The Ledes

... Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. (This video tends to start near the end. If it does that for you, cursor back to the beginning.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015.

Guardian: "The Federal Reserve on Wednesday continued to pave the way for an increase in interest rates as early as September. The US central bank left its key interest rate unchanged at near zero – where it has been since the 2008 financial crisis – but once again signalled that rates will rise later this year. While the Fed chair, Janet Yellen, has left little doubt that rates will rise this year, the Fed left itself wiggle room as it has set no timetable and said rates would only be raised if the economy continues to improve and unemployment continues to fall." ...

... The Fed's statement is here.

New York Times: "A large object that appeared to be an airplane part washed up Wednesday on the shore of Réunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, prompting speculation that it might be debris from Flight 370, the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that disappeared in March 2014." ...

     ... AP UPDATE: "Air safety investigators have a 'high degree of confidence' that aircraft debris found in the Indian Ocean is of a wing component unique to the Boeing 777, the same model as the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared last year, a U.S. official said Wednesday."

New York Times: "After months of speculation, Afghan officials announced Wednesday that they were now certain that the Taliban’s reclusive leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, died in Pakistan in 2013."

Guardian: "Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has approved the immediate construction of hundreds of settlement units in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in an effort to stave off a growing threat posed by pro-settler parties in his rightwing coalition government. The issue was brought to a head on Wednesday by a supreme court ruling that two buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El – built on private Palestinian land without permits – should be destroyed, despite Netanyahu’s opposition."

Washington Post: "An Albuquerque 911 dispatcher has resigned after audio was released of him hanging up on a 17-year-old as she tended to a friend who was shot at the party. The victim, 17-year-old Jaydon Chavez-Silver, later died.... Emergency responders had already been dispatched to the house before [the dispatcher] hung up." Includes 911 audio.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "A big-game hunter from the Twin Cities found himself at the center of an international firestorm Tuesday over the death of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, but said he regrets killing the animal and believed his guides were leading him on a legal hunt.... Earlier Tuesday, the Telegraph newspaper of London identified [dentist Walter] Palmer as the hunter who shot Cecil and reported that he paid $54,000 for the hunt. The Telegraph said the lion was illegally lured out of Hwange National Park, where it had protected status, and onto a neighboring game farm, where Palmer was on safari." ...

... Salon: Yelp contributors are whacking Palmer.

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, July 28, 2015.

Guardian: "Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libya’s former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, has been sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli. Saif, once seen as his father’s heir apparent, was condemned to death along with eight other figures from the former dictatorship, including the former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and Gaddafi’s last prime minister, Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi."

Reuters: "FIFA boss Sepp Blatter deserves a Nobel Prize for his stewardship of soccer's governing body, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview aired by Swiss broadcaster RTS on Monday."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

White House Live Video
July 29

1:00 pm ET: Press briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Fuck off! I’m done with you. -- Jon Stewart, to Wyatt Cenac

... Alex Jung of New York: Jon Stewart repeatedly yelled at Wyatt Cenac when Cenac questioned a "Daily Show" segment meant to be a defense against Fox "News" allegations that Stewart's Herman Cain imitation was racist. ...

... Maron's WTF podcast of his interview with Cenac is here. ...

... CW: Here's the thing, black people. When you confront white liberals with accusations of racial bias, WE WILL NEVER ADMIT IT. We will remind you that we have been fighting for black civil rights for 50 years (Bernie Sanders). We will tell you all lives matter (Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley). We will tell you that white people are responsible for expanding your rights (Hillary Clinton). We will deny your accusations (Every one of us). And all the while, we will be highly insulted, even if we don't tell you to fuck off. Because white people's feelings matter. And, after all we've done for you, we can't believe you would accuse us of racism.

Even when they're only lip-syncing, some entertainers are pretty damned talented. I'm not much of a fan of Tom Cruise's, but ...

Tech Crunch: "It’s no secret that Google+ didn’t quite work out the way Google envisioned and now, after already moving Google Photos out of the service, it’s starting to decouple Google+ profiles from its regular Google accounts."

Stupid Pet Tricks, Reptile Edition:

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: NBC News Chairman Andy Lack is replacing MSNBC's Ed Schultz with -- Chuck Todd. [CW: Excellent decision! Let's change "MSNBC" to "VPN" -- "Village People's Network."] "The only programs that appeared safe from disruption were Morning Joe..., hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski; Hardball ... with Chris Matthews; and The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. Those programs have performed respectably...." ...

We live in a time when much of the corporate media regards politics as a baseball game or a soap opera. Ed Schultz has treated the American people with respect by focusing on the most important issues impacting their lives.... I am very disappointed that Comcast [the parent company of NBC & MSNBC] chose to remove Ed Schultz from its lineup. We need more people who talk about the real issues facing our country, not fewer.... At a time when a handful of large, multi-national corporations own our major media outlets, I hope they will allow voices to be heard from those who dissent from the corporate agenda. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

Washington Post: "The latest update from NASA's Kepler space telescope — designed to spot distant exoplanets — adds more than 500 new possible planets to the fray. That's in addition to the 4,175 planets already found by Kepler. And of those 500 new potential planets, scientists say, a dozen could be remarkably Earth-like. That means they're less than twice as large as Earth, are potentially rocky and are at the right distance from their host stars to harbor liquid water." ...

... Guardian: "Scientists on the hunt for extraterrestrial life have discovered 'the closest twin to Earth' outside the solar system, Nasa announced on Thursday."

Worst Person Ratings in the World. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: Rumors are a'flyin' that MSNBC is headed for another line-up shake-up, which could include the Return of Dr. Olbermann, who is departing ESPN -- again. Because their third place in cable ratings wasn't as bad as their third place is now (sometimes 4th, behind Al Jazeera). And because the New Olbermann is now a suits-licking pussycat, unlike the Old Olbermann from way last week.

Some Would Be Heroes. Washington Post: Coast Guardsman Darren Harrity swims a mile in choppy, fuel-slicked sea to save four men in a leaky lifeboat.

New York Times: "What Pet Should I Get?" -- an aide to Dr. Suess's widow found the manuscript in a box. Dr. Suess -- Theodore Geisel -- died in 1991.

     ... Via BuzzFeed, for the fun of it.

Washington Post: "On Monday, famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian tycoon Yuri Milner held a news conference in London to announce their new project: injecting $100 million and a whole lot of brain power into the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, an endeavor they're calling Breakthrough Listen." ...

... CW: What a waste. You know all they'll find is angels hovering around a pantheon of some sort & maybe, if they're lucky, their long-dead pooches floating around Pet Heaven, which is real & wonderful.

New York Times: "In a pair of legal filings on Friday, two nuns who object to [singer Katy] Perry’s proposed purchase of their order’s convent on eight acres [in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles] disclosed an email describing any sale to the saucy pop singer as a breach of their sacred vows.... The court papers include claims by several of five surviving nuns in the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the archdiocese is betraying them and bullying them into supporting a sale other than their preferred transaction with [another buyer]."

NASA: "In the latest data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto’s icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named 'Tombaugh Regio' (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930."

Hill: "President Obama is making a final 'Daily Show' appearance before host Jon Stewart leaves the political comedy program after 17 years. Obama will sit down for his final chat with Stewart on Tuesday, the White House confirmed Friday."

For an actual feel-good moment, Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post tells the story of 16-year-old small-plane crash survivor Autumn Veatch. Veatch, who was injured in the crash that killed her grandparents, walked untold mild through rough terrain until she came to a public road & parking area.

Washington Post: "Nearly two months after a molestation scandal prompted TLC to pull reruns of the popular reality program '19 Kids and Counting' from the air and online, the network announced that it has officially canceled the program."

Washington Post: "Filmmaker George Lucas, singer-songwriter Carole King and dancer-actress Rita Moreno are among an unprecedented six honorees to be saluted at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. Seventies rockers the Eagles, actress Cicely Tyson and conductor Seiji Ozawa will also be honored at the Dec. 6 event, Kennedy Center officials said Wednesday. A major fundraiser for the arts center, the gala celebration will be televised on CBS on Dec. 29."

Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker reviews Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. ...

... Laura Marsh of the New Republic: "Scolars have been pointing out Atticus Finch's racism for years."

New York Times (July 15): "It was the last day of business at F. A. O. Schwarz on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan."

New York Times: "A day after its successful flyby, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back the first close-up photographs of Pluto, revealing a young surface dotted with ice mountains. The piano-size spacecraft traveled nine years and three billion miles to study the dwarf planet and its five moons." Includes one close-up photo from 25 miles out. More on NASA's site.

New York (July 14): "We're halfway through July, but until this morning, there was still snow on the ground in Boston. The last of the city's historic snowfall, a disgusting frozen mass of dirt, snow, and trash, was officially pronounced melted this morning"."

Here are time-lapse photos of the long melt:

Sean Hollister of Gizmodo: "The Mozilla Firefox web browser now blocks Flash by default. And when I say “blocks,” I don’t mean it asks you nicely if you’d really like to use Flash. I don’t mean it automatically pauses Flash videos like Google Chrome. I mean Mozilla has decided that Flash is going down.... Why such a hard-on for Flash? Why now? Well, it could be that the world just rediscovered just how prone Flash is to nasty, nasty vulnerabilities. When the Hacking Team — an Italian security company that sold intrusive spy tools — got hacked, one of those tools got out into the wild. A nasty hole in Flash that Adobe has yet to patch.... It’s probably worth noting that [Monday July 13], Mozilla’s Facebook’s chief security officer publicly asked Adobe to kill off Flash once and for all.... Update: Adobe has already released a newer version of Flash, 18.0.0.209, which Firefox doesn’t block by default. You’ll want to manually download it."

Contributor Nisky Guy takes us back in time to February 2006, when Lewis Black complained, "I can't wait that long":

Washington Post: "On its approach to Pluto, the spacecraft [New Horizons] obtained the most arresting image yet of the dwarf planet. Pluto is not a bland and featureless ball of ice, but rather a complex, variegated, mottled world with broad snowfields, structures that look like cliffs or fault lines, and a strikingly bright heart-shaped area that could be the eroded remnant of a giant impact crater."

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Wednesday
May082013

The Commentariat -- May 9, 2013

** Charles Pierce: "Congress seems on the brink of ceding not only the power to conduct acts of war ... but its clearly designated power to create and conduct a war itself.... Any member of Congress who votes for a permanent [Authorization to Use Military Force] along these lines is acting contrary to the expressed will of the Founders and contrary to the plain text of the Constitution itself. Ditto for any president who acts upon it, and any court that upholds it. Absent an amendment, Congress cannot constitutionally abandon its war powers to another branch of government. Oh, in reality, it can do it, and it has, and it likely will in the future, but it cannot cloak what it does in the Constitution because the Constitution was specifically written to say otherwise." ...

     ... Here's the underlying story, by John Bresnahan of Politico.

Obstructionism 2.0. Rachelle Younglai & Roberta Rampton of Reuters: "The Senate's top Republican on Wednesday came out strongly against President Barack Obama's labor secretary nomination, accusing Thomas Perez of being a crusading ideologue who would bend the laws to advance his agenda. The speech from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggests that Republicans will throw up procedural hurdles to prevent Perez from serving as the Obama administration's next labor secretary." Thanks to contributor Diane for the link.

... Obama 2.0. New York Times Editors: "President Obama has picked a former telecommunications lobbyist and campaign fund-raiser to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, raising serious questions about hid 2007 pledge that corporate lobbyists would not finance his campaign or run his administration... [The nominee, Tom Wheeler] was also a big 'bundler' for Mr. Obama in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, which means ... it is almost certain that he raised money from people whose companies he would regulate, creating potential conflicts of interest." ...

... CW: This pick is a career move for Obama. He's going to leave office a young man. He & his wife still have a long future to consider. Some of that future would certainly benefit -- directly or indirectly -- from keeping on the good side of media moguls. (Obama's choosing Mary Jo White to head the S.E.C. was a similar career move.)

Richard Cowan & Thomas Ferraro of Reuters: "A Senate committee on Thursday rejected a Republican proposal [offered by GOP Delayer-in-Chief Chuck Grassley] that would have significantly delayed the legalization of 11 million undocumented residents in the United States as part of a broad immigration bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-6 against the amendment. It was the first major test of a bipartisan bill that is being debated in the Senate." ...

... Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg News: "... Obama has ceded much of the spotlight on immigration to Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has been actively trying to sell immigration reform to the conservative base. Among Republicans, and perhaps among Democrats, too, it's possible immigration reform is now more identified with Rubio than with Obama.... If that's so, it's an example of the 'permission structure' at work."

Sarah Kliff & Dan Keating of the Washington Post: "For the first time, the federal government will release the prices that hospitals charge for the 100 most common inpatient procedures. Until now, these charges have been closely held by facilities that see a competitive advantage in shielding their fees from competitors. What the numbers reveal is a health-care system with tremendous, seemingly random variation in the costs of services."

Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post: "The veteran diplomat who oversaw the response to the deadly attacks on U.S. installations in eastern Libya last year offered a riveting account on Wednesday of that frantic night, as House Republicans sought to use his testimony to bolster their view that the Obama administration tried to shield embarrassing facts about the ordeal. Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission in Libya during the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks, testified before a House committee that he was frustrated when the U.S. military turned down a request to dispatch four Special Operations troops from Tripoli to Benghazi the next morning, saying he felt they were urgently needed to help evacuate Americans." ...

... Jeremy Peters & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "A State Department official on Wednesday offered the first public testimony from an American diplomat who was on the ground in Libya the night last September when the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi was attacked. And he said he was later demoted for raising questions about how the attack was handled." CW: Oh. A disgruntled employee. Who coulda guessed? ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: Hicks' account was riveting, & the public deserved to hear it. ...

... Kevin Drum: "Was Benghazi mishandled? Maybe. Are there lessons to be learned? Probably. Is there a scandal or a coverup? There's never been any evidence of it, and there still isn't. This is a show that goes on and on without end, but it never delivers a payoff. Issa and his colleagues need to start paying more attention to stuff that actually matters, and give up on the Fox-friendly conspiracy theories that never pan out. Enough's enough." ...

... Steve Benen: according to Darrell Issa & Friends, "This was a hearing so significant, so monumental, that Republican staffers on Capitol Hill felt the need to make movie posters to help promote it. Issa over-promised and under-delivered. The dramatic hearing that Republicans and Fox News hoped to use to bring down the Obama presidency and permanently derail Hillary Clinton's still-unknown ambitions did neither -- there's still no conspiracy; there's still no cover-up; there's still no political scandal.... Enough should be enough at this point, but if recent history is any guide, the next pointless hearing is just around the corner." ...

... Update: Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post tries to pinpoint what we learned from Hicks' testimony.

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "Lawmakers across Capitol Hill furiously turned their attention on Wednesday to sexual assault in the military, as members scrambled to introduce legislation focused on preventing and better prosecuting attacks, and continued sharp questioning of Air Force leaders about recent events that have underscored the problem." ...

... MEANWHILE, at the NRA. Dyland Stableford of Yahoo! News: "Anti-violence groups are criticizing the NRA for allowing a vendor at its annual conference to display 'the Ex,' a scantily-clad, blood-splattered female shooting-range target. According to Zombie Industries, the company that produces the $89.95 Tactical Bleeding Zombies, the targets are 'life-sized, three-dimensional tactical mannequins that 'bleed' when you shoot them.'" With photo. CW: yes, some spoilsports have no tolerance for encouraging gun-toting he-men to murder their ex-wives & girlfriends.

Holy Moola, Batman! What Happened to He-Said/She-Said Reporting? Jackie Calmes & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The nation's unemployment rate would probably be nearly a point lower, roughly 6.5 percent, and economic growth almost two points higher this year if Washington had not cut spending and raised taxes as it has since 2011, according to private-sector and government economists. After two years in which President Obama and Republicans in Congress have fought to a draw over their clashing approaches to job creation and budget deficits, the consensus about the result is clear: Immediate deficit reduction is a drag on full economic recovery."

We have spent more than what we have brought into this government for 55 of the last 60 years. There's no business in America that could survive like this. No household in America that could do this. And this government can't do this. -- John Boehner ...

... Josh Barro of Bloomberg News: John Boehner accidentally explains that federal deficit spending is not dangerous. "It's hard to think of better evidence for the sustainability of budget deficits than the fact that we have run them for 55 of the last 60 years.... Boehner doesn't really care about the public debt, as he made clear when he repeatedly supported debt-expanding measures under a Republican president. What Boehner and House Republicans really want are excuses to cut federal spending, particularly on programs such as Medicaid and food stamps that support low-income Americans. But those cuts are unpopular, so Republicans frame fiscal debate to make such cuts appear necessary to avoid disaster." Also, the accompanying chart which compares the rate of grown of U.S. public debt & WalMart's debt is illuminating. (WalMart up 5,760 percent since 1987; U.S. public debt up 600 percent.) Barro also explains to 5th-graders some differences between the government & a household. ...

... Paul Krugman on "the dwindling deficit." P.S. Simpson & Bowles (does anybody remember who they are?) are idiots.

Millionaires Party. If millionaires were a political party, that party would make up less than 10% of the country, but it would have a filibuster-proof super-majority in the Senate, a majority in the House, a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, and a man in the White House. If the Millionaires' Party ever gets its act together, watch out. -- Nick Carnes of Duke University

Carnes' research -- and common sense -- shows that the simple fact of being a white-collar millionaire leads to different priorities. It leads to different social circles. It leads to different bills. -- Ezra Klein

Have Cake, Eating It, Too. Steve Benen reiterates the chain of chained CPI events: "1. Congressional Republicans demand that the White House put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks. 2. President Obama reluctantly agrees to put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks. 3. Congressional Republicans criticize the chained CPI policy they said they wanted.... What's stopping the president from simply walking away from the idea he doesn't like anyway?" CW: sounds like a plan (perhaps one hatched Way Back When.

Congressional Races

Greg Sargent: "Two new polls show Dem Congressman Ed Markey with a solid lead over GOP challenger Gabriel Gomez: Suffolk University finds him up by 52-35, while WBUR finds him up by 46-38. However: Both polls show that very large chunks of the Massachusetts electorate are not familiar with Gomez, so there's still a long way to go for Markey." ...

Gabriel Gomez home in a Cohasset historic district. Boston Globe photo.... Tax Scammer. Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe: "Republican US Senate nominee Gabriel E. Gomez claimed a $281,500 income tax deduction in 2005 for pledging not to make any visible changes to the facade of his 112-year-old Cohasset home, a concession so valuable that it is classified as a charitable contribution under a federal law designed to protect historic homes. But Gomez and his wife, Sarah, were already barred from making any changes to the exterior of their home under the bylaws of the local Historical Commission, raising the question as to whether their donation -- the price of which is based on the loss of value in their real estate -- had any monetary worth.... Five weeks after the Gomezes claimed the deduction, the Internal Revenue Service listed programs such as this ... as one of its 'Dirty Dozen tax scams.'"

Gail Collins does not seem all that upset about Mark Sanford's election victory, & John Boehner does not seem all that thrilled about it.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The United States on Thursday expanded its roster of those violating Iran sanctions, blacklisting four Iranian companies and one individual suspected of helping the country enrich nuclear fuel. It also singled out two other companies.... [Wednesday] the Senate introduced legislation that could effectively deny the Iran government access to an estimated $100 billion worth of its own money parked in overseas banks...."

AP: "A 72-foot-long, high-tech catamaran sailboat capsized Thursday in San Francisco Bay while practicing for the America's Cup races this summer, killing an Olympic gold medalist from England and injuring another sailor, authorities said. Artemis Racing said Andrew 'Bart' Simpson died after the capsized boat's platform trapped him underwater for about 10 minutes shortly after 1 p.m."

AP: "California's attorney general sued one of the nation's largest banks Thursday, alleging that JPMorgan Chase & Co. used illegal tactics in its debt collection efforts against about 100,000 credit card holders. The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court says the company filed thousands of debt collection lawsuits each month between 2008 and April 2011 using improper practices that shortcut procedures required by California law." New York Times story here.

New York Times: "... new accounts out of Kizlyar, [Russia,] where [Tamerlan] Tsarnaev spent time with a cousin who is a prominent Salafi Islamist leader, have begun to flesh out a picture of what he did during his six months in Russia last year."

New York Times: "A judge ordered the man accused in the kidnapping of three women and a young child to be held on $8 million bail, $2 million for each case, on Thursday morning. The man, Ariel Castro, 52, appeared in court for the first time since his arrest during an arraignment hearing in municipal court in Cleveland. Mr. Castro did not speak and kept his head down and his eyes lowered during the proceedings."

** Los Angeles Times (via the Chicago Tribune): "Five days before two bombs tore through crowds at the Boston Marathon, an intelligence report identified the finish line of the race as an 'area of increased vulnerability' and warned Boston police that extremists may use 'small scale bombings' to attack spectators and runners at the event."

AP: "Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in an undisclosed location outside the city of Worcester, police said Thursday after a frustrating weeklong search for a community willing to take the body."

New York Times: "Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a son of former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday, according to media reports, throwing an already violence-ridden election campaign into more tumult."

Reuters: " The head of the Arab League on Thursday welcomed a new effort by Russia and the United States to seek a negotiated end to Syria's civil war and called on the Syrian government and opposition to participate."

AP: " A fire at a sweater manufacturer killed eight people -- including a senior police officer, a Bangladeshi politician and a top clothing industry official -- barely two weeks after the collapse of a building housing other garment factories where the death toll approached 1,000 on Thursday. Unlike the collapse at the Rana Plaza building, which was blamed on shoddy construction and disregard for safety regulations, the Tung Hai Sweater factory appeared to have conformed to building codes."

Reuters: " The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid fell last week to its lowest level in nearly 5-1/2 years, signaling labor market resilience in the face of fiscal austerity."

Cyber-Heist! Reuters: "The U.S. government charged eight individuals with stealing debit card data from two Middle Eastern banks in a scheme that prosecutors said netted $45 million in a matter of hours - a crime they called one of the biggest bank heists in history. A New York-based group hacked into credit card processors' computers to steal Mastercard Inc debit card data, which they used to make approximately 36,000 transactions over a total of 10 hours in 24 countries, the Justice Department said."

AP: "The Statue of Liberty is reopening July 4 after Superstorm Sandy flooded the island where it stands. The statue has been closed since Sandy struck the region on Oct. 29 and damaged much of Liberty Island's infrastructure. The statue itself is on higher ground and was not damaged."

Tuesday
May072013

The Commentariat -- May 8, 2013

Thomas Ferraro & Richard Cowan of Reuters: "U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy on Tuesday proposed a gay rights amendment to the Senate's immigration bill, prompting one of the measure's Republican sponsors to repeat his prediction that it could sink the legislation. 'It'll kill the bill,' Florida Senator Marco Rubio said in a brief interview. 'There is a coalition of groups who are supporting immigration reform who will not support it if that's in there.'"

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The Obama administration, resolving years of internal debate, is on the verge of backing a Federal Bureau of Investigation plan for a sweeping overhaul of surveillance laws that would make it easier to wiretap people who communicate using the Internet rather than by traditional phone services, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.... The F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III..., since 2010 has pushed for a legal mandate requiring companies like Facebook and Google to build into their instant-messaging and other such systems a capacity to comply with wiretap orders."

Mark Landler & David Sanger of the New York Times: "President Obama offered an endorsement Tuesday of South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye, and her blueprint for defusing tensions with North Korea, but warned that the first move was up to the erratic, often belligerent young leader in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un." ...

... Here's video of the news conference, where Obama also discussed sexual assault in the military, among other topics, in answer to reporters' questions:

Craig Wheeler of the Washington Post: "The estimated number of military personnel victimized by sexual assault and related crimes has surged by about 35 percent over the past two years, the Pentagon reported Tuesday, as the White House and lawmakers expressed anger with the military's handling of the problem. The sobering statistics, along with several recent sexual-abuse scandals in the armed services, prompted President Obama to bluntly warn the Defense Department that he expected its leaders to take tougher action against sex offenders and redouble their efforts to prevent such crimes. 'The bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this,' Obama told reporters. 'If we find out somebody's engaging in this stuff, they've got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged -- period.'" ...

... New York Times Editors: "The most promising proposal [to rectify the military's appalling mishandling of sexual assault cases] comes from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York. She plans to introduce legislation next week that ... would replace the current system of adjudicating sexual assault by taking the cases outside a victim's chain of command. It would end the power of senior officers with no legal training but lots of conflicts of interest to decide whether courts-martial can be brought against subordinates and to toss out a jury verdict once it is rendered. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel favors eliminating the power of senior officers to overturn jury findings in the most serious cases, but, so far, he has not endorsed the Gillibrand bill, which would move the authority both to investigate and prosecute offenses to impartial military prosecutors. His reluctance is troubling. It is his job to fix the situation. Halfway reform won’t do." The editors suggest presidential leadership is needed. CW: here, they're right. ...

... ** Blame the Victim, Ctd. Maureen Dowd Redeems Herself (Again): Air Force sexual assault prevention program top gun Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski's arrest on sexual assault charges (for an incident occurring just after he had completed his sexual assault victim training) "was a fox-in-the-henhouse echo of Clarence Thomas, who Anita Hill said sexually harassed her when he was the nation’s top enforcer of laws against workplace sexual harassment." Senators "just didn't get it" then, & 22 years later, military brass still "don't get it." "Gen. Mark Welsh, the chief of staff for the Air Force, shocked the women on the Senate Armed Services Committee when he testified that part of the problem ... is that young women who enter the military have been raised in a society with a 'hook-up mentality.' ... The Senate looks very different than it did during the Thomas-Hill hearings. Three of the six Senate Armed Services subcommittees are now led by women."

You're disadvantaging young people, African-Americans, the poor... that's the policy of the Obama administration? -- District Judge Edward Korman, to Obama administration lawyers ...

... Hizzonor Is Not Amused. Reuters (via the New York Times): "A federal judge on Tuesday criticized the Food and Drug Administration over its refusal to make emergency contraception available to girls of all ages without a prescription, saying the agency's move to restrict distribution to those 15 and older was not realistic. Judge Edward R. Korman of the Eastern District of New York, who last month ordered the agency to lift age restrictions on the morning-after pill, said at a hearing in Brooklyn that he would rule this week on its request to stay the order. The F.D.A. has appealed the ruling, and said it would allow girls as young as 15 to buy the pill without a prescription. Judge Korman called the decision 'a lot of nonsense' and questioned its timing, made one day before the F.D.A. filed its notice of appeal." (Korman is a Reagan appointee!) ...

... ** Irin Carmon of Salon has a great report on the hearing. Here's a sample: "Korman repeatedly slammed his hand down on the table for emphasis, interrupting the government counsel's every other sentence with assertions like, 'You're just playing games here,' 'You're making an intellectually dishonest argument,' 'You're basically lying,' 'This whole thing is a charade,' 'I'm entitled to say this is a lot of nonsense, am I not?' and 'Contrary to the baloney you were giving me....' He also accused the administration of hypocrisy for opposing voter ID laws but being engaged in the 'suppression of the rights of women' with the ID requirement for the drug."

AP: "One of the CIA's highest-ranking women, who once ran a CIA prison in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded, has been bypassed for the agency's top spy job.... She also ... helped ... the CIA destroy its waterboarding videos. The officer, who remains undercover, was a finalist for the job and would have become the first female chief of clandestine operations.... Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, has criticized the interrogation program and personally urged CIA Director John Brennan not to promote the woman, according to a former senior intelligence official briefed on the call.... CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said the assertion that the officer was passed over because of her involvement in the interrogation program was 'absolutely not true.'" CW: So, um, waterboarding & destroying evidence is not a career-buster. But, hey, it doesn't guarantee a promotion, either. Great.

** Jeet Heer writes a brilliant piece (IMHO) in the American Prospect on the relationship between sex & economics. Akhilleus, this is a reading assignment for you. ...

... BTW, the Ferguson Apologetic Moment is so over: "What the self-appointed speech police of the blogosphere forget is that to err occasionally is an integral part of the learning process. And one of the things I learnt from my stupidity last week is that those who seek to demonize error, rather than forgive it, are among the most insidious enemies of academic freedom." Shorter Ferguson: "I must criticize you, but you cannot criticize me." Shorter yet: "I am an accredited sociopath."

So, Penmanship. Martin Crutsinger of the AP: " Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew may not have succeeded yet in getting a grand budget bargain with Congress, but at least his handwriting is improving. And it is expected to be even better when the time comes for him to affix his 'Jacob Lew' to the nation's currency."

 

Congressional Races

Greg Sargent takes a look at the Massachusetts race to fill John Kerry's Senate seat. Big surprise: the Republican candidate, Gabriel Gomez, is a thoughtless, inarticulate dope. But he could beat Democrat Ed Markey.

Rick Klein, et al., of ABC News: The Koch-backed astroturf Tea Party organization FreedomWorks threatens primary challenges against Sen. Lindsey Graham & any other Members of Congress who occasionally accidentally attempt to do their jobs.

Local News

NEW. I missed this ... Danielle Dreilinger of the New Orleans Times-Picayune: "The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that the current method of funding the statewide school voucher program is unconstitutional. Act 2, part of Gov. Bobby Jindal's 2012 package of education reforms, diverts money from each student's per-pupil allocation to cover the cost of private or parochial school tuition. ...

... BUT Charles Pierce didn't. "You can't use public money to support religious schools. Period. It is the most preposterously obvious violation of the Establishment clause of the First Amendment this side of the outright attempt by the newly insane state of North Carolina to establish Christianity as an official religion."

Doug Denison of the Delaware News Journal: "Delaware became the 11th state today to legalize same-sex marriage after a lengthy debate in the state Senate and the surprise votes of two lawmakers who could have tipped the tally the other way. A half-hour after the 12-9 Senate vote, Gov. Jack Markell signed the legislation into law on the main stairs in the lobby of Legislative Hall."

Judith Dianis, co-director of the civil rights Advancement Project, writes a letter to the New York Times saying the Florida legislature's "election reform" bill "falls woefully short of achieving the kind of election reform that Florida citizens need." As Dianis noted, the Times story on the bill, linked here May 4, "paints a sunny picture" of the bill.

News Ledes

New York Times: "... investigators are looking into a range of suspected contacts [Tamerlan] Tsarnaev made in Dagestan, from days he might have spent in a mosque in Makhachkala, the capital, to time spent outside the city with a relative who is a prominent Islamist leader recently taken into custody by Russian authorities."

AP: " The Obama administration is providing $100 million in new Syria aid, U.S. officials said Wednesday, but the money is for humanitarian purposes only and not linked to any decision on arming Syrian rebels. The announcement will be made by Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday in Rome...."

AP: "Kidnapping and rape charges were filed Wednesday against a man arrested after three women missing for about a decade were found alive at his home. Homeowner Ariel Castro was charged while his brothers, Pedro and Onil Castro, were held but faced no immediate charges."

AP: "The Air Force stripped an unprecedented 17 officers of their authority to control -- and, if necessary, launch -- nuclear missiles after a string of unpublicized failings, including a remarkably dim review of their unit's launch skills. The group's deputy commander said it is suffering 'rot' within its ranks. 'We are, in fact, in a crisis right now,' the commander, Lt. Col. Jay Folds, wrote in an internal email obtained by The Associated Press and confirmed by the Air Force."

AP: "The vast majority of the $1 million reward offered in the manhunt for rogue ex-cop Christopher Dorner will go to a couple who he tied up in their Big Bear cabin, police said Tuesday.... [A panel of judges] decided that about $800,000 will go to James and Karen Reynolds. Daniel McGowan, who found Dorner's burning truck in the Big Bear area where he eventually was discovered, will get $150,000, and $50,000 will go to tow truck driver R.L. McDaniel, who reported spotting Dorner at a gas station earlier in the manhunt."

Reuters: Russian "President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Russia must strengthen its defenses in the south and work with Central Asian allies to protect itself against the threat of extremist violence emerging from Afghanistan."

Monday
May062013

The Commentariat -- May 7, 2013

Dan Rather explains the Washington political dynamic to Chris Matthews:

All of these things we've said about what the president could do, should do, might have, could have, but the central thing to keep in mind is his opponents -- you talk about taking them out to dinner, making nice with them -- these people, politically, want to cut his heart out and throw his liver to the dogs.

Bernie Becker & Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "The Senate on Monday approved legislation that would for the first time allow states to collect billions of dollars in online sales tax revenue from out-of-state purchases. The 69-27 vote is a major victory for retail groups and state governments, who for years have fought to close what they see as a loophole that allows as much as $23 billion in annual taxes from online sales to go uncollected." ...

... Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "The bill got bipartisan support in the Senate but faces opposition in the House, where some lawmakers regard it as a tax increase. Grover Norquist, the anti-tax advocate, and the conservative Heritage Foundation oppose the bill, and many Republicans have been wary of crossing them."

The White Man's Stand (Sadly, Not the Last). Ashley Parker: "Republican opponents of legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws are readying an offensive intended to hijack the newly released bill as the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday begins a review that will offer the clearest sign yet of how difficult a path the legislation faces.... Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama and a member of the committee, has long been a vocal opponent of the immigration overhaul, and he signaled last week that he planned to try to slow down the legislation's progress by offering amendments that would 'confront the fundamentals of the bill.'" ...

... Washington Post Editors: "Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), now leader of the Heritage Foundation, knows that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is likely to judge that immigration reform -- including eventual citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants -- will be a shot in the arm for the U.S. economy. After all, the CBO has done so with previous such legislation. That explains why Mr. DeMint, a bitter opponent of legalization, has launched a preemptive attack on the CBO -- 'puppets of the Congress,' he called the office the other day -- and why Heritage has issued a study slamming amnesty for unauthorized immigrants as a drain on taxpayers. The Heritage paper, chock-full of assumptions that most economists dispute, is a blatant attempt to twist the immigration debate. It concludes that newly legalized immigrants would cost $6.3 trillion more in benefits over their lifetime than they would pay in taxes.... Influential Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, rolled their eyes at the Heritage report...." ...

... Dylan Matthews of the Post has the wonky details of all that is wrong with the Heritage report. And there's a lot. Some of their assumptions are downright laughable. ...

... For a shorter wonkish explanation of "the cesspool that is Heritage economic analysis," Matt Yglesias is helpful.

NEW. Jerry Markon of the Washington Post: "Gun violence has dropped dramatically nationwide over the past two decades, but nearly three-quarters of all homicides are still committed with a firearm, the Justice Department said in a report released Tuesday." ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "... at least two Republican senators who voted against a bipartisan proposal to expand the national gun background check system have approached Democrats about possibly restarting debate on the issue, according to senior Senate aides familiar with the talks.... The aides, who asked not to be identified..., refused to identify the two Republicans. But through spokespeople, Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who voted to block the background check proposal, signaled they are open to a new debate if Democrats make significant changes to the plan. Meanwhile, aides to Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who voted against the background-check plan, disputed a new barrage of TV ads critical of her vote and said she remains opposed to the current bipartisan background check proposal.... 'She's the only senator in the northeast to vote against background checks,' [Majority Leader Harry] Reid said of Ayotte. 'She went from a hugely positive number in New Hampshire -- her negatives now outweigh her positives. She is being hit every place she goes. So we are going to pick up some more votes. I may be able to get another Democrat or two. That would get us up to 57." ...

... Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "Beneath the surface..., some of the NRA's allies are uneasy, saying publicly and privately that the organization is facing long-term -- and even short-term -- challenges on a scale it has not faced before. Those challenges include changing demographics and patterns of gun ownership; a new willingness of gun-state lawmakers, particularly Democrats, to buck the NRA; and the rise of an organized and well-funded gun-control movement." ...

... Ed Kilgore goes where contributor Nancy & I went in yesterday's Comments: "Am I perhaps being unfair to [NRA President Jim Porter, et al.,] in suggesting that they are behaving like America-haters and are flirting with treason? I don't think so." ...

... Sean Murphy & Todd Wallack of the Boston Globe: "Eyewitness accounts strongly suggest that MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard H. Donohue Jr. was shot and nearly killed by a fellow officer in Watertown April 19 during the hail of gunfire unleashed on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the suspected terrorist made a getaway in a carjacked sport utility vehicle." ...

     ... Charlies Pierce: "Dear Wayne LaPierre: The only thing that can stop a good guy with a gun is ... another good guy with a gun.... LaPierre made great hay this weekend warning his convention of paranoid shut-ins that everybody up here really wished they'd had guns while the Tsarnaevs were on the loose, but that we were all chained into our homes by the dead hand of Deval Patrick's tyranny." ...

... Mark Follman of Mother Jones: "On Tuesday, inside a rural Kentucky home, a five-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his two-year-old sister. The boy had been playing with a .22 caliber single-shot Crickett rifle made and marketed for kids." From the Cricket Website, Follman reproduced some of the marketing photos of those lucky-ducky kids showing off their lethal Crickett weapons (pink ones for girls!). In an update to his post, he writes, "Shortly after we published this story, the Crickett Firearms website was shut down, and it remains unavailable. This morning I called Keystone Sporting Arms and was referred to attorney John Renzulli, who spoke on behalf of the company: He said that the Crickett Firearms site had been 'inundated and corrupted' by a surge of visitors and had been shut down by the hosting service." Uh-huh.

** "Justice O'Connor Regrets." Jeff Toobin on Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's partial repudiation of her vote on Bush v. Gore: "There is no more eloquent testimony to the evolution of the Republican Party than the ideological fate of the last three Justices to leave the Supreme Court: O'Connor, Souter, and Stevens. In this way, O'Connor's apostasy on Bush v. Gore is a surprise -- but perhaps only because it took so long."

Harry Reid Nails Ted Cruz:

My friend from Texas is like a schoolyard bully. He pushes everybody around and is losing and instead of playing the game according to the rules, he not only takes the ball home with him, but he changes the rules that way no one wins except the bully who tries to indicate to people that he has won.

Watch to the end where Harry tells Teddy to STFU (in nice, gentlemanly Senate-speak):

... If you watch this longer video of the exchange, you'll get to see Ted in action. It appears that he has perfected the Paul "Choir Boy" Ryan demeanor; it's uncanny.

Sex & Economics. Dillon Tatum of Salon: "Austerity, as a policy issue, is increasingly characterized by a sexual politics that aims to depoliticize and legitimate arguments for anti-interventionist economic policies. Not only does this carry with it enormous consequences for the practice of scholarly inquiry, it also makes for a poor science of political economy. Even President Obama is guilty of contributing to this idea, suggesting that American families know how to manage their money, and therefore 'it's time Washington acted as responsibly as our families do.' The state, then, becomes personified as a family unit.... Unfortunately, such a discourse makes it easy for pop-intellectuals like [Niall] Ferguson to make insensitive and dangerous comments.... How could a homosexual possibly understand the economic problems of the nation-collective -- the National Family -- when his own life is one of deviance from the baseline of familial virtue? Only 'family men' can theorize the national economy." ...

... MEANWHILE, over in winger world Jonah Goldberg sees Ferguson as a victim of political correctness: "Ferguson was trafficking in an old theory that was perfectly within the bounds of intellectual discourse not very long ago. Now, because of a combination of indifference to intellectual history and politically correct piety he must don the dunce cap." BTW, the "intellectual historian Gertrude Himmelfarb" whom Goldberg favorably cites spawned William Kristol. Plus, it would be nice if Goldberg is going to pretend to care about "intellectual history," that he not lede with a complete misrepresentation of what Keynes meant by "in the long run we're all dead." The contrast between left-leaning intellectuals & what passes for intellectual discourse on the right is stark.

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs on the latest winger Benghazi hysteria, & the MSM's hyperventilated complicity. Johnson includes some links, so if you want to get all shocked by the "cover-up," he provides passage to the sensational stories. ...

... Jonathan Bernstein: the pity is that there likely low-level malfeasance in various government agencies, but the GOP is so busy trying to bust President Obama & would-be President Hillary that they won't take the time to look for real problems. CW: as a matter of fact, Clinton did accept & implement the recommendations of an independent "accountability review board" which reviewed the Benghazi incident. Also, "Four State Department officials were removed from their posts on Wednesday after an independent panel criticized the 'grossly inadequate' security at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi...." (NYT)

Insider Trading, Congressional Edition. Jia Lynn Yang, et al., of the Washington Post: "'Political intelligence' firms -- companies that sell their analysis of federal actions to investors -- have drawn much of the scrutiny from lawmakers and investigators worried about potential insider trading. Last month, federal regulators issued subpoenas to the law firm Greenberg Traurig and an analyst at the brokerage firm Height Securities in connection with another spike in trading that occurred after information was shared about the government's health-care decision. But it is not just boutique firms and lobbyists offering political intelligence. Congress itself has become a source of sophisticated political analysis for investors, for whom every nugget of exclusive information can translate to millions of dollars in profit."

Katie McDonough of Salon: "Chief of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch at the Pentagon Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski was arrested and charged with sexual battery in Virginia over the weekend. Krusinski is accused of drunkenly fondling a woman in a parking lot, according to Arlington County police." ...

... Jim Miklaszewski, et al., of NBC News: "Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, 41, was removed from his position as head of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office pending an investigation, the Air Force said.... On Tuesday, the Pentagon will release its annual report on sexual assaults in the military, which shows an increase in reported assaults in fiscal year 2012 -- up from 3,192 a year before." CW: from the mugshot accompanying the post, it appears the victim had to put up quite a fight to fend off Krusinski.

Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) secretly underwent a medical operation in February to help him lose weight, he told the New York Post on Tuesday. According to the report, Christie, 50, had gastric band surgery, which restricts the amount of food one can eat, at the urging of his family who was concerned about his health.... Christie told the Post the surgery had nothing to do with his political ambitions."

Having nothing to do with anything else, here's a nice story by Richard Conniff of the New York Times about Dr. Maurice Hilleman: "At Dr. Hilleman's death in 2005, other researchers credited him with having saved more lives than any other scientist in the 20th century. Over his career, he devised or substantially improved more than 25 vaccines, including 9 of the 14 now routinely recommended for children."

 

Rick Perry is a badass (and other lowlights from the NRA convention):

Now This Is Appropriate. Justin Sink of the Hill: "The website for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) was hacked on Sunday to redirect users to advertisements for erectile dysfunction." Thanks to James S. for the link.

Congressional Race

He's a Jerk, But He's Our Jerk. Charles Pierce explains what's up in South Carolina: "Remember that, over the two weeks in which Colbert Busch's numbers have deflated, Sanford has done nothing but make a jackass of himself, even by his standards, which are damned near historic. He choked in a debate. He tried to have an argument with a cardboard Nancy Pelosi. He had plenty of troubles before, and then he turned into a clown and, at the same time, he got himself back into position to win the election. Why? Because this is no longer an election. This has become a tribal conflict, and Mark Sanford's tribe is bigger, that's how."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The F.B.I. director Robert S. Mueller III met with Russian law enforcement and intelligence officials in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the bureau's investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings...."

The State (South Carolina): "Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has redeemed a political career sidelined by scandal by winning his old congressional seat. Sanford defeated Elizabeth Colbert Busch Tuesday in the state's 1st Congressional District. Colbert Busch is the sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert. With 71 percent of precincts reporting, Sanford has 54 percent of the vote."

Denver Post: "James Holmes wants to plead not guilty by reason of insanity to the killing of 12 people and the wounding of 70 others in the Aurora movie theater attack.In a one-page court filing Tuesday, Holmes' lawyers wrote they intend to 'tender a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.' Holmes would need the judge's permission to change his plea from the standard not guilty plea currently entered on his behalf. Judge Carlos Samour Jr. wrote in an order Tuesday that he will allow Holmes' attorneys to argue at a hearing Monday morning that they have 'good cause' for the plea change."

AP: "Secretary of State John Kerry is making his case to Russian President Vladimir Putin for Russia to take a tougher stance on Syria at a time when Israel's weekend air strikes against the beleaguered Mideast nation have added an unpredictable factor to the talks. Kerry arrived Tuesday in Moscow for talks with the most powerful ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime."

New York Times: "Three young women from Cleveland who disappeared about a decade ago, and who friends and relatives feared were gone forever, were found on Monday and appeared to be physically unharmed, the authorities said." The Cleveland Plain Dealer story is here, with related links. ...

Interview of Charles Ramsey (a total kick, bro) & Amanda Berry's 911 call:

... CW Update: I'm glad to see citizens are criticizing the dispatcher for her handling of Berry's call. Not only did the dispatcher pretty much tell Berry she would send a police car when it was convenient, she hung up on the distraught woman, making no effort to see that she remained safe till police arrived. The dispatcher seemed totally dismissive & disinterested in helping Berry. The dispatcher's handling of the call is "under review."

     ... New York Times Update: "... at a news conference on Tuesday, the police and investigators said that they were slowly starting to unravel the thread of events that led up to the escape of the women after one of them, Amanda Berry, tried to force her way through the front door of the house on Seymour Avenue." ...

     ... Update: the Plain Dealer has an informative liveblog here. ...

     ... Reuters Update: "Cleveland authorities said there was one attempt to visit the home in 2004 on an unrelated matter but no one answered the door. They said they combed through records and found no other calls to the house nor reports of anything amiss in the years the women were missing. But neighbors said they had made more than one call to police about suspicious activity at the house." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "Neighbors said that several years ago, a naked woman was seen crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard, and pounding was heard on the doors in 2011. Police showed up each time but stayed outside, the neighbors said."

AP: "Hundreds of survivors of last month's collapse of a building housing garment factories in Bangladesh protested for compensation Tuesday, as the death toll from the country's worst-ever industrial disaster passed 700. The police control room overseeing the recovery operation said the death toll stood at 705 on Tuesday afternoon as workers pulled more bodies out of the wreckage...."

AP: "On Monday, Worcester funeral home director Peter Stefan said he'd received 120 burial offers from the United States and Canada for the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. But he said when he talked to officials in the cities and towns where the graves are located, nobody wanted the body there."

Sunday
May052013

The Commentariat -- May 6, 2013

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: Caroline "Kennedy bestowed on [Gabrielle] Giffords the Profile in Courage Award in a small ceremony on Sunday afternoon at the [John F. Kennedy Presidential] Library. The award is given annually to someone who demonstrates the kind of courage that President Kennedy highlighted in his book 'Profiles in Courage,' which praised eight senators who risked their careers by taking principled stands on unpopular positions." ...

... They're Sick & They're Armed. Benny Johnson of BuzzFeed: "The National Rifle Association has asked a vendor at its convention to remove a target that resembles [President] Obama from its booth, a worker told BuzzFeed. The company, Zombie Industries, sells a range of three-dimensional 'life sized' targets that 'bleed when you shoot them.' The Obama likeness has been on display for two days, but was notably absent on Sunday.... When asked if the Obama likeness was intentional the worker said, 'Let's just say I gave my Republican father one for Christmas.' 'They are just scared some liberal reporter will come by and start bitching' another booth worker said to men gathered around the booth. 'But ya know, he does look very familiar.'" ...

... Joe Coscarelli of New York: in his NRA keynote speech, Glenn Beck "included an image of Michael Bloomberg looking uncomfortably similar to a Nazi." Bloomberg is Jewish. With photo.

... New York Times Editors: "A continent removed from Washington’s shameful resistance to new gun controls, California has just enacted a law that will speed up the confiscation of firearms from an estimated 20,000 people who bought them legally but were later disqualified because of a conviction for a violent crime, a finding of mental illness or a restraining order for domestic violence. The law, signed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown after passage by the Democrat-controlled Legislature, is a sign that enlightened lawmaking unhindered by gun lobby scare tactics and Capitol Hill filibustering is possible in American politics."

Fox ... Henhouse. New York Times Editors: "Mary Jo White, the new chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has gotten off on the wrong foot. Last week, in her first commission vote, Ms. White led the commissioners in approving a proposal that, if finalized, could leave investors and taxpayers exposed to the ravages of reckless bank trading."

Obama 2.0. Charlie Savage of the New York Times. Billionaire Penny Pritzker's family finances & her supervision of a failed bank are bound to come up in her confirmation hearings. President Obama has nominated her for Secretary of Commerce.

Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times: "There are steps Obama can take [to ease the situation at Guantanamo]. He can appoint a successor to [State Department negotiator Daniel] Fried, whose job has been empty since last year, and resume finding new homes for released detainees. Even better, he could appoint a high-level deputy for Guantanamo -- Vice President Joe Biden, say, or retiring FBI Director Robert Mueller or even former CIA Director David H. Petraeus -- to negotiate a solution with Congress, which has been more trouble than most foreign governments. And he can begin sending detainees to Yemen and Afghanistan, both of which say they are ready to receive them. None of those steps alone will result in the closure of Guantanamo.... But reducing Guantanamo's population would solve a big chunk of what has become an apparently insoluble problem."

Scott Shane of the New York Times: "Aware that intensified American counterterrorism efforts have made an ambitious Sept. 11-style plot a long shot, Al Qaeda propagandists for several years have called on their devotees in the United States to carry out smaller-scale solo attacks and provided the online education to teach them how.... The Boston Marathon bombing -- which the authorities believe was carried out according to instructions ... posted online -- offers an unsettling example of just how devastating such an attack can be, even when the death toll is low. It shows how plotters can construct powerful bombs without attracting official attention. It offers a case study in the complex mix of personality and ideology at work in extremist violence. And it raises a pressing question: Is there any way to detect such plotters before they can act?"

** Frank Rich: "The party on the brink of destroying the Voting Rights Act reminds us that Republicans were really the great civil-rights leaders all along."

Retro Romney -- the Amazing Animated Way-Back Machine! "Find a Mate and Procreate." CW: I would be remiss if I didn't link Mitt Romney's advice to graduating college women, which Kate M. called to our attention in yesterday's Comments thread. Kristen Gwynne of AlterNet has kindly provided video of Romney's commencement address you may want to share with all the young women you know. It's 1964 all over again! ...

... Meanwhile, for those not into the Retro Romney Prescription for Female Fulfillment -- over at the Washington Monthly, Kathleen Geier explains to dummies the need for over-the-counter access to Plan B contraception. The particular dummy Geier addresses here is the WashPo's Kathleen Parker, who has pulled out all the usual "reasonable" objections to girls' access to Plan B. ...

     ... Update: also see Patrick's addition to Geier's takedown in today's Comments.

It's "Apologize for Gay-Bashing Week." Kevin Cirilli of Politico: "Howard Kurtz took to his 'Reliable Sources' show on CNN on Sunday to apologize for his 'inexcusable' erroneous report last week about NBA player Jason Collins and for a string of past mistakes that the media critic admitted he was sometimes too slow to correct. During Kurtz's extraordinary 15-minute long confession of journalistic sins, he repeatedly said he's learned a lesson and promised to double- and triple-check all his facts in the future.... It was a humbling appearance for someone who was once regarded as the nation's leading media critic." (See yesterday's Commentariat for context.)

"The Chutzpah Caucus." Paul Krugman: "... if you look at United States history since World War II, you find that of the 10 presidents who preceded Barack Obama, seven left office with a debt ratio lower than when they came in. Who were the three exceptions? Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes. So debt increases that didn't arise either from war or from extraordinary financial crisis are entirely associated with hard-line conservative governments.... Here we have conservatives telling us that we must tighten our belts despite mass unemployment, because otherwise future conservatives will keep running deficits once times improve." ...

... In a Washington Post op-ed, Larry Summers defends his friends Carmen Miranda Reinhart & Ken Rogoff: his defense -- yes, they fucked up, but the policymakers who heeded them should have known better: "The authors of [austerity] policies chose the policies first and then cast about for intellectual ballast." Summers also makes the valid points that even accurate statistical models aren't sacrosanct, & policy decisions should never rest on a single academic study.

What Warren Buffett said at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting.

Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog comments on the news (see also today's Ledes) that the U.N. has evidence it was Syrian rebels, not the Assad government, who used chemical weapons in Syria.

Lindsey Boerma of CBS News: "'Everybody in the mission' in Benghazi, Libya, thought the attack on a U.S. consulate there last Sept. 11 was an act of terror 'from the get-go,' according to excerpts of an interview investigators conducted with the No. 2 official in Libya at the time, obtained by CBS News' 'Face the Nation.'" With video.

I think he is the most talented and fearless Republican politician I’ve seen in the last 30 years. I further think that he is going to run for president, and he is going to create something. -- James Carville, assessing Ted Cruz on the teevee yesterday

Congressional Race

Sanford Has the Momentum. Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "PPP's final poll of the special election in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District finds a race that's too close to call, with Republican Mark Sanford leading Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch 47-46. The 1 point lead for Sanford represents a 10 point reversal from PPP's poll of the race two weeks ago, when Colbert Busch led by 9 points at 50-41." The election is tomorrow.

Local News

Florida, Where the Legislature Is Even Worse than the Governor. Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: Florida "lawmakers adjourned Friday after passing a budget that does not include funding for a Medicaid expansion. Unless the Republican-controlled legislature comes back for a special session later this year -- which some Democrats are calling for -- Florida will not expand Medicaid in 2014. In Florida, where one in five non-elderly residents lack insurance coverage, the consequences are especially large: An estimated 1.3 million Floridians were expected to gain coverage through the the Medicaid expansion."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Obama administration on Monday explicitly accused China's military of mounting attacks on American government computer systems and defense contractors, saying one motive could be to map 'military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.'"

AP: "The White House asserted Monday that it's highly likely that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, not the rebel opposition, was behind any chemical weapons use in Syria. Responding to weekend airstrikes in Syria, the White House also reiterated its view that Israel has the right to protect itself against weapons that could pose a threat to Israelis."

New York Times: "Giullio Andreotti, a seven-time prime minister of Italy with a résumé of soaring accomplishments and checkered failings that reads like a history of the republic, died on Monday, Italian news agencies said. He was 94 and lived in Rome."

The Hill: "United Nations human rights investigators said Sunday they have gathered testimony from outside Syria suggesting rebels, not Bashar Assad's regime, may have used chemical weapons."

Reuters: "Israel sought to persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday that its recent air strikes around Damascus did not aim to weaken him in the face of a more than two-year-old rebellion. Officials say Israel is reluctant to take sides in Syria's civil war for fear its actions would boost Islamists who are even more hostile to Israel than the Assad family, which has maintained a stable stand off with the Jewish state for decades."

AP: "Bangladeshi police are investigating possible murder charges against the owner of a shoddily built factory that collapsed nearly two weeks ago after the wife of a garment worker crushed in the accident filed a complaint. The legal development comes as officials said Monday that the death toll from the country's worst industrial disaster had reached 645."

AP: "At least 15 people died in clashes Monday between police and Islamic hardliners demanding that Bangladesh implement an anti-blasphemy law, police said. A police official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said eight people, including two policemen and a paramilitary soldier, were killed in clashes in Kanchpur just outside the capital, Dhaka." CW: once again, religion is used to distract people from actual problems.

AP: " The uncle of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev arrived in Massachusetts on Sunday to arrange for his burial, saying he understands that 'no one wants to associate their names with such evil events.' Ruslan Tsarni, of Montgomery Village, Md., and three of his friends met with the Worcester funeral home director and prepared to wash and shroud Tsarnaev's body according to Muslim tradition."