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.

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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.

Contact the Constant Weader

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Saturday
Jul142012

The Commentariat -- July 15, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "When Did He Leave & When Did He Know It?" You can guess the subject matter. The NYTX front page is here.

Illustration by Ben Wiseman for the New York Times.Frank Bruni: "WHENEVER you doubt that the future can improve upon the past or that government can play a pivotal role in that, consider and revel in the extraordinary greening of New York."

Digby: "According to Media Matters, with the exception of Spitzer and Chris Hayes, TV news has pretty much avoided even mentioning [the LIBOR] scandal, much less trying to explain it":

CW: I hope you readers who thought I was a dope for citing the case of Tomas Lopez -- the young man fired from his lifeguard's job for trying to save a swimmer outside his assigned "zone" -- as an example of the perils of privatization, will read Steven Pearlstein's Washington Post article on the story, which he describes as "a parable about outsourcing and how it is reshaping large swaths of the economy." Pearlstein makes a number of the same points I did, and then some. I might be a dope, but I have company!

Peter Maass & Megha Rajagopalan in the New York Times: "THE device in your purse or jeans that you think is a cellphone -- guess again. It is a tracking device that happens to make calls. Let's stop calling them phones. They are trackers.... The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ... noted that GPS data can reveal whether a person 'is a weekly church goer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups -- and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.'"

Speaking of trackers, Scott Shane of the New York Times on "the moral case for drones." Something of a must-read, no matter what your opinion of drones is now.

Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe: "First, it was kings and queens. Now, it is heads of state -- and the secretary of state. During a CNN interview that aired Tuesday, Senator Scott Brown said that President Obama and other powerful Democrats are regularly phoning him to get help passing their legislation.... In reality, Brown's staff says he has spoken by phone with Clinton just twice during his Senate career -- most recently over a year ago, on July 5, 2011.... Brown's staff says he has spoken with the vice president by phone just once. As for Obama himself, Brown's staff says the two have spoken by phone just once, in April 2010.... But the president also hosted Brown in June 2010 for a face-to-face talk in the Oval Office."

Presidential Race

Sing along with Mitt:

Your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this: if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff. -- Mitt Romney, referring to the people who booed him at the NAACP convention ...

... Suzie Madrak: "As far as free lunches go, we of course just witnessed the biggest government handout in history, one that Romney himself endorsed. Four and a half trillion dollars in bailout money already disbursed, trillions more still at risk in guarantees and loans, sixteen trillion dollars in emergency lending from the Federal Reserve, two trillion in quantitative easing, etc. etc. All of this money went to Romney's pals in the Wall Street banks that for years helped Romney take over companies with mountains of borrowed cash. Now, after these banks crashed, executives at those same firms used those public funds to pay themselves massive salaries." Read her whole post on Willard's "character." ...

... Here's the piece by Matt Taibbi -- which Madrak cites -- on Romney big "outreach" to "those people" who are all about "free stuff." ...

... Digby: "... as usual, it's only the average Joe in a bind who needs to be taught a lesson in personal responsibility."

Tony Soprano Explains "Planned Bankruptcy a la Mitt":

Jordy Yager of The Hill: "Rep. Ron Paul said that the Republican Party is scared to let him speak at the national convention in Florida next month.... 'I think the Romney campaign organization is very insecure,' said Paul in an interview with Fox Business News on Friday."

"Perhaps there's a contradiction there":

Local News

Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times: "The federal government has granted Florida election officials access to a database of noncitizen residents for use in Republican-backed efforts to remove people who are not American citizens from voter registration rolls."

News Ledes

New York Times: "As regulators ramp up their global investigation into the manipulation of interest rates, the Justice Department has identified potential criminal wrongdoing by big banks and individuals at the center of the scandal. The department's criminal division is building cases against several financial institutions and their employees, including traders at Barclays...."

New York Times: "A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama."

Washington Post: "Japan on Sunday recalled its ambassador to China as the result of a reigniting territorial dispute between the East Asian neighbors. The uninhabited and long-contested Senkaku Islands, controlled by Japan but claimed by China, have again turned into a flashpoint amid Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's recent proposal to buy the territory from a private Japanese landowner. China sent three ships to the area last week as an apparent response, prompting a protest from Japan."

AP: "Syria on Sunday denied U.N. claims that government forces used heavy weapons during a military operation that left scores dead and brought immediate international condemnation, while the International Committee of the Red Cross said it now considers the conflict in the country a civil war."

Reader Comments (6)

I liked Frank Bruni's point that NYC 's explosion of parks is an object lesson in the wonders that can be achieved by responsive and pro-active government.
It's sobering to consider, however, that the residents of our cities are underrepresented in Congress due to our unique governmental system mandated by the Constitution.

July 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

LIBOR IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS: Oh, how we wait for the collapse of various inflated parties–– like the stars that become black holes––oh, how we wait!!!

July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Marie, I sure hope you did not think that I thought you were a "dope" for citing that article when I suggested that we need to be careful of how we use events to support our shared belief in the dangers of privatization. My point was that we need to pick fact-based evidence that shows that the private management is behaving differently than a public management would. The article you cited did not have enough details - we needed to know a lot more to really judge. That is why I said if we argue with so little evidence then we can't complain when someone generalizes that liberals are incompetent when one thing goes wrong. I think the reason I even wrote is that I read a lot of liberal blogs and see a lot of comments from people that come across as stereotypically whiny as the conservatives complain about. I think you are an amazingly smart, insightful person, which is why I visit your page many times a day. I just think our fight against privatization is stronger is we have data to back up our arguments.

On a related note, my daughter is a lifeguard so I asked her about what her training has taught her. She said "rescue first." Their policy/procedure is to first ensure that their station is covered and then go rescue the swimmer. Assuming that the lifeguard did that and followed proper procedure, he did the right thing. I was not giving him the benefit of the doubt.

July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Citizens somtimes forget that privatization immediately adds about twenty five percent to the costs of anything taken private. This represents the new profit margin. To avoid looking crazy, the take over group must reduce costs twenty five percent to avoid increasing prices and a immediate out cry. Services quickly decline. There is a wealth of information about Great Britain's experience with privatization of rail and electricity. Prices up, service down and there is a momement afoot to take the rail roads back
The universal means of making a sucess of privatizing anything is cheaper help. Cheaper teachers? Cheaper cops? American workers are under paid now, is peonage next?

July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

Regarding the dispute between Direct TV an Viacom that is causing a number of stations to go dark for Direct TV subscribers (but the only one I care about is Comedy Central): When I learned that I would likely be unable to view The Daily Show and Colbert Report, my immediate thought was that was okay I could watch online if I had to. Au contraire! Apparently that's exactly what Direct TV was telling its subscribers, which caused Viacom to issue a statement that they are pulling the two shows from internet view for a while.
This is starting to resemble an episode of the imaginary show "Corporations Behaving Badly."

July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

Marie: Fabulous column today in the New York Times eXaminer! I'm in awe of your brilliance and energy in marshaling facts and arguments!

July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCalyban
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