The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, May 21, 2015.

Washington Post: "California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Santa Barbara County late Wednesday after an onshore pipeline burst, spewing thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean — blackening beaches and endangering West Coast wildlife. The area, a popular camping spot some 20 miles from Santa Barbara, known for its palm tree-lined seashore and pristine surf, has been “closed indefinitely.” The extent of the damage is not known."

New York Times: "Islamic State militants on Thursday solidified their rout of Syrian government forces in the historic desert city of Palmyra, moving to the outskirts to seize its airport and the notorious Tadmur Prison, according to residents and statements from the group. It was the first time that the ISIS militants seized an entire city from Syrian government forces; it won control of its first major city, Raqqa, from Syrian insurgents and the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front after the two became rivals."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 22

10:00 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement ceremony (audio only)

11:00 am ET: President Obama speaks at the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration

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

Go to


Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

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The Commentariat -- Dec. 17, 2012

Brought forward from yesterday afternoon's Commentariat: "My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "Praise the Lord & Pass the Ammunition," & is a critique of Ross Douthat's & David Brooks' responses to the Newtown massacre.

In the coming weeks, I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can't accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? -- President Barack Obama, in Newtown, Connecticut Sunday evening. Full transcript here.

** Joseph Califano, in a Washington Post op-ed, urges President Obama to draw "from the experience of Lyndon B. Johnson -- the last president to aggressively fight for comprehensive gun control -- ... Demand action on comprehensive gun control immediately from this Congress or lose the opportunity during your presidency."

** Michael Moss & Ray Rivera of the New York Times: "... recent efforts by the [Newtown, Connecticut] police chief and other town leaders to gain some control over the shooting [in woodsy areas] and the weaponry turned into a tumultuous civic fight, with traditional hunters and discreet gun owners opposed by assault weapon enthusiasts, and a modest tolerance for bearing arms competing with the staunch views of a gun industry trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has made Newtown its home."

Ann Flaherty of the AP: "Democrats say meaningful action in the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut must include a ban on military-style assault weapons and a look at how the nation deals with individuals suffering from serious mental illness. Several Democratic lawmakers and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman said it was time to take a deeper look into the recent spate of mass shootings and what can be done to prevent them." ...

... AND How about This? Kevin Robillard of Politico: "West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin -- who has an 'A' rating from the NRA and is a lifetime member of the pro-gun rights group -- said Monday that it was time to 'move beyond rhetoric' on gun control. 'I just came with my family from deer hunting,' Manchin said on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe.' 'I've never had more than three shells in a clip. Sometimes you don't get more than one shot anyway at a deer. It's common sense. It's time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common-sense discussion and move in a reasonable way.' ... All 31 senators with an 'A' rating from the NRA declined to appear on Sunday's 'Meet the Press' to discuss gun control, according to host David Gregory." CW: apparently the nation's leading tough-guy he-men are not brave enough to stand up to D. Wussy Greggers without their firearms. Here's a Manchin 2010 campaign ad:

... Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: (Dec. 16, at 9:54 pm ET) "New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, joining Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other elected officials, called on Sunday for Congress to pass tougher gun laws in the wake of the Newtown shootings."

E. J. Dionne: "If Congress does not act this time, we can deem it as totally bought and paid for by the representatives of gun manufacturers, gun dealers and their very well-compensated apologists.... What, minimally, might 'meaningful action' look like? We should begin with: bans on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons; requiring background checks for all gun purchases; stricter laws to make sure that gun owners follow safety procedures; new steps to make it easier to trace guns used in crimes; and vastly ramped-up data collection and research on what works to prevent gun violence, both of which are regularly blocked by the gun lobby.... We must act now to curb gun violence, or we never will."

Michael Grunwald of Time doesn't think gun control legislation will pass with Republicans controlling the House & effectively controlling the Senate with their filibuster: "... politics is more than gaffes and memes. It's life and death. And if this massacre really is different, if Americans decide they really do want to do something about guns, they'll need to elect different politicians to Congress."

Let's Play "Ask a Philosopher." Firmin Debrabander in the New York Times: "... an armed society ... is the opposite of a civil society."

... Ben Armbruster of Think Progress: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) "suggested that had the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary been armed with assault rifles, they could have prevented Friday's massacre and saved lives.... Pressed by ["Fox 'News' Sunday"] host Chris Wallace on why ordinary citizens need semi automatic weapons that shoot 5 bullets per second, Gohmert said that any restrictions on fire arms could lead to the slippery slope of full prohibition and said that American amass weapons to protect themselves from the government." With video. ...

... Robert Parry on why "Republicans -- and particularly Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush -- hold primary responsibility for the kinds of horrors that have claimed innocent lives in places like Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Columbine, Virginia Tech and so many other locations whose names will long be associated with butchery."

This story, compiled by Josh Marshall of TPM, on Nancy Lanza's motives for stockpiling guns & ammo -- if the elements are true -- is pretty illuminating. What I found most revealing with the interview of the sister-in-law, which is in the embedded video. She appears to be comfortable with the survivalist thing & parrots the NRA talking points. It appears to me these people were reinforcing each other's fears, likely with a little assist from the National Geographic Channel. (No, I'm not kidding.)

According to, "A petition asking the White House to immediately press Congress for tighter restrictions on gun ownership became the most popular ever posted to the White House's We the People website after less than 48 hours online Sunday." CW: at 9 am ET today, the petition has 140,287 signatures. There should be more. If you haven't signed, please do so here.

Lori Montgomery & Paul Kane
of the Washington Post: "House Speaker John A. Boehner has offered to push any fight over the federal debt limit off for a year, a concession that would deprive Republicans of leverage in the budget battle but is breathing new life into stalled talks over the year-end 'fiscal cliff.' The offer came Friday, according to people in both parties familiar with the talks.... Boehner's offer signals that he expects a big deal with sufficient savings to meet his demand that any debt limit increase be paired dollar-for-dollar with spending cuts." ...

... Jonathan Weisman & Jackie Calmes of the New York Times (Dec. 16 at 3:52 pm ET): "Speaker John A. Boehner's latest offer to President Obama to allow tax rates to rise on incomes over $1 million has already changed the terms of negotiations to avert a fiscal crisis in January, and both sides on Sunday expressed new optimism that a deal could be reached this week." ...

A ONE TRILLION DOLLAR Deficit! Paul Krugman: "Federal debt was higher at the end of the Clinton years than at the beginning -- that is, the deficits of the Clinton administration's early years outweighed the surpluses at the end. Yet because gross domestic product rose over those eight years, the best measure of our debt position, the ratio of debt to G.D.P., fell dramatically, from 49 to 33 percent.... You should recognize all the hyped-up talk about the deficit for what it is: yet another disingenuous attempt to scare and bully the body politic into abandoning programs that shield both poor and middle-class Americans from harm."

Nicholas Confessore & Monica Davey of the New York Times: "Where the big-spending conservative groups active in this year's presidential race had little to show for their millions of dollars, the state efforts were strikingly successful. While Mr. Obama was winning onetime red states like Virginia and swing states like Michigan and Ohio, Republicans made large gains in state offices in many of the same battlegrounds. Starting next year, Republicans will have one-party control in almost half of the state capitals in the country."

CW: I'm pretty sure John Kerry would be great at posing with his hand on his nipple.A New Cabinet Just Like the Oldest Cabinet. David Sanger of the New York Times: "President Obama is leaning strongly toward naming John Kerry ... as secretary of state, according to administration officials and friends of Mr. Kerry. But the announcement will be delayed, at least until later this week and maybe beyond, because of the Connecticut school shooting and what one official called 'some discomfort' with the idea of Mr. Obama's announcing a national security team in which the top posts are almost exclusively held by white men."


News Ledes

New York Times: "Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, who went to Washington at the birth of his state in 1959, dominated public life in the Hawaiian islands for more than 50 years and became a quiet voice of national conscience during the Watergate scandal and the Iran-contra affair, died on Monday in Bethesda, Md. He was 88. A statement by his Washington office said he died of respiratory complications at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His last words were 'Aloha,' the statement said." The Washington Post obituary is here. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser obit is here. President Obama's statement is here.

AP: "South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is announcing a replacement for U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint ... at noon Monday...." ...

     ... Update: "South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley picked U.S. Rep. Tim Scott to be the state's next U.S. senator Monday, making him the only black Republican in Congress and the South's first black Republican senator since Reconstruction."

Guardian: "A bomb dropped by a Syrian air force jet killed and wounded scores of Palestinians on Sunday in the largest refugee camp in Damascus, sending thousands of residents fleeing for other areas of the capital now besieged by civil war."

Guardian: "Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has claimed victory in the first round of the country's bitterly divisive constitutional referendum, with opposition forces complaining of large-scale rigging and violations."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 16, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "Praise the Lord & Pass the Ammunition," & is a critique of Ross Douthat's & David Brooks' responses to the Newtown massacre.

An SNL cold open like no other:

Byron Tau of Politico: "New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- an outspoken advocate for stricter gun laws -- said Sunday that dealing with gun violence should be at the top of President Barack Obama's agenda.... 'If he does nothing during his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed with illegal guns. That is roughly the number of Americans killed in the whole Vietnam War,' Bloomberg told host David Gregory. Bloomberg said that Obama doesn't need Congress' cooperation of everything -- he can simply enforce current law."

** Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "After the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and others in early 2011, the Justice Department drew up a detailed list of steps the government could take to expand the background-check system in order to reduce the risk of guns falling into the hands of mentally ill people and criminals. Most of the proposals, though, were shelved at the department without action against the backdrop of the election campaign and the politically charged Congressional investigation into the Operation Fast and Furious gun trafficking case...." CW: I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't a big piece of what the Fast & Furious phony outrage was all about.

Nicholas Kristof: "What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won't stand up to the N.R.A.?" Thanks to contributor Calyban for the link.

Nate Cohn of The New Republic: "... even though the public might not overwhelmingly favor gun control, there's reason to believe that Democrats can again feel comfortable fighting for gun control after a decade of keeping it on the back-burner. After all, they're less reliant on rural, gun-owning voters than at any time in the history of the party.... Pro-gun voters are lost to Republicans, and probably for good.... Perhaps the tragedy in Newtown will prompt [Democrats to make] an overdue reassessment." ...

... ** David Atkins of Hullabaloo: "American gun deaths are unique in their inability to generate political action: no one seemed to care much about the politicization of the deaths at Pearl Harbor or the World Trade Center.... What actually drives the desperate need to own high-priced killing machines. There is a vast, festering paranoia in conservative circles about the 'looters' and 'parasites' coming to take their hard-earned material possessions in the supposed coming debt-fueled collapse of society. There is continual worry about some dark-skinned assailant attempting to enter their home and potentially steal their property.... What this functionally means is that we as a nation are openly allowing thousands of our children to die every year so that certain segments of the population can role-play racist murder fantasies." ...

... Paul Krugman: "... the pro-gun fanatics are basically the kind of people who think that Obama is a Kenyan socialist atheistic Islamist, and the urban hordes are coming for their property any day now. People, in other words, who already vote 100 percent Republican -- and lose elections."

Patrick Keefe of the New Yorker suggests some gun control legislation that might pass Congress if the powers-that-be went against type & showed the tiniest bit of gumption.

CW: I won't be linking to many profiles of the killer & his victims. But here's one by Matt Flegenheimer & Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times on Nancy Lanza, Adam's mother & his first victim: "She was 'a big, big gun fan' who went target shooting with her children, according to friends. She enjoyed craft beers, jazz and landscaping. She was generous to strangers, but also high-strung, as if she were holding herself together."

In a comment on yesterday's Commentariat, contributor citizen625 wrote that on PBS's "News Hours," David Brooks said, "with a straight face," "Second, oddly -- and I'm not sure why -- I don't have any explanation for this -- support for gun control laws has dropped significantly over the last 20 years. I'm not sure why that is." I thought I must have misunderstood the comment. I didn't. You can check it out here at about 11 min. in. citizens625 writes, "The NRA has bought the media." That's the only plausible explanation for stunning Brooks' remark. ...

... citizens625 hit on the 2nd thing that moron Brooks said in the PBS discussion. Let's look at Brooks' first point, too: "First, gun ownership is way down." Really??? According to a report by Mark Follman of Mother Jones, assembled after the Aurora shootings, "... the increase in firearms has far outpaced population growth." Follman produces stats to back up his assertions. Brooks relies on data from Right Wing World's Fantastic Fact-Fucking Factory.

Cliff Notes

Thomas Ferraro & Steve Holland of Reuters: "President Barack Obama is not ready to accept a new offer from the Republican leader of the U.S. the House of Representatives to raise taxes on top earners in exchange for major cuts in entitlement programs, a source said late Saturday. The shape and details of Boehner's offer were uncertain Saturday night, as was the exact reason the president was prepared to reject it."

Teresa Tritch of the New York Times: "... Mr. Obama needs a [Treasury] secretary who will champion and execute an agenda in which the interests of Wall Street give way, at long last, to the public need for broad and shared prosperity.... The Treasury's main client would no longer be Wall Street..., [but] must be the low- and middle-income working Americans who last saw any real income gains in the 1990s; the 12 million Americans who can't find work; the 8.2 million who can find only part-time jobs; the 12 million borrowers who are underwater on their mortgages."

In Saturday's Ledes, I linked to a story which reports that Secretary of State Clinton sustained a concussion when she fell after fainting caused by dehydration brought on by stomach virus. As an afterthought, I wrote, "cue the conspiracy theorists." Aah, they're way ahead of me. ...

... Here's Ann Althouse, a right-wing law professor: "I'm sorry if she's really sick and that she hurt herself, but I do not accept her weaseling out of the Benghazi hearings.... I can only think of 2 reasons why her people would let us hear this story that she fainted, addled her pate, and can't face up to Congress on Benghazi: 1. She's not going to run for President, or 2. What she would have to say about Benghazi is more damaging than this effort to avoid testifying."

Jim Sterba in the Washington Post: to cut down on the whitetail deer population, we need to shoot some of them.

Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times: "Packed into hand luggage and tucked into jacket pockets, roughly hewed bars of gold are being flown out of Kabul with increasing regularity, confounding Afghan and American officials who fear money launderers have found a new way to spirit funds from the country."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Japan's voters handed a landslide victory to the Liberal Democratic Party in national parliamentary elections on Sunday, giving power back to the conservative party that had governed Japan for decades until a historic defeat three years ago."

AP: "... details emerged suggesting that Adam Lanza had planned an even more gruesome massacre but was stopped short." ...

... AP: as some information about the Newtown, Connecticut killings becomes available, Sandy Hook school staff are being hailed for their acts of heroism. ...

... NBC News Connecticut: "President Barack Obama will attend an interfaith memorial service Sunday in Newtown and meet with victims' families and first responders. The vigil is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. at Newtown High School."

New York Times: "Millions of Egyptians voted peacefully on Saturday in a referendum on an Islamist-backed draft constitution, hoping that the results would end three weeks of violence, division and distrust between the Islamists and their opponents over the ground rules of Egypt's promised democracy."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 15, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... a reiteration of what he said yesterday, Obama includes the remark about "meaningful action ... regardless of politiics."

We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent tragedies like this, regardless of the politics. -- President Barack Obama, December 14, 2012

I think we have to be careful about new, suggesting new gun laws. -- Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), highest-ranking House Republican woman

We ask why there's violence in our schools but we've systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? -- Mike Huckabee

David Remnick of the New Yorker: "Obama told the nation that he reacted to the shootings in Newtown 'as a parent,' ... but what we need most is for him to act as a President, liberated at last from the constraints of elections and their dirty compromises -- a President who dares to change the national debate and the legislative agenda on guns."

Mark Landler & Erica Goode of the New York Times: so what is "meaningful action," Mr. President?

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: "A search of the 489 members of Congress on Twitter reveals just four members who even mentioned the word 'gun.' Virtually every lawmaker has put a statement on Twitter expressing their condolences, but only a tiny handful of Democratic House members have dared address the public policy question of how to prevent another tragedy like this."

Juan Cole: "questions I asked myself about the Connecticut school shooting."

Paul Waldman of American Prospect: "ten arguments gun advocates make, and why they're wrong."

Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress: "I really want someone who advocates against gun control to balance the scales for me, to go ahead and try to explain to me why the inconvenience suffered by gun owners and prospective gun owners under much tighter restrictions on the purchase of guns and ammunition outweighs the death of children in their classrooms...."

Gail Collins: "We have come to regard ourselves -- and the world has come to regard us -- as a country that's so gun happy that the right to traffic freely in the most obscene quantities of weapons is regarded as far more precious than an American's right to health care or a good education. We have to make ourselves better."

Natalie Jennings of the Washington Post: on "the White House's 'We the People' online petition site..., [this is now a] petition calling on the White House to 'Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress.' ..." . The petition has more than 39,000 signatures as of 8:15 pm ET. You can sign here.

Scott Keyes of Think Progress: "On Thursday, one day before the tragedy in Connecticut where at least 29 people were killed at an elementary school, the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature passed a bill that would allow people to bring guns into schools." ...

     ... Melanie Dorsey of the Detroit Free Press has a follow-up, post-Newtown-massacre story, in which various legislators reiterate what a great idea the bill is & how "just one" armed teacher could have haved the children of Newtown. Dorsey reports that Gov. Right-to-Work Snyder hasn't decided whether he'll sign the bill.

Elspeth Reeve of the Atlantic: "The NRA is winning."

Lee Fang in the Nation: "Despite the grassroots façade, there is much evidence to suggest that corporations that profit from unregulated gun use are propping up the NRA's activities.... The Violence Policy Center has estimated that since 2005, gun manufacturers have contributed up to $38.9 million to the NRA.... And like other industry fronts, the NRA is quick to conceal its pro-gun industry policy positions as ideological commitments."

Paul Barrett of Business Week: "If I were running a school or a movie theater or a house of worship, I would hire the highest-quality licensed, armed security available. No Second Amendment issue there." CW: how to pay for additional security? Tax the hell out of guns & ammo. No Second Amendment issue there. We tax gasoline to pay for roads & plane tickets to pay the TSA. No reason not to tax gun owners to pay police.

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Obama administration said Friday that more than half the states had rejected its pleas to set up their own health insurance exchanges, dealing a setback to President Obama's hopes that Republicans would join a White House campaign to provide health insurance to all Americans."

Cliff Notes

When Mitch McConnell Is the "Reasonable One." Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "A split developing between House Republican leaders and some Senate counterparts who are increasingly open to extending the expiring Bush-era tax cuts only for the middle class is adding to pressure on Speaker John A. Boehner to cut a deficit reduction deal with President Obama."

Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: AARP "angered many of its own last year when it opened the door for the first time to the possibility of accepting modest cuts in Social Security benefits. Chastened, AARP now appears to have veered back to a hard-line position of opposing any cutbacks in Medicare or Social Security and is seeking to keep those programs off the bargaining table altogether."

Right Wing World

Looking for something else, I came upon this citation from Jim DeMint, who is escaping from the Evil Empire:

America works -- freedom works -- when people have that internal gyroscope that comes from a belief in God and Biblical faith. Once we push that out, you no longer have the capacity to live as a free person without the external controls of an authoritarian government. I've said it often and I believe it -- the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets. As people become more dependent on government, less dependent on God. You cannot have a free society that way.

      ... Rick Hertzberg has an expanded quote. Hertzberg & I have slightly different interpretations of DeMint's worldview. But it's no wonder DeMint left the government because he sees it as the enemy of god. And it is certainly no wonder that he has done all he could to undermine government. DeMint is an object lesson in why governments fall from within.

News Ledes

Washington Post has published the names of the victims of the Newtown shooting here, with brief bios of or remarks about a few of them. The New York Times has the names on the front page at 8:00 pm ET. ...

... New York Times: "All of the children killed by the gunman during a massacre at a Connecticut elementary school were shot multiple times, the state chief medical examiner said Saturday.... The principal and the school psychologist were shot as they tried to tackle the gunman 'in order to protect her students,' the school superintendent said Saturday.... Adam Lanza, 20, had forced his way into the school, which had a security system requiring visitors to be buzzed in." ...

... AP: "As the world joined Americans in mourning the school massacre in Connecticut, many urged U.S. politicians to honor the 28 victims, especially the children, by pushing for stronger gun control laws. Twitter users and media personalities in the U.K. immediately invoked Dunblane -- a 1996 shooting in that small Scottish town which killed 16 children. That tragedy prompted a campaign that ultimately led to tighter gun controls effectively making it illegal to buy or possess a handgun in the U.K."

Chicago Sun-Times: "President Barack Obama has chosen Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts to be the next secretary of state, a source has told Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed. His replacement as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be Sen. Robert Menendez...."

New York Times: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suffered a concussion early last week after fainting and striking her head, the State Department disclosed on Saturday.... Mrs. Clinton will not testify as scheduled before a Senate committee investigating the attack on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in September.... William J. Burns and Thomas R. Nides, both deputy secretaries of state, will testify in place of Mrs. Clinton." CW: cue the conspiracy theorists.

Here's the Hartford Courant story on the Newtown school killings. ...

... The New York Times "The Lede" is here. An official says the gunman's mother was neither a teacher at the school nor a substitute teacher.

New York Times: "Nelson Mandela, South Africa's ailing former president, had surgery to have gallstones removed on Saturday as he began his second week of hospitalization, the government said."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 14, 2012

Comments are open. In the spirit of the season or something, be nice. When appropriate.

Tim Egan, on the merits of a liberal arts education. Egan notes that Rick Scott (RTP-Fla.), America's Worst Governor, could use some. Education, that is.

Frank Rich on Michigan, too-big-to-jail & Prop 8.

AND Good News, Reefer Nation:

Cliff Notes

Same Ole, Same Ole. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Speaker John A. Boehner met with President Obama at the White House on Thursday evening to try to bridge a vast gap between the parties on taxes and entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. The meeting broke up after about an hour with no immediate sign from either side that there had been a breakthrough."

Here's a bit of good news. Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he has been told that raising the Medicare eligibility age is 'off the table' in deficit talks, limiting the scope of entitlement reform." CW: Our thanks to all the wonks who ran the numbers & repeated ad nauseum what a stupid idea it was to ever put upping the age "on the table." And love that "context" from Bolton about "limiting the scope of entitlement reform." It appears the "context" here comes from GOP talking points.

Paul Krugman: "This is not a negotiation in the normal sense, in which each side makes proposals and they dicker over the details; instead, Republicans are demanding that Obama read their minds and produce a proposal they'll like. And Obama won't do that, for good reason: he knows that they'll just pronounce themselves unsatisfied with whatever he comes up with, and are indeed very likely to campaign in 2014 attacking him for whatever cuts take place."

** David Atkins in Hullabaloo: "Any story about who should 'sacrifice' given [economic] realities must contain ... context, or the journalist tells a gross lie of omission. When the poor and elderly on fixed incomes are asked to give up needed benefits in exchange for pittance tax increases on the wealthy, it's not a fair trade. It's not even close to a fair trade. Good journalism tells the truth by providing context."

CW: the Washington Post Editors write another "soak the poor" editorial, blaming Democrats for being so rigid about "entitlements" that they're unwilling to make the poor & middle class pay for more tax breaks for the wealthy. Maybe the Post editors should be required to add a disclaimer to the bottom of their deficit-hawk editorials; something like "This editorial comes to you courtesy of Pete Peterson."

Michael Cooper of the New York Times: "Washington's efforts to tame the federal deficit, state officials fear, could end up further whittling away the federal aid that states depend upon...." CW Solution: just send aid to the states where governors & legislatures don't rail against "out-of-control government spending." Too bad, Red States (and Florida, too).

Oops! Stupid Democrats Falling for Stupid Republican Tricks. Jennifer Haberkorn & Manu Raju of Politico: "A growing number of Democrats in the Senate are ready to offer up a key concession on Medicare to try to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff: higher premium payments for wealthy seniors.... even though Democrats are open to [means testing], they are saying no to increasing the eligibility age on Medicare; no to touching Social Security; and no to cutting into Medicaid programs that cover the poor and disabled. Many of these concerns were voiced directly by liberals to White House economic adviser Gene Sperling in a closed-door Senate Democratic lunch on Thursday." CW: why is this a trick? Because Republicans want nothing more for "entitlement" programs to be means-tested. Right now Social Security & Medicare are popular because everybody benefits or anticipates benefits. But make these programs means-tested & Republicans will treat them as gifts/"redistribution of wealth" from "responsible" people to blah people & other ne'er-do-well 47 percenters.

In 1982, Ronald Reagan sat down with the Democrats and they had a deal -- a $3 cut in spending for every dollar they raised in taxes. Guess what? They raised the taxes, and they never cut the spending. -- Oft-repeated story told during "fiscal cliff" negotiations

CW: I'm not always a fan of the Washington Post's fact-checker Glenn Kessler, but he does a masterful job here. I'd give him four thumbs up for this:

It is time to abandon this myth. Reagan may have convinced himself he had been snookered, but that belief is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the deal he had reached. Congress was never expected to match the tax increases with spending cuts on a 3-to-1 basis. Reagan appeared to acknowledge this in his speech when he referred to outlays (which would include interest expenses), rather than spending cuts. In the end, lawmakers apparently did a better job of living up to the bargain than the administration did. -- Glenn Kessler

More Stupid GOP Tricks. N. C. Aizenman of the Washington Post: ideological anti-ObamaCare Republican governors have opted out of running health insurance exchanges, thus broadening the Federal government's reach in their states. Yo, Tenthers, so much for states rights!

Jeremiah Goulka, a "former Republican," on what the GOP can -- and won't -- do to make itself relevant again. Here's an interesting -- and scary -- stat from the report: "Romney would have won New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, and Colorado if he had captured even slightly higher shares of the Hispanic vote and he could have won in the Electoral College if fewer than 200,000 voters in key states had switched their votes." CW: Now I don't feel so stupid for fearing, two weeks before the election, that Obama would lose. He was, technically, within 200K votes of losing. Thanks to safari for the link. ...

... Paul Krugman, on the same subject: "... Republicans have suffered more than an election defeat, they've seen the collapse of a decades-long project. And with their grandiose goals now out of reach, they literally have no idea what they want -- hence their inability to make specific demands [in the 'fiscal cliff' "negotiations"]. It's a dangerous situation. The G.O.P. is lost and rudderless, bitter and angry, but it still controls the House and, therefore, retains the ability to do a lot of harm, as it lashes out in the death throes of the conservative dream."

Driving the GOP death throes is the party's insistence upon proffering policies tied to theories that have long been disproved. Case in point: trickle-down economics. More rational beings are finally beginning to strike back -- Sahil Kapur of TPM: "On Thursday, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service republished an analysis that found no clear relationship between marginal high-end tax cuts and economic growth. The report, initially published in September, was retracted later that month after top Republican senators complained about it.The new version (PDF) stands by the larger conclusion." CW: If civil servants can stand up to McTurtle, Inc., surely the POTUS can, too. ...

... Steve Benen: "Good for the CRS. It's safe to assume McConnell's office will throw another fit -- the notion that cutting taxes on the rich necessarily boosts economic growth is a bedrock tenant of contemporary conservative thought -- but free inquiry and intellectual integrity demand that accurate government reports see the light of day.... We just can't have public offices' scholarship being stifled because Republicans find reality politically inconvenient."

Susan Rice, in a Washington Post op-ed, elaborates on her decision to withdraw from consideration for the position of Secretary of State. ...

... She doesn't mention any of this stuff: David Dayen of Firedoglake: "... the reality is that [Susan] Rice made more enemies than friends in her attempt to mend fences on Capitol Hill. And her family investments in the oil and gas industry, her long record of war advocacy and too-close-for-comfort relationship to global dictators left her without champions in her own party to beat back the various attacks. In the end, the President must not have seen this as a hill to die on. The real damage here is the perception that if the conservative noise machine makes enough noise, eventually they will succeed at their goals." ...

... CW: notice how Dayen sticks to important, substantive issues in his critique of Rice. Let us turn now to Newsweek, where Lloyd Grove never mentions these issues, but does some extensive reporting on what a bitch Rice is. (Grove used to be a gossip columnist for both the WashPo & New York Daily News.) So his hit job doesn't sound so bad, Grove finds people to say nice things about Rice, too. We'll call it a "balanced hit job." If Grove's piece seems vaguely familiar to you, you may be thinking of "analyses" of the personalities of Sonia Sotomayor & Elena Kagan after their nominations to the Supreme Court. Girls -- especially girls of color -- are supposed to "know their place" & be extra polite to the white boys who are their betters. (Kagan is actually a world-class schmoozer, so Robin Givhan of the WashPo wrote a two-page piece on Kagan's failure to cross her legs while schmoozing, "as most women do.") I expected this kind of sexism in 1972, maybe even in 1982. But now? ...

... David Sanger & Jodi Kantor of the New York Times put a much different spin on Rice's "blunt" style.

If You're Not Beat to a Pulp or Stabbed or Something, It's Not Rape. Adam Martin of New York magazine: the California Commission on Judicial performance has admonished Orange County Judge Derek Johnson for giving a light sentence to a rapist in 2008 because, he said, "if someone doesn't want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down.... The victim in this case, although she wasn't necessarily willing, she didn't put up a fight. And to treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape." Orange County is the West Coast Center of Right Wing World.

John Gramlich of Roll Call: "House Republicans have quietly raised the value of a contract with a private law firm that is handling the chamber's Supreme Court defense of" DOMA. The contract's new maximum is $2 million. "Although the latest lifting of the contract cap occurred almost three months ago, House Democrats -- and the public -- were in the dark about the move until this week.... [Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi blasted House Republicans in a statement Thursday for 'wasting taxpayer dollars to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act. Hiding this contract from voters in the midst of an election season was a cynical move at best, and a betrayal of the public trust at worst,' she said. 'Republicans should not be spending $2 million to defend discrimination in our country.'"

Michael Kelley of Business Insider: "NYU student Josh Begley is tweeting every reported U.S. drone strike since 2002, and the feed highlights a disturbing tactic employed by the U.S. that is widely considered a war crime. Known as the 'double tap,' the tactic involves bombing a target multiple times in relatively quick succession, meaning that the second strike often hits first responders."

Local News -- Race to the Bottom

Actually, not so much a race as a slow, steady slog. Nick Carey & Bernie Woodall of Reuters report on how Michigan legislators -- with a little help from their deep-pockets robber-baron friends -- mustered the votes & ensured Gov. Rick Snyder's cooperation in passing right-to-work legislation in Michigan. Includes a near-death appearance from Andrew Breitbart.

This is nonsense of course, but what the hell. Daily Kos is running a petition drive urging South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to appoint Stephen Colbert to the Senate seat which Jim DeMint is vacating. Anything to annoy Southern Republicans.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new standard for soot pollution on Friday that will force industry, utilities and local governments to find ways to reduce emissions of particles that are linked to thousands of cases of disease and death each year."

New York Times: "Facing indictment for breach of trust and fraud, Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, resigned his post Friday afternoon amid mounting political pressure,upending the campaign landscape five weeks before national elections."

President Obama speaks on the school killings in Newtown, Connecticut:

Hartford Courant: "Twenty-seven people, including 18 children, have been killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to the Associated Press." The Courant is livestreaming Fox Connecticut coverage. ...

... ABC News: "More than two dozen people, mostly elementary school children, were shot and killed at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school this morning, federal and state sources tell ABC News. The massacre involved two gunmen and prompted the town of Newtown to lock down all of its schools and draw SWAT teams to the school, authorities said today. One shooter is dead and a manhunt is on for a second gunman." ...

... The New York Times' "The Lede" has live updates with live coverage from MSNBC. Here's the direct link to MSNBC coverage. ...

... AND here's the New York Times' main story.

Washington Post: "The United States authorized on Friday the deployment of 400 troops to man two Patriot missile-defense batteries along Turkey's border with Syria, a move that could put American troops near the front lines of the Arab country's escalating civil war. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta signed the order authorizing the deployment of the batteries Friday morning while flying from Kabul to this military base in southern Turkey." ...

... He Didn't Say What He Said. AP: "Russia's Foreign Ministry on Friday denied that a top diplomat said Syrian President Bashar Assad is losing control of his country, a statement that had been interpreted as signaling a shift in Russia's assessment of the situation."

Guardian: "A prominent Senate select committee has voted to approve a 6,000-page report of its investigation into controversial interrogation techniques adopted by the CIA during the so-called 'war on terror' that is believed to show that the methods, widely denounced as torture, produced little valuable intelligence.... The majority Democratic members of the committee were joined by one Republican senator, Olympia Snowe of Maine, in backing the report. However, lack of co-operation from the remaining Republican members of the panel could prevent the document ever seeing the light of day."

Al Jazeera: "Rival sides in Egypt's political crisis are staging rallies in Cairo a day before the first round of voting begins on a contentious draft constitution."

AP: "Nearly 4 out of 5 Americans now think temperatures are rising and that global warming will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds. Belief and worry about climate change are inching up among Americans in general, but concern is growing faster among people who don't often trust scientists on the environment."