The Ledes

Sunday, November 23, 2014.

Washington Post: "Marion Barry Jr., the Mississippi sharecropper’s son and civil rights activist who served three terms as mayor of the District of Columbia, survived a drug arrest and jail sentence, and then came back to win a fourth term as the city’s chief executive, died early on Nov. 23 at United Medical Center in Washington. He was 78." Barry's New York Times: obituary is here.

Washington Post: "Negotiators working to slow Iran’s nuclear program and ease sanctions pressed forward with talks Saturday amid indications that they are at an impasse with two days left before a deadline for an accord." ...

... Reuters: "Iran says it will not be possible by a 24 November deadline to reach a comprehensive deal with world powers aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the Iranian Students News Agency ISNA reported on Sunday."

Guardian: "The Obama administration announced the release of another Guantánamo Bay detainee on Saturday, rebuking recent calls from congressional Republicans to stop the transfers entirely. A Saudi man who has spent 12 years at the wartime detention facility, Muhammed Murdi Issa al-Zahrani, will return to Saudi Arabia and enter the kingdom’s rehabilitation program. The transfer brings the detainee population of a prison Barack Obama has vowed for six years to close down to 142 men, 72 of whom the Pentagon considers pose little enough threat as to be eligible for transfer."

The Wires

CW: Looks as if the Google News & stock market widgets are kaput & the Reuters widget is intermittent. We'll see what happens over the next few days with these.

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President laid out the steps he took this past week to fix our broken immigration system. Enacted within his legal authority, the President’s plan focuses on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks and taxes":

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
November 21

7:30 am ET: Vice President Biden and President Poroshenko of Ukraine deliver joint statements in Kyiv, Ukraine (audio only)

8:30 am ET: Vice President Biden attends a roundtable discussion on anti-corruption & reform efforts in Kyiv (audio only)
3:55 pm ET:President Obama speaks at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada

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

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

Elaine Maine at the AFI Awards honoring Mike Nichols' lifetime achievements:

Frank Rich remembers Mike Nichols.

Erik Wemple: Bill Clinton discusses why his mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham watched Fox "News."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator." ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "In the latest fallout from the sexual assault accusations involving the comedian Bill Cosby, NBC and Netflix have set aside projects with Mr. Cosby, and a lawyer for him issued a denial of a new claim from a woman who said he raped her decades ago. NBC said on Wednesday that it had dropped plans to develop a new situation comedy starring Mr. Cosby. The decision followed a week of revelations about accusations of rape and sexual assault against him." ...

... In an interview earlier this month, Cosby tried to get the AP to "scuttle" his "no comment" out of the videotape, suggested the reporter would not be considered "serious" if the AP didn't comply:

A Man for All Women. Jessica Roy of New York: "Karl Stefanovic is a beloved anchor on Australia's version of the Today show.... Over the weekend, Stefanovic made a startling confession: He's been wearing the same exact knock-off Burberry suit on-air every single day for a year, and — shockingly — nobody noticed. Stefanovic says he pulled the stunt to make a statement about how women on TV are judged much more harshly than men, particularly for their appearances. 'No one has noticed; no one gives a shit,' he said in an interview with Fairfax Media.'Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.'"

David Carr of the New York Times offers belated kudos to John Oliver & conceded, among other things, that Oliver was responsible for bringing "attention to the debate on net neutrality.... The show’s sudden influence was felt most acutely on the arcane issue of net neutrality, which Mr. Oliver introduced this way: 'Oh my god, that is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen! That is even boring by C-Span standards.' But after a string of jokes explaining the technology, the stakes and the power dynamics, Mr. Oliver concluded with a call to the underbelly of the Internet to urge the F.C.C. not to cave to moneyed interests and demand that the web remain a level playing field." Read the whole post. ...

... "Preventing Cable Company Fuckery":

... Matt Seitz of New York: " Last Week is doing what media watchdogs (including the Peabody Awards) keep saying that The Daily Show does — practicing real journalism in comedy form — but it's doing it better, and in a simpler, yet more ambitious, ultimately more useful way. If Stewart's show is doing what might be called a reported feature, augmenting opinions with facts, Oliver's show is doing something closer to pure reporting, or what the era of web journalism calls an 'explainer,' often without a hook, or the barest wisp of a hook."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times on how Stewart, Colbert & especially Oliver put net neutrality on the radar:


Clyde Haberman of the New York Times on the story of Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian woman who was convicted of killing her baby in the midst of a media blitz, then later exonerated. "... it took nearly three more decades before a coroner, in 2012, finally issued what the now-divorced parents had long sought: full vindication in the form of a death certificate formally ascribing Azaria’s fate to a dingo attack." With video from the Retro Report.

 

Anna Silman of Salon: "As long as there have been Aaron Sorkin shows on air, there have been parodies of Aaron Sorkin shows. His signature tropes — the Sorkin sermon, the high speed walk-and-talk — have been parodied so extensively that they’ve become cultural artifacts unto themselves, recognizable even to those who never watched the shows that spawned them. [Thursday] night on 'Late Night With Seth Meyers,' the Sorkin parody machine reached its self-referential apex, not just parodying these familiar tropes but also naming the tropes as they parodied them."

... Silman has embedded a number of other Sorkin parodies in her post.

"Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" by Andy Warhol. Would you pay $82 million for this picture? BTW, you can get a swell copy of it for $29.99 on ebay.... New York Times: Christie's has its biggest auction night evah. CW: The super-rich are still super-rich.

The Guardian claims it will tell you here everything you need to know about the Rosetta comet landing. CW: Oh yeah? The data it sends back will probably just lead to a lot more of those bogus "scientific theories."

Jon [Stewart]'s problem is he has his head so far up Obama's ass he cannot see clearly, he is obviously better suited to reading his joke writers material, and making his clapping seal audience happy. -- Sean Hannity, supporting Stewart's point that Hannity is "the most loathsome dude" at Fox "News"

The New Yorker begins a metered paywall today, November 11. It will allow you to link to six free articles a month.

Washington Post: "They have spawned parodies from 'Ellen' to 'South Park' to 'Saturday Night Live,' but Lincoln is laughing all the way to the bank thanks to its commercials starring Matthew McConaughey. There was more from the Hollywood Reporter: 'Lincoln announced that its overall sales were up 25 percent last month, the strongest October for the beleaguered marque since 2007.'" ...

... Here's one of the McConaughey ads:

Jim Carrey nails it in an SNL skit:

... AND Ellen Degeneres takes the bull by the horns in another:

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Tuesday
Jul032012

Independence Day

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "... how is our foundational assertion of equality faring on this July Fourth? As to social parity, it has seldom looked more robust. As to economic equality and the political equality with which it is inextricably intertwined, the picture is bleak." ...

... In celebration of Independence Day, the New York Times features an op-ed by pop philosopher Kurt Andersen whose thesis today is -- "What has happened politically, economically, culturally and socially since the sea change of the late '60s isn’t contradictory or incongruous. It&'s all of a piece. For hippies and bohemians as for businesspeople and investors, extreme individualism has been triumphant. Selfishness won." I would give this the "I Thought of It When I Was Drunk{ prize, tho Andersen claims he came up with it during a panel discussion. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people will figure this is some totally awesome commentary, man. ...

... Erik Loomis in AlterNet: "We are recreating the Gilded Age, the period ... when corporations ruled this nation, buying politicians, using violence against unions, and engaging in open corruption. During the Gilded Age, many Americans lived in stark poverty, in crowded tenement housing, without safe workplaces, and lacked any safety net to help lift them out of hard times.... Republicans [are] more committed than ever to repealing every economic gain the working-class has achieved in the last century and the Democrats seemingly unable to resist...." Loomis lists eight ways corporations, politicians and courts are trying to recreate the Gilded Age. ...

... Exhibit 1. Debtors' Prisons Come to Our Dickensian Wonderland. Ethan Bronner of the New York Times: communities are using fines as a primary source of revenue, & assigning for-profit, private probation companies to collect the fines. When poor people can't afford to pay, they go to jail even though it is unconstitutional to imprison people for inability to pay fines. "Richard Garrett [of Childersburg, Alabama] has spent a total of 24 months in jail and owes $10,000, all for traffic and license violations that began a decade ago."

Exhibit 2: N. C. Aizenman & Sandhya Somashekhar of the Washington Post: "A growing number of Republican state leaders are revolting against the major Medicaid expansion called for under President Obama's health-care overhaul, threatening to undermine one of the law's most fundamental goals: insuring millions of poor Americans. The Supreme Court opened the door Thursday when it announced that although the rest of the law is constitutional, the federal government cannot punish states that refuse to adopt the measure’s more generous eligibility rules for Medicaid." CW: Yo, Marvin Schwalb -- gotcha beat in our "Worst Governors" contest today. ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "That didn't take long. Republican lawmakers from across the country are saying no to the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid -- even though it means turning down a sweetheart deal from the federal government that would create jobs in their states and, more important, provide millions of low-income Americans with health insurance.... They really think this is a bad idea to be opposed at all costs -- which says something about their fanatical devotion to anti-government philosophy, their cold indifference to their most vulnerable constituents, or some combination of the two." ...

... David Dayen of Firedoglake: "I don't know why ... anyone would believe that logic will rule the day, and red state governors will go against their entire ideological worldview and spend taxpayer dollars -- however small -- to cover poor people, in many states largely people of color."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: neither party wants to talk about healthcare reform. ...

... New York Times Editors: "It's past time for the White House and the Obama campaign to ... begin" aggressively defending the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to Victoria D. for the link. CW: Reality Chex readers & I have been saying this for some time. I'm glad we've got a chorus at the New York Times. Maybe Obama will listen now. That appalling, deceitful hit job by David Brooks yesterday should be inspiration enough. (See my NYTX column on Brooks to get a glimmer of just how deceitful it was.) ...

... ** Jonathan Chait of New York: people like David Brooks really need to quit pretending Republicans will spend a nickel insuring the poor & the sick.

David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times: "Even as they promised to hand authority to elected leaders, Egypt's ruling generals were planning with one of the nation’s top judges to preserve their political power and block the rise of the Islamists, the judge said."

Tales from the Court

Paul Campos, in Salon, on the ACA decision: "My source insists that 'most of the material in the first three quarters of the joint dissent was drafted in Chief Justice Roberts' chambers in April and May.' Only the last portion of what eventually became the joint dissent was drafted without any participation by the chief justice. This source insists that the claim that the joint dissent was drafted from scratch in June is flatly untrue." ...

... Mark Tushet of Balkinization: "The evidence that the initial conference vote was 5-4 to strike down the ACA is pretty strong. Not only is there the internal stylistic evidence, but there were rumors before the decision to that effect. Within a couple of weeks of the arguments, I heard a rumor, sourced to a law clerk, that the Court had voted to strike the ACA down.... Several weeks later I heard that ... the Medicaid expansion was going to invalidated. And, on June 2, Ranesh Ponuru stated that he had heard from inside the Court that the initial vote was 5-4, but that the Chief Justice had gotten 'squishy.' ...

... Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy has the text of what Ponuru said on June 2:

... there's an initial vote the same week, on the Friday of the oral arguments. And my understanding is that there was a 5-4 vote to strike down the mandate and maybe some related provisions but not the entire act. Since then, interestingly, there seem to have been some second thoughts. Not on the part of Justice Kennedy, but on the part of Chief Justice Roberts, who seems to be going a little bit wobbly. So right now, I would say, [the outcome of the case] is a little bit up in the air….

... John Fund of the National Review: "The week before the Supreme Court announced its decision, the White House was clearly hinting to many in the media and on Capitol Hill that they expected a 5-4 opinion that would hinge on the taxing-power issue.... I've learned from my own sources that after voting to invalidate the mandate, the chief did express some skepticism aboutjoining the four conservatives in throwing out the whole law. At the justices' conference, there was discussion about accepting the Obama administration's argument, which was that, if the individual mandate was removed, the provisions governing community rating and guaranteed issue of insurance would have to go too but that the rest of the law might stand. The chief justice was equivocal, though, in his views on that point."

Local News

David Firestone of the New York Times: "Gov. Rick Snyder [R] of Michigan surprised his fellow party members in the legislature today by vetoing three bills. One would have required an identification card to get an absentee ballot. Another would have limited third-party registration drives by requiring groups like the League of Women Voters to get mandatory training by the state. (The league should probably be training the state.) The third would require voters to check a box on their ballot affirming that they are citizens."

News Ledes

President Obama spoke at a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members:

Hallelujah, There Is a God (Particle)! New York Times: "Physicists working at CERN's Large Hadron Collider said Wednesday that they had discovered a new subatomic particle that looks for all the world like the Higgs boson, a potential key to understanding why elementary particles have mass and indeed to the existence of diversity and life in the universe.... The discovery could lead to a new understanding of how the universe began."

Washington Post: "Pakistan agreed Tuesday to reopen its border crossings to U.S. and NATO military transit after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton apologized for a deadly U.S. airstrike last year."

Guardian: "Talks have begun in Istanbul between Iranian scientists and their counterparts from six major powers in an attempt to resolve an impasse over Iran's nuclear aspirations, as both Tehran and Washington raised the military stakes in a perilous standoff in the Gulf."

New York Times: "An Afghan soldier opened fire on NATO soldiers, wounding five of them before fleeing, in the latest in a spate of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on their coalition allies, Western and Afghan officials said Wednesday."

AP: "A JetBlue Airways pilot who left the cockpit during a flight and screamed about religion and terrorists has been found not guilty by reason of insanity, though a federal judge ordered he be sent to a mental health facility for further examination. The judge issued the ruling during a bench trial Tuesday in Amarillo for Clayton F. Osbon, noting he suffered from a 'severe mental disease or defect.' Osbon's attorney, Dean Roper, declined to comment."

Vive Le Socialisme! Reuters: "France's new Socialist government announced a raft of tax rises worth 7.2 billions euros on Wednesday, including heavy one-off levies on wealthy households and big corporations, to plug a revenue shortfall this year from feeble economic growth."

AP: "Hundreds of thousands from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic were preparing to spend the Fourth of July like America's founders did in 1776, without the conveniences of electricity and air conditioning."

Al Jazeera: "Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, sees no reason why Yasser Arafat's body should not be exhumed following an Al Jazeera report that he may have died of poisoning, his spokesman said on Wednesday.... A nine-month investigation by Al Jazeera found that Arafat's final belongings -- his clothes, his toothbrush, even his iconic kaffiyeh -- contained elevated levels of polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element."

Monday
Jul022012

The Commentariat -- July 3, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "I Never Believe David Brooks." I never do. The NYTX front page is here.

The Government We Deserve. Pew Research Center: "... just 55% of the public knows that the Supreme Court upheld most of the health care law's provisions; 45% say either that the court rejected most provisions (15%) or do not know what the court did (30%). Among those aware that the court upheld most of the law, 50% approve of the decision while 42% disapprove."

Understanding Mitt. Lisa Miller of New York: "... living high on the socioeconomic ladder can, colloquially speaking, dehumanize people. It can make them less ethical, more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people.... 'While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,' [Prof. Paul] Piff says, 'the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.'" CW: this is a six-pager. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the printer version to load, so you'll have to page thru from the linked first page.

Jeff Toobin: Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion on the Affordable Care Act "was a singular act of courage," but "this should have been an easy case."

Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "Conservatives want their judges to consider themselves card-carrying members of the conservative movement, and at the same time they want those judges' rulings, when handed down, to be treated with unquestionable legitimacy even by those who disagree with the decisions.... Having excoriated liberals for calling the court partisan, conservatives are now gnashing their teeth because the court failed to be as partisan as they wanted. That makes the complaints about politics supposedly driving Roberts' decision ring hollow. They wanted politics to drive the decision. They just wanted it to go their way."

Jonathan Chait: John Roberts' legal theory on the constitutionality of the ACA makes no sense (and neither does that of the conservatives justices, who don't even try). But it accomplished what he wanted to do, making it "results-oriented."

Fear of Taxes. Stephen Stromberg of the Washington Post: Get over it, people. "Taxation ... can be an extremely efficient way to achieve social ends as well as fund the government, and any fair conservative economist would recognize this."

Incidential Economist: "Obamacare is the biggest tax increase in history … if you ignore history. The I/E created a chart to disprove the GOP biggest-tax-increase-ever talking point. ...

... More from Kevin Drum on the "biggest tax increase" story. He adds, "no news outlet interested in accuracy should let it pass without challenge." Good luck with that. Of course, we may not hear this talking point for long on account of Romney's little "tax problem": see the Michael Shear story under today's "Presidential Race" for that.

Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: okay, the Court has ruled on ObamaCare. Are you businesspeople who were clinging to the uncertainty apron all better now? Are you "certain" yet?

** Re: the Affordable Care Act, please read Victoria D.'s comment in today's Commentariat. Letters like the one she received can only help.

Ken Silverstein, in a New York Times op-ed: "Despots and crooks love to bring their money to America, not only for prestige but also because our corporate secrecy laws, like those of Switzerland and Luxembourg, make it almost impossible for law enforcement agencies to figure out who has money sheltered here."

Gene Robinson: "About one-fourth of all households [in the Washington, D.C. area] have no electricity, the legacy of an unprecedented assault by violent thunderstorms Friday night. Critics have blasted the Obama administration's unfruitful investment in solar energy. But if government-funded research managed to lower the price of solar panels to the point where it became economical to install them on residential roofs, all you global warming skeptics would have air conditioning right now. I'm just sayin'."

"Backpack" Vouchers. Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's program to give vouchers to every kid should frighten Americans "because the basic idea of 'strapping public funds to kids' backs' and sending it wherever parents choose is at the heart of Mitt Romney's education platform." CW: and another reminder of why I despise Jeb Bush. He can be polite & reasonable-sounding, but that sucker is a prime mover in the privatization of education -- a key element in the Return to Gilded Age Rules.

Marc Ambinder in GQ: "According to ongoing discussions with Obama aides and associates, if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War."

CW: a note to everyone who says "I'm not going to vote for Obama. He betrayed me when he did/didn't do ... whatever": The Bully Pulpit Argument. Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns & Money: "Plans to transform American domestic politics that involve heroic presidential daddies imposing major social change on powerful interests by sheer force of will are indistinguishable from having no plan at all."

Sometimes conservatives grow up. Patrick Gavin of Politico has the story.

Presidential Race

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney's presidential campaign threw cold water on a central Republican attack line on Monday, saying that President Obama's health care mandate should be thought of as a penalty and not a tax. That message ... contradicts top Republican Party officials and leaders in Congress, who have spent the last several days eagerly accusing the president of levying a new tax. By straying from the party message, Mr. Romney's campaign offered a fresh example of his difficulty in carrying the conservative mantle on health care...."

Not Going to Talk about Healthcare. Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal: Mitt Romney's "campaign has been giving off clear signals that it doesn't want to make health care a major part of the election."

Not Going to Talk about Immigration, Either. Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Mitt Romney last week told a private group of potential supporters and business and media elites, including Rupert Murdoch, that he was treading carefully around the issue of immigration to avoid looking like a 'flip-flopper.'" CW: interesting post.

Not Going to Talk about My Personal Finances, Either. CW: Haven't had time to read this Vanity Fair story, but it looks good. Here's the blurb: "For all Mitt Romney's touting of his business record, when it comes to his own money the Republican nominee is remarkably shy about disclosing numbers and investments. Nicholas Shaxson delves into the murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws, and investigating just how much of Romney's fortune (with $30 million in Bain Capital funds in the Cayman Islands alone?) looks pretty strange for a presidential candidate." ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico, commenting on the Vanity Fair story: "Romney's larger approach to the 2012 campaign: accepting a certain amount of heat over his lack of detail and transparency, in order to deny his critics and political opponents information they might use to attack him." Strategy translation: if you knew about the skeletons in Mitt Romney's closet, you would not elect him dogcatcher (even tho he's got a kennel on the top of his car), so the closet will remain closed. And we're counting on the press to "respect the candidate's privacy."

CW: so it looks like Romney's entire campaign message boils down to this: "The economy sucks and I'm white."

O Say, Can You Say "Marseillaise"? Steve Benen: Some Republicans -- Karl Rove & the National Review, fer instance -- have been claiming that President Obama will be spending the 4th in Paris attending fundraisers. Not true. "There is, of course, an underlying smear here, with the right falsely trying to connect Obama to France. But I'm curious: if a Parisian fundraiser from American donors is controversial, why aren't Romney's fundraisers in communist China equally problematic?"

Right Wing World

Let's Cuff the Attorney General. Steve Benen: Rep. Jason Chaffetz (RTP-Utah) goes on the teevee to raise the prospect of having the House sergeant-at-arms apprehend AG Eric Holder. CW: yes, making the black AG do the perp walk would be a great visual. I have no idea what the sergeant-at-arms would actually do with Holder once he "took control of" him because no one is going to prosecute Holder. Will they lock him up in the basement of the Capitol Building?

Local News

"Chris Christie, Still Auditioning for V.P., Calls Reporter an 'Idiot.'" Star-Ledger Editorial Board: "Christie signs laws against bullying while serving a prime example of the problem." The news story is here. CW: Marvin Schwalb has a point. See yesterday Comments on the Commentariat. ...

... But I still think Florida's Rick Scott win the "America's Worst Governor" contest. Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: an analysis has "found that 98.4 percent of the 2,625 people included on" Rick Scott's first list of "potential noncitizens" are eligible voters. CW: and Republican-run Lee County, where I live is the worst! Here's my case: Christie is calling New Jersey citizens "idiots" & "numbnuts"; Scott is disenfranchising the idiots in Florida.

Amanda Crawford of Bloomberg News: in Colorado Springs, the home of the anti-tax movement & a bastion of conservatism, is now experiencing -- in the wake of the disastrous fires -- the obvious downside of Norquist-think: fewer essential public services -- including police. And it is likely to get worse.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Andy Griffith, an actor whose folksy Southern manner charmed audiences for more than 50 years on Broadway, in movies, on albums and especially on television -- most notably as the small-town sheriff on the long-running situation comedy that bore his name -- died on Tuesday at his home on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. He was 86." The Times has an "Andy Griffith -- In Performance" video feature here. I recommend "What It Was, Was Football," which was my introduction to Griffith.

New York Times: "The United States has quietly moved significant military reinforcements into the Persian Gulf to deter the Iranian military from any possible attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz and to increase the number of fighter jets capable of striking deep into Iran if the standoff over its nuclear program escalates."

AP: "The Obama administration is moving toward decisions that would further cut the number of U.S. nuclear weapons, possibly to between 1,000 and 1,100, reflecting new thinking on the role of nuclear weapons in an age of terror, current and former officials say."

Reuters: "Firefighters grappling with the two most destructive wildfires on record in Colorado reported progress on Monday...." The Denver Post's coverage is here.

New York Times: "A prominent human rights advocacy group accused the Syrian authorities on Tuesday of building an 'archipelago' of at least 27 torture centers where abuse of the government’s opponents points to a crime against humanity." Guardian story here. ...

... AP: "Syrian President Bashar Assad said he regrets the shooting down of a Turkish jet by his forces, and he will not allow tensions between the two neighbors to deteriorate into an 'armed conflict,' a Turkish newspaper reported Tuesday." ...

... Al Jazeera: "International powers have agreed that a transitional government should be set up in Syria to end the bloodshed there but left open the question of what part President Bashar al-Assad might play in the process. Peace envoy Kofi Annan said after talks in Geneva on Saturday that the government should include members of Assad's administration and the Syrian opposition and pave the way for free elections."

AP: "Iraqi officials on Tuesday said at least 25 people were killed and 40 others wounded in a series of blasts in central Iraq as insurgents seek to undermine the Shiite-led government."

Guardian: "US and Pakistani officials have expressed optimism that Islamabad is close to reopening its Afghan border to Nato troop supplies after a seven-month blockade, a move that could significantly reduce tension between the two countries."

AP: "British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline will pay $3 billion in fines -- the largest healthcare fraud settlement in U.S. history -- for criminal and civil violations involving 10 drugs that are taken by millions of people. The Justice Department said Monday that GlaxoSmithKline PLC will plead guilty to promoting popular antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses. The company also will plead guilty to failing to report to the government for seven years some safety problems with diabetes drug Avandia...."

New York Times: "Robert E. Diamond Jr., the chief executive of Barclays, resigned on Tuesday, less than a week since the British bank agreed to pay $450 million to settle accusations that it had tried to manipulate key interest rates for its own benefit." The Guardian is liveblogging the story; other executives are expected to resign.

Washington Post: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sharply criticized lawmakers Monday for voting to hold him in contempt of Congress last week, saying Republicans have made him a 'proxy' to attack President Obama in an election year."

New York Times: "... Fermilab physicists said Monday that its Tevatron, now shuttered but once the world’s most powerful physics machine, had fallen just short of finding a long-hypothesized particle. Known as the Higgs boson, it explains why things in the universe have mass, and is a cornerstone of modern physics despite never being seen."

Sunday
Jul012012

The Commentariat -- July 2, 2012

In response to P. D. Pepe's request in yesterday's Commentariat, my column in today's New York Times eXaminer does indeed take on Ross Douthat's duplicitous Sunday sermonette. The NYTX front page is here. ...

... Dean Baker explains -- again -- why Tom Friedman is still meaner than a junkyard dog. ...

... AND Prof. Hamid Dabashi takes on Nicholas Kristof's praise of sanctions against Iran.

NEW. CW: in the Comments today, contributor P. D. Pepe recommends historian Sean Wilentz's review of the latest volume of Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson. So do I. And I learned a new word: "adumbration"; hadda look it up.

** Jan Crawford of CBS News: Chief Justice John Roberts initially sided with the Supreme Court's four conservative justices to strike down the heart of President Obama's health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, but later changed his position and formed an alliance with liberals to uphold the bulk of the law, according to two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations. Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy -- believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law -- led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold.... The fact that the [conservatives'] joint dissent doesn't mention Roberts' majority was not a sign of sloppiness, the sources said, but instead was a signal the conservatives no longer wished to engage in debate with him." CW: after all we've heard about how the Supreme Court is a fortress of secrecy, this report is stunning. ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress speculates that the leakers included at least one conservative justice. "Crawford ... is a very well connected conservative reporter.... Moreover, as Linda Greenhouse points out, it is possible that the Court started springing leaks more than a month before Roberts handed down his opinion." ...

... John Cole of Balloon Juice thinks the leakers were "Kennedy's people ... because most of that Crawford piece reads like a mash note to him." CW: and yes, that's a reasonable premise.

** "Casino Capitalism." Robert Reich: "The real issue here isn't Bain's betting record. It's that Romney's Bain is part of the same system as Jamie Dimon's JPMorgan Chase, Jon Corzine's MF Global and Lloyd Blankfein's Goldman Sachs -- a system that has turned much of the economy into a betting parlor that nearly imploded in 2008, destroying millions of jobs and devastating household incomes. The winners in this system are top Wall Street executives and traders, private-equity managers and hedge-fund moguls, 
and the losers are most of the rest of us. The system is largely responsible for the greatest concentration of the nation’s income and wealth at the very top since the Gilded Age of the nineteenth century, with the richest 400 Americans owning as much as the bottom 150 million put together. And these multimillionaires and billionaires are now actively buying the 2012 election -- and with it, American democracy."

Paul Krugman writes the truism of the day: "... the prospect of disaster, no matter how obvious, is no guarantee that nations will do what it takes to avoid that disaster. And this is especially true when pride and prejudice make leaders unwilling to see what should be obvious."

Matt Taibbi has a post on Barclay Bank's agreement to pay $450 million to resolve investigations of its interest-rate fixing. CW: Taibbi sees Barclays as just the first domino to fall. See also yesterday's News Ledes. ...

... In a follow-up post, Taibbi writes, "Another one bites the dust. The Royal Bank of Scotland is about to be fined $233 million (£150 million pounds) for its role in the Libor-rigging scandal. It joins Barclays as the first banks to walk the plank in what should be, but so far is not, the most sensational financial corruption story since the crash of 2008."

CW: Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post tries to put lipstick on the outsourcing pig. Bear in mind as you read Pearlstein's analysis that he never once discusses the U.S. government's pro-business, anti-union policies that makes outsourcing so attractive to businesses & the private equity firms that "help" businesses move jobs offshore, and he only obliquely alludes to interstate raiding & state anti-union laws. I'm hoping Dean Baker or Paul Krugman will give Pearlstein's essay a "real economist's once-over." ...

     ... Update: here's Baker's response. Essentially he seems to say, offshoring is great as long as there's full employment in the U.S.

Presidential Race

Mitt Romney -- Worse Than George W. Bush

I don't think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor. I'm concerned for someone who is moving from near-poverty to middle class. -- George W. Bush, October 1999, preparing to run for president & denouncing a House Republican proposal to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit

I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. -- Mitt Romney, January 2012

Tom Edsall in the New York Times on Mitt Romney's unwillingness to specify even the vaguest outlines of an immigration policy.

Rupert tweets re: Willard: "Met Romney last week. Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful."

CW: I couldn't find the Consortium article contributor Kate M. discusses in her commentary below, but this one by Robert Parry, titled "The Price of Political Purity," covers the same material.

Local News

America's Worst Governor Goes Rogue. Lexi Stemple of Fox "News": "Florida, the state the led the fight against President Obama's health care law, will not comply with the Supreme Court opinion. Gov. Rick Scott [RTP] tells Fox News that he and his Attorney General, Pam Bondi, will work tirelessly to make sure the law is repealed. He feels that can be done by electing officials, like Mitt Romney, who have vowed to fight the law before 2014, when most of its provisions kick in. If that doesn't happen, Scott insists he still won't 'implement these exchanges that will increase the cost of health and make Medicaid worse.'"

News Ledes

AP: "The fired former chief executive of Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s Macau casinos alleges in court documents revealed Thursday that billionaire Sheldon Adelson personally approved of prostitution and knew of other improper activity at his company's properties in the Chinese enclave."

Washington Post: "Mexico chose as its new president Sunday Enrique Peña Nieto, a dashing, disciplined campaigner who promised to bring peace and prosperity back to a country weary of drug violence and slow growth, according to official projections by election officials. As the new face of a political party once known for corruption, Peña Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), completed a remarkable act of political rehabilitation, returning to power after 12 years on the sidelines."

AP: "Unemployment in the 17-country euro currency bloc hit another record in May as the continent teetered on the edge of recession because of its crippling financial crisis, official figures showed Monday. Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said unemployment rose to 11.1 percent in May from 11 percent the previous month. May's rate was the highest since the euro was launched in 1999...."

Guardian: "Mississippi's only reproductive health clinic was handed an eleventh-hour reprieve from closure late on Sunday, thwarting attempts by social conservatives to create America's first abortion-free state. In a ruling handed down just hours before the Jackson Women's Health Organisation was due to start turning away women seeking terminations, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction blocking a law that would have shuttered the centre."

Saturday
Jun302012

The Commentariat -- July 1, 2012

Bill Scher argues in a New York Times op-ed that Presidents Franklin Roosevelt & Lyndon Johnson also made deals with corporations as part of efforts to get corporate backing for liberal bills. Because President Obama "heeded this lesson of liberal history," he was able to get the ACA passed.

Prof. Pamela Kaplan, in a New York Times op-ed: "... the conservative majority ... laid down a cache of weapons that future courts can use to attack many of the legislative achievements of the New Deal and the Great Society -- including labor, environmental, civil rights and consumer protection laws -- and to prevent new progressive legislation. Far from being a source of jubilation, the term may come back to haunt liberals.... A Congress that can advance national priorities only through its taxing power is a Congress with little power at all." ...

... ** Anthony Kennedy Is No Moderate. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Four justices, including so-called moderate conservative Anthony Kennedy, joined a dissent that did not simply toss out two-hundred years of established law, it also called for the entire [Affordable Care] law to be repealed.... A court may not invalidate any constitutional part of a law unless it is 'evident' that Congress would have preferred that part to fall along with the parts the court just invalidated, yet Kennedy and his three co-ideologues would simply cast that rule aside...."

Patricia Zengerle of Reuters: "Voter support for >President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul rose after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it but most people still oppose the law, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Sunday. The online survey showed increased backing from Republicans and, crucially, the political independents whose support will be essential to winning the November 6 presidential election."

CW: this AP story by David Gram answers some questions Reality Chex contributors have raised about Vermont's single-payer health insurance project, which has been enacted but will not be fully implemented -- or funded -- till 2017.

Maureen O'Dowd applauds Queen Elizabeth II's conciliatory efforts toward the Irish. CW: wonder if, in one of her secret meetings with Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Queen Liz advised him to placate the Irish -- a very good idea for any Massachusetts political candidate. (See yesterday's Commentariat, plus Kings & Queens & Prime Ministers.)

Kate Wiltrout of the Virginian-Pilot: "The Navy will not use a target depicting a Muslim woman holding a gun at a new training range for SEALs in Virginia Beach. The announcement came hours after the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked the Pentagon to remove the target. A picture of the cardboard target, which shows a woman in a headscarf holding a pistol, was published in The Virginian-Pilot on Tuesday. The image shows verses of the Quran hanging on the wall behind the woman, which also generated criticism from the group."

Hippy Dippy Weatherman. Joe Romm of Think Progress: "How hot is it? It is so hot that NBC Washington’s Chief Meteorologist, Doug Kammerer, explained on air 'If we did not have global warming, we wouldn't see this.'" ...

... R.I.P., Al Sleet:

David Olinger & Eric Gorski of the Denver Post: "Eleven years ago, federal agencies announced a bold strategy to battle the growing threat of catastrophic wildfires.... The government's planned response: a sophisticated new computer system -- called Fire Program Analysis, or FPA -- that would enable firefighting agencies to coordinate their efforts and maximize their resources.... Federal agencies, led by the U.S. Forest Service, are still working on it." ...

... Michael Kodas & Burt Hubbard in the Denver Post: "The number of wildfires in Colorado has exploded during the past decade. So has the number of people living in high-risk fire zones. And public policies for dealing with both risk making the state's fire danger even worse. In the past two decades, a quarter-million people have moved into Colorado's red zones -- the parts of the state at risk for the most dangerous wildfires. Today, one of every four Colorado homes is in a red zone.... It costs millions to protect homes in the red zone from wildfires, but homeowners don't foot that bill exclusively. All taxpayers do. That creates a perverse incentive to build there despite risks."

Presidential Race

Preserving the Aristocracy. Karoli of Crooks & Liars: Mitt Romney said in a campaign speech he wants "citizens" who "work hard" to "get all the education they can afford." Know your place, poor people. With video.

Jim Rutenberg & Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "Propelled by a torrent of blistering television advertisements, President Obama is successfully invoking Mitt Romney's career at Bain Capital to raise questions about Mr. Romney's commitment to the middle class, strategists in both parties say...."

Right Wing World

His Meds Made Him Crazy. Forget all that preserving the integrity of the Court stuff. The real reason John Roberts decided to uphold the Affordable Care Act -- epilepsy medication made him do it. CW: I have no doubt we will soon learn that Elena Kagan spiked Roberts' Tea Party tea with a double dose of meds.

David Dayen of Firedoglake: "I keep seeing these confident predictions from health care experts that no state would be so foolish as to reject the Medicaid expansion for their state. I want to set up a poker game with these people, to provide for my family in retirement. How many times can you say 'well that's so radical and extreme, it could never happen!' and be wrong before you review your assumptions?"

News Ledes

New York Times: "The number of votes separating Representative and his top challenger, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, shrank to 802 over the weekend, as the New York City Board of Elections released a new, unofficial vote count that for the first time included numbers from all precincts in the 13th Congressional District. More than 2,000 absentee ballots and affidavit ballots -- those cast by people whose names, for some reason, did not appear on the voter rolls -- remain to be counted, a process that will not begin until Thursday morning."

Doris Sams, sometime between 1946-1950. Photo via Knoxville News Sentinel.New York Times: "Doris Sams, who pitched a perfect game and set a single-season home run record in the women's professional baseball world of the 1940s and 50s that inspired the movie 'A League of Their Own,' died Thursday in Knoxville, Tenn. She was 85."

New York Times: "Marcus Agius, the chairman of Barclays, is expected to resign on Monday, less than a week after the big British bank agreed to pay $450 million to settle accusations that it had tried to manipulate key interest rates to benefit its own bottom line." Guardian story here.

ABC News: "House Speaker John Boehner said today that Republicans are preparing to file a civil suit in an attempt to gain access to more information pertaining to the Justice Department's botched Fast & Furious cartel gun tracking program."

AP: "The much-hyped plan to end Syria's misery and guide its transition to democracy appears to have fallen flat despite the endorsement of Western powers.... The U.S. and its allies insist the plan will force Syrian President Bashar Assad from power. Russia disagrees and Assad is unlikely to acquiesce."

New York Times: Facebook is considering abandoning Nasdaq, the exchange Facebook blames for botching its IPO rollout.

Washington Post: "Daybreak Sunday found 789,358 in the Washington region still without power, facing another sweltering day and the prospect of returning to work Monday before electricity is restored to their homes.Many roads made impassable by fallen trees and the power lines they took down were reopened by Sunday as crews worked through the night to clean up the tangled aftermath of the storm that struck before midnight Friday." ...

... AP: "Millions across the mid-Atlantic region sweltered Saturday in the aftermath of violent storms that pummeled the eastern U.S. with high winds and downed trees, killing at least 13 people and leaving 3 million without power during a heat wave. Power officials said the outages wouldn't be repaired for several days to a week, likening the damage to a serious hurricane. Emergencies were declared in Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, the District of Columbia and Virginia." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "The Washington region suffered through another day of stifling heat Sunday, and thousands of people went without air conditioning as utilities called in reinforcements and the National Guard pitched in to help with storm cleanup. The heat index topped 100 again, and sultry weather was forecast for the entire Fourth of July week as legions sought refuge from sweltering homes and waited for work crews to make repairs."

The Denver Post has a page of stories on the Colorado fires here.

Houston Chronicle: "Some 50 million Mexicans go to the polls today in an election expected to return the presidency to the political party that undemocratically ruled the country for most of the last century." New York Times story here. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The party that ruled Mexico for decades with an autocratic grip appears to have vaulted back into power after 12 years in opposition, as voters troubled by a bloody drug war and economic malaise gave its presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, a comfortable victory on Sunday, according to exit polls and early returns."

AP: "Syrian opposition groups on Sunday rejected a U.N.-brokered peace plan for a political transition in Syria, calling it ambiguous and a waste of time and vowing not to negotiate with President Bashar Assad or members of his 'murderous' regime."

AP: "A Soyuz space capsule carrying a three-man multinational crew touched down safely Sunday on the southern steppes of Kazakhstan, bringing an end to their 193-day mission to the International Space Station."

Guardian: "Former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, who earned a reputation as an uncompromising opponent of Palestinian statehood, has died aged 96."

Guardian: "WalMart has suspended a seafood supplier following complaints from workers at the plant that they were forced to work 24 hours at a time and had threats of violence directed at their families. In a statement, Walmart said a preliminary investigation uncovered "violations" at CJ's Seafood in Louisiana, where eight Mexican employees had complained of being mistreated by their bosses."