The Wires

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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

The only thing I’d be impartial about is what prison this guy goes to. -- Prospective Juror, Martin Shkreli trial ...

... Harper's republishes some of the jury selection proceedings in the Martin Shkreli case.

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America."

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody."

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings."

Click on the picture to see larger image.... AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress."

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco."

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers."

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends."

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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