The Ledes

Tuesday, September 30, 2014.

New York Times: "An Oklahoma man was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the beheading of a co-worker, but federal officials said they had found no links that tie the man to terrorist organizations, including Islamic extremist groups that have beheaded several Western hostages in the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks. Alton Nolen, 30, who worked on the production line of a food processing plant in Moore, Okla., remains in the hospital after being shot by the company’s chief operating officer, who is also a reserve deputy sheriff, the authorities said."

New York Times: "Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader on Tuesday called for the pro-democracy demonstrators who have blocked major roads in the city to return home 'immediately,' and he gave no sign that he was prepared to compromise on their demands for more open elections to choose his successor." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging the protests.

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, September 29, 2014.

AP: "Militants of the Islamic State group were closing in Monday on a Kurdish area of Syria on the border with Turkey — an advance unhindered so far by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, including one that struck a grain silo, killing two civilians, according to activists. Islamic State fighters pounded the city of Kobani with mortars and artillery shells, advancing within three miles (five kilometers) of the Kurdish frontier city, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Nawaf Khalil, a Kurdish official."

New York Times: "A wave of protest in Hong Kong further engulfed the city on Monday as thousands of residents defied a government call to abandon street blockades, students boycotted classes and the city’s influential bar association added its condemnation of a police crackdown on protesters."

Los Angeles Times: "Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated Monday as president of Afghanistan, succeeding President Hamid Karzai and marking the first peaceful transition of power in the nation’s history."

Oklahoman: "In a bizarre coincidence, a fired Oklahoma City nursing home employee was arrested Friday after a co-worker reported he threatened to cut her head off. Jacob Mugambi Muriithi, 30, is being held in the Oklahoma County jail on a terrorism complaint. His bail is set at $1 million... She said Muriithi identified himself as a Muslim and said he 'represented ISIS and that ISIS kills Christians,' the detective told a judge in the affidavit. The two had not worked together before."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
September 30

1:00 pm ET: Michelle Obama hosts Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards luncheon

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

1:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at a luncheon honoring Indian PM Narendra Modi

3:30 pm ET: White House BRAIN conference

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

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

Los Angeles Times: "George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin are married, having said their vows Saturday evening in Venice, Italy." ...

... OR, as the Business Women Media lede reads, "Amal Alamuddin, a 36 year old London-based dual-qualified English barrister and New York litigation attorney who has long been a high-profile figure in international refugee and human rights law has gone against the trend for professional women in her field and married… an actor."

CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

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Monday
Jul092012

The Commentariat -- July 10, 2012

Lauren LaCapra of Reuters: "A quarter of Wall Street executives see wrongdoing as a key to success, according to a survey by whistleblower law firm Labaton Sucharow released on Tuesday. In a survey of 500 senior executives in the United States and the UK, 26 percent of respondents said they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace, while 24 percent said they believed financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful. Sixteen percent of respondents said they would commit insider trading if they could get away with it.... And 30 percent said their compensation plans created pressure to compromise ethical standards or violate the law." ...

... Matt Yglesias of Slate: The LIBOR "rate-fixing scandal should destroy the credibility of banks.... When tighter regulation of trading is proposed, the concern is raised that stringency will push activity to foreign centers." In other words, the "concerned" people [CW: I like to call them One Percenters & Republicans] are promoting "an economic development strategy based on turning your country into an appealing location for dishonest banking." ...

... Ben Protess & Mark Scott of the New York Times: "As big banks face the fallout from a global investigation into interest rate manipulation, American and British lawmakers are scrutinizing regulators who failed to take action that might have prevented years of illegal activity. Politicians in both London and Washington are questioning whether regulators allowed banks to report false rates in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis and afterward." CW: or Congress -- whose members have refused to fully fund regulatory agencies, have kissed the asses of banksters while bending over backwards to discourage regulation, and looked the other way at the revolving door between agencies & financial institutions -- could look in the fucking mirror.

CW: I've been too lazy to read this New York Times op-ed by Thomas Ricks -- who argues for a military draft -- because it (a) covers old ground, and (b) is not going to happen (it's so socialistic!). But because Carlyle mentions it in today's Comments, I've added the link. Besides, Carlyle's rationale -- in my opinion -- is better (& more socialistic!) than Ricks'.

Reconstruction Redux. Charles Pierce: "There is no question that a national campaign to suppress minority voters continues apace in this country. Sooner or later, it appears, the [Voting Rights Act] is going to turn up in front of the Supreme Court and we'll see how liberal John Roberts really is."

Sarah Laskow in Salon: "... a new study, published in the formidable Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences..., shows that fluids may have traveled from deep within Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, one of the formations at the center of the gas boom, into shallow aquifers hundreds of feet above. These fluids aren't products of fracking, but if they can travel up through layers of rocks, close to the surface, it means that fracking fluids could, too.... Natural pathways link deep formations and shallow aquifers."

Charles Pierce: "What in the hell are American soldiers even doing in Mali, let alone joyriding around at night with a couple of local hookers? 'Counterterrorism' is an insufficient answer in a democracy because, as history fairly wells screams into our ears, sooner or later, one of these little exercises in adventurism either blows back on us with a vengeance." ...

... Tom Junod in Esquire: "The Obama administration has taken pains to tell us, over and over again, that they are careful, scrupulous of our laws, and determined to avoid the loss of collateral, innocent lives. They're careful because when it comes to waging war on individuals, the distinction between war and murder becomes a fine one. Especially when, on occasion, the individuals we target are Americans and when, in one instance, the collateral damage was an American boy." CW: I disagree with Junod, but I expect a lot of people will find his arguments compelling.

Brad Plumer of the Washington Post on "how air-conditioning transformed the U.S. economy." He might have mentioned A/C made conservative Southern states, with their anti-union laws, more viable locales for their plants.

Tom Hamburger, et al., of the Washington Post: President "Obama's critics, primarily on the political left, say he has repeatedly failed ... to protect American jobs from being moved overseas. They point to a range of actions they say he should have taken: confronting China, reining in unfettered trade and reworking a U.S. visa program that critics say ends up sending high-tech jobs abroad.... American jobs have been shifting to low-wage countries for years, and the trend has continued during Obama's presidency. From 2008 to 2010, U.S. trade with China alone cost about 450,000 American jobs because of the growth of Chinese exports, said Robert E. Scott, a pro-labor advocate at the liberal Economic Policy Institute."

Dana Milbank: "... if the wealthy are going to accuse Obama of class warfare, he might as well do something to merit the charge." ...

... Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "Well, that was quick. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) both pushed for an extension of the Bush tax cuts to households earning up to $1 million, breaking from President Obama's proposal to make the cut-off $250,000. But hours after Obama revived the issue by pushing for a one-year-long extension, both have backed off." ...

... BUT There's No Herding Cats. Mark Landler & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "President Obama and Congressional Republicans pressed ahead on Monday with politically charged proposals on tax cuts and health care, in competing efforts to frame the election-year debate. But each risked opening fissures in their own ranks, as lawmakers played up alternatives to the aggressive approaches of their leaders."

** Sam Baker of The Hill: "Repealing President Obama's healthcare law would let members of Congress keep their government-subsidized insurance coverage after they retire -- a benefit they lost under the health law. The Affordable Care Act — specifically, a Republican amendment to the Affordable Care Act -- kicked members of Congress and their aides out of the healthcare program for federal employees." ...

... Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: "After ignoring the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Democrats have begun using it as a political weapon this election." One of the ads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running against targeted Republicans, including Mary Bono Mack:

CW: Knowing what we know -- which isn't much -- I think Scott Lemieux of American Prospect has precisely the right, balanced view of Justices Breyer & Kagan's votes on the Medicaid portion of the ACA.

Presidential Race

I urge you to go to Driftglass for the caption. Or maybe you'll want to make up your own first & compare.

You Have His Word on That. Emily Friedman of ABC News: "Mitt Romney said there is 'nothing hidden' in his tax returns that have yet to be released, responding to a question during a radio interview set to air later today regarding an onslaught of criticism from Democrats -- including President Obama -- on his refusal to be more transparent with his financial records."

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee easily outraised the formidable Obama money machine for the second month in a row A nonstop schedule of high-dollar events around the country brought in $106 million during June to Mr. Obama's $71 million, giving him and his party four times the cash on hand that it had just three months ago."

Local News/Right Wing World Edition

He's Still a Dumb MoFo. Chuck Lindell of the Austin Statesman: "In a sharply worded letter to federal officials Monday, Gov. Rick Perry said Texas will not participate in two key initiatives under the Affordable Care Act, noting that the law recently approved by the U.S. Supreme Court 'will find no foothold here.' ... One in four Texans lacks health insurance -- about 6 million residents -- the highest rate in the nation."

Edith Honan of Reuters: "Maine Governor Paul LePage apologized on Monday for calling the U.S. Internal Revenue Service the 'Gestapo' during criticism of President Barack Obama's healthcare law.... 'It was not my intent to insult anyone, especially the Jewish Community, or minimize the fact that millions of people were murdered,' LePage said in a statement on his website."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Justice Department and FBI have launched a review of thousands of criminal cases to determine whether any defendants were wrongly convicted or deserve a new trial because of flawed forensic evidence, officials said Tuesday. The undertaking is the largest post-conviction review ever done by the FBI. It will include cases conducted by all FBI Laboratory hair and fiber examiners since at least 1985 and may reach earlier if records are available...."

Washington Post: "The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Tuesday it had received word as early as 2007 from the British bank Barclays about problems with the benchmark interest rate that underpins much of global lending."

New York Times: "Russia said on Tuesday that it had dispatched a flotilla of 11 warships to the eastern Mediterranean, some of which would dock in Syria. It would be the largest display of Russian military power in the region since the Syrian conflict began almost 17 months ago. Nearly half the ships were capable of carrying hundreds of marines."

New York Times: "The Episcopal Church on Tuesday approved an official liturgy for blessing same-sex unions, enabling priests who have the approval of their bishops to bestow the church's blessing on gay couples whether they live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal or not."

AP: "Seeking an election-year fight over taxes, President Barack Obama is hitting the road to press Congress to extend tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners, framing a debate with Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans over tax fairness. Obama was making his pitch Tuesday in Iowa.... He faces a tough contest there against Romney this fall." ...

... Politico: "White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that President Obama would veto a full, across-the-board extension of the Bush tax cuts that included no tax increases on upper earners."

CNN: "A controversial Indiana law that would keep low-income women from using federal Medicaid benefits to receive any kind of reproductive medical care from Planned Parenthood is unacceptable because it denies women the freedom to choose their health care providers, according to a federal hearing officer."

Haaretz: "Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was acquitted on Tuesday morning of the charges against him in two major cases, and convicted only of breach of trust, in a third. Jerusalem District Court president, Moussia Arad, headed the panel of judges that found Olmert not guilty of the charges in the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs, and convicted him only on one count -- breach of trust, in the Investment Center affair. Accusations over the Talansky affair led to Olmert's forced resignation as prime minister."

Washington Post: "Emboldened by a decree issued by President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's Islamist-dominated parliament convened briefly on Tuesday, defying a ruling by the country's top court and a threat from the nation's generals."

AP: "The International Criminal Court sentenced a Congolese warlord to 14 years in prison on Tuesday, a watershed moment for the 10-year-old tribunal and a potential landmark in the struggle to protect children during wartime. Judges found Thomas Lubanga guilty in March of recruiting and using children in his Union of Congolese Patriots militia — sending them to kill and be killed during fighting in Congo's eastern Ituri region in 2002-2003. Tuesday's announcement was the first time the tribunal had sentenced a convicted war criminal."

AFP: "South Korea's Samsung won a patent battle Monday against US rival Apple, with a British judge ruling that Samsung's Galaxy tablet was not 'cool' enough to be confused with Apple's iPad.... He ... gave Apple 21 days to appeal against the decision."

Sunday
Jul082012

The Commentariat -- July 9, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "A Conservative Says Conservatives Are Happier than Liberals." The NYTX front page is here.

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "The implosion of the subprime lending market has left a scar on the finances of black Americans -- one that not only has wiped out a generation of economic progress but could leave them at a financial disadvantage for decades. At issue are the largely invisible but profoundly influential three-digit credit scores that help determine who can buy a car, finance a college education or own a home. The scores are based on consumers' financial history and suffer when they fall behind on their bills." CW: a particularly sordid chapter in the annals of our upside-down moral code: the most vulnerable suffer the most; the perps drive their Bentleys to Rmoney fundraisers in the Hamptons. ...

... Yes, We Still Have Slaves. New York Times Editors: "When companies [like WalMart] force suppliers to slash costs, corners will be cut and workers will be abused. Congress and the Department of Labor need to make sure that sprawling supply chains and profits are not built upon the systematic erosion of workplace conditions and laborers’ rights."

Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "In the first public accounting of its kind, cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course of investigations. The cellphone carriers' reports, which come in response to a Congressional inquiry, document an explosion in cellphone surveillance in the last five years.... The reports also reveal a sometimes uneasy partnership with law enforcement agencies, with the carriers frequently rejecting demands that they considered legally questionable or unjustified. At least one carrier even referred some inappropriate requests to the F.B.I."

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: an April 20 auto crash that killed three U.S. Army commandos & three female prostitutes "exposed a team of Special Operations forces that had been working for months in Mali, a Saharan country racked by civil war and a rising Islamist insurgency. More broadly, the crash has provided a rare glimpse of elite U.S. commando units in North Africa, where they have been secretly engaged in counterterrorism actions against al-Qaeda affiliates."

Jan Crawford at CBS News: "Discord at the Supreme Court is deep and personal after Chief Justice John Roberts' surprise decision to side with the liberal justices in upholding a large portion of the president's health care plan.... This conflict has been brewing for some time. You can trace it back to the first full term of the new Roberts Court." ...

... Jonathan Peters in Slate: "The court has a long and colorful history of leaks that dates back to the mid-19th century. Just like last week, leaks have sprung in the past commenting on a decision soon after the justices released it. Inside accounts of the personal relationships among the justices have long been served up to journalists. Indeed, some court opinions have leaked even before the justices had a chance to announce them."

Philip Caulfield of the New York Daily News: "A member of Jordan's parliament pulled a gun on one of his critics during a fiery debate on live TV last week. The parliament member, identified by the Times of Israel as Mohammed Shawabka, was arguing about Jordan's policies toward the uprising in Syria with a political activist named Mansour Sayf al-Din Murad." CW: maybe it's just as well are Sunday talkshows are just innocuous B.S. with video. ...

... AND, speaking of people who should not be on Sunday talkshows. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "On ABC News' This Week this morning, [George] Will resumed his crusade against science, this time trying to blame the record heat wave spreading across America on an ordinary summer.... The fact that Will is so completely incapable of adapting to new information — not to mention his record of printing pure falsehoods -- raises serious questions about why the Washington Post continues to publish him." With video.

In a local newspaper op-ed, Elizabeth Warren pushes the Affordable Care Act & pushes back against GOP plans to repeal it. Via Greg Sargent. CW: why can't Obama be more like Warren?

Your Politico Democratic Scandalette for Today. Alex Isenstadt: Democratic operatives are "stalking" Republican Congressional candidates & taking pictures & videos of their fancy houses.

Where Are They Now? Would you want this guy operating on you? Well, he grew up, so to speak, to be a doctor AND a U.S. Senator. Answer in yesterday's Commentariat.

Presidential Race

** Paul Krugman contrasts George Romney and Mitt Rmoney, presidential candidates. It's a great column. ...

... CW: when my grandmother was a teenager, she came across some papers in the attic that showed the family were descended from English royalty. My grandmother was thrilled and asked her mother why she had never been told of her famous forebears. Great Grandmama sniffed, "Because we don't want to let people know how far down we've come." Well, look how far down the Romneys came in just one generation.

M. J. Lee & Byron Tau of Politico: "Democrats took to the Sunday shows to attack Mitt Romney's foreign financial dealings, drawing attention to the Republican candidate's Swiss bank account to try to promote his wealthy, out-of-touch businessman persona." ...

... Ditto from Pema Levy of TPM, with some good quotes.

Sometimes Ads Work. Susan Page of USA Today on a USA Today/Gallup poll: "In the battleground [states], one in 12 say the commercials have changed their minds about President Obama or Republican Mitt Romney -- a difference on the margins, but one that could prove crucial.... Obama is the clear winner in the ad wars. Among swing-state voters who say the ads have changed their minds about a candidate, rather than just confirmed what they already thought, 76% now support the president, vs. 16% favoring Romney."

Michael Barbaro & Sarah Wheaton of the New York Times report on Rmoney's fabulous fundraisers in the Hamptons. My favorite vignettes:

Rich People Are Important. A woman in a blue chiffon dress poked her head out of a black Range Rover here on Sunday afternoon and yelled to an aide to Mitt Romney. 'Is there a V.I.P. entrance? We are V.I.P.'

Rich People Are Charitable to the Needy. Ted Conklin, the owner of the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, long a favorite of the Hamptons' well-off and well-known, could barely contain his displeasure with Mr. Obama. 'He is a socialist. His idea is find a problem that doesn't exist and get government to intervene,' Mr. Conklin said from inside a gold Mercedes, as his wife, Carol Simmons, nodded in agreement. Ms. Simmons paused to highlight what she said was her husband’s generous spirit. 'Tell them who's on your yacht this weekend! Tell him!' Over Mr. Conklin’s objections, Ms. Simmons disclosed that a major executive from Miramax was on Mr. Conklin's 75-foot yacht, because, she said, there were no rooms left at the hotel.

... AND Yet Another Marie Antoinette. Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times reports on the events. "The common person" doesn't understand that "Obama is hurting them." ...

... Zandar of Balloon Juice: "On one level, she's right. We're just too dumb to get how we've been mauled economically by people in Range Rovers with East Hampton beach permits." ...

... Charles Pierce: "The people waiting in line to help Willard Romney hand the country back to what they perceive to be its rightful owners simply do... not... care [what happens to other people]. The fact that this is a bad political message is the least of its horrors." ...

... So these people, who also live on Long Island, did not go to a single one of the Rmoney bashes. This documentary airs on HBO at 9 pm ET:

... AP: "Mitt Romney privately raised millions of dollars from New York's elite on Sunday, as Democrats launched coordinated attacks against the likely Republican presidential nominee, intensifying calls for him to explain offshore bank accounts and release several years of tax returns." ...

... Nicole Fuller of Newsday: "About 150 protesters demonstrated outside a Southampton fundraiser Sunday for likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the home of New York businessman David Koch, chanting 'We are the 99 percent' and 'Money out, voters in.'" ...

... Brendan O'Reilly of Southampton Patch: "Two boaters in waters off The Creeks, billionaire Ronald Perelman's 57-acre East Hampton Village estate — where Mitt Romney was scheduled to be present for a campaign fundraiser — were arrested Sunday afternoon when they failed to comply with police orders, according to police." ...

... Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "and the Republican National Committee raised $106.1 million in June, a substantial increase in Mr. Romney's fund-raising pace and a sign of the growing competitiveness of the battle for campaign dollars against President Obama."

Sheldon Alberts: "A new poll for The Hill found 56 percent of likely voters believe Obama's first term has transformed the nation in a negative way, compared to 35 percent who believe the country has changed for the better under his leadership." CW: what this poll really shows is that Americans think the president has a lot more power than he has. Plus, the questions are pretty loaded.

News Ledes

President Obama speaks about extending tax cuts to middle-class families:

New York Times: "The Justice Department on Monday unsealed the indictment of five people in the killing of a Border Patrol agent whose death was linked to the disputed gun-trafficking investigation called Operation Fast and Furious. Four of the defendants are fugitives, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation offered a $1 million reward for any information that leads to their capture."

New York Times: "With Spain's borrowing costs climbing again to critical levels, European finance ministers decided early Tuesday to speed up their promised bailout for the country's troubled banks, while also giving the cash-tight government more time to rein in its budget deficit."

New York Times: "Within hours of Lance Armstrong's filing of a lawsuit Monday that sought to block the United States Anti-Doping Agency from punishing him for doping violations it has charged him with, a federal judge in Austin, Tex., struck the suit down, dealing Armstrong a swift and smarting blow in his hometown."

New York Times: "In an unmistakable message to China delivered in a speech from this neighboring country [Mongolia], Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that economic success without meaningful political reform was unsustainable, an equation that would ultimately lead to instability."

New York Times: "President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt on Sunday unexpectedly ordered the country's Islamist-led Parliament to reconvene, challenging earlier decisions by Egypt's most powerful generals and judges to dissolve the legislative body."

Guardian: "Libya's former interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril has won a landslide victory in the country's first democratic election, provisional figures show, defying expectations that the Muslim Brotherhood would sweep to power."

AP: "All six troops killed in a weekend roadside bombing in eastern Afghanistan were Americans, NATO confirmed Monday. German Brig. Gen. Gunter Katz, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, disclosed their nationalities at a briefing, but said he could not provide other details about the incident because it was still under investigation. He said a seventh NATO service member killed Sunday in a separate insurgent attack in the south also was an American."

AP: "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has given his permission for the exhumation of the remains of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, a top aide said Monday, days after a Swiss institute reported finding elevated traces of a radioactive substance on the late leader's belongings."

Reuters: "Russia's emergencies minister accused local officials on Monday of not doing enough to prevent 171 deaths in weekend floods that raised new doubts about the country's readiness for natural disasters under President Vladimir Putin."

Al Jazeera: "International envoy Kofi Annan has said he agreed with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on an 'approach' to end Syria's conflict that would be put to the rebels."

Saturday
Jul072012

The Commentariat -- July 8, 2012

** Mike McIntire & Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Two years after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision opened the door for corporate spending on elections..., large corporations are trying to influence campaigns by donating money to tax-exempt organizations that can spend millions of dollars without being subject to the disclosure requirements that apply to candidates, parties and PACs.... A New York Times review ... found that corporate donations — many of them previously unreported -- went to groups ... dedicated to shaping public policy on the state and national levels.... Some of the biggest recipients of corporate money are organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, the federal designation for 'social welfare' groups dedicated to advancing broad community interests."

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "For much of the past year, Republicans assailed President Obama for resisting the Medicare spending reductions.... Yet since the Supreme Court upheld the Democrats' 2010 health care law, Republicans, led by Mitt Romney, have reversed tactics and attacked the president and Democrats in Congress by saying that Medicare will be cut too much as part of that law." The GOP will scream about anything. The headline calls this GOP move a "delicate pivot." Dear NYT Headline Writer: this is not ballet-dancing.

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Starting in 2014, the [Affordable Care Act] ... offers subsidies to help people pay for insurance bought through markets known as insurance exchanges. At issue is whether the subsidies will be available in exchanges set up and run by the federal government in states that fail or refuse to establish their own exchanges. Critics say the law allows subsidies only for people who obtain coverage through state-run exchanges. The White House says the law can be read to allow subsidies for people who get coverage in federal exchanges as well. The law says that 'each state shall' establish an exchange. But Washington could be running the exchanges in one-third to half of states, where local officials have been moving slowly or openly resisting the idea.... James F. Blumstein, a professor of constitutional and health law..., said the dispute over subsidies involved a serious legal issue." CW: the GOP continues to prove former Rep. Alan Grayson's point: "The Republican Health Care Plan: Don't get sick. If you do get sick, die quickly."

New York Times Editors: Sen. Minority Leader Mitch "McConnell needs a new excuse for filibustering [the Disclose Act] again. But his suggestion that President Obama and Democrats want disclosure in order to compile a list of 'enemies' is repugnant.... Mr. McConnell's charge that the president has loosed the Internal Revenue Service on his enemies is breathtaking. After several years of indifference, the I.R.S. is finally examining whether these 'social welfare' groups are abusing their tax-exempt status by spending anonymous donations on political attack ads.... Crossroads GPS and the like exist for no other purpose than to run political ads. This is a clear violation of the tax code...." Here's McConnell's "repugnant" op-ed.

** "Jail the Bankers." Ben Chu of the Independent interviews Joe Stiglitz: "The Barclays Libor scandal may have shocked the British public, but Joseph Stiglitz saw it coming decades ago. And he's convinced that jailing bankers is the best way to curb market abuses."

"Crime of the Century." Robert Sheer of TruthDig: "Modern international bankers form a class of thieves the likes of which the world has never before seen. Or, indeed, imagined. The scandal over Libor — short for London interbank offered rate -- has resulted in a huge fine for Barclays Bank and threatens to ensnare some of the world's top financiers. It reveals that behind the world's financial edifice lies a reeking cesspool of unprecedented corruption. The modern-day robber barons pillage with a destructive abandon totally unfettered by law or conscience and on a scale that is almost impossible to comprehend." CW: and do notice how the U.S. Justice Department let Barclays off with a fine. The fix is in. It is always in. ...

... Robert Reich has more: "This is insider trading on a gigantic scale." ...

... Another Outcome of One-Percent-o-nomics. Brian Vastag of the Washington Post: "There are too many laboratory scientists for too few jobs. That reality runs counter to messages sent by President Obama and the National Science Foundation and other influential groups, who ... have called for U.S. universities to churn out more scientists.... One big driver of that trend: Traditional academic jobs are scarcer than ever.... A decade of slash-and-burn mergers [in the pharmaceutical industry]; stagnating profit; exporting of jobs to India, China and Europe; and declining investment in research and development have dramatically shrunk the U.S. drug industry, with research positions taking heavy hits."

Glenn Greenwald issues an I-Toldja-So on Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

Iowahawk: "Jubilant scientists at the DNC's High Speed Word Collider (HSWC) announced today they have conclusively disproven the existence of Roberts' Taxon, the theoretical radioactive Facton particle that some had worried would lead to the implosion of the entire Universal Health Care System.... The landmark experiment in Quantum Rhetoric began early this week after legal particle cosmologist John Roberts published a paper in the Quarterly Journal of Tortured Logic that solved the long-debated Pelosi's Paradox in Universal Health Care Theory." Includes diagram of the HSWC.

Where Are They Now? If you don't know who the girl in this high school snap is, you've had a Rip Van Winkle experience. Welcome back to the world. Rip: the answer is in yesterday's Commentariat.

 

 

 

 

Presidential Race

Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "Obama’s message has shifted [since 2008]. The urgency in his appeal is grounded in his conviction that this is an election about ideas and policies and political philosophies, that the country faces a crucial moment and a clear choice." CW: so glad Obama caught on.

Richard Stevenson of the New York Times: "The contrasting images of the week could hardly have been more evocative. There was Mr. Obama on Thursday at a carefully scouted location, the Kozy Corners diner in Oak Harbor, Ohio, downing a burger and fries and chatting with a group of working-class voters.... The next day..., he reminisced about a Greyhound-and-train trip he took around the country with his grandmother when he was 11.... And there was Mitt Romney on Thursday, roaring across Lake Winnipesaukee on a powerboat large enough to hold two dozen members of his family who had gathered for a weeklong vacation at his estate in New Hampshire. On Sunday, Mr. Romney will raise money ... in the Hamptons, with his final stop a $75,000-per-couple dinner at the home of David Koch." ...

The Perelman place in East Hampton.

... "The Republicans' $3 Million Weekend in the Hamptons." Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "Mr. Romney is expected to pull in $3 million from an event at the Creeks, the estate of Ronald O. Perelman..., where tickets range from $5,000 for lunch to $25,000 for a V.I.P. photo reception." And there's more! "The jewel of the day is Mr. Perelman's [estate]. With 9 fireplaces, 40 rooms and an expansive wine cellar, his estate makes the Koch spread look modest by comparison. Sitting on 57 acres..., when it last went up for sale in 1991 (for $25 million), The New York Times described it as 'the largest and most spectacular estate in the Village of East Hampton, with more than a mile of frontage on Georgica Pond and a view of the Atlantic Ocean beyond.'" ...

The Sparrow Project: "At 4pm on July 8th, 2012 a diverse coalition of activists and occupiers from across New York will descend upon a fundraiser for presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the Southhampton home of billionaire David Koch."

The American people probably aren't going to fall in love with Mitt Romney. -- John Boehner, Speaker of the House

Local News

Nazis! Bangor Daily News: "Gov. Paul LePage [RTP-Maine] used his weekly radio address Saturday to further his long-running criticisms of the federal Affordable Care Act and explain why he is delaying its implementation in Maine.... LePage said the measure, which he called Obamacare, 'raises taxes, cuts Medicare for the elderly, gets between patients and their doctors, costs trillions of taxpayer dollars and kills jobs.' LePage also took a shot at the individual mandate part of the law, which requires everyone to purchase health insurance or face penalties, by calling the Internal Revenue Service 'the new Gestapo.'" With audio.

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post on the political dynamic in North Dakota, where the economy is booming & the unemployment rate is 3 percent. "Republicans were expected to have an easy pickup in [the Senate race in] North Dakota, a state that has not supported a Democrat for president in more than four decades -- and one in which President Obama is deeply unpopular. But the state has one of the country's most persistent records of ticket splitting, and a Mason-Dixon poll from early June showed a statistical tie, with [Democrat Heidi] Heitkamp leading [Republican Rep. Rick] Berg 47 percent to 46 percent. Heitkamp led 51 percent to 36 percent among independents." A good read.

Answer to July 9 PixQuiz: Rand Paul. Scary, right?

News Ledes

New York Times: "With a torpid job market and a fragile economy threatening his re-election chances, President Obama is changing the subject to tax fairness, calling for a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for people making less than $250,000. Mr. Obama plans to make his announcement in the Rose Garden on Monday...."

New York Times: "Ernest Borgnine, the rough-hewn actor who seemed destined for tough-guy characters but won an Academy Award for embodying the gentlest of souls, a lonely Bronx butcher, in the 1955 film 'Marty,' died on Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 95."

Reuters: "Another day of scorching temperatures blanketed the United States from Iowa to the East Coast on Saturday, but forecasters said some of the areas hit hardest by the prolonged heat wave would soon get relief. More than two dozen people have died...."

New York Times: "An international conference meeting [in Tokyo, Japan] on Sunday pledged $16 billion for civilian needs in Afghanistan, but for the first time insisted that the Afghanistan government reduce corruption in order to receive all the money." ...

... New York Times: "The United States declared Afghanistan a major, non-NATO ally on Saturday, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton personally delivering the news of Afghanistan's entry into a club that includes Israel, Japan, Pakistan and other close Asian and Middle Eastern allies."

New York Times: "At a gathering of business executives in Cambodia this week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to urge the expansion of American trade and investment across Asia, particularly in Southeast Asian nations on the periphery of China."

Society News. New York Times: Rep. Barney "Frank, 72, and [Jim] Ready, 42, were married in Newton, Mass., part of Mr. Frank's district, on Saturday in a low-key ceremony on the banks of the Charles River. Gov. Deval L. Patrick of Massachusetts officiated. The guests included Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, as well as Senator John Kerry and Representatives Dennis J. Kucinich and Steny H. Hoyer." CW: Yes, very low-key. ...

     ... When Having an Entourage Can Make You a Social Outcast. Boston Globe: "President Obama was not invited because Frank said he did not want the Secret Service presence to inconvenience the town or his guests." CW: exactly the reason I didn't invite President Obama to watch the Fort Myers fireworks from my roof deck on the 4th.

Reuters: "The U.S. Episcopal Church's House of Bishops on Saturday approved a proposal that, if it survives a final vote, would give transgender men and women the right to become ministers in the church. The House of Bishops voted at the church's General Convention to include 'gender identity and expression' in its 'non-discrimination canons,' meaning sexual orientation, including that of people who have undergone sex-change operations, cannot be used to exclude candidates to ministry."

Friday
Jul062012

The Commentariat -- July 7, 2012

I think I wrote my favorite David Brooks column Friday. It is titled "Every David Brooks Column Is about Mayberry." The NYTX front page is here. ...

In today's Comments, contributor P. D. Pepe excerpts the Brooks-Dionne exchange on last night's "PBS NewsHour." Here's the whole thing. CW: not sure I can stand to watch:

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

New York Times Editors: "Mr. Obama's big mistake was to turn prematurely from the need for stimulus to a focus on cutting the budget. He may have hoped to co-opt the Republican emphasis on deficits. He would have done better to slam them on their cynicism in lamenting the deficit after enabling the tax cuts, wars and financial crisis -- all Bush-era creations -- that have deepened the debt. What he is not responsible for is the continued Republican obstructionism, even in the face of a weakening economy." ...

... Floyd Norris of the New York Times: "The disappointing jobs report for June will increase pressure on the Federal Reserve to do more. It will add to hopes (among Republicans) or fears (among Democrats) that a slowing economy could damage President Obama's re-election prospects. May I suggest an alternative explanation? The recovery has been chugging along slowly for a couple of years, and while it may have slowed a little in the last few months, that change has been minor." ...

... BESIDES. Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "Most voters do not follow this sort of news, at all.... In other words, the basic partisan divisions in a highly polarized electorate are unlikely to change much between now and November."

Dahlia Lithwick has some thoughts on why liberals aren't beating up on the Democratic appointees to the Supreme Court who ruled against Obama administration policies in the way conservatives are whacking Chief Justice Roberts. See also Adam Liptak's report.

Josh Hicks, standing in as the Washington Post fact-checker: "On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew called [individual mandate] a 'charge' that would apply only to a small fraction of the population, and that 'more middle-class people are going to get a tax cut.' ... We found nothing to dispute Lew's statements. The health law, if it works as the nonpartisan government analysts expect, will provide more tax relief than tax burden for middle-income Americans. The White House chief of staff earns a rare Geppetto Checkmark for his remarks...."

Joe Nocera of the New York Times: "Britain and America have reacted to the Libor scandal in completely different ways. Britain is in an utter frenzy over it, with wall-to-wall coverage, and the most respectable, pro-business publications expressing outrage. Yes, Barclays is a British bank, and the first word in Libor is 'London.' But still: The Economist ran a headline about the scandal that read, in its entirety, 'Banksters.' Yet, on these shores, the reaction has been mainly a shrug."

Where Are They Now? This serious-looking young man grew up to be mayor of a major American city. In case you can't guess who he is, answer in yesterday's Commentariat. Thanks to reader Bonnie for the link to this high-school yearbook photo.

 

 

Presidential Race

Charles Babington of the Associated Press: "History repeats itself, until it doesn't. That musty truism is worth remembering as pundits speculate on whether the lumbering economy will doom the re-election hopes of President Barack Obama, who has shown a knack for beating odds and breaking barriers."

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "On the heels of another anemic employment report, President Obama found himself acknowledging again that the economy was not generating enough jobs, that the recovery was not taking hold fast enough, and that too many Americans lacked basic financial security."

He's keepin' on keepin' on:

Jobs! Steve Benen: "Obama's agenda would create jobs right away, would be fully paid for, and would reduce the deficit over time. Romney's agenda wouldn't create jobs right away, isn't fully paid for, and would apparently increase the eficit over time. Or as Jeffrey Liebman recently put it, 'What would Gov. Romney do to create jobs now? In a word, nothing.'" ...

... Jamelle Bouie of The American Prospect: "Mitt Romney is back to accusing President Obama of having no plan for economic growth.... The only jobs plan on the table right now is the one proposed by the Obama administration. Republicans should be pressured to pass it, and Romney should be challenged on his assertion that the White House has nothing to offer." ...

... Andrew Rosenthal: Republicans are the reason the unemployment rate remains high. CW: they know that; it has been their plan all along.

Paul Krugman: "Bain's activities are part of the really big story about America these past three decades, which isn't about jobs moving overseas, but about the rewriting of the social contract, with income shifted away from ordinary workers and toward the Masters of the Universe."

"That Other Curious Romney Account." Brian Beutler of TPM: "... a Vanity Fair article about Mitt Romney's tangled web of investments has thrust his foreign holdings and complicated tax strategies back into the center of the 2012 campaign. But questions have persisted ... about an individual retirement account held by the Romneys valued at upwards of $100 million -- a stunning amount for a savings vehicle designed to provide middle class retirees comfortable, but non-lavish retirement. His IRA raises two key questions, both of which his campaign has consistently declined to answer: How, despite a $6000 legal limit on annual contributions to an IRA, did Romney's IRA grow to over $100 million? And did he avoid any U.S. taxes on its enormous returns?" The answer, Beutler learns, is -- yeah, probably so. ...

... Paul Krugman: "... the existence of this huge account, which may well be legal but clearly flies in the face of the spirit of the law, poses questions that voters should have answered."

Romney -- Not as Bad as He Says He Is. Kevin Drum: when focus groups were told "Romney supported the Ryan budget plan -- and thus championed 'ending Medicare as we know it' -- while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing." CW: I don't know how you beat that.

CookieGate -- The Sequel! Reid Epstein of Politico: "As President Obama's motorcade rolled across the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, his campaign informed reporters that in Pittsburgh they would be treated to cookies from Bethel Bakery in Bethel Park, Pa., a locally-famous establishment whose 15 minutes of campaign fame followed an unfortunate description of them by Obama's GOP rival, Mitt Romney. 'I'm not sure about these cookies,' Romney said in April upon being presented the sugary delights. 'They don't look like you made them. No, no. They came from the local 7-Eleven, bakery, or whatever.'" ...

Right Wing World *

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Michigan) thought he might be elected president this year. Instead, he is today a "sovereign citizen," whatever that might be (King Thad?); it is not a U.S. Congressman, because he quit that job yesterday. He was not going to be re-elected to Congress anyway because, as Aaron Blake of the Washington Post reports, "McCotter failed to qualify for the primary ballot after most of his petition signatures were recently found to be fraudulent. State officials are investigating the matter.... The Detroit News reported that he had written a TV pilot with a rather odd premise -- McCotter himself hosting a crude variety show that joked about flatulence and female anatomy, among other things." (America's Le Petomane?) ...

... The Detroit News story, by Marisa Schultz, is here, and it is truly sensational. ...

... Laura Gonaway of the "Rachel Maddow Show" invites you to diagram this sentence from McCotter's resignation announcement:

Thus, acutely aware one cannot rebuild their hearth of home amongst the ruins of their U.S. House office, for the sake of my loved ones I must 'strike another match, go start anew' by embracing the promotion back from public servant to sovereign citizen.

      ... Gonaway publishes some of the efforts of first responders.

Oliver Burkemann in the Guardian: "Perhaps you've heard [CW: I hadn't] the news that failed Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has launched his own online television channel, or "website", at CainTV.com? ... Sadly, however, Cain TV is so authentically bizarre that it's hard to make ... snide jokes [about it]." With absurd, bizarre video!

* Where all presidential candidates must be 35 years or older, natural-born U.S. citizens and insane.

Answer to July 8 PhotoQuiz: Hillary Clinton.

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "The state Senate authorized initial funding for California's high-speed rail project, handing a victory to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama administration, which have been pushing hard for the first-in-the-nation bullet train."

AP: "Libyans started voting on Saturday in the first parliamentary election since last year's ouster and slaying of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, with jubilation at this major step toward democracy after decades of erratic one-man rule tempered by boycott calls and violence in the country's restive east." ...

... Reuters Update: "Crowds of joyful Libyans, some with tears in their eyes, parted with the legacy of Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship on Saturday as they voted in the first free national election in 60 years. But in the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of last year's uprising but where many now want more autonomy from the interim government in Tripoli, protesters stormed a handful of polling stations and publicly burned hundreds of ballot papers."