The Wires

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New York Times (September 22): In March the Department of Justice described criminal cases involving nearly $700 million lost [to fraud] in the previous year by about two million people. The ones hit hardest by this kind of fraud are over 70, and they experience an average loss of $41,800, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports.... Some of the newer tactics for defrauding older people focus on Social Security, grandparenting and employment searches." ~~~

~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I have received a number of calls recently warning me I was about to lose my Social Security card, an eventuality that is highly unlikely. I have always just hung up on these automated calls, but yesterday, I decided to bite. When the "real person" came on the phone, he identified himself as a Social Security officer, certainly breaking the law right there. "Really?" I said. "How are you going to prove you're a federal government official and not a scammer?" He immediately hung up. Maybe this gang of crooks will stop calling me (tho probably not).

New York Times: "Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have both won this year’s Booker Prize, it was announced at a ceremony on Monday, after the judges for the literary award rebelled against its rules. 'We were told quite firmly that the rules state you can only have one winner,' Peter Florence, the chairman of the Booker judges, said at a news conference. But the 'consensus was to flout the rules and divide this year’s prize to celebrate two winners.' Evaristo, who won for her novel 'Girl, Woman, Other,' is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. 'I hope that honor doesn’t last too long,' she said in her acceptance speech. Atwood, who won in 2000 for 'The Blind Assassin,' was considered a front-runner this year for 'The Testaments,' the sequel to her 1985 dystopian classic, 'The Handmaid’s Tale.'”

We are amused:

The Hollywood Reporter has a list of this year's Emmy Award winners.

The End of the Amtrak Dining Car. Washington Post: "Amtrak says it is reinventing its dining service on long-distance trains, killing the traditional dining car to create more 'flexible' and 'contemporary' dining options. The carrier says the change, starting this fall on the one-night routes east of the Mississippi River, is driven by the desire to save money and lure a younger generation of new riders — chiefly, millennials known to be always on the run, glued to their phones and not particularly keen on breaking bread with strangers at a communal table. With the transition, Amtrak is doing away with the traditional onboard kitchen, switching to serving prepackaged meals and easing restrictions on the traditional serving times. The change allows the railroad to cut costs associated with cooking aboard and keeping up with the white-tablecloth service that was once known to rival high-end restaurants and clubs." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I realize many of you are too young to have experienced this, but once upon a time, traveling by train & plane was glamorous. People dressed up to travel, and those who had train roomettes dressed for dinner. My then-husband & I once had a roomette when we traveled from Juarez to Mexico City, & the experience was absolutely fabulous; so was the cuisine in the dining car. Now, it's sensible to dress in the most comfy clothes in anticipation of getting squished into a teeny "economy class" airline seat. The photos accompanying the WashPo story show people wearing casual dress in the white-tablecloth dining room, & the men are too gauche to remove their billed caps. P.S. to American tourists: nobody more messes up a photo of an historic site than a bunch of yahoo sightseers ambling around in their sloppy travel outfits. Then:

CNN: "The US Navy has finally acknowledged footage purported to show UFOs hurtling through the air. And while officials said they don't know what the objects are, they're not indulging any hints either. The objects seen in three clips of declassified military footage are "unidentified aerial phenomena," Navy spokesperson Joe Gradisher confirmed to CNN.The clips, released between December 2017 and March 2018 by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, appear to show fast-moving, oblong objects captured by advanced infrared sensors.In footage from 2004, sensors lock on a target as it flies before it accelerates out of the left side of the frame, too quickly for the sensors to relocate it. Two of the videos, both from 2015, contain audio from US fighter pilots attempting to make sense of what they're seeing."

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling

Tuesday
Oct262010

The Commentariat -- October 27

Vice President Biden & President Obama speak about unprecedented efforts across the Federal Government to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence in an event marking Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Somebody should make Rand Paul & his goons watch this:

The smile, affable and empty, could be that of a small-town gas-station attendant or a hired assassin. -- Robert Draper, describing White House Communications Director Robert Gibbs in a profile for GQ

"Thoughts vs. Actions." David Leonhardt of the New York Times: President Obama & members of his economic team indicated they knew all along what to do to reduce unemployment, but they evidently didn't have the will to actually do it. Leonhardt concludes, "... given what the polls are showing now, it’s a safe bet that Democrats would choose a different strategy if they had a second chance." ... In a more expansive article, Leonhardt demonstrates when & why the Administration dropped the ball on jobs recovery; as usual, the Senate is implicated, too.

With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages. -- Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in Citizens United v. FEC

... David Savage in the Los Angeles Times: "Kennedy and the high court majority were wrong. Because of loopholes in tax laws and a weak enforcement policy at the Federal Election Commission, corporations and wealthy donors have been able to spend huge sums on campaign ads, confident the public will not know who they are, election law experts say. Corporate donors have been able to hide their contributions despite the opposition of shareholders and customers — the very groups cited by Kennedy." ...

... Really? Michael Luo & Griff Palmer of the New York Times: "Even with a recent surge in fund-raising for Republican candidates, Democratic candidates have outraised their opponents over all by more than 30 percent in the 109 House races The New York Times has identified as in play. And Democratic candidates have significantly outspent their Republican counterparts over the last few months in those contests, $119 million to $79 million." Ah, Here's the Catch: "Republican-leaning third-party groups, however, many of them financed by large, unrestricted donations that are not publicly disclosed, have ... pour[ed] more than $60 million into competitive races since July, about 80 percent more than the Democratic-leaning groups have reported spending."

CW: It's impossible this year to come up with a "Worst Congressional Candidate in the Nation," but Michael Crowley of Time points to one tea party favorite from North Carolina named Ilario Pantano. Pantano is running a tight race against seven-term Blue Dog Mike McIntyre, who has previously won his races by wide margins. Among Pantano's qualities: (1) "a Manhattan-born former Goldman-Sachs trader"; (2) "he's only lived in the district six years"; (3) "in 2005, Pantano, a former U.S. Marine, emptied two M-16 clips -- or up to 60 rounds  --at two unarmed Iraqis in his custody. He was charged with murder and faced the death penalty, but the charges were dismissed. The investigating officer did call the episode 'a disgrace to the armed forces.'" Don't quit here. Crowley has more on Pantano.

So Not Ready for Primetime. Chris Carl of WDEL Radio, Delaware: "The Christine O'Donnell campaign is apologizing to WDEL after it demanded that video of an O'Donnell appearance on "The Rick Jensen Show" be destroyed and threatened a lawsuit if it wasn't.... O'Donnell also told show host Rick Jensen that she would sue the radio station if the video was released.... O'Donnell's campaign manager, Matt Moran, called WDEL and demanded that the video be immediately turned over to the campaign and destroyed. Moran threatened to 'crush WDEL' with a lawsuit if the station didn't comply." Here's the AP story.

California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman endorses her opponent, former California Governor Jerry Brown:

... Elsewhere in California, a Republican Candidate Sends a Stinkbomb. Jeremy Jacobs of the National Journal: "Republican Van Tran, the upstart challenger to Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), is betting on voters sniffing out his opponent's struggles -- literally. Tran is sending out a scratch-and-sniff direct mail piece attacking Sanchez that features a hideous odor emanating from it."

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: "Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller lied to his former employer several times about using others’ computers for political purposes in 2008 before he finally told the truth, according to documents released Tuesday by the Fairbanks North Star Borough in response to a court order in lawsuits brought by two media outlets." The article links to related documents. The Anchorage Daily News story, which is extensive, is here. Sen. Lisa Murkowski's statement pretty well sums up the whole story:

The bottom line is Joe cheated, he lied, tried to cover it up, lied again, then finally got caught and had to admit it, just as he lied to Alaskans when he initially denied any problems with his employment at the Borough, claiming his record was 'exceptional' and 'second to none.'

American Exceptionalism. If you don't vote for me for President Senator, the U.S. will become a poor, communist dictatorship. This could be the warmest, fuzziest ad in the history of scare tactics. Way to go, Marco!

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president. -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

... CW: perhaps, like me, you didn't notice that there's nuance to Sen. Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Party of "No." Michael Crowley of Time finds nuance, but it doesn't make much difference. ...

... Paul Kane of the Washington Post profiles Minority Leader John Boehner. CW: I am linking this only because it is being described throughout the blogosphere as a "must-read." Still, I will not be reading it.

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "An intense military campaign aimed at crippling the Taliban has so far failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks on the insurgency or put meaningful pressure on its leaders to seek peace, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials citing the latest assessments of the war in Afghanistan."

Tuesday
Oct262010

A Perfect Libertarian Moment

Maureen Dowd segues from a brief riff on the misogyny of Kentucky's Republican senatorial nominee Rand Paul to an appreciation of Rolling Stones rock star Keith Richards, whom Dowd describes as "a consummate gentleman."

The Constant Weader stuck with Paul:

Let's talk about that other consummate gentleman -- Rand Paul -- with whom you began. It was one of Rand Paul's county campaign coordinators -- a man named Tim Profitt -- who stomped the head of a woman wearing glasses whom his colleagues had wrestled to the pavement.

One of those colleagues has tentatively been identified as also being associated with Paul's campaign.

Rand Paul himself knew Tim Profitt. The Huffington Post posted a picture of the two men arm-in-arm.

Paul boasted, in a full-page Lexington Herald-Leader ad that Profitt was among a group of people who had endorsed him.

The victim, Lauren Valle, said this to reporters: "The Rand Paul campaign knows me and they have expressed their distaste for my work before. They surrounded me. There were about five of them, they started motioning to each other, and they got behind me." Valle says her partner heard the men say, "We're here to do crowd control and we might have to take someone out."

Now, let's look at what candidate Paul had to say to Fox "News": "… And there was a bit of a crowd control problem." Paul didn’t condemn the violence. He didn't offer an apology to the victim. He didn't acknowledge that the man who stomped Valle’s head was one of his campaign coordinators. But he did volunteer that bit about crowd control.

 As a libertarian, Paul believes people should not just fend for themselves. They should also organize themselves socially to take care of problems. Instead of bringing federal money to Kentucky to help fund clinics to deal with serious drug problems, Paul has said local churches should counsel drug abusers. That’s a philosophy that well might spill over into "crowd control." Instead of depending on paid law enforcement, a campaign could "work together" to deal with "undesirables" – like MoveOn’s Lauren Valle.

I suspect that if some intrepid, fast-moving Kentucky reporters put their minds to it, they could uncover evidence -- before November 2 -- that Rand Paul or his campaign "deputized" Tim Profitt & perhaps others to handle "crowd control." This meant, to some in the Paul campaign, that they would muscle out MoveOn volunteers and other "liberal" demonstrators.

The evidence so far is that Tim Profitt did not act on his own. Sure, after Paul's disastrous interview, the campaign reversed course & disowned Profitt. But I'd guess Profitt is just a sacrificial bigfoot. I suspect Profitt did what he thought he was told to do, and he got carried away doing it. In the heat of the moment, that kind of thing will happen, especially when the deputies are overly-enthusiastic amateurs.

The stomping of Lauren Valle's head was a perfect libertarian moment. It was a perfect tea party moment. It is what you get when you "get the government off your back." You get vigilantism. And that is what the perfect gentleman Rand Paul proposes to promote if he goes to Washington.

Monday
Oct252010

The Commentariat -- October 26

We've got to get the government out of government. -- A U.S. Senator in a "Rocky & Bullwinkle" segment, ca. 1962

Ian Urbina of the New York Times: "Tea Party members have started challenging voter registration applications and have announced plans to question any individual voters at the polls whom they suspect of being ineligible. In response, liberal groups and voting rights advocates are sounding the alarm, claiming that such strategies are scare tactics intended to suppress minority and poor voters." ...

... There Is Something in that Tea They're Drinking. Colorado Republican Senate nominee Ken Buck "disagree[s] strongly with the concept of separation of church and state." He also thinks it horrible that President Obama calls the White House holiday tree a "holiday tree":

Robert Reich on why Democrats move to the center after a loss & Republicans don't. "Democrats think in terms of programs, policies, and particular pieces of legislation.... Republicans think in terms of simple ideas, themes, and movements.... Republicans are also more disciplined (ask yourself which party attracts authoritarian personalities and which attracts anti-authoritarians).... Republicans are cynical about politics.... Democrats are idealistic about politics.... Message to Obama: Whatever happens November 2, don’t move to the center."

Peter Baker of the New York Times follows Bill Clinton on the campaign trail: "Where Mr. Obama was the popular fresh figure in the party vanquishing the Clinton dynasty in 2008, today Mr. Clinton is the most popular politician on the campaign circuit coming to the rescue of an embattled president. Gone is the bitter party elder flummoxed at the success of an inexperienced upstart; back is the happy warrior rousing crowds once again, fighting again a battle he once lost and at the same time polishing his own legacy."

Jay Heflin of The Hill: "Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) Neil Barofsky on Monday released a sobering account on how the program helped save Wall Street but has done little for Main Street." A pdf of Barofsky's report is here. ...

... OR, as Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge puts it, "SIGTARP calls out Tim Geithner on various violations including data manipulation, lack of transparency, 'cruel' cynicism, and gross incompetence." Durden cites a few significant passages of Barofsky's report. You don't need to be a genius to understand what Barofsky means.

Sam Hananel of the AP: "Less than halfway through his first term, President Barack Obama has appointed more openly gay officials than any other president in history. Gay activists say the estimate of more than 150 appointments so far -- from agency heads and commission members to policy officials and senior staffers -- surpasses the previous high of about 140 reached during two full terms under President Bill Clinton."

I Am So Much Better than the Rest of You Schmucks. Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: on Monday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who successfully campaigned to get the City Council to change the term-limits law to allow him to serve three terms, "said he would vote to restore a limit of two terms, down from three, and to ban the City Council from rewriting the rule for sitting elected officials.... The results of the ballot initiative would not affect Mr. Bloomberg, but would affect his successors. During a news conference, the mayor said that the term-limits initiative, which will appear on the back of the paper ballots on Nov. 2, was imperfect and badly designed, but that he would support it anyway."

Miriam Jordan of the Wall Street Journal: "Arizona has attracted more than $3.6 million of donations to help defend its law to crack down on illegal immigration, with one whopping contribution—and thousands of smaller ones—from out of state. Timothy Mellon, an heir to a Pittsburgh steel and banking dynasty, has donated $1.5 million to a legal-defense fund established by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer...."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post seems pretty skeptical about every aspect of Jon Stewart's upcoming "Rally to Restore Sanity," including the host. ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "... a group of younger, web-savvy feds are planning to march on Saturday in defense of their coworkers on the sidelines of Jon Stewart's 'Rally to Restore Sanity.' Organizers of the 'Government Doesn't Suck March' ... were inspired in part by last week's Washington Post poll that revealed widespread negative perceptions of federal workers."

In Iraq, Torture Con'd. AP: "Field reports from the Iraq war published by WikiLeaks show that, despite Obama's public commitment to eschew torture, U.S. forces turned detainees over to Iraqi forces even after signs of abuse. Documents also show that U.S. interrogators continued to question Iraqi detainees, some of whom were still recovering from injuries or whose wounds were still visible after being held by Iraqi security forces. 'We have not turned a blind eye,' U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday, noting that one of the reasons why U.S. troops were still in Iraq was to carry out human rights training with Iraqi security forces." ...

... Larry King talks to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange:

Harry Reid intends to steal this election if he can't win it outright. -- Cleta Mitchell, attorney for Sharron Angle

... Las Vegas Sun: "A national advocacy organization for immigrants is launching a Spanish-language media blitz in Nevada today in an attempt to use a recent stream of anti-illegal immigration ads from Sharron Angle’s campaign as a reason for Hispanics to vote.... The sixty-second spots – 154 of them – will air on Spanish-language radio from now until Election Day...." ...

... Sharron Angle's latest fearmongering, racist ad:

Shailagh Murray of the Washington Post: "Gritty and stoic, [Majority Leader Harry] Reid embodies Nevada's paradoxical relationship with the federal government, a can't-live-with-him, can't-live without-him dilemma that has turned his quest for a fifth Senate term into the fight of his long career. Win or lose, most of Reid's elections have been decided by whisker-thin margins and his battle against tea party star Sharron Angle figures to be another. But the dynamics of this one are different. Never before has Nevada been so tired of Reid - and yet so dependent on him."

Ben Stein, who is an obnoxious, first-class jerk, writes a commentary in the Atlanta Dispatch saying Republican Senatorial nominee Joe Miller is a bigger one. Stein, a Yale Law grad (or so he says), doesn't believe Miller is really a fellow alum. Stein supports M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I.

Jon Stewart's news team covers "NPR Staffing Decision 2010":

Larry King interviews Lillian McEwen, a former girlfriend of Clarence Thomas:

Tom Cohen of CNN: "Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was a binge drinker who had a pornography habit or fetish in the 1980s, then changed radically when he stopped drinking alcohol, his former girlfriend told CNN on Monday."

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post writes about the attempts of the Army Stryker unit to defend one of the alleged murders-for-sport of Afghans. "The attempts ... are detailed in previously undisclosed audio recordings made by a photojournalist embedded with the unit.... For a full, unedited audio of the Stryker Brigade's trip, click on the links: http://cdn.washingtonpost.com/media/podcast/audio/fullstrykeraudio1.mp3; and http://cdn.washingtonpost.com/media/podcast/audio/fullstrykeraudio2.mp3; and http://cdn.washingtonpost.com/media/podcast/audio/fullstrykeraudio3.mp3. The recordings also raise questions about why Army commanders did not take those suspicions seriously and failed to notice broader signs of trouble in the platoon until a member of the unit, under investigation for hashish use, tipped off military police."

From the Creepy News Department: Damien Cave of the New York Times: "Floridians frequently become famous either for heinous crimes or odd achievements.... Rarely, however, do the two intersect,... Jennifer Mee ... was the 'hiccup girl' of 2007 — the teenager from Tampa whose nonstop hiccups, up to 50 times a minute for six weeks, caught the attention of the nation. Now she is back in the spotlight, facing murder charges. The police in St. Petersburg say Ms. Mee, 19, lured Shannon Griffin, 22, to a home there on Saturday, where two male accomplices ... tried to rob him. When Mr. Griffin resisted, he was shot four times and killed, the police said."