The Ledes

Monday, October 20, 2014.

New York Times: "At least one chapter of the Ebola saga neared a close Sunday, as most of the dozens of people who had direct or indirect contact here with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola, had been told by officials that they were no longer at risk of contracting the disease."

New York Times: "Escalating its assistance to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobani, American military aircraft on Sunday dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to resupply the combatants, officials said."

New York Daily News: "Tennessee state Sen. Jim Summerville was arrested twice this weekend — just one month after he was arrested for public intoxication, police said. The outgoing Republican senator from Dickson, Tenn., has been charged with stalking and assault in separate incidents involving his neighbor, Lt. Todd Christian said." CW: Another fine representative of the people.

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, October 19, 2014.

Guardian: "A cruise ship carrying a Dallas healthcare worker who was being monitored for Ebola returned to port on Sunday.... A lab supervisor who handled a specimen from Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who died from Ebola in Dallas on 8 October, showed no symptoms during the cruise but self-quarantined out of caution. Carnival Cruise Lines told passengers the unidentified woman was tested for Ebola but the results were negative."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
October 20

1o:00 am ET: Affordable Care Act Champions of Change meeting

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

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

Stephen Colbert describes his workday:


No Surprise Here. Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... online search traffic from behind closed doors in Jesusland suggests that the bad, nasty, sexual impulses righteous believers are trying so hard to shut down may be their own. And if Google search patterns mean anything, they’re not succeeding too well: studies consistently demonstrate that people in conservative religious states search for adult materials online far more often than people in blue states."

Jeffrey Frank reviews, for the New Yorker, a new biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. The review is fairly entertaining & informative.

Michael Cieply of the New York Times: "... several of the companies behind 'Citizenfour' — which takes issue with Mr. Obama’s expansion of Bush-era surveillance, and his administration’s attempt to prosecute [Edward] Snowden for espionage — are led by some of the president’s close political allies. They include Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company’s co-chairman, as well as Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant Media, and Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, who all have been major contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns."

Washington Post: "President Obama's credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York. 'I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was -- during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,' Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. 'It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were -- they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.'"

"Who's Gonna Stand Up & Save the Earth?" Not Stephen Colbert:

Novelist John Grisham recants his apologia for child porn. Good to know.

Unsolved Mystery. Washington Post: "Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list." Original story further down this column. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead.

New York Times: "CBS announced a new subscription Internet streaming service on Thursday that allows people to watch its live television programming and thousands of its current and past shows on demand without paying for a traditional TV subscription. The new 'CBS All Access' service, costing $5.99 a month, is the first time that a traditional broadcaster will make a near-continuous live feed of its local stations available over the web to non-pay-TV subscribers. At its start, the live stream will be available in 14 markets in the United States." ...

... New York Times: "HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix. Just hours after HBO unveiled plans for its new service, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slower than expected...."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Following its initial mercy killing at the hands of Jon Stewart, Crossfire was rebooted last year with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones to dismal returns..., CNN ... scrapped it for good today [October 15] so that Newt can spend more time with his animals — and hopefully run for president again."

Joe Concha of Mediaite: "A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily." CW: I've caught a few minutes of Farrow's show a couple of times, & it was clear the guy was in way over his head. His performance was as embarrassing as the Russert kid's, though he isn't an obnoxious bro in the Russert-kid mold. I'm not sure if the suits will ever figure out that legacies & children-of-famous-people are usually not the best & brightest, perhaps because a lot of the suits themselves are legacies.

Philip Shenon in Politico Magazine: "If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows."

Snowden, The Movie:

... AND, Snowden's girlfriend is living with him in a Moscow apartment. David Harding of the New York Daily News: "His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, moved into his apartment in the Russian capital in July, a detail that was revealed in the new documentary, 'Citizenfour.'” ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Laura Poitras & making the film "Citizenfour." ...

... Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times discusses the film. He attended the premiere at the New York Film Festival, where the documentary got a rare standing O. CW: I'm kinda sensing that "Citizenfour" can best be described as "documentary as hagiography." And, yes, I'm definitely seeing an Oscar here. Call me an oracle.

 

 

A video for Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist-Man Rubio & Bobby I'm-Not-an-Evolutionary-Biologist Jindal, & all their non-scientist Republican friends:

Selina Gray, on right, saved Arlington House treasures during the Civil War.Michael Ruane of the Washington Post: "When Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary, fled Arlington House at the start of the Civil War, she gave her personal slave, Selina Norris Gray, the keys to the mansion and responsibility for the grand house the Lees had lived in for 30 years. Gray fulfilled her duties. She is famously credited with saving from marauding Union soldiers numerous heirlooms belonging to George Washington that were stored in the house. Now the National Park Service, which administers Arlington House, has acquired what it says is a rare and previously unknown photograph of Gray and, apparently, two of her eight children."

"An FBI wanted poster shows William Bradford Bishop Jr. The image on the left shows how Bishop would look now. (Getty)"Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "For nearly 40 years, the legend of Bethesda fugitive William Bradford Bishop Jr. carried an air of not just evil brutality but refined sophistication. This was a man suspected of killing his family with a small sledgehammer in 1976 and setting their corpses on fire. Then he vanished, taking with him fluency in five languages, the experience of a world traveler for the State Department, and a fondness for playing tennis, flying airplanes and drinking Scotch. There were alleged sightings: a public park in Stockholm, a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, a train station in Basel, Switzerland. Now, in a potentiality stunning development in the case — centered in a municipally owned cemetery in the northeastern corner of Alabama — remains that were exhumed Thursday may tell a different story. Bishop could be the heretofore unidentified man called John Doe, who was struck by a car while walking down a highway in 1981, a person who appeared to be homeless, who’d worn several layers of heavy, dirty clothes and weighed just 155 pounds." ...

... CW: If you like mysteries & enjoy reading about how they're unravelled, you should find this a compelling story.

Christopher Schmidt says, "On Oct 8th, I was flying my quadcopter at Magazine Beach Park in Cambridge, [Massachusetts,] when a hawk decided he wasn't too happy with my invasion of his airspace:

... CW: Thanks to Julie L. for the link. So one way to get rid of those annoying drones that will soon be hovering in your air space is to take up falconry. (Since bringing down other people's drones may be illegal, blame the bird.)

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Monday
Sep032012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 4, 2012

Presidential Race

You can watch the Democratic convention without annoying commentary on C-SPAN (online here). The convention schedule -- according to C-SPAN -- is here; it appears coverage begins at 5:00 pm ET & times for everything else (as listed at 2:00 pm ET) are TBA.

Liz Goodwin of Yahoo! News: "On Tuesday, a group of more than 100 protesters shouting 'Obama is a traitor' temporarily shut down official bus service that ferries around delegates at the Democratic National Convention. The protesters, some of whom were lying down in the street, were surrounded by Charlotte police, who used their bicycles to build a barrier around the group."

NEW. Ben Pershing of the Washington Post: "Former congressman Virgil Goode Jr. has qualified for the presidential ballot in Virginia, the State Board of Elections ruled Tuesday, adding a potential obstacle to Republican Mitt Romney's hopes of winning the pivotal state. The state Republican party has already challenged the eligibility of Goode, who is the Constitution Party's nominee, and could still get him knocked off the ballot."

NEW. USA Today: "Reporter Dianne Derby [of KKTV-Colorado Springs] asked Obama, 'your party says you inherited a bad situation -- you've had three and a half years to fix it -- what grade would you give yourself so far for doing that?' Replied Obama: 'You know I would say incomplete … but what I would say is the steps that we have taken in saving the auto industry, in making sure that college is more affordable and investing in clean energy and science and technology and research, those are all the things that we are going to need to grow over the long term.'"

NEW. Michael Tomasky of Newsweek on the 5 GOP myths the Real Obama must shatter.

Looks as if Time is going to have a cover a day this week. Today's celebrates Michelle Obama, who will speak at the convention tonight. The accompanying story, by Michael Scherer is okay, too.

Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: The First Lady will speak at the convention tonight. "Michelle Obama comes to the 2012 Democratic National Convention with a delicate task: helping her husband's campaign reach out to women, who are a vital part of his coalition, without veering too far into an increasingly polarized battle over women's issues." CW: if Mrs. Obama listened to Thompson & her "experts," she couldn't say anything more than "Good evening," "I love being a traditional stay-at-home Mom & the only reason I'm out tonight is to be with my husband Whatzizname," & "Good night & God bless America." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "The revelation that as of Monday afternoon, [Bill] Clinton still hasn't finished writing his speech or submitted it for vetting by the campaign raised a new question: Could Clinton be the DNC's Clint Eastwood?" ...

... NEW. BUT David Maraniss, who has written biographies of both Bill Clinton & Barack Obama, sees Clinton as a "key asset" for Obama: "There is nothing formulaic about Clinton's presence at the Democratic National Convention this year. He is not just another old presidential war horse being trotted out for nostalgia or a staged show of unity. When Obama called in late July to say he would be grateful if his Democratic predecessor would give the speech placing his name in nomination, something that no former commander in chief has done before, it was an acknowledgment of how much the sitting president needs the former president. And Clinton, who loves to be needed as much as he needs to be loved, responded with an enthusiasm and diligence that served as yet another signal to people close to both men that an old wound has for the most part been healed."

Matt Miller of the Washington Post: "With no serious ideas to renew upward mobility, and a budget plan that perversely undermines it by slashing preschool and college aid for poor youths, the entire [Republican convention] pitch, on closer examination, seemed a hollow exercise in nostalgia. Unfortunately, the Democrats ... will do only marginally better.... Given President Obama's proposals, the outer limits of Democratic ambition are unequal to today's challenges."

Donna Cassata of the AP: "Democrats unveiled a party platform at their national convention Monday that echoes President Barack Obama's call for higher taxes on wealthier Americans while backing same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Delegates will vote Tuesday to adopt the platform that reflects the president's argument that his work is unfinished and he deserves another four years to complete the job." You can read the proposed platform here. CW: I read the parts that particularly interested me -- mush peppered with warmed-over platitudes. ...

... NEW. Matt Cooper of the New York Times: "The platform that the Democratic Party plans to approve Tuesday at its convention in Charlotte, N.C., offers a stark contrast to the platform that Republicans approved last week at their convention in Tampa, Fla., especially on social issues like abortion rights and same-sex marriage, the future of entitlements like Medicare and Social Security, and labor policy and taxes." Cooper looks "at some of the crucial differences."

[Republicans] have spent a lot of time creating a fictional Barack Obama who is supposedly taking the work out of welfare reform, or doesn't think small businesses built their own businesses. -- Barack Obama, in an interview with Susan Page of USA Today

NEW. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has a personal stake in the election: no matter how crazy Congressional Republicans get, if Obama is re-elected, ObamaCare will be implemented & Drum can get health insurance, something he wouldn't be eligible for otherwise because of pre-existing conditions.

Mark Felsenthal of Reuters: "President Barack Obama toured hurricane-stricken Louisiana on Monday and promised federal recovery help as he sought to show his administration was on top of the disaster response on the eve of his Democrats' national convention in North Carolina." ...

... Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "Mr. Obama's timing was decided in consultation with local officials, White House aides said, to avoid the presidential entourage getting in the way of the cleanup." ...

... Ben Feller & Kasie Hunt of the AP: "Prior to his visit to Louisiana, Obama's remarks about the storm have focused on what money and resources the federal government can marshal to help. Romney used his trip Friday to emphasize the need for charitable donations to help people recover. On the flight from Ohio, White House press secretary Jay Carney said natural disasters are 'apolitical,' but ... 'It is worth noting that last year there was an effort to underfund the money that's used to provide relief to Americans when they've been hit by disasters.... That effort was led by congressman Paul Ryan, who is now running to be vice president.'"

... Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "President Obama pointed to his bailout of the auto industry, which Mitt Romney opposed, as a major argument for his re-election over the Republican rival as he spent a fourth Labor Day with union workers in a swing state."

NEW. Sour Grapes. CNN: Florida Republicans are taking to the airwaves to hammer their state's former GOP governor for his speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention, the Republican Party of Florida announced Tuesday. The group's ad features old news clips of former Gov. Charlie Crist proclaiming his conservative credentials, including praising President George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, saying he was 'about as conservative as you can get.'" CW: no, he wasn't. Crist governed as a pretty moderate Republican. ...

... NEW. A little background on Crist from Tim Padgett of Time. I didn't know about "Chain Gang Charlie."

Republicans to Obama, "We can criticize you, but you can't answer." Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: "At the same time that they've been pushing the 'are you better off?' question, Republicans have also opened up a personal, character-based attack on Obama: claiming he ducks responsibility for his own time in office by constantly blaming George W. Bush for everything. Got that? Obama is being asked to compare the economy now to what it was like before he took office -- but if he says anything bad about how things were four years ago, it's evidence of a character deficit."

Joe Biden has an answer for "Are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?":

... NEW. BUT Sheldon Alberts of The Hill: "Fifty-two percent of likely voters say the nation is in 'worse condition' now than in September 2008, while 54 percent say Obama does not deserve reelection based solely on his job performance," according to a new Hill poll. CW: in a related AMA study, researchers found that 52 percent of likely voters suffer from severe memory loss and/or are ignorant as dirt (which I didn't realize was a medical term). ...

... NEW. Paul Krugman, Dean Baker & "The Fire Last Time" -- a better metaphor for "are you better off?" Here's Baker's post. ...

... NEW. Zack Beauchamp & Judd Legum of Think Progress post 10 headlines from September 2008 that answer the question. ...

... Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "A day after fumbling a predictable and straightforward question posed by Mitt Romney last week -- are Americans better off than they were four years ago -- the Obama campaign provided a response on Monday that it said would be hammered home during the Democratic convention here this week: 'Absolutely.'" ...

... Michael Grunwald of Time has a longer answer. CW P.S. How come Plouffe, Axelrod & O'Malley are so flatfooted? It wasn't a hard question to answer. ...

... Ed Schultz has a history lesson, too:

After working for 4 years to keep the economy in the tank, Republicans plan to upstage the Democratic convention with Friday's economic reports, which they hope will be bad. These are real patriots, aren't they? In addition, as Greg Sargent reports, they will make Obama's jobs numbers look bad by saddling him with numbers attributable to Bush. (Of course Obama can't complain; he's not allowed to mention Bush -- see Jonathan Bernstein above.)

Steve Kornacki of Salon on why the GOP convention was a dud.

Reality Chex' First International Contest. Watching the few snippets of Paul Ryan's convention speech I could stomach, I was struck that Ryan reminded me of some high school kid I knew; I just couldn't remember who. This morning I realized it wasn't someone I knew, or even -- technically -- someone. Ryan reminded me of a 1950s-early '60s sitcom character. Be the first to guess who & win a year's free subscription to Reality Chex. ...

We've Got a Winner! Mushiba wins the grand prize in Reality Chex' First International Contest -- an incredibly prestigious award. For the answer, see Mushiba's response among today's excellent Comments. Update: Akhilleus made me tart up this prestigious award. All in all, when the subject is Paul Ryan, I guess tacky is appropriate.

NEW. Stephen Webster of the Raw Story: "A video released this weekend by action movie hero Chuck Norris claims that America faces '1,000 years of darkness' if President Barack Obama is reelected." Via Adam Sorensen of Time, who writes that Norris is "determined not to cede the role of action movie star saying crazy things about Obama."

Right Wing World

I'll admit I won't be reading these posts, but the headlines made me LOL:

     ... David Hill of the Washington Times: "Bedbugs an increasing concern at DNC hotels."

     ... John Fund of the National Review: "The crack hotels of the DNC." ...

         ... Jim Newell of Wonkette has a funny response to Fund's post. Frankly, I can't stop laughing at the thought of the prissy Fund getting stuck in a sleazy motel.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Major automakers reported Tuesday that sales grew 19.9 percent in August despite higher gas prices during the month. Analysts said the wide range of fuel-efficient models on the market, particularly new small cars from the Detroit automakers, had helped spur demand and accelerate the industry's recovery."

New York Times: "More than 100,000 Syrians fled their country last month, a sudden acceleration of the exodus prompted by 18 months of conflict, the United Nations said Tuesday."

AP: "A former Navy SEAL's insider account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden contains classified information, the Pentagon said Tuesday, and the admiral who heads the Naval Special Warfare Command said details in the book may provide enemies with dangerous insight into secretive U.S. operations.... At the Pentagon, press secretary George Little ... told reporters during a briefing that the Pentagon is still reviewing what legal options should be taken against the author."

Y!-Tech: "Just months after a half-million Yahoo! passwords, 6.5 million LinkedIn passwords, and 55,000 Twitter passwords were leaked, the hacktivists at AntiSec have found their next data goldmine: a stash of 12.4 million Apple Unique Device Identifiers (UDID). According to the Anonymous-allied hackers, a list of 12.4 million Apple Unique Device Identifiers (UDID) was found on an FBI agent's Dell notebook. Each UDID was associated with user names, device info, and in some cases, phone numbers, names, and addresses.... AntiSec leaked 1,000,001 of those UDIDs to bring light to the government's data collecting effort." ...

     ... Update: Gizmodo has some analysis.

Washington Post: "The United States is nearing an agreement with Egypt's new government to eliminate a significant portion of the $3.2 billion owed by the economically struggling nation, U.S. officials said Monday. The discussions are the first major negotiation between the Obama administration and Egypt's new democratically elected leaders."

Sunday
Sep022012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 3, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is a follow-up to Akhilleus' post in yesterday's Comments on Ross Douthat's attempt to show that Mitt Romney is an F.D.R. clone. The NYTX front page is here. BTW, commenting on NYTX is open to everyone.

Some of the panels of a 36-foot-long mural depicting icons of the U.S. labor movement, painted by Judy Taylor for Maine's Department of Labor. Tea Party Gov. Paul LePage had the panels removed.Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "The primary plight of U.S. workers isn’t their lack of skills. It's their lack of power. With the collapse of unions, which represented a third of the private-sector workforce in the mid-20th century but just 7 percent today, workers simply have no capacity to bargain for their share of the revenue they produce.... If the war that business and Republicans are waging on labor isn't defeated, good jobs will continue to dwindle and work in America will grow steadily less rewarding. And a happy Labor Day to you." ...

... At Pete Seeger's 90th birthday celebration (3 years ago), on Woody Guthrie's 100th birth year, "Union Maid," by Guthrie, performed by Billy Bragg, Mike & Ruthy Merenda, Dar Williams & the New York City Labor Chorus. (Think I've embedded this before; the exuberance of the artists & the audience is infectious):

David Sanger & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "With Israel openly debating whether to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities in the coming months, the Obama administration is moving ahead with a range of steps short of war that it hopes will forestall an Israeli attack, while forcing the Iranians to take more seriously negotiations that are all but stalemated." CW:somebody should put a muzzle on Mitt Friend-of-Bibi Romney.

Presidential Race

Ben Feller & Calvin Woodward of the AP: President "Obama addresses a United Auto Workers Labor Day rally in Toledo on Monday before getting his first look at the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac in a stricken parish outside New Orleans."

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "As President Obama heads into his convention this week, he is seizing on the just-concluded Republican presidential convention to ramp up his re-election argument that Mitt Romney and his party are stuck in policies of the past and afraid to spell out the details of their plans." ...

Here's a clip from President Obama's remarks in Colorado Sunday. In the clip, he addresses his differences with Romney on Afghanistan.

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker writes a long piece on the rapprochement between Barack Obama & Bill Clinton: "Obama, who rose to the Oval Office in part by pitching himself as the antidote to Clintonism, is now presenting himself as its heir apparent. It's a shrewd, even Clintonian, tactical maneuver."

Matt Williams of the Guardian: "Democrats opened a fresh offensive on Mitt Romney's foreign policy Sunday, painting the Republican White House hopeful as a war-monger looking to take the US into further Middle East conflicts. Campaigning in Pennsylvania, vice president Joe Biden attacked Mr Romney's international agenda as laid out in last week's convention address, suggesting that it put him out of step with the US's priorities overseas."

New York magazine's cover story, by John Heilemann, is a long feature on Vice President Joe Biden.

... President Obama speaking in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday:

Susan Page of USA Today: "President Obama wants to make it clear that..., 'I am a huge Clint Eastwood fan. He is a great actor, and an even better director," the president said in an interview with USA TODAY aboard Air Force One, on his way to campaign rallies in Iowa Saturday.... However, Obama seemed less eager to review Eastwood's latest performance.... 'One thing about being president or running for president -- if you're easily offended, you should probably choose another profession.' Obama said with a smile. He said there would be no effort to counter with a similar stunt at the Democratic National Convention, which opens in Charlotte Tuesday." ...

... Maybe Obama should say, "Thanks, Clint." Sahil Kapur of TPM: "President Obama's response to Clint Eastwood's speech to an empty chair was the most re-tweeted tweet of the Republican convention, according to a Twitter spokesperson":

... Juan Cole of Informed Comment on the top ten things Clint Eastwood got wrong in his empty-chair routine. (Link fixed.)

AP: "President Barack Obama's campaign is running a new television ad claiming Republican Mitt Romney's policies would 'hit the middle class harder.' The ad is running in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, key battleground states":

Thomas Catan of the Wall Street Journal: "President Barack Obama's campaign said Sunday that this week's Democratic National Convention would feature plans to revive the economy, promising a contrast to what it described as a policy-free Republican gathering last week. 'What you're going to hear this week in Charlotte is a president who's going to present a clear agenda for the future, that talks about how we build a sound economy that lifts the middle class in this country,' Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said on 'Fox News Sunday.'"

NBC News: "About 800 people chanting and carrying signs (among them, 'Banks got bailed out. We got sold out') marched Sunday through the central business district in Charlotte, N.C., ahead of the Democratic National Convention to protest what they said was seedy corporate influence on politics."

Steve Holland of Reuters: "President Barack Obama enters an important campaign week tied with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found on Sunday, leaving the incumbent an opportunity to edge ahead of his opponent at the Democratic National Convention." ...

... Frank Newport of Gallup: "Last week's Republican National Convention had a minimal impact on Americans' self-reported voting intentions, with just about as many saying the convention made them less likely to vote for Mitt Romney as say it made them more likely to vote for him."

"Unbecoming of a President." Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: Mitt Romney "was able to take advantage of tax benefits in innovative ways open only to a narrow slice of extremely affluent people -- mostly those who work in private-equity firms and other investment partnerships.... Some tax experts worry that the arrangements Romney benefits from set a bad precedent for a president. 'He looks for every tax angle to a degree that is unbecoming in someone who would be the executive in command of the administrative apparatus that enforces the tax law,' said Lee Sheppard, a tax lawyer and contributing editor for Tax Analysts, a publication for accounting and legal professionals." CW: not really news, but it's good to see the press is still hammering this nail.

Gerry Mullany of the New York Times: "Representative Paul D. Ryan has taken back his claim that he had run a marathon in under three hours, an assertion that had drawn great skepticism in the running community and one that came after his convention speech faced scrutiny for some questionable and misleading statements." CW: I was glad to see this story made whatever national newscast my husband watched Sunday night. This is the kind of lie that any dope can understand. ...

... AND Paul Krugman riffs off Lyin' Ryan's marathon whopper to argue, persuasively, that what's on the line in this election is the truth. (It was in 2010, too, IMHO.) CW: Sometimes, my blue-eyed Altar Boy, it's the venial sins that getcha.

"Hendrik Hertzberg and Philip Gourevitch join Dorothy Wickenden [of the New Yorker] to discuss the role of culture wars in Republican politics":

News Ledes

New York Times: "Michael Clarke Duncan, who rose from working as a ditch digger to employ his booming bass voice and immense physical presence in many movie roles, most notably a tragic prisoner with a healing touch in the 1999 film "The Green Mile," died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 54."

Guardian: "Hillary Clinton is calling on south-east Asian states to present a united front to the Chinese in dealing with territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The US secretary of state will be in Indonesia's capital on Monday to offer support for a regionally endorsed code of conduct for all claimants to disputed islands. Jakarta is the headquarters of the Association of South East Asian Nations, and Clinton will press the group to insist that China agree to a formal mechanism to reduce short-term risks of conflict and ultimately come to final settlements over sovereignty."

AP: "Britain's Prince Andrew has rappelled 785 feet (239 meters) down the side of Europe's tallest building to raise money for charity. The 52-year-old's stunt began on London skyscraper The Shard's 87th floor and finished on the 20th, and took him 30 minutes. Following the descent Monday morning, the prince said: 'I will never do it again.'"

Saturday
Sep012012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 2, 2012

Oh My. Nicholas Confessore, et al., of the New York Times: "New York attorney general [Eric Schneiderman] is investigating whether some of the nation's biggest private equity firms have abused a tax strategy in order to slice hundreds of millions of dollars from their tax bills, according to executives with direct knowledge of the inquiry.... Schneiderman has in recent weeks subpoenaed more than a dozen firms seeking documents that would reveal whether they converted certain management fees collected from their investors into fund investments, which are taxed at a far lower rate than ordinary income. Among the firms to receive subpoenas [is] ...Bain Capita, which was founded by Mitt Romney...."

Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post writes an interesting overview of some of the literature on "what's the matter with American capitalism," but strangely, he couldn't seem to find anything that addressed the interests of workers. As long as ordinary workers have no representatives at the table -- and that's the situation today -- don't expect income inequality to magically collapse.

Anne Eisenberg reviews The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povitch, the story of how women brought suit to force Newsweek management to give them writing jobs. Their effort eventually led to industry-wide change, though -- as Eisenberg writes -- "Feminism is an incomplete revolution."

Presidential Race

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "With his party's nominating convention approaching next week, President Obama started a four-day, four-state campaign trip in Iowa on Saturday, the state where he opened his unlikely quest for the presidency five years ago." ...

... Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "Greeting Air Force One as it touched down under sunny skies and sultry heat [in Sioux City, Iowa] was a hand-painted banner draped across the top of an airplane hangar that reads, 'Obama Welcome to SUX - We Did Build This.' 'SUX' is the airport code for Sioux City." In the photo accompanying the article, you can see that the "Welcome to" is written in tiny letters, so the banner appears to say only "Obama SUX."

     ... "Ale to the Chief." This White House blogpost has the recipes for White House honey ale & White House honey porter.

Cleve R. Wootson Jr. & Ely Portillo of the Charlotte Observer: "Eight months after evicting Occupy Charlotte protesters from public property, police now appear ready to let protesters camp at an uptown park that has become the center of protest activity during the Democratic convention. A bus that arrived at Marshall Park Saturday brought dozens of protesters who erected tents at the county-owned park.... Local officials, while not explicitly granting permission, suggested the city and county are inclined to let protesters stay overnight as long as no trouble arises."

Jonathan Chait of New York makes the case that the real theme of the GOP convention was "we rich people deserve our money & we should be able to keep it all. Too bad for everybody else."

Maureen Dowd: Republicans "knocked themselves out producing a convention that was a colossal hoax."

End of the Affair. Alina Selyukh of Reuters: "A modest bump in popularity for U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney from this week's Republican Party convention looks to be short-lived, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. Democratic President Barack Obama regained a narrow lead on Saturday by 44 percent to 43 percent over his Republican challenger ... in the latest daily installment of the four-day rolling poll. Romney was ahead by one point in Friday's online poll and two points in Thursday's survey." ...

... Nate Silver: "We'll need to wait another day or two before we can make a more confident judgement on the size of Mr. Romney's bounce, but the information we have so far points toward its being a little underwhelming."

AP/Huffington Post: in his "I Care" photo-op trip to storm-torn Louisiana, Mitt Romney advised a woman whose house was literally underwater to go home & call 211, a public service number. Maybe one of his ace staffer should have explained to Romney what "flooded-out" means. The woman still said Romney "... is good. He'll do the best for us. He has our best interests at heart. I thought he'd be more like a politician, but it was more understanding and caring." Okay.

David Sirota has a swell piece criticizing the New York Times puff piece on Janna Ryan. In real life, as opposed to the Times story, Ryan was a privileged, connected Washington lobbyist.

Caroline Bankoff of New York on why Paul Ryan's lie about running a sub-three-hour marathon matters. Bankoff puts together commentary by Nicholas Thompson of the New Yorker & Paul Krugman. ...

... Shushannah Walshe of ABC News points out that Ryan also left the impression during the Hewitt interview that he ran "marathons." But according to his campaign, he ran only one. CW: the honest answer to Hewitt's question would have been something like, "Yeah, I ran a marathon once when I was in college & I think my time put me somewhere in the middle of the pack. Now I run only 10Ks." But look at how Ryan answers Hewitt's questions. Now, could somebody show me some pictures, please, of Ryan's catfish-noodling. What with his being given to fish stories, maybe that's one, too. How about some shots of Reverse Robin Hood's killing Bambi with a bow-&-arrow. Maybe we'll find out that like Romney, Ryan's big-game hunting is limited to setting mousetraps in his basement. (Romney has Jeeves do it, of course.)

AND Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post: "We've entered the final stretch of the presidential election, and it has become apparent that Mitt Romney actually won't release any more back tax returns, on the moral principle that nobody can make him, so neener, neener.... On one hand, it would be unfair and irresponsible of me to baselessly speculate about what embarrassing facts those tax returns might reveal. On the other hand, no one can stop me, so neener, neener." Weingarten's speculations include "His tax-shelter plan is so shrewd that he is, technically, indigent. He qualifies for, and uses, food stamps."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The former Navy SEALs member who is a co-author of a first-person account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden was willing to break 'the code of silence' honored by many commandos because of 'bad blood' with his former unit, the elite SEAL Team 6, according to a new e-book written by other Special Operations veterans."

New York Times: "The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Korean evangelist, businessman and self-proclaimed messiah who built a religious movement notable for its mass weddings, fresh-faced proselytizers and links to vast commercial interests, died on Monday in Gapyeong, South Korea. He was 92."

New York Times: "The training of Afghan Local Police and special operations forces has been put on hold for at least a month while their American trainers conduct stricter vetting to try to root out any infiltrators or new recruits who could pose risks to the coalition troops working with them, American officials say." Washington Post story here.

AP: "A senior Obama administration political appointee and longtime aide to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano resigned Saturday amid allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior lodged by at least three Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees. Suzanne Barr, chief of staff to ICE Director John Morton, said in her resignation letter that the allegations against her are 'unfounded.' But she said she was stepping down anyway to end distractions within the agency."

Washington Post: Yosemite National Park officials have closed "the park's 91 signature tent cabins, where park officials say they believe a deadly outbreak of hantavirus originated in June, sickening four people and killing two. The cabins are closed indefinitely as officials wait to see whether their efforts to close gaps between the cabin walls are enough to keep virus-carrying deer mice out."

AP: "Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu called Sunday for Tony Blair and George Bush to face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for their role in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Tutu, the retired Anglican Church's archbishop of South Africa, wrote in an op-ed piece for The Observer newspaper that the ex-leaders of Britain and the United States should be made to 'answer for their actions.'" His opinion piece is here.

Guardian: "Syrian rebels have seized an air defence facility and attacked a military airport in the east of the country, according to a UK-based monitoring group."

Friday
Aug312012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 1, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

The Real Welfare Queens

Thanks to readers for the above tasteful political commentary.

Presidential Race

AP: "Several groups, including labor organizations and those opposing President Barack Obama's positions on various issues, plan to demonstrate outside the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in the coming days. On Sunday, protesters will take part in the March on Wall Street South -- a demonstration that will focus on economic inequality, social injustice and other issues." ...

... Socks as Lethal Weapons??? Michael Biesecker & Mitch Weiss of the AP: "... protesters and free speech advocates ... fear authorities could trample on people's constitutional rights in the name of protecting public safety [at the Democratic convention]. The changes to city ordinances adopted earlier this year for 'extraordinary events' ban a long list of actions and items that would otherwise be legal from a more than 100-square-block zone. The area includes spots as much as a mile from the sports venues where the Democratic Party events are to be held.... Someone walking through Charlotte's central business district could run afoul of the law by carrying water bottles, hair spray, socks or magic markers."

President Obama spoke at Fort Bliss yesterday afternoon:

Carrie Dann of NBC News: "... Vice President Joe Biden appeared in Ohio auto country [Friday] to blast the Romney-Ryan convention speeches as 'not on the level,' accusing the GOP vice presidential nominee of fudging details of a closed auto plant.... [Also,] referencing a recent article in Rolling Stone that indicated Romney-led Bain Capital received federal assistance for its reorganization, Biden contrasted that attitude with Romney's opposition to a full auto industry bailout. 'It was one thing when a million middle-class jobs were on the line,' he said of Romney's alleged seeking of federal assistance. 'It was another thing when his own financial interests and those of his partners were on the line.'"

It is the height of hypocrisy for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to make a pretense of showing sympathy for the victims of Hurricane Isaac when their policies would leave those affected by this disaster stranded and on their own. If Paul Ryan and his fellow House Republicans had succeeded in blocking disaster relief last fall, there would have been no aid for the victims of Isaac today. And Paul Ryan's budget would gut disaster funding, making it much harder to get aid to our fellow Americans in their time of need. -- Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Senate Majority Leader, on Romney & Ryan's visit to the Gulf Coast

Mitt Romney needs to say whether or not he supports his running mate's plan to keep emergency disaster aid out of the federal budget. -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

David Alexrod tells the panel on "Morning Joe" that the GOP convention felt like open-mic night for 2016 presidential candidates.

... Paul Waldman of American Prospect: at the GOP convention "it seemed like every speaker had to relate their hard-luck tale of a rise from poverty.... If they're going to tell us about their grandfathers' weary hands, at least make the connection to what they want to do now. If there's a real relationship between that (possibly vicarious) experience and your policies, just make it clear. Your grandfather sold turnips from a handcart, and that's why you want to eliminate the capital gains tax? ... All in all, it reminds me of this:

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress notes that the Republican platform declares Medicaid and other social safety net programs unconstitutional. Here's the language from the platform statement: "Scores of entrenched federal programs violate the constitutional mandates of federalism by taking money from the States, laundering it through various federal agencies, only to return to the States shrunken grants with mandates attached."

A Post-Convention Off-Script Moment. Katie Glueck of Politico: Austin, Texas, teacher Sean Duffy appeared alongside Jeb Bush at the GOP convention to speak about education, but he subsequently said he "leans more toward Obama." "Duffy said he's heard Obama talk some about education -- he cited the president's desire to make college more affordable, and that he hasn't 'necessarily heard the same' from Romney -- but added that he's still waiting to hear more on the subject from both candidates. He wasn't, however, impressed with the education portion of Romney's keynote.

Jon Stewart reflects on Romney's speech:

Zack Beauchamp of Think Progress: Romney "devoted only 202 words to national security and while his speech completely ignored the war in Afghanistan and any homage to American servicemembers, it contained a shocking number of misstatements and false and baseless attacks on President Obama.

I knew that her job as a mom was harder than mine. And I knew without question, that her job as a mom was a lot more important than mine. -- Mitt Romney, speaking of his wife during his convention speech

He doesn't say women should go back to the kitchen, stop working, and instead do the much harder and more important job of raising kids full time. But he doesn't want to spend any money or burden any business with any kind of rules or programs that would push us to a new more egalitarian equilibrium. -- Matt Yglesias of Slate

Yo, Matt, you just don't understand class differences. What Mitt means is this: women of the privileged class should have the luxury of staying home & rearing their children. All other women should get off their asses and earn their way in "real" jobs. Too bad if they're pregnant because they can't afford contraception; too bad if they're sick because their lousy employers don't provide coverage; too bad if their non-union jobs barely cover the cost of child care much less gas for the car, work clothes; etc. -- Constant Weader

Economist Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute has a fabulous post in which he proves that the Romney/Ryan "economic recovery plan" is the exact same plan George W. Bush & John McCain produced in 2008, 2006 & 2004. "Which is another way of saying that the Republicans have no plan for how to actually deal with this specific crisis we face." It's pretty amazing. ...

... "The Definition of Insanity..." Paul Krugman: "I would just add to Mike's take the historical experience. Romney says that his plan would create 12 million jobs in his first term. Leaving aside the fact that this is about what forecasters on average predict in any case, surely we should ask how the identical policies worked out in Bush's two terms. And the answer is: zero job growth in term one (and a fall in private sector employment), one million in term two. Oh, and private sector employment lower when Bush left office than when he arrived."

I was born in the middle of the century.... To be an American was to assume that all things were possible. We went to bed at night knowing we lived in the greatest country in the history of the world. -- Mitt Romney, in his convention speech

He also lived in an America where state universities provided excellent, low-cost education, the government was building infrastructure (like the interstate highway system), unions helped keep wages high for most (white) Americans, the tax code topped off at about 70 percent, income inequality was at its flattest in history, & the FHA & VA helped Americans buy homes they could afford, the Congress was passing laws to help Americans in need, & the courts were expanding civil rights. That's the America Misty-Eyed Mitt wants to destroy. -- Constant Weader

Steve Benen continues his chronicle of Mitt's Mendacity. He up to Vol. 32, & found 30 baldfaced lies Mitt told this week.

Michael Barbaro & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "A senior Republican involved in convention planning said that [Clint] Eastwood's appearance was cleared by at least two of Mr. Romney's top advisers.... This person said that there had been no rehearsal, to the surprise of the rest of the campaign team." ...

... Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "... the Eastwood incident ... is one of many examples of how just when you are convinced that Mitt Romney runs the tightest ship in the business, run by ruthless cyborgs who insist on reducing the margin of error to nothing, something like this always seems to happen.... It ought to make at least a few people nervous about how this Genius Business Leader's hand-picked underlings might function if they are in charge of the country next January."

... Commentators -- including President Obama -- react to Clint Eastwood's "conversation with an empty chair." NBC's E!Online has more here:

... Michael Moore in the Daily Beast: "The people of the future will know nothing about Dirty Harry or Josey Wales or Million Dollar Baby. They will know about the night a crazy old man hijacked a national party's most important gathering so he could literally tell the president to go do something to himself (i.e. fuck himself). In those few moments..., he completely upended and redefined how he'll be remembered by younger and future generations."

CW: I think the whole convention was a disaster, not just the appearance of a dotty old movie star to lead off the network TV coverage on Mitt's Big Night. The speakers, as David Axelrod pointed out, were all auditioning for president in 2016, & they barely mentioned the guy who got the nomination in 2012 -- the one they were supposed to be boosting. If Romney or his "people" vetted these speeches, they're idiots. If they didn't, they're idiots.

Paul Ryan -- Marathon Liar

Episode 1. At the top of his report on his interview of Paul Ryan, winger Hugh Hewitt wrote. "Because biography is character and character often matters much more to voters than policy prescriptions, I chose to focus on Ryan's youth." Yes, character does matter to voters, Hugh. thanks for pointing that out. Hewitt added, "I was also surprised to hear Ryan has run a sub-3 hour marathon. Add another interest group to the list of groups like Catholics, hunters and Miami of Ohio grads who are going to connect easily with this candidate." Yes indeedy. During the interview, Hewitt asked Ryan what his "personal best" marathon time was. Ryan said, "Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something."

Episode 2. Scott Douglas of Runner's World: "Runner's World has been unable to find any marathon results by Ryan. Requests for more information from Ryan's Washington and Wisconsin offices, and from the Romney-Ryan campaign, have so far gone unanswered."

Episode 3. Scott Douglas: "A spokesman for the Romney-Ryan campaign e-mailed Runner's World today to say Ryan ran Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, while a college student in 1991. Ryan's name does not show up in the 1991 race results provided by Grandma's. Runner's World ... found a finisher in the 1990 race by the name of Paul D. Ryan, 20, of Minneapolis.... The finishing time listed was 4 hours, 1 minute and 25 seconds. We are awaiting confirmation from the Ryan camp that the vice presidential nominee is the Paul D. Ryan listed in the race results -- and, if he is, whether he ran any other marathons faster than 4:01:25." (Same link as Episode 2.)

Episode 4. Scott Douglas: "In a statement issued to Runner's World by a spokesman Friday night, Ryan said of his marathon experience: 'The race was more than 20 years ago, but my brother Tobin -- who ran Boston last year -- reminds me that he is the owner of the fastest marathon in the family and has never himself ran a sub-three. If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four hours, not three. He gave me a good ribbing over this at dinner tonight.'" (Same link.)

Epilogue: So, Hugh, what was that about the importance of character & runners "who are going to connect easily with Ryan"?

AND the Romneys Are Just like You. Lady Ann Romney says Mitt's turning down a $30 million-a-year job in 2008 was easy. "We're used to kind of passing up offers like that." CW: yeah, I can relate.

Congressional Races

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Even as Mitt Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan exhort Republicans to embrace their proposed Medicare changes and spending cuts, the party's rank and file is growing less enthusiastic about the fight than the top of the ticket. Republican lawmakers and candidates are distancing themselves from the Ryan budget plan.... Republicans say the party now belongs to the more senior -- and historically more malleable -- member of the ticket, Mr. Romney, and not Mr. Ryan...."

Alexander Burns of Politico: "Karl Rove phoned Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin to apologize for having joked about killing the Republican congressman, an Akin spokesman confirmed to Politico.... Bloomberg Businessweek reported earlier that Rove told a gathering of donors in Tampa that Akin had to be forced out of the Senate race, and joked that if Akin were 'found mysteriously murdered, don't look for my whereabouts.' ... Rove called the embattled Senate candidate and 'spent about three minutes' explaining that he didn't know there had been a reporter in the room and that he would not have made such a comment if he'd been aware of her presence." CW: If a tree falls in the forest & there's no reporter to cover it...

News Ledes

Soggy Holiday. AP: "What's left of Isaac has been plodding north into states that badly need moisture. The worst drought in decades stretches from Ohio west to California. Isaac will move straight through some of the hardest hit states: Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Lesser rain is expected to the west in portions of Oklahoma and Kansas. State emergency agencies, city and county leaders and utility crews have been preparing for the deluge."

AP: "Federal authorities say they're closing their abuse-of-power investigation into Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona without filing charges against him."

Politico: "Federal prosecutors are not seeking any jail time for a former top aide to Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Doug Hampton, in connection with Hampton's admission that he violated a federal ethics law by lobbying former colleagues within a year of leaving the Senate. Hampton is set to be sentenced in federal court on Wednesday in what seems likely to be the final chapter in a messy saga that exposed Ensign's extramarital affair with Hampton's wife Cynthia, ended both Hamptons' Senate employment and ultimately led to Ensign's resignation from the Senate last year."

The Great Maple Syrup Heist. AP (via NYT): "The police said Friday that thieves had stolen a considerable amount of maple syrup from a warehouse in Quebec.... It was too soon to determine the exact quantity or value of the syrup stolen from the warehouse, where more 10 million pounds -- about $30 million worth -- is stored."

AP: "Samsung on Saturday accused Apple of resorting to litigation in an effort to limit consumer choice after the iPhone maker said it was seeking to stop the sale of Galaxy S III smartphones in the United States. Fresh from its $1 billion court victory over Samsung Electronics Co<, Apple Inc., in a separate case, asked a federal district court in San Jose, California, on Friday to add four more products to a list of Samsung goods that Apple says infringe its patents."