The Ledes

Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

New York Times: "With just hours to go before Greece hits a deadline for a debt payment it cannot afford, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday asked the other nations that use the euro to extend another bailout and buy Athens time to renegotiate its crippling debt load." ...

     ... New Lede: "The International Monetary Fund said shortly after midnight Wednesday that Greece had missed a crucial debt payment to the fund."

New York Times: "The Iranian foreign minister rejoined the nuclear talks [in Vienna, Austria,] Tuesday morning as the United States looked for signs that he had arrived with more flexible negotiating instructions."

The Guardian is liveblogging developments in the Greek financial crisis.

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

White House Live Video
June 30

12:05 pm ET: President Obama & President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil hold a joint press conference

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Here's a short film by activist Bree Newsome. The film won the best -short-film category at the BET awards (ca. 2010):

Washington Post: "After three years of work by Michelle Obama and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, a new look was unveiled [in the State Dining Room] Friday[, June 26,] that will be a design legacy of the Obama years." With slideshow, including former incarnations of the room.

Daniel Bethencourt & Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press: "Famed street artist Shepard Fairey, who visited Detroit last month to create the largest mural of his career, faces felony charges of tagging other properties across the city on his own time." The reporters put the charges in the larger perspective of street art.

David Haglund on "James Salter in the New Yorker."

Twelve beautiful bookshops.

Livraria Lello & Irmão, Porto, Portugal.

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that [Fox "News" leader Roger] Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion. Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan."

The Waldorf-Hysteria. New York Post: Bride "hysterical," lets out "blood-curdling scream," when Waldorf is forced to cancel her million-dollar reception because drunken relatives of the groom allegedly shot some other guests & Waldorf employees. Here's more of the story. You can the boys out of Brooklyn, but....

Sophia A. McClennen in Salon: The real Jerry Seinfeld has become the TV character Jerry Seinfeld. Without the irony. So not funny.

Washington Post: "... thanks to diligent sleuthing and painstaking restoration by a team of art historians at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, the shadowy, richly colored 'Saul and David' is considered a Rembrandt masterpiece once more. It goes on display at the museum this Thursday, the star of a special exhibition entirely devoted to the painting and its tumultuous past."

New York Times: "Since [the] Clinton [Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York,] opened in 1845, dozens of inmates have escaped over, under or through the prison’s thick walls, their exploits detailed in breathless, often sensationalistic, newspaper reports of earlier eras." CW: As if the Times' extensive coverage of last week's escape wasn't sensationalistic. ...

New York Times: The life of a fugitive presents many opportunities to blunder -- and get caught.

Washington Post: "It’s a happy day for luggage manufacturers. The world’s major airlines could soon be changing their requirements for carry-on luggage, potentially forcing people to buy new bags. Working with airlines and aircraft manufacturers including Boeing and Airbus, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association, unveiled a new best-size guideline on Tuesday for carry-on bags at 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep. That's 21 percent smaller than the size currently permitted by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines."

CW: Okay, I finally found a Daily Mail story I'm willing to link. The hills are alive.

Stephen Colbert, Lyricist:

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "Eight-hundred years ago this month, rebellious barons and a despised, cash-strapped king gathered in a verdant riverside meadow 20 miles outside London to seal an agreement that would change the course of history. The words of the Magna Carta have inspired democratic movements the world over and formed a basis for countless constitutions...." But not for Great Britain, which "is one of just three major democracies that lack formal, written constitutions." Some Britons are thinking it's time to fix that.

Washington Post: Actor Jason Alexander reveals why the "Seinfeld" show killed off George Costanza's fiancee Susan.

When a Cop Loves a Cheapskate. Taylor Berman of Gawker: "Last July, NYPD Officer Ymmacula Pierre and her partner found Kenneth Sanden dead after being called to his East Village apartment by a concerned relative. So Pierre allegedly did what any respectable cop would do: pocket the dead man’s Mastercard and use it to buy a diamond ring." Pierre ordered the ring while in her boyfriend's apartment, & that is where the ring was to be shipped. It appears to me that Pierre is (allegedly) a girl who believes in traditional marriage. Very sweet.

Dylan Byers of Politico (June 1): "Jake Tapper will take over as host of CNN's 'State Of The Union' on June 14, he announced Monday.... He replaces Candy Crowley, who served as host of 'SOTU' until late last year. Tapper will also continue to host his 4 p.m. weekday program, 'The Lead.'" ...

Mediaite (May 29): "CNN’s Jake Tapper will no longer moderate a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative’s upcoming conference in Denver, Colo., to avoid a conflict of interest involving the recent coverage of its parent foundation’s controversies."

 

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, appears on the cover of Vanity Fair, with the cover & other photos by Annie Liebovitz. There's a firewalled cover story. ...

... Another reason to admire actor Jessica Lange: she didn't know what "trending on Twitter" meant.

Reuters: "A $100,000 check is waiting for a mystery woman who donated a rare Apple 1 computer to a Silicon Valley recycling firm. CleanBayArea in Milpitas, California, said on its website that a woman in her 60s dropped off some electronic goods in April, when she was cleaning out the garage after her husband died. The boxes of computer parts contained a 1976 Apple 1, which the recycling firm sold for $200,000 in a private auction. The recycler’s policy is to split the proceeds 50-50 with the person who donated the equipment. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak built the computers in 1976 and sold them for $666.66 each. Only a few dozen of the groundbreaking home computers are known to still exist."

New York Times: "On Tuesday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, along with the Iziko Museums of South Africa, the Slave Wrecks Project, and other partners, will announce in Cape Town that the remnants of the São José [-- which sank off the Cape of Good Hope in 1795 --] have been found, right where the ship went down, in full view of Lion’s Head Mountain. It is the first time, researchers involved in the project say, that the wreckage of a slaving ship that went down with slaves aboard has been recovered."

New York Times: "Charter Communications is near a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $55 billion, people with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday, a takeover that would create a new powerhouse in the rapidly consolidating American cable industry.... The potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable completes a lengthy quest by Charter and its main backer, the billionaire John C. Malone, to break into the top tier of the American broadband industry. If completed, the transaction would be the latest in a series of mergers remaking the market for broadband Internet and cable television in the United States." ...

     ... Update: "Charter Communications agreed on Tuesday to buy its much larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56.7 billion in a deal that would transform the company into one of America’s largest cable and broadband operators."

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Monday
Mar252013

The Commentariat -- March 26, 2013

**SCOTUSblog is tweeting updates of oral arguments. ...

... The New York Times' "The Lede" has live commentary. ...

... Adam Liptak & Scott Shane of the New York Times: "As the Supreme Court on Tuesday weighed the very meaning of marriage, several justices seemed to have developed a case of buyer's remorse about the case before them. Some wondered aloud if the court had moved too fast to address whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Robert Barnes & Carol Morello, is here. ...

... Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog analyzes the Justices' remarks, with a concentration of Kennedy, who seems to want to skip the whole thing. "Ooh, my sinecure for life is too hard."

... The oral arguments in the Prop 8 case:

... Here's the Court's unofficial transcript of the arguments in the Prop 8 case (pdf). ...

... Attorneys David Boies & Ted Olson, attorneys opposing Prop 8, comment after the oral hearing:

... Sarah Erickson-Muschko of SCOTUSblog has an excellent series of links to news and opinion pieces on the two gay rights cases the Supreme Court will hear today. I won't try to duplicate her effort.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Paul Ryan's House budget:

**Katrina vanden Heuvel of the Nation, in the Washington Post: "Beneath all the partisan bickering, bipartisan majorities are solid for a trade policy run by and for multinationals, a health-care system serving insurance and drug companies, an energy policy for Big Oil and King Coal, and finance favoring banks that are too big to fail. Economist James Galbraith calls this the 'predator state,' one in which large corporate interests rig the rules to protect their subsidies, tax dodges and monopolies. This isn't the free market; it's a rigged market.... Bloomberg News estimated that the subsidy they are provided by being too big to fail adds up to an estimated $83 billion a year."

Natasha Lennard of Salon: "In recent months, especially in light of Aaron Swartz's suicide and Andrew 'Weev' Aurnheimer's prison sentencing, calls for reform to or disposal of the Computer Fraud and Abuses Act (CFAA) have amplified to a fever pitch.... Following Swartz's death, Rep. Zoe Lofgren proposed legislation, 'Aaron's law,' which aims to stop the government bringing disproportionate charges in cases like Swartz's. The draft cybersecurity bill circulating on Capitol Hill since last weekend, unlike Lofgren's, appears to expand the CFAA, not limit it.... TechDirt highlights one of the most perturbing suggested amendments includes changing the law such that 'conspiring' to commit what might be crimes under the CFAA would amount to actually committing the actual acts."

Bettina Boxall of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama on Monday established five new national monuments, including one in Washington's San Juan Islands and one in northern New Mexico." ...

... Which of course horrified Republicans.

President Obama spoke about immigration reform at a naturalization ceremony yesterday:

Jillian Rayfield of Salon: "Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., announced on his Facebook page that after some 'evolving,' he now officially supports gay marriage." ...

... Zack Harold of the Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) announced yesterday that he no longer supported DOMA.

We taxpayers paid for this so-called parody, along with another "spoof" of "Gilligan's Island." Thanks a lot, IRS. Good call. CBS obtained the video through a Freedom of Information Act request "after the IRS earlier refused to turn over a copy to the congressional committee that oversees tax issues: House Ways and Means":

... Josh Lederman of the AP: "... according to a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service...' the federal government spent ... nearly $3.7 million ... last year on the four living ex-presidents and one presidential widow. Topping the list in 2012 was George W. Bush, who got just over $1.3 million last year.... The $3.7 million taxpayers shelled out in 2012 is about $200,000 less than in 2011, and the sum in 2010 was even higher... With ex-presidents able to command eye-popping sums for books, speaking engagements and the like..., the report raises questions about whether the U.S. should provide such generous subsidies at a time when spending cuts and the deficit are forcing lawmakers and federal agencies to seek ways to cut back."

Justin Sink of The Hill: "Connecticut's U.S. senators on Tuesday admonished the National Rifle Association for robocalls to residents of Newtown, Conn.... 'With these robocalls, the NRA has stooped to a new low in the debate over how to best protect our kids and our communities,' Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, wrote in a letter to NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. 'We call on you to immediately stop calling the families and friends of the victims in Newtown.' The robocalls ... urge Newtown residents to lobby their state representatives against an effort to pass stricter gun controls in the state." ...

... Jonathan Allen of Politico: "Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are threatening to filibuster gun-control legislation, according to a letter they plan to hand-deliver to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office on Tuesday." CW: C'mon, you knew Aqua Buddha Man could not sound reasonable for longer than 24 hours. Time's up.

John Avlon of the Daily Beast/Newsweek: "... federal investigators are now interviewing former [Michele] Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probes reported improprieties by House members and their staffs and then can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee." CW: I'm sure any testimony Madame 8 Pinocchios gives will be totally truthful. ...

... Austerity, Yes, But Not in My District. Greg Sargent: "... there's nothing like a few spending cuts in your own district to concentrate the mind. [Michele] Bachmann is, understandably, upset to hear that the Federal Aviation Administration — as part of its move to close air traffic control towers across the country due to sequestration's spending cuts -- will be closing two towers in Bachmann's district. And she’s suddenly making sense, putting out a statement decrying the sequester cuts and calling for a more 'responsible' approach."

Andrew Cohen of the Atlantic remembers legal writer Anthony Lewis, who died Monday.

Senate Race

Margaret Chadbourn of Reuters: "Senator Tim Johnson, the Democratic chairman of the powerful banking committee, does not plan to run for re-election when his current term ends in 2014.... Johnson, 66, a three-term senator from South Dakota, has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday in his home state to discuss what his aides described as 'his future plans.' His retirement would leave a vacant seat in a conservative-leaning state that could be difficult for Democrats to defend as they try to protect their majority in the Senate." CW: I'll say.

Local News

Alex Pareene of Salon: "Looks like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is going to try to be president now.... Walker is 'collaborating on a book with Marc Thiessen....' It is an I would like to be president sort of book.... Thiessen is a very poor Washington Post opinion columnist who wrote a book in which he strung together a series of distortions in support of the thesis that torture is great." CW: read the whole post. Walker continues to work hard to beat my own governor Rick Scott to the title of America's Worst Governor.

It Could Happen to You. An innocent man is released from prison after 23 years; a school teacher and her principal have their careers restored after 10 years -- all falsely accused/convicted under investigations conducted by retired NYPD Det. Louis Scarella. Michael Powell of the New York Times reports.

Michael Gordon of the New York Times: in a speech to be delivered at the University of Southern California tonight, David Petraeus will say he is "keenly aware" he's a first-class jerk. Meanwhile, he's been getting lots of job offers. Keen.

Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic remembers Anthony Lewis, who died Monday.

Right Wing World *

Boehner, Not as Crazy as His Caucus. Boehner flip-flops again, this time on ObamaCare, which a few weeks ago was "the law of land" but now is a law the House will "continue working to scrap." Steve Benen: "The problem isn't necessarily that the House Speaker is a right-wing ideologue, but rather, that he's weak in the face of pressure from right-wing ideologues." ...

... CW: as I've said before in some form or another -- if Boehner were a patriot, he would seek out about 30 of his lease crazy members, and work with Pelosi to get some reasonable legislation through the House. If he can tell Harry Reid to go fuck himself, he can tell a bunch of disloyal Tea Party crazies the same.

Andrew Stiles of the National Review: Pushing back against criticism of his continued support for gay-lovin' Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), GOP chair Reince "Priebus cited former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas as an example of someone who could be 'a model for a lot of people in our party' in terms of discussing issues like marriage and abortion. 'I always tell people: Listen to Governor Mike Huckabee,' he said." ...

... Steve Benen: "OK, let's ... 'listen to' Mike Huckabee on culture-war issues. We might hear, for example, the former Arkansas governor suggest a national quarantine for those who are HIV positive. Huckabee has also equated homosexuality with 'pedophilia, sadomasochism, and necrophilia,' and compared gay marriage to drug addiction. Huckabee has also compared legal abortion to slavery and the Nazi holocaust."

You Can't Make Up This Stuff. Carol Kuruvilla of the New York Daily News: "Some members of the tea party are boycotting Fox News for being too liberal. The activists, who call themselves the Tea Party Fire Ants, say that Fox News has gone soft on some issues, like immigration and the attack on an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. They organized a boycott that lasted from March 21 to March 24, demanding that the station ... turn even harder right.... Its organizers are more than willing to switch over to the One America, a new conservative network that will launch in July." Via Steve Benen.

* Brought to you with a lotta help from Steve Benen.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The leader of the rebel group that seized power in the Central African Republic, Michel Djotodia, announced Monday that he was suspending his country's Constitution, dissolving its Parliament and initiating a three-year 'consensual transition.' Residents reported a precarious calm returning to the capital, Bangui, on Tuesday with less shooting and looting than on previous days, and some markets reopening. But there were also human rights violations by the rebel group, Seleka, according to an activist there."

AP: "Banks across Cyprus remain locked Tuesday after financial authorities extended the country's bank closure, fearing worried depositors will rush to drain their accounts.... All but two of the country's largest lenders had been due to reopen Tuesday, after being shut since March 16...."

Reuters: "Taliban suicide bombers< killed at least five policemen in Afghanistan's restive east on Tuesday, officials said, in a three-hour attack that coincided with a visit to the country by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The pre-dawn attack on a police compound in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan's largest city, came as the country braces for the beginning of the spring fighting season in the 11th year of the war." ...

... Washington Post: Afghan businesswomen with whom Kerry met "... had specific requests: better access to credit, government contracting set-asides for women-owned businesses and, from Mahmoodi, more soccer pitches for women.... The Obama administration has said ... [that] the kind of large-scale foreign help that Afghanistan will need is likely to be partly contingent on safeguarding gains for women."

AP: "Syrian opposition representatives took the country's seat for the first time at an Arab League summit that opened in Qatar on Tuesday, a significant diplomatic boost for the forces fighting President Bashar Assad's regime. In a ceremonious entrance accompanied by applause, a delegation led by Mouaz al-Khatib, the former president of the main opposition alliance -- the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition -- took the seats assigned for Syria at the invitation of Qatar's emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani."

AP: "Italy's highest criminal court on Tuesday overturned [American] Amanda Knox's acquittal in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial, prolonging a case that has become a cause celebre in the United States."

Sunday
Mar242013

The Commentariat -- March 25, 2013

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: President "Obama is set to sign a government funding measure that leaves in place the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration -- a policy that undermines many of the goals he laid out during the 2012 campaign. Obama thinks the cuts are, in his words, 'dumb,' and he says they will slow the economy and harm priorities by cutting spending on education, research and development, and many other programs. Yet Obama now finds himself enacting a broad domestic policy that he doesn't support and that he believes will harm the country."

Greg Miller, et al., of the New York Times: "The suspicious attack that killed 26 people in northern Syria last week exposed the difficulty of determining whether the Syrian regime has resorted to using chemical weapons as well as the lingering uncertainty over how President Obama would respond if what he has called a 'red line' is crossed."

Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker on the DOMA & Prop 8 cases which the Supremes will hear this week. ...

... Here's a lovely profile of Edith Windsor, the widow/plaintiff in the DOMA case, written in December by Peter Applebome of the New York Times. ...

... A Tea Leaf? Maura Dolan of the Los Angeles Times: "Jean Podrasky, 48, a lesbian who wants to marry her partner, will be at Tuesday's U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Proposition 8 in seating reserved for family members and guests of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.... Podrasky [is] ... the first cousin of the chief justice on his mother's side.... She said Roberts knows she is gay and introduced her along with other relatives during his Senate confirmation hearing. She hopes he will meet her partner of four years, Grace Fasano, during their Washington visit. The couple flew to Washington on Sunday." ...

I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love. While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry. -- Sen. Claire McCaskill (ConservaD-Mo.)

There are now 42 sitting U.S. Senators who back gay marriage. -- Taegan Goddard ...

... Steve Benen: "With the Supreme Court set to hear landmark cases this week on marriage rights, the evidence is overwhelming that the right has lost the larger national debate. 'There's no putting this genie back in the bottle,' Republican strategist Ana Navarro conceded yesterday. "This is now undeniable. The shift is here. We're not going back." BUT winger-bigot Gary Bauer trots out the "skewed polls" argument. CW: what this says, I think, is not that 54 or whatever percentage of Americans have gay friends/relatives who have made them see the light, but that the majority of Americans believe in fundamental fairness & individual self-determination, both of which are supposedly defining tenets of the American ethos. ...

... Will Portman, Sen. Rob Portman's (R-Ohio) son, in a Yale Daily News guest column, on his coming out as gay. CW: sorry, Will, I know it isn't nice to say so, but Gary Bauer is a winger-bigot, and not just on this matter.

** David Carr of the New York Times: "In pretrial hearings [in the Bradley Manning case]..., basic information has been withheld, including dockets of court activity, transcripts of the proceedings and orders issued from the bench by the military judge, Col. Denise Lind. A public trial over state secrets was itself becoming a state secret in plain sight. Finally, at the end of last month, in response to numerous Freedom of Information requests from news media organizations, the court agreed to release 84 of the roughly 400 documents filed in the case, suggesting it was finally unbuttoning the uniform a bit to make room for some public scrutiny. Then again, the released documents contained redactions that are mystifying at best and at times almost comic. One of the redacted details was the name of the judge, who sat in open court for months." (Emphasis added.)

Micah Cohen of the New York Times: "... with more budget battles approaching, over raising the nation's borrowing limit and perhaps reaching a grand bargain, Mr. Obama’s advantage over Congressional Republicans has all but vanished. Public approval of his handling of the economy has slipped, according to polls, and surveys now show that a roughly equal number of Americans favor Mr. Obama as favor Congressional Republicans on economic matters." CW: that's because Obama has conceded that Republican priorities of reducing the deficit are fundamentally correct; i.e., it's his own damned fault.

Ryan Koronowski, et al., in Think Progress: "Senate rules allow for consideration of any amendment [to the budget] that is brought to the floor. Senators introduced hundreds of amendments, which resulted in a 'vote-o-rama.' Many conservatives offered amendments to undermine existing and potential public health safeguards, particularly those that would attempt to reduce climate pollution. [We list] seven deadly amendments to curtail protection for our children's health and heritage. As usual, these conservatives are focused on protecting dirty energy companies profits at the expense of public health."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday that while he doesn't want to legalize drugs, he doesn't think people should go to jail for non-violent drug crimes. Paul and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) last week introduced a bill that would give judges greater flexibility by allowing them to work around mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, which civil rights groups say often don't fit the crime." Like a broken clock that is right twice a day, Aqua Buddha Man gets it right for once. See also Jack Mahoney's contribution in today's Comments.

Frank Rich (published last week) on everything.

Paul Krugman: "... unrestricted movement of capital [across national borders] is looking more and more like a failed experiment.... The best predictor of crisis is large inflows of foreign money."

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "In weighing a bid for The Los Angeles Times, Rupert Murdoch finds himself in a familiar role: waiting for rule changes from the government. With the resignation last week of Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, he may have to wait a little longer. Mr. Murdoch ... has been beefing up News Corporation's lobbying efforts in Washington in the last few months to urge regulators to revise a media ownership rule that would prevent the company from acquiring The Los Angeles Times and other newspapers in markets in which it already owns television stations."

Driftglass: strangely enough, the Sunday Morning Iraq War Cheerleading Camp denizens do not discuss the Iraq War during their camp meetings surrounding the 10th Annual Cheerleaders Reunion.

Local News

Ron Brownstein of the National Journal: Gov. Rick Perry's refusal to accept ObamaCare funds for Medicaid expansion & rejection of ACA health insurance exchanges -- in a state that has the highest percentage of uninsured residents -- could help turn Texas blue. CW: it would be nice to think that at some point, stupid-&-cruel becomes a losing platform.

Bill Keller makes the point that state legislatures do not hew to public opinion because the public pays little attention to them. Do you know who your state legislators are? I haven't a clue other than to be certain they're a couple of rabid, not-too-bright Republicans, like my Congressman Tripp or Trap or Trug Whatizface, who is a pathetic, dumber-than-dirt winger.

Something else I missed last week: David Seifman of the New York Post: "The first-responder son of city Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano resigned today after The Post revealed his history of racist, anti-semitic writings." ...

... BUT Andre Tartar of New York reports that "racist FDNY employees [are] still posting racist things on Twitter." Here's the Post story, which is a doozy.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The American military formally transferred all but 'a small number' of the Afghan prisoners at the Bagram Prison to the Afghan government on Monday in a ceremony that almost, but not quite, marked the end of the American involvement in the long-term detention of insurgents [at Bagram].

New York Times: "Anthony Lewis, a former New York Times reporter and columnist whose work won two Pulitzer Prizes and transformed American legal journalism, died on Monday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85."

KKTV Denver: "Police have determined the gun used by Evan Ebel in Texas was the same weapon used in the shooting death of Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements. The confirmation comes after analysis by the Colorado Springs Metro Crime Lab based on analysis of shell casings collected in Texas by El Paso County Sheriff's Office investigators. Analysis is based on unique markings left on the casings at both crime scenes." Via TPM.

Politico: "The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will take up another affirmative action case related to race-based considerations in college admissions in Michigan."

Reuters: "Regulators on Monday approved a plan to compensate market makers who lost money in a botched Facebook Inc public offering in May on the Nasdaq exchange.... The decision from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was in response to a series of high-profile glitches last year that shook the market, including the handling of Facebook's long-anticipated initial public offering."

Los Angeles Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki on Sunday to stop Iran from flying arms across Iraqi territory to the beleaguered Syrian regime, but found him unwilling to give ground.... The overflights have become an increasingly important issue for the Obama administration, which believes that they have reinforced [Syrian President Bashir] Assad

AP: "A rebel military leader who was among the first to call openly for armed insurrection against President Bashar Assad was wounded by a bomb planted in his car in eastern Syria, anti-regime activists said Monday. Col. Riad al-Asaad, leader of a now-sidelined rebel umbrella group known as the Free Syrian Army, had his right foot amputated following the blast late on Sunday...."

New York Times: "With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria's opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad...."

Washington Post: "Secretary of State John F. Kerry made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Monday to smooth over relations with President Hamid Karzai, who recently accused the United States of colluding with the Taliban."

Saturday
Mar232013

The Commentariat -- March 24, 2013

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone predicts a confrontation between the public and the government over its secrets: "It's all coming out. And when it isn't Julian Assange the next time but The New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian standing in the line of fire, the state will probably lose, just as it lost in the Pentagon Papers case, because those organizations will be careful to only publish materials clearly in the public interest -- there's no conceivable legal justification for keeping us from knowing the policies of our own country (although stranger things have happened)." ...

     ... CW: curiously, in his list of secret-tellers, Taibbi ignores the case of James Risen, a New York Times reporter whom the government repeatedly subpoenaed to obtain the identities of his sources for a book he wrote. While it's true that the Risen subpoenas do not directly involve the NYT, they are mighty close. It appears the Obama administration is being very careful not to directly challenge the MSM, which are clearly covered by the First Amendment, but are instead going after individual whistleblowers, who have no institutional support.

Obama 2.0. Justin Elliot of ProPublica: "When President Obama nominated Ernest Moniz to be energy secretary earlier this month, he hailed the nuclear physicist as a 'brilliant scientist' who, among his many talents, had effectively brought together 'prominent thinkers and energy companies.' ... But beyond his job in academia, Moniz has also spent the last decade serving on a range of boards and advisory councils for energy industry heavyweights, including some that do business with the Department of Energy. That includes a six-year paid stint on BP's Technology Advisory Council as well as similar positions at a uranium enrichment company and a pair of energy investment firms." CW: if you think the deck is always stacked against ordinary Americans, you might not be paranoid.

Obama 2.0, Ctd. Edward Wyatt of the New York Times: "The resignation on Friday of Julius Genachowski after four years as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission again raises a thorny issue for President Obama: whether it will be possible to get the F.C.C. or Congress to help him fulfill a campaign promise to guarantee that the Internet remains free and open to businesses and users. Mr. Genachowski, who said on Friday that he would leave the commission 'in the near future,' pushed it in the direction of embracing rules against discrimination by Internet service providers in what content they carry or how fast they transmit it, an issue known as net neutrality."

There is no leadership. There is nobody you can sit across the table from and shake hands, make a deal with.... [They call me] to say 'what we agreed to Joe, we can't do.' The reason this is so dysfunctional now -- with whom do you make a deal? With whom do you speak to get something done? The problem is we have the tail wagging the dog in the Republican Party. -- Vice President Biden, on the Republican party

New York Times cartoonist Brian McFadden finds a D+ engineer who has some D+ solutions for the U.S.'s D+-rated infrastructure. I would note that McFadden's sub-par engineer isn't as stupid as Washington's Very Serious People -- he understands Krugmanomics.

Jeff Sommer: a money manager says it is in the self-interest, and the public interest, for major American companies to quit stashing their cash in foreign entities to avoid paying taxes. They should bring the money home & pay their taxes, as the rest of us do.

Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic on the basics the public doesn't know about U.S. fiscal facts. Franke-Ruta doesn't say so, but this particular ignorance is both a product of the Republicans' successful disinformation campaign and why they get away with continuing their draconian policies. AND it is also partially, I suppose, a product of this ...

... Paul Krugman on the psychological roots of austerity. ...

... The post by Simon Wren-Louis, whom Krugman cites, is excellent, too.

The Good News. Erik Wasson of The Hill: "The Senate voted Friday night to oppose cutting entitlement benefits for veterans using a new method of calculating inflation [i.e., chained CPI].... The vote on the amendment was by voice vote, so its usefulness in quantifying Senate opposition to the proposal is minimal. The amendment is non-binding because it is attached to the budget resolution, which does not have the force of law." ...

The Bad News. Zack Colman of The Hill: "The Senate on Friday voted 62-37 to approve the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline in an amendment to Senate budget." Ditto on the non-binding part.

Abby Rapoport of the American Prospect: Senate Republicans finally found a program they wanted to cut, & Democrats let them get away with it -- defunding political science research. CW: when you're the ignorance party & promoting ignorance is in your self-interest, you sure as hell don't want political scientists pointing out the flaws in your ignorant policy positions.

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Determined to persuade Congress to act in response to [the Sandy Hook] shooting, [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg on Monday will begin bankrolling a $12 million national advertising campaign that focuses on senators who he believes might be persuaded to support a pending package of federal regulations to curb gun violence. The ads, in 13 states, will blanket those senators' districts during an Easter Congressional recess.... In a telling sign of how much the white-hot demands for gun control have been tempered by political reality, Mr. Bloomberg's commercials make no mention of an assault weapons ban once sought by the White House and its allies, instead focusing on the more achievable goal of universal background checks." ...

... Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "During a heated debate about gun regulations on Sunday morning, ABC News’ Terry Moran accused Karl Rove of using 'Orwellian' language to scare people about background checks, noting that the federal government is not seeking to confiscate guns but rather keep them out of the hands of criminals and people who are mentally ill":

Paul Fahri of the Washington Post: "There's no doubt that many news organizations, including this one, missed important stories, underplayed others that were skeptical of the administration's case and acted too deferentially to those in power.... But 'failure' grossly oversimplifies what the media did and didn't do before the war, and it ignores important reasons the reporting turned out the way it did.... Thousands of news stories and columns published before the war described and debated the administration's plans and statements, and not all of them were supportive." Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link. ...

... Daniel Drezner on what he got wrong about "Operation Iraqi Freedom." And why.

Obama "Completely Conquers" Israel. Noga Tarnopolsky of Salon: "President Barack Obama's address to the Israeli people ... may herald a new direction for American foreign policy. Clearly aware of first term missed opportunities in the relationship with America's closest Mideast ally, Obama chose to crown his two day trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority with a passionate, forceful speech addressed to a group of more than 2,000 Israelis." Here's the speech, delivered Thursday:

If you still think NAFTA was a good idea because it was Bill Clinton's project, read this excerpt from a book by David Neiwert, republished in Salon. What Neiwert writes about the effects of NAFTA is consistent with more detailed accounts I have read elsewhere.

Andrew Higgins of the New York Times: "... what began in Cyprus as just another episode in a now-familiar narrative of stingy, rich Northern Europeans versus put-upon, poor southerners has escalated into a bigger drama tinged with cold war-style language and strategic calculations involving not just money but also energy and even military power.... The Republic of Cyprus makes an unlikely strategic prize. But it sits atop a web of overlapping and potentially volatile fault lines -- between East and West, the European Union and Russia, and Greece and Turkey, whose troops occupy the northern part of the island. It also has natural gas in the waters off its coast toward Israel."

Papal Pals. Pope Francis went to Castel Gandolfo to visit Benedict XVI. ...

... Tracy Connor of NBC News: "Pope Francis suggested in an interview last year that the Catholic Church's rule that priests be celibate 'can change' and admitted he was tempted by a woman as a young seminarian." CW: Francis's (or rather Bergoglio's) theological reasoning is telling: "It is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change."

Right Wing World

Jonathan Chait of New York: right-wing world is a-Twitter and a-postin' the shocking news that Matt Yglesias, a semi-liberal columnist for Slate, purchased a pricey condo. "Some of our brightest conservative minds believe that this is hypocrisy, because liberals don't believe anybody should have anything nice. Or something. I'll let them explain." ...

... Paul Krugman: "The lesson here is never to take right-wing huffiness about the process of politics and political debate seriously. These guys don't actually believe in any rules at all; whatever rule they may lay down in one case, they'll break in an instant if they think they see an advantage."

Joshua Green of Bloomberg BusinessWeek: "As Mitt Romney struggled in the weeks leading up to the Michigan primary, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum nearly agreed to form a joint 'Unity Ticket' to consolidate conservative support and topple Romney.... But the negotiations collapsed in acrimony because Gingrich and Santorum could not agree on who would get to be president."

... Daniel Larison of the American Conservative: "Gingrich and Santorum were and are even less likable politicians than Romney, so they wouldn't have been more competitive in the general election. After all, nothing says victory like a scandal-ridden, eccentric former Congressman teaming up with an ex-Senator who lost his last election by 18 points." ...

... Jon Chait: "... given our current primitive gene-splicing technology, it would not have been possible to actually merge the two figures into one unstoppable helmet-haired, sweater-vested, world historical political giant with an epic Tiffany's account and a gross sexual neologism. ('Gingrum?' That's probably already the name for something disgusting.) ... If Santorum were really clever, he would have accepted the vice-presidential spot and waited for the inevitable Gingrich impeachment -- misappropriating funds for jewelry? starting a war with Mars without Senate approval? declaring himself president for life? all the above? -- and taken over then as a comparatively reassuring figure."

Blake Zeff of Salon: "... political reality -- and sheer math (over 46 million people now live below the poverty line) -- is now forcing a major political party [-- the GOP --] to speak to poor Americans." CW: one reason that Zeff doesn't really mention: Republican policies have guaranteed that poor people would make up a significantly larger & larger percentage of the nation's population; despite GOP efforts to stop them, millions of those poor people vote. ...

... AND then there is Roger Ailes -- the actual leader of the Republican party (negotiate with Ailes, Joe Biden) -- who is still bashing the usual suspects, as is his tawdry network, Fox "News." Eric Boehlert of Media Matters (republished in Salon) reports.

Paranoid Plot of the Day
Brought to You by Right Wing World

Winner. Apocalyse Soon. Americans need assault weapons to protect themselves from the coming Iranian invasion. Also, it's all Obama's fault (which I suppose goes without saying).

Runner-up: Patrick Gavin of Politico reports that conservatives/Fox "News" analysts, etc., see Jay Leno's reported ouster from NBC as a liberal plot to purge NBC of Obama detractors. CW: perhaps the humorless right should consider this: Jay Leno isn't funny.

News Ledes

New York Daily News: "Online reports of Syrian President Bashar Assad's death appeared greatly exaggerated Sunday. Arab media said Assad was purportedly shot by one of his Iranian bodyguards Saturday night and was in serious condition. He was supposedly taken to Al-Shami Hospital in Damascus, where surrounding roads were closed off.... But online updates said the Syrian leader's shooting was false and that he was alive and in high spirits. The conflicting reports highlight the chaos that continues to engulf the country...."

AP: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on an unannounced visit Sunday to Baghdad urged Iraq's leaders to halt Iranian overflights of weapons and fighters heading to Syria and to overcome sectarian differences that still threaten Iraqi stability 10 years after the American-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein." ...

... Reuters: "The head of Syria's main opposition group resigned on Sunday, saying he had taken the step so he could work with more freedom. Moaz Alkhatib, a former imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, was picked to head the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces in November after leaving Syria due to President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on rebels." Al Jazeera report here. ...

... AP: "Israel's army said it fired a guided missile into Syria on Sunday, destroying a military post after gunfire flew across the border and struck an Israeli vehicle. The shooting along the frontier in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights was one of the most serious incidents between the countries since Syria's civil war erupted two years ago."

Reuters: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai will travel to Qatar within days to discuss peace negotiations with the Taliban, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said on Sunday, as efforts intensify to find a negotiated solution to the twelve year war. Karzai's trip to Qatar would represent the first time the Afghan president has discussed the Taliban peace process in Qatar, and comes after years of stalled discussions with the United States, Pakistan and the Taliban."

New York Times: "Eight days after hashing out a bailout deal that the financial world reviled and the Cypriot Parliament unanimously rejected, the Eurogroup of finance ministers and Cyprus officials plan to meet [in Brussels] Sunday night.... They face a deadline of Monday, when the European Central Bank has said that it will cut off the financing that is keeping Cyprus's teetering banks from collapsing." ...

    Update: "Struggling into the early morning hours to avoid a collapse of Cyprus's banking system, European Union leaders early Monday agreed on the outlines of a bailout package intended to keep Cyprus in the euro zone and rebuild its devastated economy. The emerging deal, struck after hours of meetings in Brussels, still needs to be approved by the 17 finance ministers from countries using the euro. It would drastically prune the size of the country's banking sector, whose size, largely built on the deposits of wealthy Russians, dwarfs the size of the tiny island nation's economy. The deal would scrap the highly controversial idea of a tax on bank deposits, although it would still require forced losses for depositors and bondholders."

Reuters: "Rebels in Central African Republic seized control of the country's riverside capital Bangui on Sunday, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee into neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, government officials said. At least six South African soldiers were killed in clashes with the rebels, a Reuters witness said. A United Nations source said the force, in the country to train the army along with hundreds of regional peacekeepers, was preparing to leave."

Washington Post: "The Defense Department said Thursday that it is delaying planned furlough notices to almost 800,000 civilian employees while officials analyze whether the stopgap budget Congress passed Thursday can avert some days of unpaid leave."

AP: "Former President Pervez Musharraf returned to Pakistan on Sunday after more than four years in exile, seeking a possible political comeback in defiance of judicial probes and death threats from Taliban militants." CW: and Dubya still doesn't know his name.

Washington Post: "A judge filed preliminary charges against former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday, accusing him of abusing the confidence of an heiress during fundraising for his 2007 election campaign. The action by an investigating magistrate in Bordeaux was seen as a suggestion that Sarkozy sought to obtain illegal funds to finance his successful presidential run from [L'Oreal heiress] Lilianne Bettencourt, who is ranked as France's richest woman."

Friday
Mar222013

The Commentariat -- March 23, 2013

Not dead, just dead tired. I've been doing physical labor under a deadline & gave 42 of the past 48 hours to it, something like the last 36 without sleep. I also had no access to a computer or the Internets. When I finished, I came home, I fixed my husband supper (thanks to the reliable Burns family recipe: turn on the oven, put it in) & I went to bed. I'm back.

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. ABC News story here.

... Joe Nocera: "... why can't we childproof guns? In an age of technological wizardry -- not to mention a time of deep sensitivity to the welfare of children -- why can't we come up with a technology that would keep a gun from going off when it is being held by a child? Or, for that matter, by a thief using a stolen gun? Or an angry teenager who is plotting to use his parents' arsenal to wreak havoc in a mall? It turns out — why is this not a surprise? -- that such technologies already exist.... Why aren't these lifesaving technologies in widespread use? No surprise here, either: The usual irrational opposition from the National Rifle Association and gun absolutists, who claim, absurdly, that a gun that only can be fired by its owner somehow violates the Second Amendment."

Paranoid Plot of the Day
Brought to You by Right Wing World

Pro-gun bloggers were furious when they saw James Bond, in 'Skyfall,' proudly showing off his new biometrically protected weapon. They were convinced it was a Hollywood plot to undermine their rights. -- Joe Nocera

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "After a grueling, all-night debate that ended close to 5 a.m., the Senate on Saturday adopted its first budget in four years, a $3.7 trillion blueprint for 2014 that would fast-track passage of tax increases, trim spending gingerly and leave the government still deeply in the debt a decade from now. No Republicans voted for the Senate plan on Saturday, and four Democrats -- Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Begich of Alaska and Max Baucus of Montana -- also opposed it. All four are Red State Democrats up for re-election in 2014."

Another Nominee Filibustered out of a Job. Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "The White House has withdrawn the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, weeks after Republicans filibustered a vote on her nomination for the second time. Halligan requested that President Obama withdraw her nomination.... In a statement, President Obama announced himself 'deeply disappointed' that Halligan could not get an up-or-down vote."

Kirk Semple of the New York Times: Eligibility for special visas is "an unintended consequence of --an immigration policy adopted last June by President Obama that allows young illegal immigrants, under certain conditions, to apply for the right to remain in the country temporarily and work.... Many have learned that they are eligible for other, more permanent, forms of immigration relief, like special visas for crime victims.... Deferred action allows recipients to work legally and live openly without fear of deportation. But it must be renewed after two years, and the program could be canceled by President Obama or his successors. As a result, illegal immigrants would generally prefer to obtain a green card or a visa that would open the door to permanent residency."

Emily Yellin, in a New York Times op-ed, on the enduring effects of rape.

Paul Haven of the AP: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry must decide within a few weeks whether to advocate that President Barack Obama should take Cuba off a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a collection of Washington foes that also includes Iran, Syria and Sudan. Cuban officials have long seen the terror designation as unjustified and told visiting American delegations privately in recent weeks that they view Kerry's recommendation as a litmus test for improved ties. They also hinted the decision could affect discussions over the release of jailed U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross, whose detention in 2009 torpedoed hopes of a diplomatic thaw."

Carol Leonnig & Luz Lazo of the Washington Post: "A top Dominican law enforcement official said Friday that a local lawyer has reported being paid by someone claiming to work for the conservative Web site the Daily Caller to find prostitutes who would lie and say they had sex for money with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). The lawyer told Dominican investigators that a foreign man, who identified himself as 'Carlos,' had offered him $5,000 to find and pay women in the Caribbean nation willing to make the claims about Menendez.... The Daily Caller issued a statement Friday saying that the information allegedly provided by the Dominican lawyer, Melanio Figueroa, was false." CW: luckily, the Daily Caller's denial is as believable as its "journalism."

Right Wing World

Charles Blow: "People like [Michele] Bachmann represent everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. She and her colleagues are hyperbolic, reactionary, ill-informed and ill-intentioned, and they have become synonymous with the Republican brand. We don't need all politicians to be Mensa-worthy, but we do expect them to be cogent and competent."

Local News

James MacPherson of the AP: "... North Dakota is now trying to enact the toughest abortion restrictions in the nation. The newly oil-rich red state may soon find itself in a costly battle over legislation foes describe as blatantly unconstitutional.... Lawmakers on Friday took a step toward outlawing abortion altogether in the state by passing a so-called personhood resolution that says a fertilized egg has the same right to life as a person. The House's approval sends the matter to voters, who will decide whether to add the wording to the state's constitution in November 2014."

News Ledes

AP: "Boris Berezovsky, a self-exiled and outspoken Russian tycoon who had a bitter falling out with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found dead in southeast England on Saturday. He was 67.... The cause of Berezovsky's death was not immediately clear, and Thames Valley police said it was being treated as 'unexplained.'" The Guardian story is here.

New York Times: "Under persistent prodding from President Obama, Israel and Turkey resolved a bitter three-year dispute on Friday with a diplomatic thaw that will help a fragile region confront Syria's civil war, while handing the president a solid accomplishment as he closed out his visit to the Middle East." CW: earning a chip of that Nobel medal. ...

... AP: "President Barack Obama set aside the Middle East's tricky politics Saturday to marvel at the beauty of one of the region's most stunning sites, the fabled ancient city of Petra.... Obama's turn as tourist capped a four-day visit to the Middle East that included stops in Israel and the West Bank, as well Jordan."

Washington Post: "Two Marines were shot and killed late Thursday at the Officer Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, and the suspected shooter, also a Marine, fatally shot himself inside a barracks on the base.... Officials ... declined to publicly discuss a possible motive in the attacks but said the incident was neither a terrorist incident nor an attempt to cause mass casualties. They said the gunman and two victims were members of the same unit and knew one another." CW: in other words, just your usual murders among friends. Nothing to worry about, folks.

Reuters: "A white supremacist ex-convict who died in a roadside gun battle with Texas police was being investigated for possible links to the deaths of a Colorado prisons chief and a pizza delivery man, law enforcement officials said on Friday. Police said that Evan Spencer Ebel, a 28-year-old parolee from Denver killed by police on Thursday after a high-speed car chase through Decatur, Texas, was being investigated in connection with the death of Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections."

New York Times: Cypriot "lawmakers took steps late Friday to revise a formula for obtaining a bailout of Cyprus's banks but faced strong signals that the plan would not pass muster with international lenders. The Parliament put off until later this weekend a vote on a crucial new proposal that would confiscate 22 to 25 percent of uninsured deposits above 100,000 euros through a new tax on account holders in one of the nation's most troubled banks."

AP: "China is trying to punish ally North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests, stepping up inspections of North Korean-bound cargo in a calibrated effort to send a message of Chinese pique without further provoking a testy Pyongyang government. Freight handlers and trading companies at ports and cities near the North Korean border complain of more rigorous inspections and surprise checks that are raising the costs to doing business with an often unpredictable North Korea. Machinery, luxury goods and daily necessities such as rice and cooking oil are among the targeted products, the companies said, and business is suffering."