The Ledes

Thursday, April 24, 2014.

... New York Times The Lede: "Separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine released the American journalist Simon Ostrovsky on Thursday, three days after he was taken prisoner in the town of Slovyansk while filming a video report for Vice News. The Brooklyn-based news organization confirmed his release in a statement, which was followed by a tweet from the correspondent."

Guardian: Ukrainian troops are moving against pro-Russian separatists. The Guardian's liveblog is here. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Russia announced on Thursday that it was immediately starting military drills involving its army and air force along the border with Ukraine, harshly criticizing the government there for moving against pro-Russian forces occupying various government buildings in a show of force that left a still-undetermined number of people killed and wounded." ...

Washington Post: "Three American medical staff members died when an Afghan security official opened fire Thursday at an American-run Christian hospital in Kabul in the latest violence targeting foreigners in Afghanistan."

Guardian: "Pupils at the elite Southbank International School in London were victims of serial paedophile teacher William Vahey, the school has confirmed. The scale of the abuse is expected to be revealed later on Thursday in a letter to parents.... Vahey, a 64-year-old American who taught at Southbank between 2009 and 2013, killed himself after being found with 90 images of boys. The FBI believe the children were drugged with sleeping pills and molested in assaults dating back to 2008."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

Guardian: "The Oklahoma supreme court has dissolved its stay of the executions of two men who challenged the state's secrecy about its source of lethal injection drugs. The court reversed the decision of a district court judge who said the law that keeps the source secret is unconstitutional. The turnaround heads off a potential constitutional crisis sparked by the state's Republican governor, Mary Fallin, who had tried to override the stay by issuing an executive order to go ahead with the sentences.... The court's reversal on Wednesday came hours after a resolution by an Oklahoma House member to try to impeach some of its justices."

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." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "An Army soldier convicted of leaking classified military and diplomatic records persuaded a Kansas judge Wednesday to legally change her name from Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning."

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'”:

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 24

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Jon Stewart raises a good point: Why is this man parading around with the flag of a country he claims doesn't exist? ...


Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "The Hannity-Stewart feud: Day Three. During an 11-minute segment on the 'The Daily Show' Wednesday night, Jon Stewart called out Sean Hannity for what he perceived as hypocrisy on the Cliven Bundy issue and called the Fox News host 'The Arby’s of news.'”

CW: It's worth remembering that Stewart was the guy who brought down CNN's shouting pundits show "Crossfire." Of course the Blitzer Channel is, by comparison to Fox "News," a paragon of journalistic excellence.

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).

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Friday
Feb032012

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."

Thursday
Feb022012

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."

Wednesday
Feb012012

The Commentariat -- February 2, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on "Revisionist History at the New York Times -- How a Fact Becomes an Anonymous Accusation." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

... Peter Hart of FAIR critiques the New York Times' odd coverage of President Obama's addressing a question about U.S. use of drones. Here's my favorite sentence from Hart's review: "Granting anonymity to official sources because of 'intense public interest' in a story is a little puzzling." ...

... AND economist Dean Baker explains to New York Times business writer Steven Davidoff why it's a good idea for the creators of collaterized loan obligations (CLOs) to "have skin in the game," a requirement of Dodd-Frank. Apparently, it didn't occur to Davidoff that these creative financiers occasionally might be dishonest.

... BTW, the comments section is open, comme d'habitude.

Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon: Susan B. Komen for the Cure "has repeatedly come under fire for its extravagant promotion of itself as an organization dedicated to a 'cure,' when only a small portion of its expenses go to, you know, curing cancer.... Komen has also ... aligned itself with more dubious product placement than a 'Jersey Shore' marathon.... Its senior vice president of public policy [is] Karen Handel. During the Sarah Palin-endorsed, Tea Party favorite’s 2010 campaign for governor of Georgia, Handel declared, 'I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,' making clear that she 'strongly supports' laws prohibiting 'the use of taxpayer funds for abortions or abortion-related services.'" ...

... "Why the Right Hates Planned Parenthood." Irin Carmon of Slate: "As long as women remember Planned Parenthood as their lifesaver in providing sexual health counseling, emergency contraception or a pap smear, it’s harder to peg abortion providers as back-alley butchers. And it’s easier for them to understand the reality that abortion services are inseparable from any truly comprehensive women’s healthcare, whether one wants to choose them or not." ...

... Sam Baker of The Hill: "The country’s leading breast-cancer charity is facing massive blowback from the left over its decision to pull funding for cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics. Planned Parenthood’s supporters rallied to its defense, pouring money into the controversial organization and threatening to walk away in droves from the Susan G. Komen foundation." ...

... Gardiner Harris & Pam Belluck of the New York Times: "... the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, is now engulfed in a controversy that threatens to undermine one of the most successful advocacy campaigns. The foundation’s decision to eliminate most of its grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening caused a cascade of criticism from prominent women’s groups, politicians and public health advocates and a similarly strong outpouring of support from conservative women and religious groups that oppose abortion. Now, leaders of both the Komen foundation and Planned Parenthood are accusing each other of bad faith and actions that undermine women." CW: She said/she said. 'Nuff said.

Steve Benen: "When making a list of what issues are likely to be important in the general election, it's probably best to put housing policy near the top of the list." President Obama took his first shot at Romney:

It is wrong for anyone to suggest that the only option for struggling, responsible homeowners is to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom. I refuse to accept that, and so do the American people. -- Barack Obama, yesterday

Don't try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. -- Mitt Romney, in October 2011

      ... Here's President Obama, speaking in Falls Church, Virginia, yesterday:

Right Wing World

Qoute of the Day:

 ... "The Safety Net Is Not a Hammock." Joan Walsh of Salon: "... not only will Romney not repair the safety net, he is likely to shred it further. Romney supports Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which would cut funding for virtually all the federal programs that help the poor. In fact, Romney’s own budget proposals would make even deeper cuts.... And Romney’s tax plan raises taxes on the bottom 20 percent of families, while giving millionaires a $146,000 tax break." ...

... Here's Walsh on Chris Matthews' show with John Harris, one of the executive editors of Politico. In case anyone has bought into the right's ludicrous claim that Politico is a left-wing rag, I give you -- John Harris:

... Jamison Foser of Media Matters has an excellent post on just how much Willard cares about "the plight of the poor," and how different he is from his father George Romney, who actually did care. ...

... Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "... for a campaign that has itself been accused of taking President Obama’s words out of context, the remark about the poor immediately became cataloged in a growing list of awkward comments by Mr. Romney, including a remark that his speaking fees last year of $374,327 were 'not very much' and his line that 'corporations are people.'” CW: "Been accused of"? Um, Romney's campaign did take the President's remarks out of context, used them in an ad, & Romney himself boasted about it. The ad got a Pants-on-Fire "award" from PolitiFact. How would Parker know? Gosh, she herself wrote last year that the Obama quote was "taken out of context." ...

... Like Mitt Romney and me, you may be guilty of not feeling sorry enough for billionaires. Fortunately, Ted Olsen, former Bush II solicitor general and current attorney for the Koch brothers, feels their pain. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday, Olsen complains that in a move of Nixonian & McCarthyite proportions, President Obama has placed Charles & David Koch who are, after all, merely "private citizens," on an "enemies list." Olsen writes, "it is exceedingly important for all Americans to respond with outrage to what the president and his allies are doing to demonize and stigmatize David and Charles Koch." CW: Though Olsen implies in his lede that, "the president of the United States singled [the Kochs] out by name for attack," the evidence for this enemies list of two, according to this winger report, is an ad that doesn't actually name the Kochs. Olsen himself does not name a single instance in which the president on his minions of wannabe McCarthys have defamed his upstanding, philanthropic clients. Nonetheless, please, please, let us hear your outrage. As for me, I have no earthly idea how a somewhat unflattering image of a Two-Headed Koch Monster found its way onto this page. ...

     ... Ed Kilgore: "I bow in admiration to the craftsmanship with which Olsen turns the Kochs’ vast, unprecedented empire of political agitprop, special-interest lobbying, and campaign skullduggery into a wonkish set of policy preferences."

... The Confederate States of the Newt. Steve Kornacki of Salon: "The blue counties were won by Mitt Romney, while Gingrich carried the red ones.... Given that he ran 14 points behind Romney statewide, it’s striking that Gingrich actually finished first in so many counties, and his margins in some of them were considerable; all told, he beat Romney by double-digits in 20 counties." This is why Newt will keep running at least through Super Tuesday, when a number of Southern states vote. CW: There's a reason they call the Florida Panhandle the "Redneck Riviera." ...

... Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly: "Basically, the more a county resembled GA or AL, the more likely it was that Newt would win, and that, of course, will be part of his rationale for continuing on, at least to states where Crackro-Americans dominate."

Local News

Mary Beth Schneider & Chris Sikich of the Indianapolis Star: "Gov. Mitch Daniels signed 'right to work' legislation this afternoon without a ceremony, making Indiana the 23rd state in the nation with the law." Earlier in the day, "the Senate voted 28 to 22 today to pass the controversial labor union bill, as thousands of protesters packed Statehouse hallways shouting their disapproval, with thousands more lined-up outside waiting to get in."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Senate passed a sweeping new ethics bill on Thursday that would ban insider trading by members of Congress and require prompt disclosure of stock transactions by lawmakers and by thousands of officials in the executive branch of government.... President Obama called for passage of such legislation in his State of the Union address last week. More than half of House members, including at least 100 Republicans, have signaled support for it, and House Republican leaders said Thursday that they would schedule consideration of the Senate-passed bill on the House floor next week."

New York Times: "The police in several Egyptian cities on Thursday night battled with thousands of die-hard soccer fans angry at the military-led government’s failure to prevent dozens of deaths at a soccer riot in Port Said the previous night."

Bloomberg News: "Claims for U.S. jobless benefits fell last week, a sign the labor market is improving. Applications for unemployment insurance payments dropped by 12,000 to 367,000 in the week ended Jan. 28, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington."

New York Times: "The hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers took a new turn on Thursday when a lawmaker said police investigations had spread to the flagship Times of London. The revelation came a day after lawyers said an e-mail referring to 'a nightmare scenario' of legal repercussions from widespread phone hacking at the News of the World tabloid was deleted from James Murdoch’s computer less than two weeks before the police opened investigations."

New York Times: Washington [State] appeared almost certain to become the seventh state to allow same-sex marriage after the State Senate voted late Wednesday for a measure that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry beginning this summer." Seattle Times story here.

Bloomberg News: "Facebook Inc. (FB)’s initial public offering may value Mark Zuckerberg’s stake at $28.4 billion, making him richer than >Google Inc. (GOOG)’s co-founders and almost on par with Larry Ellison, who started Oracle Corp. (ORCL) 35 years ago."

The Guardian is liveblogging the second & final day of Julian Assange's extradition appeal before the British Supreme Court.

New York Times: "Alzheimer’s disease seems to spread like an infection from brain cell to brain cell, two new studies in mice have found. But instead of viruses or bacteria, what is being spread is a distorted protein known as tau. The surprising finding answers a longstanding question and has immediate implications for developing treatments, researchers said. And they suspect that other degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson’s may spread in a similar way."

ABC News: "Mitt Romney offered harsh criticism of a plan outlined by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to possibly withdraw U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in 2013, calling the administration's decision to announce its military plans to the world 'misguided' and 'naive.'"

Wednesday
Feb012012

The Commentariat -- February 1, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "God, Sex and Money -- the 'Bizarre' Views of Ross Douthat." The NYTX front page is here. Make a contribution here. ...

... If you feel guilty that you're not doing enough to save the world when you read a Nicholas Kristof column, this takedown by Laura Agustín, on "the soft side of imperialism," might make you feel better.

Maureen Dowd contrasts Obama's & Romney's spines, and Romney comes out looking like a jellyfish wrapped in a mean streak.

The New York Times Editorial Board is three for three today:

     ... For one thing, they listen to their resident economist: "A leader wiser than [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel would build a stronger European Union by helping her neighbors grow their way out of debt, not squeeze them to the breaking point." ...

     ... The Board likes both the bill Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) will introduce in the Senate today & the Buffett Rule which President Obama favors -- for starters. "Republicans are certain to filibuster Mr. Whitehouse’s bill in the Senate or try to ignore it in the House. But explaining a tax code that allows the wealthiest to escape their responsibility is getting much harder to do." ...

    ... AND the Board applauds Jessica Ahlquist, the "11th grader at Cranston High School West in Rhode Island, [who] has endured verbal abuse because, as an atheist, she objected to the 'School Prayer' that has been on the school’s auditorium wall since 1963."

Greg Sargent: "Senator [Sherrod] Brown [D-Ohio] ... is introducing a measure in the Senate today that would require all Senators to divest themselves of any stocks in companies that are impacted by their actions as a Senator.... This proposal is the first legislative vehicle to accomplish what Obama called for in his State of Union speech, in which he said: 'Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact.' ... This will also become an issue in the Massachusetts Senate race: Elizabeth Warren has already vowed to divest in the stock she owns if elected to the Senate. So Massachusetts Dems will likely demand that Scott Brown take a stand on this latest proposal." Scott Brown has owned stocks in companies with legislation before the Senate.

Dan Eggen & T. W. Farnam of the Washington Post: "Conservative super PACs and other outside groups are helping Republicans close a yawning fundraising gap with President Obama, giving the eventual GOP presidential nominee a better chance at winning the money race by November, according to new disclosures Tuesday. Obama’s fundraising has continued to outpace that of his Republican challengers, amassing four times as much cash on hand at the end of December as front-runner Mitt Romney, records show.... But fresh disclosures ... reveal a key advantage now available to Republicans: a constellation of conservative groups that can raise unlimited money to help make up the difference with Obama’s campaign, which must abide by federal contribution limits." ...

... Nicholas Confessore & Michael Luo of the New York Times: "Close to 60 corporations and wealthy individuals gave checks of $100,000 or more to a 'super PAC' supporting Mitt Romney in the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, according to documents released on Tuesday, underwriting a $17 million blitz of advertising that has swamped his Republican rivals in the early primary states." A related graphic of superPac donors, also linked in yesterday's Ledes is here. ...

... Reuters: "Stephen Colbert's presidential aspirations may not be serious, but his fundraising is. The late-night television comedian's Super PAC announced on Tuesday that it has raised more than $1 million. Shauna Polk, treasurer of Colbert's Super Political Action Committee 'Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,' said in a filing with the Federal Election Commission that, as of January 30, the group's donations totaled $1,023,121.24."

Ezra Klein on why the debt clock Mitt Romney carries around with him is wrong. But the right answer as to how much President Obama has contributed to the national deficit is hard to come by -- and also pretty meaningless when you try to compare it with other additions to the national debt created in different economic times.

Right Wing World

David Firestone of the New York Times does a nice job of parsing the Florida GOP primary: "Mr. Gingrich leaves the state a greatly diminished candidate, revealed as a man who would say virtually anything, no matter how absurd, to gain a slight advantage among groups of voters.... But Florida cost Mr. Romney some standing as well."

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "Why did Newt Gingrich win South Carolina? According to Romneyworld, it's largely because Republican voters there are a bunch of racists who can't tell the difference between Juan Williams and President Obama."

The White House has been trying to pretend like the President just showed up yesterday, just got sworn in and started fresh. In fact, he’s been in office for three years. He got everything he wanted from a completely compliant Congress for two of those three years…. We are living in the Obama economy. -- Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) on CNN Sunday ...

... Sahil Kapur of TPM: McConnell's argument is "intended as a counterpoint to the President’s re-election strategy of attacking the congressional GOP as do-nothing obstructionists. But it’s also a revisionist history of the 111th Congress, during which McConnell more than any other Republican in Washington stood athwart Obama’s agenda to great effect.... By forcing Democrats to find 60 votes to nearly every action, McConnell and his members were able to block major initiatives including climate change and immigration reform bills, various appropriations bills, myriad presidential appointments, and arguably also a Democratic effort to let the Bush tax cuts expire for high incomes. Meanwhile, big legislative items that did pass, such as health care reform and the economic stimulus package, were notably scaled back as a result of the GOP filibusters."

CW: It's sort of fun to watch conservative "deep thinkers" think up reasons why rich people should pay taxes at a lower rate than do many in the middle class. Here's Jonathan Bernstein making mincemeat of Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who is one of the top economist-apologists for the right.

News Ledes

The Hill: "The House voted Wednesday to freeze federal workers' pay until the end of 2013. The 309-117 vote ... gave the GOP political momentum for the first time since the fall. The Democratic defections [72 voted with the majority] came in defiance of opposition from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Obama, who has proposed a 0.5 percent federal raise for 2012. The legislation came in a blitz of GOP fiscal bills designed to regain the upper hand Republicans lost when Obama and the Democrats handed them a heavy defeat last year on extending the payroll tax holiday."

NBC News: "Senate Democrats decried the influx of millions in unregulated dollars in the 2012 elections, announcing Wednesday that they will hold hearings looking into the impact of super PACs. New York Sen. Charles Schumer ... announced that the Rules committee will begin hearings this month on super PACs.... Schumer pointed to Mitt Romney's victory in Florida's Republican primary as evidence of the outsize influence of super PACs."

New York Times: "At least 73 people were killed in a brawl between rival groups of soccer fans after a match in the city of Port Said, [Egypt,] on Wednesday, the bloodiest outbreak of lawlessness since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak one year ago. The riot refocused attention on the failure of the transitional government to re-establish a sense of order and stability in the streets and threatened to provoke a new crisis for Egypt’s halting political transition."

New York Times: "Wislawa Szymborska, a gentle and reclusive Polish poet who won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, died on Wednesday in Krakow, Poland. She was 88."

New York Times: "Facebook, the vast online social network, is poised to file for a public stock offering on Wednesday that will ultimately value the company at $75 billion to $100 billion, cashing in on the fuel that powers the engine of Internet commerce: personal data." ...

     ... Update: "Facebook ... took its first step toward becoming a publicly traded company on Wednesday as it filed to sell shares on the stock market. The service ... is on track to be the largest Internet initial public offering ever — trumping Google’s in 2004 or Netscape’s nearly a decade before that. In its filing, Facebook, which has more than 845 million users worldwide, said it was seeking to raise $5 billion, according to a figure used to calculate the registration fee."

Reuters: "The U.S. military said in a secret report that the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, are set to retake control of Afghanistan after NATO-led forces withdraw, raising the prospect of a major failure of Western policy after a costly war. Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, confirmed the existence of the document, reported on Wednesday by Britain's Times newspaper and the BBC." ...

     ... New York Times Update: The report, which Times reporters have seen, "abounds with accounts of cooperation between the insurgents and local government officials or security forces, as well as accounts from Taliban detainees who claim that in areas where coalition soldiers are withdrawing, the Afghan military is cooperating with the insurgents."

New York Times: "Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, went before Britain’s Supreme Court on Wednesday in the latest chapter of a long-running battle to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer accusations of sexual misconduct." The Guardian is liveblogging the proceedings.

Guardian: James Clapper, "the head of US intelligence, has warned that there is an increasing likelihood that Iran could carry out attacks in America or against US and allied targets around the world. The warning ... reflects rapidly rising tensions over Iran's nuclear programme after the US and EU announced embargoes on the Iranian oil trade in the past few weeks, Israel leaked details of its preparation for a possible conflict and both the west and Iran boosted their military readiness in the Gulf."

** NBC News: "Pfizer said on Tuesday it was recalling about a million packets of birth control pills in the United States because they may not contain enough contraceptive to prevent pregnancy." With video report. ...

Los Angeles Times: "Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a leader in fundraising for breast cancer research and famous worldwide for its iconic pink ribbon, said Tuesday that it was halting all partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates because of recently adopted criteria that forbid it from funding any organization under government investigation." ...

... New York Times: "Nearly half of women who had lumpectomies for breast cancer had second operations they may not have needed because surgeons have been unable to agree on guidelines for the most common operation for breast cancer, a new study finds. It also hints that some women who might benefit from further surgery may be missing out on it."

Guardian: "A federal judge in Washington DC has ruled that the National Park Service must give Occupy protesters camped out in two of the US capital's parks 24 hours' notice before clearing out their encampments. District judge James Boasberg upheld the anti-camping regulations at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza – but ruled that park police must give the occupiers a full day's notice before any clearout." ...

... Washington Post: "Occupy D.C. protesters spent Monday night huddled under the celestial sweep of a blue tarp they had erected in McPherson Square, talking, singing and, yes, sleeping — in defiance of rules that prohibit overnight camping in the park."

New York Times: NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Börse of Germany said on Wednesday that they are in talks to call off their planned merger, after European antitrust regulators formally opposed the deal."

AFP: "Long-lost audio recordings of the aftermath of president John F. Kennedy's assassination have been made public, captivating historians and stirring fascination about that fateful day. Almost 50 years after the November 22, 1963 assassination, a two hour and 22 minute reel was found among the personal effects of JFK's senior military aide, Major General Chester Clifton, who died in 1991." You can download the MP3 files from this Government Printing Office page.