The Ledes

Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

AP: "At least 34 sailors are being kicked out of the Navy for their roles in a cheating ring that operated undetected for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site, and 10 others are under criminal investigation, the admiral in charge of the Navy's nuclear reactors program told The Associated Press."

New York Times: "Israeli airstrikes killed a wife and baby son of the top military commander of Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip, hours after rocket fire from Gaza broke a temporary cease-fire Tuesday and halted talks aimed at ending the six-week conflict collapsed in Cairo. The fate of the commander, Mohammed Deif, the target of several previous Israeli assassination attempts, remained unclear, though Palestinian officials and witnesses said his was not one of three bodies pulled Wednesday from the rubble of the bombed Gaza City home." ...

... AFP: "An Israeli cabinet minister on Wednesday justified an air strike on Gaza that killed the wife and child of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif, saying he was a legitimate target. 'Mohammed Deif deserves to die just like (the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden. He is an arch murderer and as long as we have an opportunity we will try to kill him'" Interior Minister Gideon Saar told army radio."

New York Times: "After nearly a week of inaction, a Russian aid convoy destined for the besieged, rebel-controlled Ukrainian city of Luhansk rumbled to life on Wednesday, with 16 of its trucks passing through a Russian border checkpoint. Before heading to Luhansk, though, the trucks still have to be checked by the Russian border service, Ukrainian border guards and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sergei Karavaytsev, an officer in Russia’s Emergencies Ministry, said in a telephone interview."

Guardian: "Russia has shut down four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow for alleged sanitary violations in a move critics said was the latest blow in its tit-for-tat sanctions tussle with the west." CW: Now that could make Putin unpopular.

AP: "Germany says it is prepared to arm the Kurdish fighters battling Sunni insurgents in northern Iraq. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Germany would closely coordinate its efforts with France, Britain and other European countries who are already delivering weapons to the Kurds."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014.

Washington Post: "The Islamic State militant group claimed Tuesday to have beheaded an American photojournalist in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. A video released online purported to show the execution of James Foley after he recited a statement in which he called the U.S. government 'my real killers. A second prisoner, said to be Steven Joel Sotloff, like Foley an American journalist who disappeared while covering Syria’s civil war, then appears in the video. The masked executioner, speaking with what sounds like a British accent, identifies Sotloff and says that 'the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.'”

New York Times: "Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed late Monday to extend a five-day cease-fire for Gaza that expired at midnight for 24 hours, reflecting the difficulty of reaching more durable agreements after two weeks of Egyptian-brokered talks but also an apparent lack of appetite on either side to resume the conflict." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Another Gaza cease-fire collapsed on Tuesday when Palestinian militants fired rockets into southern Israel, drawing retaliatory airstrikes from Israel and prompting the Israeli government to withdraw its delegation from Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo for an agreement to end the latest conflict."

Guardian: "Armed groups in Syria have several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that could easily be diverted to extremists and used to destroy commercial planes, according to a new report by an international arms research group that cites the risk of the missiles being smuggled out of Syria by terrorists. The report was released a few hours after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice to US airlines banning all flights in Syrian airspace."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 20

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

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Monday
Jul022012

The Commentariat -- July 3, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "I Never Believe David Brooks." I never do. The NYTX front page is here.

The Government We Deserve. Pew Research Center: "... just 55% of the public knows that the Supreme Court upheld most of the health care law's provisions; 45% say either that the court rejected most provisions (15%) or do not know what the court did (30%). Among those aware that the court upheld most of the law, 50% approve of the decision while 42% disapprove."

Understanding Mitt. Lisa Miller of New York: "... living high on the socioeconomic ladder can, colloquially speaking, dehumanize people. It can make them less ethical, more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people.... 'While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,' [Prof. Paul] Piff says, 'the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.'" CW: this is a six-pager. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the printer version to load, so you'll have to page thru from the linked first page.

Jeff Toobin: Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion on the Affordable Care Act "was a singular act of courage," but "this should have been an easy case."

Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "Conservatives want their judges to consider themselves card-carrying members of the conservative movement, and at the same time they want those judges' rulings, when handed down, to be treated with unquestionable legitimacy even by those who disagree with the decisions.... Having excoriated liberals for calling the court partisan, conservatives are now gnashing their teeth because the court failed to be as partisan as they wanted. That makes the complaints about politics supposedly driving Roberts' decision ring hollow. They wanted politics to drive the decision. They just wanted it to go their way."

Jonathan Chait: John Roberts' legal theory on the constitutionality of the ACA makes no sense (and neither does that of the conservatives justices, who don't even try). But it accomplished what he wanted to do, making it "results-oriented."

Fear of Taxes. Stephen Stromberg of the Washington Post: Get over it, people. "Taxation ... can be an extremely efficient way to achieve social ends as well as fund the government, and any fair conservative economist would recognize this."

Incidential Economist: "Obamacare is the biggest tax increase in history … if you ignore history. The I/E created a chart to disprove the GOP biggest-tax-increase-ever talking point. ...

... More from Kevin Drum on the "biggest tax increase" story. He adds, "no news outlet interested in accuracy should let it pass without challenge." Good luck with that. Of course, we may not hear this talking point for long on account of Romney's little "tax problem": see the Michael Shear story under today's "Presidential Race" for that.

Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: okay, the Court has ruled on ObamaCare. Are you businesspeople who were clinging to the uncertainty apron all better now? Are you "certain" yet?

** Re: the Affordable Care Act, please read Victoria D.'s comment in today's Commentariat. Letters like the one she received can only help.

Ken Silverstein, in a New York Times op-ed: "Despots and crooks love to bring their money to America, not only for prestige but also because our corporate secrecy laws, like those of Switzerland and Luxembourg, make it almost impossible for law enforcement agencies to figure out who has money sheltered here."

Gene Robinson: "About one-fourth of all households [in the Washington, D.C. area] have no electricity, the legacy of an unprecedented assault by violent thunderstorms Friday night. Critics have blasted the Obama administration's unfruitful investment in solar energy. But if government-funded research managed to lower the price of solar panels to the point where it became economical to install them on residential roofs, all you global warming skeptics would have air conditioning right now. I'm just sayin'."

"Backpack" Vouchers. Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's program to give vouchers to every kid should frighten Americans "because the basic idea of 'strapping public funds to kids' backs' and sending it wherever parents choose is at the heart of Mitt Romney's education platform." CW: and another reminder of why I despise Jeb Bush. He can be polite & reasonable-sounding, but that sucker is a prime mover in the privatization of education -- a key element in the Return to Gilded Age Rules.

Marc Ambinder in GQ: "According to ongoing discussions with Obama aides and associates, if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War."

CW: a note to everyone who says "I'm not going to vote for Obama. He betrayed me when he did/didn't do ... whatever": The Bully Pulpit Argument. Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns & Money: "Plans to transform American domestic politics that involve heroic presidential daddies imposing major social change on powerful interests by sheer force of will are indistinguishable from having no plan at all."

Sometimes conservatives grow up. Patrick Gavin of Politico has the story.

Presidential Race

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney's presidential campaign threw cold water on a central Republican attack line on Monday, saying that President Obama's health care mandate should be thought of as a penalty and not a tax. That message ... contradicts top Republican Party officials and leaders in Congress, who have spent the last several days eagerly accusing the president of levying a new tax. By straying from the party message, Mr. Romney's campaign offered a fresh example of his difficulty in carrying the conservative mantle on health care...."

Not Going to Talk about Healthcare. Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal: Mitt Romney's "campaign has been giving off clear signals that it doesn't want to make health care a major part of the election."

Not Going to Talk about Immigration, Either. Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Mitt Romney last week told a private group of potential supporters and business and media elites, including Rupert Murdoch, that he was treading carefully around the issue of immigration to avoid looking like a 'flip-flopper.'" CW: interesting post.

Not Going to Talk about My Personal Finances, Either. CW: Haven't had time to read this Vanity Fair story, but it looks good. Here's the blurb: "For all Mitt Romney's touting of his business record, when it comes to his own money the Republican nominee is remarkably shy about disclosing numbers and investments. Nicholas Shaxson delves into the murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws, and investigating just how much of Romney's fortune (with $30 million in Bain Capital funds in the Cayman Islands alone?) looks pretty strange for a presidential candidate." ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico, commenting on the Vanity Fair story: "Romney's larger approach to the 2012 campaign: accepting a certain amount of heat over his lack of detail and transparency, in order to deny his critics and political opponents information they might use to attack him." Strategy translation: if you knew about the skeletons in Mitt Romney's closet, you would not elect him dogcatcher (even tho he's got a kennel on the top of his car), so the closet will remain closed. And we're counting on the press to "respect the candidate's privacy."

CW: so it looks like Romney's entire campaign message boils down to this: "The economy sucks and I'm white."

O Say, Can You Say "Marseillaise"? Steve Benen: Some Republicans -- Karl Rove & the National Review, fer instance -- have been claiming that President Obama will be spending the 4th in Paris attending fundraisers. Not true. "There is, of course, an underlying smear here, with the right falsely trying to connect Obama to France. But I'm curious: if a Parisian fundraiser from American donors is controversial, why aren't Romney's fundraisers in communist China equally problematic?"

Right Wing World

Let's Cuff the Attorney General. Steve Benen: Rep. Jason Chaffetz (RTP-Utah) goes on the teevee to raise the prospect of having the House sergeant-at-arms apprehend AG Eric Holder. CW: yes, making the black AG do the perp walk would be a great visual. I have no idea what the sergeant-at-arms would actually do with Holder once he "took control of" him because no one is going to prosecute Holder. Will they lock him up in the basement of the Capitol Building?

Local News

"Chris Christie, Still Auditioning for V.P., Calls Reporter an 'Idiot.'" Star-Ledger Editorial Board: "Christie signs laws against bullying while serving a prime example of the problem." The news story is here. CW: Marvin Schwalb has a point. See yesterday Comments on the Commentariat. ...

... But I still think Florida's Rick Scott win the "America's Worst Governor" contest. Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: an analysis has "found that 98.4 percent of the 2,625 people included on" Rick Scott's first list of "potential noncitizens" are eligible voters. CW: and Republican-run Lee County, where I live is the worst! Here's my case: Christie is calling New Jersey citizens "idiots" & "numbnuts"; Scott is disenfranchising the idiots in Florida.

Amanda Crawford of Bloomberg News: in Colorado Springs, the home of the anti-tax movement & a bastion of conservatism, is now experiencing -- in the wake of the disastrous fires -- the obvious downside of Norquist-think: fewer essential public services -- including police. And it is likely to get worse.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Andy Griffith, an actor whose folksy Southern manner charmed audiences for more than 50 years on Broadway, in movies, on albums and especially on television -- most notably as the small-town sheriff on the long-running situation comedy that bore his name -- died on Tuesday at his home on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. He was 86." The Times has an "Andy Griffith -- In Performance" video feature here. I recommend "What It Was, Was Football," which was my introduction to Griffith.

New York Times: "The United States has quietly moved significant military reinforcements into the Persian Gulf to deter the Iranian military from any possible attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz and to increase the number of fighter jets capable of striking deep into Iran if the standoff over its nuclear program escalates."

AP: "The Obama administration is moving toward decisions that would further cut the number of U.S. nuclear weapons, possibly to between 1,000 and 1,100, reflecting new thinking on the role of nuclear weapons in an age of terror, current and former officials say."

Reuters: "Firefighters grappling with the two most destructive wildfires on record in Colorado reported progress on Monday...." The Denver Post's coverage is here.

New York Times: "A prominent human rights advocacy group accused the Syrian authorities on Tuesday of building an 'archipelago' of at least 27 torture centers where abuse of the government’s opponents points to a crime against humanity." Guardian story here. ...

... AP: "Syrian President Bashar Assad said he regrets the shooting down of a Turkish jet by his forces, and he will not allow tensions between the two neighbors to deteriorate into an 'armed conflict,' a Turkish newspaper reported Tuesday." ...

... Al Jazeera: "International powers have agreed that a transitional government should be set up in Syria to end the bloodshed there but left open the question of what part President Bashar al-Assad might play in the process. Peace envoy Kofi Annan said after talks in Geneva on Saturday that the government should include members of Assad's administration and the Syrian opposition and pave the way for free elections."

AP: "Iraqi officials on Tuesday said at least 25 people were killed and 40 others wounded in a series of blasts in central Iraq as insurgents seek to undermine the Shiite-led government."

Guardian: "US and Pakistani officials have expressed optimism that Islamabad is close to reopening its Afghan border to Nato troop supplies after a seven-month blockade, a move that could significantly reduce tension between the two countries."

AP: "British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline will pay $3 billion in fines -- the largest healthcare fraud settlement in U.S. history -- for criminal and civil violations involving 10 drugs that are taken by millions of people. The Justice Department said Monday that GlaxoSmithKline PLC will plead guilty to promoting popular antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses. The company also will plead guilty to failing to report to the government for seven years some safety problems with diabetes drug Avandia...."

New York Times: "Robert E. Diamond Jr., the chief executive of Barclays, resigned on Tuesday, less than a week since the British bank agreed to pay $450 million to settle accusations that it had tried to manipulate key interest rates for its own benefit." The Guardian is liveblogging the story; other executives are expected to resign.

Washington Post: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sharply criticized lawmakers Monday for voting to hold him in contempt of Congress last week, saying Republicans have made him a 'proxy' to attack President Obama in an election year."

New York Times: "... Fermilab physicists said Monday that its Tevatron, now shuttered but once the world’s most powerful physics machine, had fallen just short of finding a long-hypothesized particle. Known as the Higgs boson, it explains why things in the universe have mass, and is a cornerstone of modern physics despite never being seen."

Sunday
Jul012012

The Commentariat -- July 2, 2012

In response to P. D. Pepe's request in yesterday's Commentariat, my column in today's New York Times eXaminer does indeed take on Ross Douthat's duplicitous Sunday sermonette. The NYTX front page is here. ...

... Dean Baker explains -- again -- why Tom Friedman is still meaner than a junkyard dog. ...

... AND Prof. Hamid Dabashi takes on Nicholas Kristof's praise of sanctions against Iran.

NEW. CW: in the Comments today, contributor P. D. Pepe recommends historian Sean Wilentz's review of the latest volume of Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson. So do I. And I learned a new word: "adumbration"; hadda look it up.

** Jan Crawford of CBS News: Chief Justice John Roberts initially sided with the Supreme Court's four conservative justices to strike down the heart of President Obama's health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, but later changed his position and formed an alliance with liberals to uphold the bulk of the law, according to two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations. Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy -- believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law -- led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold.... The fact that the [conservatives'] joint dissent doesn't mention Roberts' majority was not a sign of sloppiness, the sources said, but instead was a signal the conservatives no longer wished to engage in debate with him." CW: after all we've heard about how the Supreme Court is a fortress of secrecy, this report is stunning. ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress speculates that the leakers included at least one conservative justice. "Crawford ... is a very well connected conservative reporter.... Moreover, as Linda Greenhouse points out, it is possible that the Court started springing leaks more than a month before Roberts handed down his opinion." ...

... John Cole of Balloon Juice thinks the leakers were "Kennedy's people ... because most of that Crawford piece reads like a mash note to him." CW: and yes, that's a reasonable premise.

** "Casino Capitalism." Robert Reich: "The real issue here isn't Bain's betting record. It's that Romney's Bain is part of the same system as Jamie Dimon's JPMorgan Chase, Jon Corzine's MF Global and Lloyd Blankfein's Goldman Sachs -- a system that has turned much of the economy into a betting parlor that nearly imploded in 2008, destroying millions of jobs and devastating household incomes. The winners in this system are top Wall Street executives and traders, private-equity managers and hedge-fund moguls, 
and the losers are most of the rest of us. The system is largely responsible for the greatest concentration of the nation’s income and wealth at the very top since the Gilded Age of the nineteenth century, with the richest 400 Americans owning as much as the bottom 150 million put together. And these multimillionaires and billionaires are now actively buying the 2012 election -- and with it, American democracy."

Paul Krugman writes the truism of the day: "... the prospect of disaster, no matter how obvious, is no guarantee that nations will do what it takes to avoid that disaster. And this is especially true when pride and prejudice make leaders unwilling to see what should be obvious."

Matt Taibbi has a post on Barclay Bank's agreement to pay $450 million to resolve investigations of its interest-rate fixing. CW: Taibbi sees Barclays as just the first domino to fall. See also yesterday's News Ledes. ...

... In a follow-up post, Taibbi writes, "Another one bites the dust. The Royal Bank of Scotland is about to be fined $233 million (£150 million pounds) for its role in the Libor-rigging scandal. It joins Barclays as the first banks to walk the plank in what should be, but so far is not, the most sensational financial corruption story since the crash of 2008."

CW: Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post tries to put lipstick on the outsourcing pig. Bear in mind as you read Pearlstein's analysis that he never once discusses the U.S. government's pro-business, anti-union policies that makes outsourcing so attractive to businesses & the private equity firms that "help" businesses move jobs offshore, and he only obliquely alludes to interstate raiding & state anti-union laws. I'm hoping Dean Baker or Paul Krugman will give Pearlstein's essay a "real economist's once-over." ...

     ... Update: here's Baker's response. Essentially he seems to say, offshoring is great as long as there's full employment in the U.S.

Presidential Race

Mitt Romney -- Worse Than George W. Bush

I don't think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor. I'm concerned for someone who is moving from near-poverty to middle class. -- George W. Bush, October 1999, preparing to run for president & denouncing a House Republican proposal to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit

I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. -- Mitt Romney, January 2012

Tom Edsall in the New York Times on Mitt Romney's unwillingness to specify even the vaguest outlines of an immigration policy.

Rupert tweets re: Willard: "Met Romney last week. Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful."

CW: I couldn't find the Consortium article contributor Kate M. discusses in her commentary below, but this one by Robert Parry, titled "The Price of Political Purity," covers the same material.

Local News

America's Worst Governor Goes Rogue. Lexi Stemple of Fox "News": "Florida, the state the led the fight against President Obama's health care law, will not comply with the Supreme Court opinion. Gov. Rick Scott [RTP] tells Fox News that he and his Attorney General, Pam Bondi, will work tirelessly to make sure the law is repealed. He feels that can be done by electing officials, like Mitt Romney, who have vowed to fight the law before 2014, when most of its provisions kick in. If that doesn't happen, Scott insists he still won't 'implement these exchanges that will increase the cost of health and make Medicaid worse.'"

News Ledes

AP: "The fired former chief executive of Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s Macau casinos alleges in court documents revealed Thursday that billionaire Sheldon Adelson personally approved of prostitution and knew of other improper activity at his company's properties in the Chinese enclave."

Washington Post: "Mexico chose as its new president Sunday Enrique Peña Nieto, a dashing, disciplined campaigner who promised to bring peace and prosperity back to a country weary of drug violence and slow growth, according to official projections by election officials. As the new face of a political party once known for corruption, Peña Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), completed a remarkable act of political rehabilitation, returning to power after 12 years on the sidelines."

AP: "Unemployment in the 17-country euro currency bloc hit another record in May as the continent teetered on the edge of recession because of its crippling financial crisis, official figures showed Monday. Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said unemployment rose to 11.1 percent in May from 11 percent the previous month. May's rate was the highest since the euro was launched in 1999...."

Guardian: "Mississippi's only reproductive health clinic was handed an eleventh-hour reprieve from closure late on Sunday, thwarting attempts by social conservatives to create America's first abortion-free state. In a ruling handed down just hours before the Jackson Women's Health Organisation was due to start turning away women seeking terminations, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction blocking a law that would have shuttered the centre."

Saturday
Jun302012

The Commentariat -- July 1, 2012

Bill Scher argues in a New York Times op-ed that Presidents Franklin Roosevelt & Lyndon Johnson also made deals with corporations as part of efforts to get corporate backing for liberal bills. Because President Obama "heeded this lesson of liberal history," he was able to get the ACA passed.

Prof. Pamela Kaplan, in a New York Times op-ed: "... the conservative majority ... laid down a cache of weapons that future courts can use to attack many of the legislative achievements of the New Deal and the Great Society -- including labor, environmental, civil rights and consumer protection laws -- and to prevent new progressive legislation. Far from being a source of jubilation, the term may come back to haunt liberals.... A Congress that can advance national priorities only through its taxing power is a Congress with little power at all." ...

... ** Anthony Kennedy Is No Moderate. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Four justices, including so-called moderate conservative Anthony Kennedy, joined a dissent that did not simply toss out two-hundred years of established law, it also called for the entire [Affordable Care] law to be repealed.... A court may not invalidate any constitutional part of a law unless it is 'evident' that Congress would have preferred that part to fall along with the parts the court just invalidated, yet Kennedy and his three co-ideologues would simply cast that rule aside...."

Patricia Zengerle of Reuters: "Voter support for >President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul rose after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it but most people still oppose the law, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Sunday. The online survey showed increased backing from Republicans and, crucially, the political independents whose support will be essential to winning the November 6 presidential election."

CW: this AP story by David Gram answers some questions Reality Chex contributors have raised about Vermont's single-payer health insurance project, which has been enacted but will not be fully implemented -- or funded -- till 2017.

Maureen O'Dowd applauds Queen Elizabeth II's conciliatory efforts toward the Irish. CW: wonder if, in one of her secret meetings with Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Queen Liz advised him to placate the Irish -- a very good idea for any Massachusetts political candidate. (See yesterday's Commentariat, plus Kings & Queens & Prime Ministers.)

Kate Wiltrout of the Virginian-Pilot: "The Navy will not use a target depicting a Muslim woman holding a gun at a new training range for SEALs in Virginia Beach. The announcement came hours after the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked the Pentagon to remove the target. A picture of the cardboard target, which shows a woman in a headscarf holding a pistol, was published in The Virginian-Pilot on Tuesday. The image shows verses of the Quran hanging on the wall behind the woman, which also generated criticism from the group."

Hippy Dippy Weatherman. Joe Romm of Think Progress: "How hot is it? It is so hot that NBC Washington’s Chief Meteorologist, Doug Kammerer, explained on air 'If we did not have global warming, we wouldn't see this.'" ...

... R.I.P., Al Sleet:

David Olinger & Eric Gorski of the Denver Post: "Eleven years ago, federal agencies announced a bold strategy to battle the growing threat of catastrophic wildfires.... The government's planned response: a sophisticated new computer system -- called Fire Program Analysis, or FPA -- that would enable firefighting agencies to coordinate their efforts and maximize their resources.... Federal agencies, led by the U.S. Forest Service, are still working on it." ...

... Michael Kodas & Burt Hubbard in the Denver Post: "The number of wildfires in Colorado has exploded during the past decade. So has the number of people living in high-risk fire zones. And public policies for dealing with both risk making the state's fire danger even worse. In the past two decades, a quarter-million people have moved into Colorado's red zones -- the parts of the state at risk for the most dangerous wildfires. Today, one of every four Colorado homes is in a red zone.... It costs millions to protect homes in the red zone from wildfires, but homeowners don't foot that bill exclusively. All taxpayers do. That creates a perverse incentive to build there despite risks."

Presidential Race

Preserving the Aristocracy. Karoli of Crooks & Liars: Mitt Romney said in a campaign speech he wants "citizens" who "work hard" to "get all the education they can afford." Know your place, poor people. With video.

Jim Rutenberg & Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "Propelled by a torrent of blistering television advertisements, President Obama is successfully invoking Mitt Romney's career at Bain Capital to raise questions about Mr. Romney's commitment to the middle class, strategists in both parties say...."

Right Wing World

His Meds Made Him Crazy. Forget all that preserving the integrity of the Court stuff. The real reason John Roberts decided to uphold the Affordable Care Act -- epilepsy medication made him do it. CW: I have no doubt we will soon learn that Elena Kagan spiked Roberts' Tea Party tea with a double dose of meds.

David Dayen of Firedoglake: "I keep seeing these confident predictions from health care experts that no state would be so foolish as to reject the Medicaid expansion for their state. I want to set up a poker game with these people, to provide for my family in retirement. How many times can you say 'well that's so radical and extreme, it could never happen!' and be wrong before you review your assumptions?"

News Ledes

New York Times: "The number of votes separating Representative and his top challenger, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, shrank to 802 over the weekend, as the New York City Board of Elections released a new, unofficial vote count that for the first time included numbers from all precincts in the 13th Congressional District. More than 2,000 absentee ballots and affidavit ballots -- those cast by people whose names, for some reason, did not appear on the voter rolls -- remain to be counted, a process that will not begin until Thursday morning."

Doris Sams, sometime between 1946-1950. Photo via Knoxville News Sentinel.New York Times: "Doris Sams, who pitched a perfect game and set a single-season home run record in the women's professional baseball world of the 1940s and 50s that inspired the movie 'A League of Their Own,' died Thursday in Knoxville, Tenn. She was 85."

New York Times: "Marcus Agius, the chairman of Barclays, is expected to resign on Monday, less than a week after the big British bank agreed to pay $450 million to settle accusations that it had tried to manipulate key interest rates to benefit its own bottom line." Guardian story here.

ABC News: "House Speaker John Boehner said today that Republicans are preparing to file a civil suit in an attempt to gain access to more information pertaining to the Justice Department's botched Fast & Furious cartel gun tracking program."

AP: "The much-hyped plan to end Syria's misery and guide its transition to democracy appears to have fallen flat despite the endorsement of Western powers.... The U.S. and its allies insist the plan will force Syrian President Bashar Assad from power. Russia disagrees and Assad is unlikely to acquiesce."

New York Times: Facebook is considering abandoning Nasdaq, the exchange Facebook blames for botching its IPO rollout.

Washington Post: "Daybreak Sunday found 789,358 in the Washington region still without power, facing another sweltering day and the prospect of returning to work Monday before electricity is restored to their homes.Many roads made impassable by fallen trees and the power lines they took down were reopened by Sunday as crews worked through the night to clean up the tangled aftermath of the storm that struck before midnight Friday." ...

... AP: "Millions across the mid-Atlantic region sweltered Saturday in the aftermath of violent storms that pummeled the eastern U.S. with high winds and downed trees, killing at least 13 people and leaving 3 million without power during a heat wave. Power officials said the outages wouldn't be repaired for several days to a week, likening the damage to a serious hurricane. Emergencies were declared in Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, the District of Columbia and Virginia." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "The Washington region suffered through another day of stifling heat Sunday, and thousands of people went without air conditioning as utilities called in reinforcements and the National Guard pitched in to help with storm cleanup. The heat index topped 100 again, and sultry weather was forecast for the entire Fourth of July week as legions sought refuge from sweltering homes and waited for work crews to make repairs."

The Denver Post has a page of stories on the Colorado fires here.

Houston Chronicle: "Some 50 million Mexicans go to the polls today in an election expected to return the presidency to the political party that undemocratically ruled the country for most of the last century." New York Times story here. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The party that ruled Mexico for decades with an autocratic grip appears to have vaulted back into power after 12 years in opposition, as voters troubled by a bloody drug war and economic malaise gave its presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, a comfortable victory on Sunday, according to exit polls and early returns."

AP: "Syrian opposition groups on Sunday rejected a U.N.-brokered peace plan for a political transition in Syria, calling it ambiguous and a waste of time and vowing not to negotiate with President Bashar Assad or members of his 'murderous' regime."

AP: "A Soyuz space capsule carrying a three-man multinational crew touched down safely Sunday on the southern steppes of Kazakhstan, bringing an end to their 193-day mission to the International Space Station."

Guardian: "Former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, who earned a reputation as an uncompromising opponent of Palestinian statehood, has died aged 96."

Guardian: "WalMart has suspended a seafood supplier following complaints from workers at the plant that they were forced to work 24 hours at a time and had threats of violence directed at their families. In a statement, Walmart said a preliminary investigation uncovered "violations" at CJ's Seafood in Louisiana, where eight Mexican employees had complained of being mistreated by their bosses."

Friday
Jun292012

The Commentariat -- June 30, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

CW: I'm reposting this, since it didn't go up till late yesterday. My column in the New York Times eXaminer today is titled "David Brooks -- Constitutional Scholar." The NYTX front page is here.

New York Times Quote of the Day. Right now, it's scary to get sick, because if you don't die from the sickness, you die when you see the bill. -- Gladys Vasquez, 50, a Houston home health aide who lacks health insurance.

Robert Pear & Michael Cooper of the New York Times: "Millions of poor people could still be left without medical insurance under the national health care law if states take an option granted by the Supreme Court and decide not to expand their Medicaid programs, state officials and health policy experts said Friday. Republican officials in more than a half-dozen states said they opposed expanding Medicaid or had serious doubts about it, even though the federal government would pick up all the costs in the first few years and at least 90 percent of the expenses after that." CW: And Krugman called these people cruel. Oh, how could he?

Jeff Toobin, Rick Hertzberg & Amelia Lester of the New Yorker on the Affordable Care case:

Michael Scherer of Time reports on how President Obama got the news of the Supreme Court's decision.

Peter Baker of the New York Times reviews the White House's failure to sell the Affordable Care Act; looks like they have big plans to drop the ball again. CW: big mistake. Obama, Biden & Democratic candidates should brag every day in every way on the popular aspects of the ACA, & they should append their boasts with, "And Republicans want to take that away from you. They want to deprive you of health insurance, put your family at risk, blah-blah." How hard is that? P.S. It's not an "individual mandate"; it's a "freeloaders fee," courtesy of Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) who appears on "Up with Chris Hayes" on MSNBC today.

The Broccoli Head Speaks. Prof. Randy Barnett, the righty-right libertarian who invented the legal thesis that Congress cannot regulate "inactivity" & who argued one of the anti-ACA cases before the Supremes, writes a Washington Post op-ed boasting that he won & telling you why you should vote for Willard (basically, because the Mittster will repeal the New Deal). Barnett, in my opinion, is a selfish piece of dung, & I disagree with most of what he writes, but I find it helpful to know the rationales of rational-sounding righties. And Barnett reinforced what I wrote about Brooks' column -- that the right is trying to expand the meaning of Roberts' ruling by interpreting his interpretation of the Constitution to bend their way. Also, if you tend to think lefties are exaggerating when they claim the right wants to repeal the New Deal & bring us all the way back to the gilded age, Barnett's op-ed will convince you we flamethrowers got it right. His op-ed is an admission of guilt that would hold up in court.

This Washington Post article by Robert Barnes & Del Quentin Wilbur explores whether or not Chief Justice Roberts changed his opinion late in the game.

There's more to a Supreme Court ruling than just the first page:

The real Frank Rich sees the Court's ruling as a second chance for President Obama and CNN's colossal blooper as the network's Waterloo. ...

... Andy Borowitz reports some other reactions to the ObamaCare decision. ...

... And Donald Trump says Chief Justice John Hussein Roberts' birth certificate is a fake; Sean Hannity finds Trumps revelation "very concerning."

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate as a 'tax' has Republicans [CW: and Rush Limbaugh, whatever his party preference may be] charging that President Barack Obama has hiked taxes on millions of middle-class Americans. But they may run into a problem: Mitt Romney's individual mandate in Massachusetts works exactly the same way. And people are starting to notice.

Hoodwinked! Steve Benen: NPR, NBC, MSNBC & Fox "News" have all featured a guy named Joe Olivo, whom they represent in stories as an independent small business owner who doesn't like the Affordable Care Act. Well, guess what? Independent Joe is a member of the National Federation of Independent Business, the group that brought the suit against the ACA. "The NFIB -- which promotes Olivo's public appearances -- is also 'linked to the ALEC and Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS.' ... The Affordable Care Act is generally a great help to small businesses.... [Olivo is] not just expressing his own perspective; he appears to be representing the interests of a group trying to kill the health care reform law."

Presidential Race

Trip Gabriel & Robert Pear of the New York Times try to figure out Mitt Romney's health care preferences since Romney won't spell them out. What they come up with is pretty pitiful: higher costs for the old & the sick; not much for the poor.

Steve Benen chronicles 21 of Mitt's whoppers this week. And they are that: whoppers. Scripted lies, not slips of the tongue. Widely-debunked claims.

Right Wing World

Justin Sink of The Hill: in a Fox "News" interview, House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa, who led the charge against AG Eric Holder, likens Holder to "the Menendez brothers who killed their parents." With video.

News Ledes

New York Times: E-mails found by an investigative team headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh suggest that Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno may have actively sought to keep university officials from reporting to law enforcement the 2001 rape which Mike McQueary says he witnessed & reported to Paterno. Paterno did not write any of the e-mails which suggest his influence.

News outlets reported late Tuesday that Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) had beat back a primary challenge. Maybe not. Politico reports "... a strange case of missing precincts, questionable ballots and utter confusion over who's to blame for the mess and when the race might be settled.... As of Friday evening, 32 precincts -- six percent of all votes cast -- had yet to be accounted for. And another 2,447 affidavit ballots and 667 absentee votes hadn't been counted yet either. According to the city Board of Elections, Rangel's lead over second-place finisher state Sen. Adriano Espaillat stood at 1,032 votes, with enough outstanding ballots to alter the outcome."

New York Times: "Gov. Chris Christie on Friday curbed an effort by the New Jersey Legislature to improve oversight of the state's system of large, privately run halfway houses. Mr. Christie, a Republican who has close ties to a company that is the dominant operator of halfway houses in the state, used a line-item veto to reduce new disclosure requirements about halfway houses that the Democratic-controlled Legislature inserted in the state budget approved this week." CW: it seems the last governor New Jersey had who wasn't a criminal was Christie Todd Whitman, and that was a long time ago.

Washington Post: "More than 1.5 million homes and businesses across Maryland and Virginia lost power Friday night as one of the most powerful and punishing storms in months swept across the Washington region. Two fatalities were reported in the Springfield area of Fairfax County."

Denver Post: "Standing among the charred remains of the neighborhood hardest hit by the Waldo Canyon fire, a stunned President Barack Obama on Friday told the same firefighters who days earlier had fought to contain the flames and their devastation that the families whose homes they saved -- and the rest of the country -- are in their debt."

Washington Post: "The U.S. ambassador to Kenya, J. Scott Gration, a close adviser and friend of President Obama, announced his resignation Friday, weeks before the scheduled release of a U.S. government audit highly critical of his leadership at the embassy."

Washington Post: "Gov. Robert F. McDonnell on Friday reappointed Helen E. Dragas to a second four-year term on the University of Virginia's governing board, saying that the embattled board leader could help the school move past its recent leadership crisis. Dragas drew fierce criticism this month for orchestrating the ouster of the school's popular president, Teresa Sullivan. On Tuesday, Dragas reversed course and voted as part of a unanimous Board of Visitors to reinstate Sullivan."

New York Times: "President-elect Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood pre-empted the military's choreographed swearing-in ceremony by taking an oath of office a day early on Friday, in a televised speech to tens of thousands of supporters in Tahrir Square. But a promise Mr. Morsi made as part of his speech may provoke Washington: to work for the release of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the Egyptian-born militant Islamist convicted after the 1993 World Trade Center attack of plotting to bomb several New York City landmarks."

AP: "Russia's determination to preserve its last remaining ally in the Middle East collided head-on with U.S. and other Western powers' desire to replace Syrian President Bashar Assad with a democracy at a pivotal U.N.-brokered conference on Saturday. Efforts at bridging the Russia-U.S. divide hold the key to international envoy Kofi Annan's plan for easing power from Assad's grip through a political solution that ends 16 months of violence in a country verging on a full-blown civil war, in one of the world's most unstable regions."

Reuters: "U.N. Security Council called on Friday for global help to equip an African Union force hunting fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which lacks basic resources such as boots, food, transport and training."