The Ledes

Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

New York Times: "With NATO leaders expected to endorse a rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops for Eastern Europe this week, a senior Russian military official said on Tuesday that Moscow would revise its military doctrine to account for 'changing military dangers and military threats.'”

Guardian: "Syrian rebels have issued three demands for the release of 45 Fijian peacekeepers they've held captive for five days, Fiji's military commander has said. Brig Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front wants to be taken off the United Nations terrorist list, humanitarian aid delivered to the capital Damascus, and compensation for three of its fighters it says were killed in a shootout with UN officers."

AP: "U.S. military forces attacked the extremist al-Shabab network in Somalia Monday, the Pentagon said, and a witness described ground-shaking explosions in a strike that reportedly targeted the group's leader. Al-Shabab had attacked the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 67 people a year ago this month and the U.S. had targeted planners of the bloody assault."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, September 1, 2014.

Guardian: "The UK and US governments have criticised, in unusually strong language, Israel's decision to approve one of the largest appropriations of Palestinian land for settlement in recent decades. The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said he deplored the move as 'particularly ill-judged'."

Al Jazeera: "Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shia armed volunteers have retaken more northern towns from the Islamic State group, killing at least two of its senior fighters, sources have told Al Jazeera. A day after breaking the siege in the town of Amerli north of Baghdad, government forces retook the town of Sulaiman Bek on Monday, removing another key stronghold of the Islamic State group." ...

... Guardian: "Barack Obama on Monday formally notified Congress that he had authorised targeted air strikes in Iraq to help deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged Shia town of Amerli, the White House said in a statement."

Washington Post: Pakistan's "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was clinging to power Monday as protesters stepped up their assault on government buildings while the capital was gripped with fear and confusion about whether the country’s powerful military will step in to defuse the tension. As the demonstrations calling for the prime minister’s resignation enter their third week, Sharif is trying to navigate Pakistan’s worst political crisis in more than a decade."

Guardian: "The American government on Monday asked North Korea to release three Americans currently held in the communist country, after foreign media outlets were allowed to interview detainees. 'Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] release them so they may return home,” said Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the State Department, in a statement. 'We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.'”

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
September 2

12:30 am ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New York Times: "The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out. AMC’s 'Breaking Bad' scored big on Monday night, winning a total of five awards, including its second consecutive prize for outstanding drama series. The crime drama, about a high school teacher who receives a diagnosis of lung cancer and starts selling crystal meth with a former student, concluded its final season." Here's the L.A. Times' coverage.

... Via Slate.

Looking for a bucolic retreat where the townspeople will protect you from curious outsiders? Got about $700K to burn? Then you might be interested in purchasing the former home of fiction writer J. D. Salinger. the property is located in Cornish, New Hamphire:

... Many more pix & a virtual tour here.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

Contact the Constant Weader

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

Thursday
Jun072012

The Commentariat -- June 8, 2012

** "The Triumph of Radical Individualism." Paul Waldman of American Prospect: "Conservatives have succeeded in convincing working- and middle-class people not just that they shouldn't feel solidarity with other members of their class, but that they shouldn't feel solidarity with anyone at all. It required a lot of work, particularly when you consider how much they rely on encouraging feelings of tribalism in other realms, like nationhood, religion, and region. But the conservative message on economics has always been brutally individualistic, essentially arguing that in the economic realm, no one is meaningfully connected to anyone in any way."

Robert Burns of the AP: "Suicides are surging among America's troops, averaging nearly one a day this year -- the fastest pace in the nation's decade of war. The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan -- about 50 percent more."

Paul Krugman: "... if you want to see government responding to economic hard times with the 'tax and spend' policies conservatives always denounce, you should look to the Reagan era -- not the Obama years.... Reagan may have preached small government, but in practice he presided over a lot of spending growth -- and right now that's exactly what America needs."

** Linda Greenhouse, in Slate, calls for a Constitutional Amendment limiting federal judges -- including the Supremes -- to 18-year terms.

David Lightman of McClatchey News: "Five months before Election Day, Republicans are poised to retain control of the House of Representatives and inch close -- and perhaps win the majority -- in the Senate. The outlook is driven by local factors rather any kind of wave for or against either major political party. Indeed, the lack of a national tide could help the Republicans hold the House, where they're expected to lose seats but not enough to cost them the majority." Thanks to James S. for the link. I think.

... Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal analyzes the results of California's new "top two" primary election system, which was supposed to general more centrist candidates. Pretty interesting. Bottom line, so far: "... the rules also create the likelihood of some very unconventional campaigns with Republicans appealing to Democrats, and Democrats courting Republicans. That doesn't mean that, once candidates get elected, they'll become more moderate and change their voting behavior. It does mean they'll pander as much as possible to win."

Kevin Drum: "Conservatives have made a big deal out of the fact that 38% of households with a union member voted for the union-busting Scott Walker in Tuesday's election.... For better or worse, about 37% of union members [usually] vote for Republicans, both nationwide and in Wisconsin. On Tuesday they did it again. So whatever lessons there are from Tuesday's election, the idea that union members are somehow abandoning their own cause isn't one of them." ...

... Alex Seitz-Wald, writing in Salon, provides an overview of what a right-wing rock star Scott Walker is now. Seitz-Wald sees the recall effort as a big blunder. CW: I don't.

Adam Liptak & Allison Kopicki of the New York Times: "Just 44 percent of Americans approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing and three-quarters say the justices' decisions are sometimes influenced by their personal or political views, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News."

If Right Wing News can be believed, Obama reneged on his campaign promise to push for the importation of cheap, safe drugs in a secret deal with Big Pharma in 2009.

Advice from the Career Corner. If you aspire to a career as a diplomat, especially if you aspire to be confirmed as Ambassador to Iraq, do not have sex with someone other than your spouse on the roof of the roof of a Saddam Hussein palace. People have video cameras. Jim Inhofe (R-Crazy) likes to watch.

Kevin Drum zeros in on Obama's biggest mistake of 2009. And Drum fingers just the right guy -- Tim Geithner: "Although Obama didn't have the leverage to get more stimulus spending even if he'd wanted it, he could have done more on the housing front, [which]... was quite feasible and would probably have made a noticeable difference in keeping the recovery on a stronger track.... Tim Geithner just didn't like the idea of pressing harder on the mortgage relief front, and Obama went along."

Presidential Race

Nate Silver: "The first look at the 2012 FiveThirtyEight presidential forecast has Barack Obama as a very slight favorite to win re-election. But his advantage equates to only a two-point lead in the national popular vote, and the edge could easily swing to Mitt Romney on the basis of further bad economic news."

Joan Walsh of Salon: Romney didn't just dodge the draft; he lied about it. "Romney's dissembling here, all captured in newspapers in real time, should be a real problem for him."

** Andrew Sprung of Xpostfactoid lays out the Romney Rules, as defined by Willard. I think he should add a coda, "It's our turn now," as defined by Mrs. Willard. ...

... Jonathan Chait analyzes a Romney lie. Well, lies. CW: I'm beginning to think Romney cannot construct a truthful sentence with the name "Obama" in it.

What's the matter with Bill Clinton? John Dickerson of Slate ticks off six theories that are making the rounds. Pick your own. You can choose more than one. ...

News Ledes

President Obama held a press conference on the economy today:

     ... New York Times: Republicans went ballistic when Obama said, as part of a response to a reporter's question, "the private sector is doing fine." He had to clarify later.

New York Times: "The NATO and United States troop commander in Afghanistan flew to the eastern part of the country on Friday to apologize personally to surviving family members for a coalition airstrike earlier this week that local officials said killed 18 civilians. The apology by the commander, Gen. John R. Allen, was the first admission by coalition forces that the strike on Wednesday had killed civilians...."

New York Times: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday assigned two United States attorneys to lead separate criminal investigations into recent disclosures to the news media of national security secrets, saying they were authorized to 'follow all appropriate investigative leads within the executive and legislative branches of government.'"

Crackdown. New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin signed into law on Friday a measure that will impose heavy fines on people who organize or take part in unsanctioned demonstrations, giving the Russian authorities powerful leverage to clamp down on the large antigovernment street protests that began six months ago and seemed to be re-energized after Mr. Putin's inauguration last month."

Reuters: "The Federal Reserve rejected pleas by the U.S. banking industry in releasing on Thursday a rigorous interpretation of an international agreement on higher capital standards for banks, known as Basel III.... The new capital standards would force banks to rely more on equity than debt to fund themselves, so that they are able to better withstand significant losses."

New York Times: "With the Syrian conflict escalating perilously after government troops and civilian supporters prevented unarmed United Nations monitors from investigating a massacre, fresh fighting was reported elsewhere on Friday as the authorities sought to extend their writ in an area under stubborn rebel control." ...

     ... Update: the story has a new lede: "Confronting a scene of congealed blood, scattered body parts, shelled buildings, bullet holes and the smell of burned flesh, United Nations monitors in Syria quietly collected evidence on Friday of a mass atrocity in a desolate hamlet, more than 24 hours after Syrian forces and government supporters blocked their first attempt to visit the site."

New York Times: "Senior inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog renewed talks with Iran on Friday aimed at securing access to restricted sites where the agency believes scientists may have tested explosives that could be used as triggers for nuclear warheads, officials at the agency said."

Guardian: "The department of justice is reviewing the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk policy, following demands by campaigners who say the tactic is unconstitutional and racially discriminatory." CW: in case you're wondering why I didn't link the New York Times story on this, it's because there isn't one.

AP: "Britain's media ethics inquiry says Prime Minister David Cameron and his predecessor Gordon Brown will both appear to give evidence at [Leveson inquiry] hearings next week. The inquiry also said Friday that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Treasury chief George Osborne will both appear." Guardian story here.

Reader Comments (17)

I know we are focused on contraception but I wonder if any politicians noticed that the March to May US temperature was the warmest on record, 5.2 degrees above average. Of course it is just a coincidence but let's be honest, its a hell of a lot easier to deal with a pill than climate change. And besides the purpose of life is to make more humans even if we can't figure out how to feed them.
Oh, and congratulations to the mosquitoes, they are going to have a really great year.

June 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

I'm responding to the suggestion Akhilleus put forward in yesterday's commentary that we think about the idea of delegating voting responsibilities to a small group of randomly-selected "electors" who dedicate a few days to listening to experts for both sides debate the merits of a candidates or issue, then vote. The article by Joshua Davis of Wired -- which lays out the plan -- is here.

P. D. Pepe stated some objections, and I agree with those, but I have another. What you would get, if the proposed model was in effect, is experts Karl Rove and Bob Reich presenting their cases. Who would be listening to these two? People just as dimwitted as the general electorate, people unable to judge whether or not Karl Rove was telling the truth (assumption: he would not be). Moreover, you would not have whatever small benefit accrues from our Fourth Estate's evaluations of Rove v. Reich.

To some extent, of course, we already have a system like the one proposed: we have, after all, a representative democracy. We elect people who are supposed to understand the nuances of issues & make wise, considered decisions -- based on expert opinion -- on how best to address problems or improve conditions. We know how that has worked out. Too many of the "representatives" are buffoons and most of the "experts" are lobbyists carrying cash to stuff in the buffoons' pockets (or freezers).

Our country was founded on the principle of paternalistic aristocracy -- a small group of wise, landed white men would make decisions for all of us. That brought us slavery, 140 years of high-handed, careless Supreme Court justices & a string of presidents and legislators best not remembered.

As Winston Churchill and others have said (more or less), "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." On the other hand, Churchill did say, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." I'm glad people keep trying to come up with a better system; I do think ditching the Constitution or radically revising it would be a good idea, but I wouldn't do it now, as I sure as hell don't want to live under Eric Cantor's or John Roberts' idea of a Constitution.

Marie

June 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

Re: Akhilleus's toss out on voting. Those of us that vote are already voting for the forty percent that don't. Who is going write the code to pick the randomly-selected voters? And if the results are not satisfactory to the non-selected citizen, then what? I don't know if it would change things much. I would rather see a gender-requirement to vote, rotating every two hundred years; and fellas, it's the womens turn. OR name me "Grand PooPaw" and I will make some changes, by god. It was WC Fields that came up with the socks full of manure plan, right?

June 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

Marie: It's hard for me not to agree with Alex Seitz- Wald that the Wisconsin recall was an ill -advised "misadventure," given the time-line, the massive differential in contributions/spending, and the distaste of many Wisonsonites for the whole recall process. One other factor the author doesn't mention is that the Democrats apparently did not have a strong, consensus candidate going into it.
You stated your disagreement with this premise, Marie, and I would be most interested in your reasons (which are no doubt persuasive ones).

June 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

@Marvin: But that means Canada is getting warmer, too. Have often looked longingly at it just across the border and thought no, it's just a mite too cold to be an acceptable refuge but now, repelled equally as I am by our political climate and the Canadian government's tar sands extraction at any cost policies, a warmer Canada might just be enough to tip the balance in favor of Oh, Canada and the Loon.

But then there are all those darn mosquitoes you mention... and the damn liberals have outlawed DDT...so I guess I'm still undecided.

Does that make me one of the growing hordes of Independents I've been reading about?

June 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@ Marie: Re: your response to Akilleus about the voting business. I agree with your assessment, but would like to add in regards to being represented by those sitting in Congress. Does it make any sense to have two senators from each state when we have teeny tiny ones whose population is more than half the size of the larger states? One could argue we take care of this by the representatives, but we all know it's the senate that has the teeth.

The article by Paul Waldman is good. Ayn Rand is smirking and twisting in the wind.

June 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Marie, what part of the Constitution would you ditch? The Bill of Rights? Like welfare, it's not the idea that's wrong, it's all in the implementation and enforcement, which is flawed.
And, while I too find the intellect of the average vote to be horribly depressing, by assuming that "we know better", aren't we being paternalistic also? I agree with JJG, let's put the women in charge.

June 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercakers

Quite a number of questions today, & I'll try to answer each.

@ Victoria D. You actually answered your own question. I think the Democrats' disarray was a lesson to be learned. Passion is great, but discipline is a must. As @Kate Madison mentioned here weeks ago, the Democrats blew any chance they had -- and I always thought the chance was weak -- when they couldn't get in a back room & agree on a candidate. Even using Akhilleus' shit-hurling method would have been preferable to a primary. But back rooms have their place.

Also, it was fundamentally stupid to arrange the recall when students -- a big Democratic constituency -- were away.

But another lesson to be learned -- not just in Wisconsin, but I hope everywhere -- is that having 10 times as much funny money as your opponent matters. I think a lot of Americans will view this not as a victory for Scott Walker but as a win for the Koch brothers & other special interests.

Conservatives are running around crowing, but they haven't -- in my opinion -- got much to boast about. They spent millions of dollars to keep a guy in office who may spend the rest of his term huddled with his criminal defense lawyers. They are touting Walker as the new Reagan. If that's all they got -- great! The guy is a moron. Moreover, if the one district vote holds, the recall elections gave Democrats control of the state senate, and that should make a huge difference in Walker's ability to run over the state. Without the recalls, that would not have happened (and it still may not -- Walker's board of elections supervisors have a way of "finding" thousands of Republican ballots when things don't work out the first time).

Of course all this is easy for me to say. I looked at this election from a distance; I wasn't out there demonstrating or trudging through the snow gathering signatures. I might be disheartened if I had more skin in the game. As it is, I see this as a setback, not a horror story, though I admit it will be more of a horror story if the Republicans regain control of the state senate.

June 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

@ P. D. Pepe. No, our Senate doesn't make any sense, and especially with the Senate rules as they are, Senators who represent a fractional minority of Americans can wreak havoc on the entire federal government. During the healthcare debate, Gail Collins pointed out that Senators who represented something like .03 percent (not 3 percent, .03) of the population headed the two committees who drew up the plan. And we wonder why people don't like it. These guys don't have to please anybody but a few farmers in Some Dakota & Montana. That's no way to run a government. Which brings me to ---

June 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

@ cakers. I hope I didn't imply I would ditch the Bill of Rights, though there are two Amendments I would lose: the 2nd & the 3rd, & I would rewrite the 10th to leave out the part I've struck out here:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Having been reared in the part of the country that brought us slavery & Jim Crow & is still fundamentally backwards, I have a low opinion of state's rights.

To follow up on my reply to @P. D. Pepe, I think a parliamentary form of government would work better than Washington D. Gridlock. Checks & balances -- as they operate now -- are highly overrated. For more changes worth considering, this op-ed piece, titled "Our Imbecilic Constitution, which I linked a few days back is helpful.

The Founding Fathers never meant the Constitution to last forever. Jefferson thought we should have a new one for every generation, & Madison was sick of the one he helped write by the time he retired from public life.

I also would, as Linda Greenhouse suggests (linked today), term-limit federal judges. I think other limits on their power are in order, too. Levinson suggests a major one. And of course I'd make clear that corporations aren't people and money isn't speech, so doofus justices would know that.

But just exactly what occurs to me off the top of my head isn't important. What is important is for people to get over the idea that God (who ain't mentioned in it) wrote the Constitution, & we should bow down to it (apparently that's actually Mormon doctrine). The Constitution was a good start, but it's sell-by date has expired.

June 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

The sell-by date on a lot of our superstitions--capitalism, tax-exemptions for religious quackery to mention two--has expired. But I doubt they'll be pulled from their shelves in my lifetime.

June 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer

One thing that hasn't been mentioned much in the Walker recall:

The Unions would have been smarter to follow the Ohio model a la referendum. My understanding is that state law disallowed that option. Therefore they may have felt the recall was the only option. In light of that I don't think it was such a bad choice. They did retake the senate and it signaled they weren't going down without a fight. Republicans are celebrating for the wrong reasons, no matter how much bloviating David Brooks did on NPR tonight. We'll see how much they stand by their man if he gets indicted in the john doe investigation. The walker win wasn't as much an endorsement of his policies as it was a a misguided smackdown of union tactics.

June 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Maybe I'm incorrect, but the WI senate win is meaningless. The senate was adjourned mid-May and will not re-convene until after the November elections.

June 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHaley Simon

Ken Winkes: Those Canadians with the funny spots on their legs are a demonstration of an affliction much worse than skeeters Black Flies will make you cry. Be sure to ask about them before picking a place to live in Canada.

June 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

@ Haley Simon. You're right. The next regular session of the Wisconsin state legislature isn't till next year. But if you look at the calendar of the state legislature, they have special sessions all the time. If Sir Walker Scott doesn't control the senate, he isn't likely to call one.

Marie

June 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

@Carlyle. Thanks. I will heed your advice, offered in the same spirit I'd guess as my threat to slip on North, tho' I remember--in real, true, honest to goodness fact-- black flies swarming along the Nation River, so thick I spooned them in with my food, and so ravenous themselves that I watched my blood running down my legs into the water as we lined our canoe through a shallow stretch of clear and cold---but, perhaps because the water was so cold, their bites didn't hurt. I've always tried to avoid the ones that do. But bad as the biting ones might be, living in Ronmeydom--after eight years of Bushdom I cannot forget-- might well be worse.

June 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Recovering from my strenuous efforts to recall Scott Walker, I want to comment on some of the comments. First, we had little control over the timing of the election. The overwhelming surge of Wisconsin residents eager to sign recall petitions meant that we couldn't delay much it beyond the legal starting date. It was the Republicans who, with their court cases, filings, and other delaying tactics, managed to just push the election to the first week in June when students had left. Second, if we hadn't had more than one candidate, the Republicans would have run a "fake Democrat" to ensure a primary (although I agree that uniting behind one candidate early would have been preferable). Third, retaking the State Senate is a huge deal. If Walker still could count on majorities in both houses of the legislature, we would be seeing an immediate call for a special session to ram through more of his extreme agenda. Because of his successful efforts to consolidate power in the governor's office, he can still do some damage, but not as much.

June 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNadd2
Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.