The Ledes

Wednesday, December 24, 2014.

Washington Post: "The Obama administration is accelerating its efforts to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention center, preparing to move dozens of inmates out of the prison in coming months in a step forward for President Obama’s redoubled attempt to achieve a core national security objective before he leaves office."

New York Times: "Three digital distributors joined an expanding effort to save 'The Interview,' as Sony Pictures Entertainment disclosed the first deals to show the film online after a terror threat limited access to theaters. Among the partners named on Wednesday morning were Google Play, YouTube Movies and Microsoft’s Xbox Video. Sony also said it would show the film on a website of its own."

Weather Channel: "A pair of storms and a few other weather systems may make a mess of your Christmas travel plans,,,. In all, more than 5,600 flights were delayed and more than 500 cancelled nationwide Tuesday, according to FlightAware.com. Thirteen different U.S. airports each had more than 100 delayed or canceled flights."

New York Times: "The elder President George Bush was taken to a Houston hospital Tuesday night after experiencing shortness of breath, a family spokesman said. Mr. Bush, 90, would be held at least overnight at Houston Methodist Hospital as a precaution, said the spokesman, Jim McGrath. He is expected to be fine, Mr. McGrath said."

Reuters: "Alan Gross, the contractor freed last week after five years in a Cuban jail, will receive $3.2m from the US government as part of a settlement with his employer, the USAid agency announced on Tuesday. Gross was employed by Maryland-based company DAI as part of a USAid-financed project in Cuba. DAI had sought $7m for Gross, said a USAid spokesman."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "A Berkeley[, Missouri,] police officer fatally shot a suspect who pointed a gun at him late Tuesday, St. Louis County police said early today. Police did not identify the person killed but Toni Martin, who was at the scene, said he was her 18-year-old son, Antonio Martin. Several protesters also arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting. Many stayed overnight.... The officer saw two people outside the station, got out of his vehicle and approached them. One of the suspects pulled out a handgun and fired at the officer. 'Fearing for his life, the Berkeley Officer fired several shots, striking the subject, fatally wounding him'" the release from the county police said. 'The second subject fled the scene.'" Berkeley is about two miles from Ferguson, Mo. ...

     ... CW: Let's see if the police story holds up. There are surveillance cameras which may have captured the confrontation.

New York Times: "A federal administrative judge has upheld the dismissal of the director of the Veterans Affairs health care system in Phoenix for accepting more than $13,000 in airline tickets and other gifts from a consultant for the health care industry, for failing to disclose some of the gifts and for placing a high-ranking doctor on administrative leave for providing Senator John McCain with information about patient suicides.  The former director, Sharon Helman, had also been implicated in the falsification of the hospital’s waiting lists for care, a problem at Phoenix and other veterans’ hospitals that roiled the Department of Veterans Affairs this year and led to the resignation of the department’s secretary, Eric K. Shinseki. But the administrative judge, Stephen C. Mish, concluded that the department had not provided sufficient evidence to justify firing Ms. Helman for the manipulation of waiting lists, which concealed delays in providing care to veterans.”

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, December 23, 2014.

AFP: "Ukraine took a historic step toward NATO on Tuesday in a parliamentary vote that stoked Russia's anger ahead of talks on ending the ex-Soviet state's separatist war. Lawmakers in the government-controlled chamber overwhelmingly adopted a bill dropping Ukraine's non-aligned status -- a classification given to states such as Switzerland that refuse to join military alliances and thus play no part in wars."

Public Service Announcement

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
December 24

11:15 Am ET: White House holiday decorations interactive display

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

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

ABC News: "After more than 20 years together, music icon Elton John and his partner David Furnish are married!... A law passed earlier this year in England allow[s] same-sex marriage...."

A former resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, calls into outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick's last regular monthly radio call-in show:

Sixteen times Stephen Colbert broke character on his show. With videos. ...

... Winger John Hinderaker of Powerline has never seen Colbert's show, but he's pretty sure it was an hour-long ad for the Democratic party. "I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?" CW: Evidently, Hinderaker has not heard of Fox "News."

Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

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Saturday
Dec012012

The Commentariat -- Dec. 2, 2012

Cliff Notes

Mark Smith of the AP: "President Barack Obama is ready to entertain Republican proposals for spending cuts, but GOP lawmakers must first commit to higher tax rates on the rich and specify what additional spending cuts they want in a deal to avoid the looming 'fiscal cliff,' Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said. 'The ball really is with them now,' Geithner, one of the president's chief negotiators with Capitol Hill, said during appearances on five Sunday talk shows."

Jia Lin Yang & Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "U.S. multinationals have spent years pushing for a change to the tax code that would eliminate taxes on business profits overseas.... Now ... lobbyists and some on Capitol Hill are latching onto the 'fiscal cliff' as a potential springboard for their cause." Support comes from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform co-chaired by Erskine Bowles & Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), President Obama's jobs council, Mitt Romney's economic platform, the Business Roundtable & the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Some tax experts warn, however, that such a change could radically alter how companies behave and have broad implications for the economy. Without the right safeguards, they say, eliminating taxes on foreign profits and switching to what is known as a 'territorial' system would blow a hole in tax revenue, give multinationals more leeway to exploit tax havens and drive jobs overseas." CW: No kidding. Hey, what could be more American than more tax breaks for the ultra-rich corporations/people?

"What Does Jack Think?" Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times profiles Jack Lew, President Obama's chief of staff & a former budget director under both the Obama & Clinton administrations.


Louise Story
of the New York Times: "A Times investigation has examined and tallied thousands of local incentives granted nationwide and has found that states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. The beneficiaries come from virtually every corner of the corporate world, encompassing oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment companies, banks and big-box retail chains. The cost of the awards is certainly far higher.... For local governments, incentives have become the cost of doing business with almost every business."

Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "Just as the housing market is recovering, a growing group of homeowners -- widows over the age of 50 whose husbands alone were holders of the mortgage -- are losing their homes to foreclosure because of a paperwork flaw that keeps them from obtaining loan modifications. In the latest chapter of the foreclosure crisis, homeowners over 50 are falling into foreclosure at the fastest pace of any age group, according to nationwide data, in part because women are outliving their spouses and are unable to cope with cuts in their pensions, ballooning medical costs -- and the fine print on their mortgages." CW: Nice going, Banksters. Nothing like hitting elderly widows when she's down. No one can say you jackasses are not living up to your stereotype. ...

... Kevin Roose of New York: banksters dread the coming of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, fearing she is more than "one of a hundred."

Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News: "... the story McCain and Graham are trying to sell is getting harder and harder to swallow."

For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, "It might have been."Mitt Is Bored, Ann Is Disconsolate. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Four weeks after losing a presidential election he was convinced he would win, Romney's rapid retreat into seclusion has been marked by repressed emotions, second guessing and, perhaps for the first time in the overachiever's adult life, sustained boredom, according to interviews with more than a dozen of Romney's closest friends and advisers.... By all accounts, the past month has been most difficult on Romney's wife, Ann, who friends said believed up until the end that ascending to the White House was their destiny. They said she has been crying in private...."

Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: David "Petraeus was neither a conquering hero nor an empty suit. To view his military record through the lens of his personal failure merely serves to replace one myth with another."

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "The Pentagon will send hundreds of additional spies overseas as part of an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network that rivals the CIA in size, U.S. officials said. The project is aimed at transforming the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has been dominated for the past decade by the demands of two wars, into a spy service focused on emerging threats and more closely aligned with the CIA and elite military commando units."

David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's "recent tone and actions reminded critics of the autocratic ways of his predecessor, and have aroused a new debate here about his commitment to democracy and pluralism at a time when he and his Islamist allies dominate political life."

Right Wing World

Tom Tomorrow in AlterNet.

Andre Tartar of New York: Defeated Tea Party Rep. Allen West (Florida) compares himself to -- Abe Lincoln.

News Ledes

The Hill: "President Obama and former President Bill Clinton hit the golf course on Sunday."

AP: "The trial of an Army private charged with sending U.S. secrets to the website WikiLeaks is being pushed back from February to March. Military judge Col. Denise Lind announced the change Sunday at a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade for Pfc. Bradley Manning."

AP: "The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has returned home to a hero's welcome after winning a resounding endorsement for Palestinian independence at the United Nations. Some 5,000 people thronged a square Sunday outside Abbas' government headquarters in the West Bank. Many hoisted Palestinian flags and balloons in the colors of the flag." ...

... Reuters: "Israel said on Sunday it was withholding this month's transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, after the United Nations' de facto recognition of a Palestinian state."

Reuters: "Protests by Islamists allied to President Mohamed Mursi forced Egypt's highest court to adjourn its work indefinitely on Sunday, intensifying a conflict between some of the country's top judges and the head of state. The Supreme Constitutional Court said it would not convene until its judges could operate without 'psychological and material pressure', saying protesters had stopped the judges from reaching the building."

Reuters: "Suicide attackers detonated bombs and fired rockets outside a major U.S. base in Afghanistan on Sunday, killing five people in a brazen operation that highlighted the country's security challenges ahead of the 2014 NATO combat troop pullout."

Reuters: "A strike by clerical workers at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach idled most of the busiest U.S. cargo shipping complex for a fifth day on Saturday as container-laden vessels waited to be unloaded and marathon contract talks stretched into the night. Some 10,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 were refusing to cross picket lines of some 500 striking clerical workers, effectively shutting down 10 of the two ports' combined 14 container terminals."

Reuters: "Kansas City Chiefs starting linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend to death, then drove to the team training facility and killed himself in front of the coach and general manager in a burst of violence on Saturday that stunned the NFL and its fans." CW: (1) give a guy a job where he gets his head bashed several times a day; (2) give him a gun; (3) act all surprised when he kills his girlfriend over a trivial argument, then takes his own life.

Friday
Nov302012

The Commentariat -- Dec. 1, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. Still harping on the middle-class tax cuts. And here's that My2K page where you can tell Congress what $2,000 means to you. The ABC News story, by Mary Bruce, is here.

Zachary Goldfarb & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: Obama & Boehner trade barbs.

Steven Dennis of Roll Call: "Ever since Republicans walked away three times from bipartisan debt talks in 2011, the White House has eschewed sweet-talking the GOP and dismissed suggestions from the likes of presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin that Obama embark on assorted charm offensives involving cocktails and late-night White House get-togethers with lawmakers.... Instead, carrying a big stick is in at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and the fiscal cliff is the biggest stick Obama will ever have -- a $600 billion bucket of pain largely aimed at GOP priorities, such as tax cuts and defense spending."

David Firestone of the New York Times: "Republicans reportedly laughed when they saw the Obama administration's initial offer in the fiscal negotiations yesterday. The idea that President Obama might actually want to enact his campaign promises -- tax hikes on the rich, modest Medicare cuts, investments in infrastructure -- is apparently considered a joke to the party that has shown virtually no flexibility in the last four years.... But once the laughter dies down, they will have to come to the table with a responsible offer of their own, rather than simply declaring a stalemate, as Speaker John Boehner did today.... If they continue to refuse to do so, the public won't find it very funny."

Mike Lillis of The Hill: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday announced Democrats would circulate a discharge petition to force a House vote to extend current tax rates only on annual household income below $250,000.... Democrats would need the support of more than 20 Republicans to secure the 218 signatures needed to force the bill to the floor."

** Our Stenographic Press. Michael Grunwald of Time: "It's really amazing to see political reporters dutifully passing along Republican complaints that President Obama's opening offer in the fiscal cliff talks is just a recycled version of his old plan, when those same reporters spent the last year dutifully passing along Republican complaints that Obama had no plan. It's even more amazing to see them pass along Republican outrage that Obama isn't cutting Medicare enough, in the same matter-of-fact tone they used during the campaign to pass along Republican outrage that Obama was cutting Medicare.... As long as the media let an entire political party invent a new reality every day, it will keep on doing it. Every day."

Deirdre Walsh & Ashley Killough of CNN: "House Speaker John Boehner named Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan as the chairman of the House Administration Committee on Friday, three days after the Republican conference took heat for electing only males as committee heads." Miller ran for chair of the Homeland Security Committee but lost out to a white guy. CW: as far as I can tell the main job of the House Administration Committee is to make sure the bosses have all they need in way of coffee and pencils & stuff. Miller actually said she was "humbled & honored" by the appointment. I wish a Republican woman would write to me & argue that Boehner didn't intentionally humiliate women with this appointment.

Post-Election Analysis of the Absurd. Paul Waldman of American Prospect: Tea Party types like brand-new Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) are arguing that Romney never made the case for conservatism. "In fact, that was the best thing about this election: for all the trivia, it presented a fundamental ideological debate, with both candidates talking about first principles throughout. Conservatives aren't happy that they lost that argument. But even though it's not particularly good politics to condemn the voters for not seeing the light, it's a lot more honest than saying they never got the chance to hear what conservatism had to offer." ...

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "For months, conservatives yelled from the rooftops about how 2012 presented the sharpest choice ever in governing philosophies.... But as soon as they lost, Republicans suddenly decided that it hadn't been a big-picture election after all. It was about bribing Hispanics. It was about voter turnout machinery. It was about Hurricane Sandy. It was about Mitt Romney being a bad candidate.... Conservatism can never fail. It can only be failed." ...

... CW: Yesterday I decided not to link this piece by Noam Scheiber of TNR, who got hold of some of Romney's internal polling because the piece was pretty much in the weeds & only substantiated what others had reported earlier: that Romney's own pollster thought Romney had several routes to winning the election because they put him ahead in several states he lost. But Paul Krugman puts this bit in the larger context of the "epistemic closure" of the conservative mind. Krugman writes, "My immediate question is not so much why those polls were wrong, but rather why the campaign didn't have severe doubts about what its pollsters were telling them.... All this in turn ties in, I think, with a phenomenon I notice a lot on the right (you can see it often in the comments on this blog): the persistent portrayal of people who disagree with them as marginal figures with trivial support." ...

... CW: the other thing I think you have to credit -- and for some reason scarcely anybody is saying this -- is that Mitt Romney, who ran as a Super-Numbers-Man who could fix any problem with his laser-sharp focus on arithmetic realities, was never anything of the sort. Mitt's successes in life should be attributed to a silver spoon & ruthless indifference, not to super-competence. If Mitt wasn't "severely conservative," why did he only read The Severely Conservative News? This is just more evidence that Romney -- as we've all said -- would have made a horrible president. Not only is he ideologically a throwback to the 19th century, he is incapable of seeing any data or listening to any ideas that don't conveniently fit into his worldview. This is the mindset of disaster-in-the-making. The country's good fortune was that the Romney disaster ended with the campaign. ...

... Nate Silver on the polls: "... when campaigns release internal polls to the public, their goal is usually not to provide the most accurate information. Instead, they are most likely trying to create a favorable news narrative -- and they may fiddle with these assumptions until they get the desired result.... The seeming inaccuracy of Mr. Romney's internal polls ought to present a warning to future campaigns.... Campaigns may also be fooling themselves."

... CW: AND some liberals like Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post are feeling kinda sorry for Romney of the White House Lunch Date. So I'll re-caption that photo: "President Romney welcomes Kenyan Ambassador to Oval Office." Tomorrow I will write on the blackboard 100 times "I will not be such a sore winner." ...

... Gail Collins has some reflections on the Obama-Romney lunch, too. ...

... For earlier presidential history, we turn to historian Paul Finkelman, who writes in a New York Times op-ed: Thomas Jefferson "was a creepy, brutal hypocrite.... His proslavery views were shaped not only by money and status but also by his deeply racist views, which he tried to justify through pseudoscience."

CW: I am going to get sick of stories like this one by Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post on the rising star Kelly Ayotte (RTP-N.H.), an "influential new voice" & Sarah Palin's pick for perfect "mama grizzly." Ayotte, who is auditioning for Joe Lieberman's post as Third Stooge by joining Top Stooges McCain & Graham in lambasting Susan Rice, had the gall to speak at Sen. Warren Rudman's memorial service about Rudman's bipartisanship which she hoped would inspire the Senate to come together now.

Oh, noes! Pat Robertson Denies Creationism. Thanks to Akhilleus for the heads-up:

Local News

Laura McGaughy of the (New Orleans) Times Picayune: "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's school voucher overhaul was dealt a blow Friday when a Baton Rouge area judge declared the diversion of public money by the voucher program to private schools unconstitutional." ...

... Or, as Charles Pierce put it: "... Over the past year, Jindal has managed to marry educational 'reform' grifting to Christian theocracy by allowing charter schools in his state to employ to teach from Jesus-on-a-dinosaur creationist textbooks. Well, today, a local judge pretty much blew up the whole system on him." Read the whole post in which Pierce comments on Jindal as presidential timber.

News Ledes

USA Today: "The U.S. Military Academy's Cadet Chapel at West Point hosted its first same-sex marriage Saturday. Penelope Gnesin and Brenda Sue Fulton, a West Point graduate, exchanged vows in the regal church in a ceremony conducted by a senior Army chaplain."

New York Times: "Enrique Peña Nieto became president of Mexico early Saturday, beginning a six-year term in which he has promised to accelerate economic growth, reduce the violence related to the drug war and forge closer, broader ties with the United States."

New York Times: "Israel is moving forward with development of Jewish settlements in a contentious area east of Jerusalem, defying the United States by advancing a project that has long been condemned by Washington as effectively dooming any prospect of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." ...

... AP: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met senior Israeli and Palestinian officials Friday, with each side locked in a pattern of actions that the United States had expressly warned against: the Palestinians winning U.N. recognition of their claim to a state on Thursday and the Israelis retaliating Friday by approving 3,000 new homes on Israeli-occupied territory."

Reuters: "International garment firms have demanded fast action to ensure the safety of Bangladeshi textile workers, a week after a plant fire killed more than 100 people.... Mohammad Shafiul Islam, President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said a 19-member buyers' forum was blunt in suggesting it would 'lose confidence' in the country's industry unless change came fast. Rights groups have called on big-brand firms to sign up for a fire safety program."

AP: "A freight train derailed Friday on a [New Jersey] railroad bridge that has had problems before, toppling tanker cars partially into a creek and causing a leak of hazardous gas that was blamed for sickening dozens of people, authorities said." ...

... The South Jersey Times has the finger-pointing story, plus one on the impact of the chemicals released in the wreck.

ABC News: "PFC Bradley Manning choked back tears during a second day of testimony at a hearing before his military trial as he claimed he didn't tell his family about the conditions of his confinement at the Marine brig at Quantico, Va., because he did not want them to worry. He also expressed concern that doing so could lead to an end to visiting privileges for his family."

Thursday
Nov292012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 30, 2012

"So is that office you're renting from Tagg as nice as this one?" CLICK PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE. Is that David Plouffe there in the private dining room? And what's that in his hand? A blackjack? And what about those boxing gloves on the sideboard? -- a reminder for the history books -- and for the Loser guest -- of who knocked out whom? CLICK TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner presented the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a detailed proposal on Thursday to avert the year-end fiscal crisis with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, $50 billion in immediate stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and a permanent end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits. The proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, met strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced the goal of finding $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other social programs to be worked out next year, with no guarantees." ...

... Lori Montgomery & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "President Obama demanded Thursday that Congress relinquish control over federal debt levels and approve at least $50 billion in fresh spending to boost the economy next year as part of a deal to avert the year-end fiscal cliff, senior Republican aides said." ...

... David Dayen of Firedoglake: "In the context of doing a deficit reduction deal at all, this is an extremely strong bid that Tim Geithner delivered to John Boehner today. Now we know why Boehner whined and cried* all afternoon." Dayen does a nice job of summarizing the key elements of the offer. ...

     * Daniel Newhauser of Roll Call: "Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Republican leaders are fuming after a late night phone call with President Barack Obama was leaked to the press, despite an agreement that it would not be, according to several GOP aides.... White House aides, however, denied that the leak came from the administration." ...

... Jake Sherman & Manu Raju of Politico: "After meeting with Geithner, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid said Democrats are still waiting for a 'serious offer' from the Republicans, urging them to move past 'happy talk' and deliver specifics on how the government would boost revenues and make spending cuts." ...

... Ezra Klein: Republicans want Medicare cuts, but since any Medicare 'reform' -- particularly the voucher system Republicans want -- will be unpopular, they "insist that the Obama administration needs to be the one to propose Medicare cuts.... Democrats find this flatly ridiculous: Given that the Obama administration would happily raise taxes without cutting Medicare.... It falls on the Republicans to name their price. But behind their negotiating posture is a troubling policy reality: They don’t know what that price is." ...

... Klein again: "Obama is ... very serious about not negotiating with himself, and his opening bid proves it. Now that [House Republicans] have leaked his initial offer, the next question is obvious: What's their offer?"

... Paul Krugman: "The same people who bet big on Mr. Romney, and lost, are now trying to win by stealth -- in the name of fiscal responsibility -- the ground they failed to gain in an open election.... Consider, as a prime example, the push to raise the retirement age, the age of eligibility for Medicare, or both.... Any proposal to avoid a rate increase is, whatever its proponents may say, a proposal that we let the 1 percent off the hook and shift the burden, one way or another, to the middle class or the poor.... So keep your eyes open as the fiscal game of chicken continues." ...

... Gene Sperling & Jason Furman on the White House blog: "Some [liars & boneheads] have suggested that limits on high-income tax expenditures could substitute for rate increases and that it would be possible to raise $1 trillion or more while keeping the top income tax rate at 35 percent. But a careful look at the math of these types of caps and limits shows that ... plausible limits raise only a fraction of the $1 trillion or more some have suggested." ...

... Here's another "explainer" -- Josh Kalven of the Huffington Post. This series of graphics is simple & comprehensive enough for the kids to understand. Thanks to Julie L. for the link:

Binyamin Appelbaum & Robert Gebeloff of the New York Times: "... most Americans in 2010 paid far less in total taxes -- federal, state and local — than they would have paid 30 years ago.... Households earning more than $200,000 benefited from the largest percentage declines in total taxation as a share of income. Middle-income households benefited, too.... Lower-income households, however, saved little or nothing." There are interactive graphics here. CW: the authors discuss the "feelings" people have that they're paying more in taxes than the used to. But likely they "feel" this way because most earn significant less in gross income (in adjusted dollars) than they would have earned 30 years ago. Holding wages down is a great way to get people to grouse about taxes. Seriously, it is all a GOP plot. ...

... Annemarie Fertoli of WNYC: "Workers at dozens of fast food restaurants in New York City walked off the job to rally for higher wages and the right to unionize. The nation-wide campaign for unionizing fast food workers is being called the biggest such effort in the United States and will involve workers from McDonalds, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Domino's and other fast food restaurants in New York." with audio. ...

... Here's some background, written before the strike by Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times. ...

... Penelope Green of the New York Times: "Multigenerational living, a throwback to the past, is a growing trend in the struggling economy, and major homebuilders are designing flexible layouts.... In fact, architectural historians, statisticians and builders themselves are pointing out that the new household -- and the house that can hold it -- is much like the old household, the one that was cast aside after World War II by the building boom that focused on small, tidy dwellings for mom, dad and their two children."

"A Liberal Moment." Tim Egan: "... here it is: a chance to shore up a battered middle class, make the promise of health care expansion work and do something about a planet in peril. Huge tasks, of course, and fraught with risk. For now, the majority of Americans have Obama's back. But should he fail, the same majority could become something much worse -- a confederacy of cynics."

Elizabeth Drew in the New York Review of Books: "The long lines [of voters] were the symbol of the 2012 election -- at once awe-inspiring and enraging.... Small-minded men, placing their partisan interests over those of the citizenry, concocted schemes to subvert the natural workings of our most solemn and exhilarating exercise as a self-governing nation." Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the heads-up.

Dave Weigel of Slate: "Shortly after 5 p.m. [Thursday], John Boehner's office released a statement pre-condemning a change to the filibuster. The key threat: 'Any bill that reaches a Republican-led House based on Senate Democrats' heavy-handed power play would be dead on arrival.'" CW: aw shucks, Boner, not even a Post Office-naming? P.S. MYOB. ...

... Weigel on why the filibuster changes might actually happen: "Democratic aides describe a small number of connected changes, which could be voted through on Jan. 3, the day the new Senate convenes. Only 51 votes are needed to set Senate rules at the start of the year. After that, it would take 67 votes." Democrats will have 53 seats, and two independents who've announced they'll caucus with them. ...

... BUT. Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may be short on votes he needs to force changes to the Senate's filibuster rules, as nine Democratic senators sit on the fence about the proposed reforms. In addition, Sen.-elect Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) did not commit during the campaign to reforming the filibuster rules, which brings the total number of undecided Democrats who will vote on the issue next year to 10." The other nine potential Democratic balkers (more or less in order of balkiness) are Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), John Kerry (Mass.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) & Bill Nelson (Fla.). CW: If any of these are your Senators, call 'em or write 'em.

** Remembrances of Yellow Cake. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham … continued to pledge to block [Susan Rice's] nomination should she be appointed Secretary of State, with Senator McCain accusing Rice of deliberately 'misleading the American people.' Graham [said] her appearances on Sunday shows were 'disconnected from reality.' The episode, however, has clear echoes of McCain's and Graham's own moments of relaying bad intelligence on Sunday shows based on an inaccurate conclusion from the intelligence community. In the 2003 lead-up to the Iraq War, McCain and Graham made appearances on Sunday talks shows such as Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, and Face the Nation where they made the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and would not hesitate to use them." ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times catches on to Republicans' sudden love for Sen. John Kerry: "The Kerry boomlet adds another level of intrigue to the uproar surrounding [Susan] Rice and has real implications for the balance of power on Capitol Hill. If Mr. Kerry were nominated and confirmed, it could open the door to a return via special election of Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who was defeated this month by Elizabeth Warren. A Brown victory -- which is far from certain -- could cut the Democratic margin by one and restore to office a man who was popular with his Republican colleagues."

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker on Bradley Manning's confinement "inside this cage."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker on British PM David Cameron -- "the latest embodiment of a time-honored tradition in which British governments of the day seek to curry favor with Fleet Street's press barons."

News Ledes

Reuters: "President Barack Obama, reapplying his re-election campaign theme of protecting the middle class, heads to Pennsylvania on Friday suggesting that Republicans could spoil Christmas by driving the country over the 'fiscal cliff.' The president's road trip, visiting a factory that makes Tinkertoys, is infuriating Republicans, with House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner calling it a 'victory lap' Thursday as he rejected Obama's proposals to avoid the cliff...."

New York Times: "Racing against the threat of dissolution by judges appointed by ousted President Hosni Mubarak, and ignoring howls of protest from secular opponents, the Islamists drafting Egypt's new constitution voted Friday to approve a charter that human rights groups and international experts said was full of holes and ambiguities." Al Jazeera story, with video, is here. ...

... Reuters: "Thousands of Egyptians protested against President Mohamed Mursi on Friday after an Islamist-led assembly raced through approval of a new constitution in a bid to end a crisis over the Islamist leader's newly expanded powers. 'The people want to bring down the regime,' they chanted in Tahrir Square, echoing the chants that rang out in the same place less than two years ago and brought down Hosni Mubarak."

Washington Post: "Mexico's attorney general has compiled a list showing that more than 25,000 adults and children have gone missing in Mexico in the past six years, according to unpublished government documents. The data sets, submitted by state prosecutors and vetted by the federal government but never released to the public, chronicle the disappearance of tens of thousands of people in the chaos and violence that have enveloped Mexico during its fight against drug mafias and crime gangs."

Al Jazeera: "Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has criticised the forcible crackdown on protesters at a mine in the country's northwest that has left dozens injured, including Buddhist monks."

Reuters: "The ... U.S. Supreme Court [is] widely expected to decide in a private meeting on Friday to enter the legal fray raging over same-sex marriage. An announcement to take a case could come as early as Friday afternoon or Monday morning."

Washington Post: "Syria's civil war went off­line Thursday as millions of people tracking the conflict over YouTube, Facebook and other high-tech services found themselves struggling against an unnerving national shutdown of the Internet."

New York Times: "Lawmakers in Germany's lower house of Parliament easily passed the next round of financial support for Greece on Friday, despite growing doubt among members of Chancellor Angela Merkel';s coalition and opposition parties that the measures will be sufficient to resolve the Greek problem."

New York Times: "The head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, predicted on Friday that the euro zone economy would begin to recover in the latter part of next year, his confidence contrasting sharply with an official report showing that unemployment in the 17-nation bloc continues to set new records."

Guardian: "A Chinese court has jailed the nephew of the activist Chen Guangcheng for assaulting officials who forced their way into his home after his uncle fled house arrest. Human rights campaigners and lawyers immediately condemned his conviction, which followed a snap trial on Friday, with one supporter describing the case as a 'judicial farce'."

AP: "... lawyers for [former IMF chief Dominique] Strauss-Kahn and the housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, made the as-yet-unsigned [settlement] agreement within recent days, with Bronx Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon facilitating that and a separate agreement to end another lawsuit Diallo filed against the New York Post. A court date is expected next week, though the day wasn't set...."

Wednesday
Nov282012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 29, 2012

I had a request to tackle Friedman or MoDo yesterday, but their columns were so stupid that I decided to hit one that was more important -- a front-page piece by Jackie Calmes who treats Erskine Bowles & Alan Simpson as a couple of good-hearted, fun-loving old pranksters. ...

... Charles Pierce goes at Simpson & Bowles directly & mentions the Calmes piece only in passing. As ever, Pierce gets it right: "Everything that's wrong with how we are currently discussing the country's economic situation can be summed up in two words — Simpson-Bowles."

It was deeply irresponsible in the summer of 2011, and it would be deeply irresponsible if we were to see that kind of approach taken again.... The president absolutely expects congress to do its job. One of the jobs that Congress has it to make sure that the United States government pays its bill. As the greatest economy and greatest country on earth, we pay our bills.... The harm done was done mostly to the American middle class – we had our economy downgraded, we had consumer confidence plunge, all because of this brinksmanship that is entirely inappropriate. We hope we won't see that again. – Jay Carney, at today's press briefing, in response to Speaker John Boehner's remark that any agreement from Republicans to raise the debt limit would come with “a price tag attached”

** Romney, Middle-Class President! CW: I keep forgetting to run this. Stuart Stevens, Romney's chief campaign strategist, wrote an op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post boasting about the great job he did: "On Nov. 6, Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters. While John McCain lost white voters younger than 30 by 10 points, Romney won those voters by seven points, a 17-point shift. Obama received 4½million fewer voters in 2012 than 2008, and Romney got more votes than McCain." That's right, folks. If it weren't for you 47 percenter-moochers, the world would be right (in both senses of the word) & Mitt Romney would not just be visiting the White House today; he & Lady Ann would be measuring the drapes. ...

... Oh for effs sake. I just read the Stu Stevens piece and my BRAIN IS BURNING WITH FIRE. -- Rick Wilson, GOP strategist ...

... Kevin Robillard & Katie Glueck of Politico: "Stuart Stevens re-emergence this week after Mitt Romney’s trouncing on Nov. 6 has served to rekindle the longstanding gripes about the Republican strategist from many in the GOP who feared from the get-go that he was the wrong person for the job of electing a new president."

In anticipation of President Obama's Lunch Date with a Loser today, Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico writes about past presidents' interactions with their rivals for the job. ...

     ... Update. David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney met with President Obama at the White House on Thursday for what aides had previously described as a private, one-on-one lunch in the president’s private dining room." CW: President Obama had his usual lunch of salad and yoghurt. The White House chef prepared a main course of crow for the Loser, with a huge slice of humble pie for dessert. The President personally wrapped the leftovers to be enjoyed by the Loser's large family of Little Losers.

... Loser Dad Forced to Move in with Son. Steve Peoples of the AP: "Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is moving into office space at his son’s Boston-area venture capital firm."

President Obama made remarks Wednesday before a full Cabinet meeting:

Finally, somebody speaks actual truth to power. Matt Yglesias of Salon: "The grand bargain is impossible because it’s not possible for today’s Congress to bind the hands of future congresses." Now everybody STFU.

CW: BTW, pundits will be spending the next month predicting who will do what in the tax talks. I predict I will mostly ignore all but the most significant or most ridiculous stuff.

2011 Is So Over. Steve Kornacki: "Barack Obama made a giant mistake with the debt ceiling two years ago -- but he's clearly learned from it." This time he won't allow the GOP to decouple the debt ceiling deal from the rest of the tax package.  CW: what's weird is that it was obvious way before the summer of 2011 that Republicans would block everything Obama wanted to do because -- Republicans had blocked everything Obama wanted to do. Why did it take the debt ceiling crisis to convince him? ...

... A $19 Billion Tea Party Extravaganza -- on Your Tab. Bonnie Kavoussi of the Huff Post: "Last summer's seemingly interminable debt-ceiling battle is going to cost taxpayers billions, according to a new report. All told, the political fiasco will cost taxpayers $18.9 billion over 10 years, the Bipartisan Policy Center has found. That's largely the result of the government having to borrow at higher interest rates during the standoff, a time when investors feared the possibility of a default." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

The President has said many times that the American people are demanding action. They want to see progress, not partisan delay games. That hasn't changed, and the President supports Majority Leader Reid's efforts to reform the filibuster process. Over the past few years important pieces of legislation like the DREAM Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and the American Jobs Act weren't even allowed to be debated, and judicial nominations and key members of the administration are routinely forced to wait months for an up-or-down vote. The American people deserve a United States Senate that puts them first, instead of partisan delay. -- Dan Pfeiffer, White House Communications Director ...

... Gail Collins muses on Republican outrage at Harry Reid's planned tweaks to the filibuster.

Jared Bernstein on Medicare cuts: "... now’s the time to watch and evaluate, not to reduce access to what is a highly efficient, effective form of health coverage for the nation’s seniors." He explains why. ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic concurs: "The advocates for deep entitlement reductions don’t seem to realize that the people on Medicare and Medicaid need the protection those programs provide — and that, without those programs, they’d suffer. Given the very significant chance we can reduce health care spending without reducing benefits, we have an obligation to try. It’s the compassionate thing to do. And the smart thing, too."

Charles Pierce finds something about Susan Rice actually worth some inquiry -- she owns between $300K & $600K of TransCanada & other Canadian oil company stock invested in the Keystone XL pipeline project. As Secretary of State, Rice would determine whether or not to approve the pipeline permit. As Pierce writes, "as something to consider in advance of her nomination, this certainly seems more worthy of inquiry than whatever bats are flying out of McCain's ears these days." ...

... NEW. Scott Shane writes a very good piece in the New York Times on the nonsense over the talking points intelligence agencies gave Susan Rice, a political brouhaha that may also take in CIA Acting Director Michael Morrell, who approved an erroneous phrase in the talking points.

Too Big to Remember. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone reads a deposition of former Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan: "... the just-released Moynihan deposition in MBIA v. Bank of America, Countrywide, and a Buttload of Other Shameless Mortgage Fraudsters will go down as one of the great Nixonian-stonewalling efforts ever, and one of the more entertaining reads of the year.... The entire time, the Bank of America CEO presents himself as a Being There-esque cipher who was placed in charge of a Too-Big-To-Fail global banking giant by some kind of historical accident beyond his control, and appears to know little to nothing at all about the business he is running."

the just-released Moynihan deposition in MBIA v. Bank of America, Countrywide, and a Buttload of Other Shameless Mortgage Fraudsters will go down as one of the great Nixonian-stonewalling efforts ever, and one of the more entertaining reads of the year.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/no-evidence-he-was-stoned-but-bank-of-america-ceo-brian-moynihan-apparently-doesn-t-remember-much-of-the-last-four-years-20121127#ixzz2DcH8ycPI
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Right Wing World

The really nice thing about Right Wing World is that you don't have to wonder what the guy on the other end of the phone looks like. You pretty much know. Because, yes indeed, in Right Wing World, everybody looks alike. Here's Rachel Maddow's Clip 'n Save:

James Hohmann of Politico: speaking of diversity & reaching out to Latinos, blacks & women, Virginia Republicans are settling on State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as their nominee for governor, the winger who "spearheaded a lawsuit against Obamacare," has been nutso on immigration, is rabid on environmental regulation and is, as Charles Pierce writes, "a lifelong transvaginalist." ...

... Oh, Carry Me Back to Old Virginny. CW: Cuccinelli should be popular with black voters, too. When he realized the Virginia state seal depicted the goddess Virtus with a bare breast (oh, no!), Cuccinelli drew up his very own personal seal based on the center of the Confederate flag. Okay. Virginian Julian Walker asked in The Richmonder, "Does the current Republican Party of Virginia do anything without first asking 'What would Jefferson Davis do?'"