The Ledes

Thursday, July 24, 2014.

New York Times: "A series of explosions at a school run by the United Nations sheltering hundreds of Palestinians who had fled their homes for safety from Israeli military assaults killed at least 16 people on Thursday afternoon and wounded many more. The cause was not immediately clear."

Bloomberg News: "Jobless claims fell by 19,000 to 284,000 in the week ended July 19, the fewest since February 2006 and lower than any economist surveyed by Bloomberg forecast...."

Guardian: "A flight operated by Air Algérie carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early on Thursday, the plane's owner said." ...

... New York Times UPDATE: "An Air Algérie jetliner with 116 people on board crashed early Thursday in a remote area of Mali near the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger, officials said."

The Guardian is liveblogging developments in the Gaza crisis. More than 700 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, many of them children.

Reuters: "A powerful Ukrainian rebel leader has confirmed that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the type Washington says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and it could have originated in Russia. In an interview with Reuters, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, acknowledged for the first time since the airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday that the rebels did possess the BUK missile system and said it could have been sent back subsequently to remove proof of its presence."

Los Angeles Times: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday night lifted its ban on U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

New York Times: "The United Nations Human Rights Council voted to establish an inquiry into human rights violations in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories at a special session on Wednesday in which the top human rights official, Navi Pillay, said Israel and Hamas had likely committed war crimes with indiscriminate attacks on civilians." ...

... New York Times: "As the death toll mounts and passions spike, the Foreign Press Association in Israel condemned on Wednesday what it called 'deliberate official and unofficial incitement against journalists' who are reporting on the fighting in Gaza. That includes 'forcible attempts to prevent journalists and TV crews from carrying out their news assignments,' the association said."

... New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Israel on Wednesday, as he pressed his effort to forge a cease-fire to bring a halt to the bitter fighting in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Kerry’s plane touched down at Ben-Gurion International Airport just a day after the United States Federal Aviation Administration suspended American civilian flights to Israel." ...

... Guardian: "International airlines halted flights to and from Israel indefinitely on Tuesday citing security concerns in an unexpected twist to the two-week-old conflict in Gaza." ...

     ... CW: Guess that puts something of a damper on the Summer Vacation Insurance Theory of War. ...

... Washington Post: "As Israel pummels Hamas’s infrastructure inside Gaza, it is also trying to prevent attacks originating from the West Bank and Israel — by obliterating the houses of the relatives of Palestinians who allegedly have harmed Israelis. In doing so, Israel’s military has returned to a controversial policy of punitive demolitions that has displaced thousands of Palestinians over the years."

Washington Post: "Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down Wednesday over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in the same vicinity as a Malaysian airliner that was downed last week, Ukrainian officials said." ...

... Time: "U.S. intelligence resources tracked the 'specific missile' that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a senior Administration official said Tuesday, saying intelligence adds up to a picture that 'implicates Russia' in helping to bring down the plane." ...

... Washington Post: "The Obama administration, detailing what it called evidence of Russian complicity in the downing of a Malaysian airliner, on Tuesday released satellite images and other sensitive intelligence that officials say show Moscow had trained and equipped rebels in Ukraine responsible for the attack."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 23

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the NAACP national convention in Las Vegas, Nevada (audio only)

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

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

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Monday
Apr302012

The Commentariat -- May 1, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer answers the question "What Would Willard Do?" vis-a-vis ordering the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. The NYTX front page is here.

Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post: "Making public colleges free would cost, it is estimated, somewhere around $30 billion a year. We could afford it. Mitt Romney’s proposal to eliminate the estate tax would cost about four times that sum and benefit only the heirs of the very wealthy. A financial transaction tax that would slow destabilizing speculation on Wall Street would raise many times that also."

Fuck the First Amendment. Adam Liptak of the New York Times writes a fairly hilarious dissertation on the Supreme Court's ban of the use of the word "fuck" even when its use is the subject of the case before the Court. Read his effort for the fun of it. And bear in mind that these high-placed persons possessed of such delicate dispositions do not mind ruthlessly disposing of actual human beings.

Thomas Edsall in the New York Times on conservatives' & liberals' differing views of "fairness." or why Eric Cantor opposes an7 & all tax hikes -- except a tax hike for the poor.

If you need a short course on Republican-sponsored state voter suppression laws, Gene Robinson has obliged.

The South Is Still the South. Barbara Liston of Reuters: "A federal lawsuit against a Florida school district alleges two black women who scored well on an adult skills test in 2010 were accused of cheating because, they were told, 'you people don't score that high.'" Read the whole story; it's worse than the lede.

Noah Bierman of the Boston Globe: "A record unearthed Monday shows that Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has a great-great-great grandmother listed in an 1894 document as a Cherokee, said a genealogist at the New England Historic and Genealogy Society.... Intense focus in Warren's heritage comes as the Democratic candidate has faced several days of scrutiny about whether she has represented herself as a minority in her academic career.... The lack of clarity on issue prompted US Senator Scott Brown's campaign to question Warren's credibility and call for her to 'come clean.' Warren's campaign shot back Monday, accusing Brown of 'nasty insinuations.'”

Presidential Race

We've always encouraged young people: Take a shot, go for it. Take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business. -- Mitt Romney, two days ago

... AND/OR collect millions & millions from friends of your parents. See Michael & Julie Creswell's report in the New York Times about how Tagg Romney & his business partner Spencer Zwick (the 2008 Romney campaign's top fundraiser), both of whom had zero private equity experience, managed to collect $244 million, much of it from Willard's campaign donors & $10 million of it from Willard & Ann Romney. (Tagg & Zwick later added Eric Scheuermann to the partnership; Scheuermann has private equity experience.) CW: Now I really despise those people.

Michael Barbaro & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Asked by reporters ... whether he would have given the same military order as President Obama, Mr. Romney replied, 'Of course, of course.' ... 'Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order,' Mr. Romney said.... In a news conference Monday with the Japanese prime minister, Mr. Obama accused Mr. Romney of flip-flopping on the question of whether he would have pursued Osama bin Laden." ...

     ... Jim Fallows' response is excellent. ...

     ... NEW. Even conservative Joe Scarborough says "... considering that Carter did the unthinkable by 2012 standards last week and praised Mitt Romney, I found his cheap shot at President Carter to be a bit jarring." Here's video of Carter praising Romney.

     ... An Obama supporter tells Greg Sargent: "Romney is undermining his own point. He's invoking a decision that cost Carter his presidency. Obama bet his presidency on this operation. It's troubling if Romney thinks it was an easy decision." Here are Romney & Obama:

     ... "A Noun, a Verb and 9/11." Michael Hirsh of the National Journal: "... when it comes to politicizing 9/11 it's hard to beat Rudy Giuliani, who will be at Romney's side on the one-year anniversary of bin Laden's death. ...

     ... Piling On. Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "Republicans milked the horror of 9/11 for everything it was worth, not just to win at the ballot box, but also to justify an entirely unrelated war.... The best response to the howls of outrage from Republicans about 'politicizing 9/11' comes from Mitt Romney himself: 'Rudy Giuliani will appear at an event with Mitt Romney on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the assault on Osama bin Laden, a campaign aide confirmed to CNN.' Yeah, Mitt Romney is so desperately against politicizing 9/11 ... that he's going to mark the anniversary of bin Laden's death by campaigning alongside Rudy 911iani." ...

     ... Lewison wrote a good account a couple of days ago about just how opposed Romney was to Obama's pledge to go after Bin Laden. ...

     ... CW: In case you think the decision was a slam-dunk, as Romney characterizes it, here's an excerpt from David Corn's book Showdown on how Obama got Bin Laden. ...

     ... AND here's Vice President Biden speaking in January: "When the president asked his top advisers for their final opinion on the mission, all of them were hesitant, except for the former CIA director, now Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Biden said. 'Every single person in that room hedged their bet except Leon Panetta. Leon said go. Everyone else said, 49, 51.'" ...

     ... BUT. Michael Hastings, writing for BuzzFeed, raises the possibility of Obama's being "swiftboated" by disgruntled, right-wing Navy Seals, who feel their success has been used and misrepresented for political purposes. ...

     ... CW Update: I just can't keep up with Romney. He no longer says any president would have made the call Obama made to take out bin Laden. Now he says "Any thinking American would have ordered exactly the same thing." Read my column in today's NYTX if you think there's any vague possibility this is true.

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "Romney on Auto Bailout 3.0": Obama owes his only economic success to me, Mitt Romney, who told Obama exactly how to save the auto industry.

Stay Greedy, Newt! Philip Elliott of the AP: "Rick Santorum wants to ensure the GOP's policy platform represents conservatives' interests. Newt Gingrich wants help retiring his campaign debt and repairing his reputation. Both Republicans are expected to endorse their former rival Mitt Romney ... but each wants assurances that Romney will deliver for them. Neither is rushing toward the task. Meanwhile, it doesn't appear that Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is going to go that way." CW: You know how Newt could retire his campaign debt? He could write a check. He's a multimillionaire. You know how Newt could repair his reputation? ... I didn't think so. ...

... AND Alex Altman of Time ponders what's next for Newt.

Right Wing World *

Heidi Przybyla & Tim Mattingly of Bloomberg News: "Tea party favorites such as Stephen Fincher of Tennessee were swept into Congress on a wave of anger over government-funded bailouts of banks. Now those incumbents are collecting thousands of dollars for re-election campaigns from the same Wall Street firms whose excesses they criticized. They have taken no significant steps to curb them or prevent future taxpayer-financed rescues.

* Fundamentalist nutjobs & corporate shills, sole proprietors. -- Akhilleus

Local News

Todd Richmond of the AP: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's [financial backer] list reads like a who's who of some of the richest people in America — financial gurus, a Las Vegas casino president, even an NBA team owner. Walker set the record for a state office with $12.1 million raised last year. Campaign finance records filed Monday show he has already easily surpassed that this year, raising $13.1 million between Jan. 18 and last week."

News Ledes

NBC News: "Marches turned violent in Oakland, where protesters pounded on bank windows and went face-to-face with a police line, and in Seattle, where protesters dressed in black smashed windows and police pepper-sprayed some in the crowds."

Orlando Sentinel: "Richard W. Myers will bring nearly three decades of law-enforcement leadership to Sanford's troubled police department when he starts work as interim chief on Friday. City Manager Norton Bonaparte announced Tuesday that he had hired Myers, former police chief of Colorado Springs, Colo., to run the department for at least three months."

New York Times: "... [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton arrives again in Beijing for talks that are certain to receive far less attention than the uncertain fate of a Chinese lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who escaped a brutalizing, illegal house arrest and has sought protection from American diplomats in the Chinese capital."

New York Times: "President Obama landed here Tuesday, on a surprise visit, to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan meant to mark the beginning of the end of a war that has lasted for more than a decade. Mr. Obama ... flew by helicopter to the presidential palace, where he was to meet President Hamid Karzai before both leaders signed the pact. It is intended to be a road map for two nations lashed together by more than a decade of war and groping for a new relationship after the departure of American troops, scheduled for the end of 2014." CW: the White House livefeed shows no scheduled speech as of 4 pm ET. Update: President Obama speaks at 5:30 pm ET & 7:30 pm ET....

     ... NYT Update: 'Speaking from a military base near Kabul after a brief, surprise night visit to Afghanistan on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death, President Obama said that 'we have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan.'”

Raleigh News & Observer: "Jurors for the John Edwards trial saw video on Tuesday afternoon of the house outside Chapel Hill where Edward’s pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, lived for several months while hiding from National Enquirer reporters.... Cheri Young, during her third day on the witness stand in a trial projected to last through May, stated that she videotaped the home and some of Hunter’s belongings to document that Hunter had lived in the home."

New York Daily News: "Would-be subway bomber Adis Medunjanin was convicted Tuesday of plotting to wage jihad in the city with two other homegrown terrorists. The Queens man was also found guilty of conspiring to join the Taliban and training with Al Qaeda."

The New York Times "City Room" blog is liveblogging May Day events in NYC: "The police arrested protesters on the Williamsburg Bridge, a park on the Lower East Side and near Washington Square Park Tuesday afternoon as the May Day protests organized by Occupy Wall Street gathered steam. The morning's protests in Midtown, outside banks and other businesses, had been well attended but more subdued." ...

     ... The Daily News has better live coverage here.

Guardian: "Rupert Murdoch is 'not a fit person' to exercise stewardship of a major international company, a committee of MPs has concluded, in a report highly critical of the mogul and his son James's role in the News of the World phone-hacking affair. The Commons culture, media and sport select committee also concluded that James Murdoch showed 'wilful ignorance' of the extent of phone hacking during 2009 and 2010 – in a highly charged document that saw MPs split on party lines as regards the two Murdochs." ...

     ... Update: the report is here. ...

     ... New York Times Update 1: "... the furor that accompanied the release of the report on Tuesday appeared to open a whole new arena of hazard for the prime minister and his Conservative Party. Mr. Cameron's Conservative members of Parliament voted against the report because of the insistence by the Labour and Liberal Democrat majority on including a condemnation of Mr. Murdoch as 'not a fit person' to run a major international company. That carries the risk of Mr. Cameron being cast as a de facto champion of Mr. Murdoch, and the possibility of being tarred by association with the wrongdoing at the Murdoch-owned tabloids.

     ... New York Times Update 2: "Rupert Murdoch said that News Corporation's 50,000 employees could expect 'a more robust global compliance structure' in response to the continued fallout over news gathering at the company's British newspaper unit."

Guardian: "The May 1 'general strike', the result of months of planning and coordination between groups across the US, is Occupy's big chance to regain the momentum lost when a combination of police crackdowns and the harsh winter weather shut down the protest at the end of last year."

Atlantic: "A day that is expected to be filled with anti-establishment protests all around the globe began early last night with a roving band of 'anarchists' smashing car windows and store fronts in San Francisco's Mission District. The mini-riot ... may have started as a 'ruckus street party' organized by Occupy Oakland protesters.... Many in the Occupy movement are blaming outsiders and "Black Bloc" anarchists who have a habit of hijacking peaceful protests for the own purposes."

Some headlines are irresistible. San Francisco Chronicle: "Man Sues BMW over Two-Year Erection."

Sunday
Apr292012

The Commentariat -- April 30, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Jonathan Weisman's New York Times puff piece on Paul Ryan. The NYT front page is here.

Thanks to everyone for your brilliant comments over the past week. I'm sorry I haven't had time to participate, but I have been reading & appreciating them. -- Constant Weader

Paul Krugman: "... there;s also a war on the young, which is just as real even if it's better disguised. And it's doing immense harm, not just to the young, but to the nation’s future.... What should we do to help America's young? Basically, the opposite of what Mr. Romney and his friends want."

I'm going to go ahead & post the whole ABC News "This Week" roundtable (I posted a clip yesterday), because it was so bad. After taping it, Krugman wrote a post titled "We're Doomed." He's right:

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... Following up on a point Krugman made when appearing on "This Week" (and elsewhere), Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post writes a well-balanced report: "As the economic recovery has struggled to pick up speed, one of the biggest stumbling blocks has been job losses in state and local governments, which have been on the rise for much of President Obama's term. Early on, Obama fought for aid that saved hundreds of thousands of these jobs, economists say. Yet a year later, when his economic advisers said another large round of aid was critical for the health of the economy, Obama declined to make it a key part of his agenda.... Today..., the heavy job losses at the state and local level remain a significant economic concern. His response at different moments underscores how the president has sometimes fought hard against the political odds for policies he thinks crucial and at other times relented when the chances of success seemed low."

Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times reviews Robert Caro's 4th book on President Lyndon Johnson, Passage to Power. A photo gallery depicting Caro's "painstaking process."

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Any shred of hope for a BSkyB takeover [by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.] in the near future appeared to have been dashed last week after e-mails surfaced suggesting that a News Corporation lobbyist and a British culture minister had conspired to get the deal approved.... The events in Britain and the resulting scrutiny have begun to take a toll on the broader empire...."

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "Six months after President Obama ordered 100 elite troops to help capture the messianic warlord Joseph Kony, U.S. military commanders said Sunday that they have been unable to pick up his trail but believe he is hiding in this country's dense jungle, relying on Stone Age tactics to dodge his pursuers’ high-tech surveillance tools."

CW: I haven't yet read this takedown of Paul Ryan by Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, but I'm working on it.

Presidential Race

A Web video produced by the Obama campaign:

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Field workers for President Obama's campaign fanned out across the country over the weekend in an effort to confront a barrage of new voter identification laws that strategists say threaten the campaign's hopes for registering new voters ahead of the November election."

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "Two well-funded Republican groups began running hard-hitting ads against President Obama last week, aiming to spend an estimated $8 million in key battleground states. The spots hit similar themes, attacking Obama on green-energy investments, and even cite similar sources.... Many of their claims -- regarding 'billions' of stimulus dollars going overseas -- had been debunked two years ago by our colleagues at PolitiFact and Factcheck.org. Yet here the erroneous assertions emerge yet again, without any shame, labeled as 'the truth' or 'fact.'"

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker on Obama's White House Correspondents Dinner performance: "I spoke to a Republican operative who is a veteran of Presidential campaigns. He worried out loud that 'Romney could never do a night like this.'"

News Ledes

NBC News: "A federal judge on Monday blocked a Texas rule that would have excluded Planned Parenthood from participating in the state's women's health program. In a win for Planned Parenthood, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled Monday there was sufficient evidence the state rule barring Planned Parenthood is unconstitutional. He imposed a temporary injunction against enforcing it until he can hear full arguments."

Guardian: "James Murdoch will be criticised by MPs investigating phone hacking on Tuesday, but their assessment of his conduct is expected to fall just short of accusing the former chairman of News International of misleading parliament about the extent of his knowledge of the affair."

The Hill: "The Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously tossed out a proposed 'personhood' amendment Monday.... The personhood movement supports amending state constitutions to say that life begins at the moment of fertilization -- a definition that would likely impede women's access to contraception and in vitro fertilization."

Washington Post: "The Obama administration formally acknowledged for the first time Monday its use of drone strikes against terrorism suspects, lifting but not removing the shroud of secrecy that surrounds the nation's expanding use of targeted killing operations overseas. Saying President Obama had instructed aides to be more open about the controversial issue, White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan offered the most extensive outline yet of a clandestine program that officials had for years refused to discuss -- even as evidence of its lethal toll mounted in such countries as Yemen and Pakistan."

Raleigh News & Observer: "The wife of John Edwards’ former aide Andrew Young testified Monday that Edwards knew of the checks coming from his wealthy supporters and gave assurances that it would not violate campaign funding laws for her to deposit the money in the personal account she shared with her husband."

New York Times: "President Obama on Monday gently prodded China to improve its human-rights record but pointedly declined to discuss the case of a prominent Chinese lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, now said to be under American protection in Beijing. His remarks highlighted the delicacy of an unfolding diplomatic dispute that analysts say may prove fiendishly difficult to resolve."

New York Times: "The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, said Monday night that the international talks on the Iranian nuclear program do 'not fill me with confidence,' reiterating his hard-line position about all options -- including an independent Israeli attack -- remaining on the table, despite mounting criticism from the security establishment here and a growing sense abroad that a diplomatic solution may be possible."

Guardian: "Documents found in the house where Osama bin Laden was killed a year ago show a close working relationship between top al-Qaida leaders and Mullah Omar, the overall commander of the Taliban, including frequent discussions of joint operations against Nato forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government and targets in Pakistan."

New York Times: "Benzion Netanyahu, the father of the two-time Israeli prime minister Benjamin, who fought for the creation of the Jewish state by lobbying in the United States and went on to write an influential history gof the Spanish inquisition, died on Monday. He was 102."

Saturday
Apr282012

The Commentariat -- April 29, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Douthat's hand-wringing over Japanese demographics.

Paul Krugman on ABC New's "This Week" speaks about Fed Chair Ben Bernanke That jer at the end there is David Walker, one of the guys Tom Friedman thinks should be President:

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     ... You can watch more ideologues explaining economics to Krugman here.

President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner last night:

     ... CW: For the third year running, I thought Obama was funnier than the professional comedian.

** Edgar Doctorow in a New York Times op-ed on how "to achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world." Highly recommended.

Martin Amis, in a New York Times essay, remembers his stays in the U.S. in 1958 & 1967.

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "The growth of health spending has slowed substantially in the last few years, surprising experts and offering some fuel for optimism about the federal government's long-term fiscal performance.... Experts said not to discount the accountable-care revolution just because it remained small or because the changes implemented by the Obama health care law had not come into full effect yet."

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "The emerging picture [of Al Qaeda] is of a network that is crumpled at its core, apparently incapable of an attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001, yet poised to survive its founder’s demise."

Peter Bergen, in a New York Times op-ed: "Despite countervailing evidence, most conservatives view the president as some kind of peacenik. From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramatic cognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama’s record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is."

Greedy Bastards. Charles Duhigg & David Kocieniewski of the New York Times on how Apple avoids billions in taxes.

You can listen to oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Arizona v. the United States here. (The audio widget is on the right side of the screen.)

The Presidential Race

** Rick Perlstein of Rolling Stone on how "the ecology of right-wing smears works: Insane horror stories – Clinton is running cocaine out of an Arkansas airport! Barack Obama had gay sex in the back of a limo! -- bubble up from the collective conservative Id at the outset of an election year; professional conservatives in Washington identify the ones that seem most promising and launder them through the suckers in the 'balance'-hungry mainstream media; and presto, before you know it, it's death-panel-palooza, 24/7." Perlstein posits that Obama will be accused this year of trying to establish a state religion in violation of the First Amendment. The religion? Secular Humanism! Want proof? The groundwork is laid, & Mitt Romney is already traveling down the road.

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: Oh, Romney is a fun guy, too. (See Obama above, at Washington Correspondents Dinner.) Romney makes jokes about firing people. Ha ha and ha. CW: This story about Romney's funny side is, not surprisingly, really short.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post bids farewell to Newt.

Right Wing World

Thomas Mann & Norm Ornstein in a Washington Post op-ed: "We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional.... Today ... we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

Vatican Ragout

Maureen Dowd: "It has become a habit for the church to go after women.... Church leaders behave like adolescent boys, blinded by sex. That’s the problem with inquisitors and censors: They become fascinated by what they deplore." ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "If you look at who has more closely emulated Jesus's life, Pope Benedict or your average nun, it's the nun hands down. Since the papal crackdown on nuns, they have received an outpouring of support." ...

... Funny, no word from Ross Douthat on the Vatican's inquisition of American nuns.

Sarah Garfinkel of the Peoria Journal-Star: "Some faculty members at the University of Notre Dame are calling on Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky to renounce statements he made during a controversial April 14 homily or resign from the school's Board of Fellows. More than 90 faculty members have so far signed the letter, which was released Monday to the Notre Dame student newspaper, according to John Duffy, an English professor at the university. Jenky, during his homily, analogized the political actions of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to those of President Obama." Via Steve Benen.

Vatican Rag

Your Sunday Sermon

The Gospel According to Saint Paul. The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it. The overarching threat to our whole society today is the exploding federal debt. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities, and individuals running up high debt levels are ‘living at the expense of future generations’ and ‘living in untruth." -- Paul Ryan (RTP-Wisc.)

Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love. -- Letter to Ryan from a group of Jesuits & Georgetown University faculty

A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons. -- Letter to Ryan from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ...

... Holy Shit! Now the Pope is an economist. Poor Krugman! Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "A small handful of Catholic social justice activists descended on Georgetown University's gothic campus to protest Ryan's speech there this morning, unfurling a 50-foot sign that read, 'Were you there when they crucified the poor?' Organized by Catholics United, a left-leaning advocacy group, members argued that Ryan's proposed cuts to Medicaid and other welfare programs for the poor go against the teachings of the Church to uplift the poor and downtrodden." ...

... Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: "During the Q&A session that followed, where Ryan fielded questions submitted by students, he insisted that welfare reform had brought down child poverty rates. The claim is false, especially in Ryan's home state. According to the most recent data, the child poverty rate in Wisconsin jumped 42 percent between 2000 and 2010. The suffering would have been more significant but for the large increases in federal food assistance that Ryan wants to scale back. Welfare reform is more likely a contributing factor to child poverty, not a solution to it, making it a dubious model for for combating poverty 'at its roots,' as Ryan said he wants to do." ...

... Dana Milbank: "The moderator asked [Ryan] about 'the moral dimension' of a budget that gives tax cuts to the wealthy and cuts spending for the poor. Ryan’s answer included the phrase 'subchapter S corporations.' ... If government does too much for the poor, 'you make it harder' for churches and charities to do that work. It was a bold economic — and theological — proposition. Even Jesus said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Ryan would rather give the rich a tax cut."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Obama administration scrambled on Sunday to contain a growing diplomatic crisis between the United States and China, sending a senior diplomat to Beijing to discuss the fate of a blind dissident who fled house arrest last week."

New York Times: "If the winds are forgiving enough over Lower Manhattan -- up where workers can see the whole outline of the island's tip -- a steel column will be hoisted into place Monday afternoon atop the exoskeleton of 1 World Trade Center and New York will have a new tallest building."

New York Times: "President Obamapoked fun at himself, Congress, the Secret Service, the media and particularly his rival Mitt Romney on Saturday night, mocking his Republican opponent as a fuddy-duddy rich guy who travels with his dog in a cage strapped to the roof of the family car." Full video above.

New York Times: "Google's harvesting of e-mails, passwords and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households in the United States and around the world was neither a mistake nor the work of a rogue engineer, as the company long maintained, but a program that supervisors knew about, according to new details from the full text of a regulatory report."

Guardian: "Concern is growing for relatives and supporters of Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist who fled from 19 months of house arrest in a Chinese village in Shandong province and is said to be sheltering inside the American embassy in Beijing. Police have detained four family members and two of those who aided his escape, a rights group said."

New York Times: "Egypt's most conservative Islamists endorsed a liberal Islamist for president late Saturday night, upending the political landscape and confounding expectations about the internal dynamics of the Islamist movement. The main missionary and political groups of the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, threw their support behind Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a dissident former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood known for his tolerant and inclusive view of Islamic law."

Guardian: Prime Minister "David Cameron has insisted there was 'no grand deal' with Rupert Murdoch over the BSkyB bid in exchange for support for his party....The prime minister indicated he regretted attending a Christmas party at the Oxfordshire home of the then News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, in December 2010, and admitted discussing matters with James Murdoch, but insisted it did not involve 'any inappropriate conversations'."

Al Jazeera: "The Co-Operative Group, a British supermarket chain, is extending a boycott of goods from illegal Israeli settlements and will now shun any supplier known to source from these areas, a statement has said."

Friday
Apr272012

The Commentariat -- April 28, 2012

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

Gail Collins just nicks the tip of the iceberg on the privitization of education, but it's enough to infuriate me. If you want to talk war on everything, the war on public education is perhaps the most scandalous, because it is, to borrow a phrase from Obama, winning our future. That is to say, our future is losing. CW: BTW, it may be coincidental, but ever since I wrote a column (which nobody liked) in the NYTX criticizing Collins for wasting her NYT real estate on frivolous stuff, Collins has written mostly substantive columns.

Kevin Drum: "Can the government provide healthcare more efficiently than the private market? There's no simple answer to that, but a couple of recent data points suggest the answer is yes." This is an interesting post in that Drum cites studies that indicate both Medicare & Medicaid costs are actually holding steady or decreasing. This was news to me.

Paul Krugman: "Obama, far from presiding over a huge expansion of government the way the right claims, has in fact presided over unprecedented austerity, largely driven by cuts at the state and local level. And it’s therefore an amazing triumph of misinformation the way that lackluster economic performance has been interpreted as a failure of government spending." With a chart to prove it. ...

... Here's Krugman on NPR; includes summary of the interview.

How to Control the Narrative. Glenn Greenwald doesn't like it: "This is what the Obama administration does over and over. It’s a flagrant abuse of its secrecy powers. It uses anonymous leaks to selectively boast about what it does and thus shape media narratives and public understanding of its conduct (also called 'domestic propaganda'). But it then simultaneously insists that the whole matter is classified — Top Secret — when it comes time to be subjected to any form of legal accountability or have its assertions publicly tested."

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Obama campaign officials have asked the president’s elite donors and fund-raisers to donate to [Hillary] Clinton’s defunct presidential campaign committee, with the goal of retiring $245,000 in debt left over from her 2008 White House bid. As secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton is barred from engaging in political activity or actively fund-raising for herself." Naturally, there's a tit for tat.

CW: Sorry, forgot to post this yesterday. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama plans to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 13 people, including Bob Dylan, John Glenn, Toni Morrison and John Paul Stevens, the White House announced Thursday." Post includes complete list of honorees.

Richard Ryan & William Ryan in the New York Times: "In this month’s issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we and our fellow researchers provide empirical evidence that homophobia can result, at least in part, from the suppression of same-sex desire.

Steve Kornacki of Salon: "After a week of public squabbling, both [Scott Brown & Elizabeth Warren] publicly released several years of tax returns earlier today, and it turns out their incomes aren't very different. According to the Boston Globe's report, Brown and his wife (a former television reporter at Boston's ABC affiliate) took in $510,856 in 2011. The total for Warren and her husband: $616,181. Their 2010 returns tell a similar story, with Brown reporting around $840,000 in income and Warren about $955,000. Those totals put each of them near the top of the income scale. There's a wider gulf in earlier years, before Brown's 2010 Senate victory, which he parlayed into a lucrative book deal."

Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "On Capitol Hill, Democrats are aggressively pushing the case that Republicans are now waging a 'War on Women' on three legislative fronts. First, they are blasting House Republicans for their proposal to block changes to the Violence Against Women Act.... Second, they've cast the GOP proposal to lower student rates by taking money out of Obamacare's prevention fund as another 'assault on women.' ... [Third,] Senate Democrats are planning to hold a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which 'would put more pressure on employers to prove that differences in wages are not rooted in gender difference.' ..."

Meanwhile, in ...

... Right Wing World

The Presidential Race

We’ve always encouraged young people: Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business. -- Mitt Romney, rich person with rich parents, like so many of us ...

Steve Benen chronicles Mitt's lies of the week; 15th in an extraordinary series.

Alec MacGillis of The New Republic: President Obama may use climate change to smoke out Willard Romney and his climate change denials turns; it could play well with upscale voters who think Romney is appealing.

Local News

Believe me, there is [sic.] a lot of good and hardworking people that work for the state. They are not the problem. The problem is the middle management of the state is about as corrupt as you can be. Believe me, we’re trying every day to get them to go to work, but it's hard. -- Gov. Paul LePage (RTP-Maine) ...

... Eric Russell of Bangor Daily News: LePage "offered no proof of corruption, no data to back his case that these managers don't work and he didn't identify a specific department. He did go on to talk about how most of these employees are not appointed by him and are protected through union contracts."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The latest high-level talks on ending a diplomatic deadlock between the United States and Pakistan ended in failure on Friday over Pakistani demands for an unconditional apology from the Obama administration for an airstrike. The White House, angered by the recent spectacular Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, refuses to apologize."

New York Times: "The recently retired chief of Israel's internal security agency said Friday night that he had 'no faith' in the ability of the current leadership to handle the Iranian nuclear threat, ratcheting up the criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak from the defense and intelligence communities."

New Rules. New York Times: "... the Secret Service ... announced on Friday that it had tightened its rules for staff members traveling in foreign countries."

AFP: "A leading Chinese activist who escaped from house arrest last weekend is now under US 'protection' and Washington and Beijing are in talks over his status, an overseas rights group said Saturday. Chen Guangcheng, who has been blind since childhood, fled last Sunday with the help of his supporters from under the noses of dozens of guards and subsequently recorded a video alleging abuses against him and his family."

New York Times: police chiefs from 250 American cities gathered in Washington this week to focus on disparities in gun violence among cities.

AP: "Calling it an 'oversight,' George Zimmerman's attorney said Friday the neighborhood watch volunteer did not disclose that a website had raised more than $200,000 for his defense, even though his family told the judge they would have trouble coming up with his bond.... Florida Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said he wanted to know more about the money."

AFP: "A Ukrainian court adjourned until May 21 on Saturday the new tax evasion trial of the jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko, who is on hunger strike, on account of her failing health. The unexpected decision came as Western concern mounted over the fate of the fiery opposition leader after she stretched her fast into a ninth day to protest an alleged beating at the hands of three prison guards."