The Ledes

Thursday, September 3, 2015.

AFP: "Embattled Guatemalan President Otto Perez announced his resignation Thursday, after a warrant was issued for his arrest for allegedly masterminding a huge fraud scheme."

New York Times: "Five Chinese Navy ships were sailing in international waters of the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska on Wednesday, in what Pentagon officials said was the first such foray by Beijing. The move came on the last day of President Obama’s three-day visit to Alaska.... The White House said that the intent of the Chinese operation was unclear, but that the Pentagon had not detected any threatening activities."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

New York Times [Aug. 20]: "As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well. Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes."

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

White House Live Video
September 2

2:45 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks on the importance of helping Americans go to college in Miami, Florida (audio only)

9:50 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Kotzebue School in Alaska

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Making Iced Tea out of Lemons. Not originally intended for publication. A friend of mine had some electrical work done on her house. She told me yesterday she was awaiting the inspector. Today in an e-mail titled "Inspector A Hole," she wrote, "Well, the inspector came early this morning.... He saw the gate closed and left. He did not ring the doorbell."

I wrote back, "I think when he arrived -- even if he didn't tell you what time he was coming -- you were supposed to be standing at the gate smiling, wearing an attractive outfit & holding out a tray of iced tea & cookies for him. A neat 'Welcome, Inspector A. Hole' sign would have been nice, too."

 A few minutes later, she responded with this:

You can't let the bastards get you down. Which helps explain why I so often post links to the most ridiculous inanities & hypocrisies coming out of the mouths of pols & pundits.

New York Times: "Bloomberg News laid off as many as 90 journalists on Tuesday[, Sept. 1,] in its newsrooms in New York, Washington and across the world, part of a plan to refocus the organization’s coverage on business, finance, economics, technology and politics. The rationale for the dismissals was outlined in a lengthy memo to the staff from Bloomberg’s new editor in chief, John Micklethwait."

Maureen Dowd: Trump has got the best of Jeb! & Hillary: "Trump’s 'gusto,' as he likes to call it, has thrown into sharper relief the grinding-it-out, impatient entitlement, the overthinking and overcorrecting of Jeb and Hillary. Both campaign like they are owed, not because of their great national achievements, but because of their byzantine family dynamics."

The Oliver Brief. We do note, however, that the so-called 'Insular Cases,' which established a less-than-complete application of the Constitution in some U.S. territories, has been the subject of extensive judicial, academic, and popular criticism. See, e.g., Juan Torruella, The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories, Youtube (Mar. 8, 2015), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CesHr99ezWE. -- Footnote, Paeste v. Guam, Ninth Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon

Jordan Golson of Wired: "Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage. The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars — there’s no flying beams of light, no 'pew! pew!' sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down. People keep flying their drones where they shouldn’t.... Luckily, there haven’t been any really bad incidents — that is, no one has been killed by a civilian quadcopter or plane, yet."

"The cream cheese is too damn much." Scott Lemieux and I agree.

Sunday Morning Come-Down. Politico: "Al Sharpton is leaving MSNBC's weekday dayside lineup, and moving to Sunday mornings. Sharpton's last weekday 'PoliticsNation' will be Sept. 4. He moves to Sundays a month later on Oct. 4, according to a memo sent to MSNBC staff by the channel's president Phil Griffin Wednesday evening."

Washington Post: "Stephen Hawking believes he’s solved a huge mystery about black holes."

Washington Post: "The case for canonizing [Sister Blandina Segale,] the 19th century Italian-born nun, whose run-in with Old West outlaw Billy the Kid is the stuff of legend, was presented at a ceremonial 'first inquiry' in Albuquerque on Tuesday. If approved, her name will be sent to the Vatican, where it will head down the long (and somewhat secretive) path toward sainthood."

New York Times: Can't sidewalk scaffolding be attractive? Yes, it can.

Terror in Toledo! ABC News: "A man caught on video the moment a public art installation in Toledo, Ohio -- a giant, 250-pound red ball -- decided to run away and start rolling down streets lined with parked cars. Part of a Toledo Museum of Art exhibit, the RedBall Project had been wedged between Roulet Jewelers and Ice Restaurant in downtown Toledo when a thunderstorm and strong winds this past Wednesday evening knocked the ball loose and caused it to start rolling away, according to Kelly Garrow, the museum's director of communications."

... AP: "America’s two foremost Democratic families, the Obamas and the Clintons, mingled on Saturday[,August 15,] as politics mixed with summer repose on swanky Martha’s Vineyard."

Washington Post: "Offering such perks as 'free' bags and 'free' airline tickets, [some credit] cards are big on promises, but they often fall short on the delivery. And although these financial instruments are legal, experts say they are not always worthwhile."

Kori Schulman of the White House: "Today (August 14), the White House joined Spotify — and our inaugural playlist was hand-picked by none other than President Obama. When asked to pick a few of his favorite songs for the summer, the President got serious. He grabbed a pen and paper and drafted up not one, but two separate summer playlists: One for the daytime, and one for the evening." ...

... CW: If you're subscribed to Spotify, you can play the President's list from the linked story (at "Today".)

Washington Post: "Google, one of the best-known brands on the planet, on Monday[, August 10,] radically restructured itself under the corporate name Alphabet, an almost unprecedented shift that reflects the company’s far-reaching ambitions and the vast Web it helped evolve. The move represents Google’s biggest push yet to ... turn the company into a multifaceted General Electric for the digital age."

Bureaucracies Move in Mysterious Ways. New York Post: "The city [of New York] moved to fire an employee for missing about 18 months of work, even though he had the best excuse of all time — he was dead. Bureaucrats at the Human Resources Administration filed charges against Medicaid-eligibility specialist Geoffrey Toliver accusing him of going AWOL — even though his death by cancer was reported in an online obituary.... 'It is my understanding that . . . his employer was fully aware that he was not able to come back to work,' Toliver’s brother Anthony told The Post. 'It is my understanding that my brother’s family spoke directly to his supervisor during his long hospitalization and informed them of his death.'” ...

... CW: Doesn't surprise me at all. When I lived in Manhattan, my mother sent me a gift which came directly from the catalog company from which she had bought it. My father had died a few years earlier, but my mother was still getting these catalogs in his name. So my father's name, not hers, appeared on the package as the giftor. He had never lived in New York City. He was not the addressee on the package. The package didn't come from New York City. And my father was dead. But never mind all that. A few months after I received the gift, I got a letter at my New York home addressed to my father. It was a notification from the city ordering my father to show up for jury duty. Or else.

 

Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "For years and years, plenty of websites (Mediaite included) have written about the many times Jon Stewart has 'destroyed,' 'annihilated,' or 'eviscerated' anything from terrorism to race relations to Fox News. Well..., on his penultimate night, Stewart discovered that he didn’t actually do any of that":

Exit Laughing. John Koblin of the New York Times: "Since [Jon] Stewart started hosting 'The Daily Show' 16 years ago, the country’s trust in both the news media and the government has plummeted. Mr. Stewart’s brand of fake news thrived in that vacuum, and turned him into one of the nation’s most bracing cultural, political and media critics. With his over-the-top presentation of the news — his arms swinging wildly, his eyes bulging with outrage, followed by a shake of the head and a knowing smile — Mr. Stewart attracted a generation of viewers ready to embrace an outlier whose exaggerations, in their view, carried more truth than conventional newscasts." ...

...Stewart hasn't done any interviews prior to ending his run on the "Daily Show," but he did sit down with "Daily Show" producers for an "exit interview" on Episode 20 of the "Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart." You can listen to it here.

The Word Salad King. If Donald Trump's good friend & possible running mate Sarah Palin is the Word Salad Queen, it stands to reason that the Donald would be the king. Slate challenges you to diagram this "sentence." To help you out, Slate has transcribed the words in the order delivered. Not that the order delivered matters much:

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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
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