The Ledes

Thursday, July 31, 2014.

New York Times: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Thursday that he would not agree to any cease-fire proposal that does not allow the Israeli military to complete its mission of destroying Hamas’s tunnel network in Gaza." ...

     ... ** Washington Post Update: "Israel and Hamas have agreed to an unconditional, 72-hour humanitarian truce to begin Friday morning, diplomats from the United States and the United Nations announced Thursday, potentially paving the way for an end to the 24-day-old conflict. In a joint statement, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said both sides in the conflict are sending delegations to Cairo for negotiations aimed at reaching a lasting cease-fire."

USA Today: "Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in a prisoner swap with the Taliban two months ago, will meet next week with the senior Army officer investigating the circumstances of his capture in Afghanistan, his lawyer said Wednesday. Bergdahl, who spent five years in captivity, plans to meet with Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, the investigating officer, in San Antonio, where Bergdahl is stationed, according to lawyer Eugene Fidell."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States economy rebounded heartily in the spring after a dismal winter, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday, growing at an annual rate of 4 percent from April through June and surpassing economists’ expecations. In its initial estimate for the second quarter, the government cited a major advance in inventories for private businesses, higher government spending at the state and local level and personal consumption spending as chief contributors to growth."

Guardian: "At least 19 Palestinians were killed and about 90 injured early on Wednesday when a UN school sheltering people was hit by shells during a second night of relentless bombardment that followed an Israeli warning of a protracted military campaign. Gaza health officials said at least 43 people died in intense air strikes and tank shelling of Jabaliya, a neighbourhood of Gaza City. The death toll included the people at the school who had fled their own homes." ...

     ... AP Update: "Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault of the Gaza war on Tuesday, destroying key symbols of Hamas control, shutting down the territory's only power plant and leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead on the bloodiest day of the 22-day conflict. Despite devastating blows that left the packed territory's 1.7 million people cut off from power and water and sent the overall death toll soaring past 1,200, Hamas' shadowy military leader remained defiant as he insisted that the Islamic militants would not cease fire until its demands are met."

Los Angeles Times: "Pacific Gas & Electric was charged Tuesday with lying to regulators during the immediate aftermath of the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and ravaged a San Bruno, Calif., neighborhood. The new indictment includes obstruction charges related to what the company said about its records immediately after the incident, according to a release from the Northern District of California U.S. attorney's office. The filing comes three months after an April indictment claimed that PG&E violated federal pipeline safety laws."

Los Angeles Times: "A top Los Angeles utility official faced tough questions Tuesday night about the response to a massive pipe break that flooded UCLA and surrounding areas with millions of gallons of water and threatened the near-term use of Pauley Pavilion. The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said."

Reuters: "Militant fighters overran a Libyan special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a battle involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people. A special forces officer said they had to abandon their main camp in the southeast of Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from a coalition of Islamist fighters and former rebel militias in the city."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 31

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

1:20 pm ET: President Obama signs an executive order

3:40 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Department of Housing & Urban Development

7:25 pm ET: President Obama speaks at a celebration of the Special Olympics

8:30 pm ET: President Obama attends a performance celebrating the Special Olympics

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

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

"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:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Contact the Constant Weader

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

Friday
Jul202012

The Commentariat -- July 21, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

** E. J. Dionne: "Anyone who dares to say that an event such as the massacre at a Colorado movie theater early Friday demands that we rethink our approach to the regulation of firearms is accused of 'exploiting' the deaths of innocent people.... The gun lobby goes straight to the exploitation argument -- which is, of course, a big lie.... We never allow an assertion of this kind to stop conversation on other issues. Nobody who points to the inadequacy of our flood-control policies or mistakes by the Army Corps of Engineers is accused of 'exploiting' the victims of a deluge.... The worshipers of weapons also lay heavy stress on the psychological disabilities of the killer in a particular incident.... Crazy people, they say, will do crazy things, and there is nothing we can do about this." ...

... "We've Seen This Movie Before." Film critic Roger Ebert, in a New York Times op-ed: "Should [James Holmes] -- whose nature was apparently so obvious to his mother that, when a ABC News reporter called, she said 'You have the right person' -- have been able to buy guns, ammunition and explosives? The gun lobby will say yes.... That James Holmes is insane, few may doubt. Our gun laws are also insane, but many refuse to make the connection. The United States is one of few developed nations that accepts the notion of firearms in public hands. In theory, the citizenry needs to defend itself. Not a single person at the Aurora, Colo., theater shot back, but the theory will still be defended." ...

... A very affecting piece by Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic on "the template of our grief" provides the "script treatment" for Ebert's "movie." ...

... Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker: "The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country -- Canada, Norway, Britain -- has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do -- as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue." ...

... Gail Collins: "... presidential candidates look at this issue and see the same thing other elected officials do: a rich, fierce, loopy lobby on one side, and, on the other, people with petitions, slogging along. Everybody, including the gun control advocates, knows that nothing will change unless the people decide to do the leading. Eventually, the American voters come around. Just ask the suffragists." ...

... Zach Beauchamp of Think Progress: "One of the principal weapons used by James Eagan Holmes in the horrific Dark Knight Rises shooting would have been subject to a series of sharp restrictions under the now-expired federal Assault Weapons ban. The AR-15 rifle carried by Holmes, a civilian semi-automatic version of the military M-16, would have been defined as a 'semiautomatic assault weapon' under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. If the law was still in force, semiautomatic assault weapons would have been outright banned." ...

... CW: This story is so eerie I thought it worth linking, even though I don't usually go for the maudlin stuff. AFP: "Jessica Ghawi had escaped a mall shooting in Toronto weeks ago when an 'odd feeling' led her outside, and then blogged about how fortunate she was. But in an ironic and tragic twist of fate, Ghawi died in Friday's Colorado theater shooting spree, one of 12 fatalities in the mass killing."

Joe Nocera: "... every week bring news of another financial scandal." Nocera runs down the latest four biggies. CW: he missed a 5th one: the municipal-bond bid-rigging scandal for which a B of A executive was indicted yesterday (see Friday's Ledes.

Keep the Government's Hands off My Tax Loopholes. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "On Capitol Hill, lawmakers casually point to closing loopholes as the answer to much that ails the country. But ... it will be [difficult] to lower the budget deficit through painless changes in the tax code.... One man's loophole can be another's vital constituent interest.... The three largest [loopholes] are as popular as they are expensive: the mortgage interest deduction has cost about $75 billion a year recently, the employer deduction for health care has cost $120 billion a year, and the charitable-giving deduction has cost $38 billion a year...."

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) sticks it to Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in a Washington Post op-ed: "... the central principle behind the unlimited contributions to super PACs that will dominate this election cycle is simple: Money is speech.... Yet many who hold this freedom as an article of faith are all too willing to limit an equally precious form of speech: voting.... Machinations [in Florida] make a mockery of the democracy we put on display every Election Day. When we hear of corrupt voting practices in foreign countries, where the ideal of democracy is nothing more than lip service, we feel good about ourselves.It's time to look right under our noses. It's happening here at home.

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "Elizabeth Warren has been so prodigious in raising money for her Senate campaign in Massachusetts that she is on track to become the top fund-raiser for the Senate this year, as well as one of the top Congressional fund-raisers of all time."

Presidential Race

Maybe it's time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they're going to do about it.... Romney passed a ban on assault weapons back when he was governor and now he says he's against it. Of course, he's done that on almost everything. Obama, when he was elected, said I want to reinstate the ban on assault weapons and he's never done it. -- Michael Bloomberg, New York City Mayor ...

... Kevin Robillard of Politico: "New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the nation’s highest-profile supporters of gun control, said Friday that 'soothing words are nice' but demanded that the presidential candidates 'stand up and tell us what they're going to do about' preventing mass shootings." ...

... Mackenzie Weinger of Politico publishes Mitt Romney's evolving stance on gun control legislation. Now he likes AK-47s for all law-abiding citizens.

** It Was about the Money. Beth Healy & Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe: "Interviews with a half-dozen of Romney's former partners and associates, as well as public records, show that he was not merely an absentee owner during [the 1999-2002] period.... He drove the complex negotiations over his own large severance package.... Indeed, by remaining CEO and sole shareholder, Romney held on to his leverage in the talks that resulted in his generous 10-year retirement package, according to former associates.... The full tally of Romney's 10-year compensation deal is not known because he has refused to release tax returns for the relevant period, which ended in 2009. In addition, his financial disclosures are sporadic and incomplete...."

Steve Benen produces his 26th installment of "Mitt's Mendacity." Run down the list. It's mind-blowing. It's as if he cannot say one true thing.

Wonders Never Cease. Glenn Kessler, the so-called Washington Post fact-checker, has at long last had a change of heart: "Romney has failed to provide sufficient evidence that he had 'no role whatsoever' at Bain. Over the past few days, we have repeatedly asked Bain Capital whether the firm could provide a statement that a review of Bain board meetings had shown that Romney did not attend any such meeting, either in person or by phone. We are still waiting for a response.... Going forward, unless new evidence emerges..., we may withhold the awarding of Pinocchios when the claim rests mostly on the question of when Romney stopped managing Bain Capital."

Greg Sargent links to a great Spanish-language ad (translation to English is included on the linked page) by SEIU & Priorities USA tying Romney's refusal to release his tax returns to his tough "papers-please" immigration stance. Sargent notes that the line, "He wants us to show our papers. But he won't show us his," came first from Vice President Biden.

The Other .01 Percent Thinks Al Green Is a Threat to Democracy. CW: Oops! Forgot to link this one. Paul Krugman: Gary Silverman of the Financial Times learned "why the Romney counter-attack on the 'America the Beautiful' ad featured Obama singing Al Green, and pretty well too": Suzy Welch, wife of multi-millionaire Jack "'Welch suggested that Mr Obama's personal style and choice of musical material define him as a member of a "different America."'"

** Dana Milbank: "On Thursday, two days after [Romney surrogate John] Sununu's attack, Romney himself said that Obama lacks 'an understanding of what it is that makes America such a unique nation.' Sununu and Romney are legitimizing people such as Cliff Kincaid" who convened a meeting at the National Press Club to discuss Obama's "real father," a "communist pornographer," "pedophile" & "possible Soviet spy" who "was Obama's sex teacher."

The Little Man Who Won't Be There. Jonathan Martin of Politico: "Former President George W. Bush will not attend the Republican convention next month in Tampa." (A classic Friday News dump.) ...

... BTW, the bit at the end of Politico's late-nite jokes -- recent presidents talking about the presidency -- is hilarious.

... Take the test and find out. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Right Wing World

Steve Myers of Poynter: "The Daily Caller is promoting its weekly gun giveaway in an ad placed next to a story related to the Colorado theater shooting. The headline for the story reads, 'Tea party leader tells media to stop 'false and reckless reporting' after Batman shooting'; to the right is an ad that says, 'Who should Romney select for VP? Click to enter The Daily Caller gun giveaway.'" ...

... BUT, in fairness, the MSM does it, too. Jim Romanesco: "A Denver Post tweet mentions a 'badly placed ad on our site' that has been disabled. Here’s what they were referring to:"

AND. I never look at the ads, but just as I was shutting down Gail Collins' column, which I used in my NYTX column (not up on NYTX yet), I saw this:

... Become a Gunsmith??? That's a New York Times ad next to a column advocating for gun control? Excellent product placement!

News Ledes

New York Times: "Alexander Cockburn, the acerbic left-wing journalist and author who though born in Scotland thrived in the political and cultural battlegrounds of the United States, died on Saturday in Bad Salzhausen, Germany, where he had been receiving medical treatment, his family said. He was 71. The cause was cancer, said Jeffrey St. Clair, a friend and colleague. Mr. St. Clair announced Mr. Cockburn's death on CounterPunch, the Web site that the two men edited." St. Clair's remembrance is on the front page of CounterPunch online.

Guardian: "Rupert Murdoch has stepped down as a director of News International, in a move that will fuel speculation the media mogul is preparing to sell off his UK newspapers. In an email sent on Saturday, staff at The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun were told that Murdoch remained 'fully committed' as chairman despite relinquishing positions on a number of UK boards, including NI Group."

AP: "An Air Force instructor implicated in a sweeping sex scandal at one of the nation's busiest military training bases was convicted in military court Friday of raping one female recruit and sexually assaulting several others. Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, the first Lackland Air Force Base instructor to stand trial in the scandal, was found guilty by a jury of seven military personnel on all 28 counts he faced, including rape, aggravated sexual contact and multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault." ...

     ... Reuters Update: "A drill instructor accused of raping and sexually assaulting 10 female trainees at Lackland Air Force Base was sentenced on Saturday to 20 years in prison, the stiffest jail term handed down yet in the biggest sex scandal to hit the U.S. military since the 1990s."

Guardian: "Police investigating the shooting spree at a screening of the new Batman film in Colorado are preparing to send in a robot to detonate what they called a sophisticated booby-trap in the apartment of the suspected gunman." The Denver Post front page has links to related stories. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Law enforcement officials said Saturday that they had successfully disabled the most dangerous explosives and incendiary devices at the apartment of James Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people at a movie theater [in Aurora, Colorado]."

Reader Comments (7)

W/r/t the Roger Ebert op-ed. Just finished reading a piece about him in the 2011 Best American Non-Required Reading ( I know)... Its a cool piece by a Chris Jones. "Robert Ebert: The Essential Man" it was culled from Esquire . Pretty good collection of work this time around.
Anyway.... Jill Stein in 2012!!!
On another note, and with all due respect, I'm wondering if there's a database of all the "mass" shootings in the U.S. over the last, I dunno, 10 years? Again, super sincerely, I can't fathom when indirectly affected people express shock, it's not at all uncommon. There a bit like suicide bombers without the, what, spirituality?? ( please don't kill me for that, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. It almost seems like American mass murderers are voyeuristic about it?? Man I'm way out of my league here....)
Anyway, again, it's wierd how violent America is? Isn't it?

July 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralan

Re: mad killing. Surprised? No. We reap what we sow. Innocence left the theater long before the screening of the show.

July 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

Michael Bloomberg is totally out of touch with American politics. After what happened yesterday neither candidate will ever mention the word 'gun' again. Just like they haven't mentioned the word 'climate' since the U.S. starting burning up. Politics has nothing to do with leadership.

July 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

I posted this in the 7/20 Comments by mistake:

The question we need to ask is, "Has the U.S.A. become the N.R.A.'s bitch?" Are we so terrified of confrontation that we kowtow to any cult of nuts who yell loud enough? I believe the answer is "Yes," and all this discussion is merely therapeutic, an attempt to make ourselves feel better by pretending that we just might take a stand one of these days.

July 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

Yes, Jack, the N.R.A. holds the guns dead straight at this country's temple and it's high noon even at midnight. And so this recent tragedy isn't going to change a thing unless the people rise up and demand it, but the people, according to polls, don't want a change. They want their gun rights so by god, they'll have them and we'll have more of the same stuff happen and our politicians will come forth and exclaim their sorrow and add the ubiquitous, " We hold the victims and their families in our hearts and prayers." REALLY? Prayers? What the fuck are you praying for????? Do something concrete, for heaven's sake, ban those suckers that kill so easily and make it EXTREMELY difficult for crazy people to purchase these guns that not only kill a dozen at a time in a theatre, but kill dozens every day in most of the states. Makes me sick!!!!

July 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

We've all heard it said, ad nauseam: If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. Got to give the NRA credit; every time one of these senseless, demented shootings occurs, outlawing anything but standard hunting rifles and pistols looks like a good plan to me. Though the Right is re-writing the history of the few environmental controls we managed to put in place before our politics went so wacko, we did outlaw DDT, fer Gawd' sake. I don't mind a few outlaws having a little DDT tucked away. But the way it stands, these tragedies happen because outlaws and the mentally challenged DO have the freedom to possess and use modern weaponry on the innocent and defenseless, and they do so because they ARE outlaws whether we outlaw guns or not.

The counter argument to sensibly controlling weapon acquisition, which we've all heard, would be to arm everyone. That would work out well in a crowded, dark theater or in a mall, wouldn't it?

Good grief!

July 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

I think when some heavily armed pathologically demented soul begins systematically knocking off the NRA hierarchy it will change. Not before.

July 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer
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