The Ledes

Wednesday, November 30, 2016.

Washington Post: "The deadly wildfires that engulfed two Tennessee tourist towns leading into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park left at least seven dead and hundreds of buildings damaged or destroyed, officials said late Wednesday as the terrible toll of the fires began to take focus. At least 53 people were treated for injuries at hospitals, though their conditions were not known. Massive walls of flames spread down the mountains into Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge on Monday with shocking speed, said those who fled with little more than the clothes on their backs. The fires are estimated to have damaged or destroyed more than 700 homes and businesses — nearly half of them in the city of Gatlinburg. Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said late Wednesday afternoon that the fire was 'likely to be human-caused.'” -- CW

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Guardian: (Nov. 3): "An Alzheimer’s drug has been shown to successfully target the most visible sign of the disease in the brain, raising hopes that an effective treatment could be finally within reach. A small trial of the drug was primarily aimed at assessing safety, but the findings suggest it effectively “switched off” the production of toxic amyloid proteins that lead to the sticky plaques seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.” -- CW

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

A Night at the Opera. Los Angeles Times: "The curtain rose on Act 2 of 'The Daughter of the Regiment,' revealing the figure of a tiny woman barely visible in a large dome chair with her back to the audience. Suddenly, she swiveled around — and there was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Cheers and prolonged applause rang out from the crowd at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night even before Ginsburg, a life-long opera lover who was making her official operatic debut, opened her mouth to speak as the imperious Duchess of Krakenthorp.... Her biggest laugh came when — in apparent reference to the bogus 'birther' campaign against President Obama — she asked whether [the character] Marie could produce a birth certificate and added: 'We must take precautions against fraudulent pretenders.' Ginsburg herself wrote her dialogue, in collaboration with ... [the] dramaturge for the Washington National Opera...." -- CW 

Bruce Springsteen performs at Hillary Clinton's rally in Philadelphia, November 7:

Washington Post: "Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday evening in London, becoming the first American ever to take home the prestigious award. His satirical novel 'The Sellout' beat five other finalists for the $60,000 prize, which also essentially guarantees substantial new sales and interest around the world. Amanda Foreman, chair of the Booker judges, called 'The Sellout' 'a novel for our times. . . . Its humor disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.' Originally published last year in the United States, 'The Sellout' is an outrageously funny satire of American race relations. The protagonist, a black man whose father was killed by police, wants to reinstitute segregation in his California town. He eventually lands before the Supreme Court in a bizarre case involving slavery. 'The Sellout' also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in March." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Comic actor, movie star and America’s best friend Bill Murray tried to sum up the emotions of being honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night [Oct. 23] at the Kennedy Center. 'My theme tonight is what is it like to be beloved,' a straight-faced Murray told the crowd at the end of the two-hour salute. 'It’s hard to listen to all those people be nice to you. You just get so suspicious.'”

Hill: Actor Bill Murray "spoke with President Obama, who congratulated him for winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a White House official said. Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if he met with Murray, Obama said 'absolutely,' but didn’t reveal what else they discussed."

New York Times: "The veteran television personality Jane Pauley will replace Charles Osgood as the anchor of the highly rated CBS show 'Sunday Morning.' Mr. Osgood, who is retiring, announced the news on his last show on Sunday. Ms. Pauley’s first day in the role will be Oct. 9, and she will become only the third anchor of the show, which started in 1979." -- CW 

New York Times: "Modern humans evolved in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago. But how did our species go on to populate the rest of the globe?.... In a series of extraordinary genetic analyses published on Wednesday, researchers believe they have found an answer. In the journal Nature, three separate teams of geneticists survey DNA collected from cultures around the globe, many for the first time, and conclude that all non-Africans today trace their ancestry to a single population emerging from Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago.... All non-Africans are closely related to one another, geneticists found, and they all branch from a family tree rooted in Africa.... There are also clues that at least some modern humans may have departed Africa well before 50,000 years ago, perhaps part of an earlier wave of migration." -- CW ...

... CW Note to White Racists: You, too, are black. It's way past time to give up your quest for "racial purity"; it's genetically impossible. This, BTW, is something non-ignoramuses have known for a couple of decades. No wonder you hate science.

 

The Los Angeles Times has extensive coverage of the Emmy Awards here.

The video below will most likely be taken down for copyright infringement, so watch it while you can. It's pretty funny. Here's a WashPo report on Jeb!'s cameo on the opening bit for the Emmy Awards. Also, ABC may put up a video of it here, but they have nothing at all up on the awards ceremony as of 8:30 am ET, Monday, Sept. 19.

Chris Welch of the Verge: "Twitter is about to make a big change to the way that tweets work.... Beginning September 19th, the company will cut down on exactly which types of content count toward the platform's 140-character limit. Media attachments (images, GIFs, videos, polls, etc.) and quoted tweets will no longer reduce the count. The extra room for text will give users more flexibility in composing their messages."

Contact the Constant Weader

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

Thursday
Apr252013

The Commentariat -- April 26, 2013

Jim Fallows argues, in an essay republished in the National Journal, that despite our "polarized and unequal" economy, the stagnation of the middle class, and our increasingly "stratified and rigid" society, it is still worthwhile to believe in the American dream because it's aspirational. CW: not sure I agree. ...

... Amy Sullivan of the National Journal on the downsizing of the American dream. ...

... Ron Brownsten of the National Journal: "After years of economic turmoil, most families now believe the most valuable -- and elusive -- possession in American life is economic security."

Eric Moskowitz of the Boston Globe interviews the Tsarnaev brothers' car-highjacking victim. ...

... Massimo Calabresi of Time highlights the remarks of Philip Mudd, a former top CIA and FBI terrorist hunter, who spoke at a Brookings conference on Wednesday:

At left, Roger Sterling, a/k/a John Slattery. See today's Comments for context.

 

... CW: according to reports of what Dzhokhar Tamerlan told investigators, the brothers cooked up the bombing plan about a week before the Marathon, & they had no outside assistance. Assuming these assertions are true (and I don't take them as fact), it would have taken pretty close surveillance to catch these two improvisational terrorists. If you think you want a country that catches & incarcerates in Guantanamo Grande every potential terrorist, ask yourself this: "Would I be considered a potential terrorist?" If you have been highly critical of the government, ferinstance, the feds might consider you -- not to mention most of the Congress and the press -- to be potential terrorists. Nixon had an enemies list. If Obama has one, millions of Americans would be on it.

Paul Krugman: "The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor. What the top 1 percent wants becomes what economic science says we must do.... The years since we turned to austerity have been dismal for workers but not at all bad for the wealthy, who have benefited from surging profits and stock prices even as long-term unemployment festers. The 1 percent may not actually want a weak economy, but they're doing well enough to indulge their prejudices."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, declared on Thursday that it was time to consider lifting a ban on repatriating low-level detainees to Yemen from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, amid rising desperation and a hunger strike among inmates there."

Desequestration, When Convenient. Ashley Halsey & Lori Montgomerey of the Washington Post: "The Senate took the first step toward circumventing sequestration Thursday night with a bipartisan vote that would put furloughed air traffic controllers back on the job. The House is expected to take up the measure as early as Friday, and the White House has promised to consider any bill which it receives.... The Justice Department had reversed a plan that would have required 116,000 workers to take 22 unpaid days off between now and Oct. 1. In a letter to his staff, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that additional flexibility provided by Congress and 'aggressive steps' taken by the department to cut costs allowed him to eliminate the need for furloughs." ...

... The World's Greatest Deliberative Body Doesn't Always Deliberate. Steve Benen: "... when it really wants to, the Senate can move with lightning speed.... It appears that lawmakers are also mindful of which Americans are affected [by sequestration cuts] and what kind of inconveniences the political world is prepared to tolerate. Children being thrown out of Head Start centers is a shame, but wealthier air travelers waiting on the tarmac for a couple of hours is a travesty in need of swift congressional intervention." ...

... CW: I missed this, from Greg Sargent, which he published April 24: "Suddenly, the idea of temporarily turning off the sequester altogether is being seriously talked about by top Democrats. It required the outcry over sequestration-caused flight delays to bring it about, however. With Republicans complaining about the flight delays -- and attacking Obama as responsible for them, even as Republicans claim the sequester as a victory for themselves -- Harry Reid is now calling the GOP's bluff by suggesting we simply cancel the sequester temporarily, by counting war savings to reduce the deficit. The White House today endorsed Reid's idea...."

Emmarie Heutteman & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "The House Judiciary Committee announced Thursday that it would introduce a series of bills beginning this week to overhaul the nation's immigration system. The move was designed to keep the committee in the middle of the debate over the issue, which is now percolating on Capitol Hill, and to press a bipartisan group in the House that has been working in private on its own broad legislation." ...

... BUT Greg Sargent: "At an event this morning, John McCain effectively boxed in House Republicans on immigration by stating flatly that reform is a complete nonstarter unless it includes a path to citizenship."

Kim Dixon of Reuters: "The popular U.S. tax deduction for mortgage interest is wasteful and does little to spur home ownership, economists from across the political spectrum said at a congressional hearing on Thursday, but many lawmakers mulling a tax code overhaul were having none of it."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Talks to revive gun control legislation are quietly under way on Capitol Hill as a bipartisan group of senators seeks a way to bridge the differences that led to last week's collapse of the most serious effort to overhaul the country's gun laws in 20 years." ...

... Alex Roarty of the National Journal: progressive groups are already targeting ConservaDems for their opposition to gun safety measures, & these progressives have "drawn a line in the sand" on "entitlement reforms."

Wherein President Obama & his researchers find some nice things to say about George W. Bush:

Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake, in Salon: "Each of the words in his speech were deliberately chosen. Each of the words had a purpose and meaning, and he believed each of them because today President Obama has more in common with former President George W. Bush than with Sen. Barack Obama, who decided to run for president in the 2008 election." ...

... Bill Clinton speaks at the dedication of the Bush library:

... ** "Yes, George W. Bush Was a Terrible President, and No, He Wasn't Smart." Jonathan Chait: "He oversaw a disastrous administration for precisely the reason his critics always grasped: Bush was an intellectual simpleton, a man who made up his mind in absence of the facts, who swatted away inconvenient realities as annoyances.... The failures of Bush's governing method -- the staffing of hacks and cronies, the disdain for evidence -- was perfectly reflected in the outcomes. The Bush presidency was a full disaster at home and abroad, and whatever small accomplishments that can be salvaged barely rate any mention in comparison with the failures." ...

... Gene Robinson: George W. Bush's policies just keep looking worse in hindsight than they did contemporaneously.

President Obama spoke at a memorial service for victims of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion:

... AP: "The service opened with a photo slideshow set to country music and projected onto a movie screen. It showed images of the men from their childhood, their weddings and other moments throughout lives filled with children and friends. Mourners were given programs with full-page profiles of each of the victims, describing their lives, their values and their faith. Both the president and first lady Michelle Obama wiped away a tear as bagpipes sounded 'Amazing Grace.' ... After the service, the president and first lady were planning to visit privately with relatives and friends of firefighters killed in the explosion, the White House said."

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon on the changing reports as to particulars in the Boston Marathon case.

Local News

Katie McDonough of Salon: "While Minnesota state lawmakers consider a measure to legalize gay marriage and an alternative civil unions bill for gay couples, Democratic state Rep. Kim Norton has signed on to a third option: universal civil unions. The bill would offer civil unions to gay and straight couples, getting the state government out of the marriage business altogether and making 'certain that every Minnesotan couple gets a civil union in the state of Minnesota,' Norton told ABC's KAALTV. The measure would leave marriage 'to the churches that are offering them,' she added." CW: this is an approach I suggested years ago (I thought I invented it, but probably other people invented it, too) when it appeared gay marriage wasn't going to be legalized. It made sense then; it's anachronistic now.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Thousands of garment workers rampaged through industrial areas of the capital of Bangladesh on Friday, smashing vehicles with bamboo poles and setting fire to at least two factories in violent protests ignited by a deadly building collapse this week that killed at least 304 workers." CW: the people of Texas should have as much gumption.

New York Times: "George Jones, the definitive country singer of the last half-century, whose songs about heartbreak and hard drinking echoed his own turbulent life, died on Friday in Nashville. He was 81."

Ultimate Ingratitude. Boston Globe: "The family of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev ... received food stamps and welfare when the brothers were growing up, according to a letter from the state Department of Transitional Assistance that was obtained by the Globe. In the letter, sent Thursday to the chairman of the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee, the department outlined the benefits that the brothers had received through their parents, Anzor and Zubeidat, as well as benefits Tamerlan Tsarnaev later received as a member of his wife's household." ...

... Boston Globe: "Authorities are investigating whether an MBTA Transit Police officer wounded during the shoot-out with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was hit by friendly fire, State Police spokesman David Procopio confirmed Thursday. Richard Donohue Jr., 33, was struck in the leg by a bullet, which authorities said remained embedded there. He was listed in serious but stable condition Thursday night at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge."

... AP: "The surviving Boston Marathon bombings suspect has been released from a civilian hospital and transferred to a federal medical detention center in central Massachusetts." ...

... Washington Post: "Nine months before the Boston Marathon bombing, a U.S. counterterrorism task force received a warning that a suspected militant had returned from a lengthy trip to Russia, U.S. officials said.... But officials said there is no indication that the unidentified customs officer provided the information to any other members of the task force, including FBI agents who had previously interviewed the militant."

Reader Comments (7)

The video of Bush being interviewed by that Irish lass who tried her damnest to get some blood out of the stone was hard to watch. I remember when I first saw this interview and felt so embarrassed that we had a president that was so daft. And I remember Tom Lantos, one of the bright bulbs in Congress, and the exchange between him and Bush that Chait cites is a perfect illustration of Bush's stubborn refusal to accept facts that ran counter to his own beliefs. Those of us who endured his presidency cannot forget nor perhaps can we forgive the disastrous results even though we can acknowledge the few good things this man tried to do. The Gosztola piece trying to portray Bush and Obama as a band of brothers is nonsense. Continuing some of the counter intelligence stuff does not make this administration anything like the Bush administration. And if any two people could be classified as opposite it would be these two. The stroking that was on display yesterday ushering in the Bush Museum by all and sundry is what we do in this country at times like that: We are polite, we wear our best outfits, we smile a lot, and we say nice things––Clinton was clever, he talked about Bush's paintings and gushed about his being part of the family as kind of a black sheep Bushie , as Mrs. Bush the elder tittered and George H. wiped a tear from his eye. And in the end we could all say, perhaps, that George W. is, yes, a nice guy, a decent man, a man,as Obama said, who is comfortable in his own skin, but doesn't take himself too seriously. It's that last bit that hit the jackpot and was the problem from the outset––not taking yourself seriously can lead to disaster; terrible if personal, horrific when you have to lead a country.

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Re: The living dead; @PD; it's not a library, it's a mausoleum. Obama was just following our Ms. Manners; don't say bad things about the dead. For a week. Then it's OK.

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

And boy do I like the attitude and comments from Philip Mudd, a stand in for Roger Sterling on Mad Men––Mudd was mad, indeed, having to respond to wackadoos' inane questions and stupid conclusions.

Re: Marie's doubting Fallow's hopeful "it is still worthwhile to believe in the American Dream because it is aspirational" leaves me to ponder whether I still believe that––I'm leaning with Marie, sad to say––so much has to change before I can embrace that once stars and stripes forever kind of optimism.

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@PD Pepe. Haha. Excellent observation. Not only that, Mudd & the Roger Sterling character are equally acerbic. Roger: "Who knows why people in history did good things? For all we know Jesus was trying to get the loaves and fishes account."

Marie

April 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

I've lived in a number of third-world countries where the American Dream remains very much alive. Despite all the recent tarnish on our escutcheon, there are millions who would be happy to come here. (Story - in a Central American country a few years back, in response to the standard U.S. Consular Officer's question "Why do you want to go to the U.S.?," the visa applicant honestly answered "I want to go where the poor people are fat.")

So, comparatively, we still look pretty good. Which doesn't answer the question of those of us lucky enough to be born here ... "How come it's not getting better, like it used to?" I suspect most of Marie's readers know that is a hugely complicated political question. I suggest that to make things "better," our political consensus has to shift so that we prioritize national investment in human capital, environmental protection, and renewable energy. Such a shift can only take place over a long time (because, these are BIG changes) and as the majority of people come to understand that they are individually better off if we, as a nation, invest in those areas. And people will only gain that understanding if the broad middle class is able to share proportionately in the gains from those investments.

I wish I knew how to make that work in the short run, without crises. But I suspect it will take crises to drive us in that direction. We seem able to repair barn doors only after the horses are down the road.

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

The GWB Library opening continues to spur more attempted resurrections of GWB one via a imaginary post-coital, glowingly look back by the Lady of the Magic Dolphins. Thankfully with Charles Pierce's deconstruction of the Mad Woman of Chardonnay's inane and eye-ball rolling statements we are afforded a good laugh. Many of the reader comments are succinctly apt (over thar on the Esquire.com). One leads to a fast-talking John Fugelsang video @ Current.com with "words of damning praise" for the old 43; i.e.:

http://current.com/shows/viewpoint/videos/john-fugelsang-lists-george-w-bushs-good-deeds-eventually

Fugelsang's coup de grâce: "But most importantly, Bush’s greatest achievement for which I will always personally thank him: He didn’t die in office."

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

Re: free bread; For all we know Jesus was trying to get the loaves and fishes account."
@ Marie; Jesus had a tee-shirt that said; "There's no money in manna." Swear to god.

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJJG
Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.