The Ledes

Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

New York Times: "The latest accord between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization appeared more serious than past attempts, experts said, and came as hopes faded for a resolution to peace negotiations with Israel."

New York Times: "Russia continued Wednesday to ratchet up pressure on the government in Kiev, warning that events in eastern Ukraine could prompt a military response and again accusing the United States of directing events there."

Not All Fish Are Created Equal. Time: "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Barack Obama to Tokyo Wednesday by taking him to the greatest sushi restaurant in the world, the three Michelin star Sukiyabashi Jiro."

Reuters: "Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said on Tuesday they were holding an American journalist in the city of Slaviansk and the online news site Vice News said it was trying to secure the safety of its reporter Simon Ostrovsky."

AP: "When armed men seized the police station in this eastern Ukrainian city, mayor Nelya Shtepa declared she was on their side. She changed her story a few days later. Then she disappeared — the victim of an apparent abduction by the man who now lays claim to her job. On Tuesday, she resurfaced, expressing support once again for the pro-Russia insurgents — but possibly no longer as mayor."

AP: " A senior Canadian diplomat was expelled from Canada's embassy in Moscow in retaliation for Canada expelling a Russia diplomat as tensions grow over the Ukraine, Canadian officials said Tuesday."

AP: "A Moscow judge on Tuesday left open the possibility of jailing President Vladimir Putin's main critic for years, a sign of Putin's increasingly hard-line rule against opponents. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was fined $8,400 on Tuesday for slandering a lawmaker. His second trial starts Thursday, and prosecutors who previously secured his house arrest are widely expected to ask for jail for him pending trial, with Tuesday's verdict making him a recidivist. If there's a guilty verdict at that trial, he could get a prison term."

AP: "A Kansas judge will on Wednesday consider Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning's petition to legally change her name from Bradley, as she serves a 35-year sentence for passing classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks."

Time: "President Barack Obama paid a visit to the small community of Oso, Wa., on Tuesday, exactly one month after a massive mudslide there claimed at least 41 lives. He promised survivors that the entire country will be on hand to help for 'as long as it takes'”:

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, April 22, 2014.

AP: "In the most high-level visit of a U.S. official since crisis erupted in Ukraine, [Vice President] Biden told leaders from various political parties that he brings a message of support from President Barack Obama as they face a historic opportunity to usher in reforms." The Guardian story is here.

CNN: "The first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983 crossed the finish line Monday, triumphant in a storied race that has become a national symbol of resiliency and determination. Meb Keflezighi, 38, won the men's division with an official time of 2:08:37, according to the Boston Marathon's Facebook page. With video.

AP: "Although [a] 15-year-old [airplane stowaway] apparently wanted nothing more than to run away, his success in slipping past layers of security early Sunday morning made it clear that a determined person can still get into a supposedly safe area and sneak onto a plane.... In San Jose, airport officials said they were reviewing how the boy slipped through security that includes video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the rare step of urging doctors to stop performing a surgical procedure used on tens of thousands of women each year to remove uterine growths, saying the practice risks spreading hidden cancers within a woman’s body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, has long been used in laparoscopic operations to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the uterus itself. It involves inserting an electric device into the abdomen and slicing tissue in order to remove it through a small incision. The surgery is far less invasive than traditional abdominal operations."

White House Live Video
April 23

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Jon Stewart on the Cliven Bundy story:

... AND on Sean Hannity's support for Bundy:

... AND Hannity is pissed off. Apparently, it upsets him to hear his own blatant hypocrisy ridiculed.

New York Times: "David Letterman introduced his successor, Stephen Colbert, on his 'Late Show With David Letterman' Tuesday night on CBS with a monologue joke and some cordial conversation — but no measuring of the drapes."

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa. Paul Fahri of the Washington Post: The ratings for "Meet the Press" are so bad that NBC hired a psychologist to analyze Greggers. ...

     ... CW: Here's the rub. Fahri writes, "The impossible burden for Gregory, of course, has been to follow the beloved Russert. As one NBC colleague describes it, Russert is a 'ghost' who still haunts Gregory’s tenure at 'MTP' six years into his run." This is strictly VSP bull. Russert was a mediocre interviewer, who continually let politicians get away with evasive answers. He left big shoes to fill only because he had big feet.

MoDo loves her '65 Mustang.

USA Today: "Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she's pregnant with her first child."

New York Times: "It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday. The planet, known as Kepler 186f, named after NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, which detected it, has a diameter of 8,700 miles, 10 percent wider than Earth, and its orbit lies within the 'Goldilocks zone' of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life."

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times argues that the real king of late-night comedy is Jon Stewart.

Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No News, All the Time:

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

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The Commentariat -- February 6, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer critiques Thomas Edsall's New York Times column on deficit politics. Edsall may be an excellent journalist, but he's no economist. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

... BTW, today's Commentariat is open for comments. If you're not reading the comments, you're really missing something. I may be a bit biased, but I think Reality Chex contributors often make important points more cogently than the "experts" do. Yesterday was no exception.

Digby: "Barack Obama is the most conservative Democratic president of the modern era. And George W. Bush was the most conservative Republican." CW: See also Paul Krugman on this:

Paul Krugman: "... here’s what needs to be said about the latest [employment] numbers: yes, we’re doing a bit better, but no, things are not O.K. — not remotely O.K. This is still a terrible economy, and policy makers should be doing much more than they are to make it better." ...

... It's Paul Krugman Day: "... the left and right aren’t symmetric. People of all persuasions lie; but the right has a whole institutional structure of lying that has no counterpart on the left."

"Romney Takes Nevada, Obama Takes the Lead." Michael Falcone & Amy Walter of ABC News: "This was supposed to be Mitt Romney's week. Back-to-back wins in Florida and Nevada have helped to cement him as the all-but-certain Republican nominee. Instead, the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll points to President Obama as the biggest winner of the GOP primary contest. President Obama has snuck ahead of Romney among registered voters, 51 percent to 45 percent. What's more, 50 percent of voters in the new poll approve of Obama's job performance and the same percentage say he deserves re-election. Here's a related ABC News story, with video." ...

Obama Super PAC? Republican Clinton Eastwood cuts an ad for President Obama's re-election. No, wait, it's a Chrysler ad that ran during the Super Bowl half-time. Update: Chrysler took the ad down, but here's another YouTube version, which may or may not remain available:

** Elections Have Consequences. Mark Sherman of the AP on the importance of this year's presidential election in determining the future of American jurisprudence. "Despite his slow start in nominating judges and Republican delays in Senate confirmations, Obama has still managed to alter the balance of power on four of the nation's 13 circuit courts of appeals. Given a second term, Obama could have the chance to install Democratic majorities on several others."

President Obama on Iran's nuclear program, Israel, and other stuff:

... Ethan Bronner of the New York Times: "Israel believes that its threats to attack Iran have been the catalyst that has pushed much of the world to agree to harsh sanctions on Iran’s energy and banking sectors.... But Israel’s top leaders also worry that the sanctions are too late and that, in the end, a military assault is the only way to accomplish their goal — stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. So the talk in this crisis is not made instead of action, but in addition to it — and perhaps as a prelude to it." ...

... Michael Ono of ABC News: "As United States and Israel grow increasingly concerned over Iran's nuclear program [Mike Rogers {R-Michigan}] the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is cautioning that a pre-emptive strike by Israel could spell trouble for America.... This statement comes days after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed concern that Israel would bomb Iran in an unattributed comment run in a column in the Washington Post." ...

... Activist-author Tom Hayden (D-Calif.) on how Romney, Gingrich or Santorum could push President Obama toward war with Iran during this election cycle.

Rick Hertzberg advocates for more debates. As the man most responsible for arranging the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates, Newton Minow, has written, “The debates are the only time during presidential campaigns when the major candidates appear together side by side under conditions that they do not control.”

Right Wing World

Anjeanette Damon of the Las Vegas Sun: "A painstakingly slow hand count of Clark County’s [Nevada] presidential caucus vote delayed final results by more than a day, prompting accusations of fraud and conspiracy from supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, doubts from national Republicans about Nevada’s ability to run a caucus and derision from national political observers, who called for Nevada’s status as an early caucus state to be summarily yanked. While no evidence of fraud was uncovered, the prolonged count capped a caucus marked by disorganization, bickering and bumbling at nearly every turn."

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker. Meet Larry McCarthy, creator of the Willie Horton ad against 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, and Mitt Romney's top attack dog. You will not find McCarthy strapped to the roof of Romney's station wagon; he works out of Washington, D.C.

Deficit Spending, Newt Style. Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "Newt Gingrich’s campaign remains roughly $600,000 in debt, two months after it reported deep debts and a long list of creditors, newly released campaign spending records show." ...

At Least He's Consistent. Howard Gleckman in a Christian Science Monitor post from December 2011: "GOP Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is proposing a massive tax cut aimed at the highest earning American households. Gingrich’s plan would add about $1 trillion to the federal deficit in a single year. And while most of the nation’s lowest income families would get no benefit from these tax cuts, the top 0.1 percent (who make an average of more than $8 million) would get about a quarter of the windfall, according to new estimates by my colleagues at the Tax Policy Center." ...

... Oh. Wait. On his Website, Newt says he would "balance the budget by growing the economy, controlling spending, implementing money saving reforms, and replacing destructive policies and regulatory agencies with new approaches."

More on This: We are the only people on the earth that put our hand over our heart during the playing of the national anthem. It was FDR who asked us to do that, in honor of the blood that was being shed by our sons and daughters in far-off places. -- Mitt Romney>

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "This is a strange one.... Romney managed to get just about everything wrong in this story, in what appears to be a misguided attempt to both promote American exceptionalism and ding President Obama."

News Ledes

New York Times: "With a deadline looming on Monday for state officials to sign onto a landmark multibillion-dollar settlement to address foreclosure abuses, the Obama administration is close to winning support from [California,] a crucial state that would significantly expand the breadth of the deal.... Another important potential backer, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York, has also signaled that he sees progress on provisions that prevented him from supporting it in the past. The potential support from California and New York comes in exchange for tightening provisions of the settlement to preserve the right to investigate past misdeeds by banks, and stepping up oversight...." Washington Post story here.

New York Times: "The leaders of the rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas announced on Monday that they have broken a long political deadlock to form an interim unity government led, at least at first, by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank. The announcement at a news conference in Doha, Qatar ... signaled a significant step toward reconciling the two movements as they prepare for elections...." Haaretz story here.

New York Times: "Syrian forces shelled the battered city of Homs for another day Monday, striking a makeshift clinic and killing at least 17 people in a mounting toll that has made the city the epicenter of the 11-month Syrian uprising, opposition groups said." Al Jazeera story here. ...

     ...  ** Washington Post Update: "The United States has closed its embassy in Damascus and pulled all diplomats and U.S. staff out of the country, the State Department said Monday. The decision comes two days after Russia and China vetoed a United Nations resolution condemning Syria’s violent repression of anti-government demonstrators, whose opposition to the government is threatening to become an all-out civil war."

AP: "Georgia's top court on Monday struck down a state law designed to discourage assisted suicides. The Georgia Supreme Court's unanimous ruling concludes the 1994 state law 'restricts speech in violation of the free speech clauses' of the U.S. and Georgia constitutions."

New York Times: "An appeals court ruled on Monday that Alberto Contador, a three-time winner of the Tour de France, used a performance-enhancing drug when he won the race in 2010, the latest black mark on a sport that has been tarnished by doping scandals over the past several years.... On Friday, federal investigators announced that they had ended a criminal investigation of Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour from 1999 to 2005. The United States Anti-Doping Agency, with the support of the World Anti-Doping Agency, is continuing a separate investigation of Armstrong under its rules."

AP: "The NFL and a major television network are apologizing for another Super Bowl halftime show...: an extended middle finger from British singer M.I.A. during Sunday night's performance of Madonna's new single, 'Give Me All Your Luvin.' ... She flipped the bird and appeared to sing, 'I don't give a (expletive)' at one point, though it was hard to hear her clearly." CW: shouldn't ever contract for a live performance include a penalty clause for the performer's purposefully offensive gestures and language?

ABC News: "President Barack Obama's grandmother, Sarah Obama, is home recovering from an accident that, judging by the condition of the vehicle, could have been much worse.... Police in the town of Kisumu, [Kenya] say the 87-year-old was traveling to her home Saturday night when the driver lost control, and the vehicle rolled into a ditch."


The Commentariat -- February 5, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer: "Ross Douthat, foe of women’s reproductive rights, uses his column today to complain about the 'frankly brutal coverage' in 'the media frenzy' surrounding the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to renege on contracts to fund mammograms for poor women. 'You would think,' he writes, that 'all these millions of anti-abortion Americans simply do not exist…. On the abortion issue, the press’s prejudices are often absolute, its biases blatant and its blinders impenetrable.' Oddly enough, Douthat is angry about the lack of coverage of anti-choice Americans in a matter in which, according to the Komen Foundation, abortion rights played no part." The NYTX front page is here. You can donate here.

Prof. Larry Lessig in Salon: "What Obama must do if he is to make American democracy possible again is to speak boldly, not practically, about reform.... He needs to begin the process of persuading the nation that fundamental reform is necessary and possible.... He must stop, by his silence, defending the status quo.... Outside Washington, in the grassroots of American politics,  Democrats, independents and Republicans all support a radical change in how we fund campaigns.... There is overwhelming support for the idea of limiting the role of independent expenditures in political campaigns."

Mike Konczal in Salon: "Privatizing the government is one of the most active projects of the early 21st century.... The fraud and waste that often come with outsourcing these services has been well-documented.... Rather than solving problems with government, privatization often amplifies those issues to new extremes."

Prof. Christina Romer, in a New York Times opinion piece, explains why manufacturing should not be singled out as the only business sector to get special tax breaks and other government support. Other sectors could potentially produce better results for the economy.

Colbert v. the Court. Dahlia Lithwick in Slate: "... in the history of the Supreme Court, nothing has ever prepared the justices for the public opinion wrecking ball that is Stephen Colbert.... Colbert has spent the past few months making every part of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in Citizen United look utterly ridiculous. And the court, which has no access to cameras (by its own choosing), no press arm, and no discernible comedic powers, has had to stand by and take it on the chin.... The institutional aloofness that allowed the Roberts court to pen such a politically naive decision is the same blind spot that precludes them from even understanding, much less responding to, the media criticism."

Katie Ryder of Salon speaks to writer Arthur Goldwag about right-wing haters & conspiracy theorists. They've always been around, but they're more visible now. An interesting read.

Emily Flitter of Reuters: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg keeps up his fight for gun control; he'll appear in a D.C. rollover ad during the Super Bowl with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino; Bloomberg paid for the ad.

AND cartoonist Brian McFadden has some tips on how to have a highbrow Super Bowl halftime. Personally, I'd turn down the sound on the teevee during Madonna's performance & ramp up something like the famous habanera L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" from Bizet's "Carmen" (Anna Caterina Antonacci performs it here):

Right Wing World

David Schwartz of the Las Vegas Sun: "Mitt Romney’s easy victory in Nevada’s Republican presidential caucuses might, in the long run, be less important than the fact that a surprising number of Republicans who could have participated Saturday chose to stay home. Republicans’ disappointing turnout foreshadows difficulty energizing GOP voters in Nevada, a key swing state in November’s general election."

** New York Times Editorial Board: "... the conservative legal battles of our modern times are being waged by the most powerful, often against the weak and oppressed. They began with a carefully planned and successful effort to reshape the courts to be sympathetic to conservative causes. They are largely aimed at narrowing rights, not expanding them — except where property and guns are concerned. And beginning with the Reagan administration, conservatives ... sought to remake law into a weapon of aggressive action.... The political influences on these major cases are important by themselves, but also as a reminder that the makeup of the court for the next generation, and thus the law’s direction, are likely to be determined by the 2012 election."

Worse Than Bush. Contributor P. D. Pepe made an important point in yesterday's Commentariat, which bears repeating: Romney's tax policy is worse than the Bush tax cuts. As Ezra Klein wrote a few days ago, "Romney's tax policy, described simply, is to extend the Bush tax cuts and, then on top of that, sharply cut taxes on corporations, the wealthy, and upper-middle class investors, while letting a set of tax breaks that help the poor expire. The result, according to the Tax Policy Center, would be a $69 tax cut for the average individual in the bottom 20 percent and a $164,000 tax cut for the average individual in the top one percent. And Romney would pay for this through unspecified cuts to domestic programs." That is, "he wants to lower the tax burden on people like himself, and pay for it by cutting programs for the poor and seniors.... His tax plan ... is the most moderate plan of any candidate in the GOP primary."

Local News

Indianapolis Star: "Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R) was convicted of six felonies early [Saturday] morning, and consequently lost his job.... A jury convicted White of three counts of voter fraud, two counts of perjury and one count of theft. He could face six months to three years in prison on each of the counts.... The charges stemmed from confusion over where White lived when he campaigned for secretary of state in late 2009 and 2010. White claimed that he lived at his ex-wife's home on the east side of Fishers. But the jury convicted him based on allegations that he actually lived in a townhouse on the opposite side of town.... The townhouse was outside his Fishers Town Council district." ...

... AP: White was the state's top elections official! Gov. Mitch "Daniels (R) quickly appointed White's chief deputy, Jerry Bonnet, as interim secretary of state." But state Democratic "Chairman Dan Parker said the party will seek to have its 2010 candidate, Vop Osili, who lost to White by about 300,000 votes, certified as secretary of state this week. A civil judge in Marion County ordered the state to declare Osili the winner in December, saying White wasn't an eligible candidate because he had lied about where he lived on a voter registration form."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Egyptian authorities have referred 19 Americans and two dozen others to criminal trials, justice ministry officials said Sunday, as part of a politically charged investigation into the foreign financing of nonprofit groups that has shaken the 30-year alliance between the United States and Egypt. The referral flies in the face of increasingly urgent warnings to Egypt’s military rulers from President Obama, cabinet officials and senior Congressional leaders that the investigation could jeopardize $1.55 billion in expected American aid this year, including $1.3 billion for the military.On Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she personally warned the Egyptian foreign minister, Mohammed Amr, during a security conference in Munich."

New York Times: "Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino executive keeping Newt Gingrich’s presidential hopes alive, has relayed assurances to Mitt Romney that he will provide even more generous support to his candidacy if he becomes the Republican nominee, several associates said in interviews here."

... Washington Post: "After a likely second-place finish in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, former House speaker Newt Gingrich sought to dispel the idea that he might drop out of the Republican presidential nomination any time soon, promising a hotel ballroom filled with reporters that he will fight on to the convention in the summer."

Reuters: "Western and Arab countries responded with outrage on Sunday after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to give up power. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said she was 'disgusted' by the vote, which came a day after activists say Syrian forces bombarded the city of Homs, killing more than people in the worst night of bloodshed of the 11-month uprising. 'Any further bloodshed that flows will be on their hands,' ambassador Susan Rice said...." ...

... Guardian: "US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has called for greater cooperation between the US and Europe to isolate tyrants such as Syrian president Bashar Assad and promote democracy in the Arab world."

... Al Jazeera: "Arab states will not stop their efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis even though their bid to secure UN backing was blocked by Russia and China, the Arab League's secretary-general has said."

Reuters: "Protesters demanding a swift presidential election and an early handover of power by the army hurled rocks at police guarding the Egyptian interior ministry on Sunday and were forced back with volleys of tear gas." Al Jazeera story here.


The Commentariat -- February 4, 2012

President Obama's Weekly Address:

    ... The transcript is here; Reuters story here.

Gail Collins writes a balanced, informative column on the Susan G. Koman/Planned Parenthood scandal. "A lot of the old Komen donors and supporters probably won’t be coming back. It would be a shame if they just retreated in disillusionment. Let’s hope they go off into the wider world of women’s health care programs and help spread the wealth. That really would be a happy ending." ...

... Simon Maloy of Media Matters: "... the same conservatives who cheered Komen's decision earlier in the week are now upset at the breast cancer awareness charity's apparent reversal of course. National Review's Daniel Foster this morning called the backlash to Komen 'disgusting' and lashed out at Planned Parenthood and 'the Left' for their 'gangsterism.' ... To see Planned Parenthood as the bad-faith actor requires an astonishing amount of willful obtuseness." Maloy outlines why. CW: Congratulations, gangsters! ...

... Judd Legum of Think Progress: "Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush and prominent right-wing pundit, was secretly involved in the Komen Foundation’s strategy regarding Planned Parenthood. Fleischer personally interviewed candidates for the position of 'Senior Vice President for Communications and External Relations' at Komen last December. According to a source with first-hand knowledge, Fleischer drilled prospective candidates during their interviews on how they would handle the controversy about Komen’s relationship with Planned Parenthood.... Fleischer’s high-level involvement with Komen further complicates its image as an apolitical cancer charity. Fleischer is a prominent partisan commentator and a longtime critic of Planned Parenthood." ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "The crucial question remains whether or not that partnership [between Komen & Planned Parenthood] actually exists after today, or whether this is just a more amicable divorce."

Brian Beutler of TPM: "Republican leaders in Congress have all but reneged on a key agreement they reached with the White House last summer.... 'Now we’re really talking skullduggery,' House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters. 'They understood what the consequences [of failure of the Super Committee] were. They agreed to the consequences.... I think that an agreement was reached. It must be honored.'”

Right Wing World *

Someone needs to remind the president that there was only one person who walked on water, and he did not occupy the Oval Office. -- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), on the Senate floor ...

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Orrin Hatch. David Edwards of the Raw Story: Orrin Hatch, "who normally favors co-mingling government and religion, was on the floor of the Senate expressing outrage at the president for using the Bible to make a point." ...

... CW: here are the President's prayer breakfast remarks. I did not intend to post them, but since they so offended Orrin Hatch, I guess I must:

Martin Klingst, Washington Bureau chief of the German newspaper Die Zeit, in a Washington Post op-ed: "When Romney, Gingrich and Santorum warn about 'socialist Europe,' they sound as though they are talking about the Soviet empire.... My problem as a European living in the United States is that it is not Joe the Plumber who is bashing Europe but three longtime politicians who want to be president — people who should know better."

Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "While [Newt] Gingrich has minimized his past connections to [Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac] on the campaign trail, his Congressional record shows that his political and financial ties to the firms run deeper and farther back than he has acknowledged publicly and, in fact, set the stage for the lucrative consulting work that followed.

Steve Benen chronicles Mitt Romney's most recent, most audacious lies. He really does not care WTF he says. Then again, when your base is willing to believe the United Nations is forcing small municipalities to install bicycle paths in an international plot to deprive them of their property rights, I guess a candidate can pretty much say what s/he wants. Nothing can penetrate a tinfoil hat.

I know we're beating a dead horse here, but Charles Blow does a nice job of summing up how much Mitt Romney cares about the poor. ...

CW: This is sort of encouraging. Mark Murray of NBC News tears apart Mitt Romney's claim that President Obama's policies have made the economy "worse." The more stories like this get into the MSM, the better. Of course, stories like this will have zero effect on voters like those in the next story I've linked. ...

... These People Frighten Me. Leslie Kaufman & Kate Zernike of the New York Times: "Across the country, activists with ties to the Tea Party are railing against all sorts of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy. They brand government action for things like expanding public transportation routes and preserving open space as part of a United Nations-led conspiracy to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities.... The protests date to 1992 when the United Nations passed a sweeping, but nonbinding ... resolution called Agenda 21 that was designed to encourage nations to use fewer resources and conserve open land by steering development to already dense areas. They have gained momentum in the past two years because of the emergence of the Tea Party movement.... In January, the Republican Party adopted its own resolution against what it called 'the destructive and insidious nature' of Agenda 21. And Newt Gingrich took aim at it during a Republican debate in November."

* Where they just get crazier. Partly because the GOP encourages this lunacy.

News Ledes

The New York Times is liveblogging the Nevada caucuses. Update: The Times has the caucus results here. ...

... Las Vegas Sun: "Mitt Romney has a large early lead in the Nevada GOP caucuses with 62 percent of the vote, according to Sun columnist Jon Ralston, who cited sources with knowledge of count." ...

... New York Times Update: "Mitt Romney handily won the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, solidifying his front-runner’s status and giving him the all-important political fuel of momentum as he seeks to use the month of February to ease doubts within the party about his candidacy and ove on to the business of confronting President Obama."

Washington Post: "Dozens of U.S. Park Police descended on horseback and foot upon the Occupy D.C. camp in McPherson Square on Saturday to continue an enforcement of its no-camping rules launched earlier this week. U.S. Park Police Capt. Phil Beck told protesters they would be clearing the area around the historic statue, where protesters had erected a blue tarp dubbed the 'Tent of Dreams,' and checking to see if there was unauthorized bedding in tents." New York Times story here.

The Hill: "Republicans used their weekly address on Saturday to push a highway bill that is being opposed on the right by the [Grover Norquist] Club for Growth."

Reuters: "New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Friday sued three major U.S. banks, accusing them of fraud for using an electronic mortgage database that resulted in deceptive and illegal practices. Schneiderman filed the lawsuit against Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) in New York state court in Brooklyn. The lawsuit is over the banks' use of MERS, the Mortgage Electronic Registration System the industry created in the mid-1990s to track the ownership and servicing of residential mortgage loans."

Los Angeles Times: "Afghan civilian casualties have reached a grim new milestone, with a record 3,021 noncombatants killed in wartime violence last year, the United Nations said in a report released Saturday. The toll for 2011 represented an 8% increase from the previous year, and marked the fifth year in a row that the number of noncombatant deaths and injuries has risen. Insurgents were blamed for nearly four-fifths of the deaths."

New York Times: "Syria opposition leaders raised the death toll to 260 in a military assault Saturday on the ravaged central city of Homs, an attack that opposition leaders described as the government’s deadliest in the nearly 11-month-old uprising." Al Jazeera story here. ...

     ... New York Times story has bee updated: "A United Nations Security Council effort to end the violence in Syria collapsed in acrimony with a double veto by Russia and China on Saturday, hours after the Syrian military attacked the city of Homs in what opposition leaders described as the deadliest government assault in the nearly 11-month uprising."

Nevada GOP Caucus Today. AP: "A confident Mitt Romney is looking past his GOP opponents and Nevada's caucuses the day the state votes. Chief rival Newt Gingrich is bracing for defeat in a state the former Massachusetts governor won in 2008."

New York Times: Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters marched on Saturday through [Moscow,] a city gripped by bitter, Arctic cold, in a third major effort by Russians opposed to Vladimir V. Putin’s return to the presidency."

New York Times: "Ben Gazzara, an intense actor whose long career included playing Brick in the original 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' on Broadway, roles in influential films by John Cassavetes and work with several generations of top Hollywood directors, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 81." The Los Angeles Times obituary is here.

Los Angeles Times: "The computer hacking group Anonymous took gleeful pride Friday in announcing that it had sneaked onto a conference call between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and foreign law enforcement agencies concerning how to deal with the cyber-pirate organization."

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "President Barack Obama’s name will remain on the Georgia primary ballot after a state law judge flatly rejected legal challenges that contend he can not be a candidate.... Judge Michael Malihi dismissed one challenge that contended Obama has a computer-generated Hawaiian birth certificate, a fraudulent Social Security number and invalid U.S. identification papers. He also turned back another that claimed the president is ineligible to be a candidate because his father was not a U.S. citizen at the time of Obama's birth. The findings by Malihi, a judge for the State Office of Administrative Hearings, go to Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who will make the final determination."

CW: Sorry I missed this yesterday. Guardian: "A US army officer has ordered a court martial for Bradley Manning, the soldier charged in the biggest leak of classified information in American history. Military district of Washington commander Major General Michael Linnington referred all charges against Manning to a general court martial on Friday, the army said in a statement."


The Commentariat -- February 3, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "Brooksio ad Absurdum -- Start the Revolution without Him." I touch on Brooks' Tuesday column, too, which was merely duplicitous, smarmy and racist -- not absurd. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute to NYTX here.

** Jennifer Preston & Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "The nation’s leading breast cancer advocacy organization confronted the growing furor Thursday to its decision to largely end its decades-long partnership with Planned Parenthood, with rising dissension in its own ranks and a roiling anger on the Internet showing the power of social media to harness protest." ...

... Michael Paulson & Kate Taylor of the New York Times: New York City "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, responding to the controversy over a breast cancer advocacy group that cut off most of its grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening, said Thursday that he would make up a large part of the missing money. Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire with a long-term interest in public health, said he would give Planned Parenthood Federation of America a $250,000 matching gift — he will donate $1 for every new dollar Planned Parenthood raises up to $250,000." ...

... Andrea Mitchell lights into Nancy Brinker, the founder of the Susan G. Komer Foundation; then Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) & Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) pile on:

... The New York Times Editorial Board accuses the Susan G. Komen Foundation of betraying women & politicizing a non-political matter: "To try to justify its move, the foundation cited a new policy against making grants to groups under federal or state investigation — in Planned Parenthood’s case, an inquiry into how it spends its taxpayer money by Representative Cliff Stearns, a Republican of Florida.... Mr. Stearns’s 'investigation' is nothing more than a political witch hunt, stirred up by Republican leaders and by a right-wing antichoice group, Americans United for Life, which now displays the pink ribbon on its Web site as part of a fund-raising campaign for Komen. The inquiry is part of the Republican campaign to stigmatize Planned Parenthood...." CW: as Sen. Boxer points out, the foundation keeps coming up with new excuses. ...

... E. J. Graff of the American Prospect reprises what others have reported about the foundation's ulterior motives for cutting off Planned Parenthood.

In Case You Hadn't Noticed. Edward Wyatt of the New York Times: "Even as the Securities and Exchange Commission has stepped up its investigations of Wall Street in the last decade, the agency has repeatedly allowed the biggest firms to avoid punishments specifically meant to apply to fraud cases. By granting exemptions to laws and regulations that act as a deterrent to securities fraud, the S.E.C. has let financial giants like JPMorganChase, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America continue to have advantages reserved for the most dependable companies, making it easier for them to raise money from investors, for example, and to avoid liability from lawsuits if their financial forecasts turn out to be wrong."

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "... the [Obama] administration has put together a far-ranging set of proposals" to help bring back or keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S. "It all adds up to what economists might call an industrial policy, the out-of-favor practice of using tariffs, taxes and other measures to help a particular industry." CW: oh gosh, once again Obama has failed to listen to Tom Friedman. ...

... Prof. Duncan Moore in a New York Times op-ed: "... there is no single answer for cities facing the departure of a major employer, and there are many things unique to Rochester, Pittsburgh and San Diego that have allowed them to thrive where others have foundered. But long-term investments in education, culture and community have made all three postindustrial success stories, and there is no reason such a strategy can’t help the next city hit by a big-business bankruptcy to follow their lead."

** Tim Egan is in Las Vegas for the big GOP show. His column is titled "The Great Mirage," but it's hard to tell if he's referring to Vegas or the GOP platform. Egan is far and away the Times' most lyric op-ed writer.

CW: this probably should go in Right Wing World. Alex Isenstadt & Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler will not seek reelection in 2012, he announced Thursday. Shuler, a prominent Blue Dog Democrat and former Washington Redskins quarterback, faced an uphill path to a fourth term after redistricting, which made his western North Carolina-based 11th District seat more conservative."

Charles Riley of CNN Money: "President Obama offered a new line of reasoning for hiking taxes on the rich on Thursday, saying at the National Prayer Breakfast that his policy proposals are shaped by his religious beliefs."

Right Wing World

Steve LeBlanc of the AP: Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Barack Obama's new BFF CW: or at least until November 6.

Mark Murray & Matt Loffman of NBC News try to keep track of Romney's remarks about President Obama's effects on the economy. CW: a difficult task when a flip-flopper consistently disagrees with himself.

** Paul Krugman on that lying, greedy scum Mitt Romney: Mr. Romney’s position seems to be that we need not worry about the poor thanks to programs that he insists, falsely, don’t actually help the needy, and which he intends, in any case, to destroy. Still, I believe Mr. Romney when he says he isn’t concerned about the poor. What I don’t believe is his assertion that he’s equally unconcerned about the rich, who are 'doing fine.' After all, if that’s what he really feels, why does he propose showering them with money?" CW: This is a really good summary of the moral turpitude of Willard. ...

... ** Aah, It's All a Dog Whistle. Jamison Foser of Media Matters: "Romney's comments were an invocation of a decades-long right-wing narrative designed to drive a wedge between the poor and middle class, to the benefit of a handful of wealthy elites.... The message is clear: The middle class — the 'very heart of America' — is struggling while we lavish countless benefits on the poor." ...

... Steve Benen has more on the GOP's continuing effort to demonize the poor: House conservatives are ginning up the idea that wanton welfare recipients are spending your tax dollars at strip clubs. This evidence-challenged contention will force new regulations on the states, but, hey, who cares when the "issue" feeds so nicely into their class warfare meme?

Quote of the Day. There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them. -- Mitt Romney, on Donald Trump's endorsement of  his candidacy ...

... Ashley Parker & Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Donald Trump endorsed Mitt Romney [in Las Vegas, Nevada] Thursday afternoon in a joint appearance that lasted less than seven minutes and included no questions."

Bonus Quote. American Exceptionalism. We are the only people on earth who put our hand over our heart during the playing of the National Anthem. -- Mitt Romney, Wrong about Everything. See photographic rebuttal.

Steve Benen: "GOP officials have noticed that the Fed is interested in addressing unemployment, and it wants this to stop as soon as possible."

"Do as I Say, Not as I Did & Got Rich Doing." Contributor Janice likes this simple explanation of Mitt Romney's "qualifying" career at Bain Capital. So do I:

... "Corruption Is Like Gravity -- It Just Is." Stewart then gets the better of corporate law Prof. Jonathan Macey about the intersection of Wall Street & Washington. This is a three-parter, which starts here. Curson through.

Local News

Tim Mak of Politico: "Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) defended Thursday his state’s newly-approved right-to-work legislation, saying that the phones have been ringing off the hook with companies wanting to come to the state since he signed the measure." CW: three cheers for slave labor!

News Ledes

New York Times: "The House on Friday approved $63 billion to pay for federal aviation programs through 2015, acting after five years of dispute and 23 short-term extensions of financing that the Federal Aviation Administration said made it harder to carry out its mandate.... The measure, a compromise between the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate, passed on a 248-169 vote. A majority of Republicans supported the bill, while Democrats overwhelmingly opposed it. The Senate is expected to approve the bill next week."

Ha! Bloomberg News: "Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer advocacy group, said it will continue existing grants to Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. and is changing its policy on investigations of groups it supports."

AP: "In an effort to cut the unemployment rate among veterans, the Obama administration is calling for a new conservation program that would put veterans to work rebuilding trails, roads and levees on public lands."

AP: "The U.S. economy likely produced another solid month of hiring in January, a promising start for 2012. Economists forecast that employers added a net 155,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate remained 8.5 percent for a second straight month...." ...

... Bloomberg News Update: "The U.S. jobless rate unexpectedly fell in January to the lowest in three years as payrolls climbed more than forecast, casting doubt on the Federal Reserve’s plan to keep interest rates low until late 2014.The unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent, the lowest since February 2009. The 243,000 increase in jobs was the biggest in nine months and exceeded all forecast...." ...

... Bloomberg News: "U.S. stocks advanced, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average toward its highest level since May 2008, after a report showed that employment growth topped estimates and the jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 8.3 percent." ...

... Washington Post: Boehner & Romney are totally pissed off (tho that's not precisely what they said).

People Are So Cheesy. AP (via the NYT): "British Prime Minister David Cameron was making a third unwanted shake up of his government Friday, after prosecutors charged Cabinet minister Chris Huhne over an alleged attempt to pin a speeding penalty on his ex-wife."