The Ledes

Thursday, July 31, 2014.

New York Times: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Thursday that he would not agree to any cease-fire proposal that does not allow the Israeli military to complete its mission of destroying Hamas’s tunnel network in Gaza."

USA Today: "Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in a prisoner swap with the Taliban two months ago, will meet next week with the senior Army officer investigating the circumstances of his capture in Afghanistan, his lawyer said Wednesday. Bergdahl, who spent five years in captivity, plans to meet with Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, the investigating officer, in San Antonio, where Bergdahl is stationed, according to lawyer Eugene Fidell."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States economy rebounded heartily in the spring after a dismal winter, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday, growing at an annual rate of 4 percent from April through June and surpassing economists’ expecations. In its initial estimate for the second quarter, the government cited a major advance in inventories for private businesses, higher government spending at the state and local level and personal consumption spending as chief contributors to growth."

Guardian: "At least 19 Palestinians were killed and about 90 injured early on Wednesday when a UN school sheltering people was hit by shells during a second night of relentless bombardment that followed an Israeli warning of a protracted military campaign. Gaza health officials said at least 43 people died in intense air strikes and tank shelling of Jabaliya, a neighbourhood of Gaza City. The death toll included the people at the school who had fled their own homes." ...

     ... AP Update: "Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault of the Gaza war on Tuesday, destroying key symbols of Hamas control, shutting down the territory's only power plant and leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead on the bloodiest day of the 22-day conflict. Despite devastating blows that left the packed territory's 1.7 million people cut off from power and water and sent the overall death toll soaring past 1,200, Hamas' shadowy military leader remained defiant as he insisted that the Islamic militants would not cease fire until its demands are met."

Los Angeles Times: "Pacific Gas & Electric was charged Tuesday with lying to regulators during the immediate aftermath of the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and ravaged a San Bruno, Calif., neighborhood. The new indictment includes obstruction charges related to what the company said about its records immediately after the incident, according to a release from the Northern District of California U.S. attorney's office. The filing comes three months after an April indictment claimed that PG&E violated federal pipeline safety laws."

Los Angeles Times: "A top Los Angeles utility official faced tough questions Tuesday night about the response to a massive pipe break that flooded UCLA and surrounding areas with millions of gallons of water and threatened the near-term use of Pauley Pavilion. The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said."

Reuters: "Militant fighters overran a Libyan special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a battle involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people. A special forces officer said they had to abandon their main camp in the southeast of Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from a coalition of Islamist fighters and former rebel militias in the city."

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 31

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

1:20 pm ET: President Obama signs an executive order

3:40 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Department of Housing & Urban Development

7:25 pm ET: President Obama speaks at a celebration of the Special Olympics

8:30 pm ET: President Obama attends a performance celebrating the Special Olympics

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


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

Martha Stewart has a drone.

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

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

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

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


New Yorker illustration.

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


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


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

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

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

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.

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The Commentariat -- May 23, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer today is a brief word on Brother Ross. The NYTX front page is here.

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "Tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect in January would suck $607 billion out of the economy next year, plunging the nation at least briefly back into recession, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday." ...

... Stan Collender of Capital Gains & Games in Roll Call: Speaker John Boehner is "exceptionally irresponsible."

Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic tells you more than everything you ever wanted to know about Elizabeth Warren's totally Caucasian heritage: "If there's no easily located evidence that Warren has Native American ancestry, there's also no evidence Warren used her family story to boost herself into a Harvard job.... But the longer the questions about Warren linger, the harder it will be for voters to feel like they know who she really is."

Natasha Lennard of Salon: "The [Chicago Police Department] has been congratulated for handling NATO protests.... However..., the ongoing persecution of anarchists and activists with entrapment, intimidation and trumped-up charges [may remain]."

Charles Pierce on the lawsuits brought by Roman Catholic organizations against the Obama administration's ruling on contraceptive coverage (see also Tuesday's News Ledes): "... the University of Notre Dame, has gone to the lawyers to avoid having to cover medicines for their Prebyterian charwomen of which the Roman Catholic Church does not approve because those medicines might help ladies exercise their ladyparts in ways that the Roman Catholic Church does not authorize. As always, of course, this has required some recreational prevarication, and some muted weeping over how Holy Mother Church has been the real victim in all of this.... I find it damned interesting that Holy Mother Church is so ready to appeal to the secular courts in this matter when it spent the better part of three decades arguing that the secular courts had no business investigating the various illegal fondlings and rapings that passed for sexy sexytime among the Church's richly upholstered middle management officials." ...

... Maureen Dowd: "The church insists it's an argument about religious freedom, not birth control. But, really, it's about birth control, and women's lower caste in the church. It's about conservative bishops targeting Democratic candidates who support contraception and abortion rights as a matter of public policy. And it's about a church that is obsessed with sex in ways it shouldn't be, and not obsessed with sex in ways it should be.... The lawsuit reminds [us] that what the bishops portray as an attack on religion by the president is really an attack on women by the bishops."

Wrong: any religion that a guy who looks like this to be celibate, even if he is a jerk.... Celibacy Is Such an Excellent Idea. Nicole Winfield of the AP: "The Legion of Christ religious order, already discredited for concealing the crimes of its pedophile founder, suffered another blow to its credibility Tuesday after its superior admitted he knew in 2005 that his most prominent priest had fathered a child, yet allowed him to keep teaching and preaching about morality.... The Rev. Thomas Williams, the public face of the Legion in America, admitted last week that he had violated his vow of celibacy and fathered a child several years ago, going public with a statement after The Associated Press presented the Legion with the accusation."



Right: anybody who tells this guy to STFU.AND There Must Be Some Reason Rand Paul Reminds Me of an 8th-Grader. Lee Drutman of the Sunlight Foundation. "Congress now speaks at almost a full grade level lower than it did just seven years ago, with the most conservative members of Congress speaking on average at the lowest grade level, according to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis of the Congressional Record.... Today’s Congress collectively speaks at a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level." The high-falutinest: Rep. Dan Lundgren (R-CA) (grade 16); the simpletoniest: Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) (grade 7.95), & a close third was our favorite simpleton, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (grade 8.03).

This tribute to former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, which took place at the end of April, was a discussion among all of the women on the Court. It was quite delightful to hear. The discussion begins about 4:15 min. in:

Weird Politicians' Tricks. Apparently Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), in the throes of a tough primary battle, thinks Jewish people love their moms a lot more than do non-Jews. He sent the original family photo -- at left -- to people with "non-Jewish" name; the version at right, with his mother photoshopped in, went to voters with Jewish surnames:

Via Buzzfeed.     ... But wait, wait, there's more! BuzzFeed: "Today, he claimed it was a clever scheme aimed at forcing the press to print pictures of his family. He doesn't seem to be joking." With video.

Presidential Race

Your job as president is to promote the common good. That doesn't mean the private equity guys are bad guys. They are not. But that no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber. And, by the way, there are a lot of awful smart plumbers. -- Joe Biden, at a campaign stop in Keene, New Hampshire

You Must Remember Bush. Steve Kornacki of Salon: "... the Obama campaign has been a little too quiet in reminding voters exactly what kind of economic catastrophe Obama inherited, whom he inherited it from, and how closely Romney's economic program resembles what was in place just before the meltdown that started this all."

Tim Noah of The New Republic: "Private Equity Ain't No Reform Movement." See also, if you missed it, my related NYTX column, published yesterday. ...

... Bain Capital? What's That? Mark Murray of NBC News: "... regarding Romney's past work at the private-equity firm Bain Capital, [an NBC/Wall Street Journal] poll shows that 9 percent have a positive view of the firm and 19 percent have a negative view; 53 percent either weren't sure or weren't familiar with it. In the last two weeks, the Obama campaign has pointed to examples where Bain -- under Romney's leadership -- took over companies, saddled them with debt, laid off workers, all while making big profits for the investors."

Jamelle Bouie has a very good post in the WashPo on Obama's spending habits: Obama has slowed government spending more than any president since the 1950s, and "a President Romney would finance massive tax cuts with soaring deficits. Instead of trying to stop the 'prairie fire of debt,' as promised in his speech [last week], he would spark it."

Friends of Mitt. Alex Pareene of Salon: Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio sends deputies to Hawaii in search of the real birth certificate. "But yes a completely crazy person who is in charge of law enforcement for the most populous county in Arizona is probably going to attempt to arrest Barack Obama at some point. I guess at least he's not directly involved with the Mitt Romney campaign, like Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Romney’s Arizona campaign co-chair who's currently leading a separate investigation into proving the president's secret foreignness. (Though Arpaio was honorary campaign co-chair in 2008, when he was still a stalwart harasser of Hispanics, but before birtherism had been properly invented.)" ...

... Hawaii Is Tired of Trying to Reason with You Birthers. Nick Martin of TPM: Hawaii gives Ken Bennett a taste of his own medicine. You want Obama's birth certificate? Prove you're qualified. Jill Nagamine, a Hawaii Deputy Secretary of State, to Bennett & an associate: "My client stands willing to provide you with the verification you seek as soon as you are able to show that you are entitled to it." ...

     ... AP Update: "The state of Hawaii has verified President Barack Obama's birth records to Arizona's elections chief after a nearly three-month back and forth that Arizona officials said could have ended without the incumbent's name on its November ballot.... It's not immediately clear whether the information will satisfy Bennett. A spokesman says he received the verification and will comment Wednesday."

... Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "Mr. Bennett ... is co-chairman of the Mitt Romney campaign in Arizona. Mr. Romney should disavow this 'investigation.' Or make Mr. Bennett stop it. Or kick him off the campaign. Or better yet, disavow the investigation, make Mr. Bennett stop it – and then kick him off the campaign."

Former Governor, Former DNC Chair, Former Obama Booster Ed Rendell. Part 1. Part 2. With friends like these....

... BUT Obama's former car czar, the ethically-challenged Steve Rattner, embraced by the right for his remarks about Bain Capital, is definitely in Obama's camp. He writes quite a good explanation of Romney's Bain business in today's New York Times. His remarks do not help Willard. ...

... Ana Marie Cox, in the Guardian, has the best commentary yet on Cory Booker's apostasy.

Local News

Dr. Marvin Schwalb tells off the Star-Ledger. (See also Comments to today's Commentariat.)

Charles Pierce, who used to write for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, on the paper's endorsements of "Scott Walker, the google-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The director of the U.S. Secret Service publicly apologized for the first time Wednesday for a prostitution scandal that has rocked his agency as senior lawmakers strongly disputed his insistence that what unfolded last month in Cartagena, Colombia, occurred in isolation."

New York Times: "At least three shareholder lawsuits have so far been brought against Facebook and the three leading underwriters of the I.P.O., Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, alleging that Facebook failed to disclose material information about its growth prospects."

Washington Post: "President Obama sent 1,000 Air Force Academy cadets into active duty Wednesday by laying out his vision for a postwar America in which the United States leads beyond the battlefield and defiantly challenging his critics' notion of waning American influence."

AP: "Regulators are examining whether Morgan Stanley, the investment bank that shepherded Facebook through its highly publicized stock offering last week, selectively informed clients of an analyst's negative report about the company before the stock started trading." New York Times story here.

New York Times: "After weeks of fevered debate, speculation and argument, Egyptians went to the polls on Wednesday in the Arab world's first competitive presidential election, choosing between a dozen candidates spanning the nation’s secular and Islamist traditions after decades of authoritarian rule."

New York Times: "Six global powers including the United State resumed negotiations with Iran [in Baghdad] on Wednesday a day after Tehran signaled willingness to allow potentially intrusive international inspections of secret military facilities, raising expectations that it was searching for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over its nuclear program."

AP: "Several small groups of Secret Service employees separately visited clubs, bars and brothels in Colombia prior to a visit by President Barack Obama last month and engaged in reckless, 'morally repugnant' behavior, Sen. Susan Collins says.... In remarks prepared for the first congressional hearing on the matter Wednesday, Collins, R-Maine, also challenged early assurances that the scandal in Colombia appeared to be an isolated incident." ...

... Washington Post: "Four Secret Service employees have decided to fight their dismissals for engaging in inappropriate conduct in Colombia last month, a development that could unravel what has been a swift and tidy resolution to an embarrassing scandal over agents' hiring of prostitutes."

Washington Post: "Public opinion continues to shift in favor of same-sex marriage, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, which also finds initial signs that President Obama's support for the idea may have changed a few minds. Overall, 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be legal...."

Washington Post: "President Obama won his 34th and 35th consecutive Democratic primary contests on Tuesday night, claiming victories in Arkansas and Kentucky. But his margin was surprisingly small in Arkansas — a state in which he was opposed by Tennessee lawyer John Wolfe, who had previously been on the presidential primary ballot in Louisiana, Missouri and New Hampshire and will be on the ballot in Texas next week. Wolfe has also run unsuccessfully for Congress four times." CW: Surprisingly? Not really. Maybe it should have dawned on the reporters that Arkansas has an open primary; i.e., Republicans can vote in the Democratic primary.

Blood Money. AFP: "The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation said Tuesday it is taking legal action to stop an online auction of a vial said to contain the late US president's blood, condemning the sale as 'craven.' ... The vial was accompanied by a laboratory report and a letter from the seller -- who claims he offered it to the Reagan National Library, but was turned down."

AP: "Court records show a Miami college student intends to plead guilty to making threatening posts against President Barack Obama on Facebook.... Federal prosecutors say Serrapio posted threats on Facebook in February coinciding with a speech Obama gave at the University of Miami. Serrapio attends a different school, Miami-Dade College."


The Commentariat -- May 22, 2012

My NYTX column is on David Brooks' latest. (I thought I had written a horrible column because I wrote it hurriedly on the way to another eye surgery. But I'm back, I can see, and -- after I corrected some typos -- I think the column is more-or-less worth your reading.) The NYTX front page is here.

Gene Robinson: "With its support for gay marriage, the NAACP has done more than strike a blow for fairness and equality. The nation's most venerable civil rights organization has made itself relevant again. The NAACP's 64-member board approved a resolution Saturday supporting 'marriage equality' not as a matter of empathy or compassion but as a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment."

Stephanie Saul of the New York Times: Publicly-funded "scholarship programs have been twisted to benefit private schools at the expense of the neediest children. Spreading at a time of deep cutbacks in public schools, the programs are operating in eight states and represent one of the fastest-growing components of the school choice movement.... The money has also been used to attract star football players, expand the payrolls of the nonprofit scholarship groups and spread the theology of creationism.... Most of the private schools are religious.... The programs are insulated from provisions requiring church-state separation because the donations are collected and distributed by the nonprofit scholarship groups."

Laurie Penny gives a first-person account in The Independent on her bus ride from New York to Chicago to protest against politicians who exacerbated the financial crisis. Thanks to Dave S. for the link.

Norimitsu Onishi of the New York Times: "Facing opposition to a new studio in Lucas Valley, George Lucas said he would bring low-income housing there instead, inflaming wealthy neighbors in Marin County."

Frank Bruni's patronizing column in which he writes that politicians' wives would make good politicians, too, is interesting in that it highlights Christie Vilsack, the wife of Ag Secretary & former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Christie is running for Congress against the deplorable Steve King.

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: RomneyCare is working well, & the Affordable Care Act -- if it had been in full force since 2001 -- would have saved Americans money. CW: let's see what the Supremes have done. They have certainly made their final decisions by now & are merely crossing the t's & dotting the i's at this point.

Presidential Race

CW: If you missed President Obama's response to Cory Booker's criticism of the Obama campaign's Bain ads, do check out the video & link in yesterday's Commentariat, which I posted late Monday. ...

... Paul Krugman: "... apparently [Cory] Booker is so close to his Wall Street donors that it never occurred to him that echoing their over-the-top reactions to Obama's very mild populism would destroy his own political future (which I believe it has)." ...

... It is not just Booker's political donors who influenced his thinking. As David Dayen of Firedoglake explains, cities like Newark have a symbiotic relationship with vulture capitalists. "... practically every state in the union uses private equity, particularly through their large pension funds. This creates a symbiotic relationship between state and local governments and vulture capitalists. The pension funds then invest in local economies, fattened by the higher returns they get from their entrusting of funds to private equity. This allows these firms, which specialize in stripping down companies and turning over profits, without regard for the workers they leave behind, to get inoculated by the political class, who want to keep this game going." ...

... Booker continues his apology tour. Booker said he had "good conversations" with members of the Obama campaign, which evidently cured his nausea:

... NEW. Tim Mak of Politico has a summary of left-leaning bloggers' reactions to Booker. ...

... Here's the campaign's latest Bain video:

Daniel Drezner of Foreign Policy: "... with Romney's NATO Chicago Tribune op-ed this past weekend, I fear he and his campaign have crossed the line from really stupid foreign policy pronouncements to logically contradictory ones.... I don't like it when a guy with a 50/50 chance of being president in January 2013 has abandoned the Logic Train." Romney's op-ed is here. ...

... AND from the right. Daniel Larison of the American Conservative: "It will not come as a shock that Romney doesn’t seem to know much about NATO." (CW: Evidently, Romney is getting his foreign policy advice from Campbell Brown's husband Dan Senor.) ...

...CW: well, thanks to Romney, I learned a new word: "revanchism."

Nicholas Confessore, et al., of the New York Times: "President Obama's once-commanding fund-raising advantage is declining as major Republican donors rally for Mitt Romney, conservative 'super PACs' far outpace their liberal counterparts and tax-exempt issue-advocacy groups swarm the political landscape."

Paul Waldman of American Prospect: four years and running, thousands of articles about Barack Obama's early life, and conservatives still think he hasn't been "vetted." They're still looking for that "horrible secret."

Right Wing World

I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the '70s and in South Africa as well. He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German. -- Grover Norquist, on Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) bill to penalize Americans who renounce their citizenship to evade taxes

There is nothing quite as classy as calling a Jewish person a Nazi. -- Constant Weader

News Ledes

New York Times: "Katie Beckett, who was 3 years old and had been hospitalized almost since birth when President Ronald Reagan invoked her case as an example of irrational federal regulation in 1981 -- a key moment in the movement toward government support for home health care — died on Friday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the hospital where she was born. She was 34, more than three times the age her doctors had predicted she would reach."

New York Times: 'The leading American diplomat in Afghanistan, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, will leave his post this summer for health reasons after serving here less than a year, a State Department official said Tuesday."

New York Times: "A passenger flight from Paris to Charlotte, N.C., was diverted on Tuesday to Bangor, Maine, because of security concerns set off when a passenger told the crew that she had a surgically implanted device.... There was no indication that a bomb or any such device was involved in the case."

New York Times: "In an apparent breakthrough, the leader of the United Nations nuclear monitoring arm said on Tuesday that despite unspecified differences, he expects to sign a deal with Iran 'quite soon' on the arrangements for an investigation into potential military applications of Tehran's disputed nuclear program."

New York Times: "Global stocks rose on Tuesday, even as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development cut its growth forecast for the euro zone and said Europe risked creating a self-sustaining cycle of decline that could have dire effects for the world economy."

New York Times: "A private cargo rocket headed to the International Space Station blasted off early Tuesday morning. Built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne, Calif. -- commonly known as SpaceX -- this rocket is carrying only about 1,000 pounds of cargo, and nothing of great value.... If the cargo capsule makes it all the way to the space station, it would be the first commercial, rather than government-operated, spacecraft to dock at the space station, and it would mark an important step in NASA's efforts to turn over basic transportation to low-Earth orbit to the private sector."

Washington Post: President Obama spoke at the commencement of Joplin, Missouri, High School one year after a tornado devastated the town.

Washington Post: "The Air Force said Monday that it had fined the former commander of the Dover Air Force Base mortuary $7,000 and suspended his top deputy for 20 days without pay for retaliating against whistleblowers, but it allowed both men to keep their jobs."

HealthDay: "In a highly anticipated move sure to unleash heated debate, a prominent U.S. government advisory panel is recommending that men of all ages no longer be screened for prostate cancer by undergoing the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of medical experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, said PSA screening results in overdiagnosis of prostate cancer and unnecessary treatment that can leave men impotent and incontinent."

Guardian: "Facebook shares have fallen sharply on a second day of trading, leading to questions about the valuation of its IPO and the handling of the sale by its bankers."

ABC News: "A month after the Secret Service was rocked by allegations that agents brought prostitutes to a Colombia hotel where they were preparing for a visit by President Obama, the Drug Enforcement Administration today announced that at least three of its agents are also under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Cartagena."

NEW. Washington Post: "The nation's chief of nuclear safety announced his resignation Monday after a three-year tenure marked by debates over regulatory guidelines, praise for the U.S. response to the Japanese nuclear disaster and complaints that he had verbally abused women in the workplace. The departure of Gregory B. Jaczko, an advocate of tough safety standards at nuclear reactor sites during eight years on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, caps almost a year of concerns about his leadership of the NRC...."

NEW. New York Times: "In an effort to show a unified front in their campaign against the birth control mandate, 43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, social service agencies and other institutions filed lawsuits in 12 federal courts on Monday, challenging the Obama administration's rule that their employees receive coverage for contraception in their health insurance policies." CW: sorry, thought I linked this yesterday.


The Commentariat -- May 21, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on the failure of the Times to fully identify op-ed writer Campbell Brown. The NYTX front page is here. ...

... A related post by Ali Gharib of Think Progress is here. ...

... AND Tom Friedman loses on "Jeopardy!"

Frank Rich of New York magazine: "There has been change on the American playing field of race since Inauguration Day 2009 -- not so much for the better or the worse, but a shift into a kind of twilight zone where the nation's racial conversation has moved from its usual gears of intractability, obfuscation, angry debate, and platitudinous sentimentality to the truly unhinged." ...

... Also in New York magazine, Benjamin Wallace-Wells on George Romney: "When the governor of Michigan ran for the Republican nomination, in 1968, he tried to stand up against the more radical wing of his party. His defeat was swift, tragic, and, for his son, instructive." CW: this was one of those pieces I wanted to read all the way thru. And I did.

George Packer of the New Yorker on how the Joe Biden has been Barack Obama's conscience on civil rights not unlike the way Lyndon Johnson was John Kennedy's.

Kim Severson of the New York Times: "... the two lives of John Edwards have collided spectacularly in a federal courthouse here, where the government is trying him on six counts of campaign finance fraud and conspiracy."

Nichloas Lemann of the New Yorker: "In higher education, the United States may be on its way to becoming more like the rest of the world, with a small group of schools controlling access to life membership in the élite. And higher education is becoming more like other areas of American life, with the fortunate few institutions distancing themselves ever further from the many. All those things which commencement speakers talk about -- personal growth, critical-thinking skills, intellectual exploration, breadth of learning -- will survive at the top institutions, but other colleges will come under increased pressure to adopt the model of trade schools." CW: I've got news for Lemann: a small group of schools has always controlled access to life membership in the American elite.

Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Obama was struggling to balance the United States' relationship with two crucial but difficult allies on Sunday, after a deal to reopen supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan fell apart just as Mr. Obama began talks on ending the NATO alliance's combat role in the Afghan war."

Presidential Race

Paul Krugman: Mitt Romney's "whole candidacy is based on the claim that his experience at extracting money from troubled businesses means that he'll know how to run the economy -- yet whenever he talks about economic policy, he comes across as completely clueless."

WTF? Raymond Hernandez of the New York Times: Newark Mayor Cory Booker, an "Obama surrogate," goes on "Press the Meat" to denounce Obama ad criticizing Romney for his Bain Capital record. CW: I think I just found Romney's running mate. You can hear Booker's comments here, about 4 min. into the video. ...

     ... Update: During his presser, President Obama made a terrific response to a question about Booker's comment. I'll get up a link to some report when it becomes available. ...

     ... NEW. Here ya go: Michael Memoli of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama said Monday that using Bain Capital to question Mitt Romney's economic credentials is not only fair game, but part of his core argument against his Republican foe in the coming general election campaign.... 'My opponent, Gov. Romney -- his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He's not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He's saying, "I'm a business guy. I know how to fix it." And this is his business,' Obama said. 'When you're president as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.... But understand that their priority is to maximize profits. And that's not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers,' he said.'" ...

     ... AND here's the video:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

... Digby: "Sadly, this is exactly the kind of concern trolling that will make the Village declare that the Democrats are hitting below the belt by criticizing Bain Capital and the Dems will fall in line. Indeed, the fact that it's Cory Booker who's saying it today indicates that it's the Democrats themselves saying 'stop us before we hurt the Masters of the Universe's feelings again.'" ...

... Karoli of Crooks & Liars: "Mitt Romney's time at Bain Capital is one of the few quantifiable ways voters can see how he intends to approach employment issues and corporations, and the Obama campaign has done a terrific job of pointing out the 'vulture capitalist' Romney so desperately tries to hide." ...

     ... As David Axelrod said (unrelated to Booker's remarks), "Romney's business record became fair game because it is 'the only credential' Romney has offered for his candidacy."

... CW: I see Steve Kornacki of Salon agrees with me: "More [than] likely, Booker went on the show to help himself.... And on that score, his appearance was a success.... It's not at all surprising to see Booker going to bat for private equity. The allies he's cultivated on Wall Street and in the financial industry (think, for instance, of his chummy relationship with Michael Bloomberg) have made Booker a prolific fundraiser, and when he ventured into the ultra-expensive statewide game, he’ll need them more than ever. Many of them have turned fiercely against Obama over the past few years, convinced that he's unfairly targeted them. Booker's words on 'Meet the Press' may have enraged the average Obama supporter, but to the Wall Street class they were probably close to heroic -- finally, a big-name Democrat with the cojones to call out Obama on his class warfare!" ...

... NEW. Jamelle Bouie: "Cory Booker's gaffe -- in the classic, truth-telling sense -- gets to a broader, more important problem in American politics: the extent to which Wall Street has become the only viable funding mechanism for major national elections."

... Ooh, Booker tries to walk it back (I can't figure out if his scriptwriter was Tom Friedman or David Brooks):

... Here's what Booker clearly doesn't get. E. J. Dionne: "The back-and-forth about Bain Capital ... is part of something larger. So is the inquest into the implications of multibillion-dollar trading losses at JPMorgan Chase.... The trick is to get the most out of what capitalism does well, while containing or preventing the problems it can cause.... But having made an issue of Bain on the plus side, [Romney] also has to answer for the pain and suffering -- or, as defenders of capitalism like to call it, the 'creative destruction' -- that some of Bain’s deals left in their wake."

CW: speaking of attack ads, Josh Israel of Think Progress reports that Reince Priebus, the brilliant chair of the RNC, told Candy Crowley of CNN yesterday that the Ricketts race-baiting ad brouhaha was all Obama's doing -- a ploy to keep the conversation away from the bad economy. Man, that Obama is clever -- bringing up Jeremiah Wright so he wouldn't have to focus on jobs numbers.

CW: I think we were also sort of alarmed -- for a number of reasons -- by Jodi Kantor's story on Romney's faith (linked in yesterday's Commentariat). Digby makes this point: "... when people talk about America as the God's Chosen Country, suddenly you can excuse anything." That's exactly how we got into the war in Iraq.

Local News

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel endorses Scott Walker. CW: This is one of those pieces I didn't want to read. And I didn't.

News Ledes

The Hill: "The Senate confirmed Paul J. Watford for the 9th Circuit court in California on Monday. The vote was 61 to 34. Earlier in the day Senate Majority vitiated cloture on Watford's nomination so the chamber could hold a roll-call vote." CW: yes, it's always news when the Senate confirms a judicial nominee, especially for the 9th Circuit, which Newt Gingrich wants to eliminate.

New York Times: "A judge [in New Brunswick, New Jersey,] sentenced Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail on Monday for using a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with a man, a punishment that angered prosecutors and did little to quiet the debate over using laws against hate crimes to fight antigay bias. His roommate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself in September 2010, two days after discovering that Mr. Ravi had spied on him in their room at Rutgers University, galvanizing national concern about suicide among gay teenagers.:

AFP: "A Yemeni soldier packing powerful explosives under his uniform blew himself up in the middle of an army battalion in Sanaa Monday, killing 96 troops and wounding around 300, a military official and medics said."

Guardian: "Thousands of people marched towards [Chicago's] McCormick Place in the downtown area of the city [yesterday], where 51 world leaders are meeting for the two-day summit. However, the demonstration on Sunday ended in ugly scenes as police used batons to control the crowd. The violence came as a fifth person was charged with terrorism-related offences in relation to alleged plots to disrupt the summit." ...

... Chicago Tribune: "At least 20 people arrested or detained by Chicago police during Sunday's NATO protests were released from custody overnight, according to other protesters and representatives of a lawyers' organization offering them free legal advice. A total of 45 people were arrested during Sunday's protests, police said, citing unofficial numbers." There's more on the NATO summit & related protests on the linked page. ...

... ABC News: "A hacking group affiliated with Anonymous took responsibility for temporarily crippling the Chicago Police and NATO websites [yesterday], proving authorities now have more than just street protests to worry about on the first day of the military alliance's summit." Tribune Story here.

New York Times: "The rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement late Sunday in Cairo that paves the way for elections and a new unity government for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, officials said."

AFP: "Disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's legal woes deepened Monday as French prosecutors opened a preliminary probe into accusations he took part in a gang rape in the US."


The Commentariat -- May 20, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "Willard's Whoppers." The NYTX front page is here.

** David Sanger of the New York Times on the evolution of President Obama's thinking on Afghanistan. This is an adaptation of part of a book by Sanger & really is a must-read. CW: Main takeaway: Obama agreed with reasonable peaceniks all along. I'd love to read your reactions. Secondary takeaway: it looks to me as if the military was able to snooker Obama in a way it ultimately lost to Kennedy's better judgment in the Cuban missile crisis.

New York Times Editors: "Racial discrimination in voting is 'one of the gravest evils that Congress can seek to redress,.' Judge David Tatel wrote in a crucial ruling on Friday upholding the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act."

Maureen Dowd: "... it makes me sad to see the Catholic Church grow so uncatholic, intent on loyalty testing, mind control and heresy hunting. Rather than all-embracing, the church hierarchy has become all-constricting."

In comments to yesterday's Commentariat, P. D. Pepe mentioned a book review by Prof. David Greenberg, writing in The New Republic, of a Dwight Eisenhower biography by Jean Edward Smith. Here's the link. 

Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: the cause of the now-$3 billion JPMorgan Chase loss -- Lyme disease! CW: if you read this story, keep in the back of your mind James Kwak's observation that JPMorgan was simply regressing toward the mean. The two theories -- the Times' and Kwak's -- are not necessarily mutually exclusive. ...

... Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post: "Aside from the embarrassment and the short-term financial hit, the real damage to JPMorgan is that it exposed how the big Wall Street banks were planning to get around the new Volcker rule....: The way JPMorgan traders constructed their "hedges" "has very little to do with hedging and a lot to do with gambling.... What useful social or economic purpose do [credit default swaps/derivatives] serve?" Actually, the CDSs cause a lot of damage -- for instance, the 2008 financial crisis. "Banking and finance have become too detached from the real economy they were meant to serve."

Dan Eggen & T. W. Farnam of the Washington Post: "Conservative interest groups have dumped well over $20 million into congressional races so far this year, outspending their liberal opponents 4 to 1 and setting off a growing panic among Democrats struggling to regain the House and hold on to their slim majority in the Senate."

Presidential Race

Nancy Cohen, writing in Rolling Stone, on the many, many reasons "President Romney" would be a disaster for women.

Jodi Kantor of the New York Times: Mitt's policies are Mormon policies, but none of his friends can figure out how Romney rationalizes his untruthful attacks on his political opponents. P.S. He used to pray for Bain Capital!

Right Wing World

It Depends upon What the Meaning of "Entitlement" Is. Jed Lugum & Josh Israel of Think Progress: Joe Ricketts was ready to spend $10 million to smear President Obama, but after members of the press & the public criticized that plan, Ricketts has decided instead to put the money into a superPac he controls called "Ending Spending Political Action Fund." Yet he has asked taxpayers to spend hundreds of millions on him and his family. When it comes to spending on his interests, however, Ricketts sings a different tune. CW: read the whole post.

News Ledes

Rolling Stone: "Robin Gibb, one-third of the Bee Gees, died Sunday after a long battle with cancer, his spokesperson has confirmed via a statement. Gibb was 62 years old."

Washington Post: "Republican leaders doubled down Sunday on a renewed push to secure spending cuts as part of any deal to increase the national debt limit, drawing a sharper line in an emerging fight over the issue."

Reuters: "The former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people has died, his brother said on Sunday. He was 59. Abdel Basset al-Megrahi died at home after a long battle with cancer. His health had deteriorated quickly overnight, his brother Abdulhakim told Reuters."

AP: "World leaders weary of war will tackle Afghanistan's post-conflict future -- from funding for security forces to upcoming elections -- when the summit opens Sunday." ...

... New York Times: "The United States and Pakistan are not expected to secure a deal to reopen supply lines to Afghanistan before a NATO summit begins on Sunday, casting a pall over talks that are to focus on winding down the alliance’s combat role in the Afghan war, American officials said." ...

... AP: "Protesters gathering in Chicago for the NATO summit were gearing up for their largest demonstration Sunday, when thousands are expected to march from a downtown park to the lakeside convention center where President Barack Obama and dozens of other world leaders will meet."

AP: "Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia are backing Montana in its fight to prevent the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision from being used to strike down state laws restricting campaign spending. The states led by New York are asking the high court to preserve Montana's state-level regulations on corporate political expenditures, according to a copy of a brief written by New York's attorney general's office and obtained by The Associated Press ahead of Monday's filing."

AP: "The western United States and eastern Asia will be treated this weekend to a rare solar spectacle when the moon slides across the sun, creating a 'ring of fire.' The solar spectacle will first be seen in eastern Asia around dawn Monday, local time.... Then, the late day sun (on Sunday in the U.S.) will transform into a glowing ring in southwest Oregon, Northern California, central Nevada, southern Utah, northern Arizona and New Mexico and finally the Texas Panhandle." Use protective eyewear.

AP: "Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg updated his status to 'married' on Saturday. Zuckerberg and 27-year-old Priscilla Chan tied the knot at a small ceremony at his Palo Alto, Calif., home, capping a busy week for the couple."

Priscilla Chen & new hubby.