The Ledes

Thursday, March 5, 2015.

New York Times: "Cardinal Edward M. Egan, a stern defender of Roman Catholic orthodoxy who presided over the Archdiocese of New York for nine years in an era of troubled finances, changing demographics and a priesthood of dwindling, aging ranks shaken by sexual-abuse scandals, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 82."

NBC News: "The Supreme Court has set April 28 as the date for historic arguments on gay marriage."

AP: "On the first day of testimony Wednesday in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whose lawyer admitted he committed the crime, three women who suffered severe injuries described their memories of the blasts, their wounds and the terror they felt."

NBC News: "'We are very close [to reaching a nuclear agreement] if the political decision can be made to get to yes, as President Obama said,' [Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif] said. The minister spoke a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared before the U.S. Congress, warning against a deal, which he said 'paves Iran's path to the bomb.'"

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, March 4, 2015.

AP: "Mark Lippert, the US ambassador to South Korea, has been slashed on the face and wrist by a man armed with a razor and screaming that the two Koreas should be unified. Pictures showed a stunned-looking Lippert staring at his blood-covered left hand and holding his right hand over a cut on the right side of his face, his pink tie splattered with blood."

Boston Globe: "The trial of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev" begins today.

Public Service Announcement

The Hill: "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden on Sunday [Feb. 1] warned that the U.S. could see a 'large outbreak' of measles.... There are at least 102 reported cases in 14 states, according to the CDC. Frieden said that the U.S. is 'likely to see more cases.'... The said the best way to prevent the spread of measles was vaccination.Frieden said despite the U.S.'s 92 percent vaccination rate, there is growing evidence more parents are not vaccinating their children."

Get Off Your Ass! Los Angeles Times (Jan. 19): "New research that distills the findings of 47 studies concludes that those of us who sit for long hours raise our average risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death."

White House Live Video
March 5

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Way Cheaper Wi-Fi? Will Oremus of Slate: "Google isn’t talking details yet, but ...what it has in mind, according to industry rumors and sources, is something like what FreedomPop and Republic Wireless are already offering: a 'Wi-Fi first' service that could deliver adequate, if slightly spotty, coverage at a fraction of the prevailing cost. And that coverage is likely to get much better over time."

Woodwording Plagiarism?? Washington Post: "There’s no doubt that the first season finale of Ellen DeGeneres’s reality competition show was bizarre. But the questions it raises are even stranger, along with the weird and frustrating way the network chose to handle a controversial situation."

Adam Goodheart of the Atlantic reviews a book by historian Eric Foner that sheds new light on the Underground Railway that helped Southern black Americans escapes slavery, even though the participants were violating federal law -- openly, too: "It is a little-known historical irony that right up until the eve of Southern secession in 1860, states’ rights were invoked as often by Northern abolitionists as by Southern slaveholders."

CW: How I'll Spend My Weekend. Season 3 of "House of Cards" is up on Netflix now:

Deadline: ESPN suspends Keith Olbermann for engaging in an "inappropriate" "Twitter War" with some Penn State students. ...

... CW: Hard to believe something like this hasn't happened sooner.

Buzz Aldrin during a spacewalk, November 1966. Last year Aldrin described the photo as the "BEST SELFIE EVER." CW: I'd say he's right.

New York Times: "Hundreds of photographs from the early years of the space age are for sale. That includes the first image taken from space — from an altitude of 65 miles by a camera on a V-2 rocket launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on Oct. 24, 1946. (The boundary to outer space is generally placed at 100 kilometers, or 62.1 miles.) The prints are vintage — dating from that era, not modern reproductions — and come from the collection of a single European collector, said Sarah Wheeler, head of photographs at Bloomsbury Auctions in London."

** Charles Pierce comments on wingers' Twitter reactions to the Oscars.

Actor Patricia Arquette accepts her Academy Award & calls for women's wage equality:

... Which sparked outrage on the right. And dismay on the left.

#OscarsSoWhite. Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Sunday was a study in contradictions; there was overwhelming emphasis on the visibility of black people in Hollywood, yet their peers hadn’t deemed their work fit for nomination in any of the major individual categories."

Common & John Legend accept the award for the song "Glory" from the film "Selma":

The Los Angeles Times' Academy Awards page is here. The main story is here. The list of winners is here.

Los Angeles Times: "A Palm Springs home built using Joseph Eichler’s original blueprints is under contract to sell for $1.29 million. The newly built Modernist design, considered the first true Eichler home developed in 40 years, came to market on Tuesday. According to real estate brokers and developers Troy Kudlac and Ross Stout of KUD Properties Inc., which handled the listing side, it sold that day for the asking price." With slideshow.

If you just can't get enough of the Academy Awards, the L. A. Times has a guide to Oscar-related TV shows. If you want to watch the Oscars online, here's where & how.

D. R. Tucker in the Washington Monthly: "... give [Jon] Stewart his props for the positive things he has done over the years. He has inspired a new generation of commentators who will continue to call out political perversity and media mendacity. However, the man was not without his flaws — and the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was a gigantic one. As Olbermann, Maher and Maddow have long argued, sanity has to defeat fear, not figure out some way to get along with it."

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Thursday
Nov292012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 30, 2012

"So is that office you're renting from Tagg as nice as this one?" CLICK PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE. Is that David Plouffe there in the private dining room? And what's that in his hand? A blackjack? And what about those boxing gloves on the sideboard? -- a reminder for the history books -- and for the Loser guest -- of who knocked out whom? CLICK TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner presented the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a detailed proposal on Thursday to avert the year-end fiscal crisis with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, $50 billion in immediate stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and a permanent end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits. The proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, met strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced the goal of finding $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other social programs to be worked out next year, with no guarantees." ...

... Lori Montgomery & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "President Obama demanded Thursday that Congress relinquish control over federal debt levels and approve at least $50 billion in fresh spending to boost the economy next year as part of a deal to avert the year-end fiscal cliff, senior Republican aides said." ...

... David Dayen of Firedoglake: "In the context of doing a deficit reduction deal at all, this is an extremely strong bid that Tim Geithner delivered to John Boehner today. Now we know why Boehner whined and cried* all afternoon." Dayen does a nice job of summarizing the key elements of the offer. ...

     * Daniel Newhauser of Roll Call: "Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Republican leaders are fuming after a late night phone call with President Barack Obama was leaked to the press, despite an agreement that it would not be, according to several GOP aides.... White House aides, however, denied that the leak came from the administration." ...

... Jake Sherman & Manu Raju of Politico: "After meeting with Geithner, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid said Democrats are still waiting for a 'serious offer' from the Republicans, urging them to move past 'happy talk' and deliver specifics on how the government would boost revenues and make spending cuts." ...

... Ezra Klein: Republicans want Medicare cuts, but since any Medicare 'reform' -- particularly the voucher system Republicans want -- will be unpopular, they "insist that the Obama administration needs to be the one to propose Medicare cuts.... Democrats find this flatly ridiculous: Given that the Obama administration would happily raise taxes without cutting Medicare.... It falls on the Republicans to name their price. But behind their negotiating posture is a troubling policy reality: They don’t know what that price is." ...

... Klein again: "Obama is ... very serious about not negotiating with himself, and his opening bid proves it. Now that [House Republicans] have leaked his initial offer, the next question is obvious: What's their offer?"

... Paul Krugman: "The same people who bet big on Mr. Romney, and lost, are now trying to win by stealth -- in the name of fiscal responsibility -- the ground they failed to gain in an open election.... Consider, as a prime example, the push to raise the retirement age, the age of eligibility for Medicare, or both.... Any proposal to avoid a rate increase is, whatever its proponents may say, a proposal that we let the 1 percent off the hook and shift the burden, one way or another, to the middle class or the poor.... So keep your eyes open as the fiscal game of chicken continues." ...

... Gene Sperling & Jason Furman on the White House blog: "Some [liars & boneheads] have suggested that limits on high-income tax expenditures could substitute for rate increases and that it would be possible to raise $1 trillion or more while keeping the top income tax rate at 35 percent. But a careful look at the math of these types of caps and limits shows that ... plausible limits raise only a fraction of the $1 trillion or more some have suggested." ...

... Here's another "explainer" -- Josh Kalven of the Huffington Post. This series of graphics is simple & comprehensive enough for the kids to understand. Thanks to Julie L. for the link:

Binyamin Appelbaum & Robert Gebeloff of the New York Times: "... most Americans in 2010 paid far less in total taxes -- federal, state and local — than they would have paid 30 years ago.... Households earning more than $200,000 benefited from the largest percentage declines in total taxation as a share of income. Middle-income households benefited, too.... Lower-income households, however, saved little or nothing." There are interactive graphics here. CW: the authors discuss the "feelings" people have that they're paying more in taxes than the used to. But likely they "feel" this way because most earn significant less in gross income (in adjusted dollars) than they would have earned 30 years ago. Holding wages down is a great way to get people to grouse about taxes. Seriously, it is all a GOP plot. ...

... Annemarie Fertoli of WNYC: "Workers at dozens of fast food restaurants in New York City walked off the job to rally for higher wages and the right to unionize. The nation-wide campaign for unionizing fast food workers is being called the biggest such effort in the United States and will involve workers from McDonalds, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Domino's and other fast food restaurants in New York." with audio. ...

... Here's some background, written before the strike by Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times. ...

... Penelope Green of the New York Times: "Multigenerational living, a throwback to the past, is a growing trend in the struggling economy, and major homebuilders are designing flexible layouts.... In fact, architectural historians, statisticians and builders themselves are pointing out that the new household -- and the house that can hold it -- is much like the old household, the one that was cast aside after World War II by the building boom that focused on small, tidy dwellings for mom, dad and their two children."

"A Liberal Moment." Tim Egan: "... here it is: a chance to shore up a battered middle class, make the promise of health care expansion work and do something about a planet in peril. Huge tasks, of course, and fraught with risk. For now, the majority of Americans have Obama's back. But should he fail, the same majority could become something much worse -- a confederacy of cynics."

Elizabeth Drew in the New York Review of Books: "The long lines [of voters] were the symbol of the 2012 election -- at once awe-inspiring and enraging.... Small-minded men, placing their partisan interests over those of the citizenry, concocted schemes to subvert the natural workings of our most solemn and exhilarating exercise as a self-governing nation." Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the heads-up.

Dave Weigel of Slate: "Shortly after 5 p.m. [Thursday], John Boehner's office released a statement pre-condemning a change to the filibuster. The key threat: 'Any bill that reaches a Republican-led House based on Senate Democrats' heavy-handed power play would be dead on arrival.'" CW: aw shucks, Boner, not even a Post Office-naming? P.S. MYOB. ...

... Weigel on why the filibuster changes might actually happen: "Democratic aides describe a small number of connected changes, which could be voted through on Jan. 3, the day the new Senate convenes. Only 51 votes are needed to set Senate rules at the start of the year. After that, it would take 67 votes." Democrats will have 53 seats, and two independents who've announced they'll caucus with them. ...

... BUT. Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may be short on votes he needs to force changes to the Senate's filibuster rules, as nine Democratic senators sit on the fence about the proposed reforms. In addition, Sen.-elect Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) did not commit during the campaign to reforming the filibuster rules, which brings the total number of undecided Democrats who will vote on the issue next year to 10." The other nine potential Democratic balkers (more or less in order of balkiness) are Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), John Kerry (Mass.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) & Bill Nelson (Fla.). CW: If any of these are your Senators, call 'em or write 'em.

** Remembrances of Yellow Cake. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham … continued to pledge to block [Susan Rice's] nomination should she be appointed Secretary of State, with Senator McCain accusing Rice of deliberately 'misleading the American people.' Graham [said] her appearances on Sunday shows were 'disconnected from reality.' The episode, however, has clear echoes of McCain's and Graham's own moments of relaying bad intelligence on Sunday shows based on an inaccurate conclusion from the intelligence community. In the 2003 lead-up to the Iraq War, McCain and Graham made appearances on Sunday talks shows such as Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, and Face the Nation where they made the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and would not hesitate to use them." ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times catches on to Republicans' sudden love for Sen. John Kerry: "The Kerry boomlet adds another level of intrigue to the uproar surrounding [Susan] Rice and has real implications for the balance of power on Capitol Hill. If Mr. Kerry were nominated and confirmed, it could open the door to a return via special election of Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who was defeated this month by Elizabeth Warren. A Brown victory -- which is far from certain -- could cut the Democratic margin by one and restore to office a man who was popular with his Republican colleagues."

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker on Bradley Manning's confinement "inside this cage."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker on British PM David Cameron -- "the latest embodiment of a time-honored tradition in which British governments of the day seek to curry favor with Fleet Street's press barons."

News Ledes

Reuters: "President Barack Obama, reapplying his re-election campaign theme of protecting the middle class, heads to Pennsylvania on Friday suggesting that Republicans could spoil Christmas by driving the country over the 'fiscal cliff.' The president's road trip, visiting a factory that makes Tinkertoys, is infuriating Republicans, with House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner calling it a 'victory lap' Thursday as he rejected Obama's proposals to avoid the cliff...."

New York Times: "Racing against the threat of dissolution by judges appointed by ousted President Hosni Mubarak, and ignoring howls of protest from secular opponents, the Islamists drafting Egypt's new constitution voted Friday to approve a charter that human rights groups and international experts said was full of holes and ambiguities." Al Jazeera story, with video, is here. ...

... Reuters: "Thousands of Egyptians protested against President Mohamed Mursi on Friday after an Islamist-led assembly raced through approval of a new constitution in a bid to end a crisis over the Islamist leader's newly expanded powers. 'The people want to bring down the regime,' they chanted in Tahrir Square, echoing the chants that rang out in the same place less than two years ago and brought down Hosni Mubarak."

Washington Post: "Mexico's attorney general has compiled a list showing that more than 25,000 adults and children have gone missing in Mexico in the past six years, according to unpublished government documents. The data sets, submitted by state prosecutors and vetted by the federal government but never released to the public, chronicle the disappearance of tens of thousands of people in the chaos and violence that have enveloped Mexico during its fight against drug mafias and crime gangs."

Al Jazeera: "Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has criticised the forcible crackdown on protesters at a mine in the country's northwest that has left dozens injured, including Buddhist monks."

Reuters: "The ... U.S. Supreme Court [is] widely expected to decide in a private meeting on Friday to enter the legal fray raging over same-sex marriage. An announcement to take a case could come as early as Friday afternoon or Monday morning."

Washington Post: "Syria's civil war went off­line Thursday as millions of people tracking the conflict over YouTube, Facebook and other high-tech services found themselves struggling against an unnerving national shutdown of the Internet."

New York Times: "Lawmakers in Germany's lower house of Parliament easily passed the next round of financial support for Greece on Friday, despite growing doubt among members of Chancellor Angela Merkel';s coalition and opposition parties that the measures will be sufficient to resolve the Greek problem."

New York Times: "The head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, predicted on Friday that the euro zone economy would begin to recover in the latter part of next year, his confidence contrasting sharply with an official report showing that unemployment in the 17-nation bloc continues to set new records."

Guardian: "A Chinese court has jailed the nephew of the activist Chen Guangcheng for assaulting officials who forced their way into his home after his uncle fled house arrest. Human rights campaigners and lawyers immediately condemned his conviction, which followed a snap trial on Friday, with one supporter describing the case as a 'judicial farce'."

AP: "... lawyers for [former IMF chief Dominique] Strauss-Kahn and the housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, made the as-yet-unsigned [settlement] agreement within recent days, with Bronx Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon facilitating that and a separate agreement to end another lawsuit Diallo filed against the New York Post. A court date is expected next week, though the day wasn't set...."

Wednesday
Nov282012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 29, 2012

I had a request to tackle Friedman or MoDo yesterday, but their columns were so stupid that I decided to hit one that was more important -- a front-page piece by Jackie Calmes who treats Erskine Bowles & Alan Simpson as a couple of good-hearted, fun-loving old pranksters. ...

... Charles Pierce goes at Simpson & Bowles directly & mentions the Calmes piece only in passing. As ever, Pierce gets it right: "Everything that's wrong with how we are currently discussing the country's economic situation can be summed up in two words — Simpson-Bowles."

It was deeply irresponsible in the summer of 2011, and it would be deeply irresponsible if we were to see that kind of approach taken again.... The president absolutely expects congress to do its job. One of the jobs that Congress has it to make sure that the United States government pays its bill. As the greatest economy and greatest country on earth, we pay our bills.... The harm done was done mostly to the American middle class – we had our economy downgraded, we had consumer confidence plunge, all because of this brinksmanship that is entirely inappropriate. We hope we won't see that again. – Jay Carney, at today's press briefing, in response to Speaker John Boehner's remark that any agreement from Republicans to raise the debt limit would come with “a price tag attached”

** Romney, Middle-Class President! CW: I keep forgetting to run this. Stuart Stevens, Romney's chief campaign strategist, wrote an op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post boasting about the great job he did: "On Nov. 6, Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters. While John McCain lost white voters younger than 30 by 10 points, Romney won those voters by seven points, a 17-point shift. Obama received 4½million fewer voters in 2012 than 2008, and Romney got more votes than McCain." That's right, folks. If it weren't for you 47 percenter-moochers, the world would be right (in both senses of the word) & Mitt Romney would not just be visiting the White House today; he & Lady Ann would be measuring the drapes. ...

... Oh for effs sake. I just read the Stu Stevens piece and my BRAIN IS BURNING WITH FIRE. -- Rick Wilson, GOP strategist ...

... Kevin Robillard & Katie Glueck of Politico: "Stuart Stevens re-emergence this week after Mitt Romney’s trouncing on Nov. 6 has served to rekindle the longstanding gripes about the Republican strategist from many in the GOP who feared from the get-go that he was the wrong person for the job of electing a new president."

In anticipation of President Obama's Lunch Date with a Loser today, Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico writes about past presidents' interactions with their rivals for the job. ...

     ... Update. David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney met with President Obama at the White House on Thursday for what aides had previously described as a private, one-on-one lunch in the president’s private dining room." CW: President Obama had his usual lunch of salad and yoghurt. The White House chef prepared a main course of crow for the Loser, with a huge slice of humble pie for dessert. The President personally wrapped the leftovers to be enjoyed by the Loser's large family of Little Losers.

... Loser Dad Forced to Move in with Son. Steve Peoples of the AP: "Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is moving into office space at his son’s Boston-area venture capital firm."

President Obama made remarks Wednesday before a full Cabinet meeting:

Finally, somebody speaks actual truth to power. Matt Yglesias of Salon: "The grand bargain is impossible because it’s not possible for today’s Congress to bind the hands of future congresses." Now everybody STFU.

CW: BTW, pundits will be spending the next month predicting who will do what in the tax talks. I predict I will mostly ignore all but the most significant or most ridiculous stuff.

2011 Is So Over. Steve Kornacki: "Barack Obama made a giant mistake with the debt ceiling two years ago -- but he's clearly learned from it." This time he won't allow the GOP to decouple the debt ceiling deal from the rest of the tax package.  CW: what's weird is that it was obvious way before the summer of 2011 that Republicans would block everything Obama wanted to do because -- Republicans had blocked everything Obama wanted to do. Why did it take the debt ceiling crisis to convince him? ...

... A $19 Billion Tea Party Extravaganza -- on Your Tab. Bonnie Kavoussi of the Huff Post: "Last summer's seemingly interminable debt-ceiling battle is going to cost taxpayers billions, according to a new report. All told, the political fiasco will cost taxpayers $18.9 billion over 10 years, the Bipartisan Policy Center has found. That's largely the result of the government having to borrow at higher interest rates during the standoff, a time when investors feared the possibility of a default." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

The President has said many times that the American people are demanding action. They want to see progress, not partisan delay games. That hasn't changed, and the President supports Majority Leader Reid's efforts to reform the filibuster process. Over the past few years important pieces of legislation like the DREAM Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and the American Jobs Act weren't even allowed to be debated, and judicial nominations and key members of the administration are routinely forced to wait months for an up-or-down vote. The American people deserve a United States Senate that puts them first, instead of partisan delay. -- Dan Pfeiffer, White House Communications Director ...

... Gail Collins muses on Republican outrage at Harry Reid's planned tweaks to the filibuster.

Jared Bernstein on Medicare cuts: "... now’s the time to watch and evaluate, not to reduce access to what is a highly efficient, effective form of health coverage for the nation’s seniors." He explains why. ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic concurs: "The advocates for deep entitlement reductions don’t seem to realize that the people on Medicare and Medicaid need the protection those programs provide — and that, without those programs, they’d suffer. Given the very significant chance we can reduce health care spending without reducing benefits, we have an obligation to try. It’s the compassionate thing to do. And the smart thing, too."

Charles Pierce finds something about Susan Rice actually worth some inquiry -- she owns between $300K & $600K of TransCanada & other Canadian oil company stock invested in the Keystone XL pipeline project. As Secretary of State, Rice would determine whether or not to approve the pipeline permit. As Pierce writes, "as something to consider in advance of her nomination, this certainly seems more worthy of inquiry than whatever bats are flying out of McCain's ears these days." ...

... NEW. Scott Shane writes a very good piece in the New York Times on the nonsense over the talking points intelligence agencies gave Susan Rice, a political brouhaha that may also take in CIA Acting Director Michael Morrell, who approved an erroneous phrase in the talking points.

Too Big to Remember. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone reads a deposition of former Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan: "... the just-released Moynihan deposition in MBIA v. Bank of America, Countrywide, and a Buttload of Other Shameless Mortgage Fraudsters will go down as one of the great Nixonian-stonewalling efforts ever, and one of the more entertaining reads of the year.... The entire time, the Bank of America CEO presents himself as a Being There-esque cipher who was placed in charge of a Too-Big-To-Fail global banking giant by some kind of historical accident beyond his control, and appears to know little to nothing at all about the business he is running."

the just-released Moynihan deposition in MBIA v. Bank of America, Countrywide, and a Buttload of Other Shameless Mortgage Fraudsters will go down as one of the great Nixonian-stonewalling efforts ever, and one of the more entertaining reads of the year.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/no-evidence-he-was-stoned-but-bank-of-america-ceo-brian-moynihan-apparently-doesn-t-remember-much-of-the-last-four-years-20121127#ixzz2DcH8ycPI
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Right Wing World

The really nice thing about Right Wing World is that you don't have to wonder what the guy on the other end of the phone looks like. You pretty much know. Because, yes indeed, in Right Wing World, everybody looks alike. Here's Rachel Maddow's Clip 'n Save:

James Hohmann of Politico: speaking of diversity & reaching out to Latinos, blacks & women, Virginia Republicans are settling on State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as their nominee for governor, the winger who "spearheaded a lawsuit against Obamacare," has been nutso on immigration, is rabid on environmental regulation and is, as Charles Pierce writes, "a lifelong transvaginalist." ...

... Oh, Carry Me Back to Old Virginny. CW: Cuccinelli should be popular with black voters, too. When he realized the Virginia state seal depicted the goddess Virtus with a bare breast (oh, no!), Cuccinelli drew up his very own personal seal based on the center of the Confederate flag. Okay. Virginian Julian Walker asked in The Richmonder, "Does the current Republican Party of Virginia do anything without first asking 'What would Jefferson Davis do?'"

Tuesday
Nov272012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 28, 2012

NEW. Bryon Tau of Politico: "President Barack Obama will host Mitt Romney at the White House on Thursday for their first meeting since the election. 'Romney will have a private lunch at the White House with President Obama in the Private Dining Room,' White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement."

Jake Sherman of Politico: "After a day of meetings closed to the public, the House Republican Steering Committee announced an all-male slate of committee chairs.... The chairs for the House Ethics Committee and House Administration Committee have yet to be chosen.... Rep. Paul Ryan was the only lawmaker to obtain a waiver to bypass House GOP rules to remain as a chairman for a fourth term. He will lead the Budget Committee again. House Democrats are likely to have five women as ranking members committees." CW: make that all white men. I'm not sure, but I think that's all Christian white men. Hallelujah, brothers. You look just like America. If about 4/5ths of us would self-deport.

Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "For a second straight day Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opened the chamber by engaging in a nearly hour-long feud over Reid's emerging proposal to eliminate some filibusters.... Reid's proposal, which he has only sketched out briefly in public, would eliminate the filibuster vote that is needed to formally begin debate on legislation. He would allow for a final filibuster vote, thus making the chamber run more efficiently.... A still-undefined portion of his proposal would mandate that if legislation does not get the required 60 votes to end filibusters, the 40-something senators in the minority would have to maintain a 'talking filibuster' akin to the version of the 1939 classic 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.'" ...

... Greg Sargent: "... what really matters is that Reid stepped way out on a limb in the direction of exercising that nuclear option"; that is, changing the rules by majority vote. "Reid lambasted McConnell for a newly unearthed quote from 2005 in which McConnell endorsed -- in principle -- the [nuclear option].... What happened today is that Reid, in effect, put his finger on the nuke button. It's hard to see how he pulls back now." ...

... CW: Remember that Reid opposed filibuster reform in 2010, perhaps because he believed the convention wisdom that Democrats would lose their Senate majority in 2012. What a difference an election makes. Thank you, Sen. Patty Murray. ...

... Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: "Mitch McConnell has a theory of why there are so many cloture petitions these days. It's ... that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been using obscure procedures to deny Republicans the right to offer amendments, leaving them no option other than to avail themselves of the right to filibuster.... Republicans do have some legitimate complaints about amendments. But that has nothing to do with their 1993 decision to force cloture votes on all major issues, or the 2009 decision to shatter Senate norms and insist on a full 60-vote Senate." ...

... Harry Reid is really showing some spine -- finally. Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid laid down a firm marker Tuesday: raising the debt ceiling has to be part of a deal on the fiscal cliff." ...

... More Good News from Sargent: "I'm told that representatives of major unions and progressive groups met privately this morning with senior Obama administration officials at the White House -- and were pleased with what they heard.... One person at the meeting ... came away convinced that the White House would ultimately prove willing to go over the fiscal cliff if necessary.... White House officials also signaled in the meeting that they are going to insist that Republicans agree to resolve the need to raise the debt ceiling as part of the fiscal talks -- and won't abide a separate fight over it...." ...

... On the Other Hand ... Kate Madison sends this horrible news from Robert Reich: "... leading those negotiations for the White House is outgoing Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner." CW: Reich has insider knowledge of Geithner, and -- like me with my outsider knowledge -- Reich has a low opinion of Wall Street's Man in Washington. Quelle surprise! Looks like the post-election Obama is just like pre-election Obama. ...

... More Bad News. Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "Ladies and gentlemen, coming soon to your city or town (if they have not been there already, and maybe even if they have) are the latest odd couple of politics: the 67-year-old Democratic straight man, Erskine B. Bowles of Charlotte, N.C., and his corny 81-year-old, 6-foot-7 Republican sidekick, Alan K. Simpson of Cody, Wyo." CW: besides calling these two an "odd couple," Calmes ledes with a sentence calling them an "improbable buddy act." There's nothing "improbable" or "odd" about two old self-righteous, attention-seeking deficit hacks hawks going on the road with their fear-mongering dog-and-pony show. And they are mostly preaching to the converted: when they come to my neck of the woods, they're speaking on Sanibel Island -- where the swells keep themselves safe from us riffraff via a $6 toll bridge. If Bob Reich's news isn't bad enough, we learn through Calmes that "On Tuesday, Mr. Bowles and corporate executives he helped recruit to a 'Fix the Debt' campaign met privately at the White House with six senior administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner." See this report (also linked Monday) by the Institute for Policy Studies on Fix the Debt a/k/a "a Trojan horse for massive corporate tax breaks." ...

... BTW, President Obama & Republicans are also going on the road to promote their visions of Fixing the Debt. The problem is that none of these road shows -- including the President's -- is a strong advocate for saving social safety net programs & two of them openly favor cutting them to the quick. ...

... A Short Course on the "Fiscal Cliff" a/k/a the "Austerity Crisis" by Washington Post bloggers. ...

... Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "Deep divisions among Senate Democrats over whether cuts to popular benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid should be part of a plan to slow the government's mushrooming debt pose a big obstacle to a deal for avoiding a potentially economy-crushing "fiscal cliff," even if Republicans agree to raise taxes." ...

     ... CW: The best reason to go over the cliff: the Senate in particular, & to a tiny extent the House, will be more liberal come January. Not only will there be more Democratic Senators, they will be, on average, more progressive: think Kent Conrad v. Elizabeth Warren, Ben Nelson v. Tammy Baldwin.

Ed Kilgore: "The remarkable ability of conservatives to drag American politics to the Right by taking extremist positions and then offering to 'compromise' by accepting policies deemed conservative the week before last is hardly a new thing.... But the MSM keeps taking the bait, which is why we now have Lindsay Graham and Saxbe Chambliss being lionized for making fake concessions to stop America from plunging over a fake 'fiscal cliff.'" ...

    ... CW: Kilgore essentially backs up my critique of Frank Bruni, which appears in today's New York Times eXaminer. ...

     ... DITTO Michael Tomasky of Newsweek: "The 'compromise' [Republicans] are offering is no compromise at all, really. And what they want in return from Democrats -- which they are keeping intentionally vague -- shows very clearly that they haven't yet quite accepted the idea that elections have consequences.... The party that lost the election ... doesn't get to dictate terms.... [Obama had] better not forget, and he'd better not let the Republicans forget, that he just won an election in which the American people were given a clear choice -- and they made it." ...

     ... AND now, Bruni's own newspaper. New York Times Editors: "True flexibility means acknowledging that tax rates for the rich have to go up, and then negotiating how much and which ones. But, so far, Republicans have been just as closed to that reality as they have been for years, ignoring both the election results and the plain arithmetic of deficit reduction."

** Mark Bittman of the New York Times: "The Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program, better known as SNAP and even better known as food stamps, currently has around 46 million participants, a record high. That's one in eight Americans.... as it stands, the number should be higher: many people are unaware that they're eligible for SNAP, and thus the participation rate is probably around three-quarters of what it should be." In a footnote, Bittman writes: "... it's cuts that are on the agenda, not expansion. Cuts ... are not only cruel but counterproductive." Bittman goes on to explain how food banks work & what they're doing. An excellent, informative piece.

** Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "... the very essence of the Wal-Mart system is to employ thousands upon thousands of workers through contractors and subcontractors and sub-subcontractors, who are compelled by Wal-Mart's market power and its demand for low prices to cut corners and skimp on safety. And because Wal-Mart isn't the employer of record for these workers, the company can disavow responsibility for their conditions of work.... Tens of thousands of American workers labor under similar arrangements." ...

... Jon Stewart comments:

** Jonathan Chait of New York: "The Republicans' long-term dilemma has generally been framed in racial terms, but it's mainly a generational one. The youngest generation of voters contains a much smaller proportion of white voters than previous generations, and those whites in that generation vote Republican by a much smaller margin than their elders. What's more, younger voters supported President Obama during the last two election cycles for reasons that seem to go beyond the usual reasons -- social issues like gay marriage and feminism, immigration policy, or Obama's personal appeal -- and suggest a deeper attachment to liberalism. The proclivities of younger voters may actually portend a full-scale sea change in American politics." ...

... More on our numb and dumb MSM from Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "From House Speaker John Boehner, on President Obama's request to raise the debt ceiling: 'There is a price for everything.' ... It's gobsmacking. Ever since the election, Republicans have been acting as if financial catastrophe is purely a problem for the president.... If he doesn't want markets to panic, then he needs to cough up some goodies. What's even more gobsmacking is that nobody in the press seems to find this at all out of the ordinary.... Remarkable."

Elisabeth Bumiller & Scott Shane of the New York Times: "Two and a half weeks after Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced an inquiry into e-mail exchanges between Gen. John R. Allen of the Marines and a Tampa socialite, some 15 investigators working seven days a week in the Pentagon inspector general's office have narrowed their focus to 60 to 70 e-mails that 'bear a fair amount of scrutiny,' a defense official said."

AP: "Hundreds of millions of dollars from Kabul Bank were spirited out of Afghanistan -- some smuggled in airline food trays -- to bank accounts in more than two dozen countries, according to an independent review released on Wednesday about massive fraud that led to the collapse of the nation's largest financial institution. The report, which was financed by international donors, offers new details about how the men at Kabul Bank and their friends and relatives got rich off $861 million in fraudulent loans in what the International Monetary Fund has called a Ponzi scheme that used customer deposits and operated under nascent banking oversight in the war-torn country."

News Ledes

Guardian: "US Environmental Protection Agency said on Wednesday that it has temporarily suspended BP and its affiliates from new contracts with the federal government, citing the oil company's 'lack of business integrity' associated with the disastrous 2010 Gulf oil spill. Two weeks ago, BP agreed to plead guilty to charges involving the deaths of 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which exploded and sank in April 2010, setting off the nation's largest offshore oil spill. BP will also plead guilty to lying to Congress about how much oil was spewing from the blown-out Macondo well."

New York Times: "The European Commission on Wednesday approved a payment of €37 billion, or $48 billion, from the euro zone bailout fund to four Spanish banks on the condition that they lay off thousands of employees and close offices as part of their restructuring."

Guardian: "Richard O'Dwyer, the university student who created a website which linked to programmes and films online for free, has reached an agreement to avoid extradition to the US over copyright infringement allegations.... The 24-year-old Sheffield Hallam undergraduate has signed a draft "deferred prosecution" agreement in the past two days which requires him to travel to the US and pay a small sum of compensation but will mean he will not face a trial or criminal record.... In June, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launched a campaign with the Guardian in defence of O'Dwyer...."

Monday
Nov262012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 27, 2012

My column in the New York Times examiner is on Frank Bruni's love letter to "responsible" Republicans like Lindsey Graham & John McCain who have supposedly distanced themselves from Grover Norquist. My column is kind of a rehash of what we've been saying on Reality Chex, with a little from Marvin Schwalb, a little from Akhilleus, etc.

Robert Pear of the New York Times on the conflicting positions of various parties to the deficit reduction talks. "Mr. Obama and some Democrats in Congress say they are willing to squeeze savings from Medicare by trimming payments to drug companies, hospitals and other health care providers. They have generally ruled out structural changes that would increase costs for a typical beneficiary." CW: let's hope that's right. ...

... Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "... while the GOP's rhetorical shift [on raising tax revenues] represents a break from their dogged opposition to revenue increases during previous budget negotiations, their public 'concessions' closely mirror the kind of policies voters overwhelmingly rejected: tax reform that does not increase marginal tax rates on the richest Americans, but includes eliminating tax loopholes and steep entitlement cuts that closely mirror the policies included in Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget.... The pitch is very similar to the plan presented by Romney, which was supposed to boost growth while lowering taxes and making up the revenue from closing loopholes...." ...

... Steve Benen: "... on the one hand, Republicans would get the tax rates they want. On the other hand, Republicans would also get the entitlement changes they want. And because Grover Norquist doesn't like it, this is considered the reasonable GOP offer. Democrats, after a very successful election cycle, are being asked to accept a deal in which Dems concede on tax rates, concede on entitlements, and accept the reward of Romney's revenue plan? This is what passes for bipartisan compromise in late 2012?" ...

... Leigh Ann Caldwell of CBS News: "White House spokesman Jay Carney said [Monday] that Social Security is one entitlement program that should be addressed on a 'separate track.' ... It's a similar position taken by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill, the number two Democrat in the Senate, on Sunday.... But Republicans have insisted that reforming entitlement programs, including Social Security, which constitute more than one-third of federal spending, must be part of the equation...." ...

... BUT, if we're to believe David Plouffe, we're also going to have to assume that President Obama dismisses Keynesian economic theory. Zeke Miller of BuzzFeed: "Obama senior adviser David Plouffe ... [says] President Barack Obama is committed to achieving the elusive 'big deal' on taxes and spending he and Speaker of the House John Boehner have tried to strike for more than 18 months." ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times (Nov. 27 @ 6:09 am): "Mr. Obama will meet with carefully selected small business owners, middle-class taxpayers and corporate leaders over the next couple days, then fly to Pennsylvania on Friday to tour a toy manufacturer that he argues will be hurt if automatic tax increases take effect at the end of the year." ...

     ... More from Ken Thomas of the AP on Obama's PR tour. ...

... CW: last week I linked to a story that mentioned a proposed "tax bubble" that -- by removing the marginal tax system -- would hit the moderately wealthy but not the super rich. Frankly, I don't see this as a real problem because I can't imagine even this Congress would be stupid enough to enact such a tax structure. Nate Silver explains how it would work in detail (with charts!). "It is hard to see the economic rationale for creating a bubble in the middle of the tax code." ...

     ... Dean Baker follows up on Silver's post. And Baker nails Republicans for their hypocrisy on proposing this plan: "The Republicans had highlighted the fate of small business owners who they like to call 'job creators.' This policy would imply a higher tax rate on the vast majority of the job creators, while leaving the very rich little affected.... This proposal would seem to imply that the Republicans were willing to nail the job creators to benefit the very wealthy." CW: Who could have guessed all that talk about helping "job creators" was a ruse? ...

... David Corn of Mother Jones tells the story of what really happened in the Bush tax-cuts showdown of 2010. CW: Corn is right: Obama got more out of the Republicans than he lost even though he was in a much worse bargaining position than he is today. At the time, I ran links to a couple of stories on how the numbers actually worked out, but the narrative was always "Obama caved."

Today's Edition of Corporations Are People, My Friend

Another Reason Not to Shop at Wal-Mart. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "Two days after Saturday's fire at a Bangladeshi garment factory that killed at least 112 people, Walmart was neither confirming nor denying that the factory was one of its contractors.... But pictures taken after the fire showing clothes from Walmart's Faded Glory label appear to settle that question.... The Bangladeshi factory lacked enough emergency exits, and some of the 112 people ... died ... jumping out of the eight-story building.... Walmart had given the factory an 'orange' safety rating in May 2011, which means that even by Walmart's low standards, there were significant risks." In an update, Clawson writes, "Walmart is now claiming that it had severed ties with Tazreen, only to have a supplier with whom they had contracted subcontract to this factory in violation of Walmart policies, and that the supplier has been terminated." CW: allow me to remind you that the Walton family owns as much wealth as the lower 40 percent of Americans. Up with how much of this will we put?

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times: "Hostess ... failed because the people that ran it had no idea what they were doing. Every other excuse is just an attempt by the guilty to blame someone else." An excellent, brief rundown of Hostess management's epic failures & their depraved indifference to their obligations to their employees.

Brian Montopoli of CBS News: "United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice will meet with senators on Capitol Hill Tuesday to answer questions about the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya. CBS News has learned her appearance will include a morning meeting with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has been among her biggest critics since her initial remarks on the attack." ...

     ... UPDATE. Mark Landler & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, conceded on Tuesday that she incorrectly described the attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya, in September as following a spontaneous protest, rather than being a terrorist attack. But she said she based her statement on the intelligence available at the time and did not intend to mislead the American public. Ms. Rice's acknowledgment, in a meeting on Capitol Hill with three Republican senators who had sharply criticized her earlier statements in a series of television interviews after the attack, seemed to do little to quell their anger." ...

      ... NEW. Charles Pierce: Graham & McCain "are a pair of cowards, with a feckless rookie in train, and they are playing dangerous games with the country's security. They hereafter should be ignored and, if Graham goes through with his threat of putting a hold on Rice's nomination, Harry Reid should move his desk out onto Constitution Avenue, and no Democrat should cooperate with this clown ever again." ...

     ... NEW: Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post: "Instead of focusing their needed attention on the deadly security lapses at the consulate in Benghazi, McCain and crew continue their petty nitpicking of Rice's statements."

... Pierce didn't take to MoDo's advice to President Obama any more than I did. ...

... Andrew Rudalevige in the Monkey Cage on the value of schmoozing with the enemy. Also read the comment by Norm Ornstein.

... AND Pierce throws Young Douthat to the gray wolves. ...

... CW: I'm with P. D. Pepe. If had listened to Greggers instead of letting Charles Pierce do it for me, there would be a stylish pump sticking out of my busted teevee. The American tragedy is that millions of Americans don't understand that that Greggers' Gang are nothing but shills for the suits in the suites upstairs.

Voter Suppression

Dara Kam & John Lantigua of the Palm Beach Post: "A new Florida law that contributed to long voter lines and caused some to abandon voting altogether was intentionally designed by Florida GOP staff and consultants to inhibit Democratic voters, former GOP officials and current GOP consultants have told The Palm Beach Post.... Former GOP chairman [Jim Greer] and former Gov. Charlie Crist, both of whom have been ousted from the party, now say that fraud concerns were advanced only as subterfuge for the law's main purpose: GOP victory." ...

... Charles Pierce: "OK, Eric Holder, it's time.... Ball's in your court."

Right Wing World

Bruce Bartlett's confessions of a reformed supply-sider is getting a lot of attention & is an interesting read, particularly because of his claims about the right's reactions to his "evolution." ...

... Krugman gives him kudos.

CW: In case you think Republicans aren't really racists but just exploit the racism of their despicable constituents, Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect highlights a piece by David Brooks' favorite "conservative intellectual" Charles Murray. Murray "reasons" that Asian-Americans are all alike & blacks & Latinos don't have desirable values.

Evan McMorris-Santoro of TPM: Birther-in-Chief "Donald Trump says the Republican Party needs to be more appealing to minorities if it wants to survive into the future." CW: to my great surprise, the Donald blamed the negative tone on Mitt Romney & took no responsibility for his own racist antics. ...

... Jamelle Bouie: "... in case you've forgotten, this is the same Donald Trump whose demagoguery compelled President Obama to reveal his birth certificate in a press conference, and who offered to give $5 million to charity if Obama would release his college transcripts and prove that he is 'qualified' (read: not an affirmative-action beneficiary) to be president."

News Ledes

New York Times: "With public pressure mounting, President Mohamed Morsi appeared to pull back Monday from his attempt to assert an authority beyond the reach of any court. His allies in the Muslim Brotherhood canceled plans for a large demonstration in his support, signaling a chance to calm an escalating battle that has paralyzed a divided nation." CW: hmm. The headline in this Guardian liveblog is "Morsi refuses to back down." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "Egyptian opposition forces rallied across the country Tuesday in the biggest show of dissent against the country's first democratically elected leader since he precipitated a political crisis last week with an apparent bid to assume near-absolute power."

Reuters: "New York state and New Jersey need at least $71.3 billion to recover from the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy and prevent similar damage from future storms, according to their latest estimates."

New York Times: "Finance ministers from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund patched up their differences over a bailout for Greece early Tuesday with a spate of measures bringing closer the release of long-delayed emergency aid. The parties reached the deal after their third meeting in three weeks aimed at finding alternative ways of giving Greece relief in light of opposition by creditors like Germany and the Netherlands to so-called haircuts that would involve forgiving some Greek debt."

New York Times: "Two of the most senior figures at the British Broadcasting Corporation said on Tuesday that there had been 'basic' and 'elementary' failures of the organization's journalism when it wrongly implicated a former Conservative Party politician in sexual abuse, compounding a scandal that cost the BBC's director general his job and plunged the organization deeper into crisis."

Guardian: "Europe's debt crisis remains a far bigger threat to the world's economy than the 'fiscal cliff', according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In its latest report the economic think tank says an escalation in the ongoing European crisis could drag Europe into a deep recession in the next two years and the US along with it."

Reuters: "Online sales jumped on Cyber Monday, sending e-commerce retailers' shares higher and suggesting strong growth from earlier in the holiday shopping season is continuing for now. Sales on eBay Inc's online marketplace were particularly strong and Amazon.com Inc continued its rapid holiday shopping season growth, according to early Cyber Monday data...."

Reuters: "Forensic experts took samples from Yasser Arafat's buried corpse in the West Bank on Tuesday, trying to determine if he was murdered by Israeli agents using the hard-to-trace radioactive poison, Polonium."