The Ledes

Thursday, October 23, 2014.

Los Angeles Times: "Islamic State still generates tens of millions of dollars a month in illicit income despite a U.S.-led effort to cut the financing streams that have helped turn the once-obscure militant group into a terrorist organization unlike any previously seen, a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said Thursday."

Guardian: "The prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, vowed a tough and uncompromising response to a brazen gun attack on the national parliament on Wednesday that left a soldier dead and a nation in shock. As calm fell on Canada’s idyllic capital, where hours earlier Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had forced his way into the parliament building in a hail of gunfire before being killed by a ceremonial official, Harper delivered a sombre television address declaring that the country would not be cowed by terrorism." ...

... Toronto Globe & Mail: "Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the slain 32-year-old suspected killer of a Canadian Forces soldier near Parliament Hill, was a labourer and small-time criminal – a man who had had a religious awakening and seemed to have become mentally unstable. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was born in 1982 and was the son of Bulgasem Zehaf, a Quebec businessman who appears to have fought in 2011 in Libya, and Susan Bibeau, the deputy chairperson of a division of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board. The two were divorced in 1999." ...

... New York Times: "A day after a terrorist attack convulsed the heart of Ottawa, the Canadian capital, the city’s police chief said he was satisfied that it was the work of a lone gunman, who shot dead a soldier before being killed in a hail of gunfire in the Parliament building.... In the hours following the raid, police officials had said that there might be as many as three armed men."

The Wires

The Ledes

Shooting Wednesday in the Canadian Parliament building:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014.

New York Times: "The heart of the Canadian capital [Ottawa] was traumatized and placed in emergency police lockdown on Wednesday after a gunman fatally wounded a soldier guarding the National War Memorial, entered the nearby Parliament building and fired multiple times before he was shot and killed. It was the second deadly assault on a uniformed member of Canada’s armed forces in three days. While the motive was unclear, the Ottawa attack heightened fears that Canada, a strong ally of the United States, had been targeted in an organized terrorist plot." ...

... Toronto Globe & Mail: "Federal sources have identified the suspected shooter as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man in his early 30s who was known to Canadian authorities. Sources told The Globe and Mail that he was recently designated a 'high-risk traveller' by the Canadian government and that his passport had been seized – the same circumstances surrounding the case of Martin Rouleau-Couture, the Quebecker who was shot Monday after running down two Canadian Forces soldiers with his car." The page includes links to related stories. ...

... Here's the Guardian's live feed.

Hill: "The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday that Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters took possession of a stray bundle of U.S.-airdropped weapons and other supplies in the Syrian border town of Kobani earlier this week."

Guardian: "A three-month old baby was killed and eight other people wounded in Jerusalem – one seriously – in what Israel police are describing as a 'terrorist attack' in which a speeding car drove onto a pavement crowded with pedestrians alighting from the city’s light railway. Video footage posted on social media appears to show a car on the main road slowing slightly before crossing to the train tracks and climbing on to the station pavement and ploughing through the people standing on it."

Public Service Announcement

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

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

White House Live Video
October 23

12:30 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks about an anti-domestic violence program in Duluth, Minnesota

12:45 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

Washington Post: A "virtual autopsy" of King Tut suggests the boy king had "buck teeth, club foot and a pronounced overbite."

Stephen Colbert describes his workday:


No Surprise Here. Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... online search traffic from behind closed doors in Jesusland suggests that the bad, nasty, sexual impulses righteous believers are trying so hard to shut down may be their own. And if Google search patterns mean anything, they’re not succeeding too well: studies consistently demonstrate that people in conservative religious states search for adult materials online far more often than people in blue states."

Jeffrey Frank reviews, for the New Yorker, a new biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. The review is fairly entertaining & informative.

Michael Cieply of the New York Times: "... several of the companies behind 'Citizenfour' — which takes issue with Mr. Obama’s expansion of Bush-era surveillance, and his administration’s attempt to prosecute [Edward] Snowden for espionage — are led by some of the president’s close political allies. They include Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company’s co-chairman, as well as Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant Media, and Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, who all have been major contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns."

Washington Post: "President Obama's credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York. 'I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was -- during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,' Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. 'It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were -- they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.'"

"Who's Gonna Stand Up & Save the Earth?" Not Stephen Colbert:

Novelist John Grisham recants his apologia for child porn. Good to know.

Unsolved Mystery. Washington Post: "Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list." Original story further down this column. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead.

New York Times: "CBS announced a new subscription Internet streaming service on Thursday that allows people to watch its live television programming and thousands of its current and past shows on demand without paying for a traditional TV subscription. The new 'CBS All Access' service, costing $5.99 a month, is the first time that a traditional broadcaster will make a near-continuous live feed of its local stations available over the web to non-pay-TV subscribers. At its start, the live stream will be available in 14 markets in the United States." ...

... New York Times: "HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix. Just hours after HBO unveiled plans for its new service, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slower than expected...."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Following its initial mercy killing at the hands of Jon Stewart, Crossfire was rebooted last year with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones to dismal returns..., CNN ... scrapped it for good today [October 15] so that Newt can spend more time with his animals — and hopefully run for president again."

Joe Concha of Mediaite: "A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily." CW: I've caught a few minutes of Farrow's show a couple of times, & it was clear the guy was in way over his head. His performance was as embarrassing as the Russert kid's, though he isn't an obnoxious bro in the Russert-kid mold. I'm not sure if the suits will ever figure out that legacies & children-of-famous-people are usually not the best & brightest, perhaps because a lot of the suits themselves are legacies.

Philip Shenon in Politico Magazine: "If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows."

Snowden, The Movie:

... AND, Snowden's girlfriend is living with him in a Moscow apartment. David Harding of the New York Daily News: "His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, moved into his apartment in the Russian capital in July, a detail that was revealed in the new documentary, 'Citizenfour.'” ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Laura Poitras & making the film "Citizenfour." ...

... Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times discusses the film. He attended the premiere at the New York Film Festival, where the documentary got a rare standing O. CW: I'm kinda sensing that "Citizenfour" can best be described as "documentary as hagiography." And, yes, I'm definitely seeing an Oscar here. Call me an oracle.

 

 

A video for Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist-Man Rubio & Bobby I'm-Not-an-Evolutionary-Biologist Jindal, & all their non-scientist Republican friends:

Selina Gray, on right, saved Arlington House treasures during the Civil War.Michael Ruane of the Washington Post: "When Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary, fled Arlington House at the start of the Civil War, she gave her personal slave, Selina Norris Gray, the keys to the mansion and responsibility for the grand house the Lees had lived in for 30 years. Gray fulfilled her duties. She is famously credited with saving from marauding Union soldiers numerous heirlooms belonging to George Washington that were stored in the house. Now the National Park Service, which administers Arlington House, has acquired what it says is a rare and previously unknown photograph of Gray and, apparently, two of her eight children."

"An FBI wanted poster shows William Bradford Bishop Jr. The image on the left shows how Bishop would look now. (Getty)"Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "For nearly 40 years, the legend of Bethesda fugitive William Bradford Bishop Jr. carried an air of not just evil brutality but refined sophistication. This was a man suspected of killing his family with a small sledgehammer in 1976 and setting their corpses on fire. Then he vanished, taking with him fluency in five languages, the experience of a world traveler for the State Department, and a fondness for playing tennis, flying airplanes and drinking Scotch. There were alleged sightings: a public park in Stockholm, a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, a train station in Basel, Switzerland. Now, in a potentiality stunning development in the case — centered in a municipally owned cemetery in the northeastern corner of Alabama — remains that were exhumed Thursday may tell a different story. Bishop could be the heretofore unidentified man called John Doe, who was struck by a car while walking down a highway in 1981, a person who appeared to be homeless, who’d worn several layers of heavy, dirty clothes and weighed just 155 pounds." ...

... CW: If you like mysteries & enjoy reading about how they're unravelled, you should find this a compelling story.

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Saturday
Jun092012

The Commentariat -- June 10, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "What Ever Happened to Bradley Manning?" The NYTX front page is here.

New York Times Editors: "If you wanted to reproduce the conditions that led to the Great Recession in 2007, the easiest way would be the plan unveiled last week by House Republicans: gut the regulators who are supposed to keep the worst business practices in check." Read the entire editorial. CW: The nicest thing I can say about House Republicans is that they are corrupt, devious fuckers. And that would be my polite mode.

Get off the Dime, Ben! Christina Romer in the New York Times: "By law, the Fed is supposed to aim for maximum employment and stable prices.... The Fed is the only plausible source of immediate help for the American economy. It was set up as an independent body precisely so that somebody can do what's right when politicians can't or won't.... The academic literature shows that monetary policy can be very effective at reducing unemployment in situations like ours.

Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post has a long piece on President Obama's tense relationships with Hispanic & gay civil rights leaders.

One More Reason to Love Joe Biden. The Vice President invites the press and their families to his home at the Naval Observatory every year. My son's excuse for dousing David Brooks: 'Biden told me to!' -- Ben Smith of BuzzFeed

Robert Reich: "The public’s growing disdain of the Supreme Court increases the odds that a majority will uphold the constitutionality of Obamacare." CW: I happen to think Reich is being a cockeyed optimist here, but read his rationale & see what you think. Also, bear this in mind: the public likes the individual mandate even less than they like the Court. So, if Reich is correct, that John Roberts is concerned about the Court's unpopularity, wouldn't Roberts want to do the popular thing & squish the individual mandate?

Missed this story which Steve Benen highlights in "This Week in God": Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "... a group of Roman Catholic nuns is planning a bus trip across nine states this month, stopping at homeless shelters, food pantries, schools and health care facilities run by nuns to highlight their work with the nation's poor and disenfranchised. The bus tour is a response to a blistering critique of American nuns released in April by the Vatican's doctrinal office.... The bus tour is to begin on June 18 in Iowa and end on July 2 in Virginia. The dates overlap with the 'Fortnight for Freedom,' events announced by Catholic bishops to rally opposition to what they see as the Obama administration's violations of religious freedom."

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: Senate Majority Leader Harry "Reid [D-Nevada] is now activating the vaunted Nevada Democratic machine he has helped build on behalf [of] Rep. Shelley Berkley. The seven-term Las Vegas congresswoman is challenging Reid's junior partner, Republican Sen. Dean Heller, for his job." Nevada offers "a rare opportunity for a Democratic pickup." The state's primaries are this Tuesday; both Berkley & Heller are expected to win easily.

Presidential Race

The Obama campaign runs a new Web ad hitting Romney for advocating the firing of teachers, firefighters & police:

News Ledes

Washington Post: "An increasingly effective Syrian rebel force has been gaining ground in recent weeks, stepping up its attacks on government troops and expanding the area under its control even as world attention has been focused on pressuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to comply with a U.N. cease-fire. The loosely organized Free Syrian Army now acknowledges that it is also no longer observing the truce, although rebel commanders insist they are launching attacks only to defend civilians in the wake of concerns generated by two recent massacres in which most of the 186 victims were women and children." ...

... Al Jazeera: "Violence is continuing in Syria, with activists reporting government assaults on the southern city of Deraa and Homs in the centre of the country. At least 52 civilians were killed around the country outside Damascus on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Britain-based activist group."

AFP: "The IMF and US both praised a Eurogroup deal giving Spain a lifeline of up to €100 bn ($125 billion) to save its stricken banks, with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde calling it a 'credible back stop' for the banking system."

Reuters: "Iran's state finances have come under unprecedented pressure and the resilience of ordinary people is being tested by soaring inflation as oil income plummets due to tightening Western sanctions and sharply falling oil prices. Tough financial measures imposed by Washington and Brussels have made it ever more difficult to pay for and ship oil from Iran. Its oil output has sunk to the lowest in 20 years, cutting revenue that is vital to fund a sprawling state apparatus."

AP: "Hosni Mubarak is slipping in and out of consciousness eight days after the ousted Egyptian leader was sent to prison to begin serving a life sentence, a security official said on Sunday. With rumors of the former president's death spreading rapidly, authorities granted his wife, former first lady Suzanne Mubarak, and the couple's two daughters-in-law special permission to visit him in Cairo's Torah prison early that morning."

AFP: "Queen Elizabeth II's husband Prince Philip celebrates his 91st birthday at home on Sunday, after five days of hospital treatment for a bladder infection sparked concerns about his health. The outspoken Duke of Edinburgh left London's King Edward VII hospital on Saturday, just in time for his birthday."

Friday
Jun082012

The Commentariat -- June 9, 2012

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

CW: Optimism! So if we could build the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam & the Empire State Building during the depths of the depression, why the hell don't we do something equally fabulous now? Tim Egan celebrates the anniversaries of the Golden Gate Bridge & the Seattle Space Needle, built 25 years later.

... I spoke too soon. It just occurred to me that an old friend of mine -- Chuck Middleton, President of Roosevelt University in Chicago -- just built this -- and he began the project just as the recession hit. Chicago Tribune story here. The building was dedicated May 5 of this year.

 

 

New York Times Editors: "Religious conservatives are losing one of their primary arguments for trying to ban the morning-after birth control pill that can prevent pregnancy if taken within days after sexual intercourse.... As Pam Belluck reported in The Times on Wednesday, the latest scientific findings and expert opinion indicate that the pills work by delaying ovulation.... This page supports easy access to the morning-after pill without a doctor's prescription.... We also support a treatment regimen based on RU-486, which does abort an implanted embryo weeks after the morning-after pill no longer works. It provides a safe alternative to the dwindling availability of surgical abortions in many areas. The decision on taking RU-486 should be left to women and their doctors."

CW: I see Charles Pierce & I are on the same page (see my comment in yesterday's Commentariat): "The recall provision exists in Wisconsin law not as a kind of impeachment-by-other-means, but as a direct response to the depredations of corporate wealth upon the political commonwealth that were rife the last time we had a Gilded Age. That so many Wisconsinites forgot this is a tribute to seven months of television advertising and the fact that we don't teach civics any more.... The recall was a vehicle, nothing more, and, if nothing else, it kept Walker from calling the legislature into special session to do even more damage before the November elections."

Yesterday I linked to a story of dubious origin that charged that White House e-mails proved President Obama had secretly broken his campaign pledge to fight for the importation of safe, cheaper drugs. Peter Baker of the New York Times confirms the story. His piece, which tells what happened step-by-step, is worth a read.

Woodward & Bernstein: Nixon -- "Far worse than we thought." The Post has a page of links to stories on Watergate; to refresh your memories or perhaps learn some of the highlights for the first time, this is a good place to start.

Presidential Race

James Downie of the Washington Post responds to Republicans going nutso over President Obama's remark yesterday that "The private sector is doing fine," a remark he later walked back in an Oval Office press availability. It's doing a lot finer, Downie argues, than it would be under Romney's economic prescription. ...

... Here's the walkback. Note the President's reference to firefighters, police & teachers:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

.... Who Needs Firemen, Police & Teachers? Here's part of Willard's response to Obama's presser yesterday:

     ... Read Steve Benen on this. He's livid: "Let's be clear about this: Romney is rejecting the idea of saving the jobs of cops, firefighters, and teachers. He sees this as an applause line. The Republican nominee for president believes we can 'help the American people' by laying off, not just public-sector workers in general, but specifically cops, firefighters, and teachers." ...

     ... Greg Sargent, in the same vein: "At the same time, however, Romney takes care to show great sympathy with first responders. As Jonathan Chait has noted, Romney has spoken movingly of the financial plight of firefighters under Obama, even though they belong to the parasitic class that he is trying to scapegoat for the economic misery of other Americans. ...

We knew Mitt Romney liked firing people, but we didn't know that included firefighters and cops. Middle-class voters already distrust Mitt Romney for being out-of-touch and uncaring about regular folks. Bragging about wanting to give pink slips to first responders only cements that perception. -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

     ... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos gets it exactly right: "In his words, firing government workers would put other Americans 'back to work.' But that's nuts. Anytime somebody loses a job, it's bad news for the economy. That alone demonstrates that Mitt Romney doesn't understand what it takes to be president." CW: note that in his walkback, the President makes crystal clear that he understands that working teachers, firefighters & police contribute to the economy.

Steve Benen chronicles "Mitt's Mendacity" of the week. Benen finds 20 whoppers in Week 21. The segment from Rachel Maddow's show embedded in the post brings home the point that Willard is completely -- and oddly -- shameless. When he's caught in a lie, he just keeps telling it. He has even defended telling lies as a valid & standard political tactic.

Andrew Sullivan: Obama "must make it plainer that, in this country's politics, he is still the change agent. If he weren't, why would they have done so much to stop him?"

Local News

CW: I'm posting this story only because the island is a few miles upriver from my house:

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times: "On Thursday, a 1.4-acre patch of land on the Caloosahatchee River off Fort Myers, Fla., was gaveled away in an unusual Internet auction that featured the private island.... The new owner walked away with $258,5000 worth of sand, rock, oak trees and sea grapes, and, of course, a battalion of Florida's unofficial mascots, mosquitoes." CW: Alvarez is exaggerating the mosquito population; the water here is brackish, so mosquitoes can't mate & there's always a breeze on the river. This is a manmade island, built when the Corps of Engineers dredged a channel through the river to complete the Intercoastal Waterway. Another larger island, near the city center, is for sale for about $5 million. Other islands in the river are bird sanctuaries. ...

... In slightly more important Florida news ... Joseph Williams of Politico: "Good-government advocates have sued the state of Florida, alleging its purge of non-citizens from voter rolls has swept up too many legally-registered African American and Latino voters and is undermining laws that ensure fair access to the ballot box."

News Ledes

New York Times: "A federal health official's ruling has cleared the way for 50 different types of cancer to be added to the list of sicknesses covered by a $4.3 billion fund set up to compensate and treat people exposed to the toxic smoke, dust and fumes in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

AP: "Spain could ask for a rescue of its troubled banks this weekend when European finance ministers hold an emergency conference call Saturday to discuss its hurting lending sector, a move that would turn the nation into the fourth from the 17-nation eurozone to seek outside help since the continent's financial crisis erupted two years ago." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Responding to increasingly urgent calls from across Europe and the United States, Spain on Saturday requested assistance for its cash-starved banks. European finance ministers in turn promised up to $125 billion in aid, which they hope will quell rising financial turmoil ahead of elections in Greece that could roil world markets."

Guardian: "Bradley Manning has failed to persuade a military judge to throw out half of the counts against him in a pre-trial hearing before his court martial for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of state secrets to WikiLeaks. Colonel Denise Lind, presiding over the proceedings at Fort Meade in Maryland, rejected a defence motion that 10 of the 22 counts against the US soldier should be dismissed."

Washington Post: "Former D.C. Council chairman Kwame R. Brown pleaded guilty Friday to lying on bank-loan applications and violating a city campaign law, branding a once-promising star in local politics as a convicted felon."

AP: "China will launch three astronauts this month to dock with an orbiting experimental module, and the crew might include its first female space traveler, a government news agency said Saturday."

Thursday
Jun072012

The Commentariat -- June 8, 2012

** "The Triumph of Radical Individualism." Paul Waldman of American Prospect: "Conservatives have succeeded in convincing working- and middle-class people not just that they shouldn't feel solidarity with other members of their class, but that they shouldn't feel solidarity with anyone at all. It required a lot of work, particularly when you consider how much they rely on encouraging feelings of tribalism in other realms, like nationhood, religion, and region. But the conservative message on economics has always been brutally individualistic, essentially arguing that in the economic realm, no one is meaningfully connected to anyone in any way."

Robert Burns of the AP: "Suicides are surging among America's troops, averaging nearly one a day this year -- the fastest pace in the nation's decade of war. The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan -- about 50 percent more."

Paul Krugman: "... if you want to see government responding to economic hard times with the 'tax and spend' policies conservatives always denounce, you should look to the Reagan era -- not the Obama years.... Reagan may have preached small government, but in practice he presided over a lot of spending growth -- and right now that's exactly what America needs."

** Linda Greenhouse, in Slate, calls for a Constitutional Amendment limiting federal judges -- including the Supremes -- to 18-year terms.

David Lightman of McClatchey News: "Five months before Election Day, Republicans are poised to retain control of the House of Representatives and inch close -- and perhaps win the majority -- in the Senate. The outlook is driven by local factors rather any kind of wave for or against either major political party. Indeed, the lack of a national tide could help the Republicans hold the House, where they're expected to lose seats but not enough to cost them the majority." Thanks to James S. for the link. I think.

... Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal analyzes the results of California's new "top two" primary election system, which was supposed to general more centrist candidates. Pretty interesting. Bottom line, so far: "... the rules also create the likelihood of some very unconventional campaigns with Republicans appealing to Democrats, and Democrats courting Republicans. That doesn't mean that, once candidates get elected, they'll become more moderate and change their voting behavior. It does mean they'll pander as much as possible to win."

Kevin Drum: "Conservatives have made a big deal out of the fact that 38% of households with a union member voted for the union-busting Scott Walker in Tuesday's election.... For better or worse, about 37% of union members [usually] vote for Republicans, both nationwide and in Wisconsin. On Tuesday they did it again. So whatever lessons there are from Tuesday's election, the idea that union members are somehow abandoning their own cause isn't one of them." ...

... Alex Seitz-Wald, writing in Salon, provides an overview of what a right-wing rock star Scott Walker is now. Seitz-Wald sees the recall effort as a big blunder. CW: I don't.

Adam Liptak & Allison Kopicki of the New York Times: "Just 44 percent of Americans approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing and three-quarters say the justices' decisions are sometimes influenced by their personal or political views, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News."

If Right Wing News can be believed, Obama reneged on his campaign promise to push for the importation of cheap, safe drugs in a secret deal with Big Pharma in 2009.

Advice from the Career Corner. If you aspire to a career as a diplomat, especially if you aspire to be confirmed as Ambassador to Iraq, do not have sex with someone other than your spouse on the roof of the roof of a Saddam Hussein palace. People have video cameras. Jim Inhofe (R-Crazy) likes to watch.

Kevin Drum zeros in on Obama's biggest mistake of 2009. And Drum fingers just the right guy -- Tim Geithner: "Although Obama didn't have the leverage to get more stimulus spending even if he'd wanted it, he could have done more on the housing front, [which]... was quite feasible and would probably have made a noticeable difference in keeping the recovery on a stronger track.... Tim Geithner just didn't like the idea of pressing harder on the mortgage relief front, and Obama went along."

Presidential Race

Nate Silver: "The first look at the 2012 FiveThirtyEight presidential forecast has Barack Obama as a very slight favorite to win re-election. But his advantage equates to only a two-point lead in the national popular vote, and the edge could easily swing to Mitt Romney on the basis of further bad economic news."

Joan Walsh of Salon: Romney didn't just dodge the draft; he lied about it. "Romney's dissembling here, all captured in newspapers in real time, should be a real problem for him."

** Andrew Sprung of Xpostfactoid lays out the Romney Rules, as defined by Willard. I think he should add a coda, "It's our turn now," as defined by Mrs. Willard. ...

... Jonathan Chait analyzes a Romney lie. Well, lies. CW: I'm beginning to think Romney cannot construct a truthful sentence with the name "Obama" in it.

What's the matter with Bill Clinton? John Dickerson of Slate ticks off six theories that are making the rounds. Pick your own. You can choose more than one. ...

News Ledes

President Obama held a press conference on the economy today:

     ... New York Times: Republicans went ballistic when Obama said, as part of a response to a reporter's question, "the private sector is doing fine." He had to clarify later.

New York Times: "The NATO and United States troop commander in Afghanistan flew to the eastern part of the country on Friday to apologize personally to surviving family members for a coalition airstrike earlier this week that local officials said killed 18 civilians. The apology by the commander, Gen. John R. Allen, was the first admission by coalition forces that the strike on Wednesday had killed civilians...."

New York Times: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday assigned two United States attorneys to lead separate criminal investigations into recent disclosures to the news media of national security secrets, saying they were authorized to 'follow all appropriate investigative leads within the executive and legislative branches of government.'"

Crackdown. New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin signed into law on Friday a measure that will impose heavy fines on people who organize or take part in unsanctioned demonstrations, giving the Russian authorities powerful leverage to clamp down on the large antigovernment street protests that began six months ago and seemed to be re-energized after Mr. Putin's inauguration last month."

Reuters: "The Federal Reserve rejected pleas by the U.S. banking industry in releasing on Thursday a rigorous interpretation of an international agreement on higher capital standards for banks, known as Basel III.... The new capital standards would force banks to rely more on equity than debt to fund themselves, so that they are able to better withstand significant losses."

New York Times: "With the Syrian conflict escalating perilously after government troops and civilian supporters prevented unarmed United Nations monitors from investigating a massacre, fresh fighting was reported elsewhere on Friday as the authorities sought to extend their writ in an area under stubborn rebel control." ...

     ... Update: the story has a new lede: "Confronting a scene of congealed blood, scattered body parts, shelled buildings, bullet holes and the smell of burned flesh, United Nations monitors in Syria quietly collected evidence on Friday of a mass atrocity in a desolate hamlet, more than 24 hours after Syrian forces and government supporters blocked their first attempt to visit the site."

New York Times: "Senior inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog renewed talks with Iran on Friday aimed at securing access to restricted sites where the agency believes scientists may have tested explosives that could be used as triggers for nuclear warheads, officials at the agency said."

Guardian: "The department of justice is reviewing the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk policy, following demands by campaigners who say the tactic is unconstitutional and racially discriminatory." CW: in case you're wondering why I didn't link the New York Times story on this, it's because there isn't one.

AP: "Britain's media ethics inquiry says Prime Minister David Cameron and his predecessor Gordon Brown will both appear to give evidence at [Leveson inquiry] hearings next week. The inquiry also said Friday that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Treasury chief George Osborne will both appear." Guardian story here.

Wednesday
Jun062012

The Commentariat -- June 7, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' distorted take on the Wisconsin recall results. The NYTX front page is here. ...

... There's Debt and There's Debt. Andrew Fieldhouse of the Economic Policy Institute explains high school-level economics to David Brooks.

Robert Scheer of Truthdig writes a column about Obama's use of drones. CW: I have some fundamental disagreements with Scheer (I also agree with a number of his specific criticisms), but I expect his piece will resonate with a lot of readers, & I consider his POV, in general, well-worth reading.

E. J. Dionne: "Only about a quarter of those who went to the polls [in Wisconsin] Tuesday said that a recall was appropriate for any reason.... Most voters ... rejected the very premise of the election in which they were casting ballots.... It's worth comparing what happened in Wisconsin with what happened last year in Ohio, where unions forced a referendum on the anti-labor legislation pushed through by Gov. John Kasich (R) and the Republican-controlled legislature. The unions and the Democrats won 61 percent in that vote, repealing the law. But this remedy was not available in Wisconsin." ...

... ** David Dayen of Firedoglake: "The real culprit was an obscure state campaign finance law that allowed Walker, the incumbent, to raise unlimited money while recall petitions were processed.... Barrett's donations were term-limited.... But the most important point: ... The policy of defunding the left ... was the entire point of Scott Walker's agenda. And it was successful when he signed Act 10, the anti-worker law, last year.... As a result, labor couldn't keep up with outside spending to compensate for the massive loophole-induced funding lead Walker had. Walker divided and conquered.... This becomes a downward spiral; labor cannot get back their rights, workers see no reason to keep paying dues for nothing, and the organization fades away." Read the whole post. ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine: "Walker's win will certainly provide a blueprint for fellow Republicans. When they gain a majority, they can quickly move to not just wrest concessions from public sector unions but completely destroy them, which in turn eliminates one of the strongest sources of political organization for the Democratic Party. And whatever backlash develops, it's probably not enough to outweigh the political benefit. Walker has pioneered a tactic that will likely become a staple of Republican governance."

** David Kay Johnston of Reuters: "Six American families paid no federal income taxes in 2009 while making something on the order of $200 million each. This is one of many stunning revelations in new IRS data that deserves a thorough airing in this year's election campaign.... Congress has created two income tax systems, separate and unequal, burdening millions much more heavily than the few, those with gigantic incomes and a propensity to make campaign contributions." ...

... Robert Reich: actually, Bill Clinton agrees with me -- the Bush tax cuts must end. ...

... John Harris & Alexander Burns of Politico: Obama & Clinton aides agree: Bill Clinton is a doddering old fool who can't keep his foot out of his mouth.

... "The New Feudalism":

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in a Washington Post op-ed: "I've reintroduced the SAFE Banking Act, which would end 'too big to fail' once and for all by placing sensible size limits on our nation's megabanks and ensuring that if they gamble, they have the resources to cover their losses."

"Estonian Rhapsody" in Three Four Movements. As a follow-up to his contretemps with the two Brits in the video posted in yesterday's Commentariat -- (Presto:) one of whom held up Estonia as a model of successful austerity -- Paul Krugman produced a chart showing the progress of Estonia's economy and wrote, (Vivace:) "So, a terrible -- Depression-level -- slump, followed by a significant but still incomplete recovery. Better than no recovery at all, obviously -- but this is what passes for economic triumph?" ...

... Liz Goodwin of Yahoo! News: "Estonia's president Toomas Hendrik Ilves struck back on Twitter. (Agitato:) 'Let's write about something we know nothing about & be smug, overbearing & patronizing: after all, they're just wogs,' Ilves wrote, using the derogatory British slang term for dark-skinned people from Africa or the East. 'Guess a Nobel in trade means you can pontificate on fiscal matters & declare my country a "wasteland". Must be a Princeton vs Columbia thing,' he added, referencing the two men's alma maters." ...

... Krugman responds (Adagio) with a chart of New Deal recovery results.

Richard Yeselson of The New Republic on "the long, slow death spiral of the American labor movement": most people don't care about unions.

Scott Shane of the New York Times, reporting on his own reporting. Congressional sieves concerned about leaks: "Prompted in part by recent articles in The New York Times on the use of drones to carry out targeted killings and the deployment of the Stuxnet computer worm against the Iranian nuclear program<, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees issued a joint statement on Wednesday urging the administration 'to fully, fairly and impartially investigate' the recent disclosures and vowing new legislation to crack down on leaks."

This long New York Times Magazine piece by Amos Kamil, who went to the private, prestigious Horace Mann School in the Bronx, relates how a number of the teachers at Horace Mann sexually abused students. CW: I might be wrong, but I think we're going to be seeing a lot of these pedophiles-in-prep-schools stories. The story is an easy, if disturbing, read.

Lisa Abend of Time: Amid an economic crisis, Spanish officials at the state & local levels are considering ways to eliminate some of the tax exemptions the Catholic Church receives; the Church threatens to retaliate by cutting back social programs.

Presidential Race

Justin Sink of The Hill: "Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee raised $76.8 million in May, outpacing President Obama in the first full head-to-head month of the campaign. The president's reelection campaign said Thursday that it had raised $60 million in May, itself an improvement of more than 30 percent from April."

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: the neighbors around the Romneys' La Jolla, California, home, which he has plans to quadruple in size, are neither thrilled with his plans nor with him. ...

... Max Read of Gawker: "Mitt Romney is a narc."

Steve Peoples of the AP: "Though an early supporter of the Vietnam War, Romney avoided military service at the height of the fighting after high school by seeking and receiving four draft deferments, according to Selective Service records.... Because Romney, now 65, was of draft age during Vietnam, his military background -- or, rather, his lack of one -- is facing new scrutiny as he courts veterans and makes his case to the nation to be commander in chief. He's also intensified his criticism lately of Obama's plans to scale back the nation's military commitments abroad, suggesting that Romney would pursue an aggressive foreign policy as president that could involve U.S. troops."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "With a July 1 rate increase on education loans approaching, President Obama told students [in Las Vegas, Nevada] on Thursday that it is Congress's job to move swiftly to prevent the rise, even as Republicans in Washington accused him of ignoring their most recent proposals and refusing to negotiate":

Bloomberg News: "Fewer Americans applied for unemployment insurance payments last week, indicating limited progress in the labor market after a two-month slowdown in hiring."

Washington Post: "Nasdaq said Wednesday afternoon that it would hand out $40 million in cash and credit to reimburse investment firms that lost money on Facebook's opening day because of computer glitches at the exchange. Nasdaq's chief rival, the New York Stock Exchange, fired off a statement condemning the move, saying Nasdaq was giving itself an unfair advantage and rewarding itself for its own mistakes."

New York Times: "Leon E. Panetta, the United States defense secretary, arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday, after the deadliest day for civilians this year and amid controversy over a NATO airstrike the day before in which Afghan officials say 18 women and children were killed. President Hamid Karzai condemned the strike in the strongest terms and decided the incident was serious enough to cut short his trip to China...."

Washington Post: "... on Wednesday, under questioning from skeptical Republicans, [Doug Elmendorf,] the director of the nonpartisan (and widely respected) Congressional Budget Office, was emphatic about the value of the 2009 stimulus. And, he said, the vast majority of economists agree."

Al Jazeera: "A top US bank regulator [-- Thomas Curry, who heads the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency --] has told legislators that 'inadequate' risk controls at JPMorgan Chase led to a $2 billion derivatives loss, as senators questioned him and others over a failure to prevent the debacle.... Senators expressed concern thatregulators were too lax in monitoring huge trades."

AFP: "US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid out a Syria strategy calling for a full transfer of power from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a senior State Department official said."

Guardian: "The judge presiding over [Bradley Manning's] trial at Fort Meade in Maryland has ordered the US government to hand over several confidential documents relating to the massive leak to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. In particular, the Obama administration must now disclose to Manning's lawyers some of the damage assessments it carried out into the impact of the leak on US interests around the world." (CW: not reported in the New York Times.)

AP: "Natasha Trethewey, 46, an English and creative writing professor at Emory University in Atlanta, will be named the 19th U.S. poet laureate Thursday." New York Times story here.

Guardian: "Spain is warning that Europe's single currency will unravel unless its leaders decide within weeks to centralise budget and tax policies in the eurozone and agree on a strategy to pool responsibility for failing banks."