The Ledes

Thursday, April 17, 2014.

New York Times: "Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian novelist whose 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' established him as a giant of 20th-century literature, died on Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia emphasized on Thursday that the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament had authorized him to use military force if necessary in eastern Ukraine, and also stressed Russia’s historical claim to the territory, repeatedly referring to it as 'new Russia' and saying that only 'God knows' why it became part of Ukraine....Mr. Putin’s remarks on eastern Ukraine came as officials from Russia, the United States, Europe and the new government in Kiev were meeting in Geneva for four-way negotiations aimed at resolving the political crisis." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Russia may invade southeast Ukraine to protect the local population, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday." ...

... Washington Post: "President Vladimir Putin, who repeatedly denied Russian troops had entered Crimea before the March referendum there, changed his version of those events Thursday, telling the nation that they had indeed been there all along. But the green-uniformed men observed in eastern Ukraine right now, storming buildings and raising the Russian flag, are not Russian, he said. 'Those are local residents,' he said." ...

... AP: "Ukraine is hoping to placate Russia and calm hostilities with its neighbor even as the U.S. prepares a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what it regards as fomenting unrest. The carrot-stick strategy emerged as diplomats from Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union and Russia prepared to meet Thursday for the first time over the burgeoning crisis that threatens to roil the new government in Kiev." ...

... Guardian: "Asked if he was expecting any progress, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, simply shrugged." ...

... Reuters is liveblogging of the Ukraine crisis.

... New York Times: "Ukrainian security forces killed three pro-Russian protesters, wounded 13 and took 63 captive in a firefight overnight in the eastern city of Mariupol, the interim Ukrainian interior minister said on Thursday. The clash was the most lethal so far in the east of the country." ...

... AP: "NATO is strengthening its military footprint along its eastern border immediately in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the alliance's chief said Wednesday."

Washington Post: "A Canadian cyber crime unit has arrested and charged a 19-year-old Ontario man for allegedly hacking into the country's tax agency using the Heartbleed Internet security bug."

Washington Post: "About 24 hours after [a South Korean] passenger ferry with more than 450 aboard began to slowly sink off South Korea’s southwestern coast, at least nine are dead and 287 others, many of them teenagers, are unaccounted for. South Korean news media put the number rescued at between 164 and 179, most of whom were brought ashore to the island of Jindo, where they were wrapped in warm towels or treated for minor injuries." ...

... Guardian: "The parents of hundreds of children missing after Wednesday's ferry accident off the coast of South Korea have accused the captain of the vessel of abandoning passengers after it emerged that he and six other crew members were among the first to leave the ship after it started to sink." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Angry relatives of passengers aboard a sunken South Korean ferry criticized the government’s response Thursday as the ship’s captain made an emotional apology for fleeing the vessel before hundreds of others had a chance to get out."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, April 16, 2014.

AP: "A column of armored vehicles flying Russian flags drove into a Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russia demonstrators Wednesday, dampening the central government's hopes to re-establish control over restive eastern Ukraine."

AP: "A multi-story ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by ships and helicopters. At least three people were confirmed dead and 55 injured."

Boston Globe: "A shelter-in-place order on Boylston Street has been lifted and a 25-year-old Boston man is facing charges after police executed a controlled detonation of two suspicious bags left near the Boston Marathon finish line. Just after 7 p.m. on Tuesday, on the one-year anniversary of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, police said two backpacks had been found in the area and immediately ordered people to evacuate. Authorities said the backpacks were tied to a man who goes by Kayvon Edson. Edson was captured in several videos marching down Boylston Street in a black veil, wearing a backpack, and chanting 'Boston strong.'” ...

     ... UPDATE: "A man who was arrested after suspicious bags were found near the Boston Marathon finish line was arraigned today in Boston Municipal Court. Kevin Edson, 25, of Boston is being charged with possession of a hoax explosive, threatening battery, threats to commit a crime, disturbing the peace, disturbing a public assembly, and disorderly conduct, according to the Boston Police Department. Edson is being held on $100,000 bail and is being sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for an evaluation, the Associated Press reports."


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/04/10/3772409/fbi-rescues-kidnapped-wake-forest.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

Public Service Announcements

Washington Post: "Researchers are reporting that injections of long-lasting AIDS drugs protected monkeys for weeks against infection, a finding that could lead to a major breakthrough in preventing the disease in humans."

New York Times: "General Motors will more than double the size of a recall issued this month for an ignition switch defect in some of its small cars, the automaker said in a news release Tuesday. The expansion brings the number of vehicles covered by the recall to nearly 1.4 million in the United States. The recall is aimed at vehicles with ignition switches that could inadvertently turn off the engine and vehicle electrical system – disabling the air bags – if the ignition key is jarred or the vehicle’s operator has a heavy key ring attached to it."

New York Times: "The essence of [a] disagreement [among experts] comes down to a simple question: Will e-cigarettes cause more or fewer people to smoke? The answer matters. Cigarette smoking is still the single largest cause of preventable death in the United States, killing about 480,000 people a year."

White House Live Video
April 17

11:05 am ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden welcome the 7th annual Wounded Warrior Project's soldier ride

1:45 3:15 pm ET: Jay Carney 's press briefing

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

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

USA Today: "Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she's pregnant with her first child."

New York Times: "It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday. The planet, known as Kepler 186f, named after NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, which detected it, has a diameter of 8,700 miles, 10 percent wider than Earth, and its orbit lies within the 'Goldilocks zone' of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life."

 

Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

Josh Dickey of Mashable: "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to replace the retiring David Letterman, and has indicated that he's willing to take over the Late Show when the time comes, people familiar with both sides of the discussions tell Mashable." Via New York.

Lauren Moraski of CBS "News": "David Letterman announced Thursday that he's retiring from CBS' 'Late Show' sometime next year. He made that announcement during the taping of his program Thursday afternoon at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater."

No News, All the Time:

Igor Bobic of TPM: "In its wall-to-wall coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN has raised the possibility of the supernatural, blackholes, and North Korea; it has interviewed a psychic, tried but failed to rent its own 777 jet, and finally settled on a flight simulator it is using to 'search' for the plane.On Tuesday the network finally turned its attention to garbage."

Washington Post: "Stephen Colbert and his writing staff were in fighting form Monday night, after a controversy stemming from an out-of-context tweet had hashtag activists calling for his head." ...

... This is kinda must-see TV:

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Thursday
Dec082011

The Commentariat -- December 9

** Chris Spannos, editor of the New York Times eXaminer, discusses the mainstream media's coverage of Occupy Wall Street with Kalle Lasn, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Adbusters magazine, and author of "Culture Jam." Lasn's Adbusters first proposed Occupy Wall Street. Includes audio. ...

... My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' comparison of Mitt Romney & Newt Gingrich. I incorporate remarks on Krugman's column, linked below. ...

... Paul Krugman compares the real Willard Romney with the fictional Gordon Gekko of "Wall Street." Main difference: the SEC gave the fictional character his comeuppance; Romney's still around bragging about his "business expertise," an expertise that meant more money for him and his wealthy partners, fewer jobs for Americans. ...

CW: AND the views of A Brain-Dead Simpleton (that would be me) on today's Off Times Square. Plus, I'm interested in hearing your own views on HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' decision not to allow OTC sale of the morning-after Plan B pill. (See also today's Ledes & yesterday's Commentariat & OTS.) ...

... More "Science Takes a Holiday" from Bryan Walsh of Time on the Obama Administration's Plan B politics.

If you think Jon Stewart is just a comedian, you have another think coming:

Michelle Goldberg of the Daily Beast: "Already under fire from Catholics, the Obama administration clearly caved to conservative pressure when it overruled an FDA decision to expand the accessibility of a morning-after pill.... What’s confusing, though, is why the White House thinks it’s a smart strategy to try and appease its foes while infuriating its friends." CW: Obviously, what is needed and which just as obviously won't happen, is for Obama to overrule HHS Secretary Sebelius. It would be a smart, dramatic move. It would also be, you know, the ethical, humane and scientifically-supported thing to do. But this is politics. Some little girls will just have to have babies. BTW, all other arguments aside, does anybody think pregnancy is not a health risk for young girls? This is stupid and cruel any way you look at it.

Bob Reich on President Obama's Osawatomie speech: "Here, finally, is the Barack Obama many of us thought we had elected in 2008. Since then we’ve had a president who has only reluctantly stood up to the moneyed interests Teddy Roosevelt and his cousin Franklin stood up to." ...

... Here is a very fine post from Charles Pierce titled "President Obama Does Not Fully Understand the 99 Percent." With great irreverence, Pierce often gets to the heart of the political dynamic, and this is one of those times.

Jonathan Bernstein of the Washington Post: Senate Republicans' successful filibuster of Richard Cordray, President Obama's nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is yet another instance of "a radical tactic that defies Senate and Constitutional norms as they were understood from the dawn of the republic up through 2008." Here's the President on the filibuster:

Oops! Matt Yglesias of Salon: while whining that his tax rate was too high, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who is also president of the One Percenters Whiners' Club (a hotly-contested position with fellow 1%ers constantly jockeying to topple Dimon), accidentally said he'd be fine with the tax increase President Obama has proposed for millionaires & billionaires.

Adam Sorensen of Time: having flamed out in its attempt to turn Elizabeth Warren into an Occupy Wall Street anarchist, Crossroads GPS, a/k/a Karl Rove & Friends, has done a 180, putting out an ad claiming Warren is Wall Street's BFF. Pretty soon, Karl, even the disengaged voter may notice your ads are stunning, contradictory lies. With video I won't run. ...

... Lawrence O'Donnell speaks to Prof. Warren, where they discuss this ad & the Senate Republicans' refusal to allow a confirmation vote for Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

Prof. Eric Segall, writing in Slate, makes the case that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan should recuse herself from hearing the Affordable Care Act challenge coming before the court. Segall says he is a liberal Democrat who supports the law.

Andrew Grossman of the Wall Street Journal: "New York University plans to offer two classes next semester on [Occupy Wall Street], whose participants frequently marched and rallied around the school’s Greenwich Village campus this fall. The for-credit undergraduate class, offered through the university’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, examines economy and culture."

Right Wing World

Vicki Needham of The Hill: "GOP leaders hope to build momentum for an end-of-year tax package with sweeping reforms to federal unemployment benefits. The Republican proposal is expected to reduce the total number of weeks unemployed workers are eligible for aid by as much as 40 weeks and tighten rules for eligibility." See also today's Ledes. ...

... Digby on "the next step in our Randian dystopia: stigmatize the unemployed."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry is out with a new television ad in Iowa that accuses President Obama of engaging in a 'war on religion' and criticizes his decision to overturn the 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' policy for gays in the military. 'I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian,' the Texas governor says in the spot. 'But you don’t have to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion, and I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.'” Includes embedded ad.

Photos via AmericaBlog.Rick Perry Comes out of the Closet. Matt Ortega of AmericaBlog: "Rick Perry launched an anti-gay ad called, 'Strong.' In the ad, he attacks gays openly serving in the armed forces. As it turns out, the gays get their revenge... the jacket Rick Perry wore in the ad? Heath Ledger wore it in 'Brokeback Mountain.'" CW: I won't run the original ad, but this follow-up is pretty sweet:

... And here's another F/U from Andy Cobb of Second City:

... Jon Bershad of Mediaite has a post on the Perry ad titled "The Internet Really Hates Rick Perry and His 'Gay Soldiers Are Killing Christmas' Ad" that includes another spoof too yucky for me to post.

News Ledes

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "The nation's highest court late Friday temporarily blocked the interim court-drawn boundaries that form state legislative and congressional districts for next year's election. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an emergency challenge by Texas Republicans to determine which maps should be used in next year's elections in Texas, setting Jan. 9 as the date they will hear arguments."

New York Times: "European leaders, meeting until the early hours of Friday, agreed to sign an intergovernmental treaty that would require them to enforce stricter fiscal and financial discipline in their future budgets. But efforts to get unanimity among the 27 members of the European Union, as desired by Germany, failed as Britain and Hungary refused to go along for now. Importantly, all 17 members of the European Union that use the euro agreed to the new treaty, along with six other countries who wish to join the currency union one day." ...

... Guardian: "Britain is facing isolation in Europe after David Cameron vetoed a revision of the Lisbon treaty, prompting a majority of EU members to agree to draw up their own deal outside the architecture of the union. In one of the most significant developments in Britain's 38-year membership of the EU, the British prime minister said early on Friday morning he could not allow a "treaty within a treaty" that would undermine the UK's position in the single market."

BBC: "Iranian TV has shown the first video footage of an advanced US drone aircraft that Tehran says it downed 140 miles (225km) from the Afghan border. Images show Iranian military officials inspecting the RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft which appears to be undamaged." ...

     ... Fox "News": "U.S. officials have confirmed to Fox News that images aired by Iranian state television do in fact show the secret U.S. drone that went down last week in eastern Iran."

New York Times: "President Obama, who took office pledging to put science ahead of politics, averted a skirmish with conservatives in the nation’s culture wars on Thursday by endorsing his health secretary’s decision to block over-the-counter sales of an after-sex contraceptive pill to girls under age 17."

The Hill: "Senate Republicans blocked the latest installment of President Obama's jobs plan — a bill to extend the payroll tax cut — for the second week in a row on Thursday. The bill, titled the Middle Class Tax Cut Act, was shot down 50-48. It would have cut the payroll tax paid by employees to 3.1 percent from the current 4.2 percent while funding itself by imposing a surtax on millionaires." ...

... New York Times: "Pivoting to challenge President Obama and Senate Democrats, House Republicans said Thursday that they would forge ahead with a payroll tax holiday bill that includes an oil pipeline opposed by the president and that looks to changes in social programs to pay for the tax cut and added unemployment benefits."

ABC News: "The Supreme Court will meet behind closed doors on Friday to take a first look at a challenge to Arizona's strict immigration law and decide whether or not to take up the case. The law, passed in April 2010, is one of several recent attempts by various states to play a more aggressive role in immigration-related matters. The Obama administration challenged the Arizona law as soon as it passed, arguing that it interferes with existing federal law."

New York Times: "Jon S. Corzine, who came to Washington in 2001 as a Democratic senator from New Jersey, made a humbling return on Thursday, defending his tenure as MF Global’s top executive and sounding a note of contrition about the brokerage firm’s startling collapse. Mr. Corzine told the House Agriculture Committee that he was 'stunned' when he learned late on Oct. 30 that about $1 billion of customer money could not be located, a discovery that thwarted a sale of the firm and led to its filing for bankruptcy."

Guardian: "Vladimir Putin has accused Hillary Clinton ... of fomenting an increasingly vociferous opposition movement in Russia, threatening to derail the two countries' fragile resetting of relations."

Washington Post: "The leaders of a congressional committee investigating the Dover Air Force Base mortuary said Thursday that they would broaden their probe to include all military burial practices over the past decade, including reports that partial remains of hundreds of war dead were incinerated and dumped in a Virginia landfill."

AP: "The family of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished years ago in Iran, issued a plea to his kidnappers Friday and, for the first time, released a hostage video they received from his unidentified captors. The video message released on the Levinson family’s website publicly transformed the mysterious disappearance into an international hostage standoff. Despite a lengthy investigation, however, the U.S. government has no evidence of who is holding the 63-year-old father of seven."

The Apprentices Decline. ABC News: "Michele Bachmann has officially said 'no' to the Donald Trump-moderated Newsmax debate scheduled for later this month.... So, this leaves just two candidates — Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum — who plan to show up at the Dec. 27 event in Des Moines. Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Ron Paul have all declined to attend. Perry became the latest to decline Trump’s invitation on Thursday."

Wednesday
Dec072011

The Commentariat -- December 8

The Constant Weader is on sick leave today ...

I did, by hook or by crook, just manage to get my column in at the New York Times eXaminer. Title: "Women Need Not Apply." Please don't tell me about all the typos. I know they're there (and here!). The front page of the NYTX is here.

Well, one more thing: John Cassidy of the New Yorker on Obama's Osawatomie speech.

Tuesday
Dec062011

The Commentariat -- December 7

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is something a little different: an open letter to a hedge fund billionaire (and all-around pompous ass).

Here's a straight report by David Nakamura of the Washington Post, on President Obama's speech in Osawatomie, Kansas. The transcript of the speech is here. Here are a few opinions about the speech:

... Steve Benen: "You want a populist president, putting the interests of working families and the middle class above all? You’ve got it. For 55 minutes, Barack Obama made the case for progressive governance while destroying the foundation for the right’s vision." ...

... David Dayen of Firedoglake, who has been appropriately aggressive in his criticism of President Obama, gives the President mostly high marks for his speech yesterday but notes that Obama is still pushing the "belt-tightening" bit, which is stupid. Dayen is no Obamabot. ...

... Charles Pierce has another good take, calling out the good, the bad & the meh. And Pierce gets the Tea Party to a tee. ...

... Greg Sargent: "Obama’s speech in Kansas, which just concluded, was the most direct condemnation of wealth and income inequality, and the most expansive moral defense of the need for government activism to combat it, that Obama has delivered in his career." ...

... New York Times Editors: "Tuesday’s speech, in fact, seemed expressly designed to counter Mitt Romney’s argument that business, unfettered, will easily restore American jobs and prosperity. Teddy Roosevelt knew better 101 years ago, and it was gratifying to hear his fire reflected by President Obama."

In a New York Times eXaminer essay, Prof. Rena Steinzor of the Center for Progressive Reform explains why Cass Sunstein's little in-house (the "house" being the White House) industry lobbying and bean-counting organization is undermining agency and Congressionally-imposed regulations -- at a cost to Americans Sunstein doesn't bother to calculate. And while she's at it she lampoons David Brooks for his man-crush on Sunstein.

Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times: "Rather than responding to the motivations and demands behind the antigovernment uprising, opponents and political analysts say, the government [of Syria] has stubbornly clung to the narrative that it is besieged by a foreign plot."

Curtis Cartier of Seattle Weekly: "A U.S. District Court judge in Portland has drawn a line in the sand between 'journalist' and 'blogger.' And for Crystal Cox, a woman on the latter end of that comparison, the distinction has cost her $2.5 million.... Cox argued in court that the reason her post was more factual was because she had an inside source that was leaking her information. And since Oregon is one of 40 U.S. states including Washington with media shield laws, Cox refused to divulge who her source was.... The judge in Cox's case, however, ruled that the woman did not qualify for shield-law protection not because of anything she wrote, but because she wasn't employed by an official media establishment." ...

... Cartier, again: "Bruce E. H. Johnson ... is a veteran litigator in the field of free speech and media law. In 2006 he drafted Washington state's media shield legislation, and in 2007 the state legislature passed it into law. He says that had Cox's case been heard in a Washington court, the outcome (at least in regards to the shield law) would have most likely been different."

Peter Wehrwein of Harvard Health Watch: "Dr. Michael Roizen, of RealAge.com fame, says presidents age twice as fast as normal when they’re in office. The main cause, he says, is 'unrequited stress — they don’t have enough friends to mitigate the stress.' ... The only problem with this notion of accelerated presidential aging is that it just ain’t so, according to S. Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a longevity expert. In an article in tomorrow’s Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Olshansky says his research into presidential life expectancy found ... most of them lived long lives and beat the longevity expectations for their time."

What I Did on My Vacation. John Leland of the New York Times: Today, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is at work in his cubicle at the New York State Transportation Department in Buffalo. But for eight months, starting last November, he took a leave of absence, which he used to serve as "the prime minister of his native country, Somalia, one of the most chaotic nations on earth."

Kevin Liptak of CNN: "Donald Trump's Republican presidential debate took another hit Wednesday when White House hopeful Mitt Romney said he wouldn't participate in the event." With video.

Right Wing World

Civil Right, Tea Party-Style. Dana Milbank: ultra-conservatives Members of Congress has become the champions of minority fetuses. ...

... Civil rights for fetuses, yes; for gay actual people, not so much:

Just when you thought Barack Obama couldn’t get any more out of touch with America’s values, AP reports his administration wants to make foreign aid decisions based on gay rights. This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop. Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money. -- Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) ...

... The underlying news story is here; also linked in today's Ledes.

Local News

Los Angeles Times: "At a packed City Council meeting ... Los Angeles lawmakers Tuesday called for more regulations on how much corporations can spend on political campaigns. The vote in support of state and federal legislation that would end so-called 'corporate personhood' is largely symbolic.... The council resolution includes support for a constitutional amendment that would assert that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights, and that spending money is not a form of free speech."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Harry Morgan, the prolific character actor best known for playing the acerbic but kindly Colonel Potter in the long-running television series “M*A*S*H,” died on Wednesday morning at his home in Los Angeles. He was 96."

New York Times: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday overruled the Food and Drug Administration’s decision that emergency contraceptives be sold freely over the counter, including to teenagers 16 years old and younger."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Prosecutors on Wednesday filed new child sex-abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky, bringing to 10 the number of boys they say the former football coach molested or raped over the past decade. State police arrested Sandusky at his State College home and led him, draped in a blue-and-white Penn State track suit, in handcuffs into court."

New York Times: "The 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack will be the last one marked by the survivors’ association. With a concession to the reality of time — of age, of deteriorating health and death — the association will disband on Dec. 31."

Washington Post: "A Republican Party that has for decades benefited from a commitment to lower taxes is now finding itself on the defensive on the issue, as members face a deep split over a Democratic plan to extend a payroll tax reduction.... House Republicans will hold a closed-door meeting Wednesday to discuss what to do."

Guardian: "President Barack Obama has told US officials to consider how countries treat its gay and lesbian populations when making decisions about allocating foreign aid. In the first ever US government strategy to deal with human rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens abroad, a presidential memo issued on Tuesday instructs agencies using foreign aid to promote such rights."

New York Times: "Politicians and officials criticized the New York Police Department on Tuesday and called for investigations after the release of comments on Facebook in which users claiming to be officers heaped scorn on revelers at the annual West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn. But, despite repeated requests, one person refused to comment: the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly."

AP: "With years of freedom hanging in the balance, disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday gets his final shot at trying to persuade a federal judge not to send him away for a lengthy prison term." ...

... Chicago Tribune: "Two things were clear Tuesday by the close of the first day of Rod Blagojevich's sentencing hearing: The former governor was likely going to be hit with a stiff sentence, and his legal team had abandoned its early hope of him avoiding prison altogether." ...

     ... Update: "Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison and fined $20,000 for what U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald famously referred to as a criminal corruption crime spree at the time of Blagojevich’s arrest three years ago."

New York Times: "Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked confirmation of Caitlin J. Halligan, a prominent New York lawyer, to be a federal appeals court judge, raising the question of whether a political deal to prevent the filibuster of most judicial nominations has broken down.... In a statement shortly after the Senate vote, Mr. Obama expressed disappointment and accused Republicans of undermining the judicial confirmation process for partisan purposes."

Washington Post: "A Virginia appeals court declared Thomas Haynesworth an innocent man Tuesday, clearing his name and acknowledging that he spent 27 years behind bars for rapes he did not commit. It is the first time the state has issued a 'writ of actual innocence' in a rape case without the certainty of DNA evidence. Haynesworth, 46, was supported by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) and two state prosecutors — all of whom concluded that he was mistakenly identified by a rape victim as he walked to a Richmond market for sweet potatoes and bread one February afternoon in 1984."

Monday
Dec052011

The Commentariat -- December 6

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on today's heaping pile of deceit shoveled up by David Brooks. My editor tells me he has already received an appreciative letter from a law professor who was one of the principal authors of a study Brooks slyly misrepresents (without actually lying about it) in his column. The New York Times eXaminer front page is here.

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is petitioning the UN over what it sees as a concerted efforted to disenfranchise black and Latino voters ahead of next year's presidential election. The organisation will this week present evidence to the UN high commissioner on human rights of what it contends is a conscious attempt to "block the vote" on the part of state legislatures across the US. Next March the NAACP will send a delegation of legal experts to Geneva to enlist the support of the UN human rights council." (This story got little coverage in U.S. media, tho the AP did have a story.) ...

... The NAACP is holding a Stand for Freedom march on the U.N. building in New York City this Saturday on U.N. Human Rights Day. Info is here.

Massimo Calabresi of Time: "The latest weapon Obama is wielding against Republicans is the fate of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau."

The Pelosi-Gingrich set-to begins here with Brian Beutler of TPM:

One of these days we’ll have a conversation about Newt Gingrich. I know a lot about him. I served on the investigative committee that investigated him, four of us locked in a room in an undisclosed location for a year. A thousand pages of his stuff. -- Nancy Pelosi ...

... THEN it goes here, as reported by Justin Sink of The Hill: "Newt Gingrich said that a threat from ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to disclose information she learned while serving on an ethics committee investigating him during his time as Speaker of the House would 'totally abuse the ethics process' and violate rules of the House of Representatives." ...

... THEN it goes here, as reported by John Parkinson of ABC News: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi now says she is not sitting on a trove of opposition research on former House Speaker-turned-GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich."

Joe Nocera writes in praise of Dr. Don Berwick, whom Republican Senators refused to confirm as Director of Medicare. Why? Because they're real flames.

Right Wing World ...

Here's Ron Paul's anti-Gingrich 60-second spot:

... Rules. Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress: " Radio giant Clear Channel Communications is removing San Francisco’s only progressive AM talk radio station from the band, replacing it with mostly conservative content like Glenn Beck and Fox News Radio. As Brad Blog reports, Green960-KKGN will now move to the 'radio ghetto' of FM HD2, which requires listeners to have an HD radio. Clear Channel ... now happens to be owned by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital.... Clear Channel is the nation’s largest radio network and the vast majority of their talk radio content — 86 percent, according to liberal talk radio host Bill Press — is conservative." ...

This Time Romney Flips Left! Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "On Monday, Mitt Romney embraced one of President Obama’s signature proposals — another one-year extension of a cut in payroll taxes, after just weeks ago deriding the idea as 'little Band-Aids' that offered only a temporary fix.... Newt Gingrich ... said months ago that he favored an extension." ...

... Steve Benen: "So, let’s see. First, Romney sort of endorsed the payroll tax break. Then he dismissed it. Then his campaign no longer wanted to talk about. Then he announced his support for it. Romney must realize that there’s a perception — based on voluminous evidence — that he’s a cowardly, unprincipled hack with no core beliefs who’ll shift with the political winds. And yet, the Republican presidential hopeful keeps offering proof that the criticisms are accurate." ...

News Ledes

NBC News: "Randy Babbitt resigned as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday after being charged over the weekend with driving while intoxicated."

AP: "Hundreds of people took to the streets of Moscow for a second successive day on Tuesday to demand an end to Vladimir Putin's 12-year rule, defying a crackdown by tens of thousands of police reinforced by crack Interior Ministry troops. Police said they had detained about 250 people in central Moscow when they tried to stage an unapproved rally and held about 200 more in St Petersburg, where opposition forces have also been emboldened by the prime minister's worst election setback since he took power in 1999."

President Obama will speak about the economy in Kansas at 1:55 pm ET: McClatchy News: "Looking to inject his economic agenda with the grand sweep of history, he'll travel Tuesday to the small town of Osawatomie, Kan., the same place where Theodore Roosevelt a century ago summoned the nation to a new progressive era under what he called a 'New Nationalism.'"

New York Times: "In what officials say is the largest ever settlement in a government investigation of a mine disaster, Alpha Natural Resources agreed to pay $209 million in restitution and civil and criminal penalties for the role of its subsidiary, Massey Energy, in a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 men in West Virginia."

Guardian: "The grand bargain struck by Germany and France to save the euro and restore confidence in the single currency was facing its first challenge within hours of being negotiated, after 15 eurozone nations were warned that their credit ratings could be downgraded. Just after crunch talks in Paris seen as vital to preventing the collapse of the euro, France and Germany were among the countries warned that Standard & Poor's was considering whether to reduce their ratings."

New York Times: At least 58 people were killed and scores wounded after bombers struck Shiite religious observances on Tuesday in three cities, detonating explosives amid crowds of worshipers in the first such sectarian attacks in a decade of war in Afghanistan."

The Secret Life of Gov. Willard. Reuters: "Mitt Romney spent nearly $100,000 in state funds to replace computers in his office at the end of his term as governor of Massachusetts in 2007 as part of an unprecedented effort to keep his records secret, Reuters has learned.The move during the final weeks of Romney's administration was legal but unusual for a departing governor, Massachusetts officials say."

The Chicago Tribune has sort of a livebloggy thing on former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who faces a sentencing hearing today in Chicago. A New York Times story is here.

Cookie Crumbles, Takes Detestable Government Handouts. Wall Street Journal: Mary Brown of Panama City, Florida, "The woman chosen to represent the legal challenge to the Obama administration's health-care overhaul filed for bankruptcy in September after her business failed, a move that could pose problems for the high-profile lawsuit.... Without owning a business, it could be harder for Ms. Brown to argue she is harmed by the legislation. Meanwhile, her recent financial woes suggest the possibility she would be exempt from penalties for noncompliance with the individual mandate. That raises questions about whether the suit can be based on her experience.... Ms. Brown ... who is receiving unemployment benefits." CW: really, I don't bear this woman any ill will, but sometimes shit happens to selfish people, and it's hard to get all torn up about it.