The Ledes

Friday, July 3, 2015.

Hill: "France has rejected an asylum request from Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. In a statement reported by Channel News Asia, Prime Minister Francois Hollande’s office explained the rejection by saying that Assange is in no immediate danger. Assange, who has been holed up in Equador’s embassy in London, requested asylum in a letter."

AP: "A Wisconsin man is being detained in a mental health facility after authorities say he told a security guard he planned to kill President Barack Obama. A warrant was issued Thursday for 55-year-old Brian Dutcher of Tomah, the same day Obama was in La Crosse touting a proposal to make more workers eligible for overtime pay."

New York Times: "The health insurer Aetna said on Friday that it had agreed to acquire its smaller rival Humana for $37 billion in cash and stock, signaling the start of what may become a flurry of consolidation in the sector. The deal would bring together two of the United States’ biggest health insurers. The combined company would have estimated operating revenue of $115 billion this year and more than 33 million consumers."

Washington Post: "A U.S. drone strike has killed Tariq al-Harzi, a senior Islamic State militant in Syria, in an attack that took place a day after another American aircraft killed his brother, also an influential militant, in neighboring Iraq, the Pentagon said Thursday. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the strike that killed Tariq al-Harzi occurred June 16 in Shaddadi, Syria...."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, July 2, 2015.

Developing ... Washington Post: "The Washington Navy Yard was on lockdown Thursday as police responded to a report of an active shooter at the facility, authorities said. The call came in about 7:40 a.m.... The U.S. Navy retweeted a message from their Washington district office saying 'no incident can be confirmed as of yet.'” ...

     ... UPDATE: New Lede: "Police flooded in to search after a report of gun shots was called in by someone inside the building. They found no gunman, no evidence that shots had been fired; nothing but shaken workers."

... The WashPo is running live video from WUSA on its front page. Apparently, you can pick up the video on the channel's mobile app. Also, the Post has live updates here. ...

... National Journal: "The Washington Navy Yard is on lockdown Thursday as police are looking into reports of an incident there. The U.S. Navy confirmed on Twitter at 7:59 a.m. that the building complex has been placed on lockdown, but not the exact nature of the incident. NBC News is reporting that shots were reported at the Yard."

AP: "U.S. employers likely hired at another strong pace in June, a sign that the job market is nearing full health and giving the Federal Reserve reason to raise interest rates as early as September. Economists predict that employers added 233,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate dipped to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent in May, according to data firm FactSet." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The American economy is entering the summer powered by a decent head of steam, with employers adding 223,000 jobs in June."

ABC News: "A train carrying chemicals caught fire overnight in Maryville, Tennessee, displacing up to 5,000 people, authorities said. The CSX train was traveling from Cincinnati to Waycross, Georgia when the fire broke out, said Kristin Seay with CSX Corporate Communications. The train was carrying liquefied petroleum gas and acrylonitrile – a product used in the manufacture of plastics."

Reuters: "The pilot flying a TransAsia Airways ...  ATR mistakenly switched off the plane's only working engine seconds before it crashed in February, killing 43 people, Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council (ASC) said in its latest report on Thursday. The ASC's report also showed that Captain Liao Jian-zong had failed simulator training in May 2014, in part because he had insufficient knowledge of how to deal with an engine flame-out on take-off. 'Wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle,' Liao, 41, was heard to say on voice recordings seconds before the crash."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

White House Live Video
July 3

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today (as of 9:45 am ET).

New York Times: "On the eve of the most anticipated publishing event in years — the release of Harper Lee’s novel 'Go Set a Watchman' — there is yet another strange twist to the tale of how the book made its way to publication, a development that further clouds the story of serendipitous discovery that generated both excitement and skepticism in February."

Here's a short film by activist Bree Newsome. The film won the best -short-film category at the BET awards (ca. 2010):

Washington Post: "After three years of work by Michelle Obama and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, a new look was unveiled [in the State Dining Room] Friday[, June 26,] that will be a design legacy of the Obama years." With slideshow, including former incarnations of the room.

Daniel Bethencourt & Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press: "Famed street artist Shepard Fairey, who visited Detroit last month to create the largest mural of his career, faces felony charges of tagging other properties across the city on his own time." The reporters put the charges in the larger perspective of street art.

David Haglund on "James Salter in the New Yorker."

Twelve beautiful bookshops.

Livraria Lello & Irmão, Porto, Portugal.

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that [Fox "News" leader Roger] Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion. Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan."

The Waldorf-Hysteria. New York Post: Bride "hysterical," lets out "blood-curdling scream," when Waldorf is forced to cancel her million-dollar reception because drunken relatives of the groom allegedly shot some other guests & Waldorf employees. Here's more of the story. You can the boys out of Brooklyn, but....

Sophia A. McClennen in Salon: The real Jerry Seinfeld has become the TV character Jerry Seinfeld. Without the irony. So not funny.

Washington Post: "... thanks to diligent sleuthing and painstaking restoration by a team of art historians at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, the shadowy, richly colored 'Saul and David' is considered a Rembrandt masterpiece once more. It goes on display at the museum this Thursday, the star of a special exhibition entirely devoted to the painting and its tumultuous past."

New York Times: "Since [the] Clinton [Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York,] opened in 1845, dozens of inmates have escaped over, under or through the prison’s thick walls, their exploits detailed in breathless, often sensationalistic, newspaper reports of earlier eras." CW: As if the Times' extensive coverage of last week's escape wasn't sensationalistic. ...

New York Times: The life of a fugitive presents many opportunities to blunder -- and get caught.

Washington Post: "It’s a happy day for luggage manufacturers. The world’s major airlines could soon be changing their requirements for carry-on luggage, potentially forcing people to buy new bags. Working with airlines and aircraft manufacturers including Boeing and Airbus, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association, unveiled a new best-size guideline on Tuesday for carry-on bags at 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep. That's 21 percent smaller than the size currently permitted by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines."

CW: Okay, I finally found a Daily Mail story I'm willing to link. The hills are alive.

Stephen Colbert, Lyricist:

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "Eight-hundred years ago this month, rebellious barons and a despised, cash-strapped king gathered in a verdant riverside meadow 20 miles outside London to seal an agreement that would change the course of history. The words of the Magna Carta have inspired democratic movements the world over and formed a basis for countless constitutions...." But not for Great Britain, which "is one of just three major democracies that lack formal, written constitutions." Some Britons are thinking it's time to fix that.

Washington Post: Actor Jason Alexander reveals why the "Seinfeld" show killed off George Costanza's fiancee Susan.

When a Cop Loves a Cheapskate. Taylor Berman of Gawker: "Last July, NYPD Officer Ymmacula Pierre and her partner found Kenneth Sanden dead after being called to his East Village apartment by a concerned relative. So Pierre allegedly did what any respectable cop would do: pocket the dead man’s Mastercard and use it to buy a diamond ring." Pierre ordered the ring while in her boyfriend's apartment, & that is where the ring was to be shipped. It appears to me that Pierre is (allegedly) a girl who believes in traditional marriage. Very sweet.

Dylan Byers of Politico (June 1): "Jake Tapper will take over as host of CNN's 'State Of The Union' on June 14, he announced Monday.... He replaces Candy Crowley, who served as host of 'SOTU' until late last year. Tapper will also continue to host his 4 p.m. weekday program, 'The Lead.'" ...

Mediaite (May 29): "CNN’s Jake Tapper will no longer moderate a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative’s upcoming conference in Denver, Colo., to avoid a conflict of interest involving the recent coverage of its parent foundation’s controversies."

 

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, appears on the cover of Vanity Fair, with the cover & other photos by Annie Liebovitz. There's a firewalled cover story. ...

... Another reason to admire actor Jessica Lange: she didn't know what "trending on Twitter" meant.

Reuters: "A $100,000 check is waiting for a mystery woman who donated a rare Apple 1 computer to a Silicon Valley recycling firm. CleanBayArea in Milpitas, California, said on its website that a woman in her 60s dropped off some electronic goods in April, when she was cleaning out the garage after her husband died. The boxes of computer parts contained a 1976 Apple 1, which the recycling firm sold for $200,000 in a private auction. The recycler’s policy is to split the proceeds 50-50 with the person who donated the equipment. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak built the computers in 1976 and sold them for $666.66 each. Only a few dozen of the groundbreaking home computers are known to still exist."

New York Times: "On Tuesday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, along with the Iziko Museums of South Africa, the Slave Wrecks Project, and other partners, will announce in Cape Town that the remnants of the São José [-- which sank off the Cape of Good Hope in 1795 --] have been found, right where the ship went down, in full view of Lion’s Head Mountain. It is the first time, researchers involved in the project say, that the wreckage of a slaving ship that went down with slaves aboard has been recovered."

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Tuesday
Jul242012

The Commentariat -- July 25, 2012

Fed Thinks about Thinking about Doing Something. Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "A growing number of officials have concluded that the Federal Reserve needs to expand its stimulus campaign unless the economy soon shows signs of improvement." ...

... Ezra Klein: for one thing, the Fed could "begin buying huge numbers of mortgage-backed securities with the simple intention of bringing the interest rate on a 30-year mortgage down to about 2.5 percent and holding it there for one year, and one year only. The message would be clear: If you have any intention of ever buying a house, the next 12 months is the time to do it."

... Fire Tim Geithner. Jia Lynn Yang & Danielle Douglas of the Washington Post: "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said that he sounded the alarm four years ago to regulators about problems with the benchmark interest rate known as Libor. But Geithner, who was then head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, did not communicate in key meetings with top regulators that British bank Barclays had admitted to Fed staffers that it was rigging Libor, according to people familiar with the matter. Instead, regulators at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Justice Department worked largely without the Fed’s help to build a case against Barclays. That work has culminated in a massive scandal rocking the banking industry on both sides of the Atlantic." ...

... CNBC: "Former Citigroup Chairman & CEO Sanford I. Weill, the man who invented the financial supermarket, called for the breakup of big banks in an interview on CNBC Wednesday.... He essentially called for the return of the Glass-Steagall Act, which imposed banking reforms that split banks from other financial institutions such as insurance companies."

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday that the Supreme Court decision on President Obama's health care overhaul would probably lead to an increase in the number of uninsured and a modest reduction in the cost to the federal government when compared with estimates before the court ruling. Of the 33 million people who had been expected to gain coverage under the law, 3 million fewer are now predicted to get insurance, the budget office said...." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic, once again: "The [Affordable Care Act], when fully implemented, will dramatically reduce the number of Americans without health insurance. It will also reduce the deficit. This last part remains a big deal, if only because so many conservatives -- and, yes, so many members of the public -- refuse to believe it. Over and over again, you hear people saying that Obamacare will run up the deficit. The CBO, which is our most reliable guide on such matters, begs to differ."

Charles Lane of the Washington Post: Europeans tut-tut about the U.S.'s lax gun laws, but "All told, European Union members shipped just under a million handguns to the United States in 2010. Their domestic markets may be limited by gun control, but Europe's small-arms makers can still get rich, and create jobs, thanks to the Second Amendment." Among those are the Glock, the Walther P22 & the Sig Sauer P232, mass-murders' weapons of choice.

New York Times Editors on companies in the business of background-checking: "The federal government clearly needs to step in. It should require companies to be federally registered, outline standards for accuracy, make sure that job applicants have a reasonable time to respond to erroneous reports and seek monetary and other penalties from companies that flout the law."

Rod Nordland of the New York Times: "... Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution, with a growing although still limited success that has American intelligence officials publicly concerned, and Iraqi officials next door openly alarmed. While leaders of the Syrian political and military opposition continue to deny any role for the extremists, Al Qaeda has helped to change the nature of the conflict, injecting the weapon it perfected in Iraq -- suicide bombings — into the battle against President Bashar al-Assad with growing frequency."

Stupid Voter Tricks. Larry Bartels in the Monkey Cage: the hot, dry summer could hurt President Obama at the polls because voters punish the party in power when the weather is bad. CW: Bartels is right. I've been more worried about the weather's effect on the election than on the price of corn.

Another Illegitimate GOP Presidency. Harold Meyerson: "If voter suppression goes forward and Romney narrowly prevails, consider the consequences. An overwhelmingly and increasingly white Republican Party, based in the South, will owe its power to discrimination against black and Latino voters, much like the old segregationist Dixiecrats. It's not that Republicans haven't run voter suppression operations before, but they've been under-the-table dirty tricks, such as calling minority voters with misinformation about polling-place locations and hours. By contrast, this year's suppression would be the intended outcome of laws that Republicans publicly supported, just as the denial of the franchise to Southern blacks before 1965 was the intended result of laws such as poll taxes."

Kate Nocera of Politico: "It’s not exactly the Ron Paul revolution in full. But on Wednesday afternoon, a small piece of his grand vision will hit prime time, when a great majority of the House will vote to pass his Audit the Fed bill. To understand how remarkable this moment is -- coming near the end of Paul's congressional career -- consider this: When Paul first introduced his bill a decade ago, it was written off as another piece of his far-flung libertarian worldview."

Just Wow! ("a surprising move since the seat could be in play for Republicans.") --

Presidential Race

Horserace. Mark Murray of NBC News: "In the presidential horserace, Obama leads Romney by six percentage points among registered voters, 49 percent to 43 percent. That's a slight change -- within the margin of error – from last month’s poll, which showed Obama ahead by three points, 47 percent to 44 percent." But both men's negatives are up. "Romney would be the first GOP presumptive presidential nominee since 1996 to head into his nominating convention with a net-negative favorable/unfavorable score." ...

... Nate Silver: "... as of Tuesday afternoon, President Obama's lead in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls was 1.3 percentage points over Mitt Romney. But Mr. Obama led by a mean of 3.5 points in the RealClearPolitics averages for the 10 states (Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin) that are most likely to determine the election outcome."

     ... Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "President Obama is pushing back on ... Mitt Romney's 'You didn't build that' attacks in a new ad. It's a sign that the White House is worried that the quote, while taken out of context, is doing the president real damage." ...

... Adam Serwer or Mother Jones: "The problem [with Romney's 'you didn't build that' meme] is that the real-world examples Romney keeps seizing on include people who got help from the government. As ABC News' Jake Tapper reported Monday, the star of a recent Romney ad hitting Obama over 'you didn't build that' had received millions in government loans and contracts. Romney stopped in Costa Mesa, California Monday to meet with a 'roundtable' of small business leaders, held in front of a sign that says 'We did build it!' Naturally, it turned out that at least two of the companies represented ... had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in government contracts." Ditto at a Boston Romney event."

Secret Mitt, Con'd. Maureen Dowd: "Mitt's casting a shadowy silhouette, hiding his fortune in foreign tax havens, hiding tax returns, destroying and hiding records as head of the Olympics and as governor, hiding a specific sense of where he would take the country."

New York Times Editors: "Mitt Romney [had a chance] to show that he could be a better international leader than President Obama, who has already proved himself in that field. He fell far short." ...

... Michael Crowley of Time: "Mitt Romney has a commander-in-chief problem." ...

... Daniel Drezner of Foreign Policy: "After the [Romney VFW] speech, Chuck Todd tweeted that 'The Romney VFW speech felt like it was aimed at GOP voters, not swing voters.' I'd agree. Foreign policy doesn't matter that much to swing voters, but rhetoric like this is a great way to appeal to and energize the base. If Romney were to actually follow through on this speech, then the consequences would range from insignificant to quite serious. But it could be that Romney simply doesn't care about foreign policy all that much, and is using these kind of speeches strictly as a tool to cater to key political constituencies."

... Heather Hurlburt of Democracy Arsenal pulls five big lies from Mitt's VFW speech. Via Greg Sargent.

We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have. -- Romney Adviser. CW Translation: he's black.

... Same batch of advisers, still on the same topic: "The advisers, who 'spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr Romney's campaign requested that they not criticise the President to foreign media,' were unable to provide the Telegraph with 'detailed examples of how policy towards Britain would differ under Romney,' other than restoring the bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office." CW: Excellent foreign policy initiative, and a reminder that Obama replaced the Churchill bust with a bust of Abraham Lincoln -- associated with freeing American slaves (wow, they were black, too!). So, um, would Romney ditch the bust of Lincoln, the first Republican president, & replace it with a representation of a "foreigner" (okay, Churchill's mother was American, but still)?? ...

... AND as Judd Legum of Think Progress reminds us, "The comments were the latest attack by the Romney campaign on Obama's multi-cultural heritage. Last week, Romney campaign co-chair John Sununu said Obama didn’t understand the 'American system' because he 'spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia.' Sununu also said Obama needed to 'learn how to be an American.' (Sununu later apologized for that remark.) Later that day Romney called Obama's policies 'extraordinarily foreign.'" CW: clearly, Team Romney has decided that racism is a winning campaign tactic, & they are keeping at it.

Go for the Gold, Mitt. Priorities USA has a new anti-Romney ad that will run in swing states. It's Olympics-oriented, and it's funny:

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "A Republican group backed by the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is starting a new effort in battleground states to win over Jewish voters who could be persuaded to turn away from President Obama and support Mitt Romney. The group, the Republican Jewish Coalition, plans to begin a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in the coming weeks called 'My Buyer's Remorse,' targeting voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, aides said. The campaign uses testimonials from people who say they regret supporting Mr. Obama because of his economic policies and his posture toward Israel...."

Wells Tower's GQ piece is mostly about a journalist's life on the road with Mitt. It's inconsequential really, but an enjoyable read. "I'm thinking how emotionally fatiguing it would be to spend all day, every day telling America it can be rescued by rich men and hymns and keeping secret for the quiet room his real worries for the land he wants to govern. Secrets are exhausting."

Right Wing World

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "The mountain of idiocy building up around 'you didn't build that' has just about reached wrist-slitting proportions, both because of the sheer rapturous levels of dishonesty surrounding the quote itself and because of the ensuing, more intellectually-minded dishonesty that's now dedicated to proving that the government has never done anything for anybody -- not no how, not no way. The latest is Gordon Crovitz, who has decided to see if he can con the Wall Street Journal's readership into believing that government research dollars had virtually nothing to do with the invention of the internet."

CW: I haven't followed the Mike Huckabee Chick-fil-A to-do, but Dana Milbank has the particulars. Well, I don't eat at Chick-fil-A anyway, and Huckabee -- along with Chick-fil-A's president Dan Cathy -- have provided me with a few more good reasons to stay away.

Local News

Stupid Democrat Tricks. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "State Sen. Tim Cullen quit the Senate Democratic caucus Tuesday, saying Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller had snubbed him by refusing to give him a meaningful committee chairmanship.... The flap comes just a week after Democrats took control of the Senate after winning a recall election last month in Racine County. Miller then ascended to majority leader and restructured the committees."

News Ledes

Politico: "Timothy Geithner came under fire Wednesday from lawmakers who wanted to know what he did to head off the now-emerging Libor manipulation scandal when he was president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank in 2008 -- when red flags were first going up. Appearing before the House Financial Services Committee to present the Financial Stability Oversight Council's annual economic report, Geithner told members of the panel that he had taken the 'fully appropriate' actions by alerting regulators in both the U.S. and the U.K." Uh-huh.

Washington Post: "Greenland's surface ice cover experienced a broader thaw during a three-day period this month than in nearly four decades of satellite record-keeping.... About half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet melts on average each summer. But between July 11 and 13, roughly 97 percent of the the sheet -- from its coastal edges to its 2-mile-thick center -- experienced some thawing."

AP: "Britain is suffering a far deeper recession than thought, official figures showed Wednesday in a development that is likely to increase the pressure on the government to ease up on its tough austerity approach."

Washington Post: "Japan posted its biggest first-half trade deficit on record, according to government figures released Wednesday, highlighting the economic consequences as this nuclear-averse country imports fossil fuels to meet its energy needs."

Reuters: "Protesters broke windows of least a half-dozen storefronts in Anaheim on Tuesday and five people were arrested in the second major clash between police and demonstrators since an officer shot dead an apparently unarmed man. Tom Tait, mayor of the southern California city, had called on Monday for a state and federal review of the shooting of the man, a suspected gang member."

Guardian: "Ghana's president, John Evans Atta Mills, has died suddenly, aged 68."

AP: "North Korea state TV is reporting for the first time that leader Kim Jong Un is married."

Reader Comments (16)

I just shared this on Krugman's blog, but I thought I'd reproduce it here, among my favorite people:

I have a very small business that I built from the ground up. The investment capital was the money in my pocket (which was so very little that I considered giving up my rented house to live in my car in the early days of the business), and the sweat equity was all my own.

Ten years later, my business is still not big, but I do employ twelve people part-time and we offer our services all over Maine. As far as I know, I have never been the beneficiary of any tax legislation or received any subsidies.

That being said, I have no idea why building one's own business should make one mean toward others who do not have the wherewithal to do so themselves. I support social services that provide for those who are trapped by poverty, and I support services (and the under-appreciated people who provide them) to those who would lift themselves out of poverty.

I believe that most of today's Democrats have become GHB RINOs and that very few, including Bernie Sanders (who, ironically, ...), represent the ideals of fairness toward which I aspire.

I believe that for our society to function correctly, we need working roads and bridges. I believe that we need health research that is untainted by association with drug companies, education that is untainted by association with primitive mythologies, and even space exploration, which helps us understand that no one will rescue us if we trash our planet.

I am a job creator, albeit a very minor one. Strange Romney didn't ask me to testify.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

@ Jack Mahoney: And you're why I like Reality Chex. It's not only the easy access to far more information and entertainment than I could or would ferret out on my own that Marie provides, it's the high level of commentary and the sense of genuinely fine people, like you, people one would like to meet and know, who produce it. Thanks.

I would add only two thoughts. As social beings, we humans do NOTHING by ourselves. We are not bred alone, we do not grow up alone, we do not learn alone and even hermits do not live entirely alone. Tarzan, remember had furry friends.

The extreme Republican meme, ala Ayn Rand, is that there is no society, only individuals. It's dumb, but that's what many on the Right seem to think, I believe for three reasons. One, because as I said, it's dumb, it's an easy notion to sell to the simple minded; two, because it feeds the ego of the financially successful who think all the important things in life are inside their own skin; and three, as long as the majority thinks of themselves as individuals, never banding together for strength, they will remains isolated and weak, never any match for the rich and powerful. Divide and conquer, as the current cliche has it, on steroids.

In short, it's not just the roads and bridges, the teachers, the fire departments, all traditional government services at issue in the current Romney--Obama debate. Present day Republicans don't just want to pretend government has no useful social function; they deny sociology itself.

They do not believe that much of human reality is socially constructed. Ironically but predictably they don't grasp that essential truth even as they withdraw from a world they don't like and construct an increasingly hallucinatory reality of their own, that gated haven for rich white folks who pay no taxes at all.

The second thought is no so esoteric. It's about guns. In the midst of all the breast-beating about weapons that ritualistically follows the latest mass murder, let us not forget that we ourselves export hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps billions of dollars of weaponry each year to countries itching to kill many many more than we blow away internally each year. If our own gun laws, bad as they are, a mild case of the flu, the international weapons trade is pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, like too many cancers, it's good for business.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

My latest election bumper sticker:

Mitt Romney: draft dodger, tax dodger, truth dodger!

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCalyban

If Romney wins and Churchill's bust is brought back, it will be a symbol of relevant character: A large anthology could be compiled of the contemptuous things said about Winston from the 1900s to the 1940s, by colleagues and friends as well as enemies; at times contempt shaded into hatred. One of my favorites was the verdict of Sir Basil Bartlett, "the actor baronet" to the popular newspapers––and a very astute observer. "Winston Churchill is making inflammatory speeches again," he wrote in his dairy in May 1936, months before the abdication fiasco, and went on with this:

"He is a curious character. A sort of Mary Queen of Scots of modern politics. He is bound to emerge historically as a romantic and glamorous figure, but he is surrounded by corpses. No one who ever served him or been in any way connected to his career, has ever survived to tell the story."

Somehow that rings some bells, doncha think?

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@Jack Mahoney. Yeah but. Your business has received numerous government contracts, and those contracts have enhanced your reputation, earning you private clients, too. When you and your clients meet, you-all get to the meeting via government-built roads & bridges, as you point out. When you buy pencils for your business, they weren't made by the neighbor across the field; they were made someplace else & came to you on government-built infrastructure. Safety and fire officers help keep your business safe. If some of your business is conducted online, well, Al Gore had a hand in that. If privately-run utilities and services more-or-less work and more-or-less provide the services & products advertised, that's partly because some government regulators require them to function properly & keep their thumbs off the scales. So when you flip the switch & the lights go on & when you buy a ream of paper that has 500 sheets instead of 493, you can thank government. If your bank goes belly-up, the rest of us will bail it out -- again. If Kinkos screws you, you can sue them in a government court.

You're as smart as you are because of who you are, but in some way, at some time, the government contributed to your education even if you went to private schools.

Mind you, I don't see anything wrong with most of that (a few caveats on the bank & crappy court system parts). I'm just sayin'. We benefit from government programs more than most of us realize. We only notice the government when it doesn't work or when it works against us, which is of course way too often. It isn't just the direct help that Mitt's "independent small businessmen against government" received. It's all the indirect aid, too.

Marie

July 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

FOR KATE–– who has had it up to here, I offer a similar feeling during the Bush years when my fomenting prevented me from composing:


MUSE IN MELANCHOLIA

Total silence for almost a year—
she’s simply left—disappeared.
Searching through debris I find
nary a trace—only a whiff of ennui.

Fed up to here with the world’s wars,
atrocities & incompetence
I suppose.

Have some brewed tea, I say,
it might give you a lift.
Then a whisper—faint, but decisive:

I have nothing left
to give.

2004

Sometimes we just need to take a breather, walk away, play somewhere else and before you know it you're back in the fray because that's who you are––you just can't help it.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Marie, I was trying to be a bit metaphorical, saying that even if it were true that I built the whole thing out of my own sweat and clothespins and duct tape, I would still understand that we're all in this together. I'm sorry if I gave a different impression. I understand that a big reason the air I breathe isn't dirtier is because government, love it or hate it, usually stands up for me. Except maybe lately in Maine and Ohio and Wisconsin and Michigan and Florida and Texas.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

Charles Fried, a law professor at Harvard, opens his 1978 book “Right and Wrong” with these words: “A good man does not lie. It is this intuition which brings lying so naturally within the domain of things categorically wrong”. Fried, you may recall, served as Solicitor General under Reagan so he’s no card carrying liberal. But he also has written a book ripping Bush for his predilection to torture other human beings. As a moralist he has always struck me as being as near a Kantian as you’ll find today. Kant’s moral theory is girded by his concept of deontology, the idea of duty. To Kant, there is never an excuse to lie. It is a moral imperative. It is the definition of Kant's Categorical Imperative, a matter of moral duty.

That same year, 1978, Sissela Bok, who specializes in moral and ethical philosophy, wrote a book on Lying in which she examines the damage liars can cause in both public and private settings. The biggest damage, however, is in the public domain.

For Bok, a lie is a statement, known by the liar to be false and made with the express intent of deceiving the listener(s) in order to achieve some advantage or gain for the liar.

She was talking about Mitt Romney.

Bok’s analysis is complex but let me boil it down, especially the part concerned with lying to the public. Bok posits that a system of veracity, entered into and enjoyed by all members of a society has numerous benefits for all. The most important is our ability to assume a certain level of trust. Why this is so important is demonstrated by a simple thought experiment. Consider a society in which everyone lied or could lie with impunity. No one could trust anything or anybody. Without being able to confirm, first hand, the veracity of any statement, no useful knowledge would be available. The society would quickly disintegrate. No contracts could be trusted, no books could be believed, everything one heard or read would have to be questioned.

But living in a world where truth is valued and members of a society try to tell the truth as a matter of course makes that world a much more habitable place. Being able to assume a level of trust in what you read and hear makes so many things possible. Certainly there are exceptions, but for the most part, if you read that the sun is 93 million miles from the Earth, you don’t have get out a tape measure and see for yourself. If someone tells you that Abraham Lincoln was president during the Civil War, you don’t have to wonder if you’re being had.

This is a perfect world for the liar. In a world where no one trusts anything, the liar is just one of many whose lies don’t necessarily accrue any benefit to him or her. But in a world where trust is the norm, a willful, scheming liar can make reap enormous personal benefits for himself at the expense of everyone else. What allows this person to lie so skillfully and willingly? Simple. In Bok’s analysis, members of the society who place a premium on veracity, on telling the truth, don’t think that they are more deserving than everyone else. They see themselves as members of the group, not as someone special for whom rules do not apply. You see where this is going.

Romney has ALWAYS considered himself special, always above the law, too good for the rules of normal, average people. So willful lies allow him to take something which is not deserved and do it in the most cynical and mendacious manner: the trust of others. He hasn’t earned it but he gets it anyway, because, he believes himself to be better than everyone else and hence above silly moral imperatives like telling the truth. That truth telling stuff is for "you people." not for the likes of Willard. Morality is what he says it is.This is how he can so easily burn successful businesses to the ground, fire the employees, take their pensions and fill his pockets with their futures while leaving them in the dirt. This is how he can lie so easily on a regular basis.

Still, one might wonder how such a self-proclaimed religious man—a bishop in his church—can lie so easily, free from concerns of morality or ethics or religious sanctions against lying from the almighty. Wonder no more. It appears that the Mormon faith has a very clever trick for dealing with those it considers outsiders or who would stand in their way or might impede their progress or question their methods. It’s a little technique called (I kid you not) “Lying for the Lord.” According to LSD elder Boyd Packer, the current President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the same position once held by Brigham Young, “Some things that are true are not very useful.” So, when confronted with uncomfortable truths about the church or the faith the answer is simple.

Lie.

LSD missionaries, according to a number of personal recollections, when faced with difficult questions about some of the odder aspects of their faith are trained to dissemble, misdirect, anything but tell the truth, to Lie for the Lord. Willard was an apt pupil it seems.

So Romney has two reasons for lying like he does. He views himself as special and not bound by any commonly accepted understanding of morality or the ethical treatment of others, AND God told him he could. According to Charles Fried’s definition of a good man, Romney is a flop. But does he care?

It must be grand to be so special.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

PD,

I’ve never heard that quote about Churchill but at various times during his career he was indeed a polarizing figure who attracted both praise and contempt. One thing I will give the old boy is his way with words. His speeches may have been inflammatory but they were bits of genius at times. One reason Romney is no Winston Churchill. Another is that Churchill for all his self promotion and cantankerous ways retained a sense of perspective about himself. Clement Atlee, a sometime colleague but most often opponent of the war-time prime minister noted that Churchill was a very fortunate man, and one of the things that tempered his more abrasive side was the fact that he, Churchill, never failed to say so. That’s something you’ll never hear cross Romney’s lying lips.

Everything he has he got on his own. Luck, family, connections, insider information, had nothing to do with it.

Churchill also had the common touch, something unusual for a guy from the ranks of the nobles. A story about one of his most famous moments that still makes the rounds claims that Churchill followed the “We shall fight them on the beaches…” speech with “we’ll throw bottles at the bastards if that's all we have left.” This coda was apparently clipped by a quick fingered BBC engineer. Still, the fact that the story, apocryphal or not, has legs is an indication that Churchill, a complicated man, could actually have said such a thing. Romney? Not so much. In fact, Romney trips over words almost as frequently as Bush. Yesterday when trying to rip Obama for making political hay over the Bin Laden killing, he murdered what could have been a good line by pronouncing “word” as “whorl”. Duh.

None of this suffices, however, to obscure Churchill’s dark side. Will we ever know the real story behind the bombing raid on Coventry? Did Churchill really allow Brits to perish when he knew beforehand that the raid was coming? There’s his complicit involvement in the fire bombings of Dresden as well. No wonder George W. Bush had that bust of Churchill in the Oval Office. But it’s likely that Bush, like Romney, knew only snippets of Churchill’s life, preferring to focus on the self-promoting blustering bomb dropper.

Simple ideas are so much more appealing to the right. Complexity is just too exhausting. One more reason Romney wouldn’t care that he was replacing a bust of Lincoln with that of a foreign politician. Oh yeah, the other is likely racism. Didn’t Lincoln free the slaves? Damn! Was he crazy? Didn’t he realize that rich people need servants? Even better if you can chain them up and don't have to pay them. What was he thinking? The idea!

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

The New Yorker, the talk of the town, column has two old quotes that I don't want weaders to miss.
Adlai Stevenson said of Eisenhower's supporters,"If they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them ."
In 1994 Romney ran against Kennedy for the Senate." I am pro choice" the Senator said. "my opponent is multiple choice".
Some things never change, the Republicans are still lying and Mitt is still "multiple choice".

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

Re: accepting exceptional exceptions. I liked your comment, Jack Mahoney. I am without a doubt the world's worse businessman but I admire the guys and gals that have the heart and mind for running a small business. I like them even better if they are honest business people. I think Marie was reminding us that the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone and of course the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone etc. I thought you conveyed that yourself but I read at a congressman's level so what the hey. I've worked for honest contractors and I've walked away from guys who would put their mother in leaky coffins.
Some where in distant past I thought I remember a prof stressing that a governments job is to provide a secure marketplace for the fair exchange of goods and ideas. We've fallen away from that ideal in my opinion.
Re: Lay my body down; P.D. sometimes I just want to quit and cry and die but I refuse to give in to the fuckers.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

Akhilleus:
I only wish they were "LSD" missionaries. People all over the world would be having more fun with the latter day saints if they had been spreading the word through chemicals.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

@Akhilleus. Wonderful riff on lying and the Romneybot. Truth-telling does, indeed, undergird trust and trust's absence in our present society has much to do with mendacity's prevalence.

You have one explanation: groups that consider themselves special, somehow apart from, better than, in conflict with others can more easily justify lying, but I would go farther and look at the elements of the way we live that keep us apart. I mentioned one earlier, the emphasis on the individual, which is tied to our notions of a primitive capitalism that pits every one of us against everyone else. When one is always trying to gain advantage and competition is seen as more advantageous, more socially useful, than cooperation, our economic organization alone builds high walls between us and makes us strangers to one another.

Next, I'd mention our sheer numbers and mobility. Outside our immediate families, we seldom know anyone very well. Certainly we are not directly dependent on them or they on us. Handshakes mean little because we are removed socially and geographically from those we do business with and when that is not the case, we can always avoid further contact with those whose trust we abuse. Hence there is no social, yet alone legal, cost for lying. Corporate bosses do not know us, politicians have little direct contact with their constituents; we don't even know our doctors very well. Because there is little personal, direct contact with the people who supply our needs, our intercourse with them is mediated by long supply lines, bureaucracies and legalistic, abstract contracts, both figurative and literal, that often disappoint. We have warranties galore but little that we can trust.

I would not blame Republicans for all the lies we hear, but I would suggest the Right's view of the world, that is one of individuals and small, isolated groups in constant competition with one another (to the victor go the spoils), does make lying easier to justify and more common.

What I do not understand is why, when all the polls tell us that everyone knows trust is on a permanent? leave of absence, anyone believes anything that someone who has been caught lying publicly time and again (like the Romneybot) says.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Victoria,

Ha! Great idea. In fact it does seem that many current GOPers have discovered one of Timothy Leary's old stashes. They've been demonstrating the effects of increasingly altered states. Too bad Leary's not still around. He'd have made a hell of a VP for Romney...take some of the starch out of his campaign. Hey. He was a Harvard too guy wasn't he?

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Ken,

Excellent points. I think your suggestion that an over-emphasis on the power of the individual and the role of unbridled competition leads to a curt dismissal of the importance of collective action and social connections deserves more careful consideration.

Here again I would raise the problem, for the right, of an appreciation of complexity, pluralistic societies, and an ability to accept and negotiate the resultant paradoxes of the modern world. Instead we get pre-approved ideological formulas of the sort that, when
flagged words like "collective" or "co-operation" appear in the crosshairs the Ideology Genie whispers "SOCIALISM" into their cauliflower ears.

Progress stymied. Mission Accomplished.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Ken Winkes: "I would go farther and look at the elements of the way we live that keep us apart. I mentioned one earlier, the emphasis on the individual, which is tied to our notions of a primitive capitalism that pits every one of us against everyone else. When one is always trying to gain advantage and competition is seen as more advantageous, more socially useful, than cooperation, our economic organization alone builds high walls between us and makes us strangers to one another."

You forgot to mention television. I'm old enough to remember when there WAS no television, and people congregated for lots of reasons, and got to know one another and trust one another. Schools, churches (not necessarily religion), dances, plays, etc. were social occasions for everyone. And doesn't TV emphasize competition and the individual?

I'm always surprised that no-one ever seems to realize what TV has done to our society.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie
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