The Ledes

Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

New York Times: "With just hours to go before Greece hits a deadline for a debt payment it cannot afford, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday asked the other nations that use the euro to extend another bailout and buy Athens time to renegotiate its crippling debt load." ...

     ... New Lede: "The International Monetary Fund said shortly after midnight Wednesday that Greece had missed a crucial debt payment to the fund."

New York Times: "The Iranian foreign minister rejoined the nuclear talks [in Vienna, Austria,] Tuesday morning as the United States looked for signs that he had arrived with more flexible negotiating instructions."

The Guardian is liveblogging developments in the Greek financial crisis.

The Wires

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
June 30

12:05 pm ET: President Obama & President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil hold a joint press conference

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Here's a short film by activist Bree Newsome. The film won the best -short-film category at the BET awards (ca. 2010):

Washington Post: "After three years of work by Michelle Obama and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, a new look was unveiled [in the State Dining Room] Friday[, June 26,] that will be a design legacy of the Obama years." With slideshow, including former incarnations of the room.

Daniel Bethencourt & Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press: "Famed street artist Shepard Fairey, who visited Detroit last month to create the largest mural of his career, faces felony charges of tagging other properties across the city on his own time." The reporters put the charges in the larger perspective of street art.

David Haglund on "James Salter in the New Yorker."

Twelve beautiful bookshops.

Livraria Lello & Irmão, Porto, Portugal.

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that [Fox "News" leader Roger] Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion. Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan."

The Waldorf-Hysteria. New York Post: Bride "hysterical," lets out "blood-curdling scream," when Waldorf is forced to cancel her million-dollar reception because drunken relatives of the groom allegedly shot some other guests & Waldorf employees. Here's more of the story. You can the boys out of Brooklyn, but....

Sophia A. McClennen in Salon: The real Jerry Seinfeld has become the TV character Jerry Seinfeld. Without the irony. So not funny.

Washington Post: "... thanks to diligent sleuthing and painstaking restoration by a team of art historians at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, the shadowy, richly colored 'Saul and David' is considered a Rembrandt masterpiece once more. It goes on display at the museum this Thursday, the star of a special exhibition entirely devoted to the painting and its tumultuous past."

New York Times: "Since [the] Clinton [Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York,] opened in 1845, dozens of inmates have escaped over, under or through the prison’s thick walls, their exploits detailed in breathless, often sensationalistic, newspaper reports of earlier eras." CW: As if the Times' extensive coverage of last week's escape wasn't sensationalistic. ...

New York Times: The life of a fugitive presents many opportunities to blunder -- and get caught.

Washington Post: "It’s a happy day for luggage manufacturers. The world’s major airlines could soon be changing their requirements for carry-on luggage, potentially forcing people to buy new bags. Working with airlines and aircraft manufacturers including Boeing and Airbus, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association, unveiled a new best-size guideline on Tuesday for carry-on bags at 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep. That's 21 percent smaller than the size currently permitted by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines."

CW: Okay, I finally found a Daily Mail story I'm willing to link. The hills are alive.

Stephen Colbert, Lyricist:

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "Eight-hundred years ago this month, rebellious barons and a despised, cash-strapped king gathered in a verdant riverside meadow 20 miles outside London to seal an agreement that would change the course of history. The words of the Magna Carta have inspired democratic movements the world over and formed a basis for countless constitutions...." But not for Great Britain, which "is one of just three major democracies that lack formal, written constitutions." Some Britons are thinking it's time to fix that.

Washington Post: Actor Jason Alexander reveals why the "Seinfeld" show killed off George Costanza's fiancee Susan.

When a Cop Loves a Cheapskate. Taylor Berman of Gawker: "Last July, NYPD Officer Ymmacula Pierre and her partner found Kenneth Sanden dead after being called to his East Village apartment by a concerned relative. So Pierre allegedly did what any respectable cop would do: pocket the dead man’s Mastercard and use it to buy a diamond ring." Pierre ordered the ring while in her boyfriend's apartment, & that is where the ring was to be shipped. It appears to me that Pierre is (allegedly) a girl who believes in traditional marriage. Very sweet.

Dylan Byers of Politico (June 1): "Jake Tapper will take over as host of CNN's 'State Of The Union' on June 14, he announced Monday.... He replaces Candy Crowley, who served as host of 'SOTU' until late last year. Tapper will also continue to host his 4 p.m. weekday program, 'The Lead.'" ...

Mediaite (May 29): "CNN’s Jake Tapper will no longer moderate a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative’s upcoming conference in Denver, Colo., to avoid a conflict of interest involving the recent coverage of its parent foundation’s controversies."

 

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, appears on the cover of Vanity Fair, with the cover & other photos by Annie Liebovitz. There's a firewalled cover story. ...

... Another reason to admire actor Jessica Lange: she didn't know what "trending on Twitter" meant.

Reuters: "A $100,000 check is waiting for a mystery woman who donated a rare Apple 1 computer to a Silicon Valley recycling firm. CleanBayArea in Milpitas, California, said on its website that a woman in her 60s dropped off some electronic goods in April, when she was cleaning out the garage after her husband died. The boxes of computer parts contained a 1976 Apple 1, which the recycling firm sold for $200,000 in a private auction. The recycler’s policy is to split the proceeds 50-50 with the person who donated the equipment. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak built the computers in 1976 and sold them for $666.66 each. Only a few dozen of the groundbreaking home computers are known to still exist."

New York Times: "On Tuesday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, along with the Iziko Museums of South Africa, the Slave Wrecks Project, and other partners, will announce in Cape Town that the remnants of the São José [-- which sank off the Cape of Good Hope in 1795 --] have been found, right where the ship went down, in full view of Lion’s Head Mountain. It is the first time, researchers involved in the project say, that the wreckage of a slaving ship that went down with slaves aboard has been recovered."

New York Times: "Charter Communications is near a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $55 billion, people with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday, a takeover that would create a new powerhouse in the rapidly consolidating American cable industry.... The potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable completes a lengthy quest by Charter and its main backer, the billionaire John C. Malone, to break into the top tier of the American broadband industry. If completed, the transaction would be the latest in a series of mergers remaking the market for broadband Internet and cable television in the United States." ...

     ... Update: "Charter Communications agreed on Tuesday to buy its much larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56.7 billion in a deal that would transform the company into one of America’s largest cable and broadband operators."

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Wednesday
Apr102013

The Commentariat -- April 11, 2013

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Dr. Ben Carson announced Wednesday that he is withdrawing as graduation speaker at Johns Hopkins University, ceding to demands from students concerned about his controversial recent comments about gay marriage."

Brad Plumer of the Washington Post picks the winners and losers in Obama's budget, with explanations. Winners: Medicaid, low-income taxpayers, hospitals, scientists, highway pavers, preschool, food-aid recipients. Losers: wealthy taxpayers & the finance industry, upper-income Medicare recipients, many Social Security recipients, farms & agribusiness, smokers, pharmeceutical makers, oil & gas & coal companies, the EPA. * ...

... Ezra Klein: "As the White House sees it, there are two possible outcomes to this budget. One is that it actually leads to a grand bargain, either now or in a couple of months. Another is that it proves to the press and the public that Republican intransigence is what's standing in the way of a grand bargain." ...

     ... Kevin Drum: "... the answer is behind Door #2.... The tax jihadists have reasserted their dominance, and there's zero chance that they'll agree to any kind of tax hikes. So: no grand bargain, and no cuts to Social Security." ...

     ... ** Steve Benen agrees with Drum:"The Beltway said Obama needed to reach out to Republicans, so he reached out to Republicans. The Beltway said Obama needed to schmooze Republicans in a more personal way, so he did that, too. The Beltway said Obama needed to be willing to alienate his own supporters, and the president's base has been duly outraged. The Beltway said Obama needed to put Medicare and Social Security on the table, and they're on the table. Will pundits who continue to blame 'both sides' for partisan gridlock look ridiculous in the coming months? I sure as hell hope so." ...

     ... "Imaginary Grownups." Paul Krugman: "Since the beginning, the Obama administration has seemed eager to gain the approval of the grownups -- the sensible people who will reward efforts to be Serious, and eventually turn on those nasty, intransigent Republicans as long as Obama and co. don't cater too much to the hippies. This is the latest, biggest version of that strategy. Unfortunately..., there are no grownups.... After all, if whoever it is that Obama is trying to appeal to here -- I guess it's the Washington Post editorial page and various other self-proclaimed 'centrist' pundits -- were willing to admit the fundamental asymmetry in our political debate, willing to admit that if DC is broken, it's because of GOP radicalism, they would have done it long ago." ...

... Matt Yglesias of Slate contrasts Obama's budget with Paul Ryan's. A quick, easy read. ...

... Speaking of Paul Ryan, Charles Pierce comments on this incredible Obama administration rationale for making old people pay for George Bush's wars & stuff:

We're not going to have the White House forever, folks. If he doesn't do this, Paul Ryan is going to do it for us in a few years. -- "A Longtime Obama Aide"

... Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider: "While the administration is portraying chained CPI as a concession to find compromise with Republicans, the proposal has infuriated Obama's liberal base. And for many of these progressives, it confirms concerns that they have harbored for some time." ...

     ... Here is economist Dean Baker's formal statement on chained CPI (which is worth a read). Here's what Baker told LoGiurato:

You piss on the people who care about Social Security, then you're serious. ...

     ... Digby: "It is simply not debatable that this agenda has been [Obama's] agenda since the beginning. He specifically said it, it cannot be any clearer." (With pre-2009 inauguration citations to prove it.) ...

... Digby looks at what Republicans & conservatives are saying about Obama's proposal. You'll be shocked, shocked to learn that some are shocked, shocked that this "budget really lays out kind of a shocking attack on seniors." ...

     ... Sarah Jones of PoliticusUSA: "The Republican’s budget guru [Paul Ryan] (who has yet to do the math on his budgets) dismissed the President's offer of chained CPI today, saying it isn't entitlement reform -- it's just 'clarifying a statistic.' Just last December, Republicans said they wanted Chained CPI more than any other 'entitlement' reform." (Emphasis added.) ...

     ... Greg Sargent: "Late last year, [John] Boehner and Mitch McConnell explicitly called on Obama to agree to Chained CPI, with McConnell even claiming that Chained CPI and Medicare means testing 'would get Republicans interested in new revenue.' But now that Obama has included those things in his budget, Republicans are not only still unwilling to contemplate new revenue; the chair of the NRCC is signaling that Republicans will us it to attack Democrats for 'coming back at seniors,' just as they did in 2012 and 2010." ...

     ... CW: I know references to Uncle Remus are politically incorrect, particularly re: a black president, but Boehner & McConnell specifically & successfully B'rer-Rabbited Obama. Hey, literature is literature, and Brer Rabbit is derived from African- & Native American folk hero-tricksters. ...

     ... Brian Beutler of TPM re: Republicans' attacks on Obama's chained CPI gambit: yeah, we toldja this would happen. ...

... Andrew Sprung of Xpostfactoid on how Obama's proposal to calculate Social Security benefits on the basis of chained CPI is giving him a lot of "serious" creds. He's been "serious" before. Via Jonathan Bernstein. ...

... Here's a Pro-bama Analysis from Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "The Obama budget proposal released Wednesday, like other White House budgets before it, also emphasizes the problem of inequality and the failure of the American economy to promote a thriving middle class.... The budget includes several proposals to tackle inequality and wage stagnation.... So far, the Obama administration has tackled the issue of inequality in two major ways. It has raised taxes on the wealthy, and it has expanded programs to aid lower-income Americans.... But if anything, the plight of the middle class has gotten worse since Mr. Obama took office, a result of long-existing economic trends and the after-effects of the deep recession." ...

... * Re: Plumer's picks above, he forgot -- Horses! Put Horses is the Winners' Column. Stephanie Strom of the New York Times: "The Obama administration has included a proposal in its 2014 budget that would effectively ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption."

President Obama introduces his FY 2014 budget:


** Ian Millhiser
of Think Progress: Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation yesterday during confirmation hearings for Sri Srinivasan's nomination to the influential D.C. Circuit Court. Grassley's bill: cut three seats from the D.C. court (& add two elsewhere). Read Millhiser's whole post. Grassley is a snake (with no disrespect meant to reptiles).

Alan Fram of the AP: "The Senate is ready to launch an emotion-charged debate on new gun restrictions.... In an opening showdown Thursday, senators were scheduled to vote on an attempt by conservatives to scuttle the Democratic bill before debate even started." ...

     ... New York Times Update, by Jennifer Steinhauer: "With families of victims of the Newtown, Conn., massacre watching silently from the chamber, the Senate thwarted a threatened filibuster with a vote of 68 to 31 and will proceed next week to debate a package of legislation that would expand background checks for gun buyers and increase the penalties for criminal sales, in addition to a variety of other amendments. Those include the renewal of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. Twenty-nine Republicans voted against the measure, as did two Democrats." ...

     ... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The two Democrats who voted against proceeding, Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), face difficult reelections in 2014." ...

... Michael Cooper, et al., of the New York Times: "Opponents of expanded background checks, including the National Rifle Association, argue that they would not prevent criminals from acquiring guns, since many get them through back-market sales or theft, or by getting 'straw purchasers' -- people who can pass background checks -- to buy guns on their behalf. But the checks have blocked purchases. Since 1998 more than a million potential sales have been rejected -- usually because the would-be buyers are convicted felons or fugitives from justice, or they have been involuntarily committed to a mental health institution, among other reasons. How many of those rejected buyers were able to buy guns without background checks, from private sellers in person or over the Internet, is difficult to say, in part because restrictions imposed by Congress make it difficult for law enforcement officials to track firearms sales." ...

     ... CW: we should stop blaming the NRA. Congress is the problem. It could be argued that the NRA has so exposed itself as craven and/or crazy in its responses to the Newtown massacre that it is actually helping the gun safety cause. ...

... Two Americas. David Klepper of the AP: " Rhode Island would ban the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines under legislation proposed Tuesday by the governor, attorney general and top lawmakers in response to the December school shooting in neighboring Connecticut. The measure would also stiffen penalties for a variety of gun crimes, require all handgun permits to go through the attorney general's office and create task forces to review state gun laws and the use of mental health records in background checks. Rhode Island already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country."...

... Michelle Obama spoke in Chicago yesterday about youth violence:

Charles Blow writes a terrific piece titled "Rand Paul Goes to Howard." -- Blow explains to Paul why "blah" people vote Democratic even though Republican Abe Lincoln freed the slaves & all. Doh! ...

... Dana Milbank: "'No Republican questions or disputes civil rights,' [Paul] proclaimed [at Howard]. 'I've never wavered in my support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act.' Howzat? As a candidate in 2010, Paul questioned the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act's Title II, which prohibits private discrimination." Milbank retells some of the exchanges between Paul & his audience.

Gail Collins: some U.S. Senators are actually doing some legislating stuff.

Paul Fahri of the Washington Post profiles David Corn of Mother Jones.

Robert Mackey of the New York Times on the reactions to Margaret Thatcher's death. Contributor Roger Henry should be amused (see yesterday's Comments). ...

... Paul Krugman on why Margaret Thatcher's true Heir in America is -- Bobby Jindal! Happily, Krugman speaks ill of the dead AND the living.

Right Wing World *

I would point out that if you're a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change, and that certainly wasn't because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy. -- Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), testifying before a Congressional Committee on the Keystone XL pipeline ...

... Brad Friedman: "You may remember Barton from 2010, after the BP oil spill in the Gulf, as the man who actually apologized to BP's then CEO during a U.S. House hearing, for what he described as a White House "shakedown", after the company agreed to pay some $20 billion to help clean up the unprecedented disaster and help restore the livelihoods of many who lost everything thanks to the spill."

* Where the mind is a common thing to lose.

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "The gun Rick Warren's son used to kill himself was unregistered and purchased on the Internet, the pastor tweeted Thursday afternoon.... Sheriff's Department records show no one in the Warren family is registered to carry a concealed weapon in Orange County, and authorities have said they were struggling to determine where 27-year-old Matthew Warren obtained the weapon. A source close to the investigation confirmed it was a shotgun."

Washington Post: "North Korea likely has a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile, according to a new assessment by the Pentagon's intelligence arm that comes amid growing alarm over Pyongyang's warmongering. The conclusion by the Defense Intelligence Agency said the weapon would have 'low reliability,' but the disclosure during a congressional hearing Thursday is likely to raise fresh concerns about North Korea's capabilities and intentions."

New York Times: "On Thursday, federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against [Scott] London, [a long-time partner in accounting giant KPMG,] ... and Bryan Shaw, the owner and operator of a Los Angeles-area jewelry business..., laying bare a brazen two-year insider trading scheme. The Securities & Exchange Commissionfiled a parallel civil case against Mr. London and Mr. Shaw."

AP: "The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to a seasonally adjusted 346,000, signaling that the job market might be stronger than March's weak month of hiring suggested."

AP: "Storms packing rain, snow and dangerous winds raked the Midwest and spawned a possible tornado outside of St. Louis that prompted an emergency declaration from Missouri's governor. To the north icy weather left thousands without power and prompted Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to call out the state Nation Guard to aid residents as the state braced for another storm system that threatened to dump several inches of wet snow Thursday."

The Hill: "The struggling U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday backed off its plan to limit Saturday mail delivery, saying recent congressional action gave them no choice. The agency's board of governors said it still backed the plan to no longer deliver letters and other pieces of first-class mail six days a week, a move the Postal Service says will save some $2 billion a year. But the board said that the passage of a stopgap spending measure in Congress last month -- which kept language mandating six-day delivery -- has tied the service's hands and forced it to delay needed changes."

Tuesday
Apr092013

The Commentariat -- April 10, 2013

It's cherry blossom time in Washington. What could possibly go wrong in such a beautiful setting?

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "President Obama plans Wednesday to unveil a $3.77 trillion spending plan that proposes modest new investments in infrastructure and education, major new taxes for the wealthy and significant reforms aimed at reducing the cost of Social Security and Medicare.... The White House plans to make the full document available on its Web site at 11:15 a.m." ...

     ... Update: here it is. ...

... Josh Lederman of the AP: "Liberal lawmakers from both chambers of Congress and a coalition of like-minded groups rallied outside the White House on Tuesday, voicing frustration at the Democratic president they say has let them down by proposing cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Organizers from more than 15 groups stacked nine file boxes in front of the White House that they said contained more than 2 million signatures on petitions urging Obama to reverse course on cuts included in the budget he will unveil Wednesday. Many of the groups, including the AFL-CIO and the National Organization for Women, played an active role in fueling Obama's re-election last year." ...

... Dana Milbank: Obama loves to have liberals protest his budget; he thinks our ire strengthens his hand (CW: as I said last week.) Obama's budget "is perhaps the most brazen attempt at triangulation in the Democratic Party since Bill Clinton (whose adviser Dick Morris popularized the term) defied liberals on welfare reform."

Aaron Blake & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Senate will hold the first key procedural vote on a bill to curb gun violence Thursday as more than a half-dozen Republicans announced that they will join with Democrats to stop any attempt to block popular legislation drafted in response to a deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. The vote would formally start the the most wide-ranging and ambitious battle over gun control in 20 years." ...

... John Bresnahan & Reid Epstein of Politico: "Sen. Joe Manchin says he is on the verge of a bipartisan deal to expand background checks for gun sales, an agreement that could lead to the biggest change in U.S. gun laws in nearly 20 years." ...

     ... Update: "Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey will unveil a bipartisan deal to expand background checks for commercial gun sales at a news conference Wednesday morning. The agreement could give political cover for enough Republicans to vote Thursday and exceed the 60-vote requirement needed to allow the Senate to proceed to what would be an emotional floor debate on gun control legislation." ...

... Greg Sargent: "As of now, seven Republican Senators have now confirmed that they oppose the hard right bloc and will support moving to debate [on the gun safety bill]. They are: John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Tom Coburn, Johnny Isakson, Dean Heller, Kelly Ayotte, and Susan Collins. Collins also says she's encouraged by the emerging compromise being negotiated by Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey.... [MEANWHILE], Senator Max Baucus [ConservaDem-Montana] confirmed today that he has not made up his mind on whether to support allowing the gun proposals to go to a debate. In other words, he isn't preparing to rule out joining [the filibuster]...." ...

... Philip Rucker & Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: "When she returns home [to Chicago] Wednesday to deliver a speech on gun violence, first lady Michelle Obama will be making a rare foray into the politics of the day that could presage a more activist role during her husband's second term."

Jeff Toobin, in the New Yorker: "The next Supreme Court confirmation hearing begins on Wednesday afternoon, April 10th. Technically, Sri Srinivasan is just a candidate for the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but few are misled. The stakes in this nomination are clear: if Srinivasan passes this test and wins confirmation, he’ll be on the Supreme Court before President Obama's term ends." ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "With a coordination and an energy that echo a Supreme Court nomination fight, the Obama administration is pushing for the confirmation of [Sri Srinivasan,] a senior Justice Department lawyer, to the country's most prestigious appellate court. If the effort fails, it could lead to a confrontation with the Senate over the long-simmering issue of judicial nominees." ...

... Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "In a sign that President Obama's judicial nominees may be gaining momentum, the Senate voted 64 to 34 to seat Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz on the 3rd Circuit on Tuesday. The vote -- which came 397 days after the Senate Judiciary Committee initially approved Shwartz's nomination -- came as the White House has stepped up efforts to install several of its nominees on the federal bench."

Micah Cohen of the New York Times: "The two most unpopular governors up for re-election in 2014 are Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, an independent, and Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois, a Democrat. But the remaining eight governors with net negative job approval ratings are Republicans, including four who rode the Tea Party wave to power in blue and purple states in 2010 and now appear to be in some danger: Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, Gov. Paul LePage of Maine and Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan." ...

... Get out Your Hankies. Nate Silver on the woes of Bobby Jindal. CW: Silver compares Jindal to Romney, who was also an unpopular governor. Silver does of course note that Romney was unpopular in a blue state, whereas Jindal is unpopular in a red state. But what Silver doesn't mention, when talking about conservatives' impressions of Jindal, is this -- they could consider it a plus that Taxachusetts libruls didn't like Romney, but how can it be anything but a negative if Jindal isn't popular in a conservative state? I believe I'll have my jam on Jindal toast.

Stroganoff for All. Maureen Dowd tries to weave a common thread among the lives of three women who died this week: Margaret Thatcher, Lilly Pulitzer & Annette Funicello. The CW verdict: utter failure. What they had in common was their sex. Period. Next question: would Dowd write a similar column about three unique men who died during the same week? I doubt it. There's a furtive girls-are-all-alike sexism here that I find even more grating than the overt sexism of Douglas Martin's obit of scientist Yvonne Brill. If you disagree, say so. I'd like to hear some defense of Dowd. I can't think of one.

How a Law Becomes a Mashed-Potato Sandwich. Haley Edwards of the Washington Monthly: "Barack Obama's biggest second-term challenge isn’t guns or immigration. It’s saving his biggest first-term achievements, like the Dodd-Frank law, from being dismembered by lobbyists and conservative jurists in the shadowy, Byzantine 'rule-making' process." This article is as long as a novella, but without the sex. I read the first of 10 pages, & the only sex I found is a reminder that Nino Scalia, who may or may not have one foot in the grave, will not go quietly into that good night; he has cloned himself 9 times over, the most prominent clone being Eugene Scalia, a lawyer for the Street who easily has his way with the conservative D.C. Circuit Court. (See Srinivasan above.) Via Charles Pierce. ...

... Pierce, meanwhile, has noticed what I remarked on last week: "It turns out there is a red America and a blue America. It turns out that there is a conservative America and a liberal America. It turns out that the things that divide us are stronger than the things that unite us." ...

... If you want to read a 10-page "news" story that surely does have sex (of a sort) in it, then Jonathan Van Meter's piece, which will appear in the New York Times Magazine this Sunday, on Anthony Weiner & Huma Abedin should fill the bill. I'll pass.

Robert Redford: "It is not in our nation's best interest to pipe tar sands across our fields and aquifers so that the oil industry can reach the higher prices of overseas markets. How many red flags do we need before we realize that the solution is to stop tar sands expansion and say no to tar sands pipelines?"

Congressional Races

Rick Pearson & Bill Ruthhart of the Chicago Tribune: "Democrat Robin Kelly claimed victory tonight in a low-turnout contest to decide the successor to former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in a 2nd Congressional District with a history of scandal-plagued representation. With 77 percent of precincts counted, the former state lawmaker had about 73 percent of the vote to about 19 percent for Republican Paul McKinley, an unemployed political activist and ex-convict."

Making a Federal Case of It. Sarah Wheaton of the New York Times: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was looking into allegations by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky that political opponents bugged his campaign headquarters.... 'They were bugging our headquarters, quite a Nixonian move,' Mr. McConnell said Tuesday at a news conference. ... Without revealing the source, [Mother Jones] said, 'It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation.' ... On Tuesday, the [McConnell] campaign solicited cash and volunteers to 'stand with Senator McConnell against illegal wiretapping.'" (See yesterday's Commentariat for background & commentary.) ...

... Steve Benen: "... the hysterical reaction isn't helping McConnell's case. The Republican senator's office initially blamed 'the Left' for 'bugging' McConnell's campaign headquarters. Then McConnell aides blamed Mother Jones magazine. Then Team McConnell blamed a local liberal group called ProgressKY. Then McConnell sent out a fundraising letter arguing that 'the liberal media' is responsible.... With Team McConnell pointing at a new culprit every hour or so, they're starting to sound a little unhinged.... There' no evidence that anyone ... bugged McConnell's office." ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post has an interesting piece on U.S. law re: publishing illegally-obtained materials. Conclusion: "... the United States is an excellent place to practice journalism. Yes, reporters, you may accept clandestine recordings from law-breaking scumbags. Just don't help them do their work." ...

... Local News

Alaska GOP chair Debbie Brown. CW Note: if, like Brown, you are still sporting the same hairdo you had in 1972, consider an update.Things Are about Normal in Alaska Republican Party. Craig Medred of the Alaska Dispatch: "With the Alaska GOP set to meet Monday evening to decide the fate of party chairwoman Debbie Brown of Kasilof, she has seized the Republican headquarters in Anchorage and is threatening to arrest anyone who tries to enter the building." ...

... Charles Pierce: "There's going to be a lot more of this as those several states in which the devotees of Crazy Uncle Liberty (!) achieved enough actual political power to let their unique brand of sanctified paranoia run free.... Every stupid petty squabble is Lexington. Or Concord. It's a profound betrayal of the principles of freedom against which we must all man the barricades. Or, in this case, the place by the dump." ...

The Place by the Dump on Fireweed Lane and the Site of Brown's Last Stand. Courtesy of Google Earth, via Esquire commenter John Emery.

Bob McDonnell's Catering Caper. Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has said his daughter and her husband paid for their own wedding. So a $15,000 check from a major campaign donor to pay for the food at the affair was a gift to the bride and groom and not to him and therefore did not have to be publicly disclosed under the law, the governor says. But documents obtained by The Washington Post show that McDonnell signed the catering contract, making him financially responsible for the 2011 event. The governor made handwritten notes to the caterer in the margins. In addition, the governor paid nearly $8,000 in deposits for the catering. When the combination of the governor's deposit and the gift from the donor resulted in an overpayment to the caterer, the refund check of more than $3,500 went to McDonnell's wife and not to his daughter, her husband or the donor."


Max Fisher of the Washington Post: "... when the popular Chinese Web portal Sina posted an eight-minute segment from the ['Daily] Show' discussing the latest North Korean provocations, it racked up an astounding 2.8 million views and counting, as well as tens of thousands of comments, many of them praising the show. That appears to make it one of the most-watched 'Daily Show' clips ever. It also raises questions about whether China's flagging support for North Korea might reflect popular sentiment as well as Beijing's own geopolitical calculus." Here's the segment, which aired last week:

News Ledes

New York Times: "A heavily armed man is dead after the police stormed his suburban Atlanta home to rescue four firefighters taken hostage when they responded to a 911 call for medical attention to the house on Wednesday, officials said at the scene in Suwanee, Ga." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution story is here.

New York Times: "Robert G. Edwards, who opened a new era in medicine when he joined a colleague in developing in vitro fertilization, enabling millions of infertile couples to bring children into the world and women to have babies even in menopause, died on Wednesday at his home near Cambridge, England. Dr. Edwards, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his breakthrough, was 87."

Monday
Apr082013

The Commentariat -- April 9, 2013

Obama 2.0. Peter Schroeder of the Hill: "The Senate unanimously approved Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday.... The only lawmaker to oppose her nomination at any step in the process was Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who voted against her when she appeared before the Senate Banking Committee but did not block the consent request on the Senate floor."

Peter Applebome & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "In an impassioned speech that at times took on the tone of a campaign rally, Mr. Obama told an audience of 3,100 at the University of Hartford that he came to Connecticut to ensure that the deaths in the school in Newtown would not recede and to remind Americans how important their voice is as the gun debates unfold":

... MEANWHILE, Rachel Weiner & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to join a Republican filibuster of legislation aimed at curbing gun violence should Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) bring it to the floor." CW: Yo, Harry: blow up the filibuster. ...

... Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, one of the nation's most committed and deep-pocketed gun-control proponents, is ratcheting up pressure on lawmakers by launching a new system to grade them based on their votes and statements on gun issues. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the nonprofit group financed by Bloomberg (I), will unveil a scoring system Tuesday to award lawmakers grades of A through F, much like the National Rifle Association, which has derived much of its power by deploying letter rankings against politicians at election time." ...

... Greg Sargent on why Republicans get away with opposing background checks when 90 percent of Americans favor them: "If more voters understood that Republican officials are opposed to expanding background checks to plug a hole in existing law -- even though most of those officials would probably not go so far as to say that the current background check system is a violation of Second Amendment rights -- it would be much harder to ground that opposition in the Second Amendment. But since many don't know precisely what it is Republicans are opposing, it's easy for Republican officials to keep invoking general pieties about the Constitution." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... AND Sargent highlights a nugget from this op-ed by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in the Virginian-Pilot: "There are those who believe the National Rifle Association and its allies are so powerful that no legislation will pass. But the power of the organization's leadership is vastly overrated. I've run three statewide races in the NRA's home state. Its leadership campaigned vigorously against me each time, spending nearly $800,000 against me in my 2012 Senate race. I won all my races anyway."

Speaking of Mitch McConnell, as we were above, David Corn of Mother Jones obtained a tape of a meeting of McConnell campaign staffers laughing at the fun they expected to have attacking Ashley Judd -- who considered a run against McConnell -- as "emotionally unbalanced" & anti-Christian. Corn prints the highlights & embeds the full audio. ...

... McConnell, who attended the meeting but didn't say much, isn't laughing. Kevin Robillard of Politico: "'Senator McConnell's campaign is working with the FBI and has notified the local U.S. Attorney in Louisville, per FBI request, about these recordings,' McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement. 'Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Senator McConnell's campaign office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished will presumably will be the subject of a criminal investigation.'"

What to tell your friends when they tell you deficits are B-A-A-A-D. Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post rebuts the usual arguments.

"And Then There Were Three." Jillian Rayfield of Salon: "Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat from South Dakota, is the latest senator to say that he supports same-sex marriage, leaving just three Democrats left standing who have not.... Joe Donnelly, Ind., and Heidi Heitkamp, N.D., announced their support last week, leaving just Joe Manchin W. Va., Mark Pryor, Ark., and Mary Landrieu, La., as the only Senate Dems who have not."

Kindlier, Gentler Protests. Dana Milbank: "Taking a page from the gay-rights playbook, other causes on the left are holding fewer of the disruptive protests of recent decades and opting for persuasion over confrontation. In part, this strategy reflects the failure of recent movements, such as Occupy Wall Street and the anti-globalization demonstrations, to turn protesters' enthusiasm into enduring public support."

ALEC's Ag-Gag. Steven Hsieh, in Salon: "Farm lobbyists and supporting lawmakers want to close the shutters on video cameras exposing animal cruelty across the country.... So-called 'ag-gag' bills ... aim to make it more difficult, or in some cases, criminal, to shoot undercover factory farm footage. Last year, the statehouses of Missouri, Utah and Iowa passed ag-gag bills, bringing the total number of states with such laws to five. As Think Progress' Katie Valentine notes, many of these laws received backing from the American Legislative Exchange Council." ...

... ** Law Prof. Jedidiah Purdy, in a New York Times op-ed, suggests a great alternative: "... we should require confined-feeding operations and slaughterhouses to install webcams at key stages of their operations. List the URL's to the video on the packaging."

Paul Waldman of the American Prospect argues that the federal government can't govern because Republicans like being an obstructionist minority -- AND it's good business for Fox "News" & Rush.

Basketball Before Business. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delayed a vote on a judicial appointment so he could attend a college basketball game. " Even excusing McConnell's decision to place his personal needs ahead of the country, there is no good reason why the Senate cannot simply confirm [the nominee] in McConnell's absence." CW: guess that's Harry Reid being tough again. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Jamelle Bouie of the American Prospect: Prof. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz conducted two studies in which he estimated that Barack Obama lost between 3 & 5 percent of the vote nationwide because of racial animus; in 2012, that figure was between 3.2 & 6 percent. This, Bouie points out gave McCain & Whatzizface "the equivalent of a home-state advantage throughout the country.... There's a chance that the Democratic brand is stronger than we think."

Did Margaret Thatcher Save the British Economy? Paul Krugman: "Thatcher came to power in 1979, and imposed a radical change in policy almost immediately. But the big improvement in British performance doesn't really show in the data until the mid-1990s. Does she get credit for a reward so long delayed?" ...

... A. C. Grayling, in a New York Times op-ed, on Margaret Thatcher: "The curious feature of Mrs. Thatcher's legacy is that although she struck an ax-blow deep into the heart of Britain, it is society, not the political sphere, that remains deeply divided by a widening gap between rich and poor." ...

... ** Paul Routledge of the (UK) Mirror: "I do not look back on [Thatcher's time] through the rose-tinted spectacles of her admirers. I remember instead the young lads throwing themselves off the Tyne bridges in Newcastle because they had no work. I remember instead the despair in the inner cities that triggered riots, the hopelessness of the industrial communities devastated by her policies, and the social alienation caused by her 'me first' selfish individualism. And I reflect today on the social and cultural impact of her long rule, a decade that subverted the British way of life vastly more effectively than any of her imagined 'enemies within'." ...

... Charles Pierce: "f you want to see where the Bush people got all those bright ideas about preventive detention, and drumhead tribunals, and extrajudicial assassinations, look to Margaret Thatcher's time as prime minister." ...

... Glenn Greenwald: The "demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure's death is not just misguided but dangerous.... Thatcher... played a key role not only in bringing about the first Gulf War but also using her influence to publicly advocate for the 2003 attack on Iraq. She denounced Nelson Mandela and his ANC as 'terrorists', something even David Cameron ultimately admitted was wrong. She was a steadfast friend to brutal tyrants such as Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein and Indonesian dictator General Suharto ("One of our very best and most valuable friends"). And as my Guardian colleague Seumas Milne detailed last year, 'across Britain Thatcher is still hated for the damage she inflicted -- and for her political legacy of rampant inequality and greed, privatisation and social breakdown.'" ...

... Max Read of Gawker writes, "On the other hand, she helped invent soft-serve ice cream." ...

... AND, as Annie-Rose Strasser of Think Progress points out, Thatcher was still too much of a lefty for today's U.S. Republican party. ...

... CW: as for me, I was so preoccupied with mourning Maggie that I forgot to link this. Prachi Gupta of Salon: "Although it started as cruel satire celebrating the death of former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher, some of the Internet is reading the 'nowthatchersdead' hashtag on Twitter as 'Now That Cher's Dead.' (To be clear, Cher is not dead. Cher is very much alive.)" The whole post is amusing.

Krugman noted in a blogpost that he was "still convalescing" from his appearance on "This Week with George," so I thought I'd check it out. Looks as if it was Krugman v. Everybody, including former Reagan budget director David Stockman. I can't embed the video because ABC News videos cause problems for some RealityChex readers, but you can watch it here. (I found it to be a very slow-loader.)

Right Wing World

Jamilah King of Color Lines: how wingers have rebranded a program initiated by Ronald Reagan as "ObamaPhones" -- one of the "gifts" Obama gives to "urban people." Via Jonathan Bernstein.

Local News

Jeff Adelson of the Times-Picayune: "After months of pushing a dramatic proposal to swap the state's income and corporate taxes in favor of higher, broader sales tax, [Louisiana] Gov. Bobby Jindal is shelving his proposal. In a speech opening the 2013 legislative session, Jindal is telling lawmakers that he is taking his plan off the table..., instead asking lawmakers to develop and pass their own version of a plan to phase out the state's income tax, according to a copy of the governor's prepared remarks.... The speech is a major concession that Jindal's proposal, a complicated plan contained in a total of 11 bills, is unpopular both within and outside the Legislature. The proposal has come under increasingly heavy fire in recent weeks as business groups and advocates for the poor have assailed its effects and think tanks have questioned whether the math in the proposal adds up." Via Salon. ...

... Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "... the provisions [of Jindal's tax proposal] that inflamed the public against it overlap plenty with national GOP proposals. Namely, both plans generated complaints from economists that they would require regressive tax increases on the poor and middle class to pay for lower taxes for the wealthy." Sarlin sees national implications to Louisiana's rejection of Jindal's drastic plan. ...

... Juanita Jean: "By the way, is this the same Bobby Jindal who said that the Republicans should stop being the stupid Party? Oh dude, heal thyself."

News Ledes

AP: "A man identified by employees as a former maintenance worker opened fire Tuesday inside a Detroit medical facility, sending workers and visitors screaming and rushing for the doors just moments before the building erupted in flames. Crews digging through the gutted Park Medical Centers building hours after the fire recovered the remains of a man and a woman.... Authorities did not release the identities of the dead, pending autopsies, but police had been searching for 35-year-old medical assistant Sharita Williams and the fired maintenance worker, who relatives said was her ex-boyfriend."

Reuters: "Iran said on Tuesday operations had begun at two uranium mines and a milling plant and that Western opposition would not slow its nuclear work, days after talks with world powers made no breakthrough."

Reuters: "Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta took his oath of office on Tuesday, presenting Western states with a challenge of how to deal with a leader indicted by the International Criminal Court."

Sunday
Apr072013

The Commentariat -- April 8, 2013

Ed O'Keefe & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Prospects for a bipartisan deal to expand federal background checks for gun purchases are improving with the emergence of fresh Republican support, according to top Senate aides.... Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), a key Democratic broker, has spent the past few days crafting the framework of a possible deal with Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.). Manchin and Toomey are developing a measure to require background checks for all gun purchases except sales between close family members and some hunters...." ...

... Travis Waldron of Think Progress: "Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) Sunday became the latest senior Republican to question the 13 Republicans who have threatened to filibuster gun legislation they haven't yet seen. The blind filibuster threats, originally made by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), have already been criticized by top GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tom Coburn, who 'bristled at the idea.'" ...

... Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker: why are members of Congress afraid to vote for legislation that has the back of 90 percent of the American people? CW: Talbot offers a number of explanations, but the obvious answer is that members of Congress don't represent 90 percent of the people & don't give a flying fuck about anyone but their constituency of one -- themselves. ...

... E. J. Dionne: "... election outcomes and the public’s preferences have ... little impact on what is happening in Washington. At the moment, our democracy is not very democratic.... This representational skew affects coverage in the media.... There is no immediate solution to the obstruction of the democratic will. But we need to acknowledge that our system is giving extremists far more influence than the voters would." ...

... Paul Krugman: conservatives are still opposing ObamaCare in the name of FREEEE-DOM, an ironical position that isn't playing so well anymore, "perhaps because the experience of losing insurance is so common...." ...

Joe Davidson of the Washington Post: the Obama administration will hit up federal employees to effect budgetary "retirement savings." ...

... CW: It's probably worth reading Michael Scherer's (Time) piece on Obama's abandonment of quasi-liberals just for a laugh. Scherer claims the President's move to the right is justified because Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Sunday that Obama was "showing a bit of leg." Apparently, Scherer is unaware that Graham is a tease: he loves to dance with the President, but he never goes home with him.

Contributor Keith Howard recommends this essay by David Graeber, published in Baffler. Consider it a short history of world revolutions.

The Never-Ending Ted Steven Case. (even though Stevens is dead & the court overturned his conviction.) Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "An administrative judge has overturned the suspensions of two federal prosecutors whom the Justice Department had tried to discipline for failing to turn over evidence that might have helped the defense in the botched corruption trial against Senator Ted Stevens."

Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times profiles Anne Smedinghoff, the young U.S. diplomat killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan Saturday.

** Frank Rich on the death throes of old media. ...

... AND speakng of old media, here's Jon Favreau, formerly President Obama's chief speechwriter, in his "debut Daily Beast column," on the sequestration cuts, & -- BTW -- the media's failure to robustly cover the issue. Favreau, we should note, took a job with the first big old-media outlet to totally fold: Newsweek.

David Cameron says his government is cracking down on welfare queens (and kings). He chose the perfect venue to publish his op-ed -- The Sun -- the tabloid owned by Cameron's pal Rupert Murdoch.

Local News

Josh Margolin & David Seifman of the New York Post: "Former Rep. Anthony Weiner is laying the groundwork for a political comeback, possibly as a startling addition to this year’s mayoral race, sources said yesterday. Political insiders were abuzz at news that Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, had granted a lengthy magazine interview for the first time since his resignation in an embarrassing sexting scandal in 2011." CW: okay, it's the Post, Not The World's Most Reliable Newspaper, so I hope it's wrong again. Anthony Weiner will forever be known for his private attributes, & I don't want to think about them. He should go quietly & become a mortician or a restaurateur, or maybe both.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Margaret Thatcher, a towering, divisive and yet revered figure who left an enduring impact on British politics, died on Monday of a stroke, her family said." The Guardian's obituary is here, with links to related stories. ...

... American women of a certain age will be more saddened by this. New York Times: "Annette Funicello, who won America's heart as a 12-year-old in Mickey Mouse ears, captivated adolescent baby boomers in slightly spicy beach movies and later championed people with multiple sclerosis, a disease from which she suffered, died on Monday in Bakersfield, Calif. She was 70."