The Ledes

Thursday, July 31, 2014.

New York Times: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Thursday that he would not agree to any cease-fire proposal that does not allow the Israeli military to complete its mission of destroying Hamas’s tunnel network in Gaza."

USA Today: "Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in a prisoner swap with the Taliban two months ago, will meet next week with the senior Army officer investigating the circumstances of his capture in Afghanistan, his lawyer said Wednesday. Bergdahl, who spent five years in captivity, plans to meet with Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, the investigating officer, in San Antonio, where Bergdahl is stationed, according to lawyer Eugene Fidell."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States economy rebounded heartily in the spring after a dismal winter, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday, growing at an annual rate of 4 percent from April through June and surpassing economists’ expecations. In its initial estimate for the second quarter, the government cited a major advance in inventories for private businesses, higher government spending at the state and local level and personal consumption spending as chief contributors to growth."

Guardian: "At least 19 Palestinians were killed and about 90 injured early on Wednesday when a UN school sheltering people was hit by shells during a second night of relentless bombardment that followed an Israeli warning of a protracted military campaign. Gaza health officials said at least 43 people died in intense air strikes and tank shelling of Jabaliya, a neighbourhood of Gaza City. The death toll included the people at the school who had fled their own homes." ...

     ... AP Update: "Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault of the Gaza war on Tuesday, destroying key symbols of Hamas control, shutting down the territory's only power plant and leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead on the bloodiest day of the 22-day conflict. Despite devastating blows that left the packed territory's 1.7 million people cut off from power and water and sent the overall death toll soaring past 1,200, Hamas' shadowy military leader remained defiant as he insisted that the Islamic militants would not cease fire until its demands are met."

Los Angeles Times: "Pacific Gas & Electric was charged Tuesday with lying to regulators during the immediate aftermath of the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and ravaged a San Bruno, Calif., neighborhood. The new indictment includes obstruction charges related to what the company said about its records immediately after the incident, according to a release from the Northern District of California U.S. attorney's office. The filing comes three months after an April indictment claimed that PG&E violated federal pipeline safety laws."

Los Angeles Times: "A top Los Angeles utility official faced tough questions Tuesday night about the response to a massive pipe break that flooded UCLA and surrounding areas with millions of gallons of water and threatened the near-term use of Pauley Pavilion. The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said."

Reuters: "Militant fighters overran a Libyan special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a battle involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people. A special forces officer said they had to abandon their main camp in the southeast of Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from a coalition of Islamist fighters and former rebel militias in the city."

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
July 31

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

1:20 pm ET: President Obama signs an executive order

3:40 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Department of Housing & Urban Development

7:25 pm ET: President Obama speaks at a celebration of the Special Olympics

8:30 pm ET: President Obama attends a performance celebrating the Special Olympics

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

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

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:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday
May062012

The Commentariat -- May 7, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "The Life of Ross." The NYTX front page is here. My thanks to Douthat for giving me an excuse to write a column in which mention of young Douthat's limp member and blow-up dolls is more-or-less appropriate. ...

... Chris Spannos, the NYTX editor, writes a terrific piece correlating the New York Times' poor coverage of Occupy Wall Street with its own bad labor practices.

Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan District Attorney for more than three decades, in a New York Times op-ed: "... it's not just the low tax rates that make [island] jurisdictions attractive to those following the rules. The secrecy of offshore jurisdictions allows some individuals and corporations to engage in outright tax fraud, costing America at least $40 billion each year.... The secrecy laws in these tax havens are at the root of serious crimes: fraud, money laundering and international terrorism.... There's more money on deposit in the Caymans than in all the banks in New York City combined.... Many American corporations, including Halliburton, have done business with Iran through their offshore tax haven subsidiaries." Congress can act, but it won't, despite pending legislation.

On Speaking Evangelical. T. M. Luhrmann in the New York Times: "If Democrats want to reach more evangelical voters, they should use a political language that evangelicals can hear. They should talk about the kind of people we are aiming to be and about the transformational journey that any choice will take us on. They should talk about how we can grow in compassion and care. They could talk about the way their policy interventions will allow those who receive them to become better people and how those of us who support them will better ourselves as we reach out in love. They could describe health care reform as a response to suffering, not as a solution to an economic problem."

Paul Krugman: "The French are revolting. The Greeks, too. And it’s about time." ...

... Judd Gregg, former governor of & U.S. from New Hampshire, & all-around stuffed shirt, writes an op-ed in The Hill warning that the French election results are a foreboding of a socialist takeover of the U.S. government. CW: I wish.

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "For President Obama, the sight of Nicolas Sarkozy, a fellow member of the Presidential class of 2007-2008, being sent packing by French voters will bring mixed feelings."

Kevin Sieff of the Washington Post: "The United States has for several years been secretly releasing high-level detainees from a military prison in Afghanistan as part of negotiations with insurgent groups, a bold effort to quell violence but one that U.S. officials acknowledge poses substantial risks."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "... it is the rare oral argument that wins or loses a case.... Oral arguments are ... far less important than the written briefs."

Ian Shapira of the Washington Post tells the story of Barbara Annette Robbins, killed in the 1965 car-bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, whom the CIA finally acknowledged last year was "one of their own. But the slain secretary holds enough historic titles to make her an object of curiosity within the CIA. Robbins was the first woman at the male-dominated CIA killed in the line of duty. She is the youngest CIA employee ever killed. And, according to [Leon] Panetta, she was also the first American woman to die in the Vietnam War." Here's a related photo gallery.

Ahrnold's Back. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Los Angeles Times op-ed: "... the extreme right wing of the [Republican] party is targeting anyone who doesn't meet its strict criteria. Its new and narrow litmus test for party membership doesn't allow compromise. I bumped up against that rigidity many times as governor.... It's time to stop thinking of the Republican Party as an exclusive club where your ideological card is checked at the door, and start thinking about how we can attract more solution-based leaders...."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: Angus King, the front-runner for Maine's open U.S. Senate seat, is "a two-term independent governor who, because he refuses to say whom he would support for majority leader next year, may well decide which party controls an evenly divided Senate."

Presidential Race

I missed this essay by Charles Pierce on President Obama's failure to use the bully pulpit -- or even to understand what to say -- but it's worth a read, because it is exactly right. Many of us have been saying the same thing for a long time, but not so well. AND it remains hard for me to reckon how someone so politically savvy could really think that if he was just a little nicer, just a little more accommodating, the Republicans in Congress would step up & do the jobs they were sworn to do.

NEW. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "... in 1981 presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney was arrested for disorderly conduct. The issue of Romney's arrest first came to light during his 1994 Senate run against incumbent Senator Ted Kennedy...." A magistrate dropped the charges -- which were Mickey Mouse anyway -- when Romney threatened to sue. CW: Meh. Now imagine, if you will, the hysteria on the right if Obama had been arrested for disorderly conduct for participating in a demonstration or whatever.

The Obama-Biden campaign's latest one-minute ad is a shorter version of the 7-minute "Forward" ad:

George Packer of the New Yorker: "Mitt Romney has dropped the severe conservatism, stopped denouncing the children of illegal immigrants, and started claiming authorship of the auto-bailout plan, which he had formerly dismissed as a goodbye kiss to the industry. By Election Day, he will have replaced so many parts so many times that nothing of the original Romney will be left but the hair."

Alex Koppelman of the New Yorker and others see Vice President Biden's endorsement of gay marriage as a flareup of Biden's foot-in-mouth disease. Here's Biden, via Igor Volsky of Think Progress:

 

... Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "The comments, which aides described as the off-the-cuff views of a vice president not known for fidelity to a script, sent the White House scrambling to clarify that Mr. Biden was not articulating an official change in policy, a reaction that highlighted the administration's unease over the subject." ...

... Jamelle Bouie of the American Prospect: "I don't see any reason for why Obama shouldn’t come out in support of same-sex marriage.... With the exception of conservatives, support is broad-based...." ...

... Steve Kornacki of Salon: in context, it appears Biden's remarks may be all about Biden: "... to be a contender for '16, he needs to build and sustain as much goodwill as possible with his party's base. And by now, rank-and-file Democrats are far, far ahead of the Obama White House when it comes to gay marriage." ...

... NEW. Drew Katchen of NBC News: "On Morning Joe, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan echoed Biden. Asked by TIME's Mark Halperin whether he thinks same-sex couples should be legally allowed to marry, Duncan said flatly: 'Yes I do.'"

News Ledes

CNN: "U.S., Yemeni and other intelligence agencies broke up a plot to bomb a U.S. airliner around the anniversary of the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, a U.S. counterrrorism official said Monday, although a second U.S. counterrorism official said that the threat was not timed to coincide with the death of the al Qaeda leader."

ABC OTUS News: "In May 2011, just weeks before John Edwards was indicted for allegedly using $725,000 from an elderly heiress to hide his pregnant mistress, Edwards asked Rachel "Bunny" Mellon for an additional $3 million, her librarian testified today."

AP: "Vladimir Putin took the oath of office in a brief Kremlin ceremony on Monday, while on the streets outside thousands of helmeted riot police prevented hundreds of demonstrators from protesting his return to the presidency."

AP: "In a video released Sunday by al-Qaida, American hostage Warren Weinstein said he will be killed unless President Barack Obama agrees to the militant group's demands.... Weinstein was abducted last August in Lahore, Pakistan, after gunmen tricked his guards and broke into his home. The 70-year-old from Rockville, Md., is the country director in Pakistan for J.E. Austin Associates, a Virginia-based firm that advises a range of Pakistani business and government sectors." With video excerpt.

AP: "Al-Qaida militants staged a surprise attack Monday on a Yemeni army base in the south, killing 20 soldiers and capturing 25 just hours after a U.S. drone strike killed a senior figure in the terror network wanted in connection with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen."

Reuters: "Syrians voted in a parliamentary election on Monday touted by authorities as a milestone of political reform but dismissed by the opposition as a facade while people are killed every day in an anti-government uprising. Violence persisted across the country between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels fighting to end four decades of dynastic rule by his family."

Reuters: "Greek and French election results rattled investors on Monday by undermining confidence in the region's plans to cut spending and tackle its debt crisis, sending the euro to a three-month low."

Saturday
May052012

The Commentariat -- May 6, 2012

Super moon over the Temple of Poseidon SE of Athens, Greece, yesterday. AP photo.There's a pretty good slideshow of photos here.

President Obama kicked off his 2012 campaign yesterday in Columbus, Ohio:

It Depends on Where You Get Your News:

     ... Glenn Thrush of Politico: "The [Obama] campaign was only able to muster 14,000 supporters at the first event in an arena designed to hold more than 18,000. Several thousand empty seats ringed its upper deck, mostly out of view from the cameras. About 8,000 supporters turned out for the VCU rally, a full house, and most seemed to like their candidate's blend of hope, change and Romney-bashing." ...

     ... Alexander Marlow of Breitbart "News": "Obama launches campaign in empty arena. Barack Obama launched his campaign in unspectacular fashion today at Ohio State University, the largest college in the crucial swing state. A photo posted to twitter by Mitt Romney's campaign spokesman Ryan Williams reveals sparse attendance."

Christopher Bodeen of the Associated Press: Gary Locke, the U.S. Ambassador to China, played a pivotal role in the drama over legal activist Chen Guangcheng. Locke is popular among the Chinese people. "Locke has drawn overflowing audiences to his speeches at Chinese universities and been the subject of magazine cover stories. Huge crowds showed up when he visited his ancestral home in the southeastern province of Guangdong. At one point, Chinese Foreign Ministry officials complained to the U.S. Embassy about Locke's popular image of being thrifty as an attempt to defame the Chinese government."

Alice Randall in a New York Times op-ed: "Four out of five black women are seriously overweight. One out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes. With $174 billion a year spent on diabetes-related illness in America and obesity quickly overtaking smoking as a cause of cancer deaths, it is past time to try something new."

Pastor Bob Still Not Impressed with Willard. Peter Nicholas of the Wall Street Journal: "Mitt Romney might have been hoping to make inroads with Christian conservatives when he questioned the Obama administration's handling of the case involving the blind Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng.... Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas..., said it wasn't the time to criticize administration officials working toward a solution.... Asked about Mr. Romney's statements, he added: 'I don't think now is the time to engage in political partisanship.' Mr. Jeffress stirred a controversy last year when he called the candidate, who is Mormon, a 'non-Christian.' He has since endorsed Mr. Romney in the general election race."

Presidential Race

In his "This Week in God" post, Steve Benen notes that the religious right have "forced one of Romney's spokespersons to resign, and right about now, they're wondering what else they can make the campaign do."

Right Wing World

More GOP Super Sperms. George Talbot of the Mobile, Alabama, Press-Register: "Bill Johnson, a former Alabama [Republican] gubernatorial candidate, has left his wife and family in Prattville to be with babies he secretly conceived as a sperm donor in New Zealand. Johnson’s wife, Kathy Hale Johnson, told the New Zealand Herald that Johnson recently returned to live in New Zealand where he donated sperm to at least 10 women without her knowledge." Here's the New Zealand Herald story.

News Ledes

Reuters: "Voting started in mainland France on Sunday in an election that could make Nicolas Sarkozy the 11th European leader to be swept from office by the economic crisis and crown Francois Hollande as France's first Socialist president in 17 years." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "François Hollande swept into office on Sunday, becoming the first Socialist to be elected president of France since François Mitterrand left office in 1995."

Reuters: "Greeks enraged by economic hardship voted on Sunday in a deeply uncertain election that could reignite Europe's debt crisis and throw into doubt the country's future in the euro zone." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Greek voters appeared to radically redraw the political map on Sunday, bolstering the far left and neo-Nazi right in a wave of protest against the dominant political parties they blame for the country's economic collapse."

New York Times: "Lawyers for five men charged before a military commission with conspiring in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, complained on Sunday that the process was rigged to lead to the execution of their clients, and they offered new details and explanations for a sometimes chaotic daylong arraignment on Saturday."

New York Times: "A senior Qaeda militant in Yemen linked to the deadly bombing of an American warship there in 2000 was killed in an airstrike on Sunday, the Yemeni government said, in the latest sign of an escalating American campaign to counter the terrorist threat there. Yemeni authorities said the militant, Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, 37, who has been on the F.B.I.'s Most Wanted list in connection with the bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole that killed 17 sailors in October 2000, died in the strike in Shabwa Province in one of the rugged tribal areas controlled by insurgents."

New York Times: "Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Sunday that he was 'comfortable' with same-sex marriages, a position that appeared to go beyond the 'evolving' views that President Obama has said he holds on the issue."

Washington Post: "After signing a 10-year lease and spending more than $80 million on a site envisioned as the United States' diplomatic hub in northern Afghanistan, American officials say they have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous."

AP: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce Sunday night that he'll dissolve parliament to hold early elections, a move designed to fend off domestic critics and perhaps put him in a stronger position to act against Iran." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday called for early elections, vowing to win a 'renewed mandate' and 'form the broadest government that is possible' to 'guarantee the future of the people of Israel in the land of Israel, for eternity.'"

... Haaretz: "Israel's High Court justices sharply criticized the government on Sunday for not fulfilling its legal commitment to demolish a West Bank settlement."

AP: "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will use a two-day visit to India this week to urge further reductions in Indian imports of Iranian oil."

AP: "Connecticut lawmakers' approval of the use of medical marijuana includes strict regulations for the cultivation and distribution in an attempt to avoid problems other states have run into when legalizing the plant for medical use."

Here's the Al Jazeera report on the Guantanamo hearing.

AP: Against 15-1 odds, "I'll Have Another ran down Bodemeister in the final furlong Saturday to win the Kentucky Derby, winding up in the winner's circle despite a rookie jockey, a more famous stable pony, and a price tag of just $11,000 as a yearling."

Saturday
May052012

The Commentariat -- May 5, 2012

According to the Obama-Biden campaign site, you can watch the first campaign rally, in Columbus, Ohio, here, beginning at 12:45 pm ET.

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: "Placing a final punctuation mark on a week devoted to foreign policy, President Barack Obama on Saturday declared that his goal of defeating al-Qaida was within reach and said it was now time to turn the country's attention to more domestic concerns like strengthening the middle class."

Brad Plumer of the Washington Post: "The percentage of Americans in the labor force has been declining for more than a decade.... And while part of the story is clearly that the labor force is shrinking because the bad economy is driving workers out, another significant factor is that baby boomers are beginning to retire early -- a trend that has worrying implications for future growth. ...

... The New York Review of Books has an excerpt/adaptation of Paul Krugman's book End This Depression Now!

Dana Milbank: "A cornerstone of [Tea Partier] Richard Mourdock's effort to oust [Sen. Richard] Lugar [R-Ind.] is the six-term senator’s bad habit of bipartisanship — never mind that Lugar's bipartisanship was in the service of protecting millions of Americans from nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism.... Hoosier Republicans should reject Mourdock ... because they still believe that national security trumps partisanship."

Andy Rosenthal of the New York Times: 'After an unconscionably long delay of nearly a decade, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks will be arraigned Saturday in a military commission at Guantanamo Bay. Observers, including journalists, will be able to watch the hearing through glass. But the government has insisted on a 40-second audio delay, meaning censors can just switch the sound off if something happens that they don't want the public to hear -- like for example if Mr. Mohammed mentions that he was water-boarded 183 times in one month."

A rally for the candidate of the center-right New Democracy party, Antonis Samaras, who some analysts say is likely to head a coalition government as prime minister. Getty image.Rachel Donadio & Niki Kitsantonis of the New York Times: As Greece "heads to elections on Sunday in which no single party is expected to secure enough votes to form a stable government, they may have to try governing with political chaos. Along with elections in France, and with a rising tide of anti-austerity sentiment across Europe, Greece's vote is expected to have a clear impact on the future of the euro."

Presidential Race

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times reports on President Obama's close involvement in campaign strategy.

Gail Collins considers Barack Obama's New York years. ...

David Maraniss on why Barack Obama is comfortable being Commander in Chief: "Obama is the first president to whom Vietnam is ancient history.... Obama feels more affinity toward his grandfather's generation (Stan Dunham fought in Europe during World War II) than to his mother’s, or he at least finds it more culturally appealing."

Ben Armbruster of Think Progress: "Yesterday Mitt Romney attacked President Obama over the administration's handling of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. Citing 'very troubling developments,' Romney said yesterday was 'a dark day for freedom and it's a day of shame for the Obama administration.' Last night on Fox News, Bill Kristol advised Romney to stand down on the Chen case, calling his attacks on Obama 'foolish.'" Kristol said, "There is no need to butt into a fast moving story when the secretary of state is in Beijing with delicate negotiations and say it's a day of shame for the Obama administration." Today Mr. Romney's campaign has released a statement criticizing President Obama for playing golf when the nation is at war, for his partisan decision to invite only Republicans to his foursome, for scoring too high & for looking lousy in golf shirts; the President is expected to tee up at 11:00 am ET. (CW: Could be I made up that last sentence. But seriously, Romney's buttinsky remarks on the Chen negotiations isn't just foolish -- it shows how shockingly little Romney understands about international relations & how willing he is to undermine his own country for possible political gain.)

New York Times Editors: "On Friday, Mitt Romney blamed President Obama for the April jobs figures, saying that in a normal recovery 'we should be seeing numbers in the 500,000 jobs created per month.' The truth is that the economy has not seen job growth like that in nearly 30 years. More to the point, the policies Mr. Romney espouses -- notably deregulation and tax cuts for the rich -- were the favored policies under President George W. Bush, years when job growth and wage gains were, at best, anemic." ...

... Oh, but you know that's not the only lie The Great Prevaricator came up with this week. Steve Benen lists 18 lies of the week.

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: Ric Grenell, the disgruntled Employee of the for a Week, has put Romney in an awkward spot: Romney "is now forced to insist that he didn't fire an aide for his sexuality, an assertion that could jeopardize his already shaky relationship with the religious right." ...

... Tim Murphy of Mother Jones: "The [Grenell] episode is reminiscent of a controversy that occurred when Romney was governor of Massachusetts: The 2004 dismissal of Ardith Wieworka, longtime head of the state's Office of Child Care Services, who alleged that she had been terminated because of her decision to marry her partner."

Your Puzzling News of the Day. Emily Friedman of ABC News: "Tagg Romney, the eldest son of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, announced via Twitter that he and his wife Jen have new twin boys, delivered by a surrogate today. 'Happy 2 announce birth of twin boys David Mitt and William Ryder. Big thanks to our surrogate. Life is a miracle,' Tagg tweeting, linking to a photo of himself and one of his new sons. This the second time that Tagg, 42, and his wife, Jen, 39, have used a surrogate. The same surrogate was used for the twins carried their youngest son Jonathan, who was born in August of 2010. Their other three children were not born via surrogacy." CW: I know this is none of our business & has nothing to do with the presidential race, but I personally think it's weird to use a surrogate when a couple already has three children, let alone four. I'm open to second opinions. ...

... Oh, wait. Maybe Tagg & Mrs. Tagg want to have more kids to give them an advantage at this year's family baby toss:

 

... Apparently the Mittster plays this game all the time. I guess Ann Romney was right: he really is a wild and crazy guy:

... This kid is so not into the game. Must be one of the 99 Percent. You're doomed, child:

How Cool Is This? Ted Nugent loses it again. Remember, Willard's crew was thrilled when Nugent endorsed him:

     ... According to the Hollywood Gossip site, here's the bleeped language Nugent used, only partially bleeped here: "'I'm an extremely loving and passionate man, and people who investigate me honestly, without the baggage of political correctness, ascertain the conclusion that I'm a damned nice guy ... and if you can find a screening process more powerful than that, I'll suck your d-ck.' The musician then turned to a female producer and added: 'Or I'll f-ck you, how's that sound?'" ...

     ... Justin Sink of The Hill: "Mitt Romney's campaign is denying it expressed support for Ted Nugent after he made controversial comments last month that led to him being interviewed by Secret Service agents. Nugent on Friday gave his first television interview since the investigation, and the aging rocker said that Romney's team "expressed support" for him after his remarks.

AND, finally Joel Pollak of Breitbart, who must be a genius, has discovered proof positive, hiding in plain sight, that Barack Obama is a Communist sympathizer. Thank you, Joel, for this insightful piece of investigative journalism. You are a great advertisement for a free press.

Right Wing World

Heartland billboard in Chicago.

Leo Hickman of the Guardian: "The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based rightwing thinktank notorious for promoting climate skepticism, has launched quite possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns." Heartland itself boasts, "Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute point out that some of the world's most notorious criminals say they 'still believe in global warming' -- and ask viewers if they do, too…The billboard series features Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber; Charles Manson, a mass murderer; and Fidel Castro, a tyrant. Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden.... Of course, not all global warming alarmists are murderers or tyrants." ...

... CW: Stalin was a meat-eater. Therefore, all meat-eaters are mass murderers. Hitler was a vegetarian. Therefore all vegetarians are mass murderers. Ergo, everybody is a mass murderer. That’s the logic to the Heartland ad ad campaign despite the disclaimer they throw into their press release. ...

... Brian Vastig of the Washington Post: "The billboard went live Thursday afternoon. But by 4 p.m. Eastern time, an outcry from allies and opponents alike led the Heartland Institute’s president, Joe Bast, to say he would switch off the sign within the hour."

News Ledes

New York Times: "President Obama sought to rekindle the passion of his 2008 victory with a huge rally on Saturday that signaled a new, politically aggressive phase in the debate over the country's direction and the official start of his personal confrontation with Mitt Romney." Washington Post story here.

New York Times: "The arraignment of [Khalid Shaikh] Mohammed and four other accused conspirators in the Sept. 11 attacks got off to a slow and rocky start on Saturday. Defendants ignored the judge and stood at random intervals to pray, as defense lawyers repeatedly tried to change the subject to restrictions on their ability to communicate with their clients."

Reuters: "China said on Friday that blind dissident Chen Guangcheng could apply to study abroad, a move praised by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and suggesting an end may be near to a diplomatic standoff between Beijing and Washington."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said Friday that he had permanently removed five priests from active ministry for sexual abuse or misconduct with minors, and reinstated three others after an investigation could not substantiate similar claims against them. The decisions, which followed a 14-month review, marked one of the largest ousters of active priests in the archdiocese's history. It also validated a February 2011 grand jury report that accused local church leaders of ignoring evidence of clergy sex abuse and stirred new outrage among area Catholics.

AFP: "Boris Johnson was re-elected mayor of Olympic host city London late Friday to the relief Prime Minister David Cameron, after his Conservative Party took a beating in mid-term local elections."

Guardian: "David Cameron has apologised to hundreds of Conservative councillors who lost their seats in the local elections 'against a difficult national backdrop'. Earlier, the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, described his sadness at the party's results in elections which saw both the coalition parties suffer widespread losses."

Guardian: "The bodies of 23 people have been found hanging from a bridge or decapitated and dumped near city hall in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, where drug cartels are fighting a bloody and escalating turf war. It follows the discovery in Veracruz of four journalists' bodies in a canal."

Thursday
May032012

The Commentariat -- May 4, 2012

I'll be away for several days. I'll try to post from time to time, but I don't know what kind of Internet connection I'll have where I'm going, so at best posting will be sporadic. -- Marie

Gene Robinson: "Does anybody really understand the U.S. policy in Afghanistan? The president’s televised address from Bagram air base raised more questions than it answered."

** Sara Robinson of AlterNet, in Salon, on the myth of the self-made man.

In the Daily Beast, Stephen King advocates for raising the top income tax rate to 50 percent. BTW, King would pay at the 50-percent rate. "The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing 'Disco Inferno' than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar." Thanks to my very first boyfriend ever, David B. for the link. (He was the most adorable third-grader you ever saw.)

Paul Krugman on the correlation between income inequality & recession/ depression. "Many pundits assert that the U.S. economy has big structural problems that will prevent any quick recovery. All the evidence, however, points to a simple lack of demand, which could and should be cured very quickly through a combination of fiscal and monetary stimulus. No, the real structural problem is in our political system, which has been warped and paralyzed by the power of a small, wealthy minority. And the key to economic recovery lies in finding a way to get past that minority's malign influence."

Floyd Norris of the New York Times on why the U.S. economy has fared better than European economies. His analysis includes this remark: "There is nothing more grating than an ungrateful welfare recipient riding around in a chauffeured Mercedes complaining that he is not being treated fairly."

** Sabotage! Andrew Leonard of Salon: "Machiavelli would applaud. Republicans may have lost the 2008 presidential election, but their insurgency-style guerrilla tactics ever since have ensured that the war is far from over. In 2012, the politics of sabotage rule Washington." Leonard looks at critical elements of Paul Ryan's latest effort to destroy the government.

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "The wages of austerity don’t stop with continental recession. They include, in some nations, the revival of the kind of political extremes not seen in Europe since World War II.... The United States has austerity demons of its own, of course. While the private sector has rebounded somewhat from the 2008-09 collapse, creating 4 million jobs since the turnaround began in 2010, state and local governments have shed 611,000 employees -- including 196,000 teachers -- since President Obama took office...."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker calls the upcoming presidential election in France the "austerity election." CW: It appears that's what the British municipal elections were, too.

Novelists Margaret Atwood, Edgar Doctorow & Martin Amis discuss the U.S.'s place in the world with New York Times film critic A. O. Scott:

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The details of Bin Laden’s thoughts and frustrations while hiding in the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, emerge from a sheaf of letters released on Thursday that provide a sort of anthropology of a terror network."

Jonathan Cohn & David Strauss in Bloomberg News: "A decision to uphold the health-insurance mandate would be a powerful defense of liberty in the modern age."

John Dunbar & Michael Beckel of the Center for Public Integrity: "What the Citizens United decision and a lower court ruling have done is make household names out of a bunch of relatively unknown, very wealthy conservatives. Of the top 10 donors to super PACs so far in the 2012 election cycle, seven are individuals -- not corporations -- and four of those individuals are billionaires. The top 10 contributors gave more than a third, or $68 million of the nearly $202 million reported by the outside spending groups this election...."

Presidential Race

William Saletan of Slate: "Elections can change history. But mostly, they decide which party will pretend that the president changed history for the better, and which party will pretend that he changed it for the worse."

Jonathan Bernstein, in the Washington Post, on right-wing -- and mainstreamish -- hyperventilation about David Maraniss's biography of Obama: "There's a Republican-driven idea out there, one Sarah Palin is big on repeating, that Barack Obama wasn't fully vetted by the press in 2008. It's preposterous. The truth is that Obama has been the mainstream Democrat he ran as, and I'd guess that it's very difficult to tie whatever idiosyncrasies he's had within that to anything in particular about his personal history, and certainly not anything we didn't know about in November 2008."

David Corn asks economists to analyze Romney's claim that when ObamaCare kicks in, the government will control 50 percent of GDP; e.g., "Bruce Bartlett, who served as a senior economist in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations...: 'This analysis is so stupid it is hard to know where to begin.'"

Considering the Source.... Elicia Dover of ABC OTUS News: "Shown a new ad from the Obama campaign during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer Thursday -- a clip reel of Gingrich's slams on Romney during the primary season -- [Newt] Gingrich laughed and said, 'You have a rough-and-tumble primary season and you'll get words like that.' He was asked if he still believes Romney is a liar. 'I still believe the Romney campaign said things that weren't true,' Gingrich said. 'I also believe that compared to Barack Obama, I would trust Mitt Romney 100 times over.'" Here's the ad:

MaddowBlog readers helped Newt write his concession speech.

Outsourcing. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times: "The Republican National Committee on Thursday stepped up its assault on President Barack Obama in advance of his campaign formal kick off Saturday in Ohio and Virginia -- hitting him on 'high unemployment' in the U.S. as the RNC used a firm located in the Philippines to set up the 'messaging' call."

Alex Pareene of Salon: "Americans Elect is a weird experiment in applying a lot of money and time and resources into proving a common elite myth: That Americans as a whole are crying out for 'bold,' nonpartisan political leadership, and that their strong desire for moderate, independent solutions is stifled by the two-party system. So far, the organization has managed to win presidential ballot access in 26 states, which is a remarkable achievement. The only problem is, it has no candidate. And the process it developed to select a candidate is turning out to be a big, hilarious mess." CW: But, hey, it has the support of Tom Friedman!

Right Wing World *

Tim Egan: "The House run by John Boehner is stuffed with zealots and intellectual dead-enders who think compromise is a synonym for treason."

Steve Benen: "As part of his ongoing fascination with the 'Fast and Furious' controversy, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) released a draft memo yesterday, making the case for holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.... The worst case scenario: the House holds Holder in contempt and instructs the House sergeant at arms to try to arrest the Attorney General, creating a bizarre constitutional crisis. That's an exceedingly unlikely scenario, though."

* Where sunrise is just a theory. -- Akhilleus

Local News

Charles Pierce: "Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to run their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, sat down with the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel to chat things over, and the talk was portentous on a couple of different levels." CW: sorry, can't find the original interview. ...

... Save the Caucasians! AND here, Charles Pierce keeps us abreast of developments in other laboratories of democracy.

News Ledes

Raleigh News & Observer: "A Raleigh lawyer who represented John Edwards before he was charged with violating campaign finance laws told an attorney for the Virginia philanthropist at the center of the case that Edwards had benefited from the payments funneled to his former political campaign aide."

Reuters: "Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Friday signed into law a bill banning abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving money through the state, her office said in a statement."

ABC News: "President Obama highlighted the 'good news' in the latest jobs report today, but, speaking in the battleground state of Virginia, stressed 'we've got to do more to boost the economy, including freezing low interest rates for student loans."

Bloomberg News: "Employers in the U.S. added fewer workers than forecast in April and the jobless rate unexpectedly declined as people left the labor force, underscoring concern the world's largest economy may be losing speed. Payrolls climbed 115,000, the smallest gain in six months, after a revised 154,000 rise in March that was more than initially estimated...."

New York Times: "China's Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the dissident Chen Guangcheng can apply to study outside China in the same manner as more than 300,000 Chinese students already abroad, signaling a possible breakthrough in a diplomatic crisis that has deeply embarrassed the White House and threatens to sour relations with Beijing."

Washington Post: "Five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks, including the self-proclaimed mastermind, are headed back to a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay on Saturday, more than three years after President Barack Obama put the case on hold in a failed effort to move the proceedings to a civilian court and close the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba. This time the defendants may put up a fight."

AP: "From tasteless photos to urinating on dead insurgents, bad behavior by U.S. troops in Afghanistan has hampered America's war effort over the past year, triggering a broad new campaign by defense leaders to improve discipline in the ranks. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in his first personal appeal to troops on the issue, is expected Friday to remind U.S. forces that they are representing the American people and they must behave up to military standards."

New York Times: "At a time of deepening austerity, social cutbacks and political fallout from the long-running phone hacking scandal, Britons seemed to have turned against their national leaders in bellwether mayoral and local council elections claimed as a resounding triumph by the opposition Labour party, according to partial results on Friday." Guardian story here with related links.

Washington Post: "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday pulled a $5,000 solicitation for a magician to motivate employees at a leadership training event, weeks after a mindreader hired by the General Services Administration became an embarrassing symbol of a Las Vegas spending spree." CW: they just keep on keepin' on, don't they?

Winnipeg Free Press: "The last Canadian penny will be manufactured today."