The Ledes

Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

Guardian: Texas governor Greg Abbott has expanded the emergency disaster zone in his state, adding 24 counties to a list of 13 affected by storms and flooding. Three people were reported dead and 12 missing as Oklahoma was also hit hard, while a tornado left 13 dead in a Mexican town just beyond the border." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Flooding brought Houston[, Texas,] to a near-standstill Tuesday, sending normally tame rivers and bayous surging out of their banks, inundating streets and homes, and leaving highways littered with hundreds of abandoned, ruined cars. As much as 10 inches of rain lashed the Houston area overnight, and added to floodwaters flowing downstream from areas of central Texas that were swamped over the holiday weekend, causing waterways to rise from trickle to torrent faster than people could get out of the way."

... See also Jeanne Pitz's comment on this in today's Commentariat.

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, May 25, 2015.

New York Times: "Texas marked 24 counties as disaster areas on Monday as drenching rains and violent weather swept through that state and Oklahoma, forcing thousands of people from their homes and killing at least three."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 26

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

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

New York Times: "Charter Communications is near a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $55 billion, people with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday, a takeover that would create a new powerhouse in the rapidly consolidating American cable industry.... The potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable completes a lengthy quest by Charter and its main backer, the billionaire John C. Malone, to break into the top tier of the American broadband industry. If completed, the transaction would be the latest in a series of mergers remaking the market for broadband Internet and cable television in the United States." ...

     ... Update: "Charter Communications agreed on Tuesday to buy its much larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56.7 billion in a deal that would transform the company into one of America’s largest cable and broadband operators."

Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

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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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