The Ledes

Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

Reuters: "Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboring Egypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day. Both have voiced alarm at mounting civilian casualties."

New York Times: "A train carrying the bodies of victims from the Malaysia Airlines jet downed by a missile last week arrived Tuesday morning in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv after a 17-hour journey out of lawless territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels." ...

... New York Times: "A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine last week bears telltale marks of small pieces of high-velocity shrapnel that apparently crippled the jet in flight. Riddled with these perforations and buffeted by a blast wave as it flew high above the conflict zone, the plane then most likely sheared apart."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, July 21, 2014.

Governor Grandstand. New York Times: "Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was expected to announce on Monday the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to bolster security as the Border Patrol faces an influx of Central American immigrants."

Guardian: "As Dutch forensic experts arrived at the scene of the Malaysia Airlines crash on Monday and promised that the train being loaded with the victims' bodies would be moved before the end of the day, heavy fighting broke out between the Ukrainian army and rebels on the outskirts of Donetsk, the main regional city and the hub of the insurgency." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "After days of obstruction, Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine permitted Dutch forensics experts on Monday to search the wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner destroyed by a surface-to-air missile, allowed bodies of the victims to be evacuated by train and agreed to give the plane’s flight recorder boxes to the Malaysian government."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin issued a brief statement early on Monday saying that Russia would work to ensure that the conflict in eastern Ukraine moves from the battlefield to the negotiating table, and he again said that a robust international investigating team must have secure access to the Malaysia Airlines crash site. He also accused unspecified nations of exploiting the disaster in pursuit of 'mercenary political goals.' The statement posted on the Kremlin website came a day after mounting international criticism and anger against Russia and specifically Mr. Putin for the chaotic, unsecured condition of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site and what some nations said was the desecration of the victims’ bodies."

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
July 22

11:00 am ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

12:10 pm ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden deliver remarks & sign H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

3:30 pm ET: Drink Up! with First Lady Michelle Obama

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

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

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

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whole Food Business Model: We Cheat You, But Not so Much You'll Notice. Shan Li of the Los Angeles Times: "Whole Foods Market is paying $800,000 in penalties after an investigation found the supermarket chain overcharged customers throughout California. During a yearlong investigation, state and local inspectors found the Austin, Texas, grocer charged more than advertised for a wide range of food products, according to a statement from the Santa Monica city attorney's office. Problems included failing to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up fresh food, putting smaller amounts into packages than the weight stated on the label, and selling items by the piece instead of by the pound, as required by law, the statement said.... 'Based on a review of our own records and a sampling of inspection reports .... our pricing on weighed and measured items was accurate 98% of the time,' the company said in a Tuesday statement." ...

... CW: Besides, if you shop at Whole Foods -- at no charge to you -- you can learn that unions are like herpes, ObamaCare is a form of fascism & climate change is "perfectly natural."

Teenaged curiosity about sex is quite natural, but it can be a bummer.The Vagina Dialog. Turned out to Require a Large Cast of Supporting Characters. Jen Kirby of New York: "An American student studying abroad in Germany captured the world's attention yesterday by achieving the remarkable feat of getting himself stuck in a giant vagina sculpture and needing 22 firefighters to rescue him. But Fernando de la Jara, the artist behind the now-infamous work, took it all in stride.... 'It's participatory art,' de la Jara said. 'It should be entered.'"

 

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Constant Comments

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-- Constant Weader

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Monday
Apr162012

The Commentariat -- April 17, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on the New York Times' sponsorship of "Deficit Reduction Week." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. My column incorporates ...

     ... Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation has a good column in the Washington Post debunking the idea -- promulgated by Brooks & Friedman, among others -- that neither side is willing to work in a bipartisan way to pass a right-wing deficit-reduction plan. ...

     ... AND this terrific post on Bill Keller's most recent NYT column by Joan Walsh of Salon. ...

     ... AND this post in which economist Dean Baker debunks David Brooks' column today.

** Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people nationwide, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.... Justice Department officials said that they met their legal and constitutional obligations when they learned of specific errors, that they alerted prosecutors and were not required to inform defendants directly.... The Post found that while many prosecutors made swift and full disclosures, many others did so incompletely, years late or not at all." Hsu points to a number of specific cases, all of which will make you sick.

Josh Barro of Forbes makes the case for abolishing the federal Housing & Urban Development Department (HUD).

Nate Silver of the New York Times has 12 tips on how to read political polls.

Jake Tapper of ABC News on the GSA Las Vegas "meeting" scandal. With video. And photos!

The Presidential Race

Walter Shapiro: "Romney's budget plan shouldn't be a secret saved for wealthy donors."

Matthew O'Brien of The Atlantic: "The last time we checked in on Mitt Romney's tax plan, the numbers didn't add up. Actually, there weren't any numbers to add up. Instead, there was a not very plausible promise to make the numbers add up at a later date.... Romney only spelled out the taxes and not the tax deductions that he wanted to cut.... Because he promised that his plan would be 'revenue neutral,' these numbers had to offset each other. But if Romney's recent hot mic moment is any indication, they don't. Not even close.... Red ink is the likely result of the Romney tax plan. Lots of it. That's just math."

In case you'd like to know what Mitt & Ann Romney said to ABC News' Diane Sawyer, here's the transcript.

** "Why Ann Romney Stayed Home." McCay Coppins in BuzzFeed: "... for many Latter-day Saint women, staying at home to raise children is less a lifestyle choice than religious one — a divinely-appreciated sacrifice that brings with it blessings, empowerment, and spiritual prestige. These doctrinally-defined gender roles aren't entirely unique — they've been preached by various sects for centuries — but Mormons have proven uniquely unwilling to bend them to fit modern times. The Church took heat in the '70s for waging a high-profile campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment; and even today, Mormon women remain twice as likely to be homemakers as non-Mormons, regardless of income levels." ...

... Roseann Barr, who is running for president, writes an opinion piece in the Daily Beast questioning Ann Romney's veracity & criticizing the latest fake mommy war. CW: Barr mostly gets it right. I'm linking the piece largely because "people are talking" about it.

Right Wing World *

** Charles Pierce of Esquire argues that "The Democratic party has an obligation to beat the Republican party so badly, over and over again, that rationality once again becomes a quality to be desired."

Frank James of NPR: In an "entirely objective statistical procedure," two political scientists have demonstrated that "the Republican Party is the most conservative it has been a century." ...

     ... Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect: "Unfortunately, even after noting that ideological polarization is assymmetric, both NPR and Poole [the political scientist] refuse to move away from a 'pox on both houses' frame for the story.... If there’s a problem in American politics, it’s the Republican Party, whose theological devotion to to tax cuts and 'small government' has destroyed our finances — both Reagan and George W. Bush were responsible for huge explosions of debt—and made bipartisan cooperation impossible."

After the Horse Is out of the Barn. Colorado Pols: A day after the GOP organ Colorado Observer quoted Rep. Scott Tipton's campaign manager saying, "With gas prices doubled, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved, we feel good," & after the quote had made national news, the Website totally sanitized the citation. "You shouldn't be surprised to discover that what the Colorado Observer and its stable of former GOP campaign staffers who call themselves 'journalists' practices isn't 'journalism,' but this kind of dishonesty convinces you they aren't really trustworthy even as a partisan mouthpiece." Via Greg Sargent. See also yesterday's Commentariat.

Mary Bruce of ABC OTUS News: "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kicked back Saturday night, dancing and drinking beer at a local hotspot after a day of summit meetings in Cartagena. The AFP/Getty got images of the Secretary dancing at Café Havana with her hands up in the air and swigging a local brew with friends." ...

Apparently this is shocking in Right Wing World.     ... Digby: "Yes, you may have been under the impression that right wingers consider Hillary to be a frigid, unfeeling schoolmarm but that was then and this is now. It's only a matter of time before they have her jumping out of the cake at the secret service sex parties." ...

     ... Davig Graham of The Atlantic on the brew-haha: "Inexplicably, however, we haven't seen Drunk Texts from Hillary anywhere."

* ... is far right.

Local News

War on Women. M. J. Lee of Politico: "Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law on Monday a bill that could shut down the only abortion clinic in the state, hailing it as an important step to 'ensure that the lives of the born and unborn are protected in Mississippi.'”

Emily Schultheis of Politico: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leads all of his Democratic challengers in the Wisconsin recall election, per a new Public Policy Polling poll."

News Ledes

CNN: "The space shuttle Discovery landed at Dulles International Airport outside Washington on Tuesday after a series of nostalgic fly-bys on the back of a NASA Boeing 747, bringing whoops of pride and tears to the eyes of space fans and astronauts alike":

New York Times: "Citigroup's shareholders rejected the bank’s plan to award its chief executive, Vikram S. Pandit, $15 million in compensation, in a show of frustration about Wall Street pay."

AP: "Under pressure to take action on rising gasoline prices, President Barack Obama wants Congress to strengthen federal supervision of oil markets, increase penalties for market manipulation and empower regulators to increase the amount of money energy traders are required to put behind their transactions."

Washington Post: "A probe into the alleged misconduct of nearly a dozen U.S. Secret Service agents has expanded to include more than five military personnel, Defense Department officials said Monday, as the scandal that erupted during President Obama's trip to Colombia last week put high-level officials on the defensive." ...

... ABC News: "... the Secret Service officials accused of misconduct in Colombia revealed their identities by boasting at a Cartagena brothel that they worked for President Obama." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The Secret Service has uncovered evidence that all 11 personnel under investigation for alleged misconduct with prostitutes in Colombia before President Obama's arrival there for a summit meeting last weekend had taken women to their rooms, Representative Peter T. King, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said on Tuesday." Washington Post story here.

Washington Post: "Inspector General Brian Miller told a congressional committee scrutinizing an $823,000 Las Vegas conference that his office has asked the Justice Department to investigate 'all sorts of improprieties' surrounding the 2010 event, 'including bribes, including possible kickbacks.' ... Miller's revelations of possible further misconduct ... enraged Democrats and Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The lawmakers put GSA officials on the defensive during a tense four-hour hearing, with some Republicans loudly rebuking former administrator Martha N. Johnson and her colleagues."

Show Me the Money. AP: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that the long-term partnership agreement being negotiated with the United States should specify exactly how much money the U.S. will give to Afghan forces in coming years."

New York Times: "Demanding his acquittal, [Anders Behring Breivik,] a self-styled anti-Islamic militant on trial for killing 77 people in Norway's worst peacetime atrocity took the stand for the first time on Tuesday, describing the deaths as 'the most spectacular sophisticated political act in Europe since the Second World War' and saying he would do it over again."

AP: "The Syrian regime widened shelling attacks on opposition strongholds Tuesday, activists said, targeting a second town in a new sign that a U.N.-brokered cease-fire is quickly unraveling despite the presence of foreign observers."

Sunday
Apr152012

The Commentariat -- April 16, 2012

My column in today's New York Times examiner is titled "Bill Keller Meets the Imaginary Swing Voter." As we're going to be hearing a lot about swing voters for the next six months, my column may give you a head start in figuring out who they are. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

** "Battleground America." Jill Lepore in the New Yorker: "The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.)... Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey..., the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades." No, the conservatives on the Supreme Court really do not understand the Second Amendment, and here's a little-known factoid: Black nationalists started the modern movement promoting "the right to bear arms." ...

... E. J. Dionne: "What’s insidious about Stand Your Ground laws is that in every jurisdiction that has them, these statutes tilt the balance of power in any street encounter in favor of the person who has a gun. That’s what happened in the Martin case. The law provides a perverse incentive for everyone to be armed." On gun control, some of the nation's mayors, including Mike Bloomberg of New York City & Tom Menino of Boston have stood up to the gun lobby while "state legislatures, Congress and the White House by moderates, liberals and many conservatives who ought to know better but are too petrified by the NRA to confront it."

Mike McIntire & Michael Luo of the New York Times: "Although Mr. Obama has made a point of not accepting contributions from registered lobbyists, a review of campaign donations and White House visitor logs shows that special interests have had little trouble making themselves heard. Many of the president’s biggest donors, while not lobbyists, took lobbyists with them to the White House, while others performed essentially the same function on their visits."

Paul Krugman: "... if European leaders really wanted to save the euro they would be looking for an alternative course.... The Continent needs more expansionary monetary policies, in the form of a willingness — an announced willingness — on the part of the European Central Bank to accept somewhat higher inflation; it needs more expansionary fiscal policies.... Even with such policies, the peripheral nations would face years of hard times.... What we’re actually seeing, however, is complete inflexibility." ...

U.S. Economic Problems Solved. Sheila Bair, former head of the FDIC, in a Washington Post op-ed: "For several years now, the Fed has been making money available to the financial sector at near-zero interest rates. Big banks and hedge funds, among others, have taken this cheap money and invested it in securities with high yields. This type of profit-making, called the 'carry trade,' has been enormously profitable for them. So why not let everyone participate? Under my plan, each American household could borrow $10 million from the Fed at zero interest." Ka-zing. CW: so how is it that Republicans and the Very Serious People, who are so-o-o-o worried about inflation, aren't a bit worried about the Fed's "printing" billions in free money & passing it out on Wall Street?

Tony Karon of Time on another round of talks, scheduled in May, between Iran and Western powers.

Jason Zengerle of New York magazine: nine pages of what Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is retiring from the House this year, thinks about everything.

With gas prices doubled, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved, we feel good. -- Michael Fortney, campaign manager for Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.). CW: when the Americans are suffering economic hardship, Republicans are so happy they say so. Via Greg Sargent.

The Presidential Race

The Horse Race. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post: "President Obama retains major advantages over ... Mitt Romney ... when it comes to winning the 270 votes he needs for a second term. Not only does Obama have more paths to 270 than Romney, but he has considerable leeway — judging from his 2008 performance — in many of the purest swing states." Cillizza identifies only nine true swing states, & Obama won all of them in 2008.

Game Over. Congress Busts the Etch-a-Sketch. Jonathan Weisman & Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: Congressional Republicans put Mitt Romney on notice that they are driving the agenda, are not members of his cheerileading squad, & he had better toe their ultra-conservative line.

It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment, and I loved it. -- Ann Romney, on how deeply upset she was by Hilary Rosen's comments. Mr. Romney was apparently pleased with the Rosen's remarks, too.

Evidently Sunday was Chris Wallace day. Here the host of Fox "News"' Sunday show tears into Mitt Romney's claim that 92.3 percent of the people who lost jobs under Obama's watch were women "It is not true," Wallace told Romney surrogate Ed Gillespie; "all of the factcheckers have said it's misleading":

     ... And here is Wallace, according to the Washington Post's somewhat dimwitted conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, "TKO-ing & "shredding" Obama political operative David Axelrod. Um, actually, Axelrod skewered himself AND Obama:

Bretty Smiley of New York Magazine: At a Palm Beach fundraiser, Mitt Romney reveals his bright ideas for eliminating tax loopholes to make up for his proposed cuts in the income tax rates. No more deductions on your second-home mortgages, kids. ...

... Counting Chickens with an Egg Detector. Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: "Mitt Romney is already offering top donors access to a special 'Presidential Inaugural retreat,' planned on the assumption that he will be elected president this November."

Local News

John Frank of the Raleigh, North Carolina, News & Observier: "The executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party resigned Sunday as calls for his ouster mounted amid questions regarding a secret agreement to pay a former staffer to keep quiet about sexual harassment allegations. Jay Parmley, who served a year at the helm of the party, denied harassing any employee and blamed right-wing blogs for 'spreading a false and misleading story' about the incident." CW: nice place to hold the party's national convention.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Senate rejected consideration Monday of the 'Buffett rule,' a key election-year Democratic initiative that would impose a minimum tax rate on those making more than $1 million per year... Democrats were unable to get the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster..., with the Senate voting 51 to 45 to move ahead. The vote was largely along party lines, although Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) voted with Democrats to allow the measure to proceed and Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) voted to block it."

Orlando Sentinel: "George Zimmerman's attorney on Monday asked the judge in the case to step down because of a possible conflict of interest. Attorney Mark O'Mara filed a motion seeking Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler's removal because her husband is the law partner of Mark NeJame, who works for CNN as an analyst on the Zimmerman case."

New York Times: "The New York Times won two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, one for its reporting on Africa and another for an investigative series on obscure tax code provisions that allow wealthy corporations and citizens to avoid paying taxes. But the bigger surprise this year came from new media. Two online news outlets, The Huffington Post and Politico, both won their first Pulitzer Prizes, a sign of the changing media landscape." Includes lists of prize winners.

New York Times: "The World Bank on Monday named as its next president Jim Yong Kim, a global health expert and the president of Dartmouth College, in a widely expected appointment that continues the longstanding tradition of an American leading the Washington-based development institution."

AP: "An advance team of U.N. observers was negotiating the ground rules with Syrian authorities Monday for monitoring the country's 5-day-old cease-fire, which appeared to be rapidly unraveling as regime forces pounded the opposition stronghold of Homs with artillery shells and mortars, activists said."

AP: "A brazen, 18-hour Taliban attack on the Afghan capital ended early Monday when insurgents who had holed up overnight in two buildings were overcome by heavy gunfire from Afghan-led forces and pre-dawn air assaults from U.S.-led coalition helicopters."

Guardian: "Egypt's presidential election is suddenly a contest of moderates after a decision by the country's supreme election commission to bar 10 candidates from the race, including a controversial Mubarak-era spy chief and a popular Islamic fundamentalist."

AP: "A right-wing fanatic admitted Monday to unleashing a bomb-and-shooting massacre that killed 77 people in Norway but pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, saying he was acting in self-defense."

National Journal: "The Obama campaign and other Democratic organizations raised a combined $53 million in March, according to a campaign video released on Monday."

Space: "NASA mounted space shuttle Discovery on a jumbo jet Sunday (April 15), in preparation for the retired orbiter's delivery to the Smithsonian. The paired air- and spacecraft are expected to depart Florida for Washington, D.C., on Tuesday morning (April 17), weather permitting.

Sunday
Apr152012

The Commentariat -- April 15, 2012

Sorry to be so late today. My seeing eye dog is a slow reader. Or, as Pappy Bush would say, "it's the vision thing." But no big deal. Apparently the waxing & waning of the vision thing is going to occur for a while.

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Frank Bruni's irritating "column about nothing." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

Maura Judkins of the Washington Post has links to lots of stories about the Titanic. Survivors remember the ship & its sinking:

** Paul Krugman & Robin Wells, from an article in The Occupy Handbook, republished in Salon: It's the inequality, stupid. A must-read on how the rich bought off both politicians & economists:

Republicans are encouraged and empowered to take positions far to the right of where they were a generation ago, because the financial power of the beneficiaries of their positions both provides an electoral advantage in terms of campaign funding and provides a sort of safety net for individual politicians, who can count on being supported in various ways even if they lose an election.

Dean Baker contradicts Greg Mankiw's New York Times op-ed on the benefits of competing state governments. Baker writes, "... the reality is that the government has implemented a wide range of policies that have led to a massive upward redistribution of before tax income over the last three decades."

Reuters: "President Barack Obama called on likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to release more of his tax returns, in an interview with Univision released on Saturday." ...

... Mary Bruce of ABC News: "President Obama, on a three-day trip to South America, attacked GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney’s stance on immigration reform today, saying his support for Arizona’s tough immigration law is 'very troublesome.' 'We now have a Republican nominee who said that the Arizona laws are a model for the country … and these are laws that potentially would allow someone to be stopped and picked up and asked where their citizenship papers are based on an assumption,' Obama told Univision during an interview in Cartagena, where the president is attending the Summit of the Americas." ...

... I can't tell if this is the entire interview or just a portion of it. In any event, it covers the remarks reported in the stories above:

Nicholas Kristof: "An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began.... We enlist soldiers to protect us, but when they come home we don’t protect them." ...

... Kate M. sent me this related op-ed piece on the Bales massacre, published in the Washington Post late last month. The author, Sarah Chayes, was an advisor to the U.S. military in Kandahar:

Never before has so much been asked of such a small segment of the American population. A startling proportion of the troops I’ve seen in Afghanistan have deployed three or more times: They make up less than 12 percent of the less than 1 percent of us in uniform.... U.S. soldiers are expected — by military as well as civilian officials — to make up for [the American and Afghan governments'] political and diplomatic failings.... Bales will stand trial. Afghan civilians will pay, too, dying as U.S. forces draw down and leave a government so rotten with corruption that many predict its implosion. But what accountability is there for the leaders, Afghan and American, whose poor decisions brought about such tragedies?

Right Wing World

Joan Walsh of Salon on Mitt Romney's doubletalk on working women: "His wife's [stay-at-home] 'job' is 'more important' than his, but he'd make welfare moms work 'from day one if we could.'" ...

... Don't miss this Chris Hayes segment:

News Ledes

AP: "With prayers, a hymn and a moment of silence broken by a ship's deep whistle, passengers and crew on a memorial trip marked 100 years to the moment since the Titanic sent more than 1,500 people to a watery grave."

New York Times: "A summit meeting of Western Hemisphere nations ended without a final statement of consensus on Sunday, after the United States and some Latin American nations remained sharply divided over whether to continue excluding Cuba from such gatherings."

ABC OTUS News: "President Obama today called for a 'thorough' and 'rigorous' investigation following the scandal surrounding the Secret Service officials tasked with his protection."

Washington Post: "Egypt’s top general urged Islamist and liberal political parties on Sunday to end a constitutional crisis and finish the new charter that will map out the country’s post-revolutionary future before the military council hands over power to civilian rule this summer."

USA Today: "Google deliberately impeded the Federal Communications Commission's investigation into how the technology firm used data gathered as part of its Street View project, the agency says. The FCC notified Google that it has proposed that the company be fined $25,000; Google can appeal the fine."

New York Times: "The Taliban staged multiple and sustained attacks across Kabul and eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, hitting the heavily secured diplomatic neighborhood of the Afghan capital and the Parliament area as well as Afghan government installations in at least two provinces."

Tulsa World: "Tornadoes erupting across the Midwest and Plains left five people dead and at least 29 injured in Oklahoma and damaged houses, a hospital, a jail, an Air Force base and other buildings elsewhere during a weekend outburst of severe weather, authorities said."

Washington Post: "Western diplomats claimed modest progress Saturday after more than 10 hours of talks with Iranian officials, raising hopes for at least a temporary easing of a nuclear crisis that has fueled fears of a new military conflict in the Middle East."

Washington Post: "The U.S. Secret Service on Saturday placed 11 agents on administrative leave as the agency investigates allegations that the men brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, on Wednesday night and that a dispute ensued with one of the women over payment the following morning. Secret Service Assistant Director Paul S. Morrissey said the agents had violated the service’s 'zero-tolerance policy on personal misconduct' during their trip to prepare for President Obama’s arrival at an international summit this weekend."

New York Times: Wayne LaPierre "of the National Rifle Association accused the news media on Saturday of engaging in sensationalized coverage of the Trayvon Martin killing, in the first comments that the gun lobby has made publicly about the fatal shooting since it occurred six weeks ago." Critics have zeroed in on the NRA's support for "stand-your-ground" laws; the local police cited the Florida law as a reason they did not arrest Martin's killer.

Friday
Apr132012

The Commentariat -- April 14, 2012

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

Jia Lin Yang of the Washington Post: "Romney and Obama’s tax proposals for the \rich offer a window into how differently the two men understand the economy: what makes it tick, what the government can do to encourage wealth and how to rebuild the middle class.... If Republican front-runner Mitt Romney reaches the White House, he will push for the top 1 percent of American earners to save an average of $150,000 in taxes, according to an analysis of his tax plan by the Tax Policy Center. In a second Obama administration, these Americans would pay about $83,000 more than they do now." Bottom line: they both shill for the rich; Romney is just way worse. For the top 0.1 percent, the difference is even more stark. Romney’s plan would save them an average of $725,000. President Obama would raise their taxes by $450,000." ...

... Brian Beutler of TPM on pundi-critics of the Buffett Rule: "All Buffett Rule critics knock Obama for not pursuing more comprehensive tax reforms. If they’d paid even passing attention to the events of 2011, they'd know that the only tax reforms Republicans back either raise no revenue, or are conditioned on the idea of locking in the Bush tax cuts permanently." CW: I've also seen what are supposed to be straight news reports comparing the Buffett Rule with the Ryan budget as if they were analogous. They are not. The Buffett Rule is one itty-bitty part of a budget proposal; the Ryan budget is, well, a budget. ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine. Even Democrats can't remember why they favor the Buffett Rule. But Chait knows: "The Buffett Rule is a symbolic fight to expose Republican extremism.... Republicans oppose it because they won’t accede to any higher taxes on the rich, no maer what." ...

... Jon Walker of Firedoglake: "In addition, every time Democrats talk about the Buffett Rule they can easily pivot to talking about how rich Mitt Romney is and how little he pays in taxes. Continuing to push down Romney’s already extremely low favorable numbers by depicting him as rich, privileged, and out of touch looks to be part of the Democrats overall 2012 strategy." ...

... Jake Tapper of ABC News: "President Obama’s secretary, Anita Decker Breckenridge, makes $95,000 a year. White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage tells ABC News that Breckenridge 'pays a slightly higher rate [than did the Obamas] this year on her substantially lower income, which is exactly why we need to reform our tax code and ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share.' ... [The] president would not be impacted by the Buffett Rule, though he would see his taxes go up if the so-called Bush tax cuts on higher income wage-earners were allowed to expire, as the president says he wants."

... Frank Newport of Gallup: "Six in 10 Americans favor Congress' passing the so-called 'Buffett Rule,' which would mandate a minimum 30% tax rate for Americans with a household income of $1 million or more per year. Majorities of both Democrats and independents favor the policy, while a majority of brainwashed people Republicans oppose it." CW: the only logical reason to oppose passage of the law is "I'm rich & selfish."

Chris McGreal of the Guardian: "Barack Obama's policy of engagement with North Korea lies 'in tatters' after it was effectively shot down by Pynongyang's defiant but failed attempt to launch a long-range rocket."

T. W. Farnam of the Washington Post: "An anonymous donor gave $10 million late last year to run ads attacking President Obama and Democratic policies.... In the new, free-wheeling environment of independent political giving, the identity of this donor, like many others, is likely to remain a permanent mystery. The donation went to Crossroads GPS, the conservative nonprofit group founded with the support of political strategist Karl Rove. Another donor gave $10 million in the 2010 midterm elections...."

These [Stand Your Ground] laws are vigilantism masquerading as self-defense, and getting 25 states to pass them is one of the best con jobs the NRA’s leaders have ever pulled off. They don’t give a damn whether innocent people are shot and killed. And they don’t give a damn about the integrity of the American justice system. They want to create a nation where disputes are settled by guns instead of gavels, and where suspects are shot by civilians instead of arrested by police. These laws destabilize our justice system, they degrade our society, and they destroy innocent lives. We can’t be silent — and we can’t let them stand. -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City ...

... Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News calls George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin, "not just the face of the NRA in this country, he is the face of gun laws built on the fears and paranoia of the gun lovers in the NRA, the ones who have made a mockery of the Second Amendment."

... Beth Reinhard of the National Journal: "Which 'anti-gun president' is the NRA talking about?" Obama passed on golden opportunities to address gun control. ...

... Steve Kornacki of Salon: "... a question for Obama: If the NRA is going to pretend that you’re aggressively pursuing gun control anyway, then why not actually do it? ... The case for national Democrats sticking with a hands-off approach to gun control is that it makes it possible to score victories in state-level races in pro-gun states." CW: Kornacki thinks this is a lame excuse. I don't. Sure, the NRA leadership & many of its members are delusional. But there are probably many more gunowners who are (a) skittish about Obama, but (b) realize that Obams is not the most anti-gun president ever. If, before the election, Obama proposes sensible gun-control laws, then he will have "proved" the NRA's point, & those more inclined to believe the facts as opposed to NRA fiction might decide the NRA is right when it claims "Obama will take away your guns."

John Schoen of NBC News: "Thanks to easing demand from a slowing global economy and increased production from Saudi Arabia, the oil market is coming off a two-year cycle of tightening supply, according to the International Energy Agency. That's helped snap a 13 percent surge in oil prices since the start of the year." This could mean lower gas prices this summer.

Steve Benen: Repetition matters -- because not everyone is listening, apparently including Politico pundits. (No surprise there.)

Right Wing World

** Andrew Rosenthal has an excellent post on the Republican "war on women." He urges Democrats to talk about it. ...

... Romney Is Not the "Mommy" Candidate. Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "Among parents, really, the only clear beneficiaries of Romney's fiscal plans would seem to be the wealthiest ones. They depend least on the government programs Romney would cut and they'd benefit the most from the tax cuts he wants to pass." ...

... Steve Benen: "... the Republican National Committee created a stand-alone blog to appeal specifically to women voters, and then decided to ignore the blog, posting two items in the last 12 months.... Why would a major party create a blog for women and then forget about it? Doesn't this suggest the exact opposite of the intended point?"

... Allison Yarrow of the Daily Beast: "... critics derided the Women’s Health and Safety Act that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law today as cruel, dangerous, and hostile to women — likely to deter many Arizona women from seeking an abortion, and to distress those who nonetheless go through with one.... While it becomes the seventh state to pass such legislation in the past two years, many Arizonans believe theirs is the most restrictive and sinister because of the degree to which it will legislate health care, thwart evidence-based medicine, and shame women."

Michelle Goldberg in the Daily Beast: "... a look at Romney’s political career suggests that his problems with female voters long predate the current political season, and it will take more than a few spasms of manufactured umbrage on behalf of stay-at-home-moms to make them go away.... Last week, he said that his wife 'reports to me regularly' on what women care about, suggesting a disinclination to listen to women directly. [Hilary] Rosen was certainly wrong to minimize the work Ann Romney has done in bringing up five sons. She was absolutely right, though, to point out that Ann has 'never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing,' and is thus hardly equipped to be her husband’s primary source of intelligence on the challenges confronting American women." Even womanizing Ted Kennedy beat Romney with women. ...

... "Ann Romney Should Aplogize!" Joan Walsh of Salon: "An aggrieved Ann Romney even told Fox News ... that as the mother of five grown boys, 'I know what it’s like to struggle.' Well, I’d like to demand that Ann Romney apologize to all women for equating the 'struggle' of a wealthy mother who had full-time household help to that of a poor or working-class job-holding mother, who must choose between her job and her children when a child gets sick.... I’d like to demand that Mitt Romney apologize for his wife’s remarks, too. I’d like to hear every prominent Republican denounce Ann Romney for her heinous insensitivity to non-wealthy mothers who must work outside the home. Wait. Ann Romney’s not a Democrat, and I’m not a Republican, so that’s not how the world works. Sorry about that. I apologize." ...

... Steve Benen reports on Mendacity Mitt's lies of the week. ...

... "The Draperizing of Mitt Romney." This is a fairly astouding video as it comes from Politico, which is a pro-Republican Website:

It's Unfair for Obama to Criticize Republicans. -- GOP. Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "... it’s increasingly ridiculous to hear Republicans complain that Obama needs to just take his medicine and not try to confuse voters with information about the opposition."

Shit Allen West Says:

News Ledes

New York Times: Talks between Iran and six world powers about the aims of its nuclear-enrichment program began on Saturday morning with a plenary session of all parties. European and American officials suggested that a serious commitment from Iran to negotiate may be enough to continue the talks at another round in late May, possibly in Baghdad, as Iran has suggested." ...

    ... Guardian Update: "The first international negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme for 15 months are under way in Istanbul amid increasing signs that Tehran is prepared to trade limits on its enrichment of uranium for relief from economic sanctions."

Reuters: "China took a milestone step in turning the yuan into a global currency on Saturday by doubling the size of its trading band against the dollar, pushing through a crucial reform that further liberalizes its nascent financial markets. The People's Bank of China said it would allow the yuan to rise or fall 1 percent from a mid-point every day, effective Monday, compared with its previous 0.5 percent limit."

New York Times: "Activists said on Saturday that two neighborhoods in the Syrian city of Homs were shelled overnight, as the United Nations struggled to iron out the details about the rapid deployment of international observers."

Los Angeles Times: "Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney asked for an extension Friday to file his 2011 tax return. The former Massachusetts governor and his wife, Ann, expect not to owe any further taxes, having estimated $3.2 million in liability and made $3.4 million in payments, according to the documents filed. Romney will file his return prior to the November election, according to a spokeswoman."

The Washington Post story on the Secret Service agents recalled from Colombia is here. The Post broke the story. See also yesterday's Ledes.

Reuters: "Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein's compensation increased 14.5 percent to $16.2 million in 2011 despite a sharp decline in profits and share price during the year, leaving the bank open to more attacks on its pay policies. Blankfein's pay boost includes stock awards from previous years that vested in 2011, and therefore does not reflect the amount that Goldman's board awarded him strictly for the company's performance last year."