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.

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President highlighted the progress made protecting American consumers since he signed Wall Street reform into law five years ago, including an important new step taken by the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this week toward preventing abuses in payday lending":

The Ledes

Saturday, March 28, 2015.

Washington Post: "Arab leaders vowed Saturday to back the embattled Yemeni president as a Saudi Arabia-led coalition intensified airstrikes on Shiite rebel targets across Yemen, escalating a conflict that many residents fear could lead to a land invasion.... The Saudis and their allies think that the Shiite rebels are backed by Iran and that Tehran is trying to exert control over a country that had been an ally of Riyadh and Washington."

Telegraph: "A close media aide to Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, has sought political asylum in Switzerland after travelling to Lausanne to cover the nuclear talks between Tehran and the West.Amir Hossein Motaghi, who managed public relations for Mr Rouhani during his 2013 election campaign, was said by Iranian news agencies to have quit his job at the Iran Student Correspondents Association (ISCA). He then appeared on an opposition television channel based in London to say he no longer saw any 'sense' in his profession as a journalist as he could only write what he was told."

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 26

4:10 pm ET: President Obama speaks about the economy in Birmingham, Alabama

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

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.

Contact the Constant Weader

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

Wednesday
Aug012012

The Commentariat -- August 2, 2012

Palestinians are a hard-working and an incredible community. They have done remarkably well outside their country. I have never met a poor Palestinian in the United States; every Palestinian I know is a college professor or a doctor. -- Bill Clinton, in Riyadh, "showing Romney how it's done"

Simon Johnson in the New York Times: the big banks rely on three myths to justify their hegemony: (1) that their critics are whacked-out "populists"; (2) that Dodd-Frank reforms are not justified by a costs-benefits analysis; & (3) that financial reform will hurt economic growth.

New York Times Editors: "The I.R.S., citing 'current public interest in this issue,' promised a review [of political activity for social welfare nonprofits that enjoy exemptions under section 501(c)(4)] after receiving complaints from ... watchdog groups that have been tracking the ballooning use of the 'social welfare' guise to finance classic hardball politics. It is ludicrous to perceive Karl Rove, the canny Republican strategist and money raiser, as primarily nonpartisan and civic-minded...." The review is unlikely to affect the current campaign season.

I tell all my people, 'I'm not working for Chick-fil-A; I'm working for the Lord.' -- Donald Elam, a Chick-fil-A franchisee in -- appropriately enough -- Superstition Springs, Arizona

It's interesting that the Lord chooses to pay them a third of what they would get if they owned any other franchise. He does work in mysterious ways. -- Digby

"The Cult of Chick-fil-A." Emily Schmall of Forbes: Chick-fil-A "seeks loyal employees and operators who believe serving chicken is God's work. Careful screening of new hires keeps it out of trouble." They get away with likely discriminatory practices because so many of their workers are franchisees who are not covered under anti-discrimination laws.

Michael Hiltzig of the Los Angeles Times: "In an interview with a Baptist publication and an appearance on a devotional radio program, [Dan] Cathy, [president & CEO of Chick-fil-A] unburdened himself of the view that gay marriage violated God's plan.... Cathy's outburst ignited a very predictable outbreak of partisan posturing.... Sarah Palin and Todd Palin had their picture taken holding up big bags from Chick-fil-A, as if to prove that in modern America you can affiliate yourself with retrograde social prejudice and line your arteries with cholesterol at one stop, without moving the car."

Scott Shane of the New York Times: "F.B.I. agents on a hunt for leakers have interviewed current and former high-level government officials from multiple agencies in recent weeks, casting a distinct chill over press coverage of national security issues as agencies decline routine interview requests and refuse to provide background briefings."

Dave Weigel of Slate covers the Pennsylvania voter fraud case for Slate. It's going so badly for the state that a Republican strategist tells Weigel that the state is probably saving its thunder for the higher courts. CW: Really? The state can't call witnesses in the appellate & Supreme Courts. ...

     ... Here's a follow-up post from Weigel.

Presidential Race

The Great Suppression of 2012. Charles Blow: "... a lot of people who say that they are likely to vote may not actually be eligible to vote. The greatest margin of uncertainty may well be caused by poll respondents who think that they will able to vote for President Obama in November, but may not be allowed to do so." Update: see also links to posts, above, by Dave Weigel of Slate on the Pennsylvania case.

Maggie Haberman of Politico: Harry Reid doubles down. He now claims that "I have had a number of people tell me that" Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years. Asked by reporters in Nevada to elaborate, Reid said, "I don't think the burden should be on me. The burden should be on him. He's the one I've alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn't he release his tax returns?"

"He pays less, you pay more":

Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "The Romney campaign is pushing back against a new study from researchers at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center suggesting Mitt Romney's tax proposals would actually increase taxes for a whopping a 95% of Americans, denouncing the Tax Policy Center ... as a 'liberal' group.... While the Romney campaign hasn't rebutted the substance of the study, they claim the Tax Policy Center should be dismissed entirely as a biased source. But" the Romney camp called the Tax Policy Center an "objective third party" when they used its analysis to slam primary opponent Rick Perry's budget proposal. ...

... Worse Than Romney. Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post: "Romney can take some solace in knowing his allies in Congress have proposed a plan that shifts the burden from high-income to middle-income taxpayers even more dramatically." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... Mitt and his party are committed to fiscal policies that would significantly skew the tax burden towards in the middle and bottom of the income scale, while concentrating 'spending restraint' on the same people as well. And why wouldn't they do so? If wealth is a measurement of 'success,' and if success is a measurement of 'virtue,' then regressive policies become a moral imperative, and that's pretty much the unstated overriding goal of today's conservative movement and GOP."

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change culture and save it from itself. -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Geographer Jared Diamond in a New York Times op-ed: Mitt Romney misrepresented my views. What he said "is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it.... Our geography won't keep us rich and powerful if we can't get a good education, can't afford health care and can't count on our hard work's being rewarded by good jobs and rising incomes." ...

... Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post: "... most people still believe that two cultures in particular, African and Islamic, inhibit economic development. But the two countries that will next achieve a gross domestic product of $1 trillion are both Muslim democracies -- Turkey and Indonesia. Of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world today, seven are African.... Ironically, the argument that culture is central to a country's success has been used most frequently by Asian strongmen to argue that their countries need not adopt Western-style democracy."

... Bob Wright of The Atlantic: "... what is alarming ... is that [Romney] probably has no awareness of the stunning irony of going to Jerusalem, having a lovefest with Bibi Netanyahu, defender-in-chief of the Israeli occupation, and then preaching to Palestinians that they'd be better off if only they'd get themselves some freedom! ... There's one thing he just can't seem to wrap his mind around: not being Mitt."

Every policy prescription Romney comes up with -- even when he tries to hide the details as he does with his economic proposal -- is bad policy & would be unpopular if voters heard what it was. That is, of course, the reason Secret Mitt has a secret agenda. Besides --

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: one of the old Mitt Romneys -- the one who wrote No Apology -- thought government investing in innovation was important & cited -- contra the new winger meme -- the Internet as one example of government-funded innovation. "Romney calls for increasing government spending on R&D in his book, he has supported GOP plans like Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, which would slash this kind of investment."

Congressional Races

Gail Collins: "Texas Republicans have just nominated a Senate candidate who is promising to protect America's golf courses from the United Nations.... [Ted] Cruz's victory was the latest in a number of Tea Party triumphs in Republican primaries, and it certainly does suggest that next year the Republican Senate contingent will be composed almost entirely of right-wing purists and people who are afraid they're going to be primaried by a right-wing purist." ...

... Russell Goldman of ABC News: "The stunning Texas victory of Ted Cruz, a young Tea Party-backed Republican over an establishment candidate vying for a Senate seat, has already so emboldened the insurgent conservative movement that activists are warning Mitt Romney he had better get on board. 'These guys [newly elected Tea Party candidates]" are going to force Romney to the right,' said Andrea Shell, a spokeswoman for Tea Party group Freedom Works. 'That is our entire mission.'"

Right Wing World *

I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that's Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that's the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates. -- Mike Kelly (RTP-Pa.) ...

... Pema Levy of TPM: "Beginning Wednesday, private insurers are required to cover contraceptive services in new plans without a co-pay as mandated by the health care reform law."

* Where the implementation of every Democratic act is the equivalent of an alien invasion.

News Ledes

Too Bad about the Disaster, Folks. We're Going on Vacation. New York Times: "After refusing to consider a sweeping five-year farm measure, House Republican leaders jammed through a short-term, $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of farmers.... Democratic leaders in the Senate, which already passed a bipartisan five-year bill, refused to take up the House measure, faulting House Republican leaders for failing to consider the broader legislation in time."

Politico: "The Senate's late-summer race to pass cybersecurity legislation before leaving for recess came to a dead end Thursday when Democrats couldn't muster enough gas to clear a procedural vote over objections of GOP leaders and many big business lobbies. The bill required 60 votes to cut off debate and get it to the floor for a vote, but fell short 52-46."

Reuters: "Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is stepping down as the U.N.-Arab League mediator in the 17-month-old Syria conflict at the end of the month, the United Nations said on Thursday, the latest sign that the outlook for a diplomatic solution is bleak." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Frustrated by the seemingly intractable Syrian conflict, Kofi Annan announced his resignation on Thursday as the special peace envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, throwing new doubts on whether a diplomatic solution is possible. He also said President Bashar al-Assad of Syria 'must leave office.'"

AP: "Nearly 220 counties in a dozen drought-stricken states were added Wednesday to the U.S. government's list of natural disaster areas as the nation's agriculture chief unveiled new help for frustrated, cash-strapped farmers and ranchers grappling with extreme dryness and heat.... More than half of all U.S. counties -- 1,584 in 32 states -- have been designated primary disaster areas this growing season...."

AP: "Arab countries pushed ahead Wednesday with a symbolic U.N. General Assembly resolution that tells Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign and turn over power to a transitional government. It also demands that the Syrian army stop its shelling and helicopter attacks and withdraw to its barracks. A vote is set for Friday morning."

Bloomberg News: "The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency warned its employees and contractors last week to stop using their government computers to surf the Internet for pornographic sites, according to the agency's executive director."

New York Times: "New York City, embracing an experimental mechanism for financing social services that has excited and worried government reformers around the world, will allow Goldman Sachs to invest nearly $10 million in a jail program, with the pledge that the financial services giant would profit if the program succeeded in significantly reducing recidivism rates."

ABC News: "Dr. Lynne Fenton, the psychiatrist who was treating [mass murder suspect James] Holmes, 24, at the school, was also a key member of the university's threat assessment team, [and] ... by early June, Fenton had informed other members of the team about her concerns regarding Holmes. But on June 10 -- three days after Holmes bought an assault weapon and added it to his already growing arsenal -- he suddenly told the university that he was dropping out.... KMGH-TV reported last week that he'd purchased the weapon hours after failing a key oral exam."

AP: "Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, her running mate and three others have been arrested amid a sit-in at a downtown Philadelphia bank over housing foreclosures."

AP: Heidi Wys, "an adviser to Puerto Rico's most powerful female lawmaker, faced calls to resign on Wednesday after she sent a tweet to President Barack Obama" that read, ".. Take her [Michelle Obama] to Burger King, buy her a sundae with double banana, take her to your homeland, Kenya!"

Reader Comments (7)

I will miss Gore Vidal--although living until age 86 certainly does not make his death a tragedy. I was fortunate to see him twice in person and many times on the Tee Vee. I will always treasure his Cassandra-like temperament and his brilliant mind. I have also enjoyed many of his books, especially his memoir, "Palimpsest."

Gore Vidal was a radical--an unafraid, honest, true-to-self, incredibily snotty brat. Here is one of my favorite quotes:

"We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic. The founding fathers hated two things, one was monarchy and the other was democracy, they gave us a constitution that saw to it we will have neither. I don't know how wise they were."

REST IN INTERESTING PEACE, GORE VIDAL!

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate Madison

Re: Fried chicken parts, Sarah Palin, and gay marriages. Can it get better? Yes, in two or three years there will be a report of unnatural man chicken relationships at Chic-an-fic. Right now Gore Vidal and Kurt Vonnigut (sp) are chuckling like a couple of old hens and scratching out words for the musical, "Gallo de mio"; three acts; boy finds chicken, boy loses chicken, boy marries chicken.
Collectively we have become dumber than chicken shit. Right now it what world would we be exceptional?

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

Remember in the years before Citizens United, before ',,,corporations are people, my friend." that corporations were pretty circumspect and ONLY SPOKE OF BUSINESS THINGS. They went about the business they were IN, producing, marketing, selling, yada yada.

Then along came Citizens United...and we suddenly have all these corporate bigmouths from Target to Chick-fil-A going on record with the most outrageous pronouncements. I wonder if their PR guys (if any remain) are now spending days & nights at the bar drowning their woes. Also, I am now at the point of questioning every purchase—because if I don't like their political position, I don't buy. On the plus side, I am saving money!

P.S. @kate - the Gore Vidal quote is classic Vidal. His voice will be missed.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

@JJG I don't think we are becoming dumber. The problem is we are not any smarter than we were 5000 years ago. In order become smarter we have to accept the idea that much of what we believed back then is not true. You know all that science crap. Look at gay marriage, women's rights, contraception, global warming, evolution. All of this is the conservative effort to conserve their fantasies. It's dumb by denial.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Well, fellow Mericans, after feeling somewhat mellow after my dream yesterday––mentioned on yesterday's comments––I now face another new day realizing that things are getting more and more bizarre: Chickens who sit on the right hand side of god; election of Cruz whose tea is spiked with NUT-meg; a guy named Kelly who equates the ACA's expansion of women's health services to Pearl Harbor & 9/11; and best of all was Jared Diamond's piece in the Times which castigated Romney for misrepresenting his theories––how could he have read Diamond's book and come up with such twisted notions? How indeed!! JJG thinks we are becoming dumber and dumber, but Marvin says he doesn't think we are any smarter than we were 5000 years ago. We as a species have made great strides; the trouble is we humans seem to screw things up so badly that the gains we have made keep getting sabotaged by those that DON'T evolve, won't accept certain truths, refuse to learn new ways and cling to yesterday's ways and means. I guess it all boils down to crossed fingers and breath holding for a saner tomorrow. I'm just not sure I believe that will happen any time soon.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

In reference to the discussion of JJG, Marvin, and PD, it appears that exceptional human beings raise the level of civilization, and the rest of us go along for the ride. Then, as we drive in a finely-tooled car along roads built by the Eisenhower Administration, we think about how much we've accomplished. I would say that self-esteem has improved during the last 5000 years, but the Moses-era Jews were kinda full of themselves too.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

Re: now news is good news; late comment on early comment. By saying "collectively" I meant the following; if communication is society and society is culture, culture is becoming gross as communication becomes more sophisticated. Two hundred years ago the Palins would be standing outside their cabin with bags of chicken parts and only a few of their neighbors would witness their behavior. Communication would exchange and the locals would know that the Palins stood strongly on the side of chicken parts. But overall the national culture would know little about the Palins and their odd fixation with chicken parts and the Bible.
The grossness of the Palins has always been part of of culture but only a small part.
Now days because of the sophistication of communication the Palins have a national voice and play a large part of culture.
As the amount of communication grows the quality of knowledge diminishes. Romney's private tax evasion evidence is boring next to Life styles of the Rich and Famous. As the speed of communication increases the import of the information decreases. The killing in Florida is erased with the killings in Denver. This post is an example, tomorrow already has come; nobody will read this.
So we are not getting dumber but we are numbed by faster and more knowledge of matters that mean less and less.
Someone who watches Fox News two hours a day and reads the National Enquirer every week and receives twit updates every couple of minutes certainly has more information that someone who has only the Sonnets to mull over. But who would you consider smarter or more knowledgeable?
In short I believe in todays world we think more about what matters least; there for we are becoming dumber.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG
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