The Ledes

Friday, August 22, 2014.

New York Times: "A Chinese fighter jet flew within 30 feet of a Navy surveillance and reconnaissance plane this week in international airspace just off the Chinese coast, the Pentagon said Friday. The encounter, known as an intercept, 'was very, very close, very dangerous,' said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. The Pentagon filed a diplomatic complaint with the People’s Liberation Army on Friday morning, Defense Department officials said. As of Friday afternoon, it had not received a reply."

** New York Times: "Russian military has moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and was using them to fire at Ukrainian forces, NATO officials said on Friday. The West has long accused Russia of supporting the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, but this is the first time it has said it had evidence that the Russian military was operating in Ukrainian territory."

Guardian: "Iraqi government forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters have launched attacks to recapture two towns in the north from Islamic State (Isis) militants, as Western governments consider how to mount an effective response to the threat posed by the extremist group that has redrawn the border of Iraq and Syria."

New York Times: "The first trucks from a long-stalled Russian convoy said to be carrying humanitarian aid crossed the border into eastern Ukraine on Friday, without the consent of the Ukrainian government and unaccompanied by Red Cross escorts, as had been earlier agreed upon. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a long statement in Moscow saying, in essence, that it had authorized the crossing because it was fed up with stalling by the government in Kiev." ...

... Washington Post: "Ukrainian authorities appeared to be scrambling Friday to decide how to respond to the border incursion. A Ukrainian military spokesman backed away from previous bellicose statements, but state security chief Valentyn Nalivaychenko told journalists in Kiev, 'We consider this a direct invasion by Russia of Ukraine,' Reuters news agency reported. He said Ukrainian forces would not use force against the convoy because they want to avoid 'provocations.'”

AP: "Gaza gunmen killed 18 alleged spies for Israel on Friday, including seven who were lined up behind a mosque and shot after midday prayers, in response to Israel’s deadly airstrikes against top Hamas military commanders."

Washington Post: "Ever since the retirement of the space shuttle three years ago, American astronauts have had to hitchhike their way to the International Space Station aboard Russian spaceships. It is an increasingly costly arrangement..., made worse by U.S.-Russian tensions over the crisis in Ukraine. But in the coming weeks, NASA is expected to announce its long-awaited solution: a multibillion-dollar contract to build a U.S. spacecraft, which could help reignite a struggling American space program."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, August 21, 2014.

New York Times: "Some 10,000 mourners on Thursday buried three senior commanders of the armed wing of Hamas who were killed in predawn airstrikes by Israel, the most significant blow to the group’s leadership since Israel’s operation in Gaza began more than six weeks ago."

ABC News: "An American doctor who contracted Ebola will be released today from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, with details expected on the release of a second patient who also contracted the disease.... The virus has killed at least 1,229 and sickened 1,011 more, according to numbers released Tuesday by the World Health Organization. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have the most cases."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 22

1:30 pm ET: Press briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz

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

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

Looking for a bucolic retreat where the townspeople will protect you from curious outsiders? Got about $700K to burn? Then you might be interested in purchasing the former home of fiction writer J. D. Salinger. the property is located in Cornish, New Hamphire:

... Many more pix & a virtual tour here.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

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:

 

Contact the Constant Weader

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Sunday
Feb122012

The Commentariat -- February 13, 2012

Abso-fucking-lutely not. -- Christina Romer, in 2009, on whether the stimulus had been big enough ...

... ** Norm Scheiber of The New Republic on "Obama's worst year." Scheiber lays out the 2011 internal White House deliberations on the budget, the deficit, the debt ceiling. Not a pretty picture. Read the whole thing; here's Scheiber's conclusion:

For voters contemplating whether [President Obama] deserves a second term, the question is less and less one of policy or even worldview than of basic disposition. Throughout his political career, Obama has displayed an uncanny knack for responding to existential threats....But, in every case, the adjustments didn’t come until the crisis was already at hand. His initial approach was too passive and too accommodating, and he stuck with it far too long.

Given the booby traps that await the next president — Iranian nukes, global financial turmoil — this habit seems dangerously risky.... Is Obama’s newfound boldness on the economy yet another last-minute course-correction? Or has he finally learned a deeper lesson? More than just a presidency may hinge on the answer.

... As Paul Krugman wrote,

Yet it seemed totally obvious to me that

1. There would be no going back to the well if the first stimulus fell short
2. Obama would get no credit for fiscal responsibility, no matter what he offered by way of spending cuts
3. The GOP would ruthlessly exploit whatever leverage it was given

So how is it that all these worldly-wise political types got these things so wrong?

       ... CW: this is the same thing I asked yesterday in response to Jim Fallows' analysis of the Obama presidency.

Kathleen Hennessey & Christi Parsons of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama's 2013 budget, scheduled for release Monday, offers a preview of the November election as both parties angle to refine the vision they hope to sell to voters. Obama's plan and the House Republicans' answer, due in the spring, are aimed as much at offering voters a choice as at promoting policies destined for enactment. For the president, the budget is another opportunity to try to position himself as a defender of the middle class, a leader willing to ask the wealthiest to pay more in taxes and to use government spending to spur job growth. It will give a nod to the president's call for balanced deficit reduction, while also aiming to preserve Democrats' brand as guardians of the social safety net. Over the last year the conversation was about 'How much do we cut?' Obama's budget will try to shift to more politically advantageous questions: 'Who should pay more?' and 'What is fair?'"

Bill Moyers talks to Reagan administration economist Bruce Bartlett on where the right went wrong. The transcript is here:

Cullen Murphy in a New York Times op-ed on the dangers inherent in moral certitude. "Triumphalist rhetoric about the Constitution ignores the skeptical view of human nature that underlies it."

Prof. Nancy Folbre in the New York Times: "A political and cultural battle has now become an economic siege. Having failed to roll back legal access to abortion and contraception, opponents now seek to make them as costly as possible. It’s a clever strategy, because it does not require majority political support.... The women most directly affected are those with the weakest political voice and the lowest discretionary income." In Kansas & Virginia, where "supply-side" restrictions (like imposing specific square-footage requirements for the janitors' closet!) "the provider best able to withstand the regulatory assault is Planned Parenthood, which helps explain why this organization has come under Congressional investigation and was — at least temporarily — threatened by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation with withdrawal of support."

Click on the image to see the entire strip by Brian McFadden of the New York Times.

Right Wing World

Paul Krugman: "... tinfoil hats have become a common, if not mandatory, G.O.P. fashion accessory.... For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy.... Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control."

Blame My Wife. -- Rick Santorum. Brian Knowlton of the New York Times: When George Stephanopoulos asked Rick Santorum on Sunday "to explain a remark in his book 'It Takes a Family' that accuses 'radical feminists' of undermining families and trying to convince women that they could find fulfillment only in the workplace..., Mr. Santorum said that his wife, Karen, had written that section of the 2005 book — though only his name is on the cover and he does not list her, in his acknowledgements, among those 'who assisted me in the writing of this book.' ... Mr. Santorum pleaded unfamiliarity with the citation, saying, 'I don’t know — that’s a new quote for me.' ... Mr. Stephanopoulos had asked him about the same quote in 2005."

Alex Koppelman of the New Yorker: Mitt Romney's narrow win (194 more votes than Ron Paul got) in the sparsely-attended, non-binding Maine caucuses & in the CPAC straw poll (he's won it three times before) don't mean much. And neither does he: "... there never seems to be any depth of feeling there; his speeches are, like the man himself, all surface perfection, and not much underneath. Saying the word 'conservative' almost once per minute substitutes for real passion."

NEW. Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "For a candidate running against the entrenched interests of Washington, Mitt Romney keeps an awful lot of lobbyists around." ...

... Amy Shipley of the Washington Post writes a story under the headline, "10 years after Salt Lake City Olympics, questions about Romney's contributions." You might think it would be a shocking exposé of Romney's shoddy work & total sleaziness. It isn't. The article pretty much says the answer to the "questions" posed in the headline is -- "Romney is fantastic!" The only raps: he took the job for political reasons (no kidding!) & he secured a lot of federal government funding for the games. So call this a puff piece masquerading as a critical report. ...

... An homage to Gail Collins:

 

Who's Writing the Laws? New York Times Editorial Board: "The American Legislative Exchange Council was founded in 1973 by the right-wing activist Paul Weyrich; its big funders include Exxon Mobil, the Olin and Scaife families and foundations tied to Koch Industries. Many of the largest corporations are represented on its board.... It is no coincidence that so many state legislatures have spent the last year taking the same destructive actions: making it harder for minorities and other groups that support Democrats to vote, obstructing health care reform, weakening environmental regulations and breaking the spines of public- and private-sector unions. All of these efforts are being backed — in some cases, orchestrated — by [ALEC].... Voters have a right to know whether the representatives they elect are actually writing the laws, or whether the job has been outsourced to big corporate interests." ...

... Mike Ludwig of Truthout: "Over the past year, Ohio lawmakers introduced 33 bills that are identical to or 'appear to contain' elements of the ALEC's infamous model legislation that promotes a pro-corporate agenda, according to a report released this week by watchdog groups." The report, commissioned by a number of watchdog groups, is here. Thanks to contributor Dave S. for the link.

Prof. Alexander Keyssar in a New York Times op-ed on the long history of voter suppression in this country. The one the right is foisting on us now fits right in with this sordid history. "No state has ever attempted to disenfranchise upper-middle-class or wealthy white male citizens. Acknowledging the realities of our history should lead all of us to be profoundly skeptical of laws that burden, or impede, the exercise of what Lyndon B. Johnson called 'the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.'”

News Ledes

President Obama presented the National Medals of Arts & Humanities today:

     ... Related post here.

Washington Post: "Trying to avert another tax showdown, House Republican leaders Monday proposed an extension of the withholding-tax holiday to the end of the year without offsetting spending cuts.... The top three House GOP leaders backed off previous demands that its extension be accompanied by spending reductions to shore up the finances of the Social Security program, which is funded through withholding taxes."

Seattle Times: "In a crowded reception room surrounded by applauding gay couples and lawmakers, and with media from around the country looking on, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday signed landmark legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington state. The historic event brings Washington in line with six other states and the District of Columbia, which allow gays to marry." ...

... AP: "In a move that supporters called a civil rights milestone, New Jersey's state Senate on Monday passed a bill to recognize same-sex marriages, marking the first time state lawmakers officially endorsed the idea — despite the promise of a veto by Gov. Chris Christie. Monday's vote was 24-16 in favor of the bill, a major swing from January 2010, when the Senate rejected it 20-14."

New York Times: "Apple said Monday that it had asked an outside organization to conduct special audits of working conditions inside Chinese factories where iPhones, iPads and other Apple products are manufactured.... Apple said the group, the Fair Labor Association, started its first inspections Monday at a factory in Shenzhen, China, known as Foxconn City.... Working conditions in Foxconn factories, including safety lapses that led to worker deaths, were the subject of; an investigative article last month by The New York Times. Last week, coordinated protests of worker abuses occurred at Apple stores around the world."

NPR: "Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has been the victim of an armed robbery but is unharmed. Breyer, his wife, Joanna, and a friend were at the Breyer vacation home on the Caribbean island of Nevis when a man broke in with a machete and confronted them."

President Obama speaks about the FY 2013 budget:

Washington Post: "White House Chief of Staff Jacob J. Lew on Sunday dismissed Republican criticism of President Obama’s latest spending plan, arguing that it charts a long-term strategy for tackling the national debt while offering a short-term boost to the recovering economy. The budget request, due on Capitol Hill on Monday, calls for spending $3.8 trillion in 2013, according to sources with knowledge of the document, including fresh increases for roads, infrastructure, manufacturing and education, as well as a year-long extension of emergency unemployment benefits and a temporary payroll tax holiday." AP story here. ...

     ... Update: here's the New York Times story on the budget, which has now been released.

Yahoo! News: "China's Vice President Xi Jinping arrives in Washington late Monday for a whirlwind visit to the White House, Pentagon, Iowa and Los Angeles. White House officials describe the visit as an opportunity to build relations with the man expected to become China's president next year." Washington Post story here.

Reuters: "Syrian forces bombarded districts of Homs and attacked other cities on Monday after Arab states pledged support for the opposition battling President Bashar al-Assad and called for international peacekeepers to be sent to the country." Al Jazeera's liveblog is here.

Al Jazeera: "Israeli diplomats have been targeted for car bombings in India and Georgia, leaving three injured and the nation's foreign minister promising a response. An Israeli embassy van blew up in New Delhi, the Indian capital, injuring an Israeli diplomat and two other people, but it was not immediately known whether the explosion was caused by a bomb, officials said." ...

... Haaretz: "The wife of an Israeli diplomat was moderately wounded on Monday when a car bomb exploded outside of Israel's embassy in the Indian capital of New Delhi, Haaretz has learned."

Washington Post: "Coroner’s officials say they will not release any information on an autopsy performed Sunday on [singer Whitney Houston] at the request of police detectives investigating the singer’s death. Houston was found in the bathtub of her room, but Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter declined to say anything more about the room’s condition or any evidence investigators recovered. There were no indications of foul play and no obvious signs of trauma on Houston’s body, but officials were not ruling out any causes of death until they have toxicology results, which will likely take weeks to obtain." ...

... ABC News: "Whiney Houston probably died from a combination of the drug Xanax and other prescription medication mixed with alcohol, TMZ reported, citing family sources who were briefed by L.A. County Coroner officials. Coroners informed Houston's family that there was not enough water in the singer's lungs for her to have drowned, and that she may have died before her head became submerged in the bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel where her body was found Saturday, TMZ.com reported."

Reader Comments (10)

I am not satisfied with Obama as he has failed to take needed actions to improve the economy and has let the wing nuts dominate the conversation with unchallenged lies and half truths and has not protected middle America from these predators.
However it is fatuous to suggest that we have an option. The stated demands of the tea party dominated Republican Party will destroy the economy and the social contract of a Democracy.
Democracy is hanging by a thread. Any increase in Republican power will break that thread and send the country into real class warfare. A class warfare that the oligarchy, cops and courts will win for a while. American lives will also be destroyed for a while.

February 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

This is the central question Fallows posed. My take was that is a president is granted a second term they learn form the mistakes of the first. Obama's not my ideal candidate, but given the alternatives,,,I'll take the chance that a second term will be better than the first. If the the american voters have any sense (and one could make a good argument they don't) they'll vote to hold the senate and weaken the house majority. That could go a long way toward turning the country in a more progressive direction. I'm under no illusions here, but I'm not sure things have become so corrupted that pendulum can't swing the way. This is a battle we've been fighting since the dawn of the republic. One can only hope we don't have to fight another war to maintain union.

February 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

please excuse the typos above..laptops are difficult

February 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

I agree with Carlyle and Dave S. We really do not have an option. I cannot believe that Mitt Romney would be a better President than Obama, though he would no doubt be more decisive--but in WHAT DIRECTION? And if we elect a Republican President we can no doubt plan on another invasion--this time Iran. They are all (except Ron Paul) licking their chops on this one.

I think the most positive solution lies in electing more progressive candidates to the House and Senate, and that is where I am putting my tiny contributions. Since Obama will be a lame duck, I do not think he will rebuff a more progressive congress, because he cares about his legacy. Sooo......the trick is to elect a better Congress. HA! With all the SuperPacs and Citizens United fellas out there bombing the airwaves with money, that may be impossible--especially since our dumbed down electorate believes the crazy ads they see on the Tee Vee. Yikes!

Geez....are we a country of sick puppies, or what? At the very least, I am betting on my home state, Wisconsin, to vote Scott Walker's ass out! That will be a small consolation.

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate Madison

Re: NYT OP_ED

Ther was a very simliar piece in Truthout last week regarding ALEC and the Ohio Legislature.

http://www.truth-out.org/ohio-lawmakers-introduced-33-bills-based-alec-model-legislation/1328711032

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

There are a couple of new comments in yesterday's Commentariat; it seems this damned comments system now occasionally throws a comment into my totally annoying & unwanted "approval bin" & doesn't tell me about them. I'm working on that, but as usual, I don't really expect it to be fixed.

BTW, if anybody can give Karl Thompson an answer better than mine, I would appreciate it. On contraceptive insurance, I truly don't know what he's talking about. You can add your responses to either thread.

February 13, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

check your approval bin marie

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

it seems to be for yesterdays comments only, is their a setting somewhere for approval of comments on older posts?

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

@ Dave S. Just found your comment awaiting approval -- but only because you told me about it. Any comments page that is open should work the same way as every other comments page, so the date should not make any difference. My host told me of some changes to make that might fix part of the problem. So I made 'em, but the changes made no difference, which I know only thanks to your comment that the system stuck in approval limbo. Now that I've approved that comment, I'll go back and read it.

February 13, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

The Bishop's denial of birth control insurance has a bigger impact than many understand. There are about six hundred thousand employees of about six hundred Catholic hospitals. Hospitals have more than half female employees so we are talking about denying assistance to more than three hundred thousand women.
Organizations supporting birth control availability for all women should be talking about these numbers.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle
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