The Ledes

Monday, March 30, 2015.

New York Times: "Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister who was forced from office under a cloud of corruption, was convicted on Monday of fraud and breach of trust in a retrial of a case involving an American businessman, whose sensational testimony in a Jerusalem court in 2008 was instrumental in Mr. Olmert’s downfall. The American businessman, Morris Talansky, said at the time that he had provided Mr. Olmert with about $150,000 over 13 years, mostly in cash stuffed into envelopes, an assertion Mr. Olmert vehemently denied. Mr. Talansky, known as Moshe, had said that much of the money was earmarked for election campaigns but that some was for Mr. Olmert’s personal expenses."

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, March 29, 2015.

New York Times: "Rescue workers recovered two bodies on Sunday in the wreckage of the explosion and fire that happened last week in the East Village, the police said. One of two bodies was identified by family members as Nicholas Figueroa, 23. The second body was not yet identified.... Officials said the fire was most likely set off by a gas explosion. The explosion blew off the facade of the building, before spreading to four neighboring ones. Three of the buildings — 119, 121 and 123 Second Avenue — were reduced to rubble."

AP: "Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen will continue until Shiite rebels there 'withdraw and surrender their weapons,' a summit of Arab leaders decided Sunday, as they also agreed in principle to forming a joint military force. The decision by the Arab League puts it on a path to potentially more aggressively challenge Shiite power Iran, which is backing the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis."

Baltimore Sun: Protesters show up outside Bill Cosby's Baltimore performance, and one interrupts his show.

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
March 30

9:00 am ET: President's Management Advisory Board meeting

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

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

If you thought a meerkat was something like a mongoose ... Global News: "Meet Meerkat, the live streaming video service that allows users to host a live broadcast from their smartphones. If you haven’t heard of this new app don’t feel too bad – it’s only been around for about two weeks. But that hasn’t stopped it from garnering an estimated 300,000 active users, US$12 million in funding and even a few controversies."

In Case You Were Wondering... Megan Garber of the Atlantic examines multiple theories on why "men’s dress shirts have their buttons on the right, while women’s have them on the left (to the wearer)."

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "Inside the elaborate, surprisingly unglamorous world of presidential hotel stays." Or Why President Trump Would Resign Shortly after His Inauguration.

New York Times: "After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — 'Richard III, 1452-1485' — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times. With the solemn ceremony laid down for monarchs through the ages, the coffin was borne to a marble tomb adjacent to the cathedral’s altar by a party of 10 British Army pallbearers...." ...

... The Guardian has a full page of stories about Richard III.

Twenty percent more people trust Bill O'Reilly now than trusted O'Reilly before the press reported he was a serial liar:

East Wing Mystery. Washington Post: "There’s still no official comment on why [White House head florist Laura] Dowling is no longer at the White House, but according to a source with close ties to current residence staffers, she was escorted from the building on Friday Feb. 13." ...

     ... UPDATE. Thoroughly Modern Michelle. "Dowling ... left because her 'fussy style' was not in line with the first lady’s emerging modern and clean aesthetics, several sources said.... Recently the first lady has debuted a different aesthetic at the executive mansion. Last month, the White House revealed the newly refurbished and now decidedly modern Old Family dining room.... Mrs. Obama unveiled her 'thoroughly modernized' mark on the White House, featuring a custom-made 1950s-inspired rug and bold artwork, to surprised tourists on Feb. 10. Dowling is said to have been escorted from the White House three days later." ...

Reuters: "Whether it's the earnest Josiah Bartlet from 'The West Wing' or the manipulative Frank Underwood in 'House of Cards,' Americans prefer television presidents to their real-life POTUS, President Barack 'No Drama' Obama.'"

Washington Post: Scientists believe they've found the world's largest asteroid impact zone in Australia.

Washington Post: "King Richard III may have been buried quickly and without pomp the first time, but 530 years later, England is reveling in a final farewell to its long-lost monarch. On a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon on the battlefield where Richard III fell in 1485 — he was the last English king to die in battle — throngs of well-wishers, some dressed in medieval costume and blowing trumpets, gathered to honor England’s last Plantagenet king."

Out of the Parking Lot & into the Cathedral. Guardian: England is preparing to (re)inter a king today (Sunday, March 22). "... the coffin will be transferred to a horse-drawn hearse, to lead the way to a service of compline, with a sermon from a Roman Catholic archbishop, Vincent Nicholls. It will then lie in the cathedral, guarded night and day, until the reburial service on Thursday."

Politico: "The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it has granted Amazon Logistics, a subsidiary of the Internet retail giant, approval for a drone design that the company plans to use for research, development and training."

David Rackoff: "Things people say that irritate Republicans." Click thru. CW: I'll have to try to remember these. So I can say them. To Republicans. I hope I drive them all Rumpelstiltskin. Then I will ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster to forgive me for being so mean.

Prince Charles & the Duchess of Cornwall are in Washington, D.C., & environs.

President Obama hosts a St. Patrick's Day reception:

... CW: Somebody explain to me why apparently-intelligent people don't actually participate in events they attend but instead spend their time taking crappy cellphone videos, even when they know said events will be recorded by professionals & posted online. I get why a person would want to record some side-conversation with, say, the President, but the main event? It baffles me.

Patrick LaForge of the New York Times: "Welcome to a parallel universe. It is a world of tired news language where the verb 'stir' is bound to be followed by 'debate,' where those debates are always 'heated' or 'bitter.' In this world, anything newsworthy is automatically 'controversial,' and a 'hike' involves taxes, not a trail up a mountain. It is often a 'hardscrabble' place, sometimes 'densely wooded,' sometimes graced with 'manicured' lawns and 'leafy' streets. 'Landmark' agreements are 'hammered out' there, while adversaries are 'lambasted' and 'assailed.'” Meet journalese: a strained and artificial voice more common to news reports than to natural conversation." LaForge cites numerous examples of NYT reporters' use of these cliches.

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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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