The Ledes

Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

Guardian: "The US State Department says Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, has been released. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Fowle was home Tuesday after negotiators left Pyongyang. She said the US is still trying to free two other Americans, Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae."

New York Times: "Oscar de la Renta, the doyen of American fashion, whose career began in the 1950s in Franco’s Spain, sprawled across the better living rooms of Paris and New York, and who was the last survivor of that generation of bold, all-seeing tastemakers, died on Monday at his home in Kent, Conn. He was 82."

New York Times: "Oscar Pistorius, the South African track star once seen as an emblem of triumph over adversity, was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp." ...

     ... The Guardian is liveblogging the sentencing.

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, October 20, 2014.

New York Times: "At least one chapter of the Ebola saga neared a close Sunday, as most of the dozens of people who had direct or indirect contact here with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola, had been told by officials that they were no longer at risk of contracting the disease."

New York Times: "Escalating its assistance to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobani, American military aircraft on Sunday dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to resupply the combatants, officials said."

New York Daily News: "Tennessee state Sen. Jim Summerville was arrested twice this weekend — just one month after he was arrested for public intoxication, police said. The outgoing Republican senator from Dickson, Tenn., has been charged with stalking and assault in separate incidents involving his neighbor, Lt. Todd Christian said." CW: Another fine representative of the people.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
October 21

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks to the Washington Post (audio only)

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

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

Stephen Colbert describes his workday:


No Surprise Here. Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... online search traffic from behind closed doors in Jesusland suggests that the bad, nasty, sexual impulses righteous believers are trying so hard to shut down may be their own. And if Google search patterns mean anything, they’re not succeeding too well: studies consistently demonstrate that people in conservative religious states search for adult materials online far more often than people in blue states."

Jeffrey Frank reviews, for the New Yorker, a new biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. The review is fairly entertaining & informative.

Michael Cieply of the New York Times: "... several of the companies behind 'Citizenfour' — which takes issue with Mr. Obama’s expansion of Bush-era surveillance, and his administration’s attempt to prosecute [Edward] Snowden for espionage — are led by some of the president’s close political allies. They include Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company’s co-chairman, as well as Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant Media, and Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, who all have been major contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns."

Washington Post: "President Obama's credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York. 'I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was -- during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,' Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. 'It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were -- they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.'"

"Who's Gonna Stand Up & Save the Earth?" Not Stephen Colbert:

Novelist John Grisham recants his apologia for child porn. Good to know.

Unsolved Mystery. Washington Post: "Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list." Original story further down this column. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead.

New York Times: "CBS announced a new subscription Internet streaming service on Thursday that allows people to watch its live television programming and thousands of its current and past shows on demand without paying for a traditional TV subscription. The new 'CBS All Access' service, costing $5.99 a month, is the first time that a traditional broadcaster will make a near-continuous live feed of its local stations available over the web to non-pay-TV subscribers. At its start, the live stream will be available in 14 markets in the United States." ...

... New York Times: "HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix. Just hours after HBO unveiled plans for its new service, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slower than expected...."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Following its initial mercy killing at the hands of Jon Stewart, Crossfire was rebooted last year with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones to dismal returns..., CNN ... scrapped it for good today [October 15] so that Newt can spend more time with his animals — and hopefully run for president again."

Joe Concha of Mediaite: "A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily." CW: I've caught a few minutes of Farrow's show a couple of times, & it was clear the guy was in way over his head. His performance was as embarrassing as the Russert kid's, though he isn't an obnoxious bro in the Russert-kid mold. I'm not sure if the suits will ever figure out that legacies & children-of-famous-people are usually not the best & brightest, perhaps because a lot of the suits themselves are legacies.

Philip Shenon in Politico Magazine: "If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows."

Snowden, The Movie:

... AND, Snowden's girlfriend is living with him in a Moscow apartment. David Harding of the New York Daily News: "His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, moved into his apartment in the Russian capital in July, a detail that was revealed in the new documentary, 'Citizenfour.'” ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Laura Poitras & making the film "Citizenfour." ...

... Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times discusses the film. He attended the premiere at the New York Film Festival, where the documentary got a rare standing O. CW: I'm kinda sensing that "Citizenfour" can best be described as "documentary as hagiography." And, yes, I'm definitely seeing an Oscar here. Call me an oracle.

 

 

A video for Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist-Man Rubio & Bobby I'm-Not-an-Evolutionary-Biologist Jindal, & all their non-scientist Republican friends:

Selina Gray, on right, saved Arlington House treasures during the Civil War.Michael Ruane of the Washington Post: "When Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary, fled Arlington House at the start of the Civil War, she gave her personal slave, Selina Norris Gray, the keys to the mansion and responsibility for the grand house the Lees had lived in for 30 years. Gray fulfilled her duties. She is famously credited with saving from marauding Union soldiers numerous heirlooms belonging to George Washington that were stored in the house. Now the National Park Service, which administers Arlington House, has acquired what it says is a rare and previously unknown photograph of Gray and, apparently, two of her eight children."

"An FBI wanted poster shows William Bradford Bishop Jr. The image on the left shows how Bishop would look now. (Getty)"Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "For nearly 40 years, the legend of Bethesda fugitive William Bradford Bishop Jr. carried an air of not just evil brutality but refined sophistication. This was a man suspected of killing his family with a small sledgehammer in 1976 and setting their corpses on fire. Then he vanished, taking with him fluency in five languages, the experience of a world traveler for the State Department, and a fondness for playing tennis, flying airplanes and drinking Scotch. There were alleged sightings: a public park in Stockholm, a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, a train station in Basel, Switzerland. Now, in a potentiality stunning development in the case — centered in a municipally owned cemetery in the northeastern corner of Alabama — remains that were exhumed Thursday may tell a different story. Bishop could be the heretofore unidentified man called John Doe, who was struck by a car while walking down a highway in 1981, a person who appeared to be homeless, who’d worn several layers of heavy, dirty clothes and weighed just 155 pounds." ...

... CW: If you like mysteries & enjoy reading about how they're unravelled, you should find this a compelling story.

Christopher Schmidt says, "On Oct 8th, I was flying my quadcopter at Magazine Beach Park in Cambridge, [Massachusetts,] when a hawk decided he wasn't too happy with my invasion of his airspace:

... CW: Thanks to Julie L. for the link. So one way to get rid of those annoying drones that will soon be hovering in your air space is to take up falconry. (Since bringing down other people's drones may be illegal, blame the bird.)

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Saturday
Aug042012

The Commentariat -- August 5, 2012

Once again inspired by P. D. Pepe, I have taken a whack at Our Young Man from the Vatican, waxing eloquent today all All's Wrong with Obama. The NYTX front page is here.

James Hansen, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute in a Washington Post op-ed: "In a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures, which will be published Monday, my colleagues and I have revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present.... We can solve the challenge of climate change with a gradually rising fee on carbon collected from fossil-fuel companies, with 100 percent of the money rebated to all legal residents on a per capita basis. This would stimulate innovations and create a robust clean-energy economy with millions of new jobs.... The future is now. And it is hot." ...

... Seth Borenstein of the AP reports on the report.

Bill Vlasic, et al., of the New York Times: if U.S. policymakers could entice the Japanese to build cars in the U.S., maybe a similar approach should be taken for the tech industry, where so much product is built in Asia.

New York Times Editors: "Massachusetts will be the first state to try to cap overall health care spending, both private and public, so that it will grow no faster than the state economy."

How come "ordinary citizens go to jail when they break the law, while the elites face a mere slap on the wrist"? A few theories.

Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, wife of Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Illinois) talks to Michael Sneed of the Sun-Times about her husband's illness, which she characterizes as depression, possibly triggered by weight-loss surgery.

Presidential Race

"The Vanity of Perfectionism." Robert Parry in AlterNet on the foolishness of people "on the American Left ... who sit out presidential elections or cast ballots for third-party candidates who have no chance of winning.... When we treat elections as if they are our moment to express ourselves, rather than to mitigate the damage that a U.S. president might inflict on the world, we are behaving selfishly, in my view.... U.S. elections should not be primarily about us." Thanks to Kate M. for the link.

An Obama Landslide? Michael Tomasky of Newsweek: "Liberals don't want to jinx it. It terrifies the right. And the press would prefer a nail-biter. But the fact is that finding Romney's path to victory is getting harder every day."

A Romney Landslide? James Pethokoukis of the (right-wing) American Enterprise Institute: "Political scientist Douglas Hibbs looks at two factors when forecasting presidential elections: a) per capita real disposable personal income over the incumbent president's term, and b) cumulative U.S. military fatalities in overseas conflicts. And he's predicting a near-landslide win for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama, with Obama losing by about as big a margin in 2012 as he won back in 2008." ...

... On Hibb's model, contributor Victoria D. points to this post by Ezra Klein, who relies heavily on a lot of work by Nate Silver. Klein (& Silver) note that "Hibbs's model in particular performs well for the years from which it extrapolates -- that is, the elections from 1952 to 1988 -- and very poorly for elections before and after.... The model predicted that Al Smith would win in 1928, Thomas Dewey would win by a landslide in 1948, and that Al Gore would have won comfortably in 2000. In sum, Silver alleges, the model does worse than just positing that each party will get 50 percent of the vote. So take Hibbs's findings with a grain of salt":

Chart by Nate Silver.

Let's Just Lie. Reid Epstein of Politico: "Mitt Romney sparked a Saturday tit-for-tat by claiming, without pointing to any evidence, that President Obama 's campaign is trying to restrict military voting in Ohio. Obama's campaign responded, ripping Romney for 'completely fabricating' a claim it called 'shameful.' At issue: A lawsuit the Obama campaign filed July 17 that seeks to restore three days of early voting for all of the state's voters. At no point does the lawsuit attempt to curb the rights of active military.... Romney's spokesman, Ryan Williams, in an interview Saturday could point to no place in Obama's lawsuit that seeks to restrict the rights of military voters." ...

... Speaking of which, here is Vol. XXVIII Steve Benen's "Mitt's Mendacity."

Right Wing World *

Laura Bassett of the Huffington Post: "Wheaton College, an evangelical liberal arts school in Illinois, asked a Washington, D.C. federal court on Wednesday for an emergency injunction against the Obama administration's contraception coverage mandate because the rule forces the school to cover emergency contraception.... But Wheaton's health plan already covered emergency contraception when the mandate was announced..., and tried to scramble to get rid of that coverage in order to qualify for the one-year reprieve President Barack Obama put in place for religious institutions that have moral objections to contraception." Via Steve Benen.

"Land's End." Joseph Conn in Wall of Separation: "Notorious Southern Baptist lobbyist Richard Land has announced his retirement.... Land, head of the so-called Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, lobbied for the SBC for nearly 25 years. He is the embodiment of the SBC's conversion from friend of religious liberty to agent of theocracy. A faithful advocate of the Religious Right agenda for 25 years, Land has been shrill, aggressively partisan and deeply hostile to the church-state wall." Via Steve Benen.

* Where Hypocrisy never sleeps.

News Ledes

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "The shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek about 10:15 a.m. Sunday that left seven people dead, including the shooter, and three people injured is being treated as a domestic terrorist incident, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said. Oak Creek police officers who responded to a 911 call about the shooting were helping a victim when the shooter ambushed one of the officers, shooting the officer multiple times. A second Oak Creek officer returned fire, killing the shooter, Edwards said. The wounded officer, described as at least a 20-year veteran of the department, was in surgery Sunday afternoon and was expected to survive, Edwards said during a 4 p.m. news conference." New York Times story here. ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Tattoos on the body of the slain Sikh temple gunman and certain biographical details led the FBI to treat the attack at a Milwaukee-area temple as an act of domestic terrorism, officials said Sunday."

New York Times: "Israel on Sunday barred the delegations of five countries from attending a diplomatic conference in Ramallah, in the West Bank, upending plans by the Palestinian president to announce his intention to renew the Palestinians' bid this September for enhanced status in the United Nations."

AP: "A possible plea deal in the deadly Tucson shootings that wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords would send Jared Lee Loughner to prison for the rest of his life, a person familiar with the case said Saturday.A court-appointed psychiatrist will testify Tuesday that Loughner is competent to enter a plea...."

AFP: "... The Mars Science Laboratory and rover Curiosity -- designed to hunt for soil-based signatures of life and send back data to prepare for a future human mission" -- is scheduled to land on Mars early Monday morning. First signals would reach NASA "at 1:31 am Eastern time (0531 GMT).... That will be about 14 minutes after the touchdown actually happens due to the time it takes for spacecraft signals to travel from Mars to Earth."

AP: "Several wildfires raging around the parched Oklahoma landscape prompted more evacuations on Sunday as emergency workers sought to shelter those forced out by flames that destroyed dozens of homes and threatened others in the drought-stricken region."

Friday
Aug032012

The Commentariat -- August 4, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... Here's the transcript.

Jordan Weissmann of The Atlantic: "... there are now fewer public sector employees per American than at any time dating back to the Carter administration (To be clear, we're talking state, federal, and local here).... If the share of government workers was back to 2007 levels, we'd have about 1.7 million more jobs than we do today." With charts. Here's the overview of the Brookings Institution report Weissman cites. ...

... Adam Peck of Think Progress: "Even as the national unemployment rate ticked up ever so slightly in July, the unemployment rate for veterans fell to its lowest level in more than three years, dropping to 6.9 percent. That figure is the lowest monthly unemployment rate for all veterans since before President Obama took office.... The unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars remained higher than the national unemployment rate, but it too appears to be trending in the right direction."

Gail Collins: The Do-Nothing Congress has no time to save the Post Office, but plenty of time to name post offices; it has no time to pass a farm bill during a national emergency but plenty of time to vote 33 times against ObamaCare. "Maybe it's possible [for Congress] to have a negative approval rating."

New York Times Editors: Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) showed "utter disdain" for the House Ethics Committee that reprimanded her. "She was found to have misused House resources, violated campaign restrictions on staff members, withheld subpoenaed documents and sought to manipulate witnesses and evidence. In the process, she most likely broke federal law, while showing a 'near total deflection of responsibility,' the panel concluded."

Solomon Banda of the AP: "... some are wondering whether the [University of Colorado's threat assessment] system broke down.... A university psychiatrist was so alarmed by graduate student James E. Holmes' behavior that she tried to bring him to the attention of the school's threat assessment team more than a month before the attack, but the group never met to talk about him because he had already taken steps to drop out.... University Chancellor Don Elliman has repeatedly said the school did all it could with regard to Holmes.... However, KMGH-TV and the Denver Post ... said police were never contacted."

Judy Chu (D-Calif.) in a New York Times op-ed: "I introduced the Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act, which asks the military to make hazing a crime, requires the Defense Department to come up with a comprehensive anti-hazing plan, and creates a tracking system for hazing incidents. These provisions passed the House in May as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, but the Senate still needs to act. And the sooner it acts, the better, because we know this is just the beginning of what we need to do to eradicate hazing. Our military doesn't have to abuse its own to be strong."

Charles Blow: "A young man is stopped by police, who find $10 worth of drugs on him; he had twice been searched by officers and then double handcuffed behind his back and placed in the back of a police car; yet, somehow, he retrieves a gun that both searches failed to find and uses it shoot himself in the right temple? That is what police in Jonesboro, Ark., say happened on the evening of Sunday, July 29, to Chavis Carter, a 21-year-old African-American man from Southaven, Miss., a suburb of Memphis."

"Still Puritan after All These Years." Matthew Hutson in a New York Times Sunday Review piece: "... present-day Americans still exhibit, in their attitudes and behavior, traces of those austere English Protestants who started arriving in the country in the early 17th century."

Contributor Victoria D. recommends this excellent piece by Karoli of Crooks & Liars on Campbell Brown, former CNN "journalist"/hack/stealth Romney surrogate & wife of Romney advisor Dan Palestinian-Culture-Sucks Senor. So do I.

Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post: America's First Ladies didn't/don't like the job.

Presidential Race

Rachel Maddow in an excellent segment on Mitt Romney's history of, um, lying about his taxes:

     ... AND one on Romney's insistence in 1994 that Ted Kennedy release his tax returns, etc.:

Brian Beutler of TPM: "Romney's most recent financial disclosure form revealed that his tax-deferred individual retirement account holds upwards of $100 million -- an amount that ... raises legal and ethical questions. IRAs are intended to allow workers to put away modest sums of money each year in order to help finance a middle class retirement. The savings are tax deferred, but there's a legal limit -- now $6,000 -- on how much each IRA holder can contribute annually. Now top Democrats on the Budget, Ways and Means, and Education and Workforce Committees want to know how people of Romney's wealth can end up with 100,000 times that much money in a single IRA, and how much the tax and investment strategies they employ cost the Treasury in revenue every year." With copy of letter from to top Treasury & Labor officials from Reps. George Miller (D-CA), Sander Levin (D-MI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Sam Youngman of Reuters: "Under pressure to reveal more about his personal finances..., Mitt Romney on Friday said he had paid 'a lot of taxes' every year.... Romney said the sources of [Harry] Reid's accusations [that Romney paid no taxes for 10 years] may be within the White House or President Barack Obama's re-election campaign."

Spending More Time with His Family. Arlette Saenz & Emily Friedman of ABC News: Romney "Spokesman Rick Gorka, whose curse-laden flap with the press in Poland rounded out the news reports culminating Romney’s trip, is 'taking some time off the trail' after a week abroad, per a Romney aide. Gorka normally serves as the traveling spokesman for Romney on all his campaign trips."

No Apologies? No Principles. Ginger Gibson of Politico: "At a news conference in Las Vegas, Romney wouldn't weigh in on either the fight over comments by the president of the fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A over gay marriage or an effort spearheaded by Michele Bachmann calling for an investigation into Huma Abedin and alleged Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the federal government." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Mitt Romney is most amusing when he has to go la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you at the cultural-issues antics of his party's base.... Even as his most loyal supporters treat this election cycle as marking the Final War for the Preservation of Civilization, the candidate himself continues to pretend it's all about GDP growth and out-year budget estimates. It's just ha-larious."

AND Willard Gets a Key Endorsement. CBS News: "Porn star Jenna Jameson chose a familiar stage to make her endorsement for the 2012 presidential election Thursday night. At a San Francisco strip club, the former adult actress and stage performer said she was ready for a Romney presidency. 'I'm very looking forward to a Republican being back in office,' Jameson said while sipping champagne in a VIP room at Gold Club in the city's South of Market neighborhood. 'When you're rich, you want a Republican in office.'" ...

... Okay, maybe this is a better one. Steve Peoples of the AP: "Clint Eastwood just made Mitt Romney's day. [He] endorsed the Republican presidential candidate Friday night during a Sun Valley fundraiser. 'I think the country needs a boost,' Eastwood told The Associated Press as he joined other Romney supporters for the private campaign event. In February, Eastwood told Fox News that he wasn't supporting any politician at that time. Some saw the 'halftime in America' ad he made for the Super Bowl as a nod toward President Barack Obama. Eastwood responded then by saying he was not 'politically affiliated' with the president." CW: What he meant was, "When you're rich, you want a Republican in office."

Congressional Races

Lucas Johnson of the AP: "The Tennessee Democratic Party is disavowing the man who won the party's nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Bob Corker in November, saying the little-known candidate belongs to an anti-gay hate group. Mark Clayton, 35, reported raising no money and campaigned little but received more than 48,000 votes, twice the number of his nearest competitor in Thursday's seven-candidate Democratic primary. Clayton is vice president of Falls Church, Va.-based Public Advocate of the United States, which calls itself a conservative advocacy group. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the organization an anti-gay hate group." CW: Congratulations on your re-election, Sen. Corker. And thanks to reader Jeanne B. for the link.

News Ledes

Birmingham News: "- A federal judge ... sentenced former Gov. Don Siegelman (D-Ala.) to 78 months in prison.... A federal jury in 2006 convicted Siegelman of federal funds bribery on allegations that he sold a seat on a hospital regulatory board to former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in exchange for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's 1999 referendum campaign to establish a state lottery. Siegelman served nine months of an 88-month sentence before being released in March 2008 on an appeal bond. A federal appeals court tossed out two of the charges against him, which prompted today's resentencing."

Reuters: "Wildfires burned out of control on Friday in Oklahoma, destroying homes and shutting down highways in a state that has suffered 18 straight days of 100-plus degree temperatures and persistent drought. Emergency officials counted 11 different wildfires around the state, with at least 65 homes destroyed in parched areas north and south of Oklahoma City and south of Tulsa."

Reuters: "The University of Colorado has hired a former federal prosecutor to probe its handling of a former graduate student accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 in a shooting spree at a movie theater in a Denver suburb, the school said on Friday."

AP: "Iran claimed Saturday it has successfully test-fired an upgraded version of a short-range ballistic missile with improved accuracy, increasing the Islamic Republic's capability to strike both land and naval targets."

AP: "The Afghan parliament passed votes of no confidence Saturday against the country's defense and interior ministers, a blow to the government of President Hamid Karzai as it attempts to project an image of stability while international forces draw down."

AP: "Senate Democrats rejected a Republican effort to force defense contractors to send out notices of possible job layoffs four days before the election, calling the move politically driven and purely speculative based on looming spending cuts. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 17-13 against an amendment by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The provision would have overturned Labor Department guidance this week to federal contractors that they do not have to warn their employees about potential layoffs from the automatic, across-the-board cuts that kick in Jan. 2."

Thursday
Aug022012

The Commentariat -- August 3, 2012

New York Times Editors: "What are Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Draghi waiting for? Slower growth? Higher unemployment? Lower output?"

Paul Krugman: "President Obama, if re-elected, can, and should, replace [Ed DeMarco, the acting director of the agency that runs Fannie & Freddie,] through a recess appointment. In fact, he should have done that years ago.... Mr. Obama has made plenty of mistakes. But the DeMarco affair nonetheless demonstrates, once again, the extent to which U.S. economic policy has been crippled by unyielding, irresponsible political opposition. If our economy is still deeply depressed, much — and I would say most — of the blame rests not with Mr. Obama but with the very people seeking to use that depressed economy for political advantage."

Tim Egan has a few thoughts on Nino Scalia's contribution to democracy. Like this: "Secretive donor money in federal elections went from 1 percent in 2006 to 44 percent in 2010, after the Supreme Court lifted restrictions." And this: "Fewer than 200 people in a nation of 313 million comprise 80 percent of all super PAC donations."

A Brave Senate Finance Committee Tackles Tax Reform. Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "... members of the Senate Finance Committee congratulated themselves for agreeing to jettison 20 [tax breaks], including a $5,000 credit for first-time home buyers in the District and a cash-incentive program for ­wind-energy projects that has been derided as benefiting foreign companies. But their failure to weed out dozens more pet provisions clouded prospects for a far-reaching simplification of the nation’s tax laws advocated by President Obama, GOP challenger Mitt Romney and congressional leaders in both parties." Among them: "An accelerated write-off for owners of NASCAR tracks."  Well, of course, some of these guys are "great friends" of Mitt's. (And of a senator on the Finance Committee, too, no doubt.)

Dave Weigel posts on the closing arguments in the Pennsylvania voter fraud trial.

AND Teddy Partridge of Firedoglake finds "the best obit correction ever: the New York Times on Gore Vidal."

Presidential Race

Chances are you pay a higher tax rate than him [Mitt Romney]….Mitt Romney made $20 million in 2010 but paid only 14 percent in taxes…probably less than you. Now he has a plan that would give millionaires another tax break. And raises taxes on middle class families by up to two thousand dollars a year. -- Voiceover in Obama ad ...

... Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "This ad is tough, but we cannot fault the accuracy of its key points. To some extent, the Romney campaign has been hoist with its own petard by refusing to provide sufficient detail that shows how the numbers add up in Romney’s tax and budget plans. So we are left with the judgment of a respected and independent third party. We hold campaign ads to a high standard, particularly attack ads.... For the first time in this frequently nasty campaign, we award a rare Geppetto Checkmark for a campaign ad."

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "President Obama on Thursday continued his swing-state offensive against Mitt Romney’s tax-cut plans, deriding them as a boon to the rich at the expense of everyone else — 'trickle-down tax-cut fairy dust,' he called them at a college here."

Richard Oppel of the New York Times: "After a rocky trip to Europe and Israel in which his remarks drew complaints from British and Palestinian leaders, Mitt Romney flew Thursday to Colorado, an important swing state, to try to regain his footing and refocus his campaign on his core message of renewing the economy."

Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Obama touted his record on women's issues and stressed the women in his personal story as he addressed a major gathering of women bloggers on Thursday. 'Women’s issues are front and center as they should be. But the conversation has been oversimplified a bit,' he told the BlogHer conference in New York, speaking live via video from Orlando, Fla. 'Women are not a monolithic bloc, not an interest group. You make up more than half our country and our workforce, not to mention 80 percent my household if you count my mother-in-law.'"

Jamelle Bouie of the American Prospect: "Obama’s attacks on Romney’s financial life — Bain Capital, his tax returns, his ostentatious wealth — are meant to present the former Massachusetts governor as an unscrupulous plutocrat, indifferent to the lives of ordinary Americans. But the goal of that is to soften Romney for the main event — an all-out attack on his economic plan." ...

... More Secret Mitt. Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "A new study describing Mitt Romney’s tax cut proposals as an average tax increase for 95% of Americans is 'a joke,' according to Romney adviser Eric Ferhnstrom. But policy aides offered no indication they plan to offer more details on Romney’s plan in order to clarify how it would be paid for...." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "The Romney campaign’s increasingly desperate attempts to dismiss a new study of its tax plan are a pretty good sign that the study is devastating. That isn’t to say the campaign is trying to counter it with actual specifics.... The Tax Policy Center ... has one of the more reliable and unbiased computer models of the nation’s tax system. But for the far right (also known as the Republican center), any tax analysis that doesn’t swallow the prosperity gospel of tax-cut magic is, therefore, liberal." ...

... Paul Krugman: "Obama['s tax plan] is inadequate; Romney['s] is intensely, screamingly irresponsible. On top of that, Romney is scamming voters, claiming not only that he can make up the lost revenue by closing unspecified loopholes, but that he can do so in a way that doesn’t shift the tax burden away from the rich onto the middle class. He can’t, as a matter of sheer arithmetic — which is the point of that Tax Policy Center study. The Romney campaign isn’t even trying to make a substantive argument in response — they’re just calling names."

Maggie Haberman of Politico: "On Sean Hannity's radio show, Mitt Romney just told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to 'put up or shut up' on the unsubstantiated allegations he's made about the GOP hopeful not paying his taxes for ten years.... But the 'put up' line was a bit surprising, since Romney is the one under fire for not releasing his returns..., and only he, in this specific instance, has the documents in question that someone is asking be 'put up.'"

Fred Kaplan of Slate: "Romney's foreign policy ideas are really quite scary.... Romney took this trip to pass a fairly simple test: to demonstrate a bedrock comfort and competence on the world stage. He failed that test.... In comparing Romney’s foreign policy to Obama’s...: They’re the same, except when Romney’s is more reckless or mysterious. Not a good bumper sticker."

... AND in Sporting News.... "Ann Romney's horse fails to win dressage but avoids offending British." Sam Jones of the Guardian: "... the 15-year-old bay Oldenburg mare acquitted herself rather well. True, she and her rider, Jan Ebeling, may have been left well behind by Britain's Carl Hester, Germany's Dorothee Schneider and Denmark's Anna Kasprzak but, by Romney standards, her performance was a positive triumph. Never for a second during her seven-minute performance did a hoof stray dangerously mouthwards, nor did she do anything at all to offend or upset the host nation. From the moment she entered the Greenwich Park equestrian arena at 12.15 on Thursday afternoon, the most famous political horse since Caligula toyed with making a consul of Incitatus seemed in her element."

News Ledes

AP: "Syria reached out to its powerful ally Russia on Friday, as senior officials pleaded with Moscow for financial loans and supplies of oil products — an indication that international sanctions are squeezing President Bashar Assad's regime.... Rebels fought regime forces in the Syrian capital only two weeks after the government crushed a revolt there."

New York Times: "Cass Sunstein, 57, who projected an air of disheveled academic detachment while becoming one of the Obama administration’s most provocative figures, announced Friday that he was leaving government to return to Harvard Law School."

Houston Chronicle: "A federal judge in Galveston on Thursday partially blocked new Texas registration laws that critics say amount to vote suppression because they prevent large voter registration drives. U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa blocked the state from enforcing five provisions of the laws that its defenders say are aimed at preventing voter fraud."

NBC News: "House Republicans will file a civil suit against Attorney General Eric Holder during the August recess, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has told NBC News."

Bloomberg News: "Payrolls in the U.S. climbed more than forecast in July, boosted by a pickup in employment at automakers, even as the jobless rate unexpectedly rose to a five-month high. The increase of 163,000 followed a revised 64,000 gain in June payrolls that was less than initially reported.... Unemployment rose to 8.3 percent."

New York Times: "Amtrak lost more than $800 million on its food and beverage services over the last 10 years, largely because of waste, employee theft and lack of proper oversight, government auditors have found."

AP: "Growing use of generic medicines has reduced U.S. health care spending by more than $1 trillion over the past decade, according to an industry-funded study released Thursday. The fourth annual report, produced for the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, found use of generic prescription drugs in the U.S. saved about $193 billion last year alone."

Washington Post: "Two federal agencies and Congress said Thursday that they were investigating an incident at Reagan National Airport in which commuter jets headed in opposite directions closed to within about 1,650 yards of one another at a combined speed of 436 mph.... Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ... praised the air traffic controller who recognized that the planes were closing on each other at a high speed. The controller ordered one pilot to abort his approach to National and turn south. The three planes, all operated by US Airways, carried 192 passengers and crew members, the airline said. They all reached their destinations safely."

Reuters: "U.S. Representative Diane Black won the primary election by a comfortable margin over Lou Ann Zelenik, noted for her fierce opposition to the Islamic Center built in Murfreesboro..., although it was outside the congressional district she sought to represent. Zelenik was backed by a wealthy conservative businessman from Nashville, who paid for ads attacking Black over the mosque and Islam. Zelenik charged that Black had not opposed the mosque vigorously."

Space: "The 1-ton Curiosity rover, the heart of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, is slated to touch down inside the Red Planet's Gale Crater on Sunday night (Aug. 5)."

Politico: "The House officially reprimanded Rep. Laura Richardson on Thursday for improperly using her official staff to conduct campaign work and personal errands, the latest blow to the California Democrat’s bid for a fourth term in Congress."

Guardian: "Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks was formally charged with phone hacking and will appear in court next month.... Six other journalists from the News of the World, including David Cameron's former spin doctor Andy Coulson, have been officially charged and will appear at the same court on 16 August."

Wednesday
Aug012012

The Commentariat -- August 2, 2012

Palestinians are a hard-working and an incredible community. They have done remarkably well outside their country. I have never met a poor Palestinian in the United States; every Palestinian I know is a college professor or a doctor. -- Bill Clinton, in Riyadh, "showing Romney how it's done"

Simon Johnson in the New York Times: the big banks rely on three myths to justify their hegemony: (1) that their critics are whacked-out "populists"; (2) that Dodd-Frank reforms are not justified by a costs-benefits analysis; & (3) that financial reform will hurt economic growth.

New York Times Editors: "The I.R.S., citing 'current public interest in this issue,' promised a review [of political activity for social welfare nonprofits that enjoy exemptions under section 501(c)(4)] after receiving complaints from ... watchdog groups that have been tracking the ballooning use of the 'social welfare' guise to finance classic hardball politics. It is ludicrous to perceive Karl Rove, the canny Republican strategist and money raiser, as primarily nonpartisan and civic-minded...." The review is unlikely to affect the current campaign season.

I tell all my people, 'I'm not working for Chick-fil-A; I'm working for the Lord.' -- Donald Elam, a Chick-fil-A franchisee in -- appropriately enough -- Superstition Springs, Arizona

It's interesting that the Lord chooses to pay them a third of what they would get if they owned any other franchise. He does work in mysterious ways. -- Digby

"The Cult of Chick-fil-A." Emily Schmall of Forbes: Chick-fil-A "seeks loyal employees and operators who believe serving chicken is God's work. Careful screening of new hires keeps it out of trouble." They get away with likely discriminatory practices because so many of their workers are franchisees who are not covered under anti-discrimination laws.

Michael Hiltzig of the Los Angeles Times: "In an interview with a Baptist publication and an appearance on a devotional radio program, [Dan] Cathy, [president & CEO of Chick-fil-A] unburdened himself of the view that gay marriage violated God's plan.... Cathy's outburst ignited a very predictable outbreak of partisan posturing.... Sarah Palin and Todd Palin had their picture taken holding up big bags from Chick-fil-A, as if to prove that in modern America you can affiliate yourself with retrograde social prejudice and line your arteries with cholesterol at one stop, without moving the car."

Scott Shane of the New York Times: "F.B.I. agents on a hunt for leakers have interviewed current and former high-level government officials from multiple agencies in recent weeks, casting a distinct chill over press coverage of national security issues as agencies decline routine interview requests and refuse to provide background briefings."

Dave Weigel of Slate covers the Pennsylvania voter fraud case for Slate. It's going so badly for the state that a Republican strategist tells Weigel that the state is probably saving its thunder for the higher courts. CW: Really? The state can't call witnesses in the appellate & Supreme Courts. ...

     ... Here's a follow-up post from Weigel.

Presidential Race

The Great Suppression of 2012. Charles Blow: "... a lot of people who say that they are likely to vote may not actually be eligible to vote. The greatest margin of uncertainty may well be caused by poll respondents who think that they will able to vote for President Obama in November, but may not be allowed to do so." Update: see also links to posts, above, by Dave Weigel of Slate on the Pennsylvania case.

Maggie Haberman of Politico: Harry Reid doubles down. He now claims that "I have had a number of people tell me that" Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years. Asked by reporters in Nevada to elaborate, Reid said, "I don't think the burden should be on me. The burden should be on him. He's the one I've alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn't he release his tax returns?"

"He pays less, you pay more":

Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "The Romney campaign is pushing back against a new study from researchers at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center suggesting Mitt Romney's tax proposals would actually increase taxes for a whopping a 95% of Americans, denouncing the Tax Policy Center ... as a 'liberal' group.... While the Romney campaign hasn't rebutted the substance of the study, they claim the Tax Policy Center should be dismissed entirely as a biased source. But" the Romney camp called the Tax Policy Center an "objective third party" when they used its analysis to slam primary opponent Rick Perry's budget proposal. ...

... Worse Than Romney. Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post: "Romney can take some solace in knowing his allies in Congress have proposed a plan that shifts the burden from high-income to middle-income taxpayers even more dramatically." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... Mitt and his party are committed to fiscal policies that would significantly skew the tax burden towards in the middle and bottom of the income scale, while concentrating 'spending restraint' on the same people as well. And why wouldn't they do so? If wealth is a measurement of 'success,' and if success is a measurement of 'virtue,' then regressive policies become a moral imperative, and that's pretty much the unstated overriding goal of today's conservative movement and GOP."

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change culture and save it from itself. -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Geographer Jared Diamond in a New York Times op-ed: Mitt Romney misrepresented my views. What he said "is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it.... Our geography won't keep us rich and powerful if we can't get a good education, can't afford health care and can't count on our hard work's being rewarded by good jobs and rising incomes." ...

... Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post: "... most people still believe that two cultures in particular, African and Islamic, inhibit economic development. But the two countries that will next achieve a gross domestic product of $1 trillion are both Muslim democracies -- Turkey and Indonesia. Of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world today, seven are African.... Ironically, the argument that culture is central to a country's success has been used most frequently by Asian strongmen to argue that their countries need not adopt Western-style democracy."

... Bob Wright of The Atlantic: "... what is alarming ... is that [Romney] probably has no awareness of the stunning irony of going to Jerusalem, having a lovefest with Bibi Netanyahu, defender-in-chief of the Israeli occupation, and then preaching to Palestinians that they'd be better off if only they'd get themselves some freedom! ... There's one thing he just can't seem to wrap his mind around: not being Mitt."

Every policy prescription Romney comes up with -- even when he tries to hide the details as he does with his economic proposal -- is bad policy & would be unpopular if voters heard what it was. That is, of course, the reason Secret Mitt has a secret agenda. Besides --

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: one of the old Mitt Romneys -- the one who wrote No Apology -- thought government investing in innovation was important & cited -- contra the new winger meme -- the Internet as one example of government-funded innovation. "Romney calls for increasing government spending on R&D in his book, he has supported GOP plans like Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, which would slash this kind of investment."

Congressional Races

Gail Collins: "Texas Republicans have just nominated a Senate candidate who is promising to protect America's golf courses from the United Nations.... [Ted] Cruz's victory was the latest in a number of Tea Party triumphs in Republican primaries, and it certainly does suggest that next year the Republican Senate contingent will be composed almost entirely of right-wing purists and people who are afraid they're going to be primaried by a right-wing purist." ...

... Russell Goldman of ABC News: "The stunning Texas victory of Ted Cruz, a young Tea Party-backed Republican over an establishment candidate vying for a Senate seat, has already so emboldened the insurgent conservative movement that activists are warning Mitt Romney he had better get on board. 'These guys [newly elected Tea Party candidates]" are going to force Romney to the right,' said Andrea Shell, a spokeswoman for Tea Party group Freedom Works. 'That is our entire mission.'"

Right Wing World *

I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that's Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that's the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates. -- Mike Kelly (RTP-Pa.) ...

... Pema Levy of TPM: "Beginning Wednesday, private insurers are required to cover contraceptive services in new plans without a co-pay as mandated by the health care reform law."

* Where the implementation of every Democratic act is the equivalent of an alien invasion.

News Ledes

Too Bad about the Disaster, Folks. We're Going on Vacation. New York Times: "After refusing to consider a sweeping five-year farm measure, House Republican leaders jammed through a short-term, $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of farmers.... Democratic leaders in the Senate, which already passed a bipartisan five-year bill, refused to take up the House measure, faulting House Republican leaders for failing to consider the broader legislation in time."

Politico: "The Senate's late-summer race to pass cybersecurity legislation before leaving for recess came to a dead end Thursday when Democrats couldn't muster enough gas to clear a procedural vote over objections of GOP leaders and many big business lobbies. The bill required 60 votes to cut off debate and get it to the floor for a vote, but fell short 52-46."

Reuters: "Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is stepping down as the U.N.-Arab League mediator in the 17-month-old Syria conflict at the end of the month, the United Nations said on Thursday, the latest sign that the outlook for a diplomatic solution is bleak." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Frustrated by the seemingly intractable Syrian conflict, Kofi Annan announced his resignation on Thursday as the special peace envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, throwing new doubts on whether a diplomatic solution is possible. He also said President Bashar al-Assad of Syria 'must leave office.'"

AP: "Nearly 220 counties in a dozen drought-stricken states were added Wednesday to the U.S. government's list of natural disaster areas as the nation's agriculture chief unveiled new help for frustrated, cash-strapped farmers and ranchers grappling with extreme dryness and heat.... More than half of all U.S. counties -- 1,584 in 32 states -- have been designated primary disaster areas this growing season...."

AP: "Arab countries pushed ahead Wednesday with a symbolic U.N. General Assembly resolution that tells Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign and turn over power to a transitional government. It also demands that the Syrian army stop its shelling and helicopter attacks and withdraw to its barracks. A vote is set for Friday morning."

Bloomberg News: "The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency warned its employees and contractors last week to stop using their government computers to surf the Internet for pornographic sites, according to the agency's executive director."

New York Times: "New York City, embracing an experimental mechanism for financing social services that has excited and worried government reformers around the world, will allow Goldman Sachs to invest nearly $10 million in a jail program, with the pledge that the financial services giant would profit if the program succeeded in significantly reducing recidivism rates."

ABC News: "Dr. Lynne Fenton, the psychiatrist who was treating [mass murder suspect James] Holmes, 24, at the school, was also a key member of the university's threat assessment team, [and] ... by early June, Fenton had informed other members of the team about her concerns regarding Holmes. But on June 10 -- three days after Holmes bought an assault weapon and added it to his already growing arsenal -- he suddenly told the university that he was dropping out.... KMGH-TV reported last week that he'd purchased the weapon hours after failing a key oral exam."

AP: "Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, her running mate and three others have been arrested amid a sit-in at a downtown Philadelphia bank over housing foreclosures."

AP: Heidi Wys, "an adviser to Puerto Rico's most powerful female lawmaker, faced calls to resign on Wednesday after she sent a tweet to President Barack Obama" that read, ".. Take her [Michelle Obama] to Burger King, buy her a sundae with double banana, take her to your homeland, Kenya!"