The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, May 5, 2016.

AP: "A massive wildfire raging in the Canadian province of Alberta has grown to 85,000 hectares (210,035 acres) in size and officials would like to move south about 25,000 evacuees who had previously fled north. More than 80,000 people have emptied Fort McMurray in the heart of Canada's oil sands." -- CW

Guardian: "The local police investigation into the death of Prince is being beefed up with staff from the US attorney’s office and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as a California doctor who specializes in prescription drug addiction revealed the singer’s representatives reached out for urgent help the day before he died.." -- CW

Public Service Announcement

New York Times: "Taking a stance sharply at odds with most American public health officials, a major British medical organization urged smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes, saying they are the best hope in generations for people addicted to tobacco cigarettes to quit. The recommendation, laid out in a report published Thursday by the Royal College of Physicians, summarizes the growing body of science on e-cigarettes and finds that their benefits far outweigh the potential harms." -- CW

Washington Post: "More than a third of advanced-melanoma patients who received one of the new immunotherapy drugs in an early trial are alive five years after starting treatment -- double the survival rate typical of the disease, according to a new study."

Zoe Schlanger of Newsweek: "If you are eating fast food, you're probably also eating phthalates,... a class of chemicals that have been linked to everything from ADHD to breast cancer, ...[which] are common in food packaging, drink containers, the tubing used to transport dairy and the equipment used to process fast food." --LT

Politico: "Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry will not be appearing on the channel for the time being, following a report in In Touch Weekly that he cheated on his wife with a Las Vegas hostess. 'We recently became aware of Ed’s personal issues and he’s taking some time off to work things out,' a Fox News spokesperson told Politico in a statement."

New York Times: “'Hamilton,' the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history." ...

... Here's the full list of Tony Award nominees.

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

MIT News: "For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth. The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published [Monday, May 2] in the journal Nature.... The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile."

Washington Post's Reliable Source: At an "afterparty hosted by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner [Saturday, May 1]..., a scuffle broke out between Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief.... The two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people. 'Punches were definitely thrown,' said one witness. Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee, separated the two."

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

New York Times: "The Pulitzers are in their centennial year, and the winners announced by Columbia University reflected in part the changes sweeping the media landscape." Here's the full list of the prize winners, via the New York Times.

CW: The AP produced this video in January 2015, but I just came across it:

New York Times: "James Levine, who transformed the Metropolitan Opera during four decades as its music director but has suffered from poor health in recent years, will step down from his post after this season to become music director emeritus, the company announced Thursday."

Politico: "Gabriel Snyder, editor in chief of The New Republic for the past 17 months, is leaving the magazine in the wake of its sale to Win McCormack.... The masthead change marks the first big move since McCormack, a publisher, Democratic booster and editor in chief of a literary journal called Tin House, bought TNR from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in February after Hughes was unsuccessful at turning around the money-losing magazine’s business during his four years of stewardship."

The Great Octopus Escape. Guardian: "An octopus has made a brazen escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand by breaking out of its tank, slithering down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappearing into the sea. In scenes reminiscent of Finding Nemo, Inky – a common New Zealand octopus – made his dash for freedom after the lid of his tank was accidentally left slightly ajar. Staff believe that in the middle of the night, while the aquarium was deserted, Inky clambered to the top of his glass enclosure, down the side of the tank and travelled across the floor of the aquarium."

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Tuesday
Apr052011

The Commentariat -- April 6

To those of you linking from The Sideshow, the site's main page is here.

Ezra Klein asks the question we've all been asking -- Where is President Obama? And why is he so disappointing when he does show up? ...

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones cites Klein & adds, "I really have no idea what [President Obama] thinks of taxes, the deficit, Medicare cuts, or much of anything else on the domestic agenda. I guess he's figuring that if his political opponents insist on digging themselves into a hole, he might as well stand back and let them. But if he keeps this up much longer, there's going to be nothing left of his presidency except 'Well, I guess he's better than the wingnuts from the other party.'"

Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Robert Pear of the New York Times: federal agencies prepare for a shutdown. ...

     ... Update. Ed O'Keefe & Michael Raufe of the Washington Post: "Failure to reach a budget deal would mean furloughing about 800,000 federal employees nationwide — many of whom are expected to surrender their BlackBerries, according to senior administration officials familiar with shutdown planning. A shutdown might also require organizers to cancel Washington’s storied Cherry Blossom Parade, which is scheduled to occur Saturday morning along the Mall."

... Ben White of Politico: "Some market observers and federal government officials say [the shutdown] actually could be helpful by making a failure to raise the federal debt limit — a potentially catastrophic event — significantly less likely.... From an economic perspective, failure to raise the debt limit — or to even come close to failure — would have vastly larger implications than a brief shutdown. It could lead to an equity market collapse and a huge spike in interest rates as investors demand much larger payments for the increased risk of buying U.S. debt. But a government shutdown could ... make a deal to raise the debt limit later this spring easier for conservatives to swallow and more akin to previous, noncontroversial votes to raise the borrowing limit."

More on "The Path to Disparity Prosperity" -- the Ryan/Republican plan to gut entitlement programs and lower taxes on corporations & the rich: ...

How do you define "courage"? Probably not the same way Washington pundits do ...

What ConservaDem Senate Budget Deficit Hawks Think of the Ryan/Republican House Proposal:

I think that it completely lacks balance. He has dramatic cuts in taxes for the wealthiest among us and finances that by draconian cuts to those of us who are dependent on Medicaid and Medicare.
-- Kent Conrad (D-ND) Senate Budget Committee Chair

Independent experts agree the House plan would make deep cuts to the Medicare benefits seniors count on. It would end Medicare as we know it and funnel Medicare dollars directly into private insurance companies’ pockets. Under the House plan, seniors’ coverage would be cut drastically, benefits would no longer be guaranteed and seniors’ costs would skyrocket. -- Max Baucus (D-Montana), Senate Finance Committee Chair

... Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker: "... the Ryan budget plan relies on dubious assertions, questionable assumptions and fishy figures. The ideas may be bold, but the budget presentation falls short of his claim that he is getting rid of budget gimmicks." ...

... Meredith Shiner of Politico: "Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) touted the help of former Clinton advisor Alice Rivlin — 'a great, proud Democrat' — in promoting a key Medicare provision in his budget proposal Tuesday. The only problem? Rivlin said she told the Republican she doesn’t support the final version of the measure he wrote into his budget — a provision Ryan referred to generally as the 'Ryan-Rivlin' plan when rolling out his sweeping economic blueprint."

... New York Times Editors: "Representative Paul Ryan’s proposals to reform Medicare and Medicaid are mostly an effort to shift the burden to beneficiaries and the states. They have very little reform in them.... For decades the Republicans have made clear their antipathy toward Medicare and Medicaid. Now they are trying to use the public’s legitimate concerns about the deficit to seriously cripple both programs. This isn’t real reform. If it moves forward, Americans will pay a high price." ...

... AND the Times Editors again: "The plan would condemn millions to the ranks of the uninsured, raise health costs for seniors and renege on the obligation to keep poor children fed. It envisions lower taxes for the wealthy than even George W. Bush imagined: A permanent extension for his tax cuts, plus large permanent estate-tax cuts, a new business tax cut and a lower top income tax rate for the richest taxpayers. Compared to current projections, spending on government programs would be cut by $4.3 trillion over 10 years, while tax revenues would go down by $4.2 trillion. So spending would be eviscerated, mainly to make room for continued tax cuts." ...

... "Not a Budget." Dana Milbank: "... for all ... the cuts, the Republicans’ plan increases the federal debt by more than $8 trillion over the next 10 years, and it continues federal budget deficits until nearly 2040. Under the proposed balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that Ryan and his Republican colleagues claim to support, Ryan’s budget wouldn’t be in compliance for at least the next quarter century. How could the House Republicans make such enormous cuts and yet not solve the debt crisis? Simple: Ryan’s proposal isn’t a budget. It’s a manifesto for the anti-tax cause." ...

... Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "If it does nothing else, the budget that House Republicans unveiled Tuesday provides the first real Republican program for the 21st century, and it is this: Repeal the 20th century." ...

... Jon Chait of The New Republic: "It contains a massive, regressive tax cut. Ryan does not want to talk about the tax cut. His video touting the plan focuses entirely on the debt, and makes no mention whatsoever of the tax cuts. Ryan doesn't mention the tax cuts, of course, because they unravel the entire rationale for his proposal.... He is making a choice -- not just cut Medicare to save Medicare, but also to cut Medicare in order to cut taxes for the rich." Includes video of Ryan's pitch, which I refuse to post. ...

... David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "... there is at least one big way in which the plan isn’t daring at all. It asks for a whole lot of sacrifice from everyone under the age of 55 and little from everyone 55 and over. Representative Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who wrote the plan, calls the budget deficit an “existential threat” to the United States. Then he absolves more than one-third of all adults from responsibility in dealing with that threat." Why? Because Boomers & the elderly vote. ...

... Bob Reich: "... if the shutdowns contribute to the belief among Americans that government doesn’t work, Republicans win over the long term.... That's why it’s so important that the President have something more to say to the American people than 'I want to cut spending, too, but the Republican cuts go too far.' The 'going too far' argument is no match for a worldview that says government is the central problem to begin with."


CW: somehow the MSM manages to cover every meeting of two or more teabaggers [Bloomberg] (and here [ABC News] and here, [New York Times], etc.) but when 2,000 people in Washington, & people in other cities across the country, march on the Koch brothers, you have to turn to alternative media to find out about it. Here's Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress on the April 4 marches on Koch & Co., which coincided with the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. With video. As Karen Garcia noted in a post last week, when 5,000 people marched in New York City against the state's budget cuts, the New York Times, "the paper of record," didn't cover the event that took place in its own city. Garcia read about it on Al Jazeera!

The Lord-High Executioner. Mark Benjamin of Time: "Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement Monday that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 plotters will be tried in military commissions rather than civilian courts means that KSM might face lethal injection at Guantanamo, and the President might have to personally sign off on his death.... In civilian court, a judge assigns the death penalty according to sentencing guidelines. In a military commission, the President must explicitly approve a death sentence. And the Military Commissions Act of 2009, which governs those cases, gives the President wide latitude to use his own judgment in a capital case." ...

... Kristen Breitweiser, 9/11 widow and activist, in Common Dreams, on the military trials: the Obama DOJ has abandoned the Constitution and President Obama has broken "his golden word," personally delivered to victims' families, to prosecute the remaining alleged 9/11 conspirators in open court. ...

... Dahlia Lithwick: "Attorney General Eric Holder finally put the Obama administration's stamp on the proposition that some criminals are 'too dangerous to have fair trials.' In reversing one of its last principled positions — that American courts are sufficiently nimble, fair, and transparent to try Mohammed and his confederates — the administration surrendered to the bullying, fear-mongering, and demagoguery of those seeking to create two separate kinds of American law.... It's about the president and his Justice Department conceding that the system of justice in the United States will have multiple tiers — first-class law for some and junk law for others."

Alex Pareene of Salon: "Liberty University, the evangelical private Christian school founded by dead apartheid-supporting bigot Jerry Falwell, received $445 million in federal financial aid last year. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, by the way, received $420 million from the federal government.... Liberty University -- where the biology department teaches Young Earth Creationism -- is, astoundingly, an accredited school of higher learning. The school was broke and in debt until God killed Falwell for the insurance money."

Right Wing World *

The Mysterious Governor Huckabee. CW: I'm late out of the box on this April 1 post by Siddhartha Mahanta of Mother Jones, but it's no April Fools joke:

Send a public records request seeking documents from his 12-year stint as Arkansas governor, as Mother Jones did recently, and an eyebrow-raising reply will come back: The records are unavailable, and the computer hard drives that once contained them were erased and physically destroyed by the Huckabee administration as the governor prepared to leave office and launch a presidential bid.... What do the Huckabee files hold?

     ... Read Mahanta's whole post. It's pretty fascinating. Oh, and he appends this 2007 video of Huckabee touting open government and transparency:

* Where facts never intrude.

Local News

We linked to this story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a couple of days ago, but let's milk it a little (hey, we're talking about the Dairy State): "Just in his mid-20s, Brian Deschane has no college degree, very little management experience and two drunken-driving convictions. Yet he has landed an $81,500-per-year job in Gov. Scott Walker's administration overseeing environmental and regulatory matters and dozens of employees at the Department of Commerce." His qualification: he is the son of one of Walker's big campaign backers. Thom Hartmann puts the story in perspective. First he notes that there is "a little-known provision in Scott Walker’s anti-union bill converts 37 government workers into political appointees to be handpicked by Walker himself." Then Hartmann assesses Walker's hiring skills:

So let’s get this straight -- a Wisconsin teacher with a Master’s degree doesn’t deserve to take home $50,000 a year -- but the drunken son of a big campaign donor with no experience or qualification whatsoever deserves $80,000 a year. Republican government at its finest.

     ... Wisconsin State Journal Update: "The son of a prominent lobbyist is being demoted following controversy over his selection for a high-paying post in the Walker administration. Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday announced that Brian Deschane would be sent back to the Department of Regulation and Licensing where he worked earlier this year as the bureau director of board services — a job that paid $64,728 a year.... Deschane never graduated from college and ... had no discernible experience in the field. Yet ... he was chosen to replace a 25-year state employee with a degree in chemical engineering and a resume full of management and regulatory experience.... The Walker administration and Jerry Deschane [Brian's father] both denied any quid pro quo took place." Journal Sentinel story here. ...

     ... Update from Daniel Bice of the Journal Sentinel: "the two candidates Deschane beat out to get the position as head of environmental and regulatory affairs": ... (1) a former state cabinet secretary under Republican Gov. Scott McCallum with a doctoral degree and eight years' experience overseeing the cleanup of petroleum-contaminated sites"' & (2) "a professional engineer who served since 2003 in the post to which Deschane was appointed." Neither got so much as an interview. Democrats want an investigation of whether or not Deschane is qualified for the job he has returned to & whether that hire was proper. Brian Deschane's father Jerry has admitted "he might have mentioned" his son's availability to Gov. Walker's chief of staff, who is the person who recommended young Brian for the $65K job.

News Ledes

President Obama spoke to the press briefly after his meeting with Sen. Reid & Speaker Boehner:

President Obama talks about the budget fight/government shutdown at his townhall in Bucks County:

     ... Update: video of the full event is here.

President Obama spoke at a National Action Networks event in New York City this evening. Update: the video is here.

Al Jazeera: "A coalition of Gulf allies has begun efforts to convince Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, to step down in response to anti-government protests that have swept the country in recent weeks. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations will convene a meeting among themselves and Yemeni representatives in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital, in coming days, though an exact date has yet to be set."

Boston Globe: "An employee of a Christian summer camp on Cape Cod shot himself to death today just days after he became the focus of a criminal investigation into allegations that he sexually abused a camper during the 1980s, officials said.... The camp is the same one that apologized recently to US Senator Scott Brown for potential abuse he may have suffered there four decades ago.... Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents a former camper who brought a sex abuse allegation to prosecutors on Monday, said the employee was his client's alleged abuser: Charles 'Chuck' DeVita, 43, who is listed on the camp's website as part of the leadership team and director of the physical plant."

New York Times: "President Obama has asked House Speaker John Boehner and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, to come to the White House Wednesday at 8:45 p.m. to discuss the stalemate over the budget negotiations, White House officials said." Story has been updated: "President Obama emerged from an Oval Office meeting with Congressional leaders on Wednesday night with no breakthrough on the budget stalemate, but he said the 90-minute discussion had helped to 'narrow the issues' that are outstanding." See video above.

Love Letter from Gaddafi. AP: "Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has appealed directly to President Barack Obama to halt what the Libyan leader called 'an unjust war,' and wished Obama good luck in his bid for re-election next year. In a rambling, three-page letter to Obama obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Gadhafi implored Obama to stop the NATO-led air campaign...."

President Obama visited a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, wind turbine plant & held a townhall meeting this afternoon. See video clip above.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin State "Justice David Prosser clung to a narrow lead over Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg in the state Supreme Court race early Wednesday.... But even with 99% of the vote counted, fewer than 600 votes -- about 0.04% of ballots -- separated the candidates.... That close margin had political insiders from both sides talking about the possibility of a recount, which Wisconsin has avoided in statewide races in recent decades. Any recount could be followed by lawsuits - litigation that potentially would be decided by the high court." AP story here. ...

     ... Journal Sentinel Update: "In a race still too close to call, Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg took a paper-thin lead over Justice David Prosser in the state Supreme Court race early Wednesday, capping a race marked by massive voter turnout, Gov. Scott Walker's union bargaining plan, and record spending by outside interest groups. As of 11:30 a.m. [12:30 pm ET], The Associated Press had results for all but 1 of the state's 3,630 precincts and Kloppenburg had taken a 235 vote lead...." This story has been updated: "As of 2:15 p.m., The Associated Press had tallied results for all of the state's 3,630 precincts and Kloppenburg had taken a 204-vote lead after Prosser had been ahead most of the night by less than 1,000 votes. Kloppenburg declared victory based on the AP's results."

... Rout. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Chris Abele -- a 44-year-old philanthropist, scion of a wealthy Boston family and political neophyte -- handily defeated state Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) ... to become the next Milwaukee County executive. Abele had 61% of the vote to 39% for Stone...." The position -- last held by Gov. Scott Walker -- is nonpartisan, but Abele is a long-time supporter of Democrats. Abele will complete the last year of Walker's term, and says he will run again for a full four-year term. Stone blamed "the unrest we had in Madison" for his defeat.

AP: "The protective ozone layer in the Arctic that keeps out the sun's most damaging rays — ultraviolet radiation — has thinned about 40 percent this winter, a record drop, the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday. The Arctic's damaged stratospheric ozone layer isn't the best known 'ozone hole' — that would be Antarctica's, which forms when sunlight returns in spring there each year. But the Arctic's situation is due to similar causes: ozone-munching compounds in air pollutants that are chemically triggered by a combination of extremely cold temperatures and sunlight."

New York Times: "Opposition forces in Ivory Coast said on Wednesday they had begun an assault to dislodge strongman Laurent Gbagbo from a bunker under his residence after he refused French and United Nations demands to leave."

Washington Post: "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for a meeting with King Abdullah.... Gates planned to report to Abdullah on the progress of a $60 billion arms deal with the Saudis and discuss plans for upgrading the nation’s missile defense system.... Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of U.S. arms.... Some U.S. officials have bristled at the aggressive role of the Saudi military in last month’s crackdown in neighboring Bahrain. But a senior defense official ... said Wednesday that the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia remained strong."