The Ledes

Friday, July 25, 2014.

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed a two-stage plan to halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip that would first impose a weeklong truce starting Sunday, an official involved in the negotiations said on Friday. As soon as the truce took effect, Palestinian and Israeli officials would begin negotiations on the principal economic, political and security concerns about Gaza, with other nations attending." ...

... AFP: "Israeli fire Friday pushed the Palestinian death toll in Gaza to above 800, as Washington pressed Israel and Hamas to agree a week-long humanitarian ceasefire and thrash out a durable truce."

AFP: "The United States on Thursday said it had evidence Russian forces were firing artillery from inside Russia on Ukrainian troops, in what officials called a 'clear escalation' of the conflict. Moscow is also planning to 'deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers' to the pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukraine, US deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said." ...

... AFP: "Ukraine's prime minister resigned after his governing coalition collapsed, plunging the former Soviet state into political limbo as it struggles to quell a deadly rebellion in the east.... Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he was stepping down over the "dissolution of the parliamentary coalition and the blocking of government initiatives" after several parties walked out on the ruling group. The collapse of the ruling coalition paves the way for early elections to be called by President Petro Poroshenko within 30 days."

New York Times: "As a detachment of French soldiers reached the crash site in Mali of an Air Algérie jetliner, officials in Paris said Friday that the accident was most likely weather-related and that the distribution of the wreckage over a limited area suggested that the plane probably hit the ground intact."

 

Guardian: "The Washington Post's correspondent in Tehran has been arrested along with his Iranian wife and two American photojournalists. Iranian judicial offficials confirmed on Friday that Jason Rezaian, who holds dual American and Iranian citizenship, had been detained and is under investigation."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, July 24, 2014.

New York Times: "A series of explosions at a school run by the United Nations sheltering hundreds of Palestinians who had fled their homes for safety from Israeli military assaults killed at least 16 people on Thursday afternoon and wounded many more. The cause was not immediately clear."

Bloomberg News: "Jobless claims fell by 19,000 to 284,000 in the week ended July 19, the fewest since February 2006 and lower than any economist surveyed by Bloomberg forecast...."

Guardian: "A flight operated by Air Algérie carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early on Thursday, the plane's owner said." ...

... New York Times UPDATE: "An Air Algérie jetliner with 116 people on board crashed early Thursday in a remote area of Mali near the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger, officials said."

The Guardian is liveblogging developments in the Gaza crisis. More than 700 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, many of them children.

Reuters: "A powerful Ukrainian rebel leader has confirmed that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the type Washington says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and it could have originated in Russia. In an interview with Reuters, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, acknowledged for the first time since the airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday that the rebels did possess the BUK missile system and said it could have been sent back subsequently to remove proof of its presence."

Los Angeles Times: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday night lifted its ban on U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 23

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the NAACP national convention in Las Vegas, Nevada (audio only)

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

Contact the Constant Weader

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

Tuesday
Aug142012

The Commentariat -- August 15, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is a two-fer, debunking both Joe Nocera's column & Roger Cohen's. What a couple of ignoramuses. The NYTX front page is here.

Mitt Romney Will Give You Bedsores. Really. Julie Creswell & Reed Abelson of the New York Times: "... profits at the health care industry giant HCA, which controls 163 hospitals from New Hampshire to California, have soared, far outpacing those of most of its competitors. The big winners have been three private equity firms -- including Bain Capital, co-founded by Mitt Romney..., that bought HCA in late 2006.... Among the secrets to HCA's success: It figured out how to get more revenue from private insurance companies, patients and Medicare by billing much more aggressively for its services than ever before; it found ways to reduce emergency room overcrowding and expenses; and it experimented with ways to reduce the cost of medical staff, a move that sometimes led to conflicts with doctors and nurses over concerns about patient care." Thanks to contributor Calyban for the link.

Presidential Race

** Nicholas Cafardi, former dean of Duquesne University's School of Law, in a Catholic Reporter commentary, argues that President Obama is far more pro-life than is Mitt Romney. Cafardi makes some shocking charges against Romney that make this opinion piece a must-read. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Maureen Dowd: Paul Ryan is "the cutest package that cruelty ever came in.... Who better to rain misery upon the heads of millions of Americans? ... Like Mitt Romney, Ryan truly believes he made it on his own, so everyone else can, too. He shrugs off the advantage of starting as the white guy from an affluent family, able to breeze into a summer internship for a Wisconsin Republican senator as a college student.... [CW: his uncle got him the job.] People who intend to hurt other people should wipe the smile off their faces."

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Representative Paul D. Ryan's budget blueprint assumes the same amount of Medicare savings as President Obama's health care law, even though Mitt Romney and Mr. Ryan have said those cuts would be devastating to millions of older Americans on Medicare." ...

... Pear doesn't explain this very well. Ezra Klein does a little better, but it's still confusing. Right now, both Obama & RR take about $700BB from Medicare. The difference -- until Romney & Ryan change their minds -- is that Obama re-invests the $$ in other healthcare spending, while RR claim they will use it to pay down the deficit -- which is the same thing as saying it's gone. (Actually, they'll probably spend it on defense contractors.) Oh. And RR are flim-flamming the public. Which goes without saying. ...

... The Secret Plan. Juliet Lapidos of the New York Times has no idea where Romney stands on Medicare. That would be because Romney refuses to say. ...

... CW: news reports suggest Romney decided on Ryan weeks ago, yet he still hasn't come up with a phony, slick way to "explain" how gutting Medicare is really saving it, he & Ryan are in complete agreement, and blah blah. Since Medicare is a major issue, especially for the GOP old fogey base, this is stunning evidence of Romney's inability to govern even himself. As we keep saying, there is something wrong with that guy. ...

... The Secret Plan, Ctd. Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post: "The Romney campaign is willing to discuss its proposals on taxes 'in the light of day,' vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said Tuesday evening -- just not until after the election."

The Obama campaign responds to the RR's false claims about Medicare with this Web video:

Alexander Burns of Politico: "Mitt Romney leveled his harshest criticism of President Obama's reelection campaign to date in Ohio Tuesday, declaring that Obama should 'take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago.'" CW: I'm not sure how vilifying a major American city is good campaign strategy, by Willard works in mysterious ways. ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "The Obama campaign's response -- an emailed statement from Press Secretary Ben LaBolt -- was simple and to the point: 'Governor Romney's comments tonight seemed unhinged, and particularly strange coming at a time when he's pouring tens of millions of dollars into negative ads that are demonstrably false.' ...

... Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Vice President Joe Biden dug in when it came to apologizing for his earlier remark, made at a Virgina campaign event where the AP described the crowd as having a couple hundred African-American attendees, about Republicans and Wall Street wanting to put 'y'all back in chains.'" Biden's clarification:

... Here's what Congressman Ryan said. He said, 'We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy.' The Speaker of the House said, used the word 'unshackled' as well, referring to their proposals. The last time these guys unshackled the economy, to use their term, they put the middle class in shackles.... I'm using their own words. I got a message for them. If you want to know what's outrageous, it's their policies and the effects of their policies on middle class America.

... David Edwards of Raw Story: John Sununu, "the chairman of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's national steering committee, on Tuesday angrily shouted for [Soledad O'Brien] a CNN anchor to 'put an Obama bumper sticker on your forehead' after she tried to fact check Republican claims about Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) plan to overhaul Medicare." CW: Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. Sununu's problem? He can't handle the truth. Watch the exchange. O'Brien demonstrates what journalists are supposed to do -- Bob Schieffer, David Gregory, et al., are you watching?:

Later, O'Brien fact-checked Romney, Sununu, et al.:

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "On the stump, Mr. Romney has spent most of the last year condemning Washington, describing himself as an outsider who would shake up the Capitol and bring a consultant's eye and private-sector experience to the operations of government.... '[Romney] really prides the fact that he never spent a day in Washington and now he’s picked a guy as his V.P. who has never spent a day out of it, in his adult life,' [Obama campaign strategist David] Axelrod said. ...

** ... "Paul Ryan Didn't Build That." Sally Kohn of Salon: "Paul Ryan is a living, breathing GOP example of how public infrastructure and private entrepreneurship work hand-in-hand. Paul Ryan's great-grandfather started a construction company to build railroads and, eventually, highways." The projects the Ryan companies worked on were government-funded. "A current search of Defense Department contracts suggests that 'Ryan Incorporated Central' has had at least 22 defense contracts with the federal government since 1996, including one from 1996 worth $5.6 million.... Paul Ryan very directly and very significantly benefited from the federal spending he now rails against." ...

... Charles Pierce: Ryan's "entire life, and the history of his entire family, makes a lie out of everything the man has said in his political career, and a sham out of every policy position he purports to hold."

Paul Campos in Salon on Erskine Bowles -- admirer of Paul Ryan -- v. Paul Krugman for Treasury Secretary. CW: I wrote to both the campaign & the White House on the Bowles rumor. I got back an inappropriate form letter from the campaign & nada from the WH.

Ha Ha. Michael Linden of the Center for American Progress poses 5 budget questions for the Mittster. What the questions point to is the absolute, positive, total, complete failure of R-money/R-ayn's figures to come within a trillion dollars of adding up.

Fox "News": "Fact Check: Ryan budget plan doesn't actually slash the budget. Here are a few little-known facts about Paul Ryan's supposedly slash-and-burn budget plan.

  • Government spending increases almost every year over the next decade. 
  • Tax and other revenue rises year after year.   
  • The 10-year deficit is still $3 trillion. 

     ... CW: took me a little while to get this up. I fainted when I read the source.

Sam Baker of The Hill: "Rep. Paul Ryan’s record on abortion and contraception could help widen a gender gap that is already hurting Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in several key states.... Romney and Ryan have both staked out staunchly conservative positions on abortion. Ryan, who is Catholic, opposes abortion except when the life of the mother is at risk. Romney believes in additional exceptions for rape and incest.

Bryan Bender & Brian MacQuarrie of the Boston Globe: "In 2009, as Rep. Paul D. Ryan was railing against President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package as a 'wasteful spending spree,' he wrote at least four letters to Obama's secretary of energy asking that millions of dollars from the program be granted to a pair of Wisconsin conservation groups...."

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: Paul Ryan has "... close ties to the donors and activists who have channeled Tea Party anger into a $400 million political machine, financed by a network of conservative and libertarian donors that now rivals, and occasionally challenges, the Republican establishment behind Mr. Romney. Mr. Ryan is one of a very few elected officials who have attended the Kochs' biannual conferences, where wealthy donors sit in on seminars on runaway government spending and the myths of climate change.... He ... spent his formative years immersed in the Republican Party's supply-side wing, working for lawmakers and conservative policy advocates like Jack Kemp. He has appeared for years at rallies, town hall meetings, and donor briefings for groups like the Club for Growth ... and Americans for Prosperity."

Atlas Shuddered. Prof. Jennifer Burns in a New York Times op-ed: Paul "Ryan is ... what [Ayn Rand] called 'a conservative in the worst sense of the word.' As a woman in a man's world, a Jewish atheist in a country dominated by Christianity and a refugee from a totalitarian state, Rand knew it was not enough to promote individual freedom in the economic realm alone. If Mr. Ryan becomes the next vice president, it wouldn't be her dream come true, but her nightmare."

Congressional Races

See also today's Ledes.

Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "The fight over Medicare ... is rapidly intensifying in House and Senate races around the nation after the selection of Representative Paul D. Ryan as the Republican vice-presidential candidate. Congressional Democrats and some analysts say that development could transform the fight for control of Congress, given his role as the author of a House-approved budget plan that would reshape Medicare."

Frank Newport of Gallup: "Ten percent of Americans in August approve of the job Congress is doing, tying last February's reading as the lowest in Gallup's 38-year history of this measure. Eighty-three percent disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job."

News Ledes

ABC News: "Ecuadorean officials said today that they would announce their final decision on whether to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tomorrow, but also claimed that the British government had threatened to raid the country's London embassy to get Assange back."

Welcome, Kids. The Future Thanks You. New York Times: "Long lines of illegal immigrants hoping for the opportunity to stay in the United States without fear of being deported stretched for blocks in cities around the country on Wednesday as they sought to apply for a new federal initiative that allows young immigrants to defer deportation."

Washington Post: "A security guard at the Family Research Council was shot and wounded Wednesday morning after a scuffle with a man who expressed disagreement with the group's conservative views in the lobby of the group's headquarters in downtown Washington, authorities said."

New York Times: "A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday refused to grant an injunction on a new voter identification law that Democrats say could harm President Obama's re-election chances by unfairly targeting minorities, college students and others in a key swing state.... The American Civil Liberties Union is expected to appeal the decision to the State Supreme Court, which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. A tie would affirm the law."

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Tommy Thompson won a fierce Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday on the theme of electability, as voters agreed with the former governor's claim that he represented the best chance to win the seat in November and help the GOP regain control of the Senate."

Hartford Courant: "Linda McMahon, the former CEO of wrestling juggernaut WWE<, once again won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, crushing former Congressman Christopher Shays by a 3-to-1 ratio."

Miami Herald: "Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson easily won his primary challenge Tuesday, advancing his bid for a third term in the U.S. Senate to the Nov. 6 general election when he'll face conservative Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV...." ...

... AP: "Veteran Republican Rep. John Mica turned back a challenge from tea party freshman Rep. Sandy Adams in their Florida GOP primary Tuesday, but in a surprise, another longtime GOP congressman, Cliff Stearns, was trailing his tea party challenger in the state. Political newcomer and veterinarian Ted Yoho was ahead of Stearns, a 12-term lawmaker, by less than 900 votes.... Yoho's anti-incumbent campaign was helped by a television ad that had actors dressed as politicians in suits eating from a trough alongside pigs and throwing mud at each other." ...

... Palm Beach Post: "Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West and Democrat Patrick Murphy will square off in the Nov. 6 general election for a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional seat after winning Tuesday primaries...."

Washington Post: "The Obama administration will kick off one of the most sweeping changes in immigration policy in decades Wednesday, allowing an estimated 1.7 million young undocumented immigrants to apply for the temporary right to live and work openly in the United States without fear of deportation..... On Tuesday, officials surprised advocacy groups by posting the application forms online one day early. Advocates across the country are planning workshops Wednesday...."

New York Times: "Standard Chartered, the British bank, has agreed to pay New York's top banking regulator $340 million to settle claims that it laundered hundreds of billions of dollars in tainted money for Iran and lied to regulators."

Reader Comments (12)

Some thoughts about the impact of Ryan's voucher plan that will replace Medicare.
Old folks will have to spend about six thousand dollars a year for the gap in voucher value and projected costs. Lots of us old folk do not have six thousand dollars.
Medi-gap insurance will be replaced by voucher-gap insurance. Since the gap is so large, only a small percentage of old folks will be able to afford insurance. About fifty six percent of medical care dollars come from Medicare, Medicaid and the VA.The Ryan plan is certain to free up a large number of specialists as Medicare and Medicaid dollars dry up.
Hopital emergency rooms will have people lined outside unless the law is changed and they can refuse help. A possibility. Radical cuts in Medicaid will send the sick to emergency rooms and the "industry" has lots of political power.
Fewer old folks will have insurance and fewer old folks will be hospitalized. Empty beds will cause hospital expenses and charges to rise.
Perhaps laws should be changed to allow Sarah Palins "death panels, or what are we going to do with sick old poor folks like me?
I don't think R&R give a shit.

August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

Okey dokey, friends in soul and spirit: if this does not make you arc a bean, nothing will!

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/15/us/politics/paul-ryan-meets-sheldon-adelson-in-las-vegas.html?hp

..."LAS VEGAS — Four days after his announcement as Mitt Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan was not in Florida talking Medicare with elderly voters or in drought-ridden Iowa talking about a farm bill. He traveled to the Venetian hotel here for a meeting hosted by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul who has pledged to spend as much as $100 million this year to defeat President Obama."

As a born and bred Wisconsin girl, I am embarrassed and shamed beyond measure! I repeat: this is NOT the Wisconsin where I was raised. Scotty Walker and Paulie Ryan are simply not representative of anything except the decrepit McCarthyism that appears to have festered years after it died an indecent alcoholic death. I am so glad I am glad I am watching this travesty from a safe distance on the Left Coast!

Sigh....

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate Madison

Re: "Black to Chicago", Watch how in the coming months R&R work the coded message that the President is colored(brown) into their speeches. Desperate times call for desperate measures and in America skin color is a trump card. In October what skin tone is going to get your vote? I'm down with brown, white gives me fright.

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

The exchange between Soledad and Sununu was stunning. This is the kind of interviewing we wish to see from our reporters, but seldom do. And yet with the facts at her finger tips that old, porcine pug of a man refused to admit he was wrong. Amazing!

A couple of nights ago I happened upon the tail end of a symposium in which Grover Norquist was holding court. He was holding up a map while telling the group that it won't be long before the blue states will change to red and soon there will be no divisions in this country––the Republicans will take over one state at a time. I had an eery feeling of doom––realizing he actually meant what he said and suddenly jackboots came to mind with uniforms that have the letter R on the pockets and inside each a picture of the boa constrictor that Grover once kept in his office.

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Kate,

Maybe the more arctic areas of the northern parts of Wisconsin have been protecting a frozen strain of the McCarthy Hate and Stupidity Virus, sort of like remnants of the 1918 influenza have been found still living in corpses buried in permafrost graves in Norway. Now that global warming has reduced tundra regions to postage stamp size, the McCarthy Virus has come back to life, carving out a path of racism, hatred, and GOP exceptionalism in its wake. Wisconsin has become a state infested with GOP pod people. McCarthy zombies out to eat the brains of anyone who can still think.

I think they're succeeding.

Maybe they're linking up with other GOP zombies in thrall to Grover Norquist as PD notes. Norquist may think he's the new emperor but I firmly believe he will end up on history's trash heap as just another wild-eyed demagogue. But not before he causes a lot of misery. Just look at Stalin. Or Bush.

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

There is a fundamental change underway in our country and I am not sure most people recognize what is happening amidst the distractions created by the media and our politicians. A long time ago in our history, our country had a huge disparity of wealth, with a largely uneducated population working in dangerous conditions and with little security for the future. After the depression, the people elected leaders who created the New Deal that changed the future for the masses and enabled the creation of a secure middle class. The programs were funded through taxes, collected from everyone. The US became the envy of the world, a model of democracy and a world power. There were non-profit public schools, public services, public security, and public infrastructure, all governed by the voice of the people - the democratic government. There was also a strong private sector with businesses thriving on the effective infrastructure that provided educated workers who had purchasing power. The government had a balanced budget.

But there was a segment of the population who chafed at this equalization and what they felt were constraints on their power and potential wealth. They did not like having to follow rules about how to treat their employees or protect the environment because that meant less profit for them. They did not like seeing so much of the nation's wealth being out of their reach. So they elected officials whose aim was to drown government in a bathtub, in the words of Grover Norquist. What happened next has been called the Shock Doctrine. They gradually eroded government regulations on the finance industry so banks and private equity firms could create wealth in new creative ways. The public was encouraged to take on personal debt so they could buy more goods. Tax incentives were created that allowed companies to move jobs overseas where labor was cheaper. Then, the supposedly fiscal conservative leaders took our nation to war while cutting taxes, resulting in a huge increase in debt. And then it came crashing down in the financial crisis.

The architects of this shock doctrine then made their move. They cried "we can no longer afford this government spending!" Rather than reducing military spending or raising taxes, they instead chose to sacrifice the public employees, services and infrastructure and the American middle class. In this moment of crisis came the "heroes" - the people who had the power and the money (largely accumulated though tax cuts). The private equity firms "saved" companies for the owners and investors by making huge cuts in employees and benefits and by outsourcing (while walking away with millions for themselves). These for-profit companies are now drooling at the opportunity to "save" our schools, to save Medicare and Social Security. Unfortunately, if you examine most studies that have been done on the effectiveness of privatization of public services, while the investors may profit, the services and outcomes do not prove to be better. But cities and individuals have been shocked into having to submit to these saviors. Forgive me for believing that if the for-profit method was truly better, they wouldn't have to use a high-pressure sale method to sell it to the public!

So when you hear talking points about reducing the deficit, saving Medicare or any currently non-profit/public service, please understand that the alternative is a private solution, where someone stands to make a lot of money giving us something that may be less effective, less secure and less equitable. When you hear talking points about evil unions, understand that it is a criticism of the whole working class that would dare to ask for a little bigger piece of the pie. When you hear talking points attacking minorities, realize that they are trying (effectively) to divide the "masses" so we won't fight back for what is rightly ours.

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Lisa: A wonderful comment that should be repeated each week from now until the election.

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

Lisa-

Great comment! I agree with all you said and hope everybody reads (or rereads) Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine." America has been successfully casting her greedy web on other countries for many years--destroying their middle classes and keeping wealth at the top--installing dictators to "keep the order." Now we are the official prey and getting a full court press! Almost all necessities are in place. What is required is another couple of Scalias and Thomases on the Supreme Court. Then all "branches" will be covered in this land of the ruling elite--home of the truly disenfranchised.

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate Madison

While a lot of energy has been expended contemplating the pathetic dereliction of duty regarding our mass media institutions in this country, I think we can now easily assume that we have entered into a new phase in disconnect between the hard truth and the current aspartame-laden corporate kool aid being spoon fed to the general population.

In this era of "post-truth" politics, the bullshit is rotten and its stench is pervading throughout society.

To be sure, journalism malpractice and politicians being full of shit is certainly not a new phenomenon, but Mitt's Mendacity and journalists' passivity and compliance seem to be on another level than usual. The massive deregulation of the communications industry has steered us to this tipping point, where self-censorship and mediocracy ensure job security.

Chomsky describes the current circus well:
"Elections have become a charade, run by the public relations industry. After his 2008 victory, Obama won an award from the industry for the best marketing campaign of the year. Executives were euphoric. In the business press they explained that they had been marketing candidates like other commodities since Ronald Reagan, but 2008 was their greatest achievement and would change the style in corporate boardrooms. The 2012 election is expected to cost $2 billion, mostly in corporate funding. Small wonder that Obama is selecting business leaders for top positions. The public is angry and frustrated, but as long as the Muasher principle (compliance among the Wealthy and Powerful leaves the average obsolete) prevails, that doesn't matter."

We have two general types of citizens in our Exceptional country. There's the vast majority who smell the bullshit, close their eyes and breathe deeply until their sensors adjust, or the rest who detect the stench and break out the pooper-scoopers.

We need more pooper-scoopers.

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Paul Ryan: Intellectual Dilettante and Poseur.

(First, apologies for the length of these extended posts. There's just so much to consider and sometimes I feel the need to offer more support for certain assertions than just "Ryan and Romney are dicks.")

E.J. Dionne last week wrote a piece on Ryan talking about the difference between theory and practice, between bluesky thinking and pragmatic application of workable solutions to real world problems. Republicans these days, and especially their Intellectual in Chief, Paul Ryan, specialize in theory. Oh, they also spend a great deal of time finding solutions to non-existent or manufactured problems as well (voter fraud) but that amounts to the same thing:
Zero improvement in the real world.

And all the hosannas about Ryan’s thoughtfulness, seriousness, intellect, etc, got me thinking about how truly serious thinkers work. Thinking well and devising properly parsed philosophies take a toll. It’s not work for the squeamish or those unable to expose their thinking to rigid and difficult scrutiny. This is why there are virtually no serious thinkers in Republican camps today. None. PD brought to our attention how flustered John Sununu became when faced with facts. He resorts to name calling and stamping his feet. When all else fails, Republicans pull out the old “We do it for LIBERTY” card. But I simply cannot recall any cogent defense for the kind of calamity they court.

Sad, really. But dangerous as well. For us and for the country.

But I also want to look more carefully at the shameful intellectual dilettantism practiced by such as Paul Ryan as based on the dreary sophistry of his idol, Ayn Rand. At this point I point you to a quote of JM Keynes in a review of Friedrich Hayek’s “Prices and Production”: "An extraordinary example of how, starting with a mistake, a remorseless logician can end up in Bedlam".

Things can get crazy very quickly when one starts off on the wrong foot.

Thus, beginning with a mistaken and wrongheaded view of the world, the kind of Randian (should be ‘randy’ considering Rand’s profligate and hedonistic lifestyle—a lifestyle, by the way that would be roundly excoriated by GOP loudmouths like Limbaugh had progressives adopted a similarly inclined dilettante as their philosophical icon) libertarianism that Paul Ryan has adopted and seeks to impose on the country is pure fantasy. And the one genuine philosopher who has supported and in many ways re-energized and authorized the revival of Libertarianism back in the 70s, Robert Nozick, later in his career wrote a heart-felt mea culpa for not coming to a more timely recognition of the dangers and severe limitations of Libertarianism as a political philosophy.

As Keynes maintained, the problem is that beginning with a mistake, every decision one makes after that creates a course deviation and veers further and further away from truth (and reality). The only ending can be disaster.

Wagner’s massive Ring of the Niebelung describes, on a somewhat more epic scale, a similar situation. The Gods, after the creation of the world, make a serious mistake in judgment which upsets the natural order of the universe. Father of the Gods, Wotan, spends eons trying to rectify his early mistake but realizes that the only way out is the destruction of the world (for a new beginning) and the diminishment and final fading of his power as the Twilight of the Gods sets in. I don’t have any illusions that a single Republican has the courage to accede to the kind of serious and unflinching introspection that allowed Wotan to finally see the truth and accept responsibility for his original sin, as it were. They still view themselves as gods and the rest of us as Niebelungs laboring underground to mine their gold.

But Nozick did have that kind of introspective power. As a trained philosopher he was able to continue to interrogate his own work finally concluding that Libertarianism is an unworkable, and ultimately inhuman, philosophy.

Here in part is what Nozick says in his essay "The Zigzag of Politics":

"The libertarian position I once propounded now seems to me seriously inadequate, in part because it did not fully knot the humane considerations and joint cooperative activities it left room for more closely into its fabric. …There are some things we choose to do together through government in solemn marking of our human solidarity, served by the fact that we do them together in this official fashion and often also by the content of the action itself."

And many of the things done in cooperation with others through a government (allowed to function properly) simply cannot be done by individuals no matter how wealthy or "free". Could Romney have put a man on the moon? Or built the interstate highway system or constructed a system of public schools across the country? A larger question is "would he even care to do these things?"

Ryan has only Rand’s juvenile, warped version of Libertarianism, nowhere near as rigorously thought out as Nozick’s early take as described in “Anarchy, State, and Utopia”. So we have Rand basing her iconoclastic and adolescent (revenge) fantasy work on a warped version of an ultimately untenable and unsupportable philosophy, being adopted, wholly, and with even less rigorous thinking by another overgrown adolescent who believes he can impose this triply warped philosophy on an entire nation, without a scintilla of the kind of rigorous and careful thinking that such a program demands.

And so we arrive at Keynes’ predicted bedlam.

Ryan is an intellectual dilettante. And a bad one, at that. We don’t need that kind of thinking. We've had it for the last couple of decades starting with Reagan’s supply side canard, continuing on through years of Gingrich’s polluted cogitations and running over the edge of the cliff with Bush’s Irving Kristol/Leo Strauss neo-con casuistries.

No more dilettantes, please. Ryan’s juvenile fantasy theories, if imposed, would seriously impair this nation on so many levels. Even those who fervently wish Libertarian fantasies to actually work, the one truly serious Libertarian philosopher of the last generation declared that it ain’t gonna work. No way, no how.

Do you think Paul Ryan has ever read Nozick? Nope. He just pretends to read big thinkers. Just like he pretends to be one of them.

R&R. The Great Pretenders.

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Lisa,

Excellent post. Your description of the struggles of average Americans against the arrayed forces of political and economic power remind us of what spurred Marx to uncover the roots of such inequality, work that set off a century or more of upheavals.

Whatever else you might think of what others did with his work, at least Marx started a conversation that none of the Ryans, Romneys, Murdochs, and Koch brothers of his world would ever have initiated. A conversation they are hoping fervently to quell forever if not with this next election then with continued political zeal the funding of which has been guaranteed by their operatives on the Supreme Court.

Pooper-scoopers for everyone!

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

A million thanks to Marie Burns for providing SO MUCH INFORMATION on a daily basis as well as this fabulous forum for the concerned, fearful, and best informed readers anywhere to share opinions and information. You guys nail it every time not only with great insight, but humor, compassion, and expanded world views rolled into one.

Please keep writing everyone--it's a great comfort to those of us wandering in the wilderness of red states with little hope of hearing anything resembling an original thought from any of the natives.

Beautifully written Lisa. And Akilleus, as usual spot on. I'm with JJG--down with brown!

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJacquelyn
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