The Ledes

Wednesday, April 16, 2014.

AP: "A column of armored vehicles flying Russian flags drove into a Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russia demonstrators Wednesday, dampening the central government's hopes to re-establish control over restive eastern Ukraine."

AP: "A multi-story ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by ships and helicopters. At least three people were confirmed dead and 55 injured."

Boston Globe: "A shelter-in-place order on Boylston Street has been lifted and a 25-year-old Boston man is facing charges after police executed a controlled detonation of two suspicious bags left near the Boston Marathon finish line. Just after 7 p.m. on Tuesday, on the one-year anniversary of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, police said two backpacks had been found in the area and immediately ordered people to evacuate. Authorities said the backpacks were tied to a man who goes by Kayvon Edson. Edson was captured in several videos marching down Boylston Street in a black veil, wearing a backpack, and chanting 'Boston strong.'”


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/04/10/3772409/fbi-rescues-kidnapped-wake-forest.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy
The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, April 15, 2014.

Boston Globe: The Boston Marathon finish line has been evacuated after suspicious packages were discovered. ...

... Washington Post: "Boston and its surroundings braced for an emotional week that begins Tuesday with a large ceremony honoring the victims, first responders, medical personnel and others affected by [last years Boston Marathon bomb] attack. It will be a chance to mourn the dead and remember the bloodshed, but also to proclaim that what is perhaps the world’s most famous footrace will continue for a 118th year, and to marvel at the way events have brought this community together."

Los Angeles Times: "President Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of a drug convict, correcting a mistake that had extended his prison time by more than three years and could not be fixed by the courts."

Even in Canada. AP: "Five people were killed and the son of a police officer is in custody after multiple stabbings at a house party attended by university students near the University of Calgary, the police chief said, calling it the worst mass murder in Calgary's history."

CNN: "A new video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years. And the CIA and the Pentagon either didn't know about it or couldn't get a drone there in time to strike." With video.

Detroit Free Press: "Two members of General Motors’ senior leadership team are leaving the company three months after a transition to a new CEO and amid a crisis over the automaker’s failure to fix an ignition switch defect."

AP: "Federal authorities have lodged two criminal charges against a Phoenix woman accused of throwing a shoe at Hillary Rodham Clinton while she gave a convention speech at a Las Vegas Strip resort."

New York Times: "After days of failing to enforce its own ultimatums, the Ukrainian government on Tuesday began what the president called a military operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the east of the country." ...

... Washington Post: "... Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that Ukraine was descending into civil war." ...

    ... Update: "The Ukrainian government said its forces had repelled an assault by pro-Russian militiamen at a military airfield, hours after announcing the start of a staged counteroffensive Tuesday to reclaim control of the eastern part of the country."

BBC News: "Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi must do one year's community service over tax fraud, a Milan court has ruled. He was convicted of tax fraud last year in connection with TV rights purchased by his firm Mediaset in the 1990s. The alternative to community service had been house arrest. It is not yet clear what form his community service will take."

Public Service Announcements

Washington Post: "Researchers are reporting that injections of long-lasting AIDS drugs protected monkeys for weeks against infection, a finding that could lead to a major breakthrough in preventing the disease in humans."

New York Times: "General Motors will more than double the size of a recall issued this month for an ignition switch defect in some of its small cars, the automaker said in a news release Tuesday. The expansion brings the number of vehicles covered by the recall to nearly 1.4 million in the United States. The recall is aimed at vehicles with ignition switches that could inadvertently turn off the engine and vehicle electrical system – disabling the air bags – if the ignition key is jarred or the vehicle’s operator has a heavy key ring attached to it."

New York Times: "The essence of [a] disagreement [among experts] comes down to a simple question: Will e-cigarettes cause more or fewer people to smoke? The answer matters. Cigarette smoking is still the single largest cause of preventable death in the United States, killing about 480,000 people a year."

White House Live Video
April 15

12:00 noon ET: Vice President Biden speaks at a Boston Marathon bombing anniversary service in Boston, Massachusetts (audio only)

12:15 pm ET: Jay Carney's press briefing

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

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

 

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

Josh Dickey of Mashable: "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to replace the retiring David Letterman, and has indicated that he's willing to take over the Late Show when the time comes, people familiar with both sides of the discussions tell Mashable." Via New York.

Lauren Moraski of CBS "News": "David Letterman announced Thursday that he's retiring from CBS' 'Late Show' sometime next year. He made that announcement during the taping of his program Thursday afternoon at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater."

No News, All the Time:

Igor Bobic of TPM: "In its wall-to-wall coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN has raised the possibility of the supernatural, blackholes, and North Korea; it has interviewed a psychic, tried but failed to rent its own 777 jet, and finally settled on a flight simulator it is using to 'search' for the plane.On Tuesday the network finally turned its attention to garbage."

Washington Post: "Stephen Colbert and his writing staff were in fighting form Monday night, after a controversy stemming from an out-of-context tweet had hashtag activists calling for his head." ...

... This is kinda must-see TV:

AND Colbert dismantles his charity:

Michael Lewis in the New York Times Magazine on the whiz-kids of high-frequency Wall Street trading.

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Monday
Jan302012

The Commentariat -- January 30, 2012

My column on David Brooks' last effort is up on the New York Times eXaminer front page. I ran it on Reality Chex last Friday, so you may already have seen it. I will have a column on Tom Friedman's latest malarkey up later this morning. The NYTX front page, which features my columns today, is here. You can contribute here.

Eric Schmitt & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "A month after the last American troops left Iraq, the State Department is operating a small fleet of surveillance drones here to help protect the United States Embassy and consulates, as well as American personnel. Some senior Iraqi officials expressed outrage at the program, saying the unarmed aircraft are an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.... [A State Department report] foreshadows a possible expansion of unmanned drone operations into the diplomatic arm of the American government; until now they have been mainly the province of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency."

E. J. Dionne, a Roman Catholic, thinks the Obama Administration "threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus" when Health & Human Services issued a rule -- which is the same as an interim ruling it made last August -- that "required contraceptive services to be covered by the insurance policies that will be supported under the Affordable Care Act." The ruling essentially exempts churches but not RC hospitals & universities. CW: I disagree with Dionne, who also writes about an alternative policy that he thought should have been applied.

Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker: quite a few Mormons have run for POTUS, including Joseph Smith, the founder of the faith. Here's how that worked out: "As mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois (his only political office), Smith ordered the destruction of an opponent’s newspaper. For that, he was jailed and ordered to stand trial. Before that could happen, a mob burst into the jail and killed him."

Right Wing World

In a New York Times post, Prof. Tom Edsall argues that the country is turning more liberal, so Newt Gingrich and the desperate, angry loons he appeals to are going the way of the Studebaker (well, he couldn't write, "Edsel"). Or something like that.

Justin Sink of The Hill: "Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) said that her Republican counterpart Reince Priebus showed a 'dramatic level of insensitivity' in comparing President Barack Obama to the disgraced captain of the Italian cruise ship that ran aground earlier this year, killing at least 16 people." CW: I could not agree more with Wasserman Schultz. Priebus said, in part, "... we're going to talk about our own little Captain Schettino, which is President Obama...." I am positive this is a further attempt to characterize Obama as "foreign" and a foreign coward, to boot. Even the name "Schettino" sounds to an English-speaker like a derogatory foreign word -- "little scooter," or something, tho my husband -- who is an Italian-born linguist -- says the name has no meaning; it's just a name.

Stephanie McCrummen of the Washington Post: "As the Republican establishment mounts attacks denouncing him as too erratic to be president, [Newt] Gingrich has seemed only more energized. Despite slipping in Florida’s polls, he has vowed a 'wild and woolly' primary battle that will end with his victory. And on Sunday, he and Mitt Romney traded their harshest attacks yet, with Romney telling Gingrich to 'look in the mirror' if he wants to understand his slide in the polls, and Gingrich slugging back, calling Romney a 'pro-abortion, ­pro-gun-control, pro-tax-increase moderate.'” ...

... Sam Youngman & Steve Holland of Reuters: "Republican Newt Gingrich struggled to halt surging rival Mitt Romney's momentum on Sunday, accusing him of launching false attacks as polls showed Romney widening his lead two days before Florida's presidential primary. Romney, who has battered Gingrich in a flood of television ads and two debates in Florida last week, opened a double-digit lead over the former House of Representatives speaker in four polls released on Sunday." ...

... Nate Silver seems to think Gingrich is a dead duck in Florida. ...

... Evan McMorris-Santoro of TPM: Mitt Romney & his allies are outspending Newt Gingrich & Co. five-to-one in Florida. "The Dems think ... it’s not Romney who’s winning votes in Florida, but the size of his wallet." Thanks to Kate M. for the link. ...

... So it appears Gingrich is threatening a brokered convention. Oh, the fun of a nasty GOP free-for-all.

** "Existential Otherness." Frank Rich sees Mitt Romney as "the white shadow," someone nobody -- even his close associates -- know nothing about.

James Surowiecki of the New Yorker: A "curious reality of this year’s election: ... the same party that loves to inveigh against the dangers of excessive borrowing is now likely to nominate for President a man whose entire career, and entire fortune, was built on debt. Leveraged-buyout firms like Bain Capital, which Mitt Romney ran between 1984 and 1999, routinely borrow massive sums in order to make their acquisitions, leaving companies with debt loads equal to twice their annual sales or more.... The implicit message [the Republican party will' send by nominating Romney is ...: Debt for me, but not for thee."

Jonathan Chait of New York magazine: Romney has grabbed some of Newt's far-right language about President Obama. Also, in Right Wing World, the proletariat truly believe that Obama is an idiot who can't speak in full sentences without a teleprompter.

Buh-bye, Voting Rights Act; Adios, Latinos. Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "As Republican primary voters head to the polls in Florida on Tuesday, both GOP front-runners have endorsed a policy that would contradict existing law and could disenfranchise millions of voters across the country. During a recent debate, both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney supported getting rid of bilingual ballots when the topic was brought up by the moderator."

The deficit hawks that are the Washington Post editorial board are still on the warpath, but they're right about this much: "The Republican presidential candidates claim to abhor debt, yet propose tax cuts that would add trillions more.... It makes no sense to further benefit the wealthiest taxpayers at a time when spending programs for the most vulnerable would be on the chopping block — of necessity, given the candidates’ pledges to cap spending. In their fiscal consequences these cuts would be disastrous; as a matter of fairness, even more so.

CW: Steve Benen, who is now a producer on the Rachel Maddow show, blogs that my very senator, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) doesn't understand the economy. inasmuch as Marco claims jobs growth & economic growth are "worse" than jobs losses & economic contraction. Actually, I think Marco is just a liar. Don't know which is worse, especially if I try to apply Marco's definition of "worse."

News Ledes

President Obama answered questions at a Google Plus event this afternoon:

New York Times: "All but two European Union countries agreed Monday to new and tougher measures to enforce budget discipline in the euro zone, but the bloc still showed few signs of producing a comprehensive solution for the sovereign debt crisis or a credible plan to revive fragile economies across Europe's weakened Mediterranean tier."

New York Times: "As Syrian forces pushed rebels back from strongholds near Damascus on Monday, some of the world’s top diplomats converged on the United Nations to try to press President Bashar al-Assad to leave office through a Security Council resolution." ...

... Washington Post: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned 'in the strongest possible terms' the escalation of Syrian government attacks on opposition protesters and said she would voice American concerns at a U.N. Security Council meeting on the subject Tuesday."

Washington Post: the Park Police sort of closed down the Occupy Washington encampment at McPherson Square today, allowing tents to stay up -- as symbols of protest -- but forcing protesters to remove camping equipment & stuff. The ban is the result of "pressure from Republican congressmen."

Reuters: "House Republicans will propose legislation on Tuesday calling for $260 billion in spending on transportation infrastructure for up to five years, an election-year proposal touted as a job creator in a tough economy.... Additional elements could be tacked on by other committees in coming days, including a plan to authorize the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline despite the refusal of President Barack Obama to advance the project."

Reuters: "Ratings agency Standard & Poor's warned it may downgrade 'a number of highly rated' Group of 20 countries as of 2015 if their governments fail to enact reforms to curb rising health-care spending and other costs related to aging populations. Developed nations in Europe, as well as Japan and the United States, are likely to suffer the largest deterioration in their public finances in the next four decades...."

New York Times: "Claremont McKenna College, a small, prestigious California school, said Monday that for the past six years, it has submitted false SAT scores to publications like U.S. News & World Report that use the data in widely followed college rankings."

Reuters: "Crews cleaned up Oakland's historic City Hall on Sunday from damage inflicted overnight during violent anti-Wall Street protests that resulted in about 400 arrests, marking one of the largest mass arrests since nationwide protests began last year." The San Francisco Chronicle story is here.

Reuters: "Republican lawmakers will try to force the Obama administration to approve the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline by attaching it to a highway bill that Congress will consider next month, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday."

AFP: "Iran could develop a nuclear bomb in about a year and create the means for delivery in a further two to three years, the US defense chief [Leon Panetta] said Sunday, reiterating President Barack Obama's determination to halt the effort." ...

... New York Times: "Iran’s foreign minister was reported on Monday to have offered to extend a three-day visit to his country by United Nations inspectors in what seemed a further attempt to lower the strident tone of a crisis with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program following the imposition of new economic sanctions."

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration secretly monitored the personal e-mail of a group of its own scientists and doctors after they warned Congress that the agency was approving medical devices that posed unacceptable risks to patients, government documents show. The surveillance — detailed in e-mails and memos unearthed by the scientists and doctors, who filed a lawsuit against the FDA in U.S. District Court in Washington this week — took place over two years as the plaintiffs accessed their personal Gmail accounts from government computers. Information garnered this way eventually contributed to the harassment or dismissal of all six of the FDA employees, the suit alleges."

Reuters: "China intends to establish Shanghai as the global centre for yuan trading, clearing and pricing over the next three years as part of broader plans to make the commercial hub an international financial centre by 2020."

<>AP: In Kingston, Ontario, Canada, "a jury on Sunday found three members of an Afghan family guilty of killing three teenage sisters and another woman in what the judge described as 'cold-blooded, shameful murders' resulting from a 'twisted concept of honor,' ending a case that shocked and riveted Canadians. Prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three teenage sisters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and using the Internet."

Sunday
Jan292012

Two Rights Don't Make a Wrong

In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. -- President Obama, SOTU

Last Week PolitiFact rated these statements "half-true" because they decided that the President was "crediting his policies for the jobs increase." After an uproar -- I linked Paul Krugman's rebuttal -- PolitiFact backed down and deemed the statements "'mostly true' ... because [President Obama] was not making the linkage as strongly as we initially believed." Akhilleus wrote a good philosophical rebuttal to PolitiFact in comments to the Commentariat. Here's a letter I wrote to Bill Adair, the editor of PolitiFact, which is way less esoteric than Akhilleus' discourse but is something I think maybe a logic-challenged newspaperman can comprehend:

Shortly after we started PolitiFact, the housing bubble burst. -- Bill Adair

I would rate that statement as "true."

Whatever inference I derive from such a remark would be my doing, not yours. I may think that you are holding PolitiFact responsible for tanking the economy, that you are simply noting a coincidence, or that you are complaining that the mortgage on the house you bought in 2007 is underwater.

Two proximate true statements don't "merge" to constitute a "half-true" or "mostly true" statement. They remain two true statements. So if the president says, "When my stimulus program kicked in, the economy started creating jobs," each of those statements is true. Economists will argue whether or not there was a causal relationship, but the president would merely be making two proximate accurate observations.

What President Obama actually said was this: "In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005." There is nothing even slightly untruthful about either of those statements. I may infer President Obama single-handedly saved the economy, or I may infer that market forces independent of any government (or Federal Reserve) action caused the slight improvement in the jobs figures. It's not for PolitiFact to tell me what's on my mind -- or to impugn the President for what you infer is on his mind. That's what your rating does, whether you make it "half-true" or "mostly true." Get real. The statements are true. Period.

Time for another upgrade. And time for you to do some Reality Chex there at PolitiFact. Not for the first time, you're letting your success undermine your mission. When you become less truthful than the politicians you "fact-check," you become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Sunday
Jan292012

The Commentariat -- January 29, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden on the decision to raid the Osama bin Laden compound in Pakistan:

Quote of the Day. When they [the Church] have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the Candlestick, etc., and made His Garden a wilderness as it is this day. And that therefore if He will ever please to restore His garden and Paradise again, it must of necessity be walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world, and all that be saved out of the world are to be transplanted out of the wilderness of the World. -- Roger Williams, 1644, "Mr. Cotton's Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered" ...

... In the comments to yesterday's Commentariat, contributor Fred Drumlevitch links to this New York Times story of Cranston, Rhode Island high school student Jessica Ahlquist who successfully sued to have a prayer removed from her school auditorium. In a state founded on religious tolerance by Roger Williams who was the first in the Americas to write of the principle of separation of chuch & state, Ahlquist's suit engendered hate mail and threats to the point she requires a police escost to school. Read the whole story, and don't skip the last paragraph. When contributors like Carlyle predict doom and gloom, I think of young people like Jessica Ahlquist, Daniel Denvir (who wrote a post I linked yesterday), and Ezra Klein of the Washington Post. And I don't worry. Much. ...

... On the other hand, a friend sent me this yesterday: "Billy Graham was returning to Charlotte after a speaking engagement and when his plane arrived there was a limousine there to transport him to his home. As he prepared to get into the limo, he stopped and spoke to the driver. 'You know' he said, 'I am 87 years old and I have never driven a limousine. Would you mind if I drove it for a while?' The driver said,'No problem. Have at it.' Billy gets into the driver's seat and they head off down the highway. A short distance away sat a rookie state trooper operating his first speed trap. The long black limo went by with him doing 70 in a 55 mph zone. The trooper pulled out and easily caught the limo. He got out of his patrol car to begin the procedure. The young trooper walked up to the driver's door And when the glass was rolled down, he was surprised to see who was driving. He immediately excused himself and went back to his car and called his supervisor. He told the supervisor, 'I know we are supposed to enforce the law. But I also know that important people are given certain courtesies. I need to know what I should do because I have stopped a Very Important Person.' The supervisor asked, 'Is it the governor?' The young trooper said,'No, he's more important than that.' The supervisor said, 'Oh, so it's the President.' The young trooper said, 'No, he's even more important than that.' The supervisor finally asked, 'Well then, who is it?' The young trooper said, 'I think it's Jesus, because he's got Billy Graham for a chauffeur!'"

... Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "Online, and soon in big-box stores, you can buy a device no bigger than a cigarette pack, attach it to a car without the driver’s knowledge and watch the vehicle’s travels — and stops — at home on your laptop. Tens of thousands of Americans are already doing just that, with little oversight, for purposes as seemingly benign as tracking an elderly parent with dementia or a risky teenage driver, or as legally and ethically charged as spying on a spouse or an employee — or for outright criminal stalking.... Sales of GPS trackers to employers and individuals, for a multitude of largely unregulated uses, are growing fast, raising new questions about privacy and a legal system that has not kept pace with technology.”

How You're Making Vulture Capitalists Super-Rich. James Surowiecki of the New Yorker: how private equity firms like Bain Capital screw everybody -- except themselves -- and make millions and billions by stressing companies and playing generous tax loopholes. CW: yeah, they're crooks, but it's all legal. P.S. Thanks, Congress. Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

Right Wing World

Fake Nice Guys Finish Second. Jim Rutenberg & Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times on how the Romney team decided to pull out all the stops against Gingrich, then did it. It's the plan they'll be using in the general election. ...

... AP: "Just how rich is Mitt Romney? Add up the wealth of the last eight presidents, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. Then double that number. Now you're in Romney territory. He would be among the richest presidents in American history if elected — probably in the top four." Only George Washington was definitely richer, though Romney is "small potatoes" among today's ultra-rich Americans.

Harold Holzer in the Washington Post: Newt Gingrich wants to debate President Obama Lincoln-Douglas-style, but the Lincoln-Douglas debates were not all that great. The two men behaved badly AND bored their audiences. CW: Frankly, that sounds right up Newt's alley. ...

... Prof. John Pitney, in a Washington Post op-ed piece, predicts Gingrich would not fare too well in a Lincoln-Douglas-type match-up against Obama, though there are pitfalls for Obama, too.

Mike McIntire & Michael Luo of the New York Times profile Sheldon Adelson, the moneybags who is bankrolling Newt.

Local News

CW: Party affiliation doesn't seem to mean much in Pennsylvania. David Catanese of Politico: "The two top finishers in the Pennsylvania Republican Party's U.S. Senate endorsement vote both have deep ties to the Democratic Party." Remember Sen. Arlen Specter, the one-time Democrat, long-time Republican turned Democrat? Maybe this isn't such a bad thing.

Betsy Reason of the Indiapolis Star: die-hard right-to-work opponents plan to take their protest to the Super Bowl. A bill to make Indiana a right-to-work state, which has passed in the Republican state house, is expected to pass easily in the GOP-controlled state senate and will be signed by anti-union activist Gov. Mitch Daniels.

News Ledes

New York Times: New York State "Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, plans to introduce a bill on Monday to raise the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, a 17 percent increase. The bill also calls for the minimum wage to be adjusted each year for inflation. Mr. Silver’s action follows similar steps by lawmakers across the country: Delaware recently passed a minimum wage increase, and raises are being considered in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri and New Jersey."

New York Times: "A march to take over a vacant building by members of the Occupy movement in Oakland, Calif., turned into a violent confrontation with the police on Saturday, leaving three officers injured and about 200 people arrested." San Francisco Chronicle story here. ...

     ... AP: "About 300 people were arrested Saturday during a chaotic day of Occupy protests that saw demonstrators break into City Hall and burn an American flag, as police earlier fired tear gas and bean bags to disperse hundreds of people after some threw rocks and bottles and tore down fencing outside a nearby convention center." ...

     ... Chronicle Update: "Oakland officials and Occupy protesters Sunday confronted the fallout from their continuing conflict, a fight that reignited Saturday with a chaotic, often violent day of demonstrations that resulted in at least 400 arrests. A day after Saturday's clashes, city officials took stock of the damage, which included injuries to three police officers and several protesters, as well as vandalism inside City Hall."

Reuters: "Thousands of Syrian soldiers moved into the suburbs of Damascus that have fallen under rebel control on Sunday, killing five civilians, activists said, a day after the Arab League suspended its monitoring mission in Syria because of mounting violence."

New York Times: ".Greece once again appears on the verge of reaching a deal with its private sector creditors on how much of a loss they would be willing to accept on their bond holdings."

CNN: "Rick Santorum's three-year-old daughter Isabella, who suffers from a chromosomal condition called Trisomy 18, was admitted to a Philadelphia hospital Saturday. In a statement, Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley said the GOP presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator would cancel campaign events on Sunday morning."

Reuters: "Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich received the endorsement of former rival Herman Cain on Saturday and vowed to fight until the end no matter what happens in Florida's upcoming primary vote."

Friday
Jan272012

The Commentariat -- January 28, 2012

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

Maybe you're sick of the State of the Union address, but Jim Fallows -- a former presidential speechwriter, BTW -- has a terrific edition, with his own smart annotations. Click on the underlined text, and the annotations pop up. Some are pretty funny. ...

... Robert Scheer writes an excellent reality check on President Obama's SOTU address. CW: what he writes is exactly the reason I backed Obama over Hillary Clinton -- I did not want to get Clintonized again. Yet Obama, if he is Bush III on foreign affairs, is Clinton II on domestic policy. ObamaCare is fiscally-conservative HillaryCare, Dodd-Frank & its Volcker Rule is nowhere near Glass-Steagall, & Obama's Simpson-Bowles Commission belt-tightening deficit-reduction is as Clintonesque as it gets -- right down to Bowles, who was Clinton's chief-of-staff. Occupy is far from finished its work. Read Scheer, who hits other topics in the SOTU. I think the only difference between then & now is that WE are smarter this time. We must stay smart. And tough.

Diane Sawyer interviewed President Obama; the interview aired Thursday:

video platform video management video solutions video player

Peter Whoriskey of the Washington Post: "The Commerce Department on Friday issued its quarterly report showing that the economy expanded at a comfortable rate of 2.8 percent during the last quarter of last year.... But the report and other recent economic data suggest a stark divide between the fortunes of businesses and people. Companies are thriving again, but households have come under financial stress.... The employment level is down about 6 million from its peak of about 146 million just before the downturn.... Wage increases have been modest, too.... Though consumers are spending more, they are also saving less, with the personal savings rate dropping for each of the last four quarters.... Moreover, disposable personal income is slightly lower than it was a year before in inflation adjusted dollars."

Here's the text of an e-mail I just got from my friends at Google. See the January 26 Commentariat for related new stories:

We're getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that's a lot shorter and easier to read. Our new policy covers multiple products and features, reflecting our desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google.

We believe this stuff matters, so please take a few minutes to read our updated Privacy Policy and Terms of Service at http://www.google.com/policies. These changes will take effect on March 1, 2012.

March 1, 2012 is when the new Privacy Policy and Terms will come into effect. If you choose to keep using Google once the change occurs, you will be doing so under the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Reuters: "Apple Inc has never turned 'a blind eye' to the problems in its supply chain and any suggestion it does not care about the plight of workers is 'patently false,' Apple Chief Executive Tim Cooksaid in an email to employees. Cook was responding to a report in The New York Times about working conditions at Apple's main contract manufacturer, Foxconn, in China, an issue that for years has been a thorn in the company's side." CW: Ah, good. None of those damning reports is true. And Cook is really earning his $60 million a year, isn't he?

Matthew Yglesias in Slate: "... Data released this month as part of the [International EnergyAgency]’s ltest World Energy Outlook report ... shows that in 2010 the world spent $409 billion on subsidizing the production and consumption of fossil fuels, dwarfing the word’s $66 billion or so of subsidies for renewable energy. Phasing fossil fuel subsidies out would be sufficient to accomplish about half the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions needed to meet the goal of preventing average world temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius."

David Firestone of the New York Times: in case you've forgotten, because Republicans keep lying to you about them & Newt & Willard keep sliming each other with them, Fannie & Freddie did not cause the financial crisis.

Right Wing World

** Daniel Denvir in Slate: "... the stereotyping of black government dependency ... serves the strategic end of discrediting the entire social safety net, which most Americans of all races depend on. Black people are subtly demonized, but whites and blacks alike will suffer." CW: I thought this was 40-year-old "news," but Denvir puts the history of social safety net programs together to make some very good points. For instance, I never thought of this: "On Social Security, [Rick] Santorum is making what appears to be a safe argument for reform: cutting rich people out of the program. Right now, Social Security belongs to everyone. Cutting rich people out is the first step to making it a program for the poor. Making something a program for the poor — see food stamps, Medicaid and welfare — is the first step toward eliminating it."

Mitt Romney, Candidate of the Great Vampire Squid. Nicholas Confessore, et al., of the New York Times: "No other company is so closely intertwined with [Mitt] Romney’s public and private lives [than is Goldman Sachs --] except Bain itself. And in recent days, Mr. Romney’s ties to Goldman Sachs have lashed another lightning rod to a campaign already fending off withering attacks on his career as a buyout specialist, thrusting the privileges of the Wall Street elite to the forefront of the Republican nominating battle." Goldman has been bankrolling Willard for decades, and now they're his biggest contributors.

Matt Viser of the Boston Globe: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has long been critical of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, blaming the government-backed housing lenders for inducing the home-mortgage crisis and saying they have become too unwieldy.... Yet Romney has profited from investments that were made in both government entities.... And unlike most of Romney’s financial holdings, which are held in a blind trust that is overseen by a trustee and not known to Romney, this particular investment was among those that would have been known to Romney."

Local News

Campbell Robertson & Stephanie Saul of the New York Times: "A close look at some of the clemency applications of the nearly 200 others who were pardoned [by outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi] reveals that a significant share contained appeals from members of prominent Mississippi families, major Republican donors or others from the higher social strata of Mississippi life." Barbour issued "more than 10 times as many pardons as his four predecessors combined."

News Ledes

New York Times: "NBC News is asking that the Romney campaign remove from its ads any references to material from the network in response to a new commercial that consists almost entirely of old footage of its former news anchor, Tom Brokaw, reporting on Newt Gingrich’s legal troubles.... The Romney campaign said Saturday that it ... was reluctant to take the ad off the air because it believes it falls within the provisions of the fair-use doctrine...." Here's the ad:

Here's the campaign ad which NBC wants the Romney campaign to take down:

Reuters: "The Justice Department issued civil subpoenas to 11 financial institutions as part of a new effort to investigate misconduct in the packaging and sale of home loans to investors, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Friday. Holder declined to provide specifics, including the names of the firms."

New York Times: New York City "Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Friday that 'The Third Jihad,' a film depicting many American Muslim leaders as extremists, 'should not have been shown' to New York City officers. The film was played on a loop for officers during 2010 in a waiting area outside a counterterrorism training course, Mr. Kelly said. He placed responsibility for the decision to show the film on a sergeant, whom Mr. Kelly did not identify."

Guardian: "The head of the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria has said violence has risen significantly in the country in recent days, as the UN prepares to debate a resolution on the crisis next week. The flashpoint city of Homs has again been the focal point of clashes, which are thought to have killed at least 100 people since Wednesday. Activists in the besieged city reported a massacre had taken place at the hands of regime forces on Thursday."

Guardian: "Four current and former employees of the Sun newspaper and one serving police officer have been arrested as part of Scotland Yard's investigation into police corruption. The Metropolitan police have also launched a search at News International's headquarters in Wapping in a bid to secure any potential evidence relating to suspected payments to police by journalists."

Reuters: "Greece and its private creditors head back to the negotiating table on Saturday to put together the final pieces of a long-awaited debt swap agreement needed to avert an unruly default."