of this week.

The problem of course is that there is no one to fire Rush from his radio show. His show is syndicated and airs on about 600 radio stations, including the Armed Forces Services Network. Yes, indeed, your tax dollars are supporting Rush's effluvient Santorum. Petitions and letters asking Congress to remove Rush from the AFSN have been unsuccessful. There are only two routes to having him removed: sponsor by sponsor and station by station. This process has been somewhat successful in limiting Glenn Beck's airtime. When sponsors dropped their backing of Beck's Fox "News" show in response to public pressure, Roger Ailes canned him. And he lost his radio audience in several markets -- New York & Philadelphia among them -- when local stations dropped his show.


Another friend of Reality Chex, who is a prominent psychiatrist, tells me that he feels not enough attention has been paid to Rush's suggestion to tape college students having sex and post the videos on the Internet for viewers to "enjoy." This is symptomatic of Rush's objectification of women (ah, those four wives) and a sexual preference for porn (and masturbation?). The doctor describes pornography as "a sexual fetish -- preferring sexual stimulation by inanimate objects." Rush likes his women pixilated and in two dimensions. The psychiatrist also notes that 40 percent of sex addicts have associated chemical addictions. Could that possibly apply to Oxycontin Man? And Rush may be a sick-o, but do his fundamentalist Christian disciples really approve of compulsive masturbation to sexual imagery? How about you, Rick Santorum? Why do "entertainers" get a special pass to have sex "that is counter to how things are supposed to be"?

Finally, this, which is P. D. Pepe's comment come to life on the itty-bitty screen:

Friday
Mar022012

The Commentariat -- March 3, 2012

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. AP story here.

... M. J. Lee of Politico: "Minutes after Fluke appeared on MSNBC, White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed the call in a press briefing with reporters, saying, 'He wanted to offer his support to her. He wanted to express his disappointment that she has been the subject of inappropriate personal attacks and thank her for exercising her rights as a citizen to speak out on an issue of public policy.'” ...

... Washington Post Editorial Board: "Mr. Limbaugh has abused his unique position within the conservative media to smear and vilify a citizen engaged in the exercise of her First Amendment rights, and in the process he debased a national political discourse that needs no further debasing. This is not the way a decent citize behaves, much less a citizen who wields significant de facto power in a major political party. While Republican leaders owe no apology for Mr. Limbaugh’s comments, they do have a responsibility to repudiate them — and him." ...

... Greg Sargent: "... reporters now have just the hook they need to ask Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for comment on Rush’s remarks. Indeed, Rush is apparently doubling down on them today — and the fact that this is now a full-fledged national controversy means it’s time to hear from the GOP candidates about it." ...

... So Wolf asks Saint Rick about it. One of his handlers told him to use the word "absurd." It is apparently the only word he is allowed to use in "criticizing" Limbaugh, whom he characterizes as an "entertainer" and owned that "an entertainer can be absurd" -- in other words, "It's okay if Rush Limbaugh does it":

     ... CW: You might be a Rick Santorum voter if ... you find it "absurdly entertaining" when an "entertainer" singles out a young woman, calling her a "prostitute" and a "slut" & making numerous lewd remarks about her private life. ...

... Jim Acosta of CNN: "Mitt Romney steered clear of the Rush Limbaugh controversy until Friday evening, even avoiding a CNN reporter earlier in the day, when he addressed the issue after an event in Cleveland. 'I'll just say this which is it’s not the language I would have used,' Romney said." With video. ...

... CW Translation: I would not call a college student a 'slut,' a 'prostitute,' and a 'feminazi.' I would not speculate or comment on the nature or frequency of her sexual activity. I would not demand that a student post videos of her sexual encounters online. If videos are posted online, Ann and I do not intend to watch them. I'm running for President, for Pete's sake. -- Mitt Romney, making a bold stand for women's rights ...

... Rush Limbaugh’s comments are reprehensible. He should apologize. -- Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), in a tweet ...

... NBC News: "Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, already under fire from Democrats over his language in discussing a Georgetown University law student who testified about contraception, ratcheted up his rhetoric on Thursday, saying the student should post an online sex video if taxpayers are forced to pay for contraception." ...

... Brian Stelter of the New York Times: "Some of the same activists that persuaded advertisers to boycott Glenn Beck’s television show on Fox News in 2009 are now mobilizing against Rush Limbaugh in the wake of his verbal attacks on a Georgetown University law school student this week. Actually, they are remobilizing. A Twitter account, 'Stop Rush,' which has been dormant since late 2010, woke up on Wednesday, when Mr. Limbaugh first called the student, Sandra Fluke, a 'slut.'” The Stop Rush Twitter account is here. ...

... Daily Kos has a petition to Limbaugh's advertisers urging them to cancel their ads. CW: I've signed. P.S. To my great shock & surprise, I haven't heard from my Congressman CoMa a/k/a Connie Mack (R-Florida) or from the local radio station owner who carries Limbaugh with their responses to my complaints about Limbaugh. I wasn't home during business hours today, but I hope to be home part of the day Monday, so I'll phone them then. In the meantime, I've re-mailed my complaints. ...

... Dana Milbank: "When will Republicans stop their vagina monologue? March is federally recognized as Women’s History Month, and Republicans have been celebrating the occasion in a most unusual style: with a burst of interest in women’s private parts."

Dave S. writes, "Behold the president of Ireland [Michael Higgins] kicking wingnut propagandist ass!" (via Daily Kos):

"Somebody Else Should Do Something!" Steve Benen on Sen. Olympia Snowe's "bipartisan" message: "Snowe would routinely stress the importance of 'working together' to find 'common ground,' but it was the transition from platitudes to policy that led to breakdowns -- Snowe wanted her colleagues to work cooperatively, but consistently seemed reluctant to take the lead, despite her power." ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine: "... moderates like Snowe and their fans worship bipartisanship for reasons that have nothing to do with good government. A Republican representing a blue state, or a Democrat representing a red state, faces an inherently precarious situation. Often she will find the demands of her party’s national base pitted against those of her home state electorate.... Creating legislation ... is not done out of a desire to bring bills closer into alignment with any abstract standard of good government, but to ensure her vote sits comfortably in the middle of a wide swath of support from both sides.... For her, though, such careful positioning was a matter of political self-preservation."

Kevin Drum on public opinion about the cause of rising gas prices: "... only 1% of Americans blame environmental restrictions on domestic drilling, despite a full-bore Republican campaign to convince them otherwise.... The vast majority of Americans still have no clue what's driving all this."

Travis Andersen of the Boston Globe: "Republican US Senator Scott Brown now has a 9-point lead over Elizabeth Warren, his likely Democratic opponent in the November election, a new poll has found."

Right Wing World

Quote of the Day: "Mitt Romney has a near Pavlovian reflex of lapsing into falsehoods in order to rearrange reality to his liking. -- Newt Gingrich, who knows all about lying ...

... Steve Benen totes up twelves of Mitt Romney's Pavlovian lies of the week. Busy week, Willard. ...

... Mitt Romney, Extremist for the Privileged. E. J. Dionne: "The evidence from his tax plan ... is that he's an extremist for the privileged. We’re witnessing what should be called the Two Cadillacs Fallacy: Romney’s rather authentic moments suggesting he doesn’t understand the lives of average people (such as his comment on his wife’s two Cadillacs) are dismissed as 'gaffes,' while Santorum’s views on social issues are denounced as 'extreme.' But Romney’s gaffes are more than gaffes: They reflect deeply held and radical views about how wealth and power ought to be distributed in the United States." ...

... Steve Benen posts this chart to show the change in effective federal tax rates under Romney's plan: taxes would go up for the poor, are almost flat for the lower middle-class, down for the rich & way down for the super-rich (including of course Romney himself):

More Ways Wingers Wreck the Economy. Brad Johnson of Think Progress: "Relentless attacks on the Chevy Volt from Rush Limbaugh and Republican politicians have taken their toll, as General Motors has announced a five-week suspension in production of the range-extended electric car. Conservative enemies of clean energy and the Obama administration ... call[ed] the cars 'Obama-mandated death traps.' Limbaugh even said GM was a 'corporation that’s trying to kill its customers.' After an investigation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that the Volt is just as safe as any gasoline-powered vehicle on the road."

Top Ten Other Things Romney Likes about Michigan's Trees:

Local News

Josh Rogers of NPR: "New Hampshire, one of the least religious states in the nation, has become the latest front in the political battle over contraception. State GOP leaders oppose the new federal rule compelling insurers to provide birth control to employees of religious organizations. They want to change a 12-year-old state law that requires contraceptive coverage under insurers' prescription drug policies.... New Hampshire has required contraceptive coverage in all prescription drug plans since 2000. The law was passed by a Republican Legislature and signed by a Democratic governor. Nobody at the time, it seems, saw the policy as a blow against religious liberty. Democratic state Rep. Terie Norelli, who co-sponsored the law, said that objection never came up." ...

... Digby: Where was the Catholic Church in 2000? What? Not demanding their First Amendment rights? "Ooopsie. Of course, the Catholic Church was very busy during that period if you know what I mean. They can't keep tabs on everything." Read her whole post.

News Ledes

Seattle Times: "Mitt Romney shook off his Republican rivals to win Washington's Republican caucuses Saturday, giving the GOP frontrunner an air of increasing momentum heading into Super Tuesday. With about 54 percent of the precinct votes counted Saturday evening, Romney had about 38 percent of the vote, with Ron Paul and Rick Santorum vying for second place with about 24 percent each. Newt Gingrich trailed with more than 11 percent. The Associated Press and CNN called the race early Saturday evening."

New York Times: "BP and the lawyers for plaintiffs in the trial over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have agreed to settle their case."

New York Times: "A frantic day and night of fast-moving tornadoes and severe thunderstorms churned across the South and the Midwest on Friday, leaving behind at least 27 deaths, hundreds of injuries and countless damaged buildings in several states." Reuters story here, with video. AP story here, with photos.

New York Times: "American and Afghan officials investigating the Koran-burning episode that has brought relations between the countries to a new low say that the destruction could have been headed off at several points along a chain of mishaps, poor judgments and ignored procedures, according to interviews over the past week.... On Friday, an American official close to a joint Afghan-American investigation into the episode noted that the final report would call for disciplinary review for at least six people involved in the Koran burning, including American military 'leaders' and an American interpreter." BTW, it turns out four copies of the Koran were burned before an Afghan worker stopped the book-burning.

Thursday
Mar012012

The Commentariat -- March 2, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "In Church v. State, Ross Douthat Speaks for the Prosecution." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic interviews President Obama: "In the most extensive interview he has given about the looming Iran crisis, Obama told me earlier this week that both Iran and Israel should take seriously the possibility of American action against Iran's nuclear facilities." ...

... Aluf Benn, editor-in-chief of Haaretz: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming trip to Washington will be the most important one in his long career.... On Monday, Netanyahu will meet President Barack Obama in the White House for a game of diplomatic poker, where the greatest gamble of all will be right on the table: an attack on Iran's nuclear installations. Each of the two players will try to push the other to act." ...

... ** Stephen Walt of Foreign Policy: "You know a case for war is weak when its advocates have to marshal blatant untruths in order to convince people that their advice should be followed. Exhibit A is [yesterday's] alarmist op-ed in the New York Times, in which former IDF general Amos Yadlin argues for a preventive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.... The true history teaches the opposite lesson.... In the Iraqi case, a preventive strike reinforced Iraq’s interest in acquiring a deterrent, and led Iraq to pursue it in ways that were more difficult to detect or prevent. That is what Iran is likely to do as well if Israel or the United States were foolish enough to strike them. U.S. intelligence still believes Iran has not made a final decision to weaponize; ironically, an Israeli or U.S. attack is the step that is most likely to push them over the edge."

Charles Pierce: "After several months of watching the Republican primary process, I can't tell you what a cool breeze it was to watch a politician who looks at a crowd and doesn't see a group of potential marks (Romney), a collection of your fellow Elect marching with you through the dystopic Sinai that is America (Santorum), a gaggle of goldbugs (Paul), or the class of half-bright sophomores that N. Leroy Gingrich sees every time he looks anywhere but into the mirror. Barack Obama is not stiff. He is not bristling with unbridled id. He grins. He kids people.... He is relaxed about the job of politics. He is the only president of the United States — real or prospective — that I've seen in months." Here's the speech:

     ... CW: this is why Obama will win re-election, barring unforeseen circumstances (what could possibly go wrong in the next eight months?). Except for the wingnuts busily checking out Joe Arpaio's positive proof that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim & the crowd who are convinced Obama will implant computer chips in the heads of everybody who fails to show up for indoctrination camp, Americans will view Obama as the only candidate who seems like a POTUS. Looking presidential in a still shot, Mr. Romney, isn't good enough.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) writes a Washington Post op-ed explaining why she is leaving the Senate after "nearly 40 years of public office."

Phil Angelides, a former state treasurer of California & chair of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, in a New York Times op-ed, says Eric Holder should get off his ass & prosecute Wall Street miscreants. CW: fat fucking chance. Eric Holder is the worst Attorney General since ... Mike Mukasey.

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: Republicans are pinning their election hopes on rising gas prices, but most Americans are not inclined to blame President Obama for the price hikes.

Right Wing World *

Paul Krugman -- and others -- have covered most of what he writes in today's column -- titled "Four Fiscal Phonies" -- earlier this week. But it's helpful to read it all in one place. Also, this is new:

... the Tax Policy Center has analyzed Mr. Romney’s [latest] tax proposal. It found that, compared with current policy, the proposal would actually raise taxes on the poorest 20 percent of Americans, while imposing drastic cuts in programs like Medicaid that provide a safety net for the less fortunate. (Although right-wingers like to portray Medicaid as a giveaway to the lazy, the bulk of its money goes to children, disabled, and the elderly.) But the richest 1 percent would receive large tax cuts — and the richest 0.1 percent would do even better, with the average member of this elite group paying $1.1 million a year less in taxes than he or she would if the high-end Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire.

... Michael Barbaro & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The Romney campaign’s shortcomings have been on vivid display in recent weeks, from verbal stumbles to a failure to stir the passions of the Republican base. But even his battered rivals acknowledge that Mr. Romney is proving unusually adept at defining, diminishing and disqualifying a serial cast of challengers through relentless attacks. His campaign has deployed every tactic in the negative-campaign playbook." ...

Look, I have worn a garbage bag for rain gear myself. -- Mitt Romney, Man of the People ...

... Oh, wait. Make that Man of the People's Representatives:

I am big believer in getting money where the money is. The money is in Washington. I want to go after every grant, every project, every department in Washington to assure that we are taking advantage of economic development opportunities. -- Mitt Romney, 2002 ...

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... David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix: Romney's Blunt Amendment "misunderstanding" (see my column in yesterday's NYTX) "is, to a large extent, the direct result of Romney's avoid-the-press strategy. If Romney talked to reporters more often, than he would most likely be on the record about this issue several times already -- it's not a surprising question to ask, given that the Senate was slated to vote on it this week (and did, earlier today). In that case, one awkward exchange would be easily brushed aside.... But Romney avoids the press (and most direct, unscripted human contact) almost pathologically. He had gone more than two solid weeks without taking questions from his travelling press corps, before he did an availability the morning of this Tuesday's primaries. CW: My new favorite phrase: "Avoid Unscripted Human Contact." ...

... Jonathan Cohn: the real problem for Romney isn't the flip-flop. It's the fact that he supports legislation that "would have allowed an employer to override the insurance requirement altogether, thereby depriving their workers of birth control coverage – or any other coverage – the employer finds objectionable." This is at odds with public opinion. ...

... Prof. Louise Trubek in a New York Times op-ed: "Why are issues that the courts decided so long ago still unresolved? Maybe it is time to recognize that law alone is not enough to effect social change. It must be linked to social activism on behalf of women’s rights. I should know. Fifty-five years ago, I had an opportunity to take a stand in favor of the right of women to control their fertility — and I did so through the courts." ...

Republicans like to talk about the Constitution and freedom, but once again, when it comes to women, they don't get rights. They get restrictions. -- Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

S. V. Date of NPR: "In a 4-2 vote, the Credentials Committee of the Michigan Republican Party apparently reversed course on a stated delegate selection formula and awarded both statewide delegates to Mitt Romney. The committee includes three Romney supporters, but no Rick Santorum supporters. The move changed the final Michigan delegate count from a 15-15 tie between Romney and Santorum to a 16-14 Romney win":

There's just no way this is happening. We've all heard rumors that Mitt Romney was furious that he spent a fortune in his home state, had all the political establishment connections and could only manage a tie. But we never thought the Romney campaign would try to rig the outcome of an election by changing the rules after the vote. This kind of back room dealing political thuggery just cannot and should not happen in America. -- Hogan Gidley, Santorum spokesperson

Steve Kornacki of Salon: Newt "Gingrich has been reduced to: a useful tool for supporters of Mitt Romney." His candidacy serves to keep all the wingnut branch from coalescing around Rick Santorum.

Prof. Molly Worthen, in a New York Times op-ed: "When conservatives cry 'freedom of religion' and insist they mean something more than 'freedom of worship,' this is what they mean: religious freedom is not just the freedom to gather in a room and pray one morning a week. It is the freedom to impose one’s own religious values on others. Free expression of religion entails the right to reason from religious principles in the public square and — with sufficient electoral support — to enshrine those principles in law and social institutions. If Obama does not support this view, they argue, then he is hardly a true American.... Conservatives’ accusations that Obama disrespects religious freedom have little to do with the White House’s actual policy.... They have everything to do with resurrecting old challenges to the president’s legitimacy and framing the 2012 campaign as a battle between honest Christian Americans and atheist subversives." ...

... James Hohmann of Politico: in Washington state, Santorum continues campaigning on religious rhetoric.

Vicious, Crazy Uncle Alert. Ashley Powers of the Los Angeles Times: Phoenix-area Sheriff Joe Arpaio held a news  conference Thursday" to say that "after six months of digging, Arpaio’s team concluded there was 'probable cause to believe forgery and fraud occurred' regarding [President] Obama’s birth certificate and his Selective Service card; the team recommended a criminal investigation.... At the news  conference, it was suggested that [Andrew] Breitbart's last interview may have been with Arpaio.The specter of conspiracy was raised repeatedly." CW: I was going to put this in yesterday's News Ledes; When I got to the "Breitbart's last interview" part I realized it belonged in Infotainment. The Commentariat is a compromise in the spirit of respect for the dead. ...

... Andy Rosenthal of the New York Times: "Based on news accounts, [Arpaio's] report consists of previously aired and well-refuted claims about the typography on the document.... A law-enforcement officer, who has abused his position and the public trust to conduct a xenophobic vendetta against Mexican Americans, is also participating in a xenophobic – perhaps racially motivated – attack against the president of the United States." ...

Here's the New York Times obituary for Andrew Breitbart. ...

... CW: a friend of mine, who is familiar with the chatter in Right Wing World tells me that immediately after the announcement of Andrew Breitbart's death, the conspiracy theory mill shifted into high gear -- Vladimir Putin had Breitbart killed; no, no, Obama's people assassinated him.

* Where all is not well.

News Ledes

ABC News: "Stronger twisters and extreme weather are expected today to again hit the areas of the Midwest and South rattled earlier this week by 33 confirmed tornadoes that left 13 people dead."

Guardian: "Israel is pressing Barack Obama for an explicit threat of military action against Iran if sanctions fail and Tehran's nuclear programme advances beyond specified 'red lines'. Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is expected to raise the issue at a White House meeting on Monday after weeks of intense diplomacy in which Obama has dispatched senior officials – including his intelligence, national security and military chiefs – to Jerusalem to try and dampen down talk of an attack." New York Times story here. See also Jeffrey Goldberg's interview of President Obama linked in today's Commentariat.

New York Times: "A day after the Syrian Army overwhelmed the main rebel stronghold in Homs, the Red Cross said it was sending a relief column to a beleaguered enclave of the city on Friday with food and medical aid for civilians trapped there for a month."

Washington Post: "Polls opened Friday for Iran’s parliamentary elections, the country’s first major vote since the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 led to months of unprecedented anti-government protests."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Marcellus pipeline proposed: ... A partnership of three companies on Thursday proposed building a $1 billion pipeline that would transport fuel from Northern Pennsylvania to markets in Central and Eastern Pennsylvania, as well as Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington.... The proposed 200-mile, 30-inch Commonwealth Pipeline would transport at least 800 million cubic feet of gas a day - 800,000 dekatherms - if it goes into service in 2015. A pipeline that could connect local markets to the Marcellus would reduce transportation costs for customers, who now buy most of their fuel from producers on the Gulf Coast."

ABC News: President Obama said [last night] that his campaign might run excerpts of the GOP primary debates as political ads 'without commentary' during the general election."

Reuters: "Eight of the 10 men who prosecutors contend were sexually abused by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky were abused on the college campus, and one was just 8 years old at the time, according to court documents released on Thursday."

Washington Post: "AT&T clarified its data policies Thursday, saying it will slow data speeds for users who exceed either a monthly limit of 3GB of smartphone data or 5GB of data on the carrier’s 4G LTE network. The company, which switched to tiered data plans for new users in June 2010, had previously said that it would slow data speeds for the top 5 percent of data users who had been allowed to keep their older, unlimited plans."