The Ledes

Wednesday, May 27, 2015.

Hill: "The Defense Department accidentally sent live anthrax to labs in nine states and is working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to contain it, the Pentagon said Wednesday. 'The Department of Defense is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their investigation of the inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis, also known as anthrax, from a DoD lab in Dugway, Utah, to labs in nine states,' said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman."

AP: "A second submariner has pleaded guilty to sharing videos of female officers undressing for a shower, continuing a case that a prosecutor calls a 'black eye' for the Navy's integration of women into the nation's sub fleet.... Electronics technician Joseph Bradley entered pleas Wednesday in a court-martial trial. He was sentenced to 30 days' confinement and a reduction in rank.... On Tuesday, missile technician Charles Greaves received two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge for making the videos. Five more male sailors face charges in the case."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

Guardian: Texas governor Greg Abbott has expanded the emergency disaster zone in his state, adding 24 counties to a list of 13 affected by storms and flooding. Three people were reported dead and 12 missing as Oklahoma was also hit hard, while a tornado left 13 dead in a Mexican town just beyond the border." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Flooding brought Houston[, Texas,] to a near-standstill Tuesday, sending normally tame rivers and bayous surging out of their banks, inundating streets and homes, and leaving highways littered with hundreds of abandoned, ruined cars. As much as 10 inches of rain lashed the Houston area overnight, and added to floodwaters flowing downstream from areas of central Texas that were swamped over the holiday weekend, causing waterways to rise from trickle to torrent faster than people could get out of the way."

... See also Jeanne Pitz's comment on this in today's Commentariat.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 27

12:15 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks about the Russian-Ukraine conflict (audio only)

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

New York Times: "Charter Communications is near a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $55 billion, people with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday, a takeover that would create a new powerhouse in the rapidly consolidating American cable industry.... The potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable completes a lengthy quest by Charter and its main backer, the billionaire John C. Malone, to break into the top tier of the American broadband industry. If completed, the transaction would be the latest in a series of mergers remaking the market for broadband Internet and cable television in the United States." ...

     ... Update: "Charter Communications agreed on Tuesday to buy its much larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56.7 billion in a deal that would transform the company into one of America’s largest cable and broadband operators."

Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Contact the Constant Weader

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Wednesday
Jul042012

The Commentariat -- July 5, 2012

I have a long piece in today's New York Times eXaminer titled "When the Supreme Court Leaks." The NYTX front page is here.

Quote of the Day. I tried to maintain order among the various taxpayers who would come to the forest and gradually learned an essential lesson about life -- that human beings no more become more civil when you put them in the woods than bears become domesticated if you put them in your parlor. (Henry David Thoreau, that fathead, was so very wrong about this.) -- Charles Pierce, on his youthful work as a public parks employee (Read the whole essay.) ...

... AND for those who think privatization of public services is a great idea, here's a story on point from Ihosvani Rodriguez of the Orlando Sun Sentinel about an incident in nearby Hallandale Beach: "As lifeguards are paid and trained to do, Tomas Lopez rushed down the beach to rescue a drowning man -- and then got fired for it. The problem: Lopez stepped out of the beach zone his company is paid to patrol, a supervisor said Tuesday." A spokesperson said the company was concerned it would be sued. "Hallandale Beach began outsourcing its lifeguards in 2003 as a money-saving measure." CW: imagine if Lopez were in a union: (a) he'd be making more than $8.75/hour to save lives, & (b) the company couldn't get away with firing him for saving a life. ...

     ... Update: Ihosvani Rodriguez & Megan O'Matz of the Orlando Sun Sentinel: "The Hallandale Beach lifeguard who was fired earlier this week for leaving his zone to help rescue a nearby swimmer will get an offer to go back to work, his top boss said Thursday. The offer will also be extended to two other lifeguards who were fired in connection to the incident. Several other lifeguards who have since resigned from their jobs in protest will also be welcomed back." Lopez said he would not accept the offer to return.

NEW: one of our contributors reminded me of the LIBOR scandal. Here's Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post explaining why it's such a big deal.

E. J. Dionne: "... it is dangerous to turn the Founders into quasi-religious prophets who produced a text more like the Bible or the Talmud." CW: I wonder if E.J. knows that this is literally what Mormons have done -- or so I've heard. They believe the Constitution is "sacred text." Read Dionne's column & tell me what you think. It strikes me -- tho Dionne doesn't hint at this -- that the "originalism" conservative jurists pretend is a valid and essential way to read the Constitution is nothing more than a handy pretext to promote their own agendas. Just pretend you're channeling Madison or Hamilton & rule "accordingly," then blame the founders. Nino Scalia keeps attesting he can't even understand his colleagues -- he often says or writes "it boggles the mind that anyone would think such-and-such." Yet he pretends he knows the thought processes of men of diverse views who have been dead for 200 years & can apply them to situations with which the Founders were never confronted.

Michael Grunwald of Time: the next times there's a powerful "Derecho," millions might not lose power for days on end -- and that's thanks to the much-derided stimulus bill.

Ever wonder why Mitt Romney was chosen to run the winter Olympics? Wonder no more. Jules Boycoff & Alan Tomlinson, in a New York Times op-ed: Though the International Olympics Committee "has been periodically tarnished by scandal -- usually involving the bribing and illegitimate wooing of delegates -- those embarrassments divert us from a deeper problem: the organization is elitist, domineering and crassly commercial at its core.... The I.O.C., which champions itself as a democratic 'catalyst for collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family,' is nonetheless run by a privileged sliver of the global 1 percent.... Competitions drenched in privilege, like the equestrian events, should be ditched (with apologies to Ann Romney's horse Rafalca, who will be competing in dressage in London)."

Gail Collins answers reader questions (well, maybe hypothetical reader questions) about the November election.

Ben Jacobs of Salon follows Elizabeth Warren on the campaign trail. Entertaining.

Rep. Joe Walsh (RTP-Illinois) still thinks it's a pretty good idea to castigate his Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth, a veteran who lost her legs when the helicopter she was piloting in Iraq was shot down, for talking about her military service. For a little background on what a great guy Formerly Deadbeat Joe is, Kaili Joy Gray of Daily Kos will fill you in.

Presidential Race

Gerry Mulaney of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney said on Wednesday that the individual mandate in President Obama's health care law was 'a tax,' just days after his campaign said the candidate had rejected that characterization." In case you have forgotten your 5th-grade science class where you learned what a weasel looked like, here's a refresher:

     ... Update: here's the fullblown New York Times story, by Jeremy Peters. ...

     ... Steve Kornacki of Salon has a good follow-up on the flip-flip, tracking Rupert Murdoch's frustration with the amateurish campaign. Also, here's how Kornacki characterizes Mitt's parsing: "Romney tried to invent a loophole, claiming that state-level mandates don't require Supreme Court approval, and therefore don't need 'to be called taxes in order for them to be constitutional.'" ...

     ... Michael Scherer of Time has an excellent piece on what he calls "Romney's Latest, Greatest Twist on the Individual Mandate." ...

Ann & Mitt Romney, jet-skiing on Lake Winnipesaukee Monday.

Luckily, the Romneys don't have to settle for just that cheesy little jet-ski two-seater.     ... AND the professional conservanuts at Rupert's Wall Street Journal pile on: "... for the sake of not abandoning his faulty health-care legacy in Massachusetts, Mr. Romney is jeopardizing his chance at becoming President. Perhaps Mr. Romney is slowly figuring this out, because in a July 4 interview he stated himself that the penalty now is a 'tax' after all. But he offered no elaboration, and so the campaign looks confused in addition to being politically dumb. This latest mistake is of a piece with the campaign's insular staff and strategy that are slowly squandering an historic opportunity.... The Romney campaign thinks it can play it safe and coast to the White House by saying the economy stinks and it's Mr. Obama's fault.... Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is assailing Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch rich man, and the rich man obliged by vacationing this week at his lake-side home with a jet-ski cameo."

Romney's Mystery Money. Associated Press: "For nearly 15 years..., Mitt Romney's financial portfolio has included an offshore company that remained invisible to voters.... Based in Bermuda, Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd. was not listed on any of Romney's state or federal financial reports. The company is among several Romney holdings that have not been fully disclosed, including one that recently posted a $1.9 million earning -- suggesting he could be wealthier than the nearly $250 million estimated by his campaign. The omissions were permitted by state and federal authorities overseeing Romney's ethics filings, and he has never been cited for failing to disclose information.... Sankaty was transferred to a trust owned by Romney's wife, Ann, one day before he was sworn in as Massachusetts governor in 2003...."

Paul Krugman: "Romney wasn't so much a captain of industry as a captain of deindustrialization, making big profits for his firm (and himself) by helping to dismantle the implicit social contract that used to make America a middle-class society. So now he proposes bringing the skills and techniques he used in business to the White House."

Right Wing World *

Benjy Sarlin of TPM: Jonathan Krohn, the teen conservative idol turned liberal heretic, is on the receiving end of a world of abuse from right wing pundits this week.... The Daily Caller led the charge. Gregg Re started things off with a profanity-filled screed from a spurned conservative who attended Krohn's big CPAC speech in 2009 and apparently demanded anonymity to tell Re the 17-year-old was a 'douche.'"

* Where adults bullying teenagers is A-okay, especially if the grown-up remembers to call the kid an obscene name or two.

News Ledes

Orlando Sun Sentinel: "A judge Thursday ordered George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, released on $1 million bail but called the defendant a manipulator and said it appeared he had been preparing to flee the country. It was not clear how long it would take the 28-year-old Zimmerman to arrange his release."

NBC News: "A 96-year-old former Arizona governor and former U.S. diplomat says he holds no grudges against the U.S. Border Patrol agents who he says detained him at a checkpoint for more than a half-hour in stifling heat after his pacemaker apparently set off a radiation sensor. Raul H. Castro says although he wasn't mistreated, agents could have been more sensitive to his age and condition."

Bloomberg News: "Fewer Americans than forecast filed first-time claims for unemployment insurance payments last week, easing concern that the labor market was deteriorating."

Bloomberg News: "Global central banks went on the offensive against the faltering world economy, cutting interest rates and increasing bond buying as a round of international stimulus gathers pace. In a 45-minute span, the European Central Bank and People's Bank of China cut their benchmark borrowing costs, while the Bank of England raised the size of its asset-purchase program."

Toledo Blade: "Demonstrating a tough line on trade with China, the Obama Administration will file an unfair trade complaint today against China's new duties on some American-made cars and sport utility vehicles, including the Toledo-made Jeep Wrangler.... President Obama is expected to refer to the WTO trade action in his speech today in suburban Toledo as he begins his two-day "Betting On America Bus Tour" through northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania." Via Time.

AP: "WikiLeaks said Thursday it was in the process of publishing material from 2.4 million Syrian emails -- many of which it said came from official government accounts. WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison told journalists at London's Frontline Club that the emails reveal interactions between the Syrian government and Western companies, although she declined to go into much further detail."

Guardian: "In an apparent response to reports that the US has increased its military presence in the Gulf, the commander of [Iran's] Revolutionary Guards' air force said on Wednesday that missiles had been aimed at 35 US military bases in the Gulf as well as targets in Israel, ready to be launched in case of an attack."

New York Times: "The nuclear accident at Fukushima was a man-made disaster rooted in government-industry collusion and the worst conformist conventions of Japanese culture, a high-level parliamentary inquiry concluded on Thursday, in a report that also warned that the plant may not have stood up to earthquake damage -- a worrying concern as the quake-prone country starts to bring its reactor fleet back online." ...

... AP: "Nuclear power returned to Japan's energy mix for the first time in two months Thursday, hours before a parliamentary investigative commission blamed the government's cozy relations with the industry for the meltdowns that prompted the mass shutdown of the nation's reactors.... Thursday's resumption of operations at a reactor in Ohi, in western Japan, already had been hotly contested."

Reuters: "Mexico's election officials on Wednesday recounted votes from more than half the polling booths in Sunday's presidential and congressional elections, responding to claims of fraud and requests for recounts in areas where the race was tight. Officials with the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) said the recount would not significantly change preliminary results of the presidential vote...."

New York Times: "A potentially explosive re-examination of the circumstances behind the death of , the symbol of the Palestinian national struggle, has galvanized Palestinian suspicions that he was poisoned and led the Palestinian Authority to agree in principle on Wednesday to an exhumation of his remains, possibly within days."

AP: "... tens of thousands of Americans may ... lose their Internet service Monday unless they do a quick check of their computers for malware that could have taken over their machines more than a year ago.

New York Times: "After decades of controversy, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new H.I.V. test on Tuesday that for the first time makes it possible for Americans to learn in the privacy of their homes whether they are infected."

Reader Comments (28)

Regarding the claim that Republican Governors are refusing federal money to expand Medicaid has some philosophical or idealogical base is pure nonsense.

They do as they are told by their Masters, the 1%.

Why would the 1% be opposed to an improvement in the health of the citizens of a state, and the stimulus effect that the extra income would provide?

The answer is simple.

Their long term goal is the destruction of American democracy!

The ultimate goal of 1% working through their leased employees, the Republican office holders is to have a government of direct rule of the Oligarchs in the model of modern Russia, or China, or better yet North Korea.

The battles against women, the franchise, the environment, education, feeding the hungry, and personal freedom in general, and unconditional support for the military and for war, are all part of the larger goal.

All the classy, "best and brightest" liberal pundits seem to refuse to understand this.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJefffrey

While I agree that it is frustrating that doing the moral thing got someone fired, we can't ignore the fact that the swimmer chose to swim in an unprotected zone. At some point we have to draw the line at protecting people from their own bad or irresponsible choices. I argue that the individual mandate for health insurance is all about personal responsibility, so I can't be a hypocrite and say that the city tax dollars that paid the lifeguard salaries should protect someone who chose to swim at his own risk.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

@ Lisa. So you're walking along the sidewalk on a busy residential street minding your own business when you see an unattended toddler walk out into traffic. Hey, it's not your kid, not your fault, so you walk on.

A little ways along, you hear shouting coming from a nearby house & you glance in the window where you see a man beating up a woman. You've got your cellphone, you could call the cops, but hey, that woman was an idiot to hook up with that guy, the 911 operator might tell you to stick around to talk to the cops about what you saw, etc., so you leave your cellphone in your pocket.

You go a little further & you notice billowing smoke coming out of a house. You hear screams. Those jerks should have bought more smoke alarms. Not. Your. Problem.

Finally you get to your destination: the Republican presidential debate. At the debate, you hear Wolf Blitzer ask Ron Paul if doctors should save the life of a guy who didn't bother to buy health insurance but now needs life-saving care. Paul says, "Too bad; he should have taken responsibility for his health sooner." You join the chorus of Republican stalwarts shouting "Let him die."

Sorry, we're going to have to agree to disagree on this one. We all make dumb mistakes, and if we're lucky, we don't suffer too badly from them & neither does anybody else. If they're really dumb, dangerous mistakes, we hope we'll get lucky & somebody like Tomas Lopez will save our sorry asses.

Marie

July 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

Call me clueless, but I can't imagine the perfect scenario for the Obama haters and Tea Party acolytes. I understand that they are ultimately stooges, but what I don't understand is how they think they'll benefit from the policies they espouse. I'm serious. I feel like the part of my brain that once could have made sense of their passions and behavior has either turned off or died. But then again, I felt the same way about the Birchers. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

Thanks to everyone for your comments yesterday. I couldn't agree more with @Kate Madison, who wrote about our "high-level group of commenters." Even when I'm swamped & can't join the conversation, it's a pleasure to "listen in."

@Ken Winkes. I read Independence Day the year it was published. I had a house in Frenchtown, New Jersey, then. Frenchtown, a small town on the Delaware River 30 miles north of Trenton, is one of those places that remains stuck in the late 19th-century in almost every way: appearance, character, politics, economic malaise. The main character in the Ford book falls asleep at the wheel & crashes into a parking lot, wrecking some small stuff. "I was naturally enough awakened by the crash," the hero/narrator says, "climbed out apologizing at a high rate of speed, offered to take a brethalyzer, peeled off three-hundred bucks to cover all damages and explained I'd been fishing, not closing down some gin mill in Frenchtown...." That pleased me to no end.

Marie

July 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

My comments on Marie's piece re: Supreme Leaks:

There was a woman on “The Ed show” (whom I cannot identify) the day after Jan’s leak article came out that had her knickers in a twist over these sources who leaked––how dare they! she fairly screamed. The Supreme court should be held in high esteem and never should drips and drabs trickle out to the public or anyone else for that matter. She advocated a thorough investigation to ferret out any snot nosed law clerk who was playing footsie with these sacred decisions.
Then I heard that Thomas might have been the leaker––his wife having been involved in trying to overturn the ACA. Now this would be delicious.

I'd be interested in how some of you are thinking about this.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

E. J. Dionne's analogy between the Constitution and the Bible is an excellent example of what is wrong with the human mind. Both 'books' allow for lots of interpretations, a nice way of saying that the books can say whatever you want them to say. And whether you are playing for 2000 years or 200, the very idea that somehow the world still fits that model is absurd. My favorite is the fact that the Bible repeatedly supports slavery but, you know, slavery was not the same thing 5000 years ago. Of course the Bible says that the universe was created in six days, but for some, that was just a story. And the preamble to the Constitution including 'Promote the general welfare' is just another story. Remember that we are still working on the Declaration of Independence, you know Obama wasn't created equal.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

I am not sure I agree with Marie's premise in her excellent NYTimes Examiner piece that we would be better off with more vigorous Supreme Court reporting aimed at getting the (presumably) true story of infighting behind the decisons. It seems to me that the result would be to further erode the legitimacy of the Court, based on innuendo and rumor that no one can prove. I suppose one could argue that is a good thing, because recent opinions have been disturbing and even appalling at times to liberals. But that has not always been the case, and may not be in the future (we certainly hope). Anyway, GREAT job, Marie, of tracing the leaks and the reporting about them.
My nominee for Deep Throat: Ginny Thomas, with an obvious assist from her spouse. Pure speculation, of course.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

After reading Lisa's post and Marie's reply it brought back the past discussion here about individuality vs consensus in this country. If we want to embrace the American myth of a country united and would forever be so except for those "extremists" that keep stirring up the pot, we need, I would think, to take care of our own not only by the government, but by individuals like the lifeguard who saves a drowning man and to act in those cases Marie points out. If your neighbor needs your help, for Pete's sake help him; if the road you walk every day becomes littered, pick up the damn debris. Of course these kinds of gestures are small potatoes when we look at the bigger picture of what is happening to our country at large. Jack's lament this morning echos many of our own and when we encounter over and over behavior we simply cannot get our minds around, we dig deeper and lo and behold money and power rear their ugly heads and tails. And we begin where we started with the discussion of the me's and thee's. This country has always been divided and will probably continue to be. Our hope is that the good guys, the ones who save another, will triumph over the "let em die" guys who only save themselves.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

The Jonathan Krohn's heresy story is particularly interesting in light of the Dionne essay referenced above. While I personally reject religion in its common meaning, I have long thought that much of what humans believe to be true is has a religious base--the Higgs-Boson of our mental equipment that glues our disparate thoughts and experiences into some kind of coherence?-- whether we're talking about food, phonics, or politics. The urge to believe and not examine the evidence appears unbelievably strong. I call it lazy.

Likewise the urge to cast out the unbelievers, particularly for those whose urge to believe requires absolute uniformity. The Republican purge of the last decade or so is a case in point, as is the growing anger of its cranky proponents, natural perhaps in a group whose beliefs about the universe are increasingly and more and more obviously at odds with reality. It makes them feisty.

Then enter the bright teen who agrees with them but changes his mind when he gets just a little older and sees a mere tad more of the world. Would almost seem today's conservatism to have been perfectly designed for a thirteen-year old. No wonder they're spitting mad. It's kinda embarrassing for them, isn't it?

As it well should be.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

OK, I read all of the articles on Romney's change of position on whether or not the ACA involves a tax. It makes me dizzy. I don't think it is a flip flop. It is more a flop flip flop flop flip.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

@Lisa: What @The Constant Weader said, plus this: The individual mandate will mean that with access to healthcare, people will use it, begetting preventative care and reducing long term, costly health failures like diabetes and health-care-by-emergency-room, which increases all of our costs.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynne

Victoria,

I'm sure Justice Thomas, with his well documented penchant for porn, would be pleased to know that his wife is being referred to in some circles as "Deep Throat". Coke can references can't be far behind.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Victoria D. Normally, I would agree with you. However, the fact that the Court has become so partisan & the conservative opinions such hackery makes me think the more we know about the Supremes the better. If a little scrutiny discredits them, then so be it.

If, at some time in the far distant future, we get a Court where the majority considers the constitutional questions before them instead of trying to mold the Constitution to their own political preferences, then I don't care if they hold their conferences and discuss their views in an opium den at a nudist camp.

Marie

July 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

A thought about some things under discussion here this morning, especially how we arrived at a point at which a few decide for the many, usually to the detriment of the many.

E.J. Dionne’s point concerning the deification of the Constitution, mostly by the right, calls into question the authority of juridical knowledge claimed by those who wish to strong arm the country into kowtowing to their particular interpretation of the sacred text. Typically in cases in which they require the full force of argument from authority (a common logical fallacy) or the agency of an “ipse dixit” with which to settle any pesky disputes regarding the revelations of that document. Declarations as to the exact intention of James Madison, let’s say, regarding clarification of the commerce clause is a specialty of right-wing ideologue Nino Scalia (can’t you just see him like some solipsistic soothsayer in his lair, wrapped in his priestly cloak, consulting dusty tomes, reading the ashes of burnt bones, and gleaning truth from animal droppings?). “This is what so and so said and that’s what it means and there’s no way we can go along with what you propose because James Madison wouldn’t like it. Besides, look at the color of this dung. No way, dude.”

And that’s that.

Except when it isn’t.

It’s interesting how conservatives have adopted a mindset informed by what Isaiah Berlin referred to as a belief in historical inevitability. Classical conservatives once had faith in the individual and recognized a certain personal responsibility and individual agency in the twists and turns of history. Contemporary conservatives still give lip service to such ideas but watching their actions gives the lie to their words. Berlin defines historical inevitability as the idea that the history and the future or a country are predetermined either by an innate superiority, some unseen historical hand or, for most fundamentalist conservatives, the fact that god likes them best, will clear a path for them and will smote their enemies. Just because.
One particularly rapacious example of historical inevitability we all learned in elementary school was the concept of manifest destiny. This gave 19th century Americans carte blanche to rape, rob, murder, declare war, plunder, and prosecute genocide. Why? God said we could.

Besides, it’s inevitable that the United States take its place as a world leader.

A version of this thinking is at work in many decisions by the right, the idea that twisting and turning the constitution into a sacred document, when it suits their purposes of historical inevitability, is the proper thing to do. It also allows them to discount the needs of millions of individuals in place of the desires of corporations. It’s just inevitable that America Lead, so we must do what we can to aid that process. And if that means 30 million poor people don’t get health care or decent educations, so be it. They live to serve and they should be grateful we don’t just clap them in irons and be done with it. Ungrateful peasants.

Adopting this strategic ploy also enables conservatives to browbeat any who dispute their arguments in the same way megalomaniacal preachers can beat apostate congregants over the head with the bible. You can’t doubt me. I bring you the word of God; the word of the Founders.

It also handily dispenses with dealing with the difficulties inherent in a pluralistic society. And it’s essentially ahistorical in that it refuses to recognize, as the founders did, that the world changes and with it, our responses and requirements. Denying the dynamism of history (which branches out in many directions not just toward the goal you would like for it, an inevitable one) also allows the proponents of a sacred Constitution to set themselves up as high priests or oracles. Only they can interpret the holy text and we all must do what they say. And they can say pretty much whatever they damn please because no other views matter.

But we’ve all seen the damage done by turning sacred texts into fonts for directed interpretation by a select few. But then, that’s their goal, isn’t it?

In some ways such historical teleology is positively Hegelian. Now wouldn’t that surprise Alito, Scalia, and Thomas to be so closely allied with the philosophical patron saint of Marxism?

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: Trenchant as always. Made me think of another, related Founder in whose direction the Right loves to nod, as usual getting him wrong because, as always, they prefer things simple. Adam Smith, the great-great-great grandfather of free market capitalism was also a MORAL philosopher. His contemporary followers enshrine the self-interest part of what he had to say but conveniently forget the "enlightened" part, because that injunction requires struggle and thought, and it is in struggle and thought that responsibility resides. As much as they preach responsibility, conservatives really want no part of that. It's too much trouble. As I said earlier, I call it lazy, because if you are always on the right side of inevitable history, the Lord's, the Founders, or Hegel's, you don't have to do any work.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Oops...

I think I meant "'...smite" their enemies'."

But that aside, Ken, a great point about Adam Smith and the amount of trouble it would take to adjust to a more complex philosophy. Much easier to cherry pick what suits you. This is the problem I have (well, one of them) with so many fundamentalists who deny that there is anything to think about because Jesus has already figured it out and if you just listen, there's no need for thought. In fact, thinking about it reveals some level of disbelief.

Even for the most devout believers it must be a stretch to accommodate the thought that we have been given operational brains and access to rationality for a reason. Why shut them off?

Another error. Rational thought is not necessary. I guess we've only been given brains in order to remember where to send the checks to those saintly televangelists.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Marie, I don't disagree with most of what what you said. The problem with taking a side on the lifeguard issue is that we don't know the whole story from the details provided in the article. Why was only a section of the beach under lifeguard surveillance? Was it different when it was not a private contract? How do we know what the outcome would have been if the lifeguard was a city employee? Do we know that the policy was any different? Did the lifeguard put a swimmer in the covered zone in jeopardy by leaving his post? To make that incident an example of how private management is worse than public isn't really fair without knowing all the details. The irony of my saying this is huge since I, like you, am a firm believer in the effectiveness of public services and would love to use this as evidence to support my belief. But whether a service is publicly or privately controlled, there have to be rules and boundaries, especially for liability sake. Lifeguards have very strict guidelines to follow to protect all parties. The lifeguard knew the rules. If he didn't agree he shouldn't have accepted the job. I am very glad he chose to save the swimmer and I am proud of his fellow lifeguards for resigning in protest. Perhaps this will force the city to re-evaluate the situation, from the company's policies to the city ordinances. Regarding the firemen not putting out that fire, again, if you live where the rule is that you have to pay for firemen services and you choose not to do so, you should pay the consequences....or work toward changing the laws or the lawmakers. If we don't expose the limitations that privatization creates, then no one will learn the dangers of no longer having public services (that they took for granted in the past). This same idea applies for the people who choose to live in areas prone to natural disasters. At some point you have to be responsible and not expect others to take care of you. It's called tough love.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Whoops, my editing got goofy at the end. I was alluding to the difficulty of being a loving, caring human being who believes in tax-funded public services that help take care of all citizens. We cannot afford to be enablers for the people who CHOOSE not to accept their share of civic responsibility.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Good..... http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/lifeguard-fired-florida-job-offer-190410076.html

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Lisa,
I agree with CW...and what would tough love have taught the drowned person?
Hooray for the lifeguard.
Mae Finch

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermae finch

The erudition of those who post on this site is impressive. Searching for the core of consertive philosophy in the dead poets society is very intellectual.

But none of it is relevant. The conservative justices have been vetted, groomed and trained by the 1% for many years.

They will continue to "dance with the one's who brung them". No need for Hegel, just Tennessee Ernie Ford.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJefffrey

@Lisa et al., my guess is that had Lopez been a city employee, he would not have been fired. He might have been protected by a union (don't know if employees at Hallendale Beach are unionized), but in any event, most bureaucracies have a pretty rigorous procedure in place to assess & decide possible firing offenses. Frankly, I think the city would have tried to get the rescue on the front page of the paper to let the public know their taxpayer dollars were at work. From the more recent story, linked above, "City Manager Renee Crichton issued a statement Wednesday saying, '... We take the safety of all visitors to our beaches very seriously. Whether they are in a protected area or unprotected area, we believe aid must be rendered.'"

In the original story, the company claimed beachgoers in the protected area were never in any danger as there were other lifeguards covering the area. After they fired Lopez, the company fired two more lifeguards who said they would have done exactly what Lopez did. The company said it fired Lopez because it was worried about "being sued." Since the company most certainly has liability insurance, what they meant was they wanted to keep their premiums down.

Cities get sued all the time for all kinds of things, & they usually don't self-insure. If their premiums go up as a result of payouts, they just up the ad valorem taxes to cover the added cost.

I'm not suggesting cities don't care about having their employees follow rules to reduce exposure, but cities are run by politicians who are way more likely than private companies to give a shit about public relations. I doubt that whatever dumbkovs are sitting on the Hallendale Beach town council are dumb enough kovs to fire a lifeguard-hero. But greedy bastards whose only concern is profits are unaccustomed to giving any thought to P.R. unless it's the kind of P.R. where they grease some politicians palms in exchange for a contract.

And there you have a few major differences between public service and private for-profit contracts for service.

Marie

July 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

Jeffrey,

So what should we do? Give up? Resign ourselves to the inevitable? I realize the difficulty of swimming against the tide but not swimming guarantees being swept out to sea. And while erudition is no magic bullet, hopeless indolence or sheepish acceptance of the status quo is a poison bullet. And if active pursuit of intellectual provenance in the history of ideas is an ultimately sterile quest, why do right-wing apologists expend so much energy and cash funding think tanks to provide cover for their most questionable casuistries?

I don't harbor any illusions of converting Joe the Plumber or Matt Drudge but neither can I allow their obfuscations and outright lies to skate off unchallenged. And just because poets or thinkers are dead doesn't mean they have nothing to impart. If that were the case I'd spend more time imbibing the immortal sayings of David Gregory than reading Berlin, Locke, Jefferson, Nietzsche, or Will Rogers.

If you don't think political philosophy matters, I would point you to the influence of University of Chicago intellectuals who gave us Iraq, torture, supply side economics, and the 2008 crash.

It doesn't get more real than that.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Marie, you may be right about the differences between public vs. private, but until we examine what the policy was before, it is not fair to use this as an example of private greed. They had a contract with the city so I assume they were performing the duties the city contracted them to do and I hope the city had approved their procedures. It all really comes down to liability and torts.

Think of it this way: If you had hired a babysitter to take care of your kids at the beach and she left your kids in the water to go save someone 1500 yards down the beach, and then one of your kids died, what would you do? What would happen to a soldier who left his post unguarded to save someone and then his post was attacked? Would we be saying hooray? I am glad he saved the swimmer, but he did leave his post.

Mae, the tough love is making people, like our kids, live with the consequences of their actions. It's what the Darwin Awards are based on. The guy put others and himself in danger by swimming in an unprotected area.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Marie, great pictures of Willard and Ann on the Jet-Ski and their lovely ski tow boat. Also an element of Deja'vu, oh I guess not, that was John Kerry with his surfboard during the campaign. My mistake.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoger Henry

Roger,

At least Kerry's choice of water sports, windsurfing, requires some kind of athletic skill and relies on a renewable source of energy which has zero environmental impact. Both of Romney's choices rely on noisy, dirty, gas powered vehicles the operation of which routinely disturbs neighbors either with overwhelming wakes, noise, or pollution and whose only physical requirements are the ability to pay a hefty sum in purchase of said toys, to turn a key and hold on to a steering wheel and beer at the same time.

An admirable demonstration of his regular-guy bona fides.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakhilleus

Geez, not that it matters, but in my last comment I was thinking 150 ft or 50 yds. and typed 1500 yards. Haste makes waste.

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
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