The Ledes

Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

Guardian: "The Oklahoma supreme court has dissolved its stay of the executions of two men who challenged the state's secrecy about its source of lethal injection drugs. The court reversed the decision of a district court judge who said the law that keeps the source secret is unconstitutional. The turnaround heads off a potential constitutional crisis sparked by the state's Republican governor, Mary Fallin, who had tried to override the stay by issuing an executive order to go ahead with the sentences.... The court's reversal on Wednesday came hours after a resolution by an Oklahoma House member to try to impeach some of its justices."

New York Times: "The latest accord between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization appeared more serious than past attempts, experts said, and came as hopes faded for a resolution to peace negotiations with Israel."

New York Times: "Russia continued Wednesday to ratchet up pressure on the government in Kiev, warning that events in eastern Ukraine could prompt a military response and again accusing the United States of directing events there."

Not All Fish Are Created Equal. Time: "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Barack Obama to Tokyo Wednesday by taking him to the greatest sushi restaurant in the world, the three Michelin star Sukiyabashi Jiro."

Reuters: "Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said on Tuesday they were holding an American journalist in the city of Slaviansk and the online news site Vice News said it was trying to secure the safety of its reporter Simon Ostrovsky."

AP: "When armed men seized the police station in this eastern Ukrainian city, mayor Nelya Shtepa declared she was on their side. She changed her story a few days later. Then she disappeared — the victim of an apparent abduction by the man who now lays claim to her job. On Tuesday, she resurfaced, expressing support once again for the pro-Russia insurgents — but possibly no longer as mayor."

AP: " A senior Canadian diplomat was expelled from Canada's embassy in Moscow in retaliation for Canada expelling a Russia diplomat as tensions grow over the Ukraine, Canadian officials said Tuesday."

AP: "A Moscow judge on Tuesday left open the possibility of jailing President Vladimir Putin's main critic for years, a sign of Putin's increasingly hard-line rule against opponents. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was fined $8,400 on Tuesday for slandering a lawmaker. His second trial starts Thursday, and prosecutors who previously secured his house arrest are widely expected to ask for jail for him pending trial, with Tuesday's verdict making him a recidivist. If there's a guilty verdict at that trial, he could get a prison term."

AP: "A Kansas judge will on Wednesday consider Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning's petition to legally change her name from Bradley, as she serves a 35-year sentence for passing classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "An Army soldier convicted of leaking classified military and diplomatic records persuaded a Kansas judge Wednesday to legally change her name from Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning."

Time: "President Barack Obama paid a visit to the small community of Oso, Wa., on Tuesday, exactly one month after a massive mudslide there claimed at least 41 lives. He promised survivors that the entire country will be on hand to help for 'as long as it takes'”:

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, April 22, 2014.

AP: "In the most high-level visit of a U.S. official since crisis erupted in Ukraine, [Vice President] Biden told leaders from various political parties that he brings a message of support from President Barack Obama as they face a historic opportunity to usher in reforms." The Guardian story is here.

CNN: "The first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983 crossed the finish line Monday, triumphant in a storied race that has become a national symbol of resiliency and determination. Meb Keflezighi, 38, won the men's division with an official time of 2:08:37, according to the Boston Marathon's Facebook page. With video.

AP: "Although [a] 15-year-old [airplane stowaway] apparently wanted nothing more than to run away, his success in slipping past layers of security early Sunday morning made it clear that a determined person can still get into a supposedly safe area and sneak onto a plane.... In San Jose, airport officials said they were reviewing how the boy slipped through security that includes video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the rare step of urging doctors to stop performing a surgical procedure used on tens of thousands of women each year to remove uterine growths, saying the practice risks spreading hidden cancers within a woman’s body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, has long been used in laparoscopic operations to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the uterus itself. It involves inserting an electric device into the abdomen and slicing tissue in order to remove it through a small incision. The surgery is far less invasive than traditional abdominal operations."

White House Live Video
April 23

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Jon Stewart on the Cliven Bundy story:

... AND on Sean Hannity's support for Bundy:

... AND Hannity is pissed off. Apparently, it upsets him to hear his own blatant hypocrisy ridiculed.

New York Times: "David Letterman introduced his successor, Stephen Colbert, on his 'Late Show With David Letterman' Tuesday night on CBS with a monologue joke and some cordial conversation — but no measuring of the drapes":

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa. Paul Fahri of the Washington Post: The ratings for "Meet the Press" are so bad that NBC hired a psychologist to analyze Greggers. ...

     ... CW: Here's the rub. Fahri writes, "The impossible burden for Gregory, of course, has been to follow the beloved Russert. As one NBC colleague describes it, Russert is a 'ghost' who still haunts Gregory’s tenure at 'MTP' six years into his run." This is strictly VSP bull. Russert was a mediocre interviewer, who continually let politicians get away with evasive answers. He left big shoes to fill only because he had big feet.

MoDo loves her '65 Mustang.

USA Today: "Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she's pregnant with her first child."

New York Times: "It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday. The planet, known as Kepler 186f, named after NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, which detected it, has a diameter of 8,700 miles, 10 percent wider than Earth, and its orbit lies within the 'Goldilocks zone' of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life."

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times argues that the real king of late-night comedy is Jon Stewart.

Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

Josh Dickey of Mashable: "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to replace the retiring David Letterman, and has indicated that he's willing to take over the Late Show when the time comes, people familiar with both sides of the discussions tell Mashable." Via New York.

Lauren Moraski of CBS "News": "David Letterman announced Thursday that he's retiring from CBS' 'Late Show' sometime next year. He made that announcement during the taping of his program Thursday afternoon at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater."

No News, All the Time:

Igor Bobic of TPM: "In its wall-to-wall coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN has raised the possibility of the supernatural, blackholes, and North Korea; it has interviewed a psychic, tried but failed to rent its own 777 jet, and finally settled on a flight simulator it is using to 'search' for the plane.On Tuesday the network finally turned its attention to garbage."

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Tuesday
Apr172012

The Commentariat -- April 18, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "The Gospel According to Friedman." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times interviews French economists Emmanuel Saez & Thomas Piketty, renowned for their studies of income inequality. “'The United States is getting accustomed to a completely crazy level of inequality,' Mr. Piketty said.... 'People say that reducing inequality is radical. I think that tolerating the level of inequality the United States tolerates is radical.'” They recommend raising taxes on the rich to somewhere around 70 percent.

Spencer Hsu, et al., of the Washington Post: "... the Justice Department’s promise to protect the rights of defendants became in large part an exercise in damage control that left some prisoners locked away or in the dark for years longer than necessary. The Justice Department continues to decline to release the names of defendants in the affected cases." Link to the first part of this series in yesterday's Commentariat. ...

... Spencer Hsu: "Far from infallible, expert comparisons of hair, handwriting, marks made by firearms on bullets, and patterns such as bite marks and shoe and tire prints are in some ways unscientific and subject to human bias, a National Academy of Sciences panel chartered by Congress found. Other techniques, such as in bullet-lead analysis and arson investigation, survived for decades despite poorly regulated practices and a lack of scientific method."

Kevin Drum: "Generally speaking, domestic spending, defense spending, and Social Security are on extremely sustainable paths... We don't have a spending problem in America. We have a healthcare problem. The other three categories of government spending taken together will probably rise by a point or two over the next few decades, but that's not a big deal.... no one serious should spend an awful lot of time talking about 'the deficit' or about 'government spending.' We should be talking about healthcare. Everything else is just a red herring." Drum makes his point with charts. This is the same point I made in my NYTX column yesterday -- only he presents proofs.

They're Jerks, but They're Not Complete Jerks. Jonathan Easley of The Hill: "The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is criticizing the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan for cutting food stamps and other assistance programs for the poor. In a letter sent to the House Agriculture Committee on Monday, the bishops say the budget fails to meet certain 'moral criteria' by disproportionately cutting programs that 'serve poor and vulnerable people.' A second letter sent Tuesday to the Ways and Means Committee criticizes a provision that makes it more difficult for illegal immigrants to claim child tax credits. The bishops called the credit 'one of the most effective antipoverty programs in our nation.'"

Based on an academic study, Ezra Klein explains why Grover Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge works: "Norquist gets politicians to sign the pledge because it makes them more popular in primaries. And then he keeps them from breaking the pledge because breaking a promise makes them less popular with everybody."

Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly, writing of Jason Zengerle's interview of Barney Frank, linked in yesterday's Commentariat: "’m among those who really get upset when people sort of internalize the recent routine use of the filibuster by Republicans to create a de facto 60-vote requirement for doing business in the Senate, as though it came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets. It didn’t. It’s a revolutionary development in the empowerment of congressional minorities, of special utility to those who wish to obstruct progress. And it has a huge ripple effect on what happens in the House..., the White House, and the country. We should never get used to it...."

Kathy Finn of Reuters: "More than 20 mobile home manufacturers have agreed to pay $14.8 million to thousands of U.S. hurricane victims who said they were harmed by formaldehyde in the trailers.... The number of claims could range from 10,000 to 20,000...." I don't know what the lawyers' compensation is in this particular case, but attorneys usually take about half the settlement. So divide $7,400,000 by 20,000 claimants and each family could get a whopping $370 to compensate them for their illnesses. Finn writes, "The settlement could affect tens of thousands of people...." Yeah, but it won't affect them much.

The Presidential Race

I believe it’s… Mitt’s time… It’s our turn now. -- Ann Romney, explaining what "entitlement" really means

Elections Matter. Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress: "In an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer..., Mitt Romney refuses to say whether he would sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.... Asked about the law, Romney said he supports equal pay for women and has no plans to change the law, but wouldn’t say if he would have signed it, laying out the odd standard that he won't weigh on 'prior laws.' ... Romney’s suggestion that he won't revisit prior law when it comes to Lilly Ledbetter is unusual, especially considering that he’s had no problem saying that he would have vetoed and will work to repeal plenty of laws, such as the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law." CW: almost all Republicans voted against the Ledbetter bill.

If you can’t galvanize and promote and recruit people to vote for Mitt Romney, we're done. We'll be a suburb of Indonesia next year. Our president, attorney general, our vice president, Hillary Clinton -- they're criminals, they're criminals.... We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Any questions? -- Ted Nugent ...

... Josh Glasstetter of Right Wing Watch: "Washed up rocker and reality TV star Ted Nugent appeared at the NRA’s national convention in St. Louis. Nugent, a longtime NRA board member and regular presence at conventions, rallied the NRA faithful on Saturday to vote for Mitt Romney":

     ... In this clip, which has some overlap with the first, Nugent compaires President Obama & Democrats to coyotes who must be shot dead:

     ... Seriously, watch the videos. Early last month, Tagg Romney, one of Romney's adult sons, tweeted, "Ted Nugent endorsed my Dad today.... How cool is that? He joins Kid Rock as great Detroit musicians on team Mitt." ...

... Dan Amira of New York magazine: "A spokesman for the Secret Service tells us, 'We are aware of it, and we'll conduct an appropriate follow up.'" ...

... Kurt Schlosser of NBC News: "Andrea Saul, Romney's spokeswoman, did not condemn Nugent in an email on Tuesday but said Romney wants to promote civility." ...

... CW: Let's see. When a Democrat says, in words taken out of context, "Ann Romney never worked a day in her life," everybody from the President on down does backflips distancing himself from her; the media makes it a huge two-day story. When a Republican threatens the life of the POTUS to the point the Secret Service gets involved, Mitt Romney does not condemn him. And the press, so far, pretty much says "Meh." ...

     ... Update: Tommy Christopher of Mediaite: "... while [Hilary] Rosen had no connection to the President whatsoever (and really said nothing wrong), Republican candidate Mitt Romney actively sought the endorsement of serial mouth-bomber Ted Nugent...." ...

... Hypocrisy Watch. When Ann Romney "Didn't Work." Andrew Sabl resurrects a 1994 Boston Globe interview of Ann Romney. Romney told the Globe's Jack Thomas about how she and Mitt "struggled" when they were students. She sez:

We were living on the edge, not entertaining. No, I did not work. Mitt thought it was important for me to stay home with the children, and I was delighted.

       ... That's funny. It is HORRIBLE when Hilary Rosen says it. But the same expression is an example of family values when Ann Romney says it.

Alex Seitz-Wald: In "a passage from Romney’s book, No Apology: The Case For American Greatness..., he argues that children of 'nonworking parents' will be conditioned to have 'an indolent and unproductive life.'" CW: Here are the standards: rich, white, married mommies do not have to work outside the home because they married wisely & well; their choice of mate sets an example for the kids. Poor women who have no spousal support (much less maids & nannies!) must work outside the home so their kids won't grow up to be indolent & nonproductive like their mothers. It's "we" v. "them"; good v. bad. Willard falsely accuses Obama of class warfare, but hos own double standard betrays his intrinsic belief in a caste system.

Truly Frightened. Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "A week after Rick Santorum quit the presidential race, fundraising mailers from him arrived in Iowa mailboxes Monday with a strongly worded warning. 'It truly frightens me to think what’ll happen if Mitt Romney is the nominee,' says the letter, signed by Santorum and paid for by his campaign."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Dick Clark, the perpetually youthful-looking television host whose long-running daytime song-and-dance fest, 'American Bandstand,' did as much as anyone or anything to advance the influence of teenagers and rock ’n’ roll on American culture, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 82."

New York Times: "American investigators seeking to get to the bottom of the reported late-night activities of a group of Secret Service agents and military personnel assigned to President Obama’s recent visit to Colombia have begun searching for as many as 21 women who are believed to include prostitutes and to have spent the night with the security officers...." ...

     ... Update: "A Secret Service agent preparing for President Obama’s arrival at an international summit meeting and a single mother from Colombia who makes a living as a high-priced escort faced off in a room at the Hotel Caribe a week ago over how much he owed her for the previous night’s intercourse." ...

     ... The Hill Update: "Three secret service agents allegedly involved in the prostitution scandal in Colombia are leaving the law enforcement agency. One supervisor will retire, another supervisor is being 'removed for cause' and a third uniformed agent will resign." ...

     ... ABC News Update: "The partying U.S. Secret Service agents and officers who allegedly brought prostitutes into their Cartagena, Colombia hotel rooms brought the call girls 'into contact with sensitive security information,' the Chair and ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wrote to Mark J. Sullivan, the director of the U.S. Secret Service today."

NEW. TPM: Meanwhile, "Mitt Romney endorser Ted Nugent will meet with the Secret Service Thursday as a followup to his incendiary comments at an NRA convention over the weekend."

Houston Chronicle: "The Obama administration on Friday established a working group to coordinate federal regulation of natural gas production amid industry complaints that an increasing number of government agencies are overseeing the activity. In issuing an executive order creating the interagency task force, President Barack Obama said the group was needed to make sure federal agencies are on the same page as they oversee "the safe and responsible development of unconventional domestic natural gas resources."

New York Times: "The Florida judge overseeing the murder case against George Zimmerman stepped aside on Wednesday at the request of Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, who had questioned whether her assignment could create a potential conflict of interest." ...

     ... Orlando Sentinel Update: "Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester, Jr., who's been on the bench 15 years and has a great deal of experience with high-profile murder cases, on Wednesday was assigned the George Zimmerman murder case."

Washington Post: "The senior government executive who organized the lavish Las Vegas conference at the center of a General Services Administration spending scandal took dozens of trips for the agency. The boss's wife accompanied him on some of them -- and taxpayers picked up the tab.... Deborah Neely, 49, does not work for the government, but she used the credentials of a manager on her husband's staff so she could join him at a trade show...."

Los Angeles Times: U.S. troops in Afghanistan posed with dead Afghans suspected of being suicide bombers in 2010. The U.S. Army launched a criminal investigation after the Times showed the picture to Army officials. Some representatives photos accompany the article. ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "The U.S. military once again condemned the actions of some of its troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday after photographs surfaced of smiling soldiers posing with dead insurgents in the latest battlefield scandal."

AP: "North Korea accused the U.S. of hostility on Tuesday for suspending an agreement to provide food aid following Pyongyang’s widely criticized rocket launch, and warned of retaliatory measures in response."

Reader Comments (3)

Marie, every day we are shocked (shocked!) (not really) at the most recent vile thing a Republican has done or said (and for those Republicans reading this, I'm discussing actual actions and words rather than whatever pipe dream of a gun-free America--sounds good to me, you betcha--Wayne LaPierre relates next).

Can we just agree that we expect Republicans to behave like a**holes? Quoting Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, Republicans have earned our "soft bigotry of low expectations."

This is why Democratic budgets are criticized for their numbers but Republican budgets are complete with asterisks. This is why Elliott Spitzer had to resign but David Vitter didn't. This is why the Dixie Chicks expressing opposition to the Iraq War was "treason," while Ted Nugent's murderous fantasies are featured on "Fox and Friends."

Time after time when we hear of some awful thing some politician has done we immediately run that information through our "was it done by a Republican" filter. If so, we consider it business as usual and go on with our day. If not, we get to hear outrage from Fox for the next 40 or so news cycles.

You have to understand. I don't blame the Republicans. It would be like blaming a bear for sh*tting in the woods. It's what they do. No, the culprits here are the people you address every day in NYTX, the supposedly liberal media who like crooked butchers keep their thumbs heavily on the scale with which they assess the weighty matters of the day.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

@Jack Mahoney. Yeah, you're right, but I'm pretty darned sick of every Republican candidate -- Mitt Romney did it again just yesterday -- blaming all of their own bad acts on media reports. It's great to be a Republican. No matter what you do, the fault lies not with you but with the media for reporting it. In Right Wing World every factual report that isn't absolutely glowing is an "attack." It is no wonder GOP candidates are so over-the-top; they have inoculated themselves against any responsibility for their actions. Mitt can lie and lie and lie again -- he repeats the same lies even when debunked -- and I'd like to know why Diane Sawyer, who used to work for Nixon, didn't call him on the "92.3% of job losses under Obama were women" lie when he repeated it to her.

As P. D. Pepe pointed out last week, even on NPR reporters misreport on Republicans, and their misreporting works in Republicans' favor. It's almost as if the media don't dare tell the truth because telling the truth might "unfairly" influence an election.

But there's no percentage in bending over backwards for Republicans. No matter what the facts, they're always going to blame the media for anything other than full-throated endorsements. So the media might as well let it all hang out.

April 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

For a really good laugh, read Thomas Friedman's column, One for the Country, wherein he concludes that a terrific thing for America would be to have Michael Bloomberg run for president on a third party ticket.
Friedman fleshes out his germ of an idea, if you can call it that, with elaborate constructs based on faulty premises. It is all smoke and mirrors, not to say delusional. He faults Obama, among other things, for proposing the Buffett rule which isn't a comprehensive solution to raising revenue. No shit, Sherlock. The President has gone on record as wanting a more complete plan which would include letting Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest expire and it has gotten nowhere due to blanket Republican refusal to even consider raising taxes. So the Buffet rule was an attempt to put forth something that maybe they would agree to. And they didn't.
How would Bloomberg help this situation - by waving a magic wand and erasing all the Norquist pledges?
Friedman begins the column by complaining about the infrastructure around union station and the inadequacies of the Acela train (Europe has better fast trains!) as if this is Obama's fault. As if the Democrats didn't try to get an infrastructure package passed through Congress. As if the Republicans and their surrogates weren't on record as doing everything to thwart the President's attempts to turn the economy around and solve our problems from Day One.
The real question is, how much does Thomas Friedman even pay attention to what's going on in American politics.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.
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