The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, August 21, 2014.

New York Times: "Some 10,000 mourners on Thursday buried three senior commanders of the armed wing of Hamas who were killed in predawn airstrikes by Israel, the most significant blow to the group’s leadership since Israel’s operation in Gaza began more than six weeks ago."

ABC News: "An American doctor who contracted Ebola will be released today from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, with details expected on the release of a second patient who also contracted the disease.... The virus has killed at least 1,229 and sickened 1,011 more, according to numbers released Tuesday by the World Health Organization. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have the most cases."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 21

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Looking for a bucolic retreat where the townspeople will protect you from curious outsiders? Got about $700K to burn? Then you might be interested in purchasing the former home of fiction writer J. D. Salinger. the property is located in Cornish, New Hamphire:

... Many more pix & a virtual tour here.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

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

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

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

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

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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

 

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Tuesday
May292012

The Commentariat -- May 30, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is a short piece on today's New York Times op-ed entertainment page. Contributor Akhilleus has whetted my appetite for Douthat's "pious baloney," so I may grind out another column later. ...

... The NYTX front page has quite a few critical pieces on President Obama's "kill list." ...

... Glenn Greenwald on President Obama's "normalization of right-wing policies": "Obama ... has converted what were just recently highly divisive and controversial right-wing Assaults on Our Values into fully entrenched bipartisan consensus. But worse than that, he has put a prettier and more palatable face on extremely ugly policies.... That's the Obama legacy. And it's all justified by this definitively warped premise: we have to keep doing things we know will result in large-scale civilian deaths in order to stop the Terrorists, who are really terrible because they keep killing civilians." ...

... Sudarsan Raghavan of the Washington Post: "Across ... southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States. After recent U.S. missile strikes, mostly from unmanned aircraft, the Yemeni government and the United States have reported that the attacks killed only suspected al-Qaeda members. But civilians have also died in the attacks, said tribal leaders, victims' relatives and human rights activists."

Roger Lowenstein explains in a Bloomberg News op-ed why hedging is bad for the economy: "The plasticity of modern finance -- the ease with which institutions can transfer risk -- is a major cause of the heightened frequency of meltdowns and increased volatility." Lowenstein's prescription: "Shut down the credit-default swap pits. Let bankers ply their trade without the deceptive safety of hedging." His piece is pretty easy to understand and provides a good description of what hedging is.

CW: I don't fully agree with Gary Younge of the Guardian, who writes about why poor whites vote Republican, but his column contains some nuggets of truth like this one: "It was Bill Clinton who cut welfare, introduced the North American Free Trade Agreement and repealed the Glass-Steagall Act -- which helped make the recent crisis possible. If you were going to trade your religious beliefs for economic gain, you could be forgiven for demanding a better deal than that."

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "The press is obsessed with Elizabeth Warren's Cherokee heritage. Too bad it's the biggest media-manufactured story since the Lewinsky scandal nearly brought down a president." ...

... Katharine Seelye of the New York Times on Scott Brown's new "homey...., upbeat..., warm and fuzzy" campaign ad: In typical he-said/she-said journalese, Seelye writes, "The Warren campaign says that the ad is misleading when Mr. Brown says, 'I was the tie-breaking vote on Wall Street reform,' noting that he voted for the bill only after he weakened it to Wall Street’s advantage." CW: I wonder how Willard likes Brown's boasting about his crucial 60th vote for Dodd-Frank; after all, an important element of the Mittster's campaign is his promise to repeal the act:

Charles Pierce on David Brooks' historical tour de farce: "... the primary forces that 'destroyed the balanced government philosophy' gradually over the 20th century did most of their work in the last quarter of it, when the Republican party guzzled snake-oil economics and got drunk and wrecked the place, to the polite applause of, among other people, David Brooks. You gotta love a guy without the guts to defend the policies that made him wealthy while blaming their effects on everyone from Bob LaFollette to Kathleen Sebelius. Actually, you don't have to do that at all."

News from the Greatest Nation on Earth: U.S.A. -- Better than Romania! Pat Garofalo of Think Progress: "According to a new report from the Office of Research at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the U.S. has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world. Of the 35 wealthy countries studied by UNICEF, only Romania has a child poverty rate higher than the 23 percent rate in the U.S." CW: That's right -- Romania, the former Iron Curtain country where children were dying of starvation & neglect in state-run orphanages. And Mitt Romney is "not concerned about the very poor."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: Louisiana monks who build caskets go to federal court when the state demands they "either give up the casket-selling business or become a licensed funeral establishment, which would require a layout parlor for 30 people, a display area for the coffins, the employment of a licensed funeral director and an embalming room." CW: the story has another ramification, though, as libertarians/conservatives are using it as a vehicle to curtail government regulation. If this case gets to the Supremes & they rule in favor of the monks (as I suspect they will), it may turn out that scads of federal regulations designed to actually protect people will be held unconstitutional because of a law designed by lobbyists for the funeral industry to protect that industry.

Presidential Race

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "In the next few weeks, we will get important news on several economic fronts. And what we learn will largely determine the shape of the campaign."

Nate Silver: "Economically, Obama is no Jimmy Carter.... The [economic] data this year is [sic.] mediocre, but nowhere near" as terrible as they were in 1980. CW: but the big question here is how the New York Times' statistician can possibly be unaware that the word "data" is plural! Sorry, one of my pet peeves. And let me just add that the media are the message. I just heard the CNN anchor say, "The media is talking about Wolf Blitzer...."

Carolands Chateau, "a 65,000 square foot mansion in Hillsborough, California. Its 75 foot-high atrium holds the record as the largest enclosed space in an American private residence." -- Wikipedia.... NEW. Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle: "With Democrats portraying Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch millionaire and 'vulture capitalist' from his years at Bain Capital, the GOP presidential candidate may be handing opponents some ammunition when he holds a fundraiser Wednesday at a 65,000-square-foot estate that's opulent, even for upscale Hillsborough.... [Romney's] fundraiser is co-chaired by billionaire Meg Whitman, his former employee at Bain Capital and the 2010 Republican candidate for California governor who promised to produce 2 million new jobs if elected. Now Whitman is CEO of Hewlett-Packard, which said last week it plans to lay off 25,000 workers."

Backfire! Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "It was supposed to be a day of triumph for Mitt Romney, when he would at last formally claim the Republican presidential nomination with a victory in the Texas primary. And Mr. Romney was to focus attention on an aggressive new attack on President Obama, highlighting the White House's role in backing failed companies like Solyndra. Instead, Tuesday was hijacked by Donald J. Trump. Inexplicably to many in his party, Mr. Romney had scheduled an appearance at a fund-raiser in Las Vegas on Tuesday night with Mr. Trump. And Mr. Trump, ever ready to seize the spotlight and toss rhetorical grenades, played to type in several interviews, repeating his doubts about the president's Hawaiian birth certificate." ...

... Wolf Blitzer & Trump get into it:

     ... CW: Ah, I think I'm beginning to understand that "narcissistic personality disorder" that has been a subject of commentary over the past few days here.

Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "Yes, Republican Mitt Romney appears eligible to be president, according to a copy of Romney's birth certificate released to Reuters by his campaign. Willard Mitt Romney, the certificate says, was born in Detroit on March 12, 1947. His mother, Lenore, was born in Utah and his father, former Michigan governor and one-time Republican presidential candidate George Romney, was born in Mexico. So on a day when real estate and media mogul Donald Trump was trying to help Mitt Romney by stirring up a new round of questions about whether Democratic President Barack Obama was born in the United States, Romney's own birth record became a reminder that in the 1968 presidential campaign, his father had faced his own 'birther' controversy." CW: the Reuters story reproduces the copy of Willard's birth certificate the campaign provided to the news service. It was issued in 2012. Very suspicious. What with his excellent knowledge of French & his father's company American Motors having built so many vehicles in Canada, I'm beginning to suspect Willard is actually a Canadian. Somebody get the Donald on the case. ...

... CW: sure wonder why Romney released his birth certificate at the same time he is appearing with Trump & the Donald is upping his birther rhetoric. Could Romney, who says Obama is a "natural-born" American, possibly be catering to his birther constituency? Nah, never.

Mike Allen of Politico: "Mitt Romney's campaign events and the firepower of American Crossroads will both focus this week on President Barack Obama's jobs record as a way to fight off charges about the Republican candidate's private-sector experience, with a Romney aide attacking the stimulus as 'the mother of all earmarks.'" ...

... Greg Sargent: "The Romney camp's claim is that we can calculate that the stimulus destroyed jobs overall with a metric that factors in all the jobs destroyed before the stimulus took effect. That's not an exaggeration. It really is the Romney campaign's position. It's time to ask Romney himself to justify it." ...

Zach Roth of NBC News: "... even if you set that issue aside, the attack still doesn't hold up. It's impossible to say definitively exactly how many jobs a piece of legislation ... created or subtracted -- and the Romney campaign's claim is designed to take advantage of that uncertainty. But there have in fact been numerous studies of the issue, and by surveying the best of them, we can get reasonably close to an answer.... Rather than simply reporting Team Romney's charge and the Obama campaign's response, reporters should be ready to say clearly that the claim that the stimulus subtracted jobs is belied by the evidence." ...

... Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "It's beginning to become apparent that Team Mitt will throw vast amounts of chum into the water to avoid the fundamental reality that its candidate's own Economic Plan is basically deregulation plus the Ryan Budget. Perhaps if Romney is going to traipse around the country mocking individual federally-funded projects, someone should follow him around pointing out what the Ryan Budget would do to the same locales. It would not look pretty." ...

... Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect: "... if there's anything remarkable about the Romney campaign, it's the extent to which the core arguments for his candidacy are either false or impossible to substantiate. The claim that Obama is responsible for net job loss? False. The claim that Obama has gone on an unprecedented spending spree? False. And the claim that Romney created 100,000 jobs at Bain Capital? Impossible to prove." ...

... ** Mike Tomasky: "by Bartels’s rules [the first year doesn't count], Obama has created a net 3.635 million jobs. Applying the same rules to Romney's numbers [in Massachusetts] through the same time period ... we credit Romney with 64,500 jobs. So he grew jobs by 1.9 percent [in a state with an excellent level of education]. Obama's job-growth rate is 2.35 percent.... Romney clearly can make no claim whatsoever that he has access to some magic tonic that grows jobs. Combining his record as governor with the plans he insists he;ll inflict on us as president -- gargantuan tax cuts for the rich, a gaping deficit, severe cuts to all manner of government investment in research and innovation and environmental protection ... adds up to a lurid scenario of a society becoming both more unequal and more stagnant, and a picture of a man who seemingly cannot under any circumstance utter an unfalse word about himself." ...

... NEW. Jake Tapper & Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "The Obama campaign is opening a new front in its war against GOP rival Mitt Romney, ABC News has learned, with planned attacks to begin this week on Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts and the campaign promises Democrats say he left unfulfilled."

The Democratic National Committee puts it all together:

The teachers unions are the clearest example of a group that has lost its way. Whenever anyone dares to offer a new idea, the unions protest the loudest. Their attitude was memorably expressed by a longtime president of the American Federation of Teachers: He said, quote, 'When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of children. -- Mitt Romney , in an education speech at the Latino Coalition's Annual Economic Summit in Washington, D.C, May 23, 2012

Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "... the evidence suggests that the quote didn't come from Shanker and that someone with an agenda probably twisted his words.... The claim relies exclusively on biased sources that never attributed the union leader's remark to a particular time or event...."

Julie Beck of the Hairpin: Many of the subject lines in the Obama campaign's e-mails sound as if they were written by a stalker. Via of Adam Sorensen of Time

Right Wing World

Yoni Brenner of GQ: "These are hard times for birthers.... But salvation awaits! David Maraniss's exhaustive biography, Barack Obama: The Story, stretching from before his birth to the start of his political career, is out this month -- and sure to inspire a new wave of conspiracy theories about our Kenyan Muslim commie in chief. We put on our tinfoil hat to predict the paranoias to come."

Local News

Monica Davey of the New York Times: "Gov. Scott Walker ... raised more than $5 million in the last month alone, his campaign announced on Tuesday, a day when new fund-raising reports have to be filed to state officials. That brings Mr. Walker's total fund-raising since the start of 2011 to more than $30 million...." ...

... Perjury! Greg Sargent: "... video recently surfaced of a private conversation between [Wisconsin Gov. Scott] Walker and a Wisconsin billionaire, in which Walker vowed a 'divide and conquer' strategy against unions, as his 'first step.' Now ... Dem Reps. Elijah Cummings, Gerry Connolly, and Chris Murphy ... are pointing out that the 'divide and conquer' quote seems to contradict testimony Walker gave before their committee in August of 2011.... In that testimony, Rep. Connolly asked Walker whether he had even had any conversation in which he had alluded to his 'actions in Wisconsin and using them to punish members of the opposition party and their donor base.' Walker's response: 'No.' 'Do you now wish to withdraw your sworn testimony?' the three Dem members have asked Walker in a letter." ...

... Greg Sargent: "A new poll taken by pollster Celinda Lake — who is a Democrat but is well respected by polling professionals -- has found that the battle between Scott Walker and challenger Tom Barrett is now deadlocked, at 49 percent each."

News Ledes

New York Times: "United Nations cease-fire monitors, still grappling with the massacre of more than 100 villagers in western Syria over the weekend, which ignited world outrage, reported a new atrocity on Wednesday, saying 13 people had been discovered shot to death execution-style in eastern Syria, with hands bound behind their backs. Antigovernment activists said the victims, found Tuesday night in the Assukar area of Deir Ezzor Province, were electricity workers who had refused to end a protest strike."

AP: "Jerry Sandusky lost another bid to delay his child sexual abuse trial on Wednesday and, in what could be the last pretrial hearing before jury selection begins next week, the presiding judge heard defense lawyers and prosecutors debate whether charges should be thrown out."

TMZ: "Jim Paratore -- the man who founded TMZ and created a slew of hit shows including 'Ellen' and 'Rosie' -- died of an apparent heart attack Tuesday during a bike trip in France."

AP: "Judges at an international war crimes court sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison Wednesday, saying he was responsible for 'some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.' The 64-year-old warlord-turned-president is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II and judges said they had no precedent when deciding his sentence."

AP: "Britain's Supreme Court has endorsed the extradition of WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange to Sweden, an important turning point in the Internet activist's controversial career.... The U.K. end of that struggle appeared to come to a messy conclusion Wednesday, with the nation's highest court ruling five to two that the warrant seeking his arrest was properly issued...." The Guardian has live coverage here.

Guardian: "Andy Coulson, David Cameron's former director of communications, has been detained by police investigating alleged perjury at the trial of the Scottish socialist politician Tommy Sheridan." CW: Coulson is also implicated -- & has implicated Cameron -- in the Rupert Murdoch News Corp. scandal.

Monday
May282012

The Commentariat -- May 29, 2012

David Brooks channels Alexander Hamilton. Homemade art.... My column at NYTX is on David Brooks' latest tour de farce. The NYTX front page is here.

President Obama honoring Medal of Freedom winners:

CW: We all know this one: "If the president does it, it's legal." -- Richard Nixon. But here's one I had not heard before, and considering the source, I've got to make it my

Quote of the Day: If I decide to do it, by definition it’s good policy. -- George W. Bush, in response to aides who told him his tax rebates were bad economic policy ...

... Former Reagan & Bush I aide Bruce Bartlett with more on Republicans as Keynesians.

NEW. How much does a CAT scan cost? Avik Roy of Forbes: it depends. The same facility can charge 20 times as much as its cash price for the same procedure, depending upon who pays & when. And legislators -- thanks to the healthcare lobby -- want to keep costs a secret.

Profs. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers in Bloomberg News: "... the data tell us that a debt-ceiling standoff is an act of economic sabotage.... The next debt-ceiling battle could be worse, because the stakes are even higher. In addition to the threat of default, the U.S. is facing the so-called fiscal cliff: a raft of spending cuts and tax increases that will happen at the end of this year unless Congress acts to postpone them. Another stalemate would almost certainly plunge the economy into a deep recession."

Shaila Dewan of the New York Times: "Hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Americans are receiving their final unemployment checks sooner than they expected, even though Congress renewed extended benefits until the end of the year. The checks are stopping for the people who have the most difficulty finding work: the long-term unemployed.... In February, when the program was set to expire, Congress renewed it, but also phased in a reduction of the number of weeks of extended aid and effectively made it more difficult for states to qualify for the maximum aid. Since then, the jobless in 23 states have lost up to five months' worth of benefits." ...

... Brett Smiley of New York magazine: "... many of those individuals [who lost or are losing benefits] live in key battleground states including North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, and Florida.... Romney believes that jobless benefits incentivize laziness and discourage some people from taking jobs. He wrote in an op-ed in December 2010, "To remedy such problems we need a very different model, perhaps establishing individual unemployment savings accounts....'" CW Note: Smiley writes that Romney has said he can reduce the unemployment rate to about 6 percent by the end of his first term. What Smiley doesn't tell you is that the 6 percent figure is right in the ballpark of what the CBO & OMB project will be the unemployment rate at that time if nobody does anything about it. That is, Romney promises to do absolutely nothing.

Jo Becker & Scott Shane of the New York Times: President "Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding 'kill list,' poring over terrorist suspects' biographies on what one official calls the macabre 'baseball cards' of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises -- but his family is with him -- it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation."

President Obama penned an op-ed in yesterday's Stars & Stripes on "keeping faith with Vietnam veterans." ...

... AND Digby highlights "Arlington West" at Santa Monica beach: "Each Sunday from sunrise to sunset, a temporary memorial appears next to the world-famous pier at Santa Monica, California. This memorial, known as Arlington West, a project of Veterans For Peace, offers visitors a graceful, visually and emotionally powerful, place for reflection." The Arlington West Website is here. ...

... Joe Biden's Memorial Day tribute plans went awry. Details from the Onion.

The John Edwards of Illinois. Katherine Skiba & Todd Lighty of the Chicago Tribune: "Soon after Mark Kirk's [R-Illinois] ex-wife announced she would no longer support his 2010 run for the U.S. Senate, he brought her onto his campaign team, then quietly paid her after his victory. But Kimberly Vertolli, a lawyer who received $40,000 from the campaign, again is at odds with her ex-husband, filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Kirk and his then-girlfriend may have broken campaign finance law. The girlfriend, Dodie McCracken, who works in public relations, has acknowledged receiving more than $143,000 in fees and expenses for her campaign work. A former live-in girlfriend, she is no longer romantically involved with Kirk

Presidential Race 

Gene Robinson doesn't say anything others haven't said, but at least he's saying it in a major newspaper: "Not to put too fine a point on it, [Mitt Romney] lies. Quite a bit."

Got Milk? Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: read this story of a Romney gaffe all the way through.

Michael Crowley of Time: Republican governors contradict Romney on his doom-and-gloom claims about the state of the economy.

Jamelle Bouie has more on the Gallup poll (linked in yesterday's Commentariat) that shows Romney's huge lead over Obama among veterans. Bouie doesn't mention what I see as the big story here: Obama has made a three-year effort to expand aid to veterans; Romney suggested privatizing veterans' benefits would be a swell idea; plus, he thinks we should go to war with everybody except England, which really is not a good thing for the people who actually have to fight them, even if it does expand available military "jobs." What is the matter with these people? ...

... Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly also notes that Congressional Republicans demanded "during the debt-limit negotiations to expose veterans programs to the 'defense sequester' to lessen the impact on current Pentagon spending"; i.e., one more way to cut veterans' benefits.

CNN: "Mitt Romney said Monday he wasn't concerned about Donald Trump's commitment to the 'birther' conspiracy, one day before the GOP presidential candidate hosts a fund-raiser alongside the celebrity business magnate."

Local News

Disenfranchisement, Florida-Style. Judd Legum of Think Progress: "Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has ordered the state to purge all 'non-citizens' from the voting rolls prior to November’s election. But that list compiled by the Scott administration is ... riddled with errors...." Hundreds, probably thousands of people whom Scott will disenfranchise are citizens eligible to vote. "An analysis of the state-wide list by the Miami Herald found that 'Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted' as ineligible by the list. Conversely, 'whites and Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat of removal.'" CW: What a surprise.

News Ledes

New York Times: Mitt "Romney, who formally secured the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday by winning delegates in the Texas primary, introduced a new line of criticism: accusing the president of squandering taxpayer money on companies like Solyndra, which declared bankruptcy last year after receiving $528 million in federal loan guarantees. It amounted to a counterpunch to the White House&'s assault on Mr. Romney's tenure as head of Bain Capital...."

AP: "Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and tea-party backed former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz are heading to a runoff in the state's Republican primary for U.S. Senate."

CW: this is surely going to cause a big flap in Right Wing World. AP: "The White House said President Barack Obama misspoke on Tuesday when he referred to a 'Polish death camp' while honoring a Polish war hero."

AP: "Americans confidence in the economy fell the most in eight months as worries about the weak jobs, housing and stock markets continue to rattle them."

AP: "The U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan killed al-Qaida's second highest leader in the country in an airstrike in eastern Kunar province, the coalition said Tuesday. Sakhr al-Taifi, also known as Mushtaq and Nasim, was responsible for commanding foreign insurgents in Afghanistan and directing attacks against NATO and Afghan forces, the alliance said." (See also today's Commentariat.)

New York Times: "International efforts to pressure Syria intensified on Tuesday, as the United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan began talks with President Bashar al-Assad in the capital, Damascus, after the chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff warned that continued atrocities could make military intervention more likely." ...

     ... Reuters Update: "France and Australia threw out Syrian diplomats from their capitals on Tuesday and other countries were due to follow suit as revulsion over the killing of more than 100 civilians in a Syrian town spurred them to act against President Bashar al-Assad." ...

     ... The Times story has been updated to reflect that the U.S. & other nations have ejected Syrian diplomats.

Washington Post: "With Tuesday's Texas primary, [Mitt Romney] is poised to secure the 1,144 delegates required to clinch the Republican presidential nomination at the party's August convention."

New York Times: "Dewey & LeBoeuf, the law firm crippled by financial miscues and partner defections, filed for bankruptcy on Monday night, punctuating the largest law firm collapse in United States history."

Monday
May282012

The Commentariat -- Memorial Day 2012

National Cemetery at Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by Michael S. Lewis.

CW Note 1: My parents are buried in the Santa Fe cemetery. My father was a bombardier in the European theater during World War II. Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker pointed me to Loudon Wainwright III's song below, the title of which has just become true for me, too. (The intro to the song included in the audio on the New Yorker site is excellent.) So Wainwright's observation -- something I have thought of in the abstract and must now shift to the concrete -- gives me a new way to remember my father:

CW Note 2: Thank you to everyone who joined yesterday's Comments thread. I was only able to skim the comments as they came in, but late yesterday I made time to read them through. Your remarks were a pleasure to read, and it's an honor to have such astute commentary appearing here. There are few -- if any -- sites on the Web where the writers match you.

CW Note 3: My column for NYTX on Friedman, which wasn't posted till late yesterday afternoon, is still there.

Marilynn Marchione of the AP: "A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told The Associated Press."

On this Memorial Day, a salute to the 101st Chairborne Division. Many thanks to Max Blumenthal for reporting this story back in 2007, & to Driftglass for highlighting it yesterday:

     ... Driftglass: "So that we might never forget that, before they put on tri-corner hats and pretended they had never heard [of] George W. Bush, the members of the 101st Republican Chairborne division were the most loyal members of Commander Cuckoobananas' Amen chorus."

A Bully AND a Phony. Paul Krugman: "For the modern American right doesn't care about deficits, and never did. All that talk about debt was just an excuse for attacking Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps. And as for [Gov. Chris] Christie [R-N.J.], well, he's just another fiscal phony, distinguished only by his fondness for invective.For the modern American right doesn't care about deficits, and never did. All that talk about debt was just an excuse for attacking Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps. And as for Mr. Christie, well, he's just another fiscal phony, distinguished only by his fondness for invective."

"A" Is for "Average." If you wonder why students r dum, here's one answer -- grade inflation. Remember those "Easy A" classes? Now they're all Easy A classes, so grades provide no motivation to excel. This also helps explain why prestigious schools are relatively more prestigious: since a potential employer can't tell squat from a grades transcript, she feels safer in taking the Harvard grad over the Miami-Dade College grad. Mark Perry of the University of Michigan: "National studies and surveys suggest that college students now get more A's than any other grade even though they spend less time studying." ...

... AND David Catanese & Dylan Byers of Politico: the Boston dailies, especially the Herald, are deeply invested in the Brown-Warren race.

"69 acres of waterfront land on the west shore of Staten Island, complete with a two-story gymnasium, a baseball diamond and an open-air pavilion...." Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "After cutting costs through traditional means like freezing wages of state workers and consolidating government offices, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is embarking on a less conventional effort: trying to sell New York's old prisons."

Stupid Zombie Story. Now the Boston Globe is promoting it. Mary Carmichael of the Globe (May 25): "US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has said she was unaware that Harvard Law School had been promoting her purported Native American heritage until she read about it in a newspaper several weeks ago. But for at least six straight years during Warren's tenure, Harvard University reported in federally mandated diversity statistics that it had a Native American woman in its senior ranks at the law school. According to both Harvard officials and federal guidelines, those statistics are almost always based on the way employees describe themselves."

Presidential Race

Frank Newport of Gallup: "U.S. veterans, about 13% of the adult population and consisting mostly of older men, support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama for president by 58% to 34%, while nonveterans give Obama a four-percentage-point edge."

John Heilemann of New York magazine has a long article on Obama's campaign strategy. I've read at it (I'll go back to it later); it looks mildly interesting.

Reid Epstein & Ginger Gibson of Politico: "Mitt Romney has made it clear what he's against. What he'd be for as president is another question. The presumptive GOP nominee has some Republicans worried he lacks the 'vision thing' that has hurt previous presidential candidates and haunted George H.W. Bush in his quest to succeed Ronald Reagan."

Sometimes Even George Will Is Right. Jake Tapper of ABC News: "On 'This Week,' ABC News' George Will called Donald Trump a 'bloviating ignoramus,' questioning why presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is associating with the real estate mogul, who once again falsely questioned President Obama's birthplace this week." ...

... Adele Stan in Washington Monthly: "I'm still waiting for the uproar. Any day now, hordes of reporters will pummel Romney relentlessly with questions about his use of a hate-monger to bring him some dough, right? Yeah, right."

News Ledes

ABC News: "In his second address this Memorial Day, President Obama paid specific tribute to those perished during the Vietnam War on the 50th anniversary of its beginning. He recalled the sacrifice of the troops who served there and the unjust blame that was heaped on them upon their return. 'It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened. That's why here today we resolve that it will not happen again,' Obama told vets and their families gathered at the Vietnam War Memorial on the national mall." Washington Post story here.

President Obama commemorates Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery:

New York Times: "Kofi Annan, the United Nations special envoy for Syria, arrived Monday in Damascus, where he expressed horror at the massacre of more than 100 villagers in Houla and urged both sides to stop fighting."

AP: "American missiles killed five suspected Islamist militants close to the Afghan border, the latest in a barrage of attacks that show Washington is ignoring Islamabad's demands it halt the strikes, Pakistani officials said Monday."

Guardian: "Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of being behind the biggest leak of state secrets in US history, is being denied a fair trial because the army is withholding from him crucial information that might prove his innocence or reduce his sentence, his defence team is arguing. With Manning's court-martial approaching in September, his legal team has released details of what they claim is a shocking lack of diligence on the part of the military prosecutors in affording him his basic constitutional rights." CW: I'd link to the New York Times story on this -- but there isn't one.

AP: "Former Prime Minister Tony Blair testified Monday he never challenged the influential British press because doing so would have plunged his administration in a drawn-out and politically damaging fight." ...

... New York Times: "An antiwar protester broke into Britain's long-running judicial inquiry into press ethics through a supposedly secure corridor on Monday as former Prime Minister Tony Blair was giving evidence, accusing him of being in the pay of JPMorgan Chase bank when he sent British soldiers in support of American troops during the 2003 invasion of Iraq."

Washington Post: 'In recent weeks, investigators working in four countries have amassed new evidence tying the disparate assassination attempts [on U.S. officials] to one another and linking all of them to either Iran-backed Hezbollah militants or operatives based inside Iran, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern security officials. An official report last month summarizing the evidence cited phone records, forensic tests, coordinated travel arrangements and even cellphone SIM cards purchased in Iran and used by several of the would-be assailants, said two officials who have seen the six-page document."

AP: "One of the Vatican's biggest scandals in decades appears to be widening with reports that an Italian cardinal may be involved in a power struggle involving leaked documents, corruption and intrigue. The pope's butler, who has been arrested in the scandal, has pledged to cooperate in the probe."

Saturday
May262012

The Commentariat -- May 27, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer just went up. It's titled "A Column about Nothing," which is to say it is commentary on Tom Friedman's column. The NYTX front page is here.

"The New Political Correctness." Paul Krugman: "... right-wing political correctness -- unlike the liberal version -- has lots of power and money behind it. And the goal is very much the kind of thing Orwell tried to convey with his notion of Newspeak: to make it impossible to talk, and possibly even think, about ideas that challenge the established order. Thus, even talking about 'the wealthy' brings angry denunciations; we're supposed to call them 'job creators'. Even talking about inequality is 'class warfare'."

"If Obama is a socialist, he's a lousy one":

New York Times Editors: "It is absurd ... for Republicans to attack Mr. Obama for carrying out an unprecedented 'regulatory jihad' when, in fact, the administration has a mediocre record when it comes to curbing dangerous practices by industry.

Prof. Tim Jackson in the New York Times: increasing productivity is not necessarily a great idea. For instance, "there are sectors of the economy where chasing productivity growth doesn't make sense at all. Certain kinds of tasks rely inherently on the allocation of people's time and attention." Jackson specifically cites the healthcare industry. If you recall, David Brooks wrote this week that Mitt Romney would bring efficiency improvements to those sluggish doctors and nurses.

Lincoln Caplan, in a New York Times op-ed, outlines the briefs in support of the Montana Supreme Court's decision to uphold its election laws; the Supreme Court is expected to respond next month.

The Butler Did It. Adele Stan in the Washington Monthly: The Vatican confirmed that it had arrested Paolo Gabriele for leaking documents to journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. "At issue are confidential letters to and from Pope Benedict XVI regarding the Vatican’s financial dealings.... So, in arresting Gabriele, the Vatican is doing what it does best with those who would challenge its sources and methods: putting the screws to them. You'd think that the pope and his men might be so consumed with straightening out the Holy See's financial mess, and penitentially finding the institution's way back to the straight and narrow that they'd have little time to do much else. But, no, instead the pope has seen fit to focus his institution's resources on a mission designed to bring U.S. nuns into line."

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times: 'With nothing more than ledgers of stolen identity information -- Social Security numbers and their corresponding names and birth dates -- criminals have electronically filed thousands of false tax returns with made-up incomes and withholding information and have received hundreds of millions of dollars in wrongful refunds, law enforcement officials say. The criminals, some of them former drug dealers, outwit the Internal Revenue Service by filing a return before the legitimate taxpayer files. Then the criminals receive the refund, sometimes by check but more often though a convenient but hard-to-trace prepaid debit card."

Maureen Dowd: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is on the Secret Service's case; unfortunately, Mark Sullivan -- the Secret Service director -- is not.

Nathaniel Frank in Slate: Colin Powell poses as a leader, but he's "always following others."

The Trial of Casanova. CW: I've avoided linking to reports on this story, but what the hell. Here's one iteration from Libby Copeland of Slate: John Edwards, on trial in a case related to his having an extramarital affair & fathering a child with his lover while running for POTUS, has been observed flirting with one of the alternate jurors.

Presidential Race

Photo via New York magazine.

Jonathan Chait: "The real news in Mitt Romney’s interview with Mark Halperin ... is that Romney openly repudiated the central argument his party has been making against President Obama for the last three years: that he spent too much money and therefore deepened the economic crisis. Indeed Romney himself had been making this very case as recently as a week ago. But in his Halperin interview, Romney frankly admits that reducing the budget deficit in the midst of an economic crisis would be a horrible idea.... We're all Keynesians during Republican administrations."

Charles Pierce: "... didn't Romney, in saying that, pretty much blow up the entire rationale for over 30 years of Republican economics right there? Cutting government spending will throw us into a recession or depression? No Christmas cards from the Ryan household this year, Willard. That this remarkable moment sailed over Halperin's head and lodged in the wall behind him goes without saying."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The National Labor Relations Board announced on Sunday that one of its five members, Terence F. Flynn, had resigned after the board's inspector general found that Mr. Flynn, a Republican, leaked documents to G.O.P. allies."

New York Times: "The United Nations Security Council on Sunday unanimously condemned the Syrian government for its role in the massacre of at least 108 villagers, with new details emerging from international observers that appeared to prompt rare Russian cooperation in criticizing its ally in Damascus."