The Ledes

Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Jesse Ventura won his defamation case against the estate of author Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who said he punched out the former Minnesota governor for criticizing the SEALs’ role in the Iraq war. The jury awarded a total of $1.845 million: $500,000 in defamation damages and $1.345 million for 'unjust enrichment' — or to be specific, $1,345,477.25. Jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict, as instructed. Instead, with the consent of both sides, they voted 8 to 2 in Ventura’s favor."

AP: "A senior PLO official has called for a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza war, saying he is also speaking in the name of Hamas."

Guardian: "Gaza endured a night of relentless bombardment that brought some of the heaviest pounding since the start of the conflict three weeks ago, in the hours after the Israeli political and military leadership warned of a protracted offensive. Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in Gaza in the past 24 hours."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, July 28, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials, a finding that was conveyed by President Obama to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in a letter on Monday."

New York Times: "The United States and Europe put aside their differences and agreed on Monday to sharply escalate economic sanctions against Russia in a set of coordinated actions driven by the conclusion that Moscow has taken a more direct role in the war in Ukraine. After months in which European leaders were hesitant to go as far as the Americans, the two sides settled on a package of measures that would target Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors. In some cases, the Europeans may actually leapfrog beyond what the United States has done, forcing Washington to try to catch up."

Guardian: "Dutch and Australian police have failed to reach the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 for a second day as clashes rage in a town on the road to the area." ...

... Washington Post: "The Ukrainian military on Monday captured a strategically important swath of territory close to the debris field of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a spokesman said, dealing a blow to pro-Russian rebels but raising new questions about whether an investigation at the site will ever yield conclusive evidence about the attack on the airliner."

NEW. Washington Post: "Israel will press its air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, preparing his country for a longer and bloodier campaign and dashing hopes that the three-week-old conflict would end soon." ...

... Washington Post: "International efforts to end the devastating three-week-old Gaza war intensified Monday with the U.N. Security Council calling for an 'immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' in the conflict that has already claimed the lives of more than 1,035 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers. The ravaged coastal enclave was relatively quiet Monday as Palestinians started celebrating the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday that caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Israel mostly held its fire overnight, shelling only a site in the northern Gaza Strip in response to rockets fired from there." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Explosions rocked a major hospital and a neighborhood of Gaza City on Monday, leaving at least 10 people dead, witnesses reported." ...

... New York Times: "On Sunday, however, [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry was having difficulty accomplishing even ... a succession of temporary cease-fires..., despite a phone call in which President Obama, in a sign of mounting impatience, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to embrace an 'immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' while the two sides pursued a more lasting agreement. ...

... A White House readout of the conversation between Obama & Netanyahu is here.

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 29

10:10 am ET: White House Agricultural Champions of Change meet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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-- Constant Weader

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Tuesday
Apr242012

The Commentariat -- April 25, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer looks at the New York Times' coverage of Mitt Romney's most recent flip-flops. the NYTX front page is here. (Highly recommended: Belen Fernandez on "10 of Thomas Friedman's Dumbest 'Big Ideas.'" Oh, she knows more.) You can contribute here.

President Obama slow-jams the news with Jimmy Fallon & The Root:

Part 1 of Fallon's interview of the President begins here. Play through to Parts 2, 3 & 4:

"Frontline"'s "Money, Power & Wall Street," Episode 1. Thanks to contributor Dave S. for the link:

The Inquisition Lives! (Really.) Norman Birnbaum of The Nation has a good post on "The Vatican's Latest Target in the War on Women -- Nuns."

Michael Schmidt & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "... the misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia, ranges from personnel, including at least one veteran supervisor, who knowingly took prostitutes to their hotel rooms to at least two employees who had encounters with women who investigators now believe were not prostitutes.... Of the dozen originally implicated, a total of three will remain; six have resigned; two have been dismissed; and one has retired." ...

... Carol Leonnig & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Some Secret Service employees accused of misconduct in the Colombian prostitution scandal are privately contending that their conduct didn't warrant dismissal because senior managers tolerated similar behavior during official trips.... Several of the men who agreed to resign under pressure last week are also considering reversing their decisions and fighting to keep their jobs.... The prospect of Secret Service agents sharing embarrassing tales about rank-and-file employees and superiors partying to the hilt could bring more anguish to an agency reeling from scandal."

Maureen Dowd reports from Greensboro, North Carolina, on the John Edwards trial. ...

... Robin Bravender of Politico: Campaign finance law experts from across the political spectrum, including some former Federal Election Commission officials, say the Justice Department is wasting its time and resources and setting a terrible precedent in the John Edwards case.... Even some campaign finance reform groups are arguing that it's overreach."

Jessica Greenberg of the New York Times: "Hospital patients waiting in an emergency room or convalescing after surgery are being confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside. This and other aggressive tactics by one of the nation's largest collectors of medical debts, Accretive Health, were revealed on Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general, raising concerns that such practices have become common at hospitals across the country."

Tom Hamburger, et al., of the Washington Post: "Wal-Mart..., now under fire over allegations of foreign bribery in Mexico, has participated in an aggressive and high-priced lobbying campaign to amend the long-standing U.S. anti-bribery law that the company might have violated. The push to revisit how federal authorities enforce the statute has been centered at a little-known but well-funded arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where a top executive of Wal-Mart has sat on the board of directors for nearly a decade."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Justice Department told the Supreme Court on Tuesday evening that it had provided incorrect information to the justices in an immigration case. The department, in a seven-page letter, expressed regret for failing in its 'special obligation to provide this court with reliable and accurate information at all times.'" Such letters "are quite rare." Post includes a copy of the letter.

Mike Allen of Politico: "A forthcoming biography of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) ... by author Manuel Roig-Franzia ... reveals an immigration hell for Rubio's Cuban-born maternal grandfather, who was ordered deported from Florida because he flew in from Cuba without a visa, a decade before Rubio’s birth. Roig-Franzia ... writes that the grandfather's treatment during his 1962 run-in with federal authorities 'was not unlike the present-day experiences of many Mexicans and Central Americans who come to the United States legally but later run afoul of visa laws and find their lives irreversibly upended.'”

The Presidential Race

Ezra Klein with the most depressing thought for the day: "If Romney wins the election, it's almost a sure bet that Republicans win control of both the House and the Senate. And that matters. Right now, the GOP's agenda is the Ryan budget, and that's entirely fiscal: It's a premium support plan for Medicare, and tax cuts, and deep cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and other domestic programs. All that can be passed through budget reconciliation -- which is to say, all that can be made immune to the filibuster. So if Romney wins and the Republicans take control, they could accomplish quite a lot on party-line votes, even if their majorities are slim, and Democrats are opposed. Indeed, Romney could end up being a fairly transformational president for conservatives...."

Reid Epstein of Politico reports on Mitt Romney's speech last night.

Paul Krugman has this exactly right: "... there's a dangerous lack of focus in the Obama campaign, all too reminiscent of previous episodes. Above all, Obama isn't telling a clear story about the economy." Read his whole post. (I can't link to the Edward Luce column he cites because Luce writes for the Financial Times which has an annoying subscriber requirement.)

Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect on student aid: "... neither Obama nor Romney has proposed anything appropriate to the scale of the problem [of the high cost of higher education].... To a large degree, Romney and Obama embody their respective platforms. The former Massachusetts governor came from a life of incredible wealth and privilege, and wants to defend it with the tools of government. President Obama, by contrast, rose from more modest means, and — at the very least — wants a government that will facilitate mobility for all Americans." ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico finds an instance of Romney 5.0 (or whatever) quite specifically expressing opposition to the government's getting "too involved in student loans." Now that Romney 6.0, contra the GOP Congress, is supporting Obama's push to extend low interest rates to students, Burns tried to get a straight explanation out of the Romney camp on the flip-flop. Surprise! No luck.

Dana Milbank: Russell "Pearce, the former Republican president of the Arizona Senate, is the author and self-described 'driving force' behind ... that state's law — endorsed by Romney -- cracking down on illegal immigrants. Pearce told The Post's Felicia Sonmez this month that Romney's 'immigration policy is identical to mine,' and he told reporters this week that Romney 'absolutely' gave him the impression that he saw the Arizona law as a national model. Democrats ... called Pearce to testify Tuesday before Congress on the eve of the Supreme Court's review of the Arizona law. Republicans boycotted the hearing.... [Pearce] argued, correctly, that the law reflects 'by far the majority opinion of my party.' This is why Romney will have trouble making it disappear." Read the whole column.

Greg Sargent: "In the last few days, Romney has signaled that he is Etch-A-Sketching away his previous positions on immigration and on student loans.... Both of these turnarounds are being widely covered in the press as mere process stories, as if they're as inevitable and unremarkable as a campaign staffing up in advance of the general.... He's paying little price in the way of pundit scorn for flip-flopping right back to the center again."

CW: I missed this post by Alec MacGillis in The New Republic about Willard's "middle-class" upbringing. The Washington Post apparently puts absolutely no fact-checkers at the disposal of their editors & reporters, so they must rely on the candidates' sanitized, nonfactual versions of their biographies. MacGillis points out that a Post "biographical" sketch of Romney's youth "is off on just about every count.... It requires willful blindness to ignore the advantages that carried him through his first decades in life. And it's the job of the rest of us to hold him to the basic facts of his biography, even as he now tries his best to blur them."

Right Wing World

Steve Benen: Speaker Boehner places the blame on Democrats for Republicans' objections to extending the low student loan interest rate. CW: Boehner has accomplished a feat of sociopathic "logic" that could occur only in Right Wing World. Benen explains. ...

... Speaking of right-wing "logic," Thomas Edsell got into the weeds a bit in a Campaign Stops post for the New York Times. It goes like this: income inequality isn't as bad as you think because the government(s) effectively raise their incomes with social safety net programs. So now we're going to cut social safety net programs (but we won't tell you that will of course drive people further into poverty -- it's good for their dignity or something).

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post has a short-course on the history of ALEC -- and how it became a dirty word. ...

... AND Aaron Blake of the Post tells us more than we will ever want to know about Romney's new international policy advisor Richard Grenell.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Justices across the ideological spectrum appeared inclined to uphold a controversial part of Arizona's aggressive 2010 immigration law, based on their questions on Wednesday at a Supreme Court argument."

New York Times: "The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that its expectations for domestic economic growth during the current year have increased modestly since January, but it reduced its growth forecast for 2013 and 2014."

New York Times: "Federal prosecutors ... spent Wednesday morning laying out the crumbling relationship between former Senator John Edwards and Andrew Young, the key witness in the government's case against Mr. Edwards, painting a vivid portrait of the frantic final months of a cover-up that ended Mr. Edwards's political career." News & Observer story here; the paper's Edwards page is here.

ABC OTUS News: "Less than a month after hearing a challenge to the controversial Obama health care law brought by 26 states, the Supreme Court today will explore the relationship between the federal government and the states on another hot-button issue: immigration. At issue is S.B. 1070 - Arizona's strict immigration law that empowers local police to enforce federal immigration laws. It was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer who says that the law was needed to combat illegal immigration."

New York Times: "With a political firestorm cascading over the British government's ties to his media empire, Rupert Murdoch faced rare public scrutiny about his ties to elected officials on Wednesday, seeking to deflect suggestions that he sought to use his links to powerful public figures to further corporate commercial interests." ...

     ... NEW Lede: "With a political firestorm cascading over the British government’s ties to his media empire, Rupert Murdoch presented himself to a judicial inquiry on Wednesday as a blunt-talking businessman with a wide variety of interests and acquaintances who nevertheless did not seek to use his considerable power to manipulate British governments over the last several decades."

... The Guardian's liveblog of the Rupert Murdoch testimony includes a live feed of the proceedings.

Reuters: "Britain's economy has fallen into its second recession since the financial crisis after a shock contraction at the start of 2012, heaping pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron's government as it reels from a series of political missteps."

ABC News: The Government Accountability Office "said in a new report that the Pentagon has squandered millions in taxpayer dollars on expensive and complex weapons systems by spending first and asking questions later." Highlights of the GAO report are here, with a link to the full report.

AP: "The retired top CIA officer who ordered the destruction of videos showing waterboarding says in a new book that he was tired of waiting for Washington's bureaucracy to make a decision that protected American lives. Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the CIA's once-secret interrogation and detention program, also lashes out at President Barack Obama's administration for calling waterboarding torture and criticizing its use."

ABC OTUS News: "Although Newt Gingrich lost the Delaware primary by an overwhelming 29 percent to Mitt Romney, the former speaker of the House still did not announce the suspension of his presidential campaign Tuesday night." ...

     ... CNN Update: "Newt Gingrich will officially end his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and formally express his support for Mitt Romney next week, two sources close to Gingrich tell CNN. While details are still being worked out, Gingrich is likely to hold his final campaign event Tuesday in Washington, DC where he will make the announcement surrounded by his family and supporters." CW: Book a small room, Newt. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Newt Gingrich told Mitt Romney on Wednesday morning that he would suspend his presidential campaign next week and begin working to turn out conservative voters for Mr. Romney and Republican candidates in the fall election, Mr. Gingrich's spokesman said in an interview."

AP: "A senior North Korean army official says his country is armed with 'powerful mobile weapons' capable of striking America."

Monday
Apr232012

The Commentariat -- April 24, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Norm Ornstein's bright idea to entice Americans to vote by way of lotteries with big prizes. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

... A better idea: Katrina vanden Huevel in the Washington Post argues for universal voter registration.

** NEW. Paul Krugman in a NYT Magazine article on what Professor Ben Bernanke would do vs. what Fed Chair Ben Bernanke has done. CW: Haven't read it yet, but I will.

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "... increasingly in recent months, the administration has been seeking ways to act without Congress. Branding its unilateral efforts 'We Can’t Wait,' a slogan that aides said Mr. Obama coined at that strategy meeting, the White House has rolled out dozens of new policies — on creating jobs for veterans, preventing drug shortages, raising fuel economy standards, curbing domestic violence and more." ...

... Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "Government by executive order is not sustainable in the long-term. Nor is it desirable, whether you agree or disagree with those orders. But in this particular case, there may be no alternative."

Andrew Hacker reviews books by Charles Murray & Tim Noah on wealth inequality in the New York Review of Books. Thanks to contributor P. D. Pepe for the lead. ...

... An excellent post from Tim Noah, who is having a "conversation" in Slate with Matt Yglesias about wealth inequality: "... if you're at the median you have no positive reason to care how the economy does. Your only motivation is fear -- if the economy does really badly you may lose your job. But there’s no upside."

Pat Garofalo of Think Progress: "During an interview last week..., Alexandra Franceschi, Specialty Media Press Secretary of the Republican National Committee, said that the Republican party’s economic platform in 2012 is going to be the same as it was during the Bush years, 'just updated.' ... As a result of the Bush economic platform, 'growth in investment, GDP, and employment all posted their worst performance of any post-war expansion,' while 'overall monthly job growth was the worst of any cycle since at least February 1945, and household income growth was negative for the first cycle since tracking began in 1967.' Meanwhile, the deficit and debt exploded."

John Burns of the New York Times: James & Rupert Murdoch are in for grillings this week before Lord Justice Brian Leveson. James will testify for up to six hours Tuesday, Rupert for the same period Wednesday. And the hearing will be broadcast on teevee!

Tara Bahrampour of the Washington Post: "A four-decade tidal wave of Mexican immigration to the United States has receded, causing a historic shift in migration patterns as more Mexicans appear to be leaving the United States for Mexico than the other way around, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center. It looks to be the first reversal in the trend since the Depression, and experts say that a declining Mexican birthrate and other factors may make it permanent."

"Covert Fashion." Attire for the Well-Dressed Gunslinger. Matt Richtel of the New York Times: Woolrich and several clothing companies are selling clothing designed for carrying concealed weapons. Woolrich "has added a second pocket behind the traditional front pocket for a weapon. Or, for those who prefer to pack their gun in a holster, it can be tucked inside the stretchable waistband. The back pockets are also designed to help hide accessories, like a knife and a flashlight."

The Presidential Race

Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "The Liberal Media has consistently given more positive coverage to likely Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney compared to President Barack Obama, according to a new survey of media coverage from the Pew Research Center's Excellence in Journalism Project." ...

... Steve Benen: So much for Romney's claim that "a vast left-wing conspiracy" was out to get him.

Steve Peoples of the AP: "Mitt Romney's roadmap for governing the country is so vague that it has even Republican allies questioning his intentions.... In between heaping criticism on President Barack Obama, Romney spent the primary season sketching a broad conservative vision for leading the country should he win the White House.... But he's offered few detailed prescriptions on a range of the country's most pressing concerns from Social Security to potential military action in Iran. And in some cases where Romney and his aides have been specific, the former Massachusetts governor offers little significant change from the Democratic president he says is killing the American dream."

Evan McMorris-Santoro of TPM: "Mitt Romney appeared to publicly split on Monday with his 'informal' immigration adviser, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, setting up a general election pivot in which Romney potentially turns his back on the far-right anti-immigration sector of the GOP he courted heavily in the primary. At a press conference with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) Monday, Romney said Rubio’s nascent DREAM Act proposal, which offers the children of illegal immigrants a way to remain in the country, should pass muster with conservatives like Kobach. Kobach strongly opposes the DREAM Act on the grounds that it would provide amnesty to law-breakers — but Rubio's proposal differs from Democratic versions of the DREAM Act, which offers a path to citizenship."

I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans. There was some concern that would expire halfway through the year. I support extending the temporarily relief on interest rates...in part because of the extraordinarily poor conditions in the job market. -- Mitt Romney, yesterday, unprompted ...

... It would be popular for me to stand up and say I'm going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that. -- Mitt Romney, to a high school senior, ca. March 5, 2012

... Greg Sargent: "This would seem to put Romney at odds with Congressional Republicans. Obama has launched an all-out push to get Congress to extend a provision of a 2007 law that is set to expire on July 1st -- doubling the interest rate for nearly eight million students each year. Congressional Republicans are expected to oppose it along party lines...." ...

... Andrew Leonard of Salon: "The paint is hardly dry on Romney’s locking up of the GOP nomination, and already he is supporting big government handouts. Next thing you know, he'll be backing universal health care with an individual mandate."

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post on Fox "News" 'Steve Doocy interview of Mitt Romney. "The comical aspect of this entire episode is the fluency of the Doocy-Romney exchange. Even though Doocy grossly misquotes [President] Obama in his question to Romney, the candidate just runs with it." Doocy misquotes President Obama & Romney happily runs with the misquote." ...

... John Dickerson of Slate documents five times in this past when Obama has made this "silver spoon" remark, "long before Romney was the nominee. So has Michelle Obama. So has the press, in referring to the Obamas. "The 'silver spoon' construction is a standard Obama cliche." ...

... Also, Eugene Volokh traces how something Obama didn't say became a "quote": "But one reason Fox News and the New York Post get the big bucks, and have researchers on staff, is precisely so they can check what they say before they say it (especially nowadays, when video and transcripts of original events are so easily available) — even when, and perhaps especially when, the supposed 'facts' are useful to the speaker’s argument." ...

... BUT, the last word goes to Stephen Colbert:

Right Wing World *

Andy Rosenthal: "Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Republicans are not against all tax increases. Rep. Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, thinks poor people might need a tax hike.... There are many things wrong with this nonsense, but I’ll just point out one: Mr. Cantor and other Republicans who push this line have it exactly backwards. The problem is not that so many Americans don't pay taxes. It's that so many Americans are too poor to pay taxes."

Another Obituary for Facts. Robert Reich: "Bill O'Reilly, the tumescent personality of Fox News, said on his Friday show 'Robert Reich is a communist who secretly adores Karl Marx.' ... O'Reilly has no interest in arguing anything. Ad hominem attacks are always the last refuges of intellectual boors lacking any logic or argument. This is what's happening to all debate all over America: It's disappearing. All we're left with is a nasty residue.... A democracy depends on public deliberation and debate.... Hence the danger today -- when deliberation has stopped."

* Where fact, fiction, myth, reality -- it's all the same. -- Akhilleus

Stupid People News

Rachel D'Oro of the AP: "Rocker and gun rights advocate Ted Nugent was expected to plead guilty Tuesday to transporting a black bear he illegally killed in Alaska."

Local News

When Is a Reassessment Not a Reassessment? Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "Gov. Rick Scott has created a task force to review the controversial 'Stand Your Ground' law, the law behind which George Zimmerman hid after shooting and killing unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. He revealed the members of the task force on Thursday, and it should come as no surprise that among the four legislators appointed, two belong to the American Legislative Exchange Council and that all four voted for the law. One of the members, in fact, is state Rep. Dennis Baxley, who authored the law and who has said it doesn't need to be changed." ...

... Pema Levy of TPM: "The [local chapter of the] NAACP revoked an invitation to Florida Rep. Allen West to keynote an event over remarks he made accusing members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus of being communists, reports the TCPalm.... Four days before the event, the NAACP postponed the event and asked West not to attend the rescheduled event set for Sept. 15."

AP: "Social conservatives are objecting to plans by Gonzaga University, a Catholic institution [in Spokane, Washington], to give Archbishop Desmond Tutu an honorary degree when he makes a campus appearance in May. They are objecting because the Nobel laureate's social views contradict Catholic teachings, including support for abortion rights and gay marriage. More than 700 Gonzaga alumni, staff, faculty and students have signed petitions protesting Tutu's campus appearance and the university's plans to give him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree." CW: Archbishop Tutu is an Anglican, not a Roman Catholic. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Desmond Tutu is a genuine hero. He evinced more courage on any particular afternoon of the 1980's than these people collectively have demonstrated in their entire lives and then, when his work for justice was done, he helped put his country back together again.... At my graduation from Marquette in 1975, an honorary degree was given to Elie Wiesel. Strangely, the heretic Jesuits involved never asked him about The Pill."(The comments on Pierce's piece are excellent.)

News Ledes

New York Times: "Allegations of widespread bribery at Wal-Mart''s Mexican subsidiary continued to reverberate on Tuesday, with the company beginning a campaign to limit the damage as its shares declined further. In a statement, Wal-Mart said it had beefed up its internal controls to make sure it was complying with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits American companies from bribing foreign officials to secure business."

Here are the results of today's GOP presidential primaries, compliments of the New York Times. Romney won all five states. ...

... New York Times: "Five-term Representative Tim Holden of Pennsylvania was defeated in a Democratic primary on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, losing to Matt Cartwright, a lawyer, who made Mr. Holden's vote against President Obama's health care law a major issue in the newly redrawn 17th District."

AP: "The first new case of mad cow disease in the U.S. since 2006 has been discovered in a dairy cow in California, but health authorities said Tuesday the animal never was a threat to the nation's food supply. The infected cow, the fourth ever discovered in the U.S., was found as part of an Agriculture Department surveillance program that tests about 40,000 cows a year for the fatal brain disease."

Washington Post: "A former BP drilling engineer was arrested Tuesday on charges of intentionally destroying text messages sought by federal authorities as evidence in the wake of the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, the Justice Department said. The two charges of obstruction of justice filed against Kurt Mix, in the Eastern District of Louisiana, are the first criminal charges connected to the oil spill caused by a blowout on BP’s Macondo well."

ABC News: "Yemen has confirmed that a top member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was killed in a weekend airstrike that U.S. officials say was conducted by the CIA, another sign that the U.S. drone campaign in Yemen is gaining momentum."

The Guardian has a livefeed & liveblog of James Murdoch's testimony before the Leveson Inquiry. ...

... New York Times: "James Murdoch ... appeared on Tuesday before a judicial inquiry into the ethics and behavior of the British press, blaming his subordinates for keeping him ill-informed about the full extent of hacking at newspapers then under his control...." ...

     ... Update. The story's new lede: "The long-running tabloid newspaper scandal that has shaken Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire delivered a new jolt on Tuesday as its powerful and lucrative television operations moved to the center of a British judicial inquiry with disclosures that a senior cabinet minister, or at least an aide claiming to speak for him, worked covertly to help win approval for a $12 billion takeover of the BSkyB network." ...

     ... Guardian Update: "Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, has begged the Leveson inquiry to give him a chance to salvage his reputation after emails released by News Corp appeared to show that Hunt and his office passed confidential and market-sensitive information to the Murdoch empire to support its takeover of BSkyB. Facing calls from the Labour leader Ed Miliband to resign, Hunt urged Lord Justice Leveson to change his hearings timetable and give him a chance to clear his name."

AP: "Mitt Romney is all but certain to sweep Tuesday's five presidential primaries, marking a nearly definitive end to the Republican nomination process. Voters in New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania will cast ballots Tuesday. But Romney won't be in any of those states Tuesday night. Instead, he'll return to New Hampshire, the state where a sweeping primary victory in January set him down the path to the GOP presidential nomination."

Guardian: "California voters will decide in November whether to repeal the death penalty, after activists collected the more than 500,000 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot... The move, which comes as a number of US states reconsider capital punishment, would abolish execution as the maximum sentence in murder convictions and replace it with life imprisonment."

Al Jazeera: "Salva Kiir, the South Sudanese president, has said his northern neighbour Sudan has 'declared war' on his country, as fighter jets from the north reportedly launched more strikes overnight in a border region. Although there has yet to be a formal declaration of war by either of the Sudans, Kiir's comments, made on Tuesday during talks on a visit to China, will likely stoke tension between the rival nations."

Al Jazeera: "Syrian troops have killed dozens of civilians in the city of Hama, activists have said, as UN military observers toured protest centres near the capital Damascus, and both Brussels and Washington imposed new sanctions."

Reuters: "Facebook Inc reported its first quarter-to-quarter revenue slide in at least two years, a sign that the social network's sizzling growth may be cooling as it prepares to go public in the biggest ever Internet IPO. The company blamed the first-quarter decline, which surprised some on Wall Street, on seasonal advertising trends."

Reuters: "The campaign aide who wrote a tell-all book about efforts to keep former Senator John Edwards' extramarital affair concealed during his 2008 presidential bid was expected to return to the stand Tuesday to testify against his former boss. Andrew Young is the federal government's key witness in the criminal campaign finance case against Edwards...." The Raleigh, North Carolina, News & Observer has a page dedicated to Edwards stories. ...

     New York Times Update: "The star prosecution witness in the corruption trial of former Senator John Edwards on Tuesday testified about elaborate efforts by Mr. Edwards to try to conceal an extramarital affair from his family, his campaign staff and reporters."

Reuters: Anders Behring Breivik, "the Norwegian who massacred 77 people to protest against Muslim immigration to Europe, said on Monday he had hoped to kill as many as 150 and kept on killing because police failed to respond urgently to his phone call."

Al Jazeera: "Israel has approved three settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank, the office of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said in a statement [late Monday].... Condemning the decision, Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said 'Netanyahu has pushed things to a dead end yet again'."

AP: "Wherever George Zimmerman went after he was released on bond from a Florida jail, a sensitive GPS device will pinpoint his location for authorities and alert them if he drifts even a few feet away from where he is allowed."

Sunday
Apr222012

The Commentariat -- April 23, 2012

No column from me today in the New York Times eXaminer. But this post by Peter Hart on how the New York Times has again bungled its reporting on the Keystone XL pipeline is short & to-the-point.

** R.I.P. Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune: "To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet. Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of theU.S. House of Representatives are communists.... Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion." Thanks to contributor Ken W. for the link.

"The Amnesia Candidacy." Paul Krugman: President Obama could have done a better job on the economy, but the Bush economy was a disaster, and Romney wants to go back to Bush policies. He just hopes the public will forget how bad they were. In a related blogpost, Krugman charts jobs losses under Bush & Obama. The blue columns are Bush job losses:

CW: Apparently I steered you wrong last week when I linked to an op-ed by former FDIC chair Sheila Bair in the Washington Post. Bair mocked the Fed's "gifts" to banks & suggested they offer the same generous "gifts"/loans to the rest of us. But Joe Weisenthal of the Business Insider writes that Bair is perpetuating a myth (and should know better): "In theory, the pro-inflation camp is the populist one, since a policy of inflation means borrowers see their burdens eased, and those with assets see the holdings devalued. But somehow people keep pushing the idea that it's the opposite, and that its the finance world screaming for higher rates, and that everyone else would benefit with tighter policy and more deflation. It's a very odd myth." ...

... How do I know Weisenthal is right & Bair is wrong? Because Krugman says so: "Quantitative easing isn't being imposed on an unwitting populace by financiers and rentiers; it's being undertaken, to the extent that it is, over howls of protest from the financial industry." ...

... On point: Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "... as [Fed Chair Ben] Bernanke prepares to meet the press for the fifth time Wednesday afternoon, after a scheduled meeting of the Fed’s policy-making committee on Tuesday and Wednesday, there are reasons to doubt that the efforts are increasing public understanding of monetary policy."

Alex Pareene of Salon: "The crumbling of once-great institutions isn't to blame for middle-class decline and anger. Politicians are." CW: This short post on the real causes of problems in Real America is pitch-perfect.

Dahlia Lithwick & Jan Rodak in Slate: "Dodging real-world explanations for the state of the economy and high unemployment, conservatives are now attempting a backdoor campaign to chase women out of the workplace and into their proper roles as homemakers. How else to explain increasing moves toward repealing wage-discrimination laws, rollbacks on mandatory parental leave laws, and making it all-but impossible for poor women who work to choose when to bear children?"

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Medicare is wasting more than $8 billion on an experimental program that rewards providers of mediocre health care and is unlikely to produce useful results, federal investigators say in a new report ... to be issued Monday by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress." The GAO "urges the Obama administration to cancel the program, which pays bonuses to health insurance companies caring for millions of Medicare beneficiaries. Administration officials, however, defended the project...."

Larry Siems, who edits the Torture Report, in Slate: "I read nearly 140,000 formerly classified documents about America's abuse of prisoners since 2001. Here is what I learned.... Our highest government officials, up to and including President Bush, broke international and U.S. laws banning torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Worse, they made their subordinates in the military and civilian intelligence services break those laws for them. When the men and women they asked to break those laws protested, knowing they could be prosecuted for torture, they pretended to rewrite the law."

CW: This article by Philip Gourevitch for the New Yorker, first published in the magazine last December & made available on line this week, on Nicolas Sarkozy, looks to be interesting, tho I've only just skimmed it. Here's a quote, which is supposed to show how gauche Sarkozy is but which I like:

You've lost a good opportunity to shut up. -- Nicolas Sarkozy to British PM David Cameron, in response to something Camerson said in an E.U. meeting

... Also not yet read, this article by Nicholas Lemann of the New Yorker, briefly reviewing a number of recent books about the politics of inequality.

Brendan Sasso of The Hill: "The House is set to vote on a host of cybersecurity bills next week, but the fate of the legislation rests in the Senate. The House is expected to approve the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would tear down legal barriers that discourage companies from sharing data about cyber attacks.... But the White House and Senate Democrats argue CISPA is inadequate." ...

... Scott Lemieux in Salon: "Congress is seriously considering a bill called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Intended to allow information sharing both between corporations and between corporations and the government, it presents serious dangers to individual privacy."

The Presidential Race

** Frank Rich of New York magazine: "If you want to appreciate what Barack Obama is up against in 2012, forget about the front man who is his nominal opponent and look instead at the Republican billionaires buying the ammunition for the battles ahead.... Whatever else happens in 2012, it will go down as the Year of the Sugar Daddy. Inflamed by Obama-hatred, awash in self-pity, and empowered by myriad indulgent court and Federal Election Commission rulings, an outsize posse of superrich white men will spend whatever it takes to have its way with the body politic and, if victorious, with the country itself."

Alex Pareene plugs his new e-book, The Rude Guide to Mitt. In this excerpt, Pareene writes about Willard's weirdness.

Kasie Hunt of the AP: Mitt Romney wants you to know that his grandfather went broke a few times. CW: which means Mitt knows what it's like to be poor with no prospects.

Right Wing World *

Dashiell Bennett of The Atlantic: Over the past few days, former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has been making comments that represent "a repudiation of what [the Republican party has] become in the last several years. He's basically saying that their best candidates are worthless, the American people don't trust them, and they treat anyone who doesn't toe the party line the same way 'they do in China on party matters.'" ...

... Here's the BuzzFeed article by Zeke Miller, reporting on Huntsman's remarks at the 92nd Street Y.

David Sirota, writing in Salon, finds evidence that younger evangelicals are less committed than their Tea Party elders to anti-Christian, right-wing policies policies.

* Where science is just another cracked pot. -- Akhilleus

News Ledes

Orlando Sentinel: "Sanford city commissioners voted 3-2 to reject Police Chief Bill Lee's resignation over the controversial Trayvon Martin investigation."

New York Times: "Wal-Mart's stock fell almost 5 percent on Monday, accounting for about one-fifth of the losses in the Dow Jones industrial average, as investors reacted to a bribery scandal at the retailer's Mexican subsidiary and a report that an internal investigation was quashed at corporate headquarters in Arkansas." ...

... Washington Post: "The Justice Department has been conducting a criminal probe of Wal-Mart for allegations of systematic bribery in Mexico, according to three people familiar with the matter."

Washington Post: "Senate Democrats are making plans to force a floor vote on legislation that would invalidate Arizona's controversialimmigration statute if the Supreme Court upholds the law this summer."

ABC News: "Today, during the opening statements of his trial in Greensboro, N.C., two-time presidential candidate John Edwards was accused of using illegal campaign contributions during the 2008 presidential race to cover up his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, a videographer for the campaign." The Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer has a full page of links on the Edwards trial.

Washington Post: "President Obama will issue an executive order Monday that will allow U.S. officials for the first time to impose sanctions against foreign nationals found to have used new technologies, from cellphone tracking to Internet monitoring, to help carry out grave human rights abuses.... Authoritarian governments, particularly in Syria and Iran, have shown that their security services can also harness technology to help crack down on dissent -- by conducting surveillance, blocking access to the Internet or tracking the movements of opposition figures."

AP: "George Zimmerman was released around midnight Sunday from a county jail on $150,000 bail as he awaits his second-degree murder trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin."

New York Times: Anders Behring Breivik,"the self-described anti-Islamic militant who has admitted killing 77 people in a bombing and shooting spree last July, told bereaved families on Monday that he had also lost his family and friends as a result of the massacre."

Saturday
Apr212012

The Commentariat -- April 22, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Tom Friedman's little effort for the day. Friedman predicts the end of America, but I find Friedman himself more depressing than his prophecy. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

... AND read Jason Linkins on Krugman-Friedman/Brooks, including the "See also" link at the end of Linkins' post. Funny.

Mike McIntire of the New York Times outs ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) & its corporate interests and Repubican legislatives members: "Most of the attention has focused on ALEC’s role in creating model bills, drafted by lobbyists and lawmakers, that broadly advance a pro-business, socially conservative agenda. But a review of internal ALEC documents shows that this is only one facet of a sophisticated operation for shaping public policy at a state-by-state level. The records offer a glimpse of how special interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues like school vouchers and tobacco taxes." Common Cause has filed an IRS "complaint asserting that ALEC has abused its tax-exempt status...." CW: this is a good example of liberal groups and bloggers driving an MSM story.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court will conclude one of its most significant and controversial terms in decades by taking on one more issue that has divided the nation: Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants. The court's final oral argument on Wednesday -- Arizona v. United States -- provides yet another chance for the justices to confront fundamental questions about the power of the federal government."

Kim Severson of the New York Times: "John Edwards ... will face a federal jury on Monday.... The government's case is simple: Mr. Edwards knowingly accepted the money from two wealthy donors and used it to keep information [his affair & the child he had with his mistress] from the public that would have surely torpedoed his presidential campaign. Thus, the money was a campaign contribution and its use a conspiracy.... Mr. Edwards's legal team rejects that argument entirely...."

David Barstow of the New York Times: When U.S. Wal-Mart executives found out Wal-Mart de Mexico was involved in a huge bribery campaign, they hushed it up. "Neither American nor Mexican law enforcement officials were notified. None of Wal-Mart de Mexico's leaders were disciplined. Indeed, its chief executive, Eduardo Castro-Wright, identified by the former executive as the driving force behind years of bribery, was promoted to vice chairman of Wal-Mart in 2008."

Nicholas Confessore & Derek Willis of the New York Times: "President Obama's re-election campaign is straining to raise the huge sums it is counting on..., with sharp dropoffs in donations from nearly every major industry forcing it to rely more than ever on small contributions and a relative handful of major donors."

Right Wing World *

"This Campaign Was the Time of My Life" (This is a week old, but it's aged well):

Reid Epstein of Politico: Mitt plays the victim card, and it works.

CW: this is a little old, but perfect Sunday listening. Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of the Catholic diocese of Peoria, Illinois, likened President Obama to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, along with past French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau and German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, [last] Sunday while condemning Obama's 'radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda.' He said that Catholics in America are in a 'war' as a result of the administration's mandate for religiously-based institutions to cover contraceptives, and compared politicians who back the mandate to Judas Iscariot." With audio. ...

... Steve Benen writes, "... the bishop concluded his harangue about his hatred for the president by giving the congregation voting instructions.... In a complaint to the IRS, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn explained it's 'impossible to interpret' Jenky's voting instructions as 'anything but a command to vote against Obama.' Since the church is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status if it tells parishioners who to vote for, the Hitler comparison in the bishop's partisan rant may end up being the least of his troubles."

* Where Savonarola still rules. -- Akhilleus

News Ledes

AP: "An audio recording has surfaced of an Arizona sheriff [Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County] playing his refusal to cooperate in a racial profiling investigation for laughs at a fundraiser for an anti-illegal immigration group in Texas. He ridicules politicians who sought the probe and displayed contempt toward federal authorities who were -- and are still -- investigating him on two fronts."

Guardian: "The UN is to conduct an investigation into the plight of US Native Americans, the first such mission in its history. The human rights inquiry led by James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples, is scheduled to begin on Monday."

BBC News: "US and Afghan negotiators have finalised a partnership agreement for the US role in Afghanistan after its forces withdraw at the end of 2014. The draft agreement on their long-term relationship was signed in the Afghan capital Kabul after months of talks. No details were released, with the deal to be reviewed by both presidents." ...

     ... Update: New York Times story here.

Reuters: "French voters headed to the polls on Sunday in round one of a presidential ballot, with economic despair on course to make Nicolas Sarkozy the first president to lose a fight for re-election in more than 30 years." ...

     ... BBC News Update: "French Socialist Francois Hollande has won most votes in the first round of the country's presidential election, estimates show. They suggest he got more than 28% of votes against about 26% for centre-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. The two men will face each other in a second round on 6 May."