The Wires

The Ledes

... Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. (This video tends to start near the end. If it does that for you, cursor back to the beginning.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015.

Guardian: "The Federal Reserve on Wednesday continued to pave the way for an increase in interest rates as early as September. The US central bank left its key interest rate unchanged at near zero – where it has been since the 2008 financial crisis – but once again signalled that rates will rise later this year. While the Fed chair, Janet Yellen, has left little doubt that rates will rise this year, the Fed left itself wiggle room as it has set no timetable and said rates would only be raised if the economy continues to improve and unemployment continues to fall." ...

... The Fed's statement is here.

New York Times: "A large object that appeared to be an airplane part washed up Wednesday on the shore of Réunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, prompting speculation that it might be debris from Flight 370, the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that disappeared in March 2014." ...

     ... AP UPDATE: "Air safety investigators have a 'high degree of confidence' that aircraft debris found in the Indian Ocean is of a wing component unique to the Boeing 777, the same model as the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared last year, a U.S. official said Wednesday."

New York Times: "After months of speculation, Afghan officials announced Wednesday that they were now certain that the Taliban’s reclusive leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, died in Pakistan in 2013."

Guardian: "Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has approved the immediate construction of hundreds of settlement units in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in an effort to stave off a growing threat posed by pro-settler parties in his rightwing coalition government. The issue was brought to a head on Wednesday by a supreme court ruling that two buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El – built on private Palestinian land without permits – should be destroyed, despite Netanyahu’s opposition."

Washington Post: "An Albuquerque 911 dispatcher has resigned after audio was released of him hanging up on a 17-year-old as she tended to a friend who was shot at the party. The victim, 17-year-old Jaydon Chavez-Silver, later died.... Emergency responders had already been dispatched to the house before [the dispatcher] hung up." Includes 911 audio.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "A big-game hunter from the Twin Cities found himself at the center of an international firestorm Tuesday over the death of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, but said he regrets killing the animal and believed his guides were leading him on a legal hunt.... Earlier Tuesday, the Telegraph newspaper of London identified [dentist Walter] Palmer as the hunter who shot Cecil and reported that he paid $54,000 for the hunt. The Telegraph said the lion was illegally lured out of Hwange National Park, where it had protected status, and onto a neighboring game farm, where Palmer was on safari." ...

... Salon: Yelp contributors are whacking Palmer.

Public Service Announcement

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

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

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

White House Live Video
July 29

1:00 pm ET: Press briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Fuck off! I’m done with you. -- Jon Stewart, to Wyatt Cenac

... Alex Jung of New York: Jon Stewart repeatedly yelled at Wyatt Cenac when Cenac questioned a "Daily Show" segment meant to be a defense against Fox "News" allegations that Stewart's Herman Cain imitation was racist. ...

... Maron's WTF podcast of his interview with Cenac is here. ...

... CW: Here's the thing, black people. When you confront white liberals with accusations of racial bias, WE WILL NEVER ADMIT IT. We will remind you that we have been fighting for black civil rights for 50 years (Bernie Sanders). We will tell you all lives matter (Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley). We will tell you that white people are responsible for expanding your rights (Hillary Clinton). We will deny your accusations (Every one of us). And all the while, we will be highly insulted, even if we don't tell you to fuck off. Because white people's feelings matter. And, after all we've done for you, we can't believe you would accuse us of racism.

Even when they're only lip-syncing, some entertainers are pretty damned talented. I'm not much of a fan of Tom Cruise's, but ...

Tech Crunch: "It’s no secret that Google+ didn’t quite work out the way Google envisioned and now, after already moving Google Photos out of the service, it’s starting to decouple Google+ profiles from its regular Google accounts."

Stupid Pet Tricks, Reptile Edition:

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: NBC News Chairman Andy Lack is replacing MSNBC's Ed Schultz with -- Chuck Todd. [CW: Excellent decision! Let's change "MSNBC" to "VPN" -- "Village People's Network."] "The only programs that appeared safe from disruption were Morning Joe..., hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski; Hardball ... with Chris Matthews; and The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. Those programs have performed respectably...." ...

We live in a time when much of the corporate media regards politics as a baseball game or a soap opera. Ed Schultz has treated the American people with respect by focusing on the most important issues impacting their lives.... I am very disappointed that Comcast [the parent company of NBC & MSNBC] chose to remove Ed Schultz from its lineup. We need more people who talk about the real issues facing our country, not fewer.... At a time when a handful of large, multi-national corporations own our major media outlets, I hope they will allow voices to be heard from those who dissent from the corporate agenda. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

Washington Post: "The latest update from NASA's Kepler space telescope — designed to spot distant exoplanets — adds more than 500 new possible planets to the fray. That's in addition to the 4,175 planets already found by Kepler. And of those 500 new potential planets, scientists say, a dozen could be remarkably Earth-like. That means they're less than twice as large as Earth, are potentially rocky and are at the right distance from their host stars to harbor liquid water." ...

... Guardian: "Scientists on the hunt for extraterrestrial life have discovered 'the closest twin to Earth' outside the solar system, Nasa announced on Thursday."

Worst Person Ratings in the World. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: Rumors are a'flyin' that MSNBC is headed for another line-up shake-up, which could include the Return of Dr. Olbermann, who is departing ESPN -- again. Because their third place in cable ratings wasn't as bad as their third place is now (sometimes 4th, behind Al Jazeera). And because the New Olbermann is now a suits-licking pussycat, unlike the Old Olbermann from way last week.

Some Would Be Heroes. Washington Post: Coast Guardsman Darren Harrity swims a mile in choppy, fuel-slicked sea to save four men in a leaky lifeboat.

New York Times: "What Pet Should I Get?" -- an aide to Dr. Suess's widow found the manuscript in a box. Dr. Suess -- Theodore Geisel -- died in 1991.

     ... Via BuzzFeed, for the fun of it.

Washington Post: "On Monday, famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian tycoon Yuri Milner held a news conference in London to announce their new project: injecting $100 million and a whole lot of brain power into the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, an endeavor they're calling Breakthrough Listen." ...

... CW: What a waste. You know all they'll find is angels hovering around a pantheon of some sort & maybe, if they're lucky, their long-dead pooches floating around Pet Heaven, which is real & wonderful.

New York Times: "In a pair of legal filings on Friday, two nuns who object to [singer Katy] Perry’s proposed purchase of their order’s convent on eight acres [in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles] disclosed an email describing any sale to the saucy pop singer as a breach of their sacred vows.... The court papers include claims by several of five surviving nuns in the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the archdiocese is betraying them and bullying them into supporting a sale other than their preferred transaction with [another buyer]."

NASA: "In the latest data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto’s icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named 'Tombaugh Regio' (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930."

Hill: "President Obama is making a final 'Daily Show' appearance before host Jon Stewart leaves the political comedy program after 17 years. Obama will sit down for his final chat with Stewart on Tuesday, the White House confirmed Friday."

For an actual feel-good moment, Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post tells the story of 16-year-old small-plane crash survivor Autumn Veatch. Veatch, who was injured in the crash that killed her grandparents, walked untold mild through rough terrain until she came to a public road & parking area.

Washington Post: "Nearly two months after a molestation scandal prompted TLC to pull reruns of the popular reality program '19 Kids and Counting' from the air and online, the network announced that it has officially canceled the program."

Washington Post: "Filmmaker George Lucas, singer-songwriter Carole King and dancer-actress Rita Moreno are among an unprecedented six honorees to be saluted at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. Seventies rockers the Eagles, actress Cicely Tyson and conductor Seiji Ozawa will also be honored at the Dec. 6 event, Kennedy Center officials said Wednesday. A major fundraiser for the arts center, the gala celebration will be televised on CBS on Dec. 29."

Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker reviews Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. ...

... Laura Marsh of the New Republic: "Scolars have been pointing out Atticus Finch's racism for years."

New York Times (July 15): "It was the last day of business at F. A. O. Schwarz on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan."

New York Times: "A day after its successful flyby, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back the first close-up photographs of Pluto, revealing a young surface dotted with ice mountains. The piano-size spacecraft traveled nine years and three billion miles to study the dwarf planet and its five moons." Includes one close-up photo from 25 miles out. More on NASA's site.

New York (July 14): "We're halfway through July, but until this morning, there was still snow on the ground in Boston. The last of the city's historic snowfall, a disgusting frozen mass of dirt, snow, and trash, was officially pronounced melted this morning"."

Here are time-lapse photos of the long melt:

Sean Hollister of Gizmodo: "The Mozilla Firefox web browser now blocks Flash by default. And when I say “blocks,” I don’t mean it asks you nicely if you’d really like to use Flash. I don’t mean it automatically pauses Flash videos like Google Chrome. I mean Mozilla has decided that Flash is going down.... Why such a hard-on for Flash? Why now? Well, it could be that the world just rediscovered just how prone Flash is to nasty, nasty vulnerabilities. When the Hacking Team — an Italian security company that sold intrusive spy tools — got hacked, one of those tools got out into the wild. A nasty hole in Flash that Adobe has yet to patch.... It’s probably worth noting that [Monday July 13], Mozilla’s Facebook’s chief security officer publicly asked Adobe to kill off Flash once and for all.... Update: Adobe has already released a newer version of Flash, 18.0.0.209, which Firefox doesn’t block by default. You’ll want to manually download it."

Contributor Nisky Guy takes us back in time to February 2006, when Lewis Black complained, "I can't wait that long":

Washington Post: "On its approach to Pluto, the spacecraft [New Horizons] obtained the most arresting image yet of the dwarf planet. Pluto is not a bland and featureless ball of ice, but rather a complex, variegated, mottled world with broad snowfields, structures that look like cliffs or fault lines, and a strikingly bright heart-shaped area that could be the eroded remnant of a giant impact crater."

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Monday
Mar112013

The Commentariat -- March 12, 2013

Please sign the White House petition "Save Social Security." If you think means-testing is a good idea, see my argument as to why it is not -- it's the 12th comment in the Comments section.

CW: I will post very lightly for the next few days as my long-standing time crunch just got crunchier.

** Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Constitution has always given residents of states with small populations a lift, but the size and importance of the gap has grown markedly in recent decades, in ways the framers probably never anticipated.... The Senate may be the least democratic legislative chamber in any developed nation."

Jeff Toobin: "... senatorial entropy has taken an enormous toll on President Obama's judicial appointments. This was the second time that Halligan received majority support, but, because she never passed the threshold of sixty, her nomination now appears doomed. And so, in the fifth year of his Presidency, Obama has failed to place even a single judge on the D.C. Circuit, considered the second most important court in the nation, as it deals with cases of national importance."

** Steve Benen: "Merrill Lynch said [Monday] morning that job creation will likely shrink to below 100,000 in April and May as 'sequester-related job cuts are implemented.' I mention this for a couple of reasons. The first, obviously, is the mind-numbing realization that Americans' own elected officials are choosing to deliberately make the economy worse. [Emphasis added.] But the other reason is that it offers an important rejoinder to those who spent last week asking whether President Obama 'cried wolf' over the dangers associated with sequestration."

Justin Sink of The Hill: "White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday said Obama's budget will seek to put the U.S. on a 'fiscally sustainable path' that brings the deficit below 3 percent of gross domestic product. He said Obama's proposal would not attempt to hit an arbitrary target, however, and that it will only project over the next decade." ...

... Paul Ryan, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, explains how he plans to balance the budget in 10 years. CW: I'll bet only "urban people" who were counting on "the free stuff" so they could loll around in their "hammock" will be shocked out of their "complacency." ...

... Jill Lawrence of the National Journal: "Even though President Obama won the 2012 election, Ryan's new plan to balance the federal budget in 10 years relies on repealing the Affordable Care Act." CW: the National Journal is not a liberal site. Ryan's budget is just a bad joke that forces straight reporters & analysts to snicker. ...

... Gene Robinson: "Ryan ... is coming back with an ostensibly new and improved version of the framework that voters rejected in November. Judging by the preview he offered Sunday, the new plan is even less grounded in reality than was the old one.... From the evidence, Ryan cares less about deficits or tax rates than about finding some way to dramatically reduce the size of the federal government.... It's hard to take him seriously as long as he refuses to come clean about his intentions."

Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times sort of argues that prosecuting big corporations -- including big banks -- is terribly unfair to the corporations' other employees who are faultless. CW: accepting that argument does not preclude prosecuting the big fish at the big banks. That. Has. Not. Happened. ...

... Mike Konczal of the Washington Post: Sen. Sherrod Brown wants to break up the big banks.

Joe Nocera: in Oregon, gun extremists harass legislators pursuing sensible gun-safety measures. ...

... Gary Langer of ABC News: "While Senate negotiators struggle for a deal on mandatory background checks at gun shows, the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds vast public support for the measure, as well as for a committee-approved step to make illegal gun sales a federal crime. A smaller majority, 57 percent, also continues to favor banning assault weapons, a measure said to be less likely to prevail in Congress." ...

... CW: the problem is that we live in a quasi-progressive country with a government controlled by the right and far-right. More people voted for Democrats than for Republicans in 2012, despite the best efforts of Republicans to suppress Democratic vote. The result? The House is majority Republican, & the Speaker has no control over the nut jobs, who effectively run the party. The Senate is minority Republican -- 45 to 55 -- which today means they also control the Senate. (Also see Adam Liptak above re: small-state advantage.) So that's Congress. The Supremes are a majority wacko winger party, though both Kennedy & Roberts have occasional fits of reality-connect. Remember that before Souter & Stevens left the court, 7 of the Justices were Republican appointees. So the only branch of government Democrats control right now is the executive, & despite what all the pundits pretend, the President doesn't write laws, & he has limited control on how the vast agencies operate. In addition, both he & Congress are largely controlled by the vast capitalist-wing conspiracy. That is to say, we live under a non-democratic system. American exceptionalism, my ass.

Unemployment Rate for New England's Conservative Ex-Senators: 0.0 Percent

Peter Lattman of the New York Times: "Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts senator who lost his seat to Elizabeth Warren last year, said on Monday that he was joining the law firm Nixon Peabody. He will work in the firm's Boston headquarters and focus one the financial services industry and commercial real estate matters, according to firm." Emphasis added.

Byron Tau of Politico: "Former Sen. Joe Lieberman is joining the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, the organization announced Monday. Lieberman -- Al Gore's vice presidential running mate in 2000 and a Democratic presidential candidate in 2004 -- will co-chair AEI's American Internationalism Project, an effort to rebuild a bipartisan consensus about big foreign policy questions." ...

     ... Ed Kilgore: "He is extremely unlikely to create any 'bipartisan consensus' around his own national security views. This self-appointed role, however, will give him plenty of opportunity to nurse grudges and settle scores, or if nothing else, to bask in the praise of Republicans...."

     ... David Atkins of Hullabaloo: "... one of the Right's strategies is to go trolling for morally deficient, easily corrupted neoliberal 'Democrats' to assist their efforts at creating a 'bipartisan consensus' to override popular will and common sense in the service of the conservative agenda. Fifty years ago, Joe Lieberman would have been seen for exactly what he is: a hardline rightwing conservative.... But then, we're not the same country we were fifty years ago. We're still battling the deep, horrific wounds caused by the Southern Strategy and the Powell Memo."


Dana Milbank: Jay Carney
puts the "offense" in "charm offensive." But, really, overall, White House staff are getting more charming: "White House reporters [say] ... the phone calls and e-mails from the president's aides have become less confrontational and less vulgar...."

Senator Robert Byrd (1917-2010) of West Virginia (fiddle and vocals) is accompanied in this 1978 recording by Doyle Lawson (guitar), James Bailey (banjo) and Spider Gilliam (bass). Recorded this track from the LP, 'U.S. Senator Robert Byrd - Mountain Fiddler,' produced in 1978. See yesterday's Comments for context. Thanks to James S. for the inspiration:

AND Krugman gets Breitbarted! Breitbart "News" reports Krugman filed for personal bankruptcy. Krugman's response: "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go give a lavishly paid speech to Friends of Hamas." CW: seriously, winger "news" sites like Breitbart & Daily Caller have settled on a new journalistic standard: if a rumor puts a liberal in an unfavorable light, publish. I wish Krugman would sue Breitbart & put the site out of business. And, in case you're wondering, Andrew Ross Sorkin, there are no innocent employees at Breitbart. Also, I wonder why ARS news uses three names. ...

... Max Read of Gawker: "When a Washington Post columnist fell for a fake news story on the "satire" site Daily Currant a few weeks ago, Breitbart.com's John Nolte suggested the paper was without 'a shred of self-awareness, integrity, and dignity' and wrote that it 'never... let facts get in the way of a good Narrative.. Of course, that was before his own outlet got fooled by the exact same 'satire' site." ...

... Ben Dimiero of Media Matters: "In his post, [Breitbart's Larry] O'Connor jabbed Krugman for supposedly spending '$84,000 in one month' on Portuguese wines and 'a dress from the Victorian period,' and concluded that 'apparently this Keynsian [sic] thing doesn't really work on the micro level.'"

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: the fake Krugman story also appeared on Boston.com, a Boston Globe site. "Brian McGrory, the Globe's editor, explains that no editorial official at his paper ever made a decision to post the piece. 'The story arrived deep within our site from a third party vendor who partners on some finance and market pages on our site,' says McGrory.... 'We never knew it was there till we heard about it from outside.' Since the posting went up, McGrory attests to having done 'urgent work to get it the hell down.' ... McGrory ... vows to 'address our relationship with that vendor.'"

What a meeting of the Clan looks like. European Pressphoto Agency.Anthony Faiola & Jason Horowitz of the Washington Post: "The sacred politicking to elect the next pope moved into its final phase Tuesday, as 115 cardinals checked into isolated quarters, attended a reverent Mass and prepared to lock themselves into the Sistine Chapel to begin the secret and highly ceremonial conclave to choose Benedict XVI's successor." New York Times story, with links to related stories, is here. ...

... CW: to get myself in the mood for all this, I started watching "The Borgias" series this morning, as I've seen only a few episodes of it. In the first episode, which I watched when I finished working -- at about 3 am -- the cardinals gather to elect a new pope. In this episode, Rodrigo Borgia begins with very few votes, but over the next days he buys off enough cardinals to get the job.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The United States government is buying enough of a new smallpox medicine to treat two million people in the event of a bioterrorism attack, and took delivery of the first shipment of it last week. But the purchase has set off a debate about the lucrative contract, with some experts saying the government is buying too much of the drug at too high a price."

Reuters: "Residents of the Falkland Islands voted almost unanimously to stay under British rule in a referendum aimed at winning global sympathy as Argentina intensifies its sovereignty claim. The official count on Monday showed 99.8 percent of islanders voted in favour of remaining a British Overseas Territory in the two-day poll, which was rejected by Argentina as a meaningless publicity stunt. There only three 'no' votes out of about 1,500 cast."

Sunday
Mar102013

The Commentariat -- March 11, 2013

Please sign the White House petition "Save Social Security." If you think means-testing is a good idea, see my argument as to why it is not -- it's the 12th comment in the Comments section. ...

... Bernie Sanders: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced legislation cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to strengthen Social Security by making the wealthiest Americans pay the same payroll tax that nearly everyone else already pays. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced the companion bill in the House. He joined Sanders at a news conference in the Capitol to discuss their bill to bolster Social Security without raising the retirement age or lowering benefits." Thanks to contributor Dave S. for the link. ...

... Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post: "Research tying longer life expectancy to a higher income has profound implications for battles over trimming entitlement programs and raising the retirement age.... Even as the nation's life expectancy has marched steadily upward, reaching 78.5 years in 2009, a growing body of research shows that those gains are going mostly to those at the upper end of the income ladder.... 'People who are shorter-lived tend to make less, which means that if you raise the retirement age, low-income populations would be subsidizing the lives of higher-income people,' said Maya Rockeymoore ... of Global Policy Solutions." CW: isn't that the idea? ...

... Flippity-Floppity, Flippity-Flop. Sahil Kapur of TPM: "When he unveils his budget plan this week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will complete a 720-degree flip on President Obama's cuts to Medicare providers in the Affordable Care Act. As he revealed on 'Fox News Sunday,' Ryan's upcoming budget will sustain the cuts.... Ryan ran for vice president last year against Obama's cuts to Medicare, which don't target beneficiaries but instead lower reimbursements for hospitals and private insurance companies under Medicare Advantage.... [Ryan's] new position is a return to an earlier stance. His House-passed blueprints in 2011 and 2012 also assumed the same level of Medicare savings as the Affordable Care Act, while repealing the rest of the law. But even that was a reversal after Ryan and his GOP colleagues strenuously objected to the Medicare cuts before Obamacare passed." P.S. Ryan's budget also repeals ObamaCare. CW: so when are the MSM going to start calling this guy out as Not a Serious Very Serious Person? ...

... Actually, Chris Wallace of Fox "News" did so yesterday, if only a tiny little bit. ...

... Ed Kilgore on deja vu all over again, via the MSM's phony narrative of what's happening in partisan politics. ...

... Charles Pierce picks up on Kilgore's theme: "The Pod People have taken over Tiger Beat On The Potomac [a/k/a Politico].... They come when you sleep, and they leave behind the Pod People, all of whom look like Reince Priebus.... the stories get even more podworthy as you read through them, the harmonies quite startling on the general theme that the president has failed to make nicey-nice enough to the Republicans, who lost that election last fall that didn't really count because Nate Silver might be gay or something."

** Prof. Katherine Newman, in a New York Times op-ed: "While the federal government has largely stuck by the principle of progressive taxation, the states have gone their own ways: tax policy is particularly regressive in the South and West, and more progressive in the Northeast and Midwest. When it comes to state and local taxation, we are not one nation under God. In 2008, the difference between a working mother in Mississippi and one in Vermont -- each with two dependent children, poverty-level wages and identical spending patterns -- was $2,300.... The relationship between taxing the poor and negative outcomes like premature death persisted.... We all pay a huge price for this shortsightedness." (Emphasis added.)

Paul Krugman: "Fiscal fearmongering is a major industry inside the Beltway, especially among those looking for excuses to do what they really want, namely dismantle Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. People whose careers are heavily invested in the deficit-scold industry don't want to let evidence undermine their scare tactics; as the deficit dwindles, we're sure to encounter a blizzard of bogus numbers purporting to show that we're still in some kind of fiscal crisis. But we aren't. The deficit is indeed dwindling, and the case for making the deficit a central policy concern, which was never very strong given low borrowing costs and high unemployment, has now completely vanished."

... Here's what Krugman was trying to get across to Zombie Ron Johnson (RTP-Wisconsin), but Johnson, who is too stupid, arrogant & rude to listen, kept talking over him: "You can't say that for the last 25 years, when Social Security ran surpluses, well, that didn't mean anything, because it's just part of the federal government -- but when payroll taxes fall short of benefits, even though there's lots of money in the trust fund, Social Security is broke." ...

... More Austerity Now. Phil Izzo of the Wall Street Journal: "7.1%: What the unemployment rate would be without government job cuts. While most industries have added jobs over the past three years, the recovery has largely bypassed the government sector. Federal, state and local governments have shed nearly 750,000 jobs since June 2009.... No other sector comes close to those job losses over the same period." Via Greg Sargent.

New York Times Editors: "The State Department's latest environmental assessment of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline makes no recommendation about whether President Obama should approve it. Here is ours. He should say no, and for one overriding reason: A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity's most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that -- even by the State Department's most cautious calculations -- can only add to the problem."

Bill Keller thinks Bradley Manning would have been better off to leak directly to the New York Times, something Manning said he tried to do. ...

... Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake, who has covered the Manning case more extensively than anyone, comments on Keller's piece.

Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: sequestration cuts will force cutbacks in services at Yellowstone National Park ...

... AND Charles Pierce: "It turns out that a lot of those self-reliant, keep-yer-dead-hands-off-mah-sagebrush Western galoots out in Wyoming don't like it much when their pet ideology starts biting them in the regions where they keep their wallets." ...

... CW: see, that's because the Western galoots & their ingrained ideology just assume that deep government cuts mean only that socialists in Washington won't be "handing out free stuff" to "those people."

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker on Chuck's Excellent Adventure in Afghanistan., a reminder that Melville's Ishmael got the headline right 150 years ago: "Bloody Battle in Affghanistan."

... Benjy Sarlin of TPM has a timeline of how Jeb (Not His Real Name) "Bush pulled a 360 on immigration reform."

Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times: "Eight senators who have spent weeks trying to write a bipartisan bill to overhaul immigration laws have privately agreed on the most contentious part of the draft -- how to offer legal status to the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants. According to aides familiar with the closed-door negotiations, the bill would require illegal immigrants to register with Homeland Security Department authorities, file federal income taxes for their time in America and pay a still-to-be-determined fine. They also must have a clean law enforcement record."

Nicole Belle of Crooks & Liars takes a look at misogyny & racism on the Internet.

Somebody Will Mess with Your Stuff. Mary Carmichael of the Boston Globe: "The resident deans sit on Harvard's Administrative Board, the committee charged with handling the cheating case. They were not warned that administrators planned to access their [e-mail] accounts, and only one was told of the search shortly afterward. The dean who was informed had forwarded a confidential Administrative Board message to a student he was advising, not realizing it would ultimately make its way to the Harvard Crimson and the Globe and fuel the campus controversy over the cheating scandal." ...

... Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "Bewildered, and at times angry, faculty members at Harvard criticized the university on Sunday after revelations that administrators secretly searched the e-mail accounts of 16 resident deans in an effort to learn who leaked information about a student cheating scandal to the news media. Some predicted a confrontation between the faculty and the administration."

For those few of you who haven't yet dropped everything to listen to 13 hours of "Rand Paul & Friends Monopolize the Senate," Driftglass has kindly posted an abbreviated version: "The Rand Paul Filibuster in 36 Seconds":

Congressional Race

Ruby Cramer of BuzzFeed: "Although [Ashley] Judd has yet to start the process in earnest -- she will reportedly declare herself a candidate for the Kentucky Senate race in May, 'around Derby,' according to a report in The Huffington Post -- the actress and longtime political activist might have what it takes to beat Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, say former staffers to celebrities who made the transition in decades past." Cramer suggests s path to success that was followed by other celebrities-turned-successful-politicians. ...

... Steve Kornacki of Salon, on the other hand, has a reality check for Judd.

News Ledes

Wall Street Journal: New York City "Mayor Michael Bloomberg was dealt a stinging blow on Monday when a state Supreme Court Judge quashed his plan to ban the sale of large sugary drinks in the city's restaurants and other venues. At a late afternoon news conference, Mr. Bloomberg and the city's top lawyer, Michael Cardozo, said they believed the judge erred in his ruling and vowed to appeal."

AP: "Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted Monday of corruption charges, ensuring a return to prison for a man once among the nation's youngest big-city leaders. Jurors convicted Kilpatrick of a raft of crimes, including a racketeering conspiracy charge. He was portrayed during a five-month trial as an unscrupulous politician who took bribes, rigged contracts and lived far beyond his means while in office until fall 2008."

AP: "She was one of the better kept secrets of Sweden's royal household: a commoner and divorcee whose relationship with Prince Bertil was seen as a threat to the Bernadotte dynasty. In a touching royal romance, Welsh-born Princess Lilian and her Bertil kept their love unofficial for decades and were both in their 60s when they finally received the king's blessing to get married. Lilian died in her Stockholm home on Sunday at age 97." The BBC News video story is here.

Reuters: "Cardinals held final discussions on the troubled state of the Roman Catholic Church on Monday, the day before they seclude themselves from the world to elect a new pontiff, with no clear frontrunner in view."

Saturday
Mar092013

The Commentariat -- March 10, 2013

Please sign the White House petition "Save Social Security." If you think means-testing is a good idea, see my argument as to why it is not -- it's the 12th comment in the Comments section.

Spring Forward

You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe Daylight Saving Time. -- Dave Barry

Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket. -- AmerIndian, when told of Daylight Saving Time

Thanks to contributor Walt W. for the commentary. There are numerous versions of the second "quote," some less politically correct than others. One that makes sense puts the observation in the mouth of an Arizona Indian chief, which would "explain" why Arizona is one of the states that (mostly) does not adhere to Daylight Saving Time. -- Constant Weader

Obama 2.0. Colum Lynch of the Washington Post: "Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who lost out in a bruising bid for the job of secretary of state, may have the last laugh. Rice has emerged as far and away the front-runner to succeed Thomas E. Donilon as President Obama's national security adviser later this year, according to an administration official familiar with the president's thinking. The job would place her at the nexus of foreign-policy decision making and allow her to rival the influence of Secretary of State John F. Kerry in shaping the president's foreign policy." ...

... Sari Horwitz & Lena Sun of the Washington Post: Thomas "Perez, 51, a first-generation Dominican American, is in line to lead the Department of Labor. President Obama plans to nominate Perez, assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, to be labor secretary."

A New Headache for the Orange Man. Molly Hooper of The Hill: "House Republican leaders ... can't count on their members to support them on procedural votes. Sixteen Republicans defected Wednesday in a vote on the rule governing consideration of a government-funding bill meant to prevent a government shutdown. The defections could have caused the rule to fail since most Democrats voted also voted against it.... Republicans were saved Wednesday by the fact that 17 Democrats missed the vote, possibly because of the poor weather in Washington that day. If those Democrats had all voted against the rule, it would have been defeated.... Worse, from a leadership perspective, is that some Republicans say they plan on doing it again if they feel leaders are limiting them from offering controversial amendments on the floor."

... CW: the reason the government almost defaulted on its obligations in 2011 was that Boehner, apparently led by Eric Cantor, caved to his Tea Party caucus. The reason the sequester went into effect was that Boehner caved to his Tea Party caucus. While every sane person thinks a government shutdown would be catastrophic, Tea Party zealots won't be happy till the government shuts down permanently.

Lincoln Caplan of the New York Times: "A half-century ago, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone too poor to hire a lawyer must be provided one free in any criminal case involving a felony charge. The holding in Gideon v. Wainwright enlarged the Constitution's safeguards of liberty and equality, finding the right to counsel 'fundamental.' The goal was 'fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law.' ... At least 80 percent of state criminal defendants cannot afford to pay for lawyers and have to depend on court-appointed counsel. Even the best-run state programs lack enough money to provide competent lawyers for all indigent defendants who need them....Contempt for poor defendants is too often the norm.... The powerlessness of poor defendants is becoming even more evident under harsh sentencing schemes created in the past few decades.... There is no shortage of lawyers to do this work. What stands in the way is an undemocratic, deep-seated lack of political will."

Going Darker. David Alexander of Reuters: "With debate intensifying in the United States over the use of drone aircraft, the U.S. military said on Sunday that it had removed data about air strikes carried out by unmanned planes in Afghanistan from its monthly air power summaries. U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Afghanistan war, said in a statement the data had been removed because it was 'disproportionately focused' on the use of weapons by the remotely piloted aircraft as it was published only when strikes were carried out -- which happened during only 3 percent of sorties. Most missions were for reconnaissance, it said." ...

... CW: Together, Afghanistan & Pakistan hold only about 3 percent of the world's population. Constant reports on an area where we are at war and scant reports on the vast areas of the world where we are not at war shows the media are "disproportionally focused" on Afghanistan & Pakistan. Ergo, war reporting is totally unjustified & should stop now.

Sabrina Tavernise & Robert Gebeloff of the New York Times: "The share of American households with guns has declined over the past four decades, a national survey shows, with some of the most surprising drops in the South and the Western mountain states, where guns are deeply embedded in the culture. The gun ownership rate has fallen across a broad cross section of households since the early 1970s, according to data from the General Social Survey...." ...

... Annie-Rose Strasser of Think Progress: "The host of The Sportsman Channel’s 'A Rifleman's Journal' was shot and killed in Montana on Friday. The gunman, seemingly a jealous husband, then turned the weapon on himself.... Gregory Rodriguez not only hosted his own hunting show. He was also an editor of Shooting Times and wrote for Guns & Ammo magazine. He was also the CEO of Global Adventure Outfitters, a hunting supply store.... The episode is a tragic reminder that even responsible gun owners can find themselves at the mercy of an unhinged gunman, and that National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre's claim that, 'the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun' doesn't always hold up."

Flip-Flop, Flip-Flop. Annie-Rose Strasser: "Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush went on a Sunday talk show offensive this week to try to clarify his position on immigration reform, but he only managed to create more confusion."

Ben Blanchard & Sui-Lee Wee of Reuters: "Six months ago China's state media was lauding North Korea as a great place to invest as both countries tried to promote a cross-border economic zone. One nuclear test, a long-range rocket launch and much sabre-rattling later and China is a central player in new U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang, something Chinese experts say marks a major shift in Beijing's policy toward its impoverished neighbor. At the same time, Chinese newspapers have been calling North Korea an ungrateful and unreliable liability. Businessmen and officials charged with building commercial ties don't even want to talk about the country." ...

... BUT Jane Perlez of the New York Times: "China's foreign minister said Saturday that Beijing would not abandon North Korea, reiterating China's longstanding position that dialogue, not sanctions, is the best way to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear weapons."

"Dick and George's Excellent Adventure." Historian Andrew Bachevich, in a Washington Post op-ed: "Back in 1947, the promulgation of the Truman Doctrine kicked off Washington's effort to put its imprint on the Greater Middle East, while affirming that Britain's exit from the region had begun. U.S. power was going to steer events in directions favorable to U.S. interests. That effort now seems likely to have run its course. The United States finds itself today pretty much where the British were back in the 1920s and 1930s. We've bitten off more than we can chew." Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link. And the headline. ...

... "The Madness of King George." Peter Van Buren on Juan Cole's blog: "... by invading Iraq, the U.S. did more to destabilize the Middle East than we could possibly have imagined at the time. And we -- and so many others -- will pay the price for it for a long, long time." Thanks to Barbarossa for the link.

Mark Mazzetti, Charlie Savage & Scott Shane of the New York Times: "An account of how the United States came to use a drone strike to kill the terrorist leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico. The account highlights the perils of a war conducted behind a classified veil."

Rachel Donadio & Andrew Higgins of the New York Times: There is "mounting pressure on the Vatican to clean up its bank -- for decades the subject of dark intrigue and linked to one mysterious death -- as part of a push by the European Union to apply common rules to all the countries and micro-states like Vatican City and Monaco that use the euro. Those pressures continued until the very last days of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy and remain a critical issue for the cardinals now meeting to elect a new pope. As the conclave begins Tuesday, the specter of financial scandal presents a special challenge for Benedict's successor, who must modernize the Roman Catholic Church's finances or risk the Vatican's access to the global banking system, undermining its moral authority and its financial stability."

Simon Walters of the Daily Mail: Queen Elizabeth will "back an historic pledge to promote gay rights and 'gender equality' in one of the most controversial acts of her reign. In a live television broadcast, she will sign a new charter designed to stamp out discrimination against homosexual people and promote the 'empowerment' of women -- a key part of a new drive to boost human rights and living standards across the Commonwealth.... A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: 'In this charter, the Queen is endorsing a decision taken by the Commonwealth.' But he added: 'The Queen does not take a personal view on these issues. The Queen's position is apolitical, as it is on all matters of this sort.' ... Although the charter is not connected with the accession issue, it is seen as a clear indication that she supports new laws designed to give equal Royal accession rights to boys and girls." It's absolutely true because you read it in the Daily Mail.

** Amy Argetsinger of the Washington Post: "President Obama, who dismayed the Beltway elite during his first term by shunning most of this town’s stuffed-shirt banquets, put in a game appearance at the annual Gridiron Club dinner Saturday night. 'Of course, as I begin my second term, our country is still facing enormous challenges,' the president told the gathering -- and then paused for a long sip of water. 'That, Marco Rubio, is how you take a sip of water.'" Read the whole post. Here's the official transcript of the President's remarks, via Politico. Thank goodness the official transcriber was not sequestered out.

Maureen Dowd recalls her salad days at Time mag.

Local News

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Iowa state Rep. Pat Grassley (R) — the grandson of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — introduced a bill earlier this week that increases the amount of instruction in government and 'the tenets of American citizenship' in the state's high school social studies curriculum, but specifically eliminates 'the high school social studies requirement to teach voting procedures.'" CW: the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.

Adam Peck of Think Progress: "Republican lawmakers in Kansas who are eager to further cut taxes (despite having had to lay off hundreds of public employees) think they have found another program worthy of elimination: a college savings plan specifically designed to benefit the state's poorest students.... Instead, argues Gov. Sam Brownback and his fellow Republicans in the legislature, that money should go to more tax breaks for the state's wealthiest residents."

News Ledes

AP: "The main suspect in the gang rape and fatal beating of a woman on a New Delhi bus, an attack that horrified Indians and set off national protests, committed suicide in jail Monday, police officials said. Ram Singh, who is accused of driving the bus on which the 23-year-old student was raped and fatally assaulted by a group of six men in December, hanged himself with his own clothes, said ... the top police official at Tihar jail."

New York Times: Mildred "Manning was among the Army and Navy nurses of World War II known collectively as the Angels of Bataan and Corregidor. When the Japanese were overrunning the Philippines in early 1942, the nurses treated wounded, dying and disease-ridden soldiers under heavy enemy fire.... When Mrs. Manning died on Friday in Hopewell, N.J., at 98, she was the last survivor of the Army and Navy nurses who had been captured by the Japanese in the Philippines, said Elizabeth M. Norman, who told their stories in 'We Band of Angels.'"

AP: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday accused the Taliban and the U.S. of working in concert to convince Afghans that violence will worsen if most foreign troops leave -- an allegation the top American commander in Afghanistan rejected as 'categorically false.'" CW: Yes, Karzai is off his meds again, reminding us yet again of Dick & George's excellent choices.

Reuters: "A joint news conference that had been scheduled for Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been canceled over security concerns, U.S. officials said. The officials declined to cite the nature of the security threat. But it comes a day after a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed nine civilians, about a kilometer away from where Hagel was holding a morning meeting." CW: most worrisome: Karzai's threat to shoot Hagel for being a Taliban collaborator.

Reuters: "Twenty-one United Nations peacekeepers held by rebels for three days in southern Syria crossed into Jordan on Saturday, after an ordeal which highlighted how Syria's civil war is ratcheting up tensions on its volatile borders. The Filipino peacekeepers -- part of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) that has been monitoring a ceasefire line between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights since 1974 -- were seized by the Martyrs of Yarmouk rebel brigade on Wednesday."

Friday
Mar082013

The Commentariat -- March 9, 2013

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. ...

... Harry Enten of the Guardian: "... how does President Obama get the public back on his side? He needs to make this debate about specifics. When Pew tested different policies on reducing the deficit, people only agreed on cuts to foreign aid. Americans wanted to increase or keep funding the same for all other specific policy programs or proposals." (Emphasis added.)

Josh Barro (a Republican!) of Bloomberg News: "Despite its problems, Social Security is the best-functioning component of the U.S.'s retirement-saving system. Instead of cutting, the federal government should be expanding its role in retirement saving. I'm always struck when people talk about Social Security as 'just' an insurance program, when it's in fact the most important retirement-saving vehicle." ...

... Please sign the White House petition "Save Social Security." If you think means-testing is a good idea, see my argument as to why it is not -- it's the 12th comment in the Comments section.

Jacob Goldstein of NPR: "The scariest jobs chart isn't scary enough.... If this had been a typical recession and recovery, the U.S. economy would now have roughly 10 million more jobs than it did at the previous peak. In fact, there are now three million fewer jobs."

Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "Global temperatures are warmer than at any time in at least 4,000 years, scientists reported Thursday, and over the coming decades are likely to surpass levels not seen on the planet since before the last ice age." CW: More proof to Jim Inhofe that scientists are liars, conspirators, etc.

Gail Collins runs down a few of the excuses gun-toting Senators have come up with for voting against innocuous gun safety legislation.

Jeremy Herb of The Hill: "The Obama administration will release its 2014 budget more than two months late on April 8, according to congressional sources."

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "Of all things for Republicans to be going nuts about, losing the White House tours is the last one. Sequestration is causing real harm to real people, whether it's unemployed workers, children and mothers who need Head Start, or soldiers looking to enroll in the Army's tuition assistance program. They could make all these problems go away -- including the loss of their precious tours -- with the blink of an eye. All they have to do is repeal sequestration. If they just repealed the damn thing, they wouldn't even have to raise taxes."

Obama 2.0. Constitution, 1.0. Marcy Wheeler: "According to the White House, John Brennan was sworn in as CIA Director on a 'first draft' of the Constitution including notations from George Washington, dating to 1787.... That means, when Brennan vowed to protect and defend the Constitution, he was swearing on one that did not include the First, Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendments -- or any of the other Amendments now included in our Constitution. The Bill of Rights did not become part of our Constitution until 1791, 4 years after the Constitution that Brennan took his oath on.... The moment at which Brennan took over the CIA happened to exclude (in symbolic form, though presumably not legally) the key limits on governmental power that protect American citizens." CW: Cue up Rand Paul (who filibustered Brennan's nomination). ...

... Oh no! Daniel Halper of the right-wing Weekly Standard: "He does not appear to have placed his hand on a Bible, a Torah, a Koran, or other sacred religious text as he said the oath." ...

... Fili-fundraiser. David Corn of Mother Jones: "Take away all [Sen. Rand] Paul's hyped-up hysteria -- watch out, Jane Fonda! -- and he didn't truly disagree with the administration's position that in an extraordinary circumstance, such as an ongoing terrorist attack, the US government can deploy lethal force against evildoers who happen to be American citizens. So why did Paul go ballistic? Here's a clue: The day after he ended one of the longest filibusters in US history, he tried to cash in on his stunt by zapping out a fundamentally inaccurate fundraising email for his 2016 reelection campaign.... This senator as a crass operator untethered from the truth who's eager to exploit his own grandstanding." ...

... Heather of Crooks & Liars: "Paul received his answer on the drone strikes and as many have noted, he actually had his answer well before he started his filibuster, but as [Thom] Hartmann noted [video included in post], the question that he should have been asking and to which he did not get an answer is, 'What does "engaged in combat" mean?' when we haven't had a declaration of war since 1941." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... conservatives followed Paul the Younger onto the quicksand of his broader ideology, which for the most part is in the mainstream of the John Birch Society. This is not what the GOP needs right now." ...

... "President Paul"? Ha Ha Ha. Tim Noah of The New Republic remembers way back when nearly every Republican (Paul was a "yea" vote) opposed former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary: "... much of [the GOP's resistance to Hagel] was based on Hagel's having taken positions on national security issues that his fellow Republicans judged unacceptably dovish -- and Hagel isn't nearly as dovish as Paul is. If Hagel proved unacceptable to the GOP, it's inconceivable that Paul -- who less than one month before the 2012 election published an op-ed condemning Mitt Romney for being too hawkish in the Middle East and too willing to increase Pentagon spending -- will ever pass muster. And by 'the GOP' I don't just mean GOP politicians. I mean voters, too." ...

... Kevin Liptak of CNN: "Responding to Sen. John McCain's condemnation of his thirteen hour filibuster, Paul said Friday that while 'I treat Sen. McCain with respect, I don't know if I always get the same in return.' ... Earlier in the day, McCain told The Huffington Post that Paul, along with Sen. Ted Cruz - who assisted in Wednesday's filibuster - was a 'wacko bird' that could taint American's impressions of the GOP." ...

... ** Jonathan Chait of New York: "What's interesting is that not only the official but the unofficial organs of the party -- Matt Drudge, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh -- have all sided with Paul. The whacko birds suddenly find themselves on the inside, while the party's 2008 standard-bearer presses his nose against the glass and gawks." ...

... Carl Hulse of the New York Times sticking with the story on the GOP filibuster of Caitlan Halligan, one of President Obama's nominees to the D.C. Appellate Court: "Democrats say they want to see how Republicans respond to future appeals court nominees, including another one to the District of Columbia circuit, Srikanth Srinivasan, Mr. Obama's deputy solicitor general. But a series of filibusters against what they view as acceptable nominees could again bring to a head the push for a change in Senate rules."

Paul Waldman on Juan Williams' "Double Plagiarism": "... plagiarism is taking someone else's words and passing them off as your own without attribution. Williams does that whenever his assistant writes something for him that then appears verbatim in his column, which from his explanation sounds like something he does regularly. [Emphasis added.] It's just that this time, his assistant passed off CAP's words as his own to Williams, and Williams then passed off CAP's words as his own to his readers, when he thought he was only passing off his assistant's words as his own, which otherwise nobody would know about.... There is something wrong with having an assistant who doesn't just do research for you but actually writes prose that you then present as your own, even if it's only a paragraph here and there." ...

... CW: I am almost certain that this is how Maureen Dowd got caught plagiarizing several years ago. After someone noticed she had lifted a short graf from Josh Marshall of TPM, MoDo "explained" that she got the information in a phone conversation with a "friend" and assumed these were the friend's own thoughts. Her editor, Andy Rosenthal, let her get away with that bullshit. (You try remembering word-for-word what a friend tells you on the phone.) Her "friend" was almost certainly Ashley Parker, then her assistant. Parker kept her mouth shut & has since been rewarded with a regular gig at the Times. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "With all the resources he has, Williams ought to be able to write his own stuff, and if he has to let a 'research assistant' ghost for him now and then, he should be able to do the minimal Google searching to ensure there is no plagiarism. Failing that, he could at least take responsibility for the plagiarism in his own named column...." ...

... Digby: "I think many of these folks crossed over long ago from being writers to TV celebrities. It's a different line of work for most of them much more lucrative and satisfying. Of course they're going to outsource the shit work. That's what wealthy TV celebrities do." ...

... And since we're on the topic of media pimps masquerading as journalists -- Brad Friedman: "Former San Diego ACORN worker, Juan Carlos Vera will receive $100,000 in a settlement from federal criminal and professional liar James O'Keefe, after being secretly video-taped in violation of California law by the Rightwing propagandist. The tape was just one in a series of similar videos, all deceptively edited as part of his 2009 ACORN 'pimp' hoax series. The story of the settlement was originally broken by Wonkette, which published the 3-page settlement document [PDF], yesterday." ,,,

... AND there's this great post by Stefan BC of Wonkette: "Yesterday, as first reported by your Wonkette (<–COPY LINK HERE, LA TIMES), the world rejoiced upon news that the insufferable date-rapey Dennis the Menace clone known as James O’Keefe III had settled his lawsuit with a former ACORN employee to the tune of $100,000 plus one weak ass nonpology.... A few former recipients of ACORN assistance ... were able to take an ounce of solace in justice being served against the person who unfairly brought down a truly beneficial organization."

News Ledes

AP: "Venezuelans will vote April 14 to choose a successor to Hugo Chavez, the elections commission announced Saturday as increasingly strident political rhetoric begins to roil this polarized country. The constitution mandated the election be held within 30 days of Chavez's March 5 death, but the date picked falls outside that period. Critics of the socialist government already complained that officials violated the constitution by swearing in Vice President Nicolas Maduro as acting leader Friday night."

AP: "Syrian rebels freed 21 U.N. peacekeepers on Saturday after holding them hostage for four days, ending a sudden entanglement with the world body that earned fighters trying to oust President Bashar Assad a flood of negative publicity."

Christian Science Monitor: "Militants staged two deadly suicide attacks Saturday to mark the first full day of US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's visit to Afghanistan, a fresh reminder that insurgents continue to fight and challenges remain as the US-led NATO force hands over the country's security to the Afghans."

Washington Post: "A former spokesman for al-Qaeda and son-in-law of Osama bin Laden pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge that he conspired to kill Americans. The plea in federal court in Manhattan was accompanied by new indications that the former spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, has cooperated with U.S. authorities while being secretly held in U.S. custody since his Feb. 28 arrest in Jordan."

Washington Post: "Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces charges of committing crimes against humanity, won Kenya's presidential election by the narrowest of margins, winning 50.03 percent of the vote and avoiding a runoff, according to preliminary results posted early Saturday. The tight finish is almost certain to spark controversy and will probably result in a legal challenge from Kenyatta's main rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, whose party has already publicly charged that votes were doctored."