The Ledes

Tuesday, September 23, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States and five Arab allies launched a wide-ranging air campaign against the Islamic State and at least one other extremist group in Syria for the first time early Tuesday, targeting the groups’ bases, training camps and checkpoints in at least four provinces, according to the United States military and Syrian activists. The intensity of the attacks struck a fierce opening blow against the jihadists of the Islamic State, scattering its forces and damaging the network of facilities it has built in Syria that helped fuel its seizure of a large part of Iraq this year." ...

... AP: "Syria said Tuesday that Washington informed President Bashar Assad's government of imminent U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State group, hours before an American-led military coalition pounded the extremists' strongholds across northern and eastern Syria."

New York Times: "The Israeli military said Tuesday morning that it had shot down a Syrian fighter jet that had “infiltrated into Israeli airspace,” the first such incident in at least a quarter of a century."

New York Times: "Israeli forces early Tuesday killed the two men they suspected of abducting and murdering three Israeli teenagers from the occupied West Bank in June, according to a military spokesman, closing a crucial chapter in what became the bloodiest period of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades.Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the Israeli military said Marwan Qawasmeh, 29, and Amer Abu Aisha, 33, 'came out shooting' around 6 a.m. as troops breached a two-story structure in Hebron where the suspects had been holed up for a week."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
September 22

10:15 am ET: Latino educators meet

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

1:00 pm ET: Mental health & suicide prevention briefing

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

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

CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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Friday
Jun222012

The Commentariat -- June 23, 2012

Okey-doke. My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is one NOBODY will agree with. Eh, so I'm mean. The NYTX front page is here.

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

** Joe Stiglitz in a Washington Post op-ed: "Inequality is greater here than in any other advanced country. The data remind us how a combination of monetary, fiscal and regulatory policies have contributed to these outcomes. Market forces play a role, but they are at play in other countries, too. Politics has much to do with the difference in outcomes.... The Fed has consistently failed to understand the links between inequality and macroeconomic performance." ...

... Henry Blodgett of the Business Insider: "In case you needed more confirmation that the priorities of US companies and the US economy are screwed up (specifically, they're engineered to create a country of a few million overlords and 300+ million serfs) ... Corporate profit margins just hit an all-time high. Fewer Americans are working than at any time in the past three decades. Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time " With charts to prove it.

In a Washington Post op-ed, legal scholar Jonathan Turley argues that Congress should expand the number of members of the Supreme Court. "The nine-member court is a product not of some profound debate or study, but pure happenstance." Having the whims of one unelected old fogy repeatedly decide national law is a stupid system. CW: I'll have Boehner & McConnell get on that right now.

The Anti-Union Supremes. New York Times Editors: "The Supreme Court’s ruling this week in Knox v. Service Employees International Union is one of the most brazen of the Roberts court.... Under the court's rules, only the questions set out in the appeal are to be considered by the court." But the 5 conservatives decided they would add a constraint on unions that wasn't part of the suit. CW: I think this is similar to what they did in Citizens United, altho there they asked the litigants to come back & make new arguments; here they just dispensed with the lawyers' cases & legislated from the bench, unbid. ...

... Or as a Yahoo! News contributor, Andrew Riggio, writes, "Supreme Court rules in favor of freeloading." ...

... NEW. AND Markos Molitsas is asking us to do something about it: in retaliation, he has put up a petition on Daily Kos "asking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to introduce legislation requiring corporations to get opt-in permission from shareholders in order to be allowed to use company resources for political purposes." CW: I signed. ...

     ... Here's a related post by Kos.

... Lisa Lambert & James Kelleher of Reuters: "As America's biggest state and local government employees' union gathered [in Los Angeles] this week, it faced obstacles like never before.... Lee Saunders, who became the union's first African American president on Friday, said ... the mission for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was to save nothing less than organized labor itself."

Ethan Bronner of the New York Times: "David Blankenhorn, a national figure in the movement against same-sex marriage, has recanted his opposition.... Mr. Blankenhorn, the founder and president of the Institute for American Values, wrote an influential book that argued against same-sex marriage in 2007 ... and served as an expert witness against the constitutional challenge to California's Proposition 8, which limited marriage to heterosexuals. On Friday, he said in an opinion article for The New York Times, published online, and in an interview on NPR that his concerns about same-sex marriage remained, but that 'the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over.'"

Richard Gizbert of Al Jazeera on why Julian Assange's application for asylum in Equador is no surprise.

Presidential Race

Michael Luo & Julie Creswell of the New York Times: While Mitt Romney ran Bain Capital, "Bain structured deals so that it was difficult for the firm and its executives to ever really lose, even if practically everyone else involved with the company that Bain owned did, including its employees, creditors and even, at times, investors in Bain's funds.... In at least three of the seven bankruptcies..., companies appear to have been made more vulnerable by debt taken on to return money to Bain and its investors...." CW: so where does "savvy businessman" morph into "ruthless predator"?

Dream Small. Dream Tiny. Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney ... did reiterate his support for ... a narrow version of the DREAM Act that would provide a path to legalization for immigrants who serve in the military." Romney's immigration policy would offer legal status to "just 1.5 percent of the 2.1 million illegal immigrants who would qualify for legal status under DREAM overall...." CW: so basically, the Romney plan is to "let Mexicans do the jobs Americans won't do" -- like fighting & dying for the rest of us slackers. Semper Filipe. ...

... Major Garrett of the National Journal: "Hill Democrats and Republicans alike believe that [President] Obama outfoxed and outmaneuvered [Sen. Marco] Rubio [R-Fla.], who for three months advertised his intention to draft a GOP version of the Dream Act (which Obama's executive-policy gambit has now temporarily addressed).... Mitt Romney had been waiting expectantly for the never-to-emerge Rubio bill. Now both are left stranded -- much to the White House's delight -- on the sidelines of immigration and Latino politics, while the president soaks up attention."

Here's a surprise. The Wall Street Journal published this op-ed by Prof. Jeffrey Liebman, an Obama advisor, explaining why the jobs bill President Obama proposed 9 months ago -- and which the Congress refused to pass -- "would have strengthened our economy now & for years to come.... What would Gov. Romney do to create jobs now? In a word, nothing. In fact, the proposals he has put forward would slow the recovery, reversing the gains we have made since the recession ended." Thanks to contributor Trish R. for the link.

Washington Post Editorial Board: "On Friday, Mitt Romney -- along with an entourage of his most important donors and fundraisers -- arrived at the tony Utah ski resort of Deer Valley.... Unknown ... are the identities of the 'bundlers' present at this weekend fete, the fundraisers largely responsible for Mr. Romney's unexpected outraising of President Obama in May.... The Romney campaign's refusal to identify those who bring in a quarter-million dollars or more differentiates it not only from the Obama campaign but also from those of the past two Republican contenders for the White House.... Selling access has become nearly universal in political campaigns. Seeking to do so in secret sets Mr. Romney apart."

"Romney's Bid to Become Liar-in-Chief." Michael Cohen of the Guardian: "The United States has never been witness to a presidential candidate, in modern American history, who lies as frequently, as flagrantly and as brazenly as Mitt Romney.... Those of us in the pundit class are really not supposed to accuse politicians of lying -- they mislead, they embellish, they mischaracterize, etc. Indeed, there is natural tendency for nominally objective reporters, in particular, to stay away from loaded terms such as lying. Which is precisely why Romney's repeated lies are so effective. In fact, lying is really the only appropriate word to use here, because, well, Romney lies a lot." ...

... Steve Benen chronicles a staggering 30 lies Romney told this week alone.

Robert Costa of the National Review: "I'm reliably informed that Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin ... has submitted paperwork to the Romney campaign. Sources confirm that he is being vetted for the vice-presidential nomination." Via Greg Sargent.

Right Wing World

Fergitt Mitt. Dana Milbank: Grover Norquist is the head of the Republican party.

News Ledes

AP: Mandatory minimum sentences mean Jerry Sandusky will likely die in prison. Sentencing will likely be in about three weeks.

Washington Post: "Gov. Robert F. McDonnell told members of the University of Virginia's governing board Friday that if they do not resolve the leadership crisis at the historic school next week, he will remove all of them. McDonnell (R), who had repeatedly resisted involving himself in the escalating troubles at the state's flagship university, sent a stern three-page letter to the Board of Visitors late Friday, nearly two weeks after the ouster of President Teresa Sullivan."

New York Times: "Turkey announced Friday that Syrian forces had shot down a Turkish warplane with two crew members over the Mediterranean, a potentially ominous turn for the worse in relations already frayed because of Turkey's support for Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad." Al Jazeera story here.

Al Jazeera: "Tens of thousands of Egyptians have returned to Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand the rollback of what they see as politically biased court decisions and military power grabs designed to throttle last year's revolution and steal the presidential election. The mass protest and sit-in, initiated by the Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday night, has since then grown and remained determined as ever on Saturday. The anti-military rally comes ahead of anxiously awaited results of a runoff vote between the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi against Ahmed Shafik, the final prime minister to serve under ousted president Hosni Mubarak."

Washington Post: "In a searing letter sent to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Review Board on Friday, Lance Armstrong made it clear he intends to fight the agency's allegation that he participated in a vast doping conspiracy while winning his seven Tour de France titles."

Thursday
Jun212012

The Commentariat -- June 22, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "The First Draft of History -- Will be Vaporized." The NYTX front page is here.

Matthew Stevenson writes a terrific send-up for NYTX of the New York Times' coverage of the "Dating Game" between President Obama & Chancellor Merkel.

CW: contributor Janice recommends this American Prospect article by Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson on Michael Harrington's The Other America, the seminal work on poverty in America that helped inspire Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty." Janice says it's a must-read. I agree.

CW: I was prepared not to care for this long article on how privileged women balance work and family by Anne-Marie Slaughter in The Atlantic, but she mostly succeeds at reining in the whiney factor & makes some mild proposals -- and has taken some itty-bitty steps -- toward easing the burdens of the two-career woman: worker & mommy. Of course I would go much further & urge that all jobs be cut to a 35-hour work week -- a sure-fire way to create millions of jobs, jobs, jobs. ...

... I learned about Slaughter's piece thru this article by Jodi Kantor of the New York Times, which discusses the article & the difficulties elite women still have competing with elite men. Why should those of us who are not -- or whose children or grandchildren will not become -- secretary of state give a rat's ass? Because, however slowly, what happens at the top does trickle down. I'd like to have your input on this.

"Illegal Movie":

Paul Krugman: "... you shouldn't imagine that what The Times discovered about prison privatization in New Jersey is an isolated instance of bad behavior. It is, instead, almost surely a glimpse of a pervasive and growing reality, of a corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage that is undermining government across much of our nation."

Krugman, from an undisclosed location, on the Fed's inaction: "I'm sorry, but this looks like pure concession to political intimidation -- a Fed refusing to do anything that would let Republicans accuse it of helping Obama. And for the sake of its own political comfort, the Fed is essentially betraying the unemployed. All in all, the degree of elite failure in this crisis is just stunning."

CW: sorry, I thought I linked this earlier, but I guess not. Ezra Klein has a pretty good piece in the New Yorker on the history of the individual mandate. Since after next week, we may not ever hear much about it ever again, you might consider Klein's piece a swan song. ...

... Here's the Chorus. Dr. Donald Berwick, in a Washington Post op-ed: "Obamacare is helping our nation achieve health care that is excellent, accessible to all and affordable. In the 17 months that I led the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), I saw how this law is helping tens of millions of families and is finally putting our health-care system on the right track."

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: maybe the Supremes would have been able to write a meaningful decision in F.C.C. v. Fox if they weren't so loath to write the words "fuck" and "shit," which were, after all, the issues of the case. Davidson's post includes this excellent video:

Reality Chek: the vaunted Democratic super-majority lasted about six months. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Alexander Burns of Politico: "Indiana Treasurer and GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock applauds the Supreme Court's decision invalidating the Affordable Care Act in a new video uploaded to his YouTube account. The catch, obviously, is that the Court hasn't ruled on Obamacare just yet.... Mourdock's video ... is apparently a pretaped message in the event that the health care law goes down, but it hit the web early.... But wait -- there's more! Mourdock uploaded three more videos so as to cover multiple contingencies in the Supreme Court decision. There's a video for a ruling that upholds the Affordable Care Act, one for a split decision and one for a totally inconclusive decision." CW: Moredick is going to be this season's Rand Paul. Let's just hope he loses the election. ...

... Plus, either Moredick didn't get this memo or it doesn't apply to Senate candidates. Reuters: "U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday told the Republican rank-and-file there will be no celebrating in Congress if the Supreme Court rules against President Barack Obama's sweeping healthcare reform law."

David Nakamura & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "A day after a congressional committee recommended that the House hold the nation's attorney general in contempt in connection with an investigation of a botched federal gun-running operation, the White House and its Republican rivals sought to position themselves as the principled parties in a high-stakes game of election-year brinkmanship."

Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker: "... in 2012, abortion remains — more than ever, in fact — the biggest and clearest difference between Republicans and Democrats."

Presidential Race

Jacob Weisberg of Slate: the President "and his campaign have cleverly recognized that Romney's slow-footedness and lack of imagination present an opportunity for them to shine in contrast. They have reversed the usual dynamic of re-election campaigns, highlighting the challenger's stodginess while making Obama into a nimble incumbent."

** Willard, the Outsourcing King. Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney's financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India. During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain..., it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to [SEC] filings.... Romney in recent months has lamented the toll [outsourcing has] taken on the U.S. economy. He has repeatedly pledged he would protect American employment by getting tough on China.... A Washington Post examination of securities filings shows the extent of Bain's investment in firms that specialized in helping other companies move or expand operations overseas."

¿Como se dice 'Flip Flop' en Español? Trip Gabriel & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney on Thursday offered what he called a strategy for 'bipartisan and long-term immigration reform' in an address to a convention of Latino elected officials in Florida. In the speech, which also touched on the economy, Mr. Romney dropped the confrontational tone he took on immigration during the Republican primary. Instead, he promised to work in a series of areas to help immigrants and their families while discouraging people from coming to the country illegally.... The nearly twenty-minute speech was met with tepid applause and moments of pointed silence." ...

... Or Maybe Not. Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "Romney has now shifted to a strategy of strategic obfuscation.... Romney completely avoided the two big questions: How will Romney deal with the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the US, and what will he do about the DREAM Act-eligible immigrants.... [The speech was] just vague enough to give the impression that Romney has moderated on immigration policy without making an actual commitment to any policy changes." ...

... Lawrence Downes of the New York Times: "To qualify for Mr. Romney’s plan, an illegal immigrant would first have to serve in the military. That's about 30,000 people, according to Frank Sharry, an immigration-rights advocate.... Mr. Romney finally had the chance to explain what he would do about the 11.5 million illegal immigrants in this country, apart from hope they go away, and do it before an eager audience. But he didn't."

... Mark Murray of NBC News: "In remarks he delivered in Florida before Latino political leaders, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney once again declined to answer if he would overturn President Obama's executive action to no longer deport qualified young illegal immigrants.... Left unsaid, of course, is what Romney -- if elected president -- would do before signing long-term legislation into law, or if the legislation couldn't be passed. Remember: Due to congressional opposition, both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been unable to pass comprehensive legislation dealing with illegal immigration."

Ben Adler of The Nation, citing numerous big-business flame-outs, makes an excellent case against ever choosing a businessperson as president or treasury secretary.

Dressage as Tax Dodge. Amy Davidson: "The Romneys reported a business loss for the care of Rafalca that added up to some seventy-seven thousand dollars."

Local News

California, an Actual Laboratory of Democracy. New York Times Editors: "A bill moving through the California Legislature, aptly named the Trust Act, seeks to counter the damage done to community policing and public safety by the Obama administration's Secure Communities program.... The bill would enhance the ability of local departments to fight crime by restoring community trust and saving jail space for serious offenders. It deserves to become law."

News Ledes

... Here's the "money quote," literally:

Tampa Bay Times: "President Barack Obama used the first Florida rally of his 2012 campaign on Friday to blast Mitt Romney as an 'outsourcing pioneer' and promised a second term focused on helping the middle class more than the wealthiest Americans."

New York Times: "President Obama assailed Republicans on Friday as obstacles to fixing the nation's immigration system and said his opponent would block efforts to let young immigrants stay if they were brought into the United States illegally by their parents." Orlando Sentinel story here.

New York Times: "Msgr. William J. Lynn, a former archbishop's aide, was found guilty Friday of one count of endangering children, becoming the first senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States to be convicted of covering up child sexual abuses by priests under his supervision. The 12-member jury acquitted Monsignor Lynn, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, on a conspiracy charge and a second count of endangerment after a three-month trial that prosecutors and victims rights groups called a milestone in the sexual abuse scandals that have shaken the Catholic church." Philadelphia Inquirer story here.

Philadelphia Inquirer: "... jurors in the child sex abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky asked a judge to re-read a portion of his instructions involving one of the more controversial elements of the case.... Judge John M. Cleland called jurors back to the courtroom at 3:25 p.m. and instructed them once again on how to weigh testimony involving the alleged abuse of a man known in court documents as Victim 8. His identity remains unknown to prosecutors. Last week, Penn State janitor Ron Petrosky testified that in 2000 a co-worker, James Calhoun, walked out of a locker room shower claiming he had seen Sandusky 'licking on' the young boy's genitals." ...

     ... ** New York Times Update: "Jerry Sandusky ... was convicted Friday of sexually abusing young boys, completing the downfall of a onetime local hero." Philadelphia Inquirer story here.

New York Times: "Egypt's military rulers warned on Friday that they would use 'the utmost firmness' against anyone they deem to threaten 'the higher interests of the country' just as tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded into Tahrir Square here for the fourth day of demonstrations against the dissolution of Parliament and reassertion of their power." ...

... Al Jazeera: "Tens of thousands have packed Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square to denounce a power grab by the ruling military, as the nation nervously awaited the results of the first post-Mubarak presidential election."

Al Jazeera: "A Turkish fighter jet has gone missing over the Mediterranean near Syria, risking a new crisis between Middle Eastern neighbours already at bitter odds over a 16-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The military said a search and rescue operation for the two pilots of the F-4 plane was under way.... Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said at a news conference on Friday that he did not know whether Syria had shot down the plane, and said that Syria had sent no word of apology."

Washington Post: "The University of Virginia governing board will meet next week to discuss whether to reinstate President Teresa Sullivan, whose abrupt ouster this month caused an uproar on the historic campus. Sullivan supporters on the board of visitors called for a special meeting after they secured what they think are enough votes to retain her, according to current and former board members briefed on the conversations."

Washington Post: "The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain were gathering in Rome Friday for crucial talks aimed at reaching a compromise on short- and long-term fixes for the region's worsening financial crisis, ahead of a European Union summit in Brussels next week." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The leaders of the euro zone’s four largest economies vowed on Friday to defend the common currency with all means necessary, trying to reassure markets before yet another key summit meeting of the European Union next week in Brussels."

Washington Post: "Pakistan's ruling party picked a new prime minister Friday -- former government power and water chief Raja Pervez Ashraf -- but the choice seemed to guarantee continued political turmoil: Ashraf, the energy minister from 2008 to 2011, is associated with a persistent energy crisis that has crippled the country with blackouts, water shortages and steep increases in the price of fuel." ...

     ... Al Jazeera Update: "Raja Pervez Ashraf has been elected Pakistan's new prime minister and sworn in by the president, just days after the Supreme Court had dismissed Yousuf Raza Gilani for contempt."

New York Times: "Twenty people were killed when seven Taliban militants shot their way into a much-visited lakeside resort [in Afghanistan] and took scores of hostages during an 11-hour siege, Afghan officials said on Friday."

Reuters: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Friday that he was ready for a life in Ecuador and said the country had been 'quite supportive' of his bid for asylum."

Wednesday
Jun202012

The Commentariat -- June 21, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "The Third-Party Zombie and Other Friedman Recyclables." The NYTX front page is here. ...

... I thought this parody of Friedman's column today was a hoot.

Paul Krugman on Ben Bernanke:

... Ben Pleases Willard. Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: "... the Fed board agrees that the economy needs help, but ... has chosen not to provide it, at least right now.... There's plenty that the Fed could do, and ... they are the only game in town, given that Congress is not going to do anything helpful.... On Sunday, in a little-noticed part of his Face the Nation interview, [Mitt] Romney bashed 'politicians' who 'want to do everything they can just before an election to try and temporarily boost something' when they should be concerned about 'the potential threat down the road of inflation.' ... What we have here is Romney also benefiting from a presumption that he cares about economic growth, when ... he's explicitly expressing far more concern about inflation." ...

... Michael Grunwald of Time agrees with Bernstein, forcefully so, and not for the first time. "And so we beat on, boats against the current...."

Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian: Julian "Assange's fear of ending up in the clutches of the US is plainly rational and well-grounded." ...

... Chris Spannos of the New York Times eXaminer has an interesting play-by-play of how the New York Times changes its story -- in this case, the story of Julian Assange's application for political asylum.

One Reason ObamaCare Is Unpopular. Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "In all, about $235 million has been spent on ads attacking the law since its passage in March 2010.... Only $69 million has been spent on advertising supporting it." Underwriting the anti-ACA ads: "an array of conservative groups, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($27 million) to Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS ($18 million), which includes the billionaire Sheldon Adelson among its donors, and the American Action Network ($9 million), founded by Fred V. Malek, an investor and prominent Republican fund-raiser." This is not about health care; it's about GOP politics. ...

... The Other Reason ObamaCare Is Unpopular. Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "The latest study from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism found that ... [media] coverage of the Affordable Care Act was dominated by rhetoric used by the law's opponents. According to Pew, 'the concepts used by opponents were nearly twice as common as those used by supporters.' ... Journalists are supposed to separate truth from falsehood, but instead spent the bulk of their resources speculating about 'politics and strategy.'" ...

... The overview of the Pew report is here, and it's very readable. CW: If the Supreme Court kills the Affordable Care Act or the individual mandate, blame the media's politicized coverage -- which turned the public against the ACA; the law's unpopularity provides cover for the conservatives on the Court. And this is all about GOP dominance -- nobody wins when health care loses, particularly the ACA which both medical personnel and the health insurance industry like.

Gasland. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "For more than a year now, Republicans in Washington — and Mitt Romney on the stump -- have been pressing the case that the Obama administration is trying to squash an energy boom" [with excessive regulations]. But people who live in the areas where these fracking fabulous booms are taking place say there is no regulation & the gas companies do whatever they want.

Gail Collins on a few of the pitfalls of privatization. ...

... This is the Sam Dolnick series Collins refers to. (Links to the other two articles in the series at the top of the page.) Hell is a New Jersey halfway house owned by one of Chris Christie's "mentors."

This PBS interview of former President Jimmy Carter provides a good overview of the political situation in Egypt:

Barack Obama Is Tired of Dealing with You People. John Farrell of the National Journal: "... the assertion of [executive] privilege [in the "Fast & Furious" fiasco] is another sign of Obama's willingness to employ his presidential authority to circumvent Republican hostility and intransigence. It goes in line with the president's unilateral expansion of his discretionary authority in immigration cases, the undeclared cyber war against Iran, or the use of drones in attacks on terrorist targets.... In an election year, as Mitt Romney is discovering, an incumbent like Obama can stage an impressive display of presidential forcefulness." ...

... Andrew Rudalevige of the Monkey Cage has a nice little history of the use of executive privilege. ...

... Here's the Justice Department's statement. ...

... Dana Milbank explains the Holder-Issa standoff in a nutshell: "Republicans didn't have much on Holder -- it's one of those perennial disputes about how much the executive branch needs to divulge to the legislature -- so they did what sensible people usually do when they have an honest disagreement: They accused the attorney general of being an accessory to murder." CW: well, yeah, but at least one Republican on the committee accused President Obama of being in on the plot, too. ...

I could have arrested Karl Rove on any given day. I'm not kidding. There's a prison here in the Capitol … If we had spotted him in the Capitol, we could have arrested him. -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. (Jennifer Bendery's interview of Pelosi for the HuffPost is worth reading)

Presidential Race

Michael Bender of Bloomberg News: "Mitt Romney's presidential campaign asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to tone down his statements heralding improvements in the state's economy because they clash with the presumptive Republican nominee's message that the nation is suffering under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter."

"You Must Remember This":

... Unless You've Got ROMNESIA! David Corn of Mother Jones reviews Mitt Romney's long history of misremembering his past. Corn doesn't cover any new ground, so you've probably read it all before, but the article is full of helpful strings around the finger for Willard.

We are not going to talk about immigration, for Pete's sake. Gabriel Debenedetti & Patricia Zengerle of Reuters: Mitt Romney's presidential campaign fended off questions on immigration policy on Wednesday as the Republican challenger scrambled for a response five days after President Barack Obama's relaxation of immigration policy drew accolades from Hispanic voters. Questions on the Republican challenger's position on immigration dominated a campaign conference call Wednesday that was supposed to be about the economy. The call was cut off early after what a Romney staffer said were 'off-topic' questions."

News Ledes

Not Quite Junk. New York Times: "After putting banks on watch four months ago, Moody's Investors Service on Thursday slashed the credit ratings of 15 large financial firms.... Two United States banks that were hit hard in the financial crisis emerged with the lowest ratings. Citigroup and Bank of America are now rated only two notches above junk. While Morgan Stanley avoided a worst-case scenario of a three-notch downgrade, its rating slipped by two levels."

New York Times: "Hours after a jury began deliberating the child sexual abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky, lawyers for [Matt Sandusky] one of his adopted children, said Thursday that he had been abused by Sandusky and had offered to testify in the case." Philadelphia Inquirer story here. ...

... Philadelphia Inquirer: "After seven days of testimony, 50 witnesses, and accounts of serial abuse from eight young accusers, the jury in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case began deliberations this afternoon."

New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to address whether the government still has the authority to regulate indecency on broadcast television, but it ruled in favor of two broadcasters who had faced potential fines for airing programs featuring cursing and nudity on narrow grounds."

ABC News: "Less than two weeks after taking a medical leave of absence following a seizure and a string of bizarre car accidents, Commerce Secretary John Bryson is resigning.... President Obama accepted Bryson's resignation Wednesday night and will meet with him at the White House this afternoon to thank him for his service."

Bloomberg News: "More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, indicating the labor market continues to struggle."

New York Times: "A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers." ...

... Al Jazeera: "The pilot of a Syrian MiG 21 fighter jet who flew his plane to Jordan has asked for political asylum on landing, Jordanian Minister of State for Information Samih al-Maaytah said. Syrian activists said it was the first defection involving an aircraft since the start of a 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad."

New York Times: "Egyptian election officials said Wednesday that they were postponing the announcement of a winner in last week's presidential runoff, saying they needed more time to evaluate charges of electoral abuse that could affect who becomes the country's next leader." Al Jazeera story here.

New York Times: "Spain successfully raised money at a bond auction Thursday amid high demand from investors, but at a punitive cost that underlined the country's financial fragility just hours before it planned to give more detail about the state of its sickly banks."

Guardian: "Julian Assange has spent a second night at the Ecuadorean embassy in London amid reports that a decision on his request for political asylum will be made on Thursday.... Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, will make a decision on Assange's application later on Thursday, the country's deputy foreign minister, Marco Albuja, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation."

Orlando Sentinel: "Sanford police Chief Bill Lee, who stepped aside temporarily three months ago amid a national outcry over his department's handling of the Trayvon Martin shooting, was fired Wednesday night. City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. dismissed Lee, effective immediately." ...

... Sentinel: "George Zimmerman's legal defense team released about a dozen documents, audio recordings and video of his statements to police about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin this morning.... The evidence was released through the website Zimmerman's attorneys set up for their client, Gzlegalcase.com." ...

     ... Update: details & video from ABC News.

AP: "Painter and sketch artist LeRoy Neiman, best known for evoking the kinetic energy of the world's biggest sporting and leisure events with bright quick strokes, died Wednesday at age 91."

Tuesday
Jun192012

The Commentariat -- June 20, 2012

... Colbert Krugman Edition

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on the unresponsiveness of the Democratic party to American workers. The NYTX front page is here.

** "Follow the Dark Money." Andy Kroll of Mother Jones on "the down and dirty history of secret spending, PACs gone wild, and the epic four-decade fight over the only kind of political capital that matters." CW: haven't read it yet, but it looks like a winner.

CPAN has the video of President Obama's remarks at his press conference yesterday; the transcript is here.

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "The FBI has been given an expanded role in coordinating the domestic intelligence-gathering activities of the CIA and other agencies under a plan enacted this year by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., officials said. The bureau's highest-ranking field agents now also serve as the DNI's representatives across the country. The change is intended to improve collaboration, but some officials say it has created new friction between the FBI and CIA."

Isn't That Special? Chris Frates of the National Journal: "The Cato Institute and prominent Republican donors Charles and David Koch are set to settle their legal fight over control of the libertarian think tank, ending a high-profile dispute that split the conservative movement. 'Looks like we've come to an accommodation with the Koch brothers,' Cato founder and President Ed Crane said in a Tuesday e-mail to employees."

... I can't embed the BBC interview of Paul Krugman which contributor Dave S. recommended, so as a second-best -- and on a different topic -- here's Krugman on Rachel Maddow's show:

... AND. It's Krugman Week on PBS. Here's the first of five installments:

... Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "Meeting in the desert scrub of Mexico's Baja region..., the leaders of the so-called Group of 20 eschewed specific commitments, instead limiting themselves to more generalized promises to invest in public works, overhaul labor markets and use innovation, education and infrastructure investment to fuel economic growth. A more detailed plan to address Europe's crisis is expected to emerge next week after a European summit meeting in Brussels." ...

... Shaila Dewan & Motoko Rich of the New York Times: "... since its postrecession peak in April 2009 (not counting temporary Census hiring), the public sector has shrunk by 657,000 jobs. The losses appeared to be tapering off earlier this year, but have accelerated for the last three months, creating the single biggest drag on the recovery in many areas. With the economy expanding, albeit slowly, state tax revenues have started to recover and are estimated to exceed prerecession levels next year. Yet governors and legislatures are keeping a tight rein on spending, whether to refill depleted rainy-day funds or because of political inclination."

Maureen Dowd recounts the testimony of Dottie Sandusky, Jerry's wife. If Cairo is in Illinois, De Nile must be in Pennsylvania. One thing that comes out from the testimony: the "constant wife" resented -- and still resents -- the kids Jerry "allegedly" abused.

Charles Pierce interviews Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) about the U.S. Supreme Court, Citizens United & Montana's anti-corruption campaign finance law. Entertaining.

Michael Levenson of the Boston Globe: "Senator Scott Brown today rejected a debate proposed by Victoria Reggie Kennedy, after the widow of Senator Edward M. Kennedy refused his precondition that she not endorse a candidate in his reelection campaign against Democrat Elizabeth Warren." ...

     ... Markos Moulitsas: "... telling the widow to shut the hell up? That's ... unforgivable."

Presidential Race

** Dana Milbank seldom gets serious. Today is an exception: "Under the Obama presidency..., conservative leaders are encouraging the vulgarity -- if not joining in by heckling the president from the House floor. The Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, recently shared a stage with Donald Trump only hours after the buffoon tycoon had again floated the disproved allegation that Obama wasn't born in the United States. Among many such episodes before that, Romney failed to challenge a supporter who suggested to him that Obama 'should be tried for treason.' ... When conservatives sanction the debasement of Obama, they are debasing the presidency itself." Plus, Tucker Carlson should fire Neil Munro for heckling the President.

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "The tax reform plan that House Republicans have advanced would sharply cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and could leave middle-class households facing much larger tax bills, according to a new analysis set to be released Wednesday. The report, prepared by Senate Democrats and reviewed by nonpartisan tax experts, marks the first attempt to quantify the trade-offs inherent in the GOP tax package, which would replace the current tax structure with two brackets -- 25 percent and 10 percent -- and cut the top rate from 35 percent."

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post manages to write a positive story about Romney & Bain Capital, riffing off the photo above.

Peter Baker & Michael Cooper of the New York Times sort of fact-check the presidential candidates. Both sides do it, blah-blah.

Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "President Obama's campaign will begin airing two TV ads today in nine battleground states, attacking Mitt Romney for outsourcing state work and hiking a number of fees during his term as Massachusetts governor.... Independent fact checkers have examined Romney's record on the outsourcing issue and taxes/fee hikes and found neither to be as black and white as the Obama campaign ads suggest." Here's one of the ads:

Tales of the WaWa. In that MSNBC creative editing story I linked yesterday, I mentioned that what Romney said was "amazing" was actually an anecdote he'd told earlier, not the bit about how you get your sandwiches at WaWa. Well, it turns out the backstory is "amazing" because it's 100 percent untrue -- just crap Romney heard or made up to fit his point. In the anecdote that ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor, Romney said,

I met an optometrist this morning. And this optometrist wanted to change his billing address. He moved his office from one side of town to the other. Same zip code. Same post office. But he wanted to change his address. He got a form from the federal government. This is so he can get reimbursement for the services he provides for the poor and seniors. The form he gets to change addresses is 33 pages long.

     ... Apparently Romney was talking about a Medicaid form that's two pages long. TWO. If it turns out Romney's implausible story is right, Greg Sargent will get back to us. Don't hold your breaths.

Gene Robinson: "... if taking action on the immigration issue is good politics for Obama and the Democrats, then Republicans have only themselves to blame. The GOP has made a conscious decision to offer nativists and xenophobes a comfortable home where their extremist views go unchallenged.... It's tiresome having to spend so much time trying to figure out what Romney really believes. If anything, I mean." ...

... Greg Sargent: "Even as [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell is signaling that the party will wait for Romney's direction on the [immigration] issue, however, a handful of House Republicans are moving forward by introducing bills that would block enforcement of Obama's new policy.... Can Republicans leaders possibly want any bills to be on the table that would reverse Obama's order?"

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney told reporters here Tuesday that his vice presidential search team is vetting Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), revealing that one of the Republican Party's biggest young stars is under consideration to be his running mate.... Romney's comments came after ABC News reported that his search team had not asked Rubio to complete a questionnaire or submit any personal financial documents.... Romney strongly denied the ABC report, which was attributed to two anonymous sources."

Colbert discovers an election conspiracy. Thanks to Kate M. for the link:

AND. The presidential candidates try out campaign slogans:

News Ledes

Washington Post: "A House panel voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt for failing to cooperate with a congressional inquiry into Operation 'Fast and Furious,' hours after President Obama asserted executive privilege over related documents."

Washington Post: "The Federal Reserve on Wednesday renewed a program designed to provide a push to economic growth amid a warning that hiring is slowing. The Fed said it would extend 'Operation Twist,' a program that seeks to reduce long-term interest rates, through the end of the year. The decision was a sign that the Fed is not pulling back from its years-long campaign to support the U.S. economy." New York Times story here.

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Defense attorneys in the Jerry Sandusky trial rested their case today without calling their client to the stand -- forgoing his chance to counter a mountain of devastating testimony from men who said he molested them as boys. The judge said the court would be in recess until 9 a.m. Thursday, after which closing arguments would begin. Once deliberations start, the jury will be sequestered."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "After 11 days of deliberations, jurors at the landmark clergy-sex abuse trial of two Philadelphia priests said Wednesday they were deadlocked on all but one count. Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina immediately pressed them to keep trying."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Tuesday that the fate of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria should be left to the hands of the Syrians, saying that no one country has the right to tell another people whom [sic.] their leader should be."

AP: "The three parties that back Greece's commitments to bailout creditors have agreed in principle to form a coalition government and are negotiating the final details, officials said Wednesday."

AP: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is beyond the grasp of British authorities as long as he is holed up in Ecuador's London embassy, the government said Wednesday. But he faces arrest if he steps outside. Police said Assange had violated the terms of his bail, which include an overnight curfew, and 'is now subject to arrest.' Police officers were stationed Wednesday outside the Edwardian apartment block that houses the small South American country's London embassy."

AP: "Americans overwhelmingly want the president and Congress to get to work on a new bill to change the health care system if the Supreme Court strikes down President Barack Obama's 2010 overhaul as unconstitutional, a new poll finds."