The Ledes

Thursday, December 18, 2014.

AP: "Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year. The rates' historically low levels could be a boon to potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from 3.93 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Thursday refused to release Don E. Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, from prison as he continues to appeal a prosecution that Republicans say exposed pervasive corruption in state government but Democrats regard as a case pursued for political retribution."

Boston Globe: "Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stood in federal court in Boston this morning for a brief pretrial hearing, which was punctuated by an interruption in Russian and English from a woman in the gallery. Several journalists reported she exclaimed 'stop killing innocent people' in English as she was escorted out for yelling in Russian. The woman identified herself to reporters as a relative of Ibrahim Todashev: a friend of Dzhokhar’s brother who was killed by an FBI agent during an incident that arose from the investigation of a Waltham triple homicide."

AFP: "Two owners and 12 former employees of a US pharmacy were arrested Wednesday in connection with a 2012 outbreak of meningitis that killed 64 people across the country, prosecutors said. Barry Cadden and Gregory Conigliaro owned the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which lost its license in 2012 after inspectors found it guilty of multiple sanitary violations. the pharmacy, located in the city of Framingham, Massachusetts in the US northeast, voluntarily shut down and recalled all products following the unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, December 17, 2014.

New York Times: "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty Wednesday as the government declared three days of official mourning and grappled with the aftermath of an attack on a school by the Pakistani Taliban that killed 145 people. The national flag was lowered to half-staff on all official buildings and prayer services were scheduled across the country." ...

... The Washington Post profiles "Mullah Radio," the leader of the Taliban attack on schoolchildren & teachers.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
December 18

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

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

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Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:

 

Washington Post: "Scientists are 99.999 percent sure, in their most conservative estimate, that remains found in 2012 really do belong to King Richard III. These results, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, put a 529-year-old cold case to rest -- all thanks to some intense genetic detective work." CW: Let's hope one of the expert detectives wasn't Shaun Parcells. You may weigh in, Dr. Schwalb. ...

Welcome to Gramercy Park! -- "one of the most forbidden places in Manhattan." New York Times: Woody Allen couldn't get in to film, Robert De Niro couldn't get in, but Shawn Christopher, who was honeymooning in Manhattan, borrowed a key and "took three 360-degree panoramas using Photo Sphere, a Google app, and then uploaded them to the company’s ubiquitous Maps site. He had gotten into the park using another of his favorite technologies, Airbnb, where the room he rented included not only fresh linens and Wi-Fi but also one of the 383 coveted keys to the park. Mr. Christopher was unaware at the time that guests had to be accompanied by key holders on their visits and that commercial photography was prohibited." So take an insider's view of the park.

CW: For those of you who don't like hassling with DVDs, I accidentally found a cheap alternative to Netflix. Although I will continue to subscribe to Netflix's streaming videos, Netflix doesn't stream most decent movies. Instead, you have to maintain a (second) monthly subscription, then order & return the DVDs. However, YouTube now allows you to stream movies (you can watch them -- more than once -- during a 48-hour period.) There's no monthly fee, & you can play the movies on your TV via various devices. I have a Google dongle on one TV & a Blu-Ray box on another. The YouTube streaming videos work on both (you have to download on the Chrome browser). Setting up an account was very easy. Since I watch few movies, this works perfectly for me. When Ben Bradlee died, I watched "All the President's Men" for the umpteenth time, & today I watched "Good Night & Good Luck." Big advantage: instant gratification! I'm not sure if YouTube is good for more recent movies.

The Rockefellers Are Leaving the Building. New York Times: "By this time next year, they will have vacated the 56th-floor aerie [in 30 Rock] they have occupied since 1933 and moved to somewhat less rarefied headquarters across 49th Street. One of the country’s great dynastic families is downsizing."

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Friday
Dec312010

The Commentariat -- January 1

New Year's Eve, Times Square, New York City, 2011. CLICK TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times readers pick their top political moments of 2010. The Caucus writers pick a few more.

Robert Reich has a realistic; i.e., depressing, prediction for the U.S. economy in 2011.

Filibuster "Reform." Look for a watered-down, meaningless change you can't believe in:

     ... Brian Beutler of TPM: "A handful of junior Democrats, including Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), have done an impressive job building momentum for a package of modest, but meaningful, changes to the Senate's filibuster rules. But their plan could be completely upended and replaced by even more modest reforms, if Democratic and Republican leaders successfully negotiate a bipartisan rules reform compromise. In a phone interview with me Wednesday, Udall described negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) as a 'separate track' from his own efforts." ...

     ... David Waldman of the Daily Kos has a little on the history of "negotiated filibuster reforms." ...

     ... David Dayan of Firedoglake on the elements of the Merkeley plan. ...

     ... Here's more from Beutler on how the arcane procedure for changing procedures is supposed to proceed. ...

... Speaking of the do-nothing Senate, Steve Benen has more on Chief Justice John Roberts' plea to them to get off the dime on judiciary appointments. Senate Judiciary Committee Pat Leahy concurs with Robets. And Benen opines,

... Senate Republicans will do what they've been doing -- slowing everything down, blocking as many nominees as they can. But don't forget, the Senate will have very little else to do for the better part of two years. Over the last two years, Reid and the Democratic leadership had a lengthy to-do list, and couldn't eat up the calendar on nominees. GOP obstructionism meant it took at least three days for the Senate to consider one nominee, during which time the chamber could do nothing else, so more often than not, Reid just didn't bother. But that won't be much of a hindrance in 2011 and 2012, when the entire lawmaking process goes from difficult to impossible. ...

     ... Ezra Klein on filibustering judicial nominees.

Politico's "most memorable moments" video is okay till the end, which devolves into Palinostalgia:

      ... Stephanopoulos does a much better job:

I don't call [President Obama] a socialist because he's not. I don't doubt that he was born in Hawaii because he was. I don't call him a Muslim because he says he's a Christian. And I didn't say anything about death panels because there weren't any in that health care bill. -- Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), on why he lost his primary race to a teabagger

Irony Alert! Amy Gardner of the Washington Post profiles Gena Bell, a grassroots tea party activist who was so opposed to President Obama & all that government spending -- that she decided to take a job with the government.

Rose Aguilar in Common Dreams: the public believes myths because well-paid spinmeisters repeat them over & over again & "teach" them to members of Congress who repeat them, and reporters & interviewers seldom or never challenge the spinners.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones makes what amounts to a general apologia for liberal compromisers (oh, you may want to think President Obama here). CW: personally, I'm not buying it. I think liberals compromise because they've done a piss-poor job -- compared to conservatives -- of explaining why their programs are better than conservative programs. Liberals compromise because they have failed to gain support for causes that are good for the majority of the public.

Linda Greenhouse interviews retired Justices Sandra Day O'Connor & David Souter on civics education. The interview begins about 7 min. in:

Evelyn Rusli of the New York Times: "U.S Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson ... sold his Washington D.C. home at a $1 million loss last week.... Mr. Paulson ... first put his home on the market in April.... But don’t feel too bad for the former Treasury secretary. As Reuters pointed out, the loss will barely dent Mr. Paulson’s personal fortune, last estimated at $700 million."