The Ledes

Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

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

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

     ... The Guardian is liveblogging the sentencing.

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, October 20, 2014.

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

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

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

Public Service Announcement

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

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

White House Live Video
October 20

1o:00 am ET: Affordable Care Act Champions of Change meeting

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


Stephen Colbert describes his workday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snowden, The Movie:

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Commentariat -- May 22, 2012

My NYTX column is on David Brooks' latest. (I thought I had written a horrible column because I wrote it hurriedly on the way to another eye surgery. But I'm back, I can see, and -- after I corrected some typos -- I think the column is more-or-less worth your reading.) The NYTX front page is here.

Gene Robinson: "With its support for gay marriage, the NAACP has done more than strike a blow for fairness and equality. The nation's most venerable civil rights organization has made itself relevant again. The NAACP's 64-member board approved a resolution Saturday supporting 'marriage equality' not as a matter of empathy or compassion but as a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment."

Stephanie Saul of the New York Times: Publicly-funded "scholarship programs have been twisted to benefit private schools at the expense of the neediest children. Spreading at a time of deep cutbacks in public schools, the programs are operating in eight states and represent one of the fastest-growing components of the school choice movement.... The money has also been used to attract star football players, expand the payrolls of the nonprofit scholarship groups and spread the theology of creationism.... Most of the private schools are religious.... The programs are insulated from provisions requiring church-state separation because the donations are collected and distributed by the nonprofit scholarship groups."

Laurie Penny gives a first-person account in The Independent on her bus ride from New York to Chicago to protest against politicians who exacerbated the financial crisis. Thanks to Dave S. for the link.

Norimitsu Onishi of the New York Times: "Facing opposition to a new studio in Lucas Valley, George Lucas said he would bring low-income housing there instead, inflaming wealthy neighbors in Marin County."

Frank Bruni's patronizing column in which he writes that politicians' wives would make good politicians, too, is interesting in that it highlights Christie Vilsack, the wife of Ag Secretary & former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Christie is running for Congress against the deplorable Steve King.

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: RomneyCare is working well, & the Affordable Care Act -- if it had been in full force since 2001 -- would have saved Americans money. CW: let's see what the Supremes have done. They have certainly made their final decisions by now & are merely crossing the t's & dotting the i's at this point.

Presidential Race

CW: If you missed President Obama's response to Cory Booker's criticism of the Obama campaign's Bain ads, do check out the video & link in yesterday's Commentariat, which I posted late Monday. ...

... Paul Krugman: "... apparently [Cory] Booker is so close to his Wall Street donors that it never occurred to him that echoing their over-the-top reactions to Obama's very mild populism would destroy his own political future (which I believe it has)." ...

... It is not just Booker's political donors who influenced his thinking. As David Dayen of Firedoglake explains, cities like Newark have a symbiotic relationship with vulture capitalists. "... practically every state in the union uses private equity, particularly through their large pension funds. This creates a symbiotic relationship between state and local governments and vulture capitalists. The pension funds then invest in local economies, fattened by the higher returns they get from their entrusting of funds to private equity. This allows these firms, which specialize in stripping down companies and turning over profits, without regard for the workers they leave behind, to get inoculated by the political class, who want to keep this game going." ...

... Booker continues his apology tour. Booker said he had "good conversations" with members of the Obama campaign, which evidently cured his nausea:

... NEW. Tim Mak of Politico has a summary of left-leaning bloggers' reactions to Booker. ...

... Here's the campaign's latest Bain video:

Daniel Drezner of Foreign Policy: "... with Romney's NATO Chicago Tribune op-ed this past weekend, I fear he and his campaign have crossed the line from really stupid foreign policy pronouncements to logically contradictory ones.... I don't like it when a guy with a 50/50 chance of being president in January 2013 has abandoned the Logic Train." Romney's op-ed is here. ...

... AND from the right. Daniel Larison of the American Conservative: "It will not come as a shock that Romney doesn’t seem to know much about NATO." (CW: Evidently, Romney is getting his foreign policy advice from Campbell Brown's husband Dan Senor.) ...

...CW: well, thanks to Romney, I learned a new word: "revanchism."

Nicholas Confessore, et al., of the New York Times: "President Obama's once-commanding fund-raising advantage is declining as major Republican donors rally for Mitt Romney, conservative 'super PACs' far outpace their liberal counterparts and tax-exempt issue-advocacy groups swarm the political landscape."

Paul Waldman of American Prospect: four years and running, thousands of articles about Barack Obama's early life, and conservatives still think he hasn't been "vetted." They're still looking for that "horrible secret."

Right Wing World

I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the '70s and in South Africa as well. He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German. -- Grover Norquist, on Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) bill to penalize Americans who renounce their citizenship to evade taxes

There is nothing quite as classy as calling a Jewish person a Nazi. -- Constant Weader

News Ledes

New York Times: "Katie Beckett, who was 3 years old and had been hospitalized almost since birth when President Ronald Reagan invoked her case as an example of irrational federal regulation in 1981 -- a key moment in the movement toward government support for home health care — died on Friday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the hospital where she was born. She was 34, more than three times the age her doctors had predicted she would reach."

New York Times: 'The leading American diplomat in Afghanistan, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, will leave his post this summer for health reasons after serving here less than a year, a State Department official said Tuesday."

New York Times: "A passenger flight from Paris to Charlotte, N.C., was diverted on Tuesday to Bangor, Maine, because of security concerns set off when a passenger told the crew that she had a surgically implanted device.... There was no indication that a bomb or any such device was involved in the case."

New York Times: "In an apparent breakthrough, the leader of the United Nations nuclear monitoring arm said on Tuesday that despite unspecified differences, he expects to sign a deal with Iran 'quite soon' on the arrangements for an investigation into potential military applications of Tehran's disputed nuclear program."

New York Times: "Global stocks rose on Tuesday, even as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development cut its growth forecast for the euro zone and said Europe risked creating a self-sustaining cycle of decline that could have dire effects for the world economy."

New York Times: "A private cargo rocket headed to the International Space Station blasted off early Tuesday morning. Built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne, Calif. -- commonly known as SpaceX -- this rocket is carrying only about 1,000 pounds of cargo, and nothing of great value.... If the cargo capsule makes it all the way to the space station, it would be the first commercial, rather than government-operated, spacecraft to dock at the space station, and it would mark an important step in NASA's efforts to turn over basic transportation to low-Earth orbit to the private sector."

Washington Post: President Obama spoke at the commencement of Joplin, Missouri, High School one year after a tornado devastated the town.

Washington Post: "The Air Force said Monday that it had fined the former commander of the Dover Air Force Base mortuary $7,000 and suspended his top deputy for 20 days without pay for retaliating against whistleblowers, but it allowed both men to keep their jobs."

HealthDay: "In a highly anticipated move sure to unleash heated debate, a prominent U.S. government advisory panel is recommending that men of all ages no longer be screened for prostate cancer by undergoing the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of medical experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, said PSA screening results in overdiagnosis of prostate cancer and unnecessary treatment that can leave men impotent and incontinent."

Guardian: "Facebook shares have fallen sharply on a second day of trading, leading to questions about the valuation of its IPO and the handling of the sale by its bankers."

ABC News: "A month after the Secret Service was rocked by allegations that agents brought prostitutes to a Colombia hotel where they were preparing for a visit by President Obama, the Drug Enforcement Administration today announced that at least three of its agents are also under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Cartagena."

NEW. Washington Post: "The nation's chief of nuclear safety announced his resignation Monday after a three-year tenure marked by debates over regulatory guidelines, praise for the U.S. response to the Japanese nuclear disaster and complaints that he had verbally abused women in the workplace. The departure of Gregory B. Jaczko, an advocate of tough safety standards at nuclear reactor sites during eight years on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, caps almost a year of concerns about his leadership of the NRC...."

NEW. New York Times: "In an effort to show a unified front in their campaign against the birth control mandate, 43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, social service agencies and other institutions filed lawsuits in 12 federal courts on Monday, challenging the Obama administration's rule that their employees receive coverage for contraception in their health insurance policies." CW: sorry, thought I linked this yesterday.


The Commentariat -- May 21, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on the failure of the Times to fully identify op-ed writer Campbell Brown. The NYTX front page is here. ...

... A related post by Ali Gharib of Think Progress is here. ...

... AND Tom Friedman loses on "Jeopardy!"

Frank Rich of New York magazine: "There has been change on the American playing field of race since Inauguration Day 2009 -- not so much for the better or the worse, but a shift into a kind of twilight zone where the nation's racial conversation has moved from its usual gears of intractability, obfuscation, angry debate, and platitudinous sentimentality to the truly unhinged." ...

... Also in New York magazine, Benjamin Wallace-Wells on George Romney: "When the governor of Michigan ran for the Republican nomination, in 1968, he tried to stand up against the more radical wing of his party. His defeat was swift, tragic, and, for his son, instructive." CW: this was one of those pieces I wanted to read all the way thru. And I did.

George Packer of the New Yorker on how the Joe Biden has been Barack Obama's conscience on civil rights not unlike the way Lyndon Johnson was John Kennedy's.

Kim Severson of the New York Times: "... the two lives of John Edwards have collided spectacularly in a federal courthouse here, where the government is trying him on six counts of campaign finance fraud and conspiracy."

Nichloas Lemann of the New Yorker: "In higher education, the United States may be on its way to becoming more like the rest of the world, with a small group of schools controlling access to life membership in the élite. And higher education is becoming more like other areas of American life, with the fortunate few institutions distancing themselves ever further from the many. All those things which commencement speakers talk about -- personal growth, critical-thinking skills, intellectual exploration, breadth of learning -- will survive at the top institutions, but other colleges will come under increased pressure to adopt the model of trade schools." CW: I've got news for Lemann: a small group of schools has always controlled access to life membership in the American elite.

Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Obama was struggling to balance the United States' relationship with two crucial but difficult allies on Sunday, after a deal to reopen supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan fell apart just as Mr. Obama began talks on ending the NATO alliance's combat role in the Afghan war."

Presidential Race

Paul Krugman: Mitt Romney's "whole candidacy is based on the claim that his experience at extracting money from troubled businesses means that he'll know how to run the economy -- yet whenever he talks about economic policy, he comes across as completely clueless."

WTF? Raymond Hernandez of the New York Times: Newark Mayor Cory Booker, an "Obama surrogate," goes on "Press the Meat" to denounce Obama ad criticizing Romney for his Bain Capital record. CW: I think I just found Romney's running mate. You can hear Booker's comments here, about 4 min. into the video. ...

     ... Update: During his presser, President Obama made a terrific response to a question about Booker's comment. I'll get up a link to some report when it becomes available. ...

     ... NEW. Here ya go: Michael Memoli of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama said Monday that using Bain Capital to question Mitt Romney's economic credentials is not only fair game, but part of his core argument against his Republican foe in the coming general election campaign.... 'My opponent, Gov. Romney -- his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He's not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He's saying, "I'm a business guy. I know how to fix it." And this is his business,' Obama said. 'When you're president as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.... But understand that their priority is to maximize profits. And that's not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers,' he said.'" ...

     ... AND here's the video:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

... Digby: "Sadly, this is exactly the kind of concern trolling that will make the Village declare that the Democrats are hitting below the belt by criticizing Bain Capital and the Dems will fall in line. Indeed, the fact that it's Cory Booker who's saying it today indicates that it's the Democrats themselves saying 'stop us before we hurt the Masters of the Universe's feelings again.'" ...

... Karoli of Crooks & Liars: "Mitt Romney's time at Bain Capital is one of the few quantifiable ways voters can see how he intends to approach employment issues and corporations, and the Obama campaign has done a terrific job of pointing out the 'vulture capitalist' Romney so desperately tries to hide." ...

     ... As David Axelrod said (unrelated to Booker's remarks), "Romney's business record became fair game because it is 'the only credential' Romney has offered for his candidacy."

... CW: I see Steve Kornacki of Salon agrees with me: "More [than] likely, Booker went on the show to help himself.... And on that score, his appearance was a success.... It's not at all surprising to see Booker going to bat for private equity. The allies he's cultivated on Wall Street and in the financial industry (think, for instance, of his chummy relationship with Michael Bloomberg) have made Booker a prolific fundraiser, and when he ventured into the ultra-expensive statewide game, he’ll need them more than ever. Many of them have turned fiercely against Obama over the past few years, convinced that he's unfairly targeted them. Booker's words on 'Meet the Press' may have enraged the average Obama supporter, but to the Wall Street class they were probably close to heroic -- finally, a big-name Democrat with the cojones to call out Obama on his class warfare!" ...

... NEW. Jamelle Bouie: "Cory Booker's gaffe -- in the classic, truth-telling sense -- gets to a broader, more important problem in American politics: the extent to which Wall Street has become the only viable funding mechanism for major national elections."

... Ooh, Booker tries to walk it back (I can't figure out if his scriptwriter was Tom Friedman or David Brooks):

... Here's what Booker clearly doesn't get. E. J. Dionne: "The back-and-forth about Bain Capital ... is part of something larger. So is the inquest into the implications of multibillion-dollar trading losses at JPMorgan Chase.... The trick is to get the most out of what capitalism does well, while containing or preventing the problems it can cause.... But having made an issue of Bain on the plus side, [Romney] also has to answer for the pain and suffering -- or, as defenders of capitalism like to call it, the 'creative destruction' -- that some of Bain’s deals left in their wake."

CW: speaking of attack ads, Josh Israel of Think Progress reports that Reince Priebus, the brilliant chair of the RNC, told Candy Crowley of CNN yesterday that the Ricketts race-baiting ad brouhaha was all Obama's doing -- a ploy to keep the conversation away from the bad economy. Man, that Obama is clever -- bringing up Jeremiah Wright so he wouldn't have to focus on jobs numbers.

CW: I think we were also sort of alarmed -- for a number of reasons -- by Jodi Kantor's story on Romney's faith (linked in yesterday's Commentariat). Digby makes this point: "... when people talk about America as the God's Chosen Country, suddenly you can excuse anything." That's exactly how we got into the war in Iraq.

Local News

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel endorses Scott Walker. CW: This is one of those pieces I didn't want to read. And I didn't.

News Ledes

The Hill: "The Senate confirmed Paul J. Watford for the 9th Circuit court in California on Monday. The vote was 61 to 34. Earlier in the day Senate Majority vitiated cloture on Watford's nomination so the chamber could hold a roll-call vote." CW: yes, it's always news when the Senate confirms a judicial nominee, especially for the 9th Circuit, which Newt Gingrich wants to eliminate.

New York Times: "A judge [in New Brunswick, New Jersey,] sentenced Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail on Monday for using a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with a man, a punishment that angered prosecutors and did little to quiet the debate over using laws against hate crimes to fight antigay bias. His roommate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself in September 2010, two days after discovering that Mr. Ravi had spied on him in their room at Rutgers University, galvanizing national concern about suicide among gay teenagers.:

AFP: "A Yemeni soldier packing powerful explosives under his uniform blew himself up in the middle of an army battalion in Sanaa Monday, killing 96 troops and wounding around 300, a military official and medics said."

Guardian: "Thousands of people marched towards [Chicago's] McCormick Place in the downtown area of the city [yesterday], where 51 world leaders are meeting for the two-day summit. However, the demonstration on Sunday ended in ugly scenes as police used batons to control the crowd. The violence came as a fifth person was charged with terrorism-related offences in relation to alleged plots to disrupt the summit." ...

... Chicago Tribune: "At least 20 people arrested or detained by Chicago police during Sunday's NATO protests were released from custody overnight, according to other protesters and representatives of a lawyers' organization offering them free legal advice. A total of 45 people were arrested during Sunday's protests, police said, citing unofficial numbers." There's more on the NATO summit & related protests on the linked page. ...

... ABC News: "A hacking group affiliated with Anonymous took responsibility for temporarily crippling the Chicago Police and NATO websites [yesterday], proving authorities now have more than just street protests to worry about on the first day of the military alliance's summit." Tribune Story here.

New York Times: "The rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement late Sunday in Cairo that paves the way for elections and a new unity government for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, officials said."

AFP: "Disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's legal woes deepened Monday as French prosecutors opened a preliminary probe into accusations he took part in a gang rape in the US."


The Commentariat -- May 20, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "Willard's Whoppers." The NYTX front page is here.

** David Sanger of the New York Times on the evolution of President Obama's thinking on Afghanistan. This is an adaptation of part of a book by Sanger & really is a must-read. CW: Main takeaway: Obama agreed with reasonable peaceniks all along. I'd love to read your reactions. Secondary takeaway: it looks to me as if the military was able to snooker Obama in a way it ultimately lost to Kennedy's better judgment in the Cuban missile crisis.

New York Times Editors: "Racial discrimination in voting is 'one of the gravest evils that Congress can seek to redress,.' Judge David Tatel wrote in a crucial ruling on Friday upholding the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act."

Maureen Dowd: "... it makes me sad to see the Catholic Church grow so uncatholic, intent on loyalty testing, mind control and heresy hunting. Rather than all-embracing, the church hierarchy has become all-constricting."

In comments to yesterday's Commentariat, P. D. Pepe mentioned a book review by Prof. David Greenberg, writing in The New Republic, of a Dwight Eisenhower biography by Jean Edward Smith. Here's the link. 

Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: the cause of the now-$3 billion JPMorgan Chase loss -- Lyme disease! CW: if you read this story, keep in the back of your mind James Kwak's observation that JPMorgan was simply regressing toward the mean. The two theories -- the Times' and Kwak's -- are not necessarily mutually exclusive. ...

... Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post: "Aside from the embarrassment and the short-term financial hit, the real damage to JPMorgan is that it exposed how the big Wall Street banks were planning to get around the new Volcker rule....: The way JPMorgan traders constructed their "hedges" "has very little to do with hedging and a lot to do with gambling.... What useful social or economic purpose do [credit default swaps/derivatives] serve?" Actually, the CDSs cause a lot of damage -- for instance, the 2008 financial crisis. "Banking and finance have become too detached from the real economy they were meant to serve."

Dan Eggen & T. W. Farnam of the Washington Post: "Conservative interest groups have dumped well over $20 million into congressional races so far this year, outspending their liberal opponents 4 to 1 and setting off a growing panic among Democrats struggling to regain the House and hold on to their slim majority in the Senate."

Presidential Race

Nancy Cohen, writing in Rolling Stone, on the many, many reasons "President Romney" would be a disaster for women.

Jodi Kantor of the New York Times: Mitt's policies are Mormon policies, but none of his friends can figure out how Romney rationalizes his untruthful attacks on his political opponents. P.S. He used to pray for Bain Capital!

Right Wing World

It Depends upon What the Meaning of "Entitlement" Is. Jed Lugum & Josh Israel of Think Progress: Joe Ricketts was ready to spend $10 million to smear President Obama, but after members of the press & the public criticized that plan, Ricketts has decided instead to put the money into a superPac he controls called "Ending Spending Political Action Fund." Yet he has asked taxpayers to spend hundreds of millions on him and his family. When it comes to spending on his interests, however, Ricketts sings a different tune. CW: read the whole post.

News Ledes

Rolling Stone: "Robin Gibb, one-third of the Bee Gees, died Sunday after a long battle with cancer, his spokesperson has confirmed via a statement. Gibb was 62 years old."

Washington Post: "Republican leaders doubled down Sunday on a renewed push to secure spending cuts as part of any deal to increase the national debt limit, drawing a sharper line in an emerging fight over the issue."

Reuters: "The former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people has died, his brother said on Sunday. He was 59. Abdel Basset al-Megrahi died at home after a long battle with cancer. His health had deteriorated quickly overnight, his brother Abdulhakim told Reuters."

AP: "World leaders weary of war will tackle Afghanistan's post-conflict future -- from funding for security forces to upcoming elections -- when the summit opens Sunday." ...

... New York Times: "The United States and Pakistan are not expected to secure a deal to reopen supply lines to Afghanistan before a NATO summit begins on Sunday, casting a pall over talks that are to focus on winding down the alliance’s combat role in the Afghan war, American officials said." ...

... AP: "Protesters gathering in Chicago for the NATO summit were gearing up for their largest demonstration Sunday, when thousands are expected to march from a downtown park to the lakeside convention center where President Barack Obama and dozens of other world leaders will meet."

AP: "Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia are backing Montana in its fight to prevent the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision from being used to strike down state laws restricting campaign spending. The states led by New York are asking the high court to preserve Montana's state-level regulations on corporate political expenditures, according to a copy of a brief written by New York's attorney general's office and obtained by The Associated Press ahead of Monday's filing."

AP: "The western United States and eastern Asia will be treated this weekend to a rare solar spectacle when the moon slides across the sun, creating a 'ring of fire.' The solar spectacle will first be seen in eastern Asia around dawn Monday, local time.... Then, the late day sun (on Sunday in the U.S.) will transform into a glowing ring in southwest Oregon, Northern California, central Nevada, southern Utah, northern Arizona and New Mexico and finally the Texas Panhandle." Use protective eyewear.

AP: "Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg updated his status to 'married' on Saturday. Zuckerberg and 27-year-old Priscilla Chan tied the knot at a small ceremony at his Palo Alto, Calif., home, capping a busy week for the couple."

Priscilla Chen & new hubby.


The Commentariat -- May 19, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. Reuters: "President Barack Obama on Saturday called on the U.S. Congress to back his efforts for tough new financial industry oversight, saying a $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan underscored the need for such regulation."

Former First Lady Laura Bush in a Washington Post op-ed: "Many of the vital gains that Afghan women have achieved over the past decade were made because of the sacrifice and support of the United States and the broader NATO alliance.... As the U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan changes, the world must remember the women of Afghanistan."

Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "At least it's on the record: Most House Republicans support the indefinite detention without trial of American citizens.... If nothing else..., it's illuminating to watch 'small-government' Republicans -- who have spent the last three years lamenting the loss of freedom caused by a higher marginal tax rate or the regulation of derivatives -- defend the most arbitrary big government power imaginable." ...

New York Times Editors: "On Wednesday, a federal judge struck down a law allowing the indefinite detention of anyone suspected of terrorism on American soil as a violation of free speech and due process. Two days later, the House made it clear it considered those to be petty concerns, voting to keep the repellent practice of indefinite detention on the books.... The overall defense bill was approved by the House, and President Obama has threatened to veto it -- not because it fails to prohibit detention, but because it violates an agreement on the military budget and tries to prohibit same-sex marriages on military property, among other flaws. The Senate has an opportunity to fix this bill to restore the due-process rights found in the Constitution."

Paul Krugman: "Since former President Bush is going to favor us with a book on How to Succeed in Economic Policy Without Really Trying -- and since Mitt Romney is essentially planning a return to Bushonomics -- it might be worth looking at Bush's job record compared with that of Obama so far." CW: Ha!

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "... our national conversation about contraceptives isn’t over -- and that groups on the both sides intend to keep the discussion very much alive." ...

... Irin Carmon of Salon on House Subcommittee to Oppress Women (Especially Women of Color) Chairman Trent Franks' [RTP-Ariz.] refusal to allow Washington, D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton to speak before his committee on his plan to ban abortions after 20 weeks in the District. Norton would have said "the so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 'is the first bill ever introduced in Congress that would deny constitutional rights to the citizens of only one jurisdiction in the United States....'" Carmon notes, "The National Right to Life Committee has called the bill its 'top congressional priority for 2012,' and will score members based on their votes, even though it likely has no chance of getting past the Senate -- or the president." CW Note: Carmon didn't designate the official name of the subcommittee, so I was just guessing there.

Tom Friedman, You're an Idiot. Brendan Nyhan in the Columbia Journalism Review: "What’s so frustrating about pundits' hype of Americans Elect is that its failure was so predictable."

Matt Gutman of ABC News: "A closer look at the witness statements and audio testimony taken in the immediate aftermath Trayvon Martin's death provides the first insight into George Zimmerman's behavior after he shot the unarmed teen." ...

... Serge Kovaleski of the New York Times: "A girl who talked on the phone with Trayvon Martin on the night of Feb. 26 has told a state prosecutor [under oath] that she heard rising fear in Mr. Martin's voice that peaked with words like 'get off, get off,' right before she lost contact with him and he was shot to death." ...

... Judd Legum of Think Progress: "Among the evidence in the Trayvon Martin case released by the Florida state prosecutor yesterday was a 15-minute interview with a former work colleague of George Zimmerman. The man, who is not identified by name, says that Zimmerman relentlessly bullied him at work. Zimmerman, according to the witness, targeted him because he was Middle Eastern." Includes audio of interview.

Benedict Carey of the New York Times: Prominent psychiatrist Robert Spitzer is sorry for his "sexual orientation disturbance." He apologizes to the LGBT community.

Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, earmarks $17,000 drip pans for Black Hawk helicopters. Comparable pans cost $2,500.

The Excellence in Journalism Prize Goes to Runner-up Is ... the National Review. Alex Pareene of Salon: "The National Review says Elizabeth Warren is guilty of the gravest crime a writer can commit: Plagiarism. Katrina Trinko compares passages from 'All Your Worth: The Ultimate Money Lifetime Plan,' Warren's book with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, with passages from 'Getting on the Money Track,' a book by Rob Black. The passages line up perfectly. The wording and even the punctuation are identical. It’s plagiarism all right. Except it looks very much like Warren is actually the victim." Later, editor Rich Lowry acknowledged the mistake & took down the story. CW: wouldn't it have been clever to fact-check the story before publishing it? Pareene found it awfully easy to debunk the National Review's claim. ...

... The Excellence in Journalism Prize Goes to the Washington Times. Mariah Blake of Salon: " a handful of columns over the last year [Washington Times columnist & former editor Arnaud de Borchgrave] has lifted passages verbatim, or nearly verbatim, from the Internet and other sources, without attribution -- a fact the Washington Times' leadership tried to sweep under the rug, according to insiders at the paper." CW: read the story; it's pretty amazing.

Presidential Race

Willard's Whoppers. Steve Benen: the Mittster racked up 19 lies this week. "I'm curious," he writes, "is Romney also allowed a certain number of falsehoods before people begin to doubt his character? And if so, what is that number?"

What Would Willard Do? Greg Sargent notes that Thursday, Romney said, "America's economy runs on freedom. And he has been attacking economic freedom from the first day he came into office." Sargent responds, "What's missing from this narrative is what, if anything, Romney would have done if he had been president in January of 2009, when the economy was on the brink of global meltdown. The implication of Romney's remarks above is that doing nothing at all would have been preferable to what Obama did." C[mon, reporters, if Willard ever lets you ask him a question (and he's trying hard not to), that's a good one to ask.

CW: I think Krugman is onto something: "My take has always been that [Romney is] a smart guy who also happens to be both ambitious and completely amoral.... More and more, however, he has been coming out with statements suggesting that he is, in fact, a dangerous fool.... I'm beginning to suspect that ... outside of whatever he did at Bain, Romney really is ignorant as well as uncaring."

Andrew Leonard of Salon: "When Meg Whitman ran for governor of California in 2010, the former eBay CEO told voters that her business background made her the right choice to boost job creation in a state troubled by high unemployment.... It’s the same spiel we hear from Mitt Romney every single day." As the new CEO of Hewlett-Packard, she "is planning to cut its workforce by around 30,000 jobs." HP is probably more likely to take the money saved via a tax break and spend it on a new R&D center in Shanghai than it is to staff up in Silicon Valley." CW: also, as I noted in yesterday's News Ledes, Whitman promised as governor she would create 500,000 jobs a year in California. Right.

Gail Collins looks forward to the party conventions, for which "you, the taxpayer, are paying." So enjoy!

Right Wing World *

Remington Shepard of Media Matters: Joe Ricketts & Mitt Romney drop the Jeremiah Wright hoohah, but Hannity & Friends can't let go.

In yesterday's comments, contributor James Singer obliquely suggested that Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett was beyond description. Ever curious, I wanted to know why. Well, here ya go: Catalina Carnia of USA Today: "... Ken Bennett, a Republican exploring a 2014 race for governor, issued a statement insisting he is not a 'birther....'" [But] "Bennett told a radio interviewer yesterday it was 'possible' he would keep Obama off the ballot if the" State of Hawaii doesn't provide him with verification of little Barry's birth certificate. CW: if you are an Arizona resident (& not a damned foreigner) & are looking for a sinecure, you might think of running for secretary of state. Apparently, it is a job that leaves plenty of time to do whatever the hell you feel like.

* Where undermining the government is the primary function of the government.

News Ledes

New York Times: "For the second straight race, the Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another ran down Bodemeister in deep stretch, winning the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore."

Reuters: "World leaders backed keeping Greece in the euro zone on Saturday and vowed to take all steps necessary to combat financial turmoil while revitalizing a global economy increasingly threatened by Europe's debt crisis. A summit of the G8 leading industrialized nations came down solidly in favor of a push to balance European austerity -- an approach long driven by German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- with a dose of U.S.-style stimulus seen as vital to healing ailing euro-zone economies."

Chicago Tribune: "Three out-of-state men arrested in a Bridgeport [Illinois?] apartment raid days before the NATO summit considered hitting President Obama's campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house and police stations with 'incendiary devices,' according to court documents. The trio, who are being held on $1.5 million bond apiece, are charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, providing material support for terrorism and possession of an explosive or incendiary device."

Reuters: "Around 500 demonstrators gathered outside the home of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Saturday to protest the recent closure of mental health clinics as part of a series of rallies and marches timed to coincide with a NATO summit here. But the protest was much smaller than one attended by an estimated 2,500 people at a downtown plaza on Friday. The biggest rally is expected to be on Sunday near the convention center where world leaders will gather."

New York Times: "Walter Wink, an influential liberal theologian whose views on homosexuality, nonviolence and the nature of Jesus challenged orthodox interpretations, died on May 10 at his home in Sandisfield, Mass. He was 76."

AP: "A blind Chinese activist was hurriedly taken from a hospital Saturday and boarded a plane that took off for the United States, closing a nearly monthlong diplomatic tussle that had tested U.S.-China relations. Chen Guangcheng, his wife and their two children were on United Airlines Flight 88, which took off late Saturday afternoon from the Beijing airport. The flight was scheduled to arrive in Newark, N.J., Saturday evening. ...

     ... New York Times Update: 'Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal advocate who made an improbable escape from virtual house arrest and sought refuge in the American Embassy here, arrived in Newark on Saturday, ending a fraught diplomatic drama that threatened to disrupt relations between China and the United States."

NEW. Los Angeles Times: "The Obama administration ordered tariffs of 31% and higher on solar panels imported from China, escalating a simmering trade dispute with China over a case that has sharply divided American interests in the growing clean-energy industry. The Commerce Department announced the stiff duties Thursday after making a preliminary finding that Chinese solar panel manufacturers 'dumped' their goods -- that is, sold them at below fair-market value."

NBC News: "A key witness to the Trayvon Martin shooting changed the story he had given Sanford, Fla., police, telling state authorities he was not sure who was screaming during the altercation with George Zimmerman. The man known as Witness #6 originally told Sanford police Zimmerman cried for help.... On March 20, according to the Orlando Sentinel, while sitting for a follow-up interview by a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigator the witness said that he was no longer sure who was calling for help."