The Ledes

Monday, July 28, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials, a finding that was conveyed by President Obama to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in a letter on Monday."

New York Times: "The United States and Europe put aside their differences and agreed on Monday to sharply escalate economic sanctions against Russia in a set of coordinated actions driven by the conclusion that Moscow has taken a more direct role in the war in Ukraine. After months in which European leaders were hesitant to go as far as the Americans, the two sides settled on a package of measures that would target Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors. In some cases, the Europeans may actually leapfrog beyond what the United States has done, forcing Washington to try to catch up."

Guardian: "Dutch and Australian police have failed to reach the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 for a second day as clashes rage in a town on the road to the area." ...

... Washington Post: "The Ukrainian military on Monday captured a strategically important swath of territory close to the debris field of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a spokesman said, dealing a blow to pro-Russian rebels but raising new questions about whether an investigation at the site will ever yield conclusive evidence about the attack on the airliner."

NEW. Washington Post: "Israel will press its air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, preparing his country for a longer and bloodier campaign and dashing hopes that the three-week-old conflict would end soon." ...

... Washington Post: "International efforts to end the devastating three-week-old Gaza war intensified Monday with the U.N. Security Council calling for an 'immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' in the conflict that has already claimed the lives of more than 1,035 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers. The ravaged coastal enclave was relatively quiet Monday as Palestinians started celebrating the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday that caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Israel mostly held its fire overnight, shelling only a site in the northern Gaza Strip in response to rockets fired from there." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Explosions rocked a major hospital and a neighborhood of Gaza City on Monday, leaving at least 10 people dead, witnesses reported." ...

... New York Times: "On Sunday, however, [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry was having difficulty accomplishing even ... a succession of temporary cease-fires..., despite a phone call in which President Obama, in a sign of mounting impatience, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to embrace an 'immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' while the two sides pursued a more lasting agreement. ...

... A White House readout of the conversation between Obama & Netanyahu is here.

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 28

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

3:05 pm ET: President Obama awards the 2013 National Medal of Arts & the National Medal of Humanities Medal

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

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

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.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

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Friday
Jul062012

The Commentariat -- July 7, 2012

I think I wrote my favorite David Brooks column Friday. It is titled "Every David Brooks Column Is about Mayberry." The NYTX front page is here. ...

In today's Comments, contributor P. D. Pepe excerpts the Brooks-Dionne exchange on last night's "PBS NewsHour." Here's the whole thing. CW: not sure I can stand to watch:

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

New York Times Editors: "Mr. Obama's big mistake was to turn prematurely from the need for stimulus to a focus on cutting the budget. He may have hoped to co-opt the Republican emphasis on deficits. He would have done better to slam them on their cynicism in lamenting the deficit after enabling the tax cuts, wars and financial crisis -- all Bush-era creations -- that have deepened the debt. What he is not responsible for is the continued Republican obstructionism, even in the face of a weakening economy." ...

... Floyd Norris of the New York Times: "The disappointing jobs report for June will increase pressure on the Federal Reserve to do more. It will add to hopes (among Republicans) or fears (among Democrats) that a slowing economy could damage President Obama's re-election prospects. May I suggest an alternative explanation? The recovery has been chugging along slowly for a couple of years, and while it may have slowed a little in the last few months, that change has been minor." ...

... BESIDES. Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "Most voters do not follow this sort of news, at all.... In other words, the basic partisan divisions in a highly polarized electorate are unlikely to change much between now and November."

Dahlia Lithwick has some thoughts on why liberals aren't beating up on the Democratic appointees to the Supreme Court who ruled against Obama administration policies in the way conservatives are whacking Chief Justice Roberts. See also Adam Liptak's report.

Josh Hicks, standing in as the Washington Post fact-checker: "On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew called [individual mandate] a 'charge' that would apply only to a small fraction of the population, and that 'more middle-class people are going to get a tax cut.' ... We found nothing to dispute Lew's statements. The health law, if it works as the nonpartisan government analysts expect, will provide more tax relief than tax burden for middle-income Americans. The White House chief of staff earns a rare Geppetto Checkmark for his remarks...."

Joe Nocera of the New York Times: "Britain and America have reacted to the Libor scandal in completely different ways. Britain is in an utter frenzy over it, with wall-to-wall coverage, and the most respectable, pro-business publications expressing outrage. Yes, Barclays is a British bank, and the first word in Libor is 'London.' But still: The Economist ran a headline about the scandal that read, in its entirety, 'Banksters.' Yet, on these shores, the reaction has been mainly a shrug."

Where Are They Now? This serious-looking young man grew up to be mayor of a major American city. In case you can't guess who he is, answer in yesterday's Commentariat. Thanks to reader Bonnie for the link to this high-school yearbook photo.

 

 

Presidential Race

Charles Babington of the Associated Press: "History repeats itself, until it doesn't. That musty truism is worth remembering as pundits speculate on whether the lumbering economy will doom the re-election hopes of President Barack Obama, who has shown a knack for beating odds and breaking barriers."

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "On the heels of another anemic employment report, President Obama found himself acknowledging again that the economy was not generating enough jobs, that the recovery was not taking hold fast enough, and that too many Americans lacked basic financial security."

He's keepin' on keepin' on:

Jobs! Steve Benen: "Obama's agenda would create jobs right away, would be fully paid for, and would reduce the deficit over time. Romney's agenda wouldn't create jobs right away, isn't fully paid for, and would apparently increase the eficit over time. Or as Jeffrey Liebman recently put it, 'What would Gov. Romney do to create jobs now? In a word, nothing.'" ...

... Jamelle Bouie of The American Prospect: "Mitt Romney is back to accusing President Obama of having no plan for economic growth.... The only jobs plan on the table right now is the one proposed by the Obama administration. Republicans should be pressured to pass it, and Romney should be challenged on his assertion that the White House has nothing to offer." ...

... Andrew Rosenthal: Republicans are the reason the unemployment rate remains high. CW: they know that; it has been their plan all along.

Paul Krugman: "Bain's activities are part of the really big story about America these past three decades, which isn't about jobs moving overseas, but about the rewriting of the social contract, with income shifted away from ordinary workers and toward the Masters of the Universe."

"That Other Curious Romney Account." Brian Beutler of TPM: "... a Vanity Fair article about Mitt Romney's tangled web of investments has thrust his foreign holdings and complicated tax strategies back into the center of the 2012 campaign. But questions have persisted ... about an individual retirement account held by the Romneys valued at upwards of $100 million -- a stunning amount for a savings vehicle designed to provide middle class retirees comfortable, but non-lavish retirement. His IRA raises two key questions, both of which his campaign has consistently declined to answer: How, despite a $6000 legal limit on annual contributions to an IRA, did Romney's IRA grow to over $100 million? And did he avoid any U.S. taxes on its enormous returns?" The answer, Beutler learns, is -- yeah, probably so. ...

... Paul Krugman: "... the existence of this huge account, which may well be legal but clearly flies in the face of the spirit of the law, poses questions that voters should have answered."

Romney -- Not as Bad as He Says He Is. Kevin Drum: when focus groups were told "Romney supported the Ryan budget plan -- and thus championed 'ending Medicare as we know it' -- while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing." CW: I don't know how you beat that.

CookieGate -- The Sequel! Reid Epstein of Politico: "As President Obama's motorcade rolled across the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, his campaign informed reporters that in Pittsburgh they would be treated to cookies from Bethel Bakery in Bethel Park, Pa., a locally-famous establishment whose 15 minutes of campaign fame followed an unfortunate description of them by Obama's GOP rival, Mitt Romney. 'I'm not sure about these cookies,' Romney said in April upon being presented the sugary delights. 'They don't look like you made them. No, no. They came from the local 7-Eleven, bakery, or whatever.'" ...

Right Wing World *

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Michigan) thought he might be elected president this year. Instead, he is today a "sovereign citizen," whatever that might be (King Thad?); it is not a U.S. Congressman, because he quit that job yesterday. He was not going to be re-elected to Congress anyway because, as Aaron Blake of the Washington Post reports, "McCotter failed to qualify for the primary ballot after most of his petition signatures were recently found to be fraudulent. State officials are investigating the matter.... The Detroit News reported that he had written a TV pilot with a rather odd premise -- McCotter himself hosting a crude variety show that joked about flatulence and female anatomy, among other things." (America's Le Petomane?) ...

... The Detroit News story, by Marisa Schultz, is here, and it is truly sensational. ...

... Laura Gonaway of the "Rachel Maddow Show" invites you to diagram this sentence from McCotter's resignation announcement:

Thus, acutely aware one cannot rebuild their hearth of home amongst the ruins of their U.S. House office, for the sake of my loved ones I must 'strike another match, go start anew' by embracing the promotion back from public servant to sovereign citizen.

      ... Gonaway publishes some of the efforts of first responders.

Oliver Burkemann in the Guardian: "Perhaps you've heard [CW: I hadn't] the news that failed Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has launched his own online television channel, or "website", at CainTV.com? ... Sadly, however, Cain TV is so authentically bizarre that it's hard to make ... snide jokes [about it]." With absurd, bizarre video!

* Where all presidential candidates must be 35 years or older, natural-born U.S. citizens and insane.

Answer to July 8 PhotoQuiz: Hillary Clinton.

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "The state Senate authorized initial funding for California's high-speed rail project, handing a victory to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama administration, which have been pushing hard for the first-in-the-nation bullet train."

AP: "Libyans started voting on Saturday in the first parliamentary election since last year's ouster and slaying of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, with jubilation at this major step toward democracy after decades of erratic one-man rule tempered by boycott calls and violence in the country's restive east." ...

... Reuters Update: "Crowds of joyful Libyans, some with tears in their eyes, parted with the legacy of Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship on Saturday as they voted in the first free national election in 60 years. But in the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of last year's uprising but where many now want more autonomy from the interim government in Tripoli, protesters stormed a handful of polling stations and publicly burned hundreds of ballot papers."

Thursday
Jul052012

The Commentariat -- July 6, 2012

** Prof. William Forbath in a New York Times op-ed: "... today's court challenges the White House, the Democrats and the liberal legal community to reassert a constitutional vision of a national government empowered 'to promote the general Welfare' and -- in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's terse formula -- 'to regulate the national economy in the interest of those who labor to sustain it.'"

This Comes as No Surprise. Brian Beutler of TPM: "... many of the states with high-profile conservative governors vowing to stand athwart the ACA's progress, by refusing to expand their Medicaid programs and erecting hurdles to establishing insurance marketplaces, would stand to gain the most from successful implementation of the law." CW: let's be clear here: these governors are white Republican men who don't want to help poor people, particularly poor people of color. ...

... Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "... this is an ideological and even a moral issue to conservatives, who view dependence on any form of public assistance as eroding the 'moral fiber' of the poor (as Paul Ryan likes to put it), and as corrupting the country through empowerment of big government as a redistributor of wealth from virtuous taxpayers to parasites who will perpetually vote themselves more of other people's money." These governors' real goal is to end Medicaid altogether.

Two card-carrying conservatives -- Mickey Kaus (here) & Scott Galupo (here) argue that universal healthcare "is a social prerequisite for more freedom and market-driven flexibility." That's refreshing!

Tim Egan: "In March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in a special report of 'unprecedented extreme weather and climate events' to come. The events are here, though the skeptics now running the Republican Party deny the obvious, in large part because they are paid to deny the obvious. But for those who are already familiar with the new face of nature, no amount of posturing can wish away the fire this time."

Presidential Race

President Obama finally boasted about the Affordable Care Act in a campaign stop yesterday:

Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian: "Barack Obama has used a tour of the swing state of Ohio to renew his claim that his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, led the outsourcing of American jobs to India and China. The assertion is controversial and has been largely discredited by independent fact-checking groups. But Obama showed no sign of backing away from the claims on Thursday, telling an audience in Maumee, Ohio that Romney's executive experience was in 'companies that were pioneers of outsourcing'." ...

     ... CW: this is a good example of the press, not the politician, misleading the reader. I checked the transcript, and here's exactly what Obama said: "Governor Romney's experience has been in owning companies that were called 'pioneers' of outsourcing. That's not my phrase -- 'pioneers' of outsourcing." Obama is 100 percent truthful here: this is a phrase from a Washington Post investigative report, and Obama is careful to characterize the wording as someone else's -- in this case, a reputable newspaper's (and one that is definitely not in the tank for Obama). Here's the New York Times story, which covers the remark, covers Romney's response, but doesn't accuse the President of misleading.

Rich Miller & John Detrixhe of Bloomberg News: "Mitt Romney has suggested that President Barack Obama has done a worse job managing the economy than Jimmy Carter. Investors disagree. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index of stock prices has surged 70 percent under Obama, more than three times the 19 percent increase seen during President Carter's first 3-1/2 years in office starting in 1977. The corporate and government bond markets also have outperformed, with yields falling rather than rising. And the dollar has fared better...."

New York Times Editors: Mitt is full of shit. (Okay, not exactly their words, but their sentiment.) "Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote that the mandate is legal under the Congressional taxing power, which Republicans took a step further, saying the mandate must now be a tax. And not just a tax, but a huge, oppressive tax, one of the largest in history. It is, of course, no such thing. How many 'oppressive taxes' are entirely optional? Anyone who does the smart thing and gets health insurance won't have to pay it. It is, as Mr. Romney himself described it in 2006, a fee to promote 'personal responsibility' and prevent healthy people from freeloading." ...

... Michael Shear & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "As the Massachusetts governor and then as a presidential candidate, Mr. Romney spent the next six years describing in a variety of different ways the possible punishments for ignoring the Massachusetts mandate: as 'free-rider surcharges,' 'tax penalties,' 'tax incentives' and sometimes just as 'penalties.' But regardless of the terms he used, his intentions were clear: Massachusetts residents who chose not to buy health insurance would see their state income taxes go up. Now ... Mr. Romney is asking voters to condemn his rival for a health insurance mandate that is nearly identical to the one he championed in Massachusetts." His newest claim asks "voters to ignore his own record.... Mr. Romney is ... criticizing the president's approach with the same language that he once happily applied to his own achievement."

Paul Krugman: "Did I mention that Herbert Hoover actually was a great businessman in the classic mold? ... If Bain got involved with your company, one way or another, the odds were pretty good that even if your job survived you ended up with lower pay and diminished benefits. In short, what was good for Bain Capital definitely wasn't good for America...."

Jonathan Chait of New York: "Conservatives say they want Romney to change his staff or alter his campaign tactics. But what they really want is a different candidate and a different electorate. They want to believe that the American people are hungering for detailed endorsements of Republican plans to cut entitlement spending and taxes for the rich and launch a philosophical assault on the welfare state. But that's not what the public wants and Romney knows it." Read the whole post. ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: Emperor Rupert has never cared for Prince Willard. And the emperor's disdain for shows up in the product of his media empire.

CW: So here Ann Romney says that the Obama campaign sent out a memo early on that said, "Kill Romney." Anything is possible in politics, but I don't believe a presidential campaign would put that sentence to paper. When photographers took pictures of the Romneys jet-skiing, commentators called it a "John Kerry windsurfing moment." But it wasn't. The Obama campaign is not going to run ads that appear to disparage Ann Romney. I am beginning to think that the Romney campaign is using Ann Romney as a very effective foil: she lies & provides cover for her husband:

     ... P.S. Surely there are wingers out there already spreading the story that Obama plans to assassinate Romney.

AND. Let's Debate Obama's Race! One of the first cinematic black presidents says, "America's first black president hasn't arisen yet. [Obama]'s not America's first black president -- he's America's first mixed-race president."

Local News

This post by Gregg Easterbrook of the Atlantic is several days old, but if you live in Maryland or parts of Washington, D.C. and are a Pepco customer you'll want to read it, so you can get pissed off about the multi-day power outage all over again. Besides, maybe you're just now getting back on line so no news is old news.

Answer to July 7 PhotoQuiz: Michael Bloomberg, President of the Slide Rule Club; he was also in the debating club, technical club, science club & the homeroom dues agent.

News Ledes

Orlando Sun Sentinel: "Murder defendant George Zimmerman calmly walked out of the Seminole County Jail today with the help of donations to his legal defense fund. Zimmerman posted the $1 million bond thanks in part to the $20,000 in donations raised since Thursday when Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. set the bond amount."

** AP: "U.S. employers added only 80,000 jobs in June, a third straight month of weak hiring that shows the economy is struggling three years after the recession ended. The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.2 percent."

Guardian: "Central banks around the world signalled their determination to stimulate the flagging global economy on Thursday yesterday, with the injection of £50bn of electronic money into the UK and interest rate cuts in the eurozone and China. The Bank of England warned that recovery was at risk without a boost to its programme of quantitative easing after a flurry of economic surveys showed the double-dip recession could stretch into the autumn."

Huffington Post: yesterday California called for an amendment to the U.S. constitution overturning Citizens United vs. FEC, "which ruled that government restriction of corporation or union spending on political campaigns violated the First Amendment right to free speech. California joins Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland and New Mexico in calling for ... overturn[ing] the Supreme Court ruling."

New York Times: "Opponents of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria met [in Paris] on Friday with their international sponsors to intensify pressure for his removal, buoyed by word that Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, a commander in the elite Republican Guard, and a member of the Damascus aristocracy, had defected and fled the country."

AP: "Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was convicted and sentenced to 50 years Thursday for a systematic plan to steal babies from prisoners who were kidnapped, tortured and killed during the military junta's war on leftist dissenters three decades ago. Argentina's last dictator, Reynaldo Bignone, also was convicted and got 15 years."

New York Times: "French investigators' final report on the 2009 crash of an Air France jet that killed 228 people portrays a cockpit rapidly consumed by confusion and unable to decode a welter of alarms to determine which flight readings could be trusted, with the pilots' apparent reliance on a faulty display cementing the plane into its fatal stall."

AFP: "Equador's foreign minister has said that rape and sexual assault cases lodged in Sweden against Julian Assange are laughable, but no ruling has yet been made on the WikiLeaks founder's asylum application."

Wednesday
Jul042012

The Commentariat -- July 5, 2012

I have a long piece in today's New York Times eXaminer titled "When the Supreme Court Leaks." The NYTX front page is here.

Quote of the Day. I tried to maintain order among the various taxpayers who would come to the forest and gradually learned an essential lesson about life -- that human beings no more become more civil when you put them in the woods than bears become domesticated if you put them in your parlor. (Henry David Thoreau, that fathead, was so very wrong about this.) -- Charles Pierce, on his youthful work as a public parks employee (Read the whole essay.) ...

... AND for those who think privatization of public services is a great idea, here's a story on point from Ihosvani Rodriguez of the Orlando Sun Sentinel about an incident in nearby Hallandale Beach: "As lifeguards are paid and trained to do, Tomas Lopez rushed down the beach to rescue a drowning man -- and then got fired for it. The problem: Lopez stepped out of the beach zone his company is paid to patrol, a supervisor said Tuesday." A spokesperson said the company was concerned it would be sued. "Hallandale Beach began outsourcing its lifeguards in 2003 as a money-saving measure." CW: imagine if Lopez were in a union: (a) he'd be making more than $8.75/hour to save lives, & (b) the company couldn't get away with firing him for saving a life. ...

     ... Update: Ihosvani Rodriguez & Megan O'Matz of the Orlando Sun Sentinel: "The Hallandale Beach lifeguard who was fired earlier this week for leaving his zone to help rescue a nearby swimmer will get an offer to go back to work, his top boss said Thursday. The offer will also be extended to two other lifeguards who were fired in connection to the incident. Several other lifeguards who have since resigned from their jobs in protest will also be welcomed back." Lopez said he would not accept the offer to return.

NEW: one of our contributors reminded me of the LIBOR scandal. Here's Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post explaining why it's such a big deal.

E. J. Dionne: "... it is dangerous to turn the Founders into quasi-religious prophets who produced a text more like the Bible or the Talmud." CW: I wonder if E.J. knows that this is literally what Mormons have done -- or so I've heard. They believe the Constitution is "sacred text." Read Dionne's column & tell me what you think. It strikes me -- tho Dionne doesn't hint at this -- that the "originalism" conservative jurists pretend is a valid and essential way to read the Constitution is nothing more than a handy pretext to promote their own agendas. Just pretend you're channeling Madison or Hamilton & rule "accordingly," then blame the founders. Nino Scalia keeps attesting he can't even understand his colleagues -- he often says or writes "it boggles the mind that anyone would think such-and-such." Yet he pretends he knows the thought processes of men of diverse views who have been dead for 200 years & can apply them to situations with which the Founders were never confronted.

Michael Grunwald of Time: the next times there's a powerful "Derecho," millions might not lose power for days on end -- and that's thanks to the much-derided stimulus bill.

Ever wonder why Mitt Romney was chosen to run the winter Olympics? Wonder no more. Jules Boycoff & Alan Tomlinson, in a New York Times op-ed: Though the International Olympics Committee "has been periodically tarnished by scandal -- usually involving the bribing and illegitimate wooing of delegates -- those embarrassments divert us from a deeper problem: the organization is elitist, domineering and crassly commercial at its core.... The I.O.C., which champions itself as a democratic 'catalyst for collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family,' is nonetheless run by a privileged sliver of the global 1 percent.... Competitions drenched in privilege, like the equestrian events, should be ditched (with apologies to Ann Romney's horse Rafalca, who will be competing in dressage in London)."

Gail Collins answers reader questions (well, maybe hypothetical reader questions) about the November election.

Ben Jacobs of Salon follows Elizabeth Warren on the campaign trail. Entertaining.

Rep. Joe Walsh (RTP-Illinois) still thinks it's a pretty good idea to castigate his Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth, a veteran who lost her legs when the helicopter she was piloting in Iraq was shot down, for talking about her military service. For a little background on what a great guy Formerly Deadbeat Joe is, Kaili Joy Gray of Daily Kos will fill you in.

Presidential Race

Gerry Mulaney of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney said on Wednesday that the individual mandate in President Obama's health care law was 'a tax,' just days after his campaign said the candidate had rejected that characterization." In case you have forgotten your 5th-grade science class where you learned what a weasel looked like, here's a refresher:

     ... Update: here's the fullblown New York Times story, by Jeremy Peters. ...

     ... Steve Kornacki of Salon has a good follow-up on the flip-flip, tracking Rupert Murdoch's frustration with the amateurish campaign. Also, here's how Kornacki characterizes Mitt's parsing: "Romney tried to invent a loophole, claiming that state-level mandates don't require Supreme Court approval, and therefore don't need 'to be called taxes in order for them to be constitutional.'" ...

     ... Michael Scherer of Time has an excellent piece on what he calls "Romney's Latest, Greatest Twist on the Individual Mandate." ...

Ann & Mitt Romney, jet-skiing on Lake Winnipesaukee Monday.

Luckily, the Romneys don't have to settle for just that cheesy little jet-ski two-seater.     ... AND the professional conservanuts at Rupert's Wall Street Journal pile on: "... for the sake of not abandoning his faulty health-care legacy in Massachusetts, Mr. Romney is jeopardizing his chance at becoming President. Perhaps Mr. Romney is slowly figuring this out, because in a July 4 interview he stated himself that the penalty now is a 'tax' after all. But he offered no elaboration, and so the campaign looks confused in addition to being politically dumb. This latest mistake is of a piece with the campaign's insular staff and strategy that are slowly squandering an historic opportunity.... The Romney campaign thinks it can play it safe and coast to the White House by saying the economy stinks and it's Mr. Obama's fault.... Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is assailing Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch rich man, and the rich man obliged by vacationing this week at his lake-side home with a jet-ski cameo."

Romney's Mystery Money. Associated Press: "For nearly 15 years..., Mitt Romney's financial portfolio has included an offshore company that remained invisible to voters.... Based in Bermuda, Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd. was not listed on any of Romney's state or federal financial reports. The company is among several Romney holdings that have not been fully disclosed, including one that recently posted a $1.9 million earning -- suggesting he could be wealthier than the nearly $250 million estimated by his campaign. The omissions were permitted by state and federal authorities overseeing Romney's ethics filings, and he has never been cited for failing to disclose information.... Sankaty was transferred to a trust owned by Romney's wife, Ann, one day before he was sworn in as Massachusetts governor in 2003...."

Paul Krugman: "Romney wasn't so much a captain of industry as a captain of deindustrialization, making big profits for his firm (and himself) by helping to dismantle the implicit social contract that used to make America a middle-class society. So now he proposes bringing the skills and techniques he used in business to the White House."

Right Wing World *

Benjy Sarlin of TPM: Jonathan Krohn, the teen conservative idol turned liberal heretic, is on the receiving end of a world of abuse from right wing pundits this week.... The Daily Caller led the charge. Gregg Re started things off with a profanity-filled screed from a spurned conservative who attended Krohn's big CPAC speech in 2009 and apparently demanded anonymity to tell Re the 17-year-old was a 'douche.'"

* Where adults bullying teenagers is A-okay, especially if the grown-up remembers to call the kid an obscene name or two.

News Ledes

Orlando Sun Sentinel: "A judge Thursday ordered George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, released on $1 million bail but called the defendant a manipulator and said it appeared he had been preparing to flee the country. It was not clear how long it would take the 28-year-old Zimmerman to arrange his release."

NBC News: "A 96-year-old former Arizona governor and former U.S. diplomat says he holds no grudges against the U.S. Border Patrol agents who he says detained him at a checkpoint for more than a half-hour in stifling heat after his pacemaker apparently set off a radiation sensor. Raul H. Castro says although he wasn't mistreated, agents could have been more sensitive to his age and condition."

Bloomberg News: "Fewer Americans than forecast filed first-time claims for unemployment insurance payments last week, easing concern that the labor market was deteriorating."

Bloomberg News: "Global central banks went on the offensive against the faltering world economy, cutting interest rates and increasing bond buying as a round of international stimulus gathers pace. In a 45-minute span, the European Central Bank and People's Bank of China cut their benchmark borrowing costs, while the Bank of England raised the size of its asset-purchase program."

Toledo Blade: "Demonstrating a tough line on trade with China, the Obama Administration will file an unfair trade complaint today against China's new duties on some American-made cars and sport utility vehicles, including the Toledo-made Jeep Wrangler.... President Obama is expected to refer to the WTO trade action in his speech today in suburban Toledo as he begins his two-day "Betting On America Bus Tour" through northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania." Via Time.

AP: "WikiLeaks said Thursday it was in the process of publishing material from 2.4 million Syrian emails -- many of which it said came from official government accounts. WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison told journalists at London's Frontline Club that the emails reveal interactions between the Syrian government and Western companies, although she declined to go into much further detail."

Guardian: "In an apparent response to reports that the US has increased its military presence in the Gulf, the commander of [Iran's] Revolutionary Guards' air force said on Wednesday that missiles had been aimed at 35 US military bases in the Gulf as well as targets in Israel, ready to be launched in case of an attack."

New York Times: "The nuclear accident at Fukushima was a man-made disaster rooted in government-industry collusion and the worst conformist conventions of Japanese culture, a high-level parliamentary inquiry concluded on Thursday, in a report that also warned that the plant may not have stood up to earthquake damage -- a worrying concern as the quake-prone country starts to bring its reactor fleet back online." ...

... AP: "Nuclear power returned to Japan's energy mix for the first time in two months Thursday, hours before a parliamentary investigative commission blamed the government's cozy relations with the industry for the meltdowns that prompted the mass shutdown of the nation's reactors.... Thursday's resumption of operations at a reactor in Ohi, in western Japan, already had been hotly contested."

Reuters: "Mexico's election officials on Wednesday recounted votes from more than half the polling booths in Sunday's presidential and congressional elections, responding to claims of fraud and requests for recounts in areas where the race was tight. Officials with the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) said the recount would not significantly change preliminary results of the presidential vote...."

New York Times: "A potentially explosive re-examination of the circumstances behind the death of , the symbol of the Palestinian national struggle, has galvanized Palestinian suspicions that he was poisoned and led the Palestinian Authority to agree in principle on Wednesday to an exhumation of his remains, possibly within days."

AP: "... tens of thousands of Americans may ... lose their Internet service Monday unless they do a quick check of their computers for malware that could have taken over their machines more than a year ago.

New York Times: "After decades of controversy, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new H.I.V. test on Tuesday that for the first time makes it possible for Americans to learn in the privacy of their homes whether they are infected."

Tuesday
Jul032012

Independence Day

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "... how is our foundational assertion of equality faring on this July Fourth? As to social parity, it has seldom looked more robust. As to economic equality and the political equality with which it is inextricably intertwined, the picture is bleak." ...

... In celebration of Independence Day, the New York Times features an op-ed by pop philosopher Kurt Andersen whose thesis today is -- "What has happened politically, economically, culturally and socially since the sea change of the late '60s isn’t contradictory or incongruous. It&'s all of a piece. For hippies and bohemians as for businesspeople and investors, extreme individualism has been triumphant. Selfishness won." I would give this the "I Thought of It When I Was Drunk{ prize, tho Andersen claims he came up with it during a panel discussion. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people will figure this is some totally awesome commentary, man. ...

... Erik Loomis in AlterNet: "We are recreating the Gilded Age, the period ... when corporations ruled this nation, buying politicians, using violence against unions, and engaging in open corruption. During the Gilded Age, many Americans lived in stark poverty, in crowded tenement housing, without safe workplaces, and lacked any safety net to help lift them out of hard times.... Republicans [are] more committed than ever to repealing every economic gain the working-class has achieved in the last century and the Democrats seemingly unable to resist...." Loomis lists eight ways corporations, politicians and courts are trying to recreate the Gilded Age. ...

... Exhibit 1. Debtors' Prisons Come to Our Dickensian Wonderland. Ethan Bronner of the New York Times: communities are using fines as a primary source of revenue, & assigning for-profit, private probation companies to collect the fines. When poor people can't afford to pay, they go to jail even though it is unconstitutional to imprison people for inability to pay fines. "Richard Garrett [of Childersburg, Alabama] has spent a total of 24 months in jail and owes $10,000, all for traffic and license violations that began a decade ago."

Exhibit 2: N. C. Aizenman & Sandhya Somashekhar of the Washington Post: "A growing number of Republican state leaders are revolting against the major Medicaid expansion called for under President Obama's health-care overhaul, threatening to undermine one of the law's most fundamental goals: insuring millions of poor Americans. The Supreme Court opened the door Thursday when it announced that although the rest of the law is constitutional, the federal government cannot punish states that refuse to adopt the measure’s more generous eligibility rules for Medicaid." CW: Yo, Marvin Schwalb -- gotcha beat in our "Worst Governors" contest today. ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "That didn't take long. Republican lawmakers from across the country are saying no to the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid -- even though it means turning down a sweetheart deal from the federal government that would create jobs in their states and, more important, provide millions of low-income Americans with health insurance.... They really think this is a bad idea to be opposed at all costs -- which says something about their fanatical devotion to anti-government philosophy, their cold indifference to their most vulnerable constituents, or some combination of the two." ...

... David Dayen of Firedoglake: "I don't know why ... anyone would believe that logic will rule the day, and red state governors will go against their entire ideological worldview and spend taxpayer dollars -- however small -- to cover poor people, in many states largely people of color."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: neither party wants to talk about healthcare reform. ...

... New York Times Editors: "It's past time for the White House and the Obama campaign to ... begin" aggressively defending the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to Victoria D. for the link. CW: Reality Chex readers & I have been saying this for some time. I'm glad we've got a chorus at the New York Times. Maybe Obama will listen now. That appalling, deceitful hit job by David Brooks yesterday should be inspiration enough. (See my NYTX column on Brooks to get a glimmer of just how deceitful it was.) ...

... ** Jonathan Chait of New York: people like David Brooks really need to quit pretending Republicans will spend a nickel insuring the poor & the sick.

David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times: "Even as they promised to hand authority to elected leaders, Egypt's ruling generals were planning with one of the nation’s top judges to preserve their political power and block the rise of the Islamists, the judge said."

Tales from the Court

Paul Campos, in Salon, on the ACA decision: "My source insists that 'most of the material in the first three quarters of the joint dissent was drafted in Chief Justice Roberts' chambers in April and May.' Only the last portion of what eventually became the joint dissent was drafted without any participation by the chief justice. This source insists that the claim that the joint dissent was drafted from scratch in June is flatly untrue." ...

... Mark Tushet of Balkinization: "The evidence that the initial conference vote was 5-4 to strike down the ACA is pretty strong. Not only is there the internal stylistic evidence, but there were rumors before the decision to that effect. Within a couple of weeks of the arguments, I heard a rumor, sourced to a law clerk, that the Court had voted to strike the ACA down.... Several weeks later I heard that ... the Medicaid expansion was going to invalidated. And, on June 2, Ranesh Ponuru stated that he had heard from inside the Court that the initial vote was 5-4, but that the Chief Justice had gotten 'squishy.' ...

... Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy has the text of what Ponuru said on June 2:

... there's an initial vote the same week, on the Friday of the oral arguments. And my understanding is that there was a 5-4 vote to strike down the mandate and maybe some related provisions but not the entire act. Since then, interestingly, there seem to have been some second thoughts. Not on the part of Justice Kennedy, but on the part of Chief Justice Roberts, who seems to be going a little bit wobbly. So right now, I would say, [the outcome of the case] is a little bit up in the air….

... John Fund of the National Review: "The week before the Supreme Court announced its decision, the White House was clearly hinting to many in the media and on Capitol Hill that they expected a 5-4 opinion that would hinge on the taxing-power issue.... I've learned from my own sources that after voting to invalidate the mandate, the chief did express some skepticism aboutjoining the four conservatives in throwing out the whole law. At the justices' conference, there was discussion about accepting the Obama administration's argument, which was that, if the individual mandate was removed, the provisions governing community rating and guaranteed issue of insurance would have to go too but that the rest of the law might stand. The chief justice was equivocal, though, in his views on that point."

Local News

David Firestone of the New York Times: "Gov. Rick Snyder [R] of Michigan surprised his fellow party members in the legislature today by vetoing three bills. One would have required an identification card to get an absentee ballot. Another would have limited third-party registration drives by requiring groups like the League of Women Voters to get mandatory training by the state. (The league should probably be training the state.) The third would require voters to check a box on their ballot affirming that they are citizens."

News Ledes

President Obama spoke at a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members:

Hallelujah, There Is a God (Particle)! New York Times: "Physicists working at CERN's Large Hadron Collider said Wednesday that they had discovered a new subatomic particle that looks for all the world like the Higgs boson, a potential key to understanding why elementary particles have mass and indeed to the existence of diversity and life in the universe.... The discovery could lead to a new understanding of how the universe began."

Washington Post: "Pakistan agreed Tuesday to reopen its border crossings to U.S. and NATO military transit after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton apologized for a deadly U.S. airstrike last year."

Guardian: "Talks have begun in Istanbul between Iranian scientists and their counterparts from six major powers in an attempt to resolve an impasse over Iran's nuclear aspirations, as both Tehran and Washington raised the military stakes in a perilous standoff in the Gulf."

New York Times: "An Afghan soldier opened fire on NATO soldiers, wounding five of them before fleeing, in the latest in a spate of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on their coalition allies, Western and Afghan officials said Wednesday."

AP: "A JetBlue Airways pilot who left the cockpit during a flight and screamed about religion and terrorists has been found not guilty by reason of insanity, though a federal judge ordered he be sent to a mental health facility for further examination. The judge issued the ruling during a bench trial Tuesday in Amarillo for Clayton F. Osbon, noting he suffered from a 'severe mental disease or defect.' Osbon's attorney, Dean Roper, declined to comment."

Vive Le Socialisme! Reuters: "France's new Socialist government announced a raft of tax rises worth 7.2 billions euros on Wednesday, including heavy one-off levies on wealthy households and big corporations, to plug a revenue shortfall this year from feeble economic growth."

AP: "Hundreds of thousands from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic were preparing to spend the Fourth of July like America's founders did in 1776, without the conveniences of electricity and air conditioning."

Al Jazeera: "Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, sees no reason why Yasser Arafat's body should not be exhumed following an Al Jazeera report that he may have died of poisoning, his spokesman said on Wednesday.... A nine-month investigation by Al Jazeera found that Arafat's final belongings -- his clothes, his toothbrush, even his iconic kaffiyeh -- contained elevated levels of polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element."