The Ledes

Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

Guardian: "The US State Department says Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, has been released. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Fowle was home Tuesday after negotiators left Pyongyang. She said the US is still trying to free two other Americans, Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae."

New York Times: "Oscar de la Renta, the doyen of American fashion, whose career began in the 1950s in Franco’s Spain, sprawled across the better living rooms of Paris and New York, and who was the last survivor of that generation of bold, all-seeing tastemakers, died on Monday at his home in Kent, Conn. He was 82."

New York Times: "Oscar Pistorius, the South African track star once seen as an emblem of triumph over adversity, was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp." ...

     ... The Guardian is liveblogging the sentencing.

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, October 20, 2014.

New York Times: "At least one chapter of the Ebola saga neared a close Sunday, as most of the dozens of people who had direct or indirect contact here with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola, had been told by officials that they were no longer at risk of contracting the disease."

New York Times: "Escalating its assistance to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobani, American military aircraft on Sunday dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to resupply the combatants, officials said."

New York Daily News: "Tennessee state Sen. Jim Summerville was arrested twice this weekend — just one month after he was arrested for public intoxication, police said. The outgoing Republican senator from Dickson, Tenn., has been charged with stalking and assault in separate incidents involving his neighbor, Lt. Todd Christian said." CW: Another fine representative of the people.

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 21

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks to the Washington Post (audio only)

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

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

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.

Christopher Schmidt says, "On Oct 8th, I was flying my quadcopter at Magazine Beach Park in Cambridge, [Massachusetts,] when a hawk decided he wasn't too happy with my invasion of his airspace:

... CW: Thanks to Julie L. for the link. So one way to get rid of those annoying drones that will soon be hovering in your air space is to take up falconry. (Since bringing down other people's drones may be illegal, blame the bird.)

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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."

Tuesday
Jun052012

The Commentariat -- June 6, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "Of Sex, Love and the Inquisition." The NYTX front page is here.

Leeches!

Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast: a reader tots up PolitiFact's truthiness ratings (CW: no clue as to what calendar period the analysis covers). "Politifact picks and chooses what topics it covers; it itself is not unblemished in its impartiality.... Based on the following leaders - Romney, Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Gingrich, Perry, Santorum for the GOP and Obama, Biden, Reid, Pelosi, and Clinton (Hillary) for the Dems, we get this graph":

     "Romney, for some reason, seems attached to the Big Lie":

Bill Clinton, Off-message Again. Jeff Cox of CNBC: "Former President Bill Clinton told CNBC Tuesday that the US economy already is in a recession and urged Congress to extend all the tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year. In a taped interview aired on 'Closing Bell,' the still-popular 42nd president called the current economic conditions a 'recession' and said overzealous Republican plans to cut the deficit threaten to plunge the country further into the debt abyss." With video clip. ...

... Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "While the year-end burst of tax hikes and spending cuts known as Taxmageddon promises to be messy, it would set the nation on a course to smaller budget deficits and lower debt, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.... There is already talk of postponing a decision, perhaps by temporarily extending current tax policies. That would avoid a short-term fiscal shock that the CBO has said is likely to throw the economy back into recession during the first part of next year." ...

... Ezra Klein has the charts.

** Joe Stiglitz in the Guardian: "... the American dream is a myth. There is less equality of opportunity in the United States today than there is in Europe -- or, indeed, in any advanced industrial country for which there are data." Thanks to contributor Carlyle for the link. Update: sorry about the earlier link fail. Here's Terry Gross of NPR interviewing Stiglitz; thanks to Julie for the link:

... Here's the Stiglitz article in Vanity Fair, which Terry Gross mentions. It's an excerpt from his new book, Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%. "As the widening financial divide cripples the U.S. economy, even those at the top will pay a steep price."

Ben Geman of The Hill: "Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is breaking with Mitt Romney and some Capitol Hill Republicans by expressing support for federal green-energy programs, including the one that provided loan help to the now-bankrupt Solyndra. Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she supports continuation of the Energy's Department loan-guarantee program for green energy, and more broadly backs a federal role in boosting market deployment of alternative energy." CW: Murkowski should become a Democrat.

E. J. Graff of American Prospect: "When white men go into 'women's work,' they earn more money and move up more quickly, out-earning equally qualified women. Because, you know, white guys are just better at everything."

Jamelle Bouie: Republicans are holding the economy hostage until they get their way.

Laurie Goodstein & Rachel Donadio of the New York Times: "The Vatican's doctrinal office on Monday denounced an American nun who taught Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School for a book that attempted to present a theological rationale for same-sex relationships, masturbation and remarriage after divorce. The Vatican office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that the book, 'Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,' by Sister Margaret A. Farley, was 'not consistent with authentic Catholic theology.' ..." ...

... Maureen Dowd: "Just the latest chapter in the Vatican's thuggish crusade to push American nuns -- and all Catholic women -- back into moldy subservience." ...

... Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post: "Twenty-four hours ago news broke that the Vatican had condemned the book 'Just Love:A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics' a publication by a prominent nun-theologian that disagrees with church teaching on same-sex marriage, masturbation and remarrying after divorce. Monday morning, the book's reported ranking on Amazon: 142,982. Tuesday afternoon, after a day of furious news coverage of the Vatican censure: It's at #16." CW: Thanks for the plug, Joe Ratzinger. And Oprah thought she could move books. Celibate thugs are just better at everything.

Pam Belluck of the New York Times: "Labels inside every box of morning-after pills, drugs widely used to prevent pregnancy after sex, say they may work by blocking fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman's uterus.... Such descriptions have become kindling in the fiery debate over abortion and contraception.... But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say."

Steve LeBlanc of the AP: "It's the single most contentious element of President Barack Obama's health care law: the requirement that nearly everyone have insurance or face a financial hit. But in Massachusetts, the only state with a so-called individual mandate, the threat of a tax penalty has sparked little public outcry since the state's landmark health care law was signed in 2006 by the governor, Mitt Romney." CW: gee, sounds like a campaign line for Obama, doesn't it?

Health Day via the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Older adults who say they've had a life-changing religious experience are more likely to have a greater decrease in size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain critical to learning and memory, new research finds. According to the study, people who said they were a 'born-again' Protestant or Catholic, or conversely, those who had no religious affiliation, had more hippocampal shrinkage (or 'atrophy') compared to people who identified themselves as Protestants, but not born-again."

William Rashbaum of the New York Times: "Thomas D. Raffaele, a 69-year-old justice of the New York State Supreme Court, encountered a chaotic scene while walking down a Queens street with a friend: Two uniformed police officers stood over a shirtless man lying facedown on the pavement. The man's hands were cuffed behind his back and he was screaming. A crowd jeered at the officers." One of the officers -- for no apparent reason -- turned on the justice and "using the upper edge of his hand, delivered a sharp blow to the judge's throat that was like what he learned when he was trained in hand-to-hand combat in the Army." Read the whole story.

On Wisconsin

E. J. Dionne gleans some lessons from the exit polls.

Greg Sargent: "Scott Walker's victory in [Tuesday]'s recall battle is a major wake-up call for the left, Democrats, and unions about the true nature of the new, post-Citizens United political landscape, and it should force a major reckoning among liberals and Democrats about what this means for the future."

CW: I think Jamelle Bouie has the smartest take: "Where the conventional wisdom goes off the rails is in the attempt to draw broad lessons for November, and attribute motives to Wisconsin voters.... According to exit polls, Walker won 17 percent of Obama supporters in the state, and overall, last night's electorate favored the president over Mitt Romney by a significant margin, 52 percent to 43 percent.... For 60 percent of last night's voters, a recall is only acceptable in cases of official misconduct. For 10 percent, a recall is never acceptable. It's not that these voters are pro-Walker, pro-Obama as much as they are pro-Obama, anti-recall." Read the whole post.

Charles Pierce: "A star was born last night. You will now see Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to run their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, everywhere in the energetic precincts of the revived American right."

Presidential Race

David Graham of the Atlantic notices that Mitt Romney told the Detroit News that "... as president he'd prioritize the financial interests of General Motors, its employees, and its customers over the interests of the taxpayer. That's a statement that seems to play right into the hands of President Obama's argument about Bain Capital, which is that the interests Romney served in private equity, while perfectly defensible for a private citizen, are far removed from the public interest that the president of the United States must serve."

News Ledes

Yahoo! News: "Union groups and their supporters spent much of Wednesday castigating billionaire donors, Citizens United and corporate power in the wake of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's victory over the effort to recall him from office. 'Texas billionaires' and 'multinational corporations' can 'spend unlimited money to sway an election,' American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) president Richard Trumka told reporters on a conference call Wednesday afternoon."

Washington Post: "D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown resigned from his seat Wednesday night, hours after he was charged with bank fraud, plunging the city government into a leadership crisis."

AP: "A jury dominated by people with Penn State loyalties was selected Wednesday to decide Jerry Sandusky's fate in the child sexual abuse scandal that rocked the university and led to football coach Joe Paterno's downfall."

ABC News: "Anders Breivik, the right-wing extremist who has confessed to killing 77 people during a murder spree in Norway last summer, played the violent computer game World of Warcraft nearly seven hours a day for several consecutive months before his attack, prosecutors say. Breivik, 33, already known to have a long history with the online role-playing game, was particularly absorbed by it between November 2010 and February 2011...."

AP: "Reports of assaults on women in Tahrir [Square in Cairo, Egypt] ... have been on the rise with a new round of mass protests to denounce a mixed verdict against the ousted leader and his sons in a trial last week.... Protesters and activists met Wednesday to organize a campaign to prevent sexual harassment in the square.... The phenomenon is trampling on their dream of creating in Tahrir a micro-model of a state that respects civil liberties and civic responsibility, which they had hoped would emerge after Mubarak's ouster."

New York Times: "Leaders of the House Ethics Committee said Wednesday that they would move ahead with a long-delayed inquiry into allegations of impropriety by Representative Maxine Waters after concluding that committee missteps had not denied Ms. Waters a fair hearing in the case."

New York Times: "Syrian opposition activists reported a mass killing of villagers by pro-government militiamen and security forces on Wednesday — if verified, the fourth massacre in less than two weeks -- threatening to inject a new surge of angry momentum into the growing international effort to isolate President Bashar al-Assad and remove him from power."

New York Times: "Ray Bradbury, a master of science fiction whose imaginative and lyrical evocations of the future reflected both the optimism and the anxieties of his own postwar America, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 91."

New York Times: "The Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday delved into the nuances of JPMorgan's trading loss, quizzing the bank's primary regulators about how the blunder would affect the outcome of Wall Street regulation."

Here's the New York Times' report on the Wisconsin recall elections.

Not reported in the Times account (as of 7:15 am ET), the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports the one spot of light for unions and Democrats in the Wisconsin elections: "Democrats appeared to have assumed control of the state Senate with results posted early Wednesday showing former Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) defeating incumbent Van Wanggaard in a tight race.... Results posted early Wednesday showed Lehman with 36,255 votes to 35,476 for Wanggaard with 100% of precincts reporting. The margin of 779 could bring a recount."

Washington Post: "Primary voters in California on Tuesday began to remake the face of Congress as a redrawn electoral map and new balloting rules promised a significant overhaul of the state's delegation, which accounts for about 12 percent of the House of Representatives."

More Blows to Unions. New York Times: "In both San Diego and San Jose, voters appeared to overwhelmingly approve ballot initiatives designed to help balance ailing municipal budgets by cutting retirement benefits for city workers." The San Jose Mercury-News story is here. The San Diego Union-Tribune story is here.

New York Times: "Greece is rapidly running out of money."

Monday
Jun042012

The Commentariat -- June 5, 2012

In Hong Kong's Victoria Park, thousands remember Tiananmen Square. Photo via MSNBC.... James Fallows of the Atlantic: "That so many people would turn out, in a supremely business-minded community that has been legally part of the People's Republic of China for nearly 15 years, to observe the Tiananmen anniversary that is leading to detentions, tightened censorship, and crackdowns in other parts of China, is impressive and heartening. (It also is impressive and heartening that Hong Kong's legal regime remains independent enough to allow such demonstrations and comments, after these nearly 15 years.)"

Quote of the Day. Conservatives seem to believe that the rich will work harder if we give them more, and the poor will work harder if we give them less. -- E. J. Dionne, Washington Post

CW: I just couldn't stomach David Brooks today (and I tried), but Dean Baker does a very nice job of flaying a part of Brooks' latest nonsense.

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: Congressional Democrats & the White House engaged in "an unusual example of all-hands-on-deck coordination ... in advance of a key procedural vote on the [Paycheck Fairness Act] set for Tuesday.... The bill came up for a procedural vote in the Senate in 2010 and failed, as no Republican supported it. It heads to the Senate floor again on Tuesday for another procedural vote to begin debate; it is expected to fail once again.... The paycheck legislation seems to have vexed the Romney campaign -- Mr. Romney will not state clearly whether he supports it." CW: the gist of the report seems to be to diss Democrats for being uniformly behind a bill that would help women in the workplace. Nice work, Steinhauer.

"Our Imbecilic Constitution." Sheldon Levinson, in a New York Times "Campaign Stop": "... the Constitution is enveloped in near religious veneration. (Indeed, Mormon theology treats it as God-given.) ... What was truly admirable about the framers was their willingness to critique, indeed junk, the Articles of Confederation. One need not believe that the Constitution of 1787 should be discarded in quite the same way to accept that we are long overdue for a serious discussion about its own role in creating the depressed (and depressing) state of American politics." Sorry, don't know how I missed this one, but it has not reached its use-by date. Plus, another reason not to vote for Brother Willard.

Steve Benen: Chris Hayes gives Mann & Ornstein some airtime, after other news talkshows rebuff the scholars, who have written a book -- and some essays -- fingering Congressional Republicans as the real obstructionists.

Joe Nocera has not been palling around with Wall Street terrorists quite so much lately. Today it dawns on him that labor unions were a major factor in reducing income inequality in the last century. No kidding.

CW: You wouldn't know it from reading Larry Summers' jargon-laden op-ed in the Washington Post, but the headline writer helpfully titled the piece "It is time for governments to borrow more money." I fee so much better knowing Larry doesn't feel he has to talk down to me. Jerk.

Nathaniel Popper of the New York Times: "As the European crisis intensifies, a growing number of companies in the United States are warning investors that sales in the region are slowing and could get much worse."

Greg Sargent thinks voters are too dense to appreciate the argument that Republicans are sabotaging the economy. I'm not so sure. I wouldn't make sabotage my main campaign theme, but Democrats should hold Republicans accountable, in part, for the lousy economy. On the other hand,

Presidential Race

The Republican Congress and their nominee for President, Gov. Romney, have adopted Europe's economic policies. Their economic policy is austerity and unemployment now, and then a long term budget that would explode the debt when the economy recovers so the interest rates would be so high, nobody would be able to do anything. -- Former President Bill Clinton, at a fundraiser with President Obama & finally getting with the program (for now) ...

... Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: former President Bill Clinton, appearing with President Obama at fundraisers in New York City, tried to clean up his earlier remarks praising Mitt Romney's business acumen. ...

... Roger Simon of Politico has quite a good take on Bill Clinton, campaign surrogate: he's "out of control." ...

... Why can't Clinton be more like Ed Gillespie? -- whom Michael Scherer of Time nominates for Best Surrogate for his performance on Chris Wallace's show Sunday. What a performance!

Mitt Romney Explains Why He Is Running for President. Pat Garofalo of Think Progress: "According to an analysis from Citizens for Tax Justice, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney would save himself $5 million in taxes in 2013 by winning November's election (assuming he could get his tax plan enacted into law)."

When Willard Loved the Individual Mandate. Mark Maremont of the Wall Street Journal gets his hands on a few e-mails the Gov. Romney team accidentally forgot to destroy.

Local News

Annie-Rose Strasser of Think Progress: "... in court last week, one of [Wisconsin Gov. Scott] Walker's closest confidants contradicted the Governor's claim that he's been fully cooperative with the [corruption] investigation, which has already claimed three of Walker's former staffers and associates. The probe is aimed at locating government officials who engaged in a range of criminal activities while employed by Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive. Tim Russell, an old Walker adviser who has himself been charged with felony embezzlement, told a local reporter that Walker has not been cooperative with the corruption probe. In fact, Russell's information shows that Walker has been 'stonewalling' investigators." ...

... PolitiScoop: "Scott Walker's closest political aide has just been named in Milwaukee County Circuit Court Monday as the source of damaging revelations that undermine Walker's claim that he has cooperated with the John Doe criminal corruption probe into his current and former administrations." Thanks to reader Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... Charles Pierce has the whole story & tells it as only Charles Pierce can. ...

... AND Obama finally gets with the program:

... AP: "President Barack Obama's press secretary says the president hopes Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett beats Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Tuesday's recall election."

Karen Herzog of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Tuition and fees this fall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison would top $10,000 for in-state students, and UW-Milwaukee would be close behind, if a recommended 5.5% tuition increase is approved by the Board of Regents this week." CW: I've linked this only because it shocked me. When I went to the UW-Madison in 1962, in-state tuition was $300/year. Even adjusted for inflation, the 1962 fee would be $2,255 today.

News Ledes

New York Times: "In a hard-fought race that pitted two Democrats and onetime friends against each other, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. won the primary in the Ninth Congressional District on Tuesday. With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Pascrell had 64 percent of the vote, beating Representative Steve Rothman, with 36 percent, according to The Associated Press."

Los Angeles Times: "U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) leaped to a commanding lead against 23 little-known challengers, according to absentee ballot returns Tuesday night. Feinstein captured about 51% of the early balloting, assuring her a place in the general election under the state's new 'top-two' primary rules. Autism activist Susan Emken, a Republican, polled about 12% of the absentee tally, making her the early favorite to face Feinstein in the fall."

NBC News projects Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has survived the recall effort @ 9:55 pm ET. Update: Wisconsin GOP Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch also holds her seat @ 10:15 pm ET. Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald projected to survive recall @ 10:40 pm ET.

New York Times: "Al Qaeda's deputy leader, Abu Yahya al-Libi, was killed in a drone strike in northern Pakistan, an American official confirmed on Tuesday, in the biggest single success in the controversial campaign's eight-year history in the country."

Boston Globe: "Senate Democrats lost a key vote Tuesday to expand rights of working women to challenge employers on pay discrimination.... Democrats mustered 52 votes for passage, far short of the 60 needed to block a GOP-led filibuster. All 47 Republicans opposed the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted with Republicans as a procedural tactic to allow him to again bring up the measure."

Guardian: "Syria has severed almost all its remaining diplomatic links with the west, declaring that envoys from the US and most of western Europe were no longer welcome in Damascus, in a tit-for-tat response to the expulsion of Syrian diplomats last week. The Assad regime announced that 17 diplomats from the US, UK, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany and Canada were considered 'personae non gratae' as well as the entire Turkish mission in Damascus."

Guardian: "One of the highest-profile prosecutions stemming from the Iraq war period is to go ahead after the US supreme court refused to dismiss manslaughter and weapons charges against four employees of the private security company Blackwater Worldwide. Supreme court justices declined to review a ruling by a US appeals court that reinstated the criminal charges against the guards for their involvement in the incident, in which 17 Iraqi civilians died and 20 were wounded."

The New York Times has a liveblog of the Wisconsin election. ...

... Los Angeles Times: "As Wisconsin residents decide today whether Gov. Scott Walker keeps his job, reports have surfaced of automated calls instructing voters who signed the recall petition that they don't need to cast a vote to oust the controversial governor." ...

... Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Over 200 students statewide reported confusion at the polls Tuesday and many left without casting a vote, according to the League of Women Voters. 'We know there has been disenfranchisement. We know this has happened. We know students left their polling places without voting,' said Carolyn Castore, the League's coordinator for the statewide election protection hotline." ...

... AP: "Regardless of the outcome, Wisconsin voters will make history today. Either Gov. Scott Walker will become only the third governor in U.S. history to be removed from office before his term is up, or he'll be the first to survive such a challenge." The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's election day coverage is here. ...

... ABC News has a rundown of contests in other states.

New York Times: "Pressed by a banking crisis and turmoil in the markets, Germany has indicated that it is prepared to accept a grand bargain that would provide greater support for its most indebted euro zone partners in exchange for more centralized control over government spending in Europe."

New York Times: "In late April, the military's Special Operations Command presented the State Department and Congress with an urgent request for new authority to train and equip security forces in places like Yemen and Kenya.... But in a rare rebuke to [Admiral William McRaven] and his command, powerful House and Senate officials as well as the State Department, and ultimately the deputy cabinet-level aides who met at the White House on the issue on May 7, rejected the changes."

Washington Post: "The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that Secret Service agents are shielded from a lawsuit brought by a man who said his free speech rights were violated when he was arrested after confronting then-Vice President Dick Cheney."

AP: "A federal appeals court in San Francisco plans to announce Tuesday if it will rehear a legal challenge to California's same-sex marriage ban or send the landmark case on to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Monday it was ready to reveal whether a majority of its actively serving judges has agreed or refused to reconsider a February ruling by two of its member judges declaring the ban unconstitutional." ...

     ... NBC News Update: "A federal appeals court said Tuesday it will not rehear arguments on California's Proposition 8, meaning the final word on the constitutionality of the state's ban on same-sex marriage will likely come from the U.S. Supreme Court."

New York Times: "The Walt Disney Company, in an effort to address concerns about entertainment's role in childhood obesity, plans to announce on Tuesday that all products advertised on its child-focused television channels, radio stations and Web sites must comply with a strict new set of nutritional standards."

AP: "Despite his repeated efforts to delay it, Jerry Sandusky's child molestation trial was set to begin with the start of jury selection, as prosecutors and his defense lawyers choose 12 people from the area around Penn State to decide his guilt or innocence."

AP: "Crowds cheering 'God save the queen!' and pealing church bells greeted Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday as she arrived for a service at St. Paul's Cathedral on the last of four days of celebrations of her 60 years on the throne. Poignantly, the queen was without Prince Philip, her husband of 64 years, who was hospitalized on Monday for treatment of a bladder infection."

Reuters: "Lawyers for George Zimmerman ... said on Monday they would ask a judge to release him from jail again after his bail was revoked last week."

Sunday
Jun032012

The Commentariat -- June 4, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on a news report about Willard that neglected mentioning a few facts.

Paul Krugman: "... the best argument against Republicans’ claims that they can fix the economy [is] the fact ... that we have already seen the Republican economic future — and it doesn’t work." ...

... Decca Aitkenhead of the Guardian interviews Krugman who lets on that his audiences are smarter than the Very Serious People.

Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times: "Days before Bank of America shareholders approved the bank's $50 billion purchase of Merrill Lynch in December 2008, top bank executives were advised that losses at the investment firm would most likely hammer the combined companies' earnings.... But shareholders were not told about the looming losses..., leaving them instead to rely on rosier projections.... What Bank of America's top executives ... knew about Merrill's vast mortgage losses and when they knew it emerged in court documents filed Sunday evening in a shareholder lawsuit.... The disclosure ... is likely to reignite concerns that federal regulators and prosecutors have not worked hard enough to hold key executives accountable for their actions during the financial crisis." CW: who could have guessed? ...

... Nelson Schwartz & Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "A small group of shareholder advocates delivered an urgent message to top executives at JPMorgan Chase more than a year ago: the bank's risk controls needed to be improved. JPMorgan officials dismissed the warning from the CtW Investment Group, the advocates, who also cautioned bank officials that the company had fallen behind the risk-management practices of its peers."

New York Times Editors: the I.R.S. should end the farce of groups like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS being allowed to claim itself a "social welfare organization" with tax-exempt status. ...

... Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-Montana) in a New York Times op-ed: "In Montana's frontier days, we learned a hard lesson about money in politics, one that's shaped our campaign-finance laws for a century and made our political system one of the country's most transparent. Those laws, and our political way of life, are now being threatened by the Supreme Court -- which is why I recently signed a petition for a federal constitutional amendment to ban corporate money from all elections."

Stephen Colbert explains an aspect of Obama's foreign policy:

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is rewriting the nation's environmental laws to speed the extraction and export of oil, minerals and other materials to a global market clamoring for Canada's natural resources.... Economic and political factors account for the controversial gambit. High prices for oil and minerals, along with demand from Asia, have given Canada new incentive to tap into its resources, and new technology has made extraction easier.... The strategy has won plaudits from energy industry officials and some economists, while sparking an outcry from environmentalists and their allies in Parliament."

The Washington Post is running a series on cyberwar, which you can link here. I'm sure it's interesting and really important; I'm just not smart enough to grasp it all, but I'm sure most of you are.

Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine has a long piece on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose next act, Sherman writes, is "mayor of the world."

Here's a portion of Elizabeth Warren's speech at the Massachusetts Democratic convention Saturday. She won the nomination with about 96 percent of the vote:

... From Warren's Website, here's the transcript.

Presidential Race

Alex Koppelman of the New Yorker analyzes ten campaign ads. And the latest salvo from the Obama camp, an ad that will run in nine swing states:

That stimulus [President Obama] put in place -- it didn't help private sector jobs, it helped preserve government jobs. And the one place we should have shut back -- or cut back -- was on government jobs. We have 145,000 more government workers under this president. Let's send them home and put you back to work. -- Mitt Romney, May 29

Private sector jobs have increased under Obama and government jobs have fallen, making Romney's assertion incorrect.... If one assumes Romney was referring to federal workers, then his statistic is accurate but his comment makes little sense. He says he wants to cut back government jobs, even though Obama added jobs in areas that Romney identifies as critical -- and even though such cuts in government employment would further reduce overall employment. We had given him Two Pinocchios for the previous way he had used this 145,000 figure but given the context of this statement, we have no choice but to increase the number. -- Glenn Kessler, Washington Post fact-checker

Right Wing World

George Packer & Amy Davidson of the New Yorker discussed the extremism of the Republican party late last week:

"Evolution is hooey." Gail Collins in the New York Review of Books: "Texas certainly didn't single-handedly mess up American textbooks, but its size, its purchasing heft, and the pickiness of the school board's endless demands -- not to mention the board's overall craziness -- certainly made it the trend leader. Texas has never managed to get evolution out of American science textbooks. It's been far more successful in helping to make evolution -- and history, and everything else -- seem boring." CW: Toldja Collins could write serious stuff.

Local News

Reuters: "Two public opinion polls released on Sunday show Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walkerwith a lead of three and six percentage points two days before the election to recall.... Both findings were within the margin of error so the results could be even tighter." ...

... This Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel overview seems kinda pro-Walker to me, but there appears to have been a real effort to be objective, & the video is a good overview of the recall. (The Journal-Sentinel endorsed Walker in the recall election.) --

News Ledes

FP: "Chinese authorities have rounded up hundreds of activists in the capital Beijing, rights campaigners and petitioners said Monday, as they marked the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The detentions came as Washington angered Beijing by calling for all those still jailed over the demonstrations on June 4, 1989 -- when hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters were shot and killed by soldiers -- to be freed."

AFP: "The three Swedish nationals and one Tunisian living in Sweden had pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges, but a district court found all four 'guilty of terrorism', chief judge Katrine Eriksen said in the unanimous verdict, which was broadcast live. However Sahbi Ben Mohamed Zalouti, Munir Awad and Omar Abdalla Aboelazm -- all Swedish citizens of Tunisian, Lebanese and Moroccan origin, respectively -- and Tunisian national Mounir Ben Mohamed Dhahri were found not guilty of a secondary charge of weapons possession due to a technicality, she said. Prosecutors had charged that the four planned to 'kill a large number of people' at the Jyllands-Posten's offices in Copenhagen when they were arrested on December 29, 2010."