The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, February 7, 2016.

New York Times: "Robin Chandler Duke, a rags-to-riches grande dame who married an ambassador and became one of America’s best known advocates for women by championing reproductive rights and international family planning, died in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday. She was 92."

New York Times: "Defying warnings of tougher sanctions from Washington, North Korea launched a rocket on Sunday that Western experts believe is part of a program to develop intercontinental ballistic missile technologies."

White House Live Video
February 8

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing, with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIH/NIAID, & Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC

4:15 pm ET: Celebrating African-American women & dance

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

New York Times: "Twitter is experimenting with introducing a longer form of tweet, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans, in what would be another gradual move away from the simplistic design sensibility that the service was originally founded upon. The project, which internally has been referred to as 'beyond 140,' is still in its testing phase and is not set to be introduced until at least March...."

Washington Post: "Four newly discovered elements managed to squeak their way in[to the periodic table] just before the end of 2015, filling up the table's seventh row and marking the first additions since 2011." CW: Since I know squat about chemistry, let me say here -- in the fullness of my ignorance -- that the periodic table should stick with elements that occur in nature. If chemists want a "sub-periodic table" to show off their lab-created, unstable elements, let 'em have it. I don't see how an "element" can be artificial. Anyone who knows what s/he's talking about is free to set me straight.

TPM: "Twitter announced Thursday it's bringing back Politwoops, the popular gaffe-tracking transparency tool that tracked politicians' deleted tweets, after unceremoniously killing off the service earlier this year.... Twitter revoked developer API access for the project, a venture of The Sunlight Foundation and The Open State Foundation, in August 2015."

If you are interested in what George Lucas thinks about the "Star Wars" series & other stuff, you can find out here, presuming Charlie Rose doesn't monopolize the conversation (okay, silly presumption). ...

... Later Lucas said he was sorry he said some of those nasty things.

... Hank Stuever of the Washington Post: The "final episodes of 'Downton Abbey' are among the show’s best since the first season — and they’ll reassure those hoping for the happiest possible endings for nearly every character."

BBC News: "A monument from a temple in the ancient city of Palmyra destroyed by so-called Islamic State (IS) is to be recreated in London's Trafalgar Square. The 2,000-year-old arch is all that remains of the Temple of Bel, part of the Syrian Unesco World Heritage site, captured by militants in May. It will be recreated from photographs, using a 3D printer. The institute behind the project hopes the arch will draw attention to the importance of cultural heritage." ...

... John Brennan & Sarah Knapton of the (Irish) Independent: "Ireland's saints and scholars were descended from farmers and bronze metalworkers from the Middle East and modern-day Ukraine, scientists have found. Researchers have sequenced ancient Irish human genomes for the first time. They discovered mass migrations to Ireland thousands of years ago resulted in huge changes to the ancient Irish genetic make-up. A team of geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen's University Belfast made the findings, which show a massive shift in our genetic mix over the course of just 1,000 years. They believe the genetic influxes brought cultural change such as moving to settled farmsteads, bronze metalworking - and may have even been the origin of western Celtic language." ...

... CW: One trouble with denigrating certain ethnic groups: we're all cousins. Sorry, "white" people.

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Wednesday
May092012

The Commentariat -- May 10, 2012

Who(m) Are You Going to Believe?

** James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in a New York Times op-ed: "Global warming isn't a prediction. It is happening.... Canada's tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history.... [If Canada exploits its tar sands oil,] over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California's Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.... President Obama speaks of a 'planet in peril,' but he does not provide the leadership needed to change the world's course." ...

Greg Sargent: "A bipartisan group of Senators is going public today with a call for Senate hearings on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would expand the ban against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for all but the smallest private-sector employers...."

I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. -- Barack Obama ...

... See also yesterday's News Ledes. ...

... Rick Klein of ABC News: also from the interview of President Obama, in a segment not yet aired, Obama said,

This is something that, you know, we've talked about over the years and she [Michelle Obama], you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that's what we try to impart to our kids and that's what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I'll be as a as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I'll be as president. ...

      ... Update: here's the full transcript of the interview. AND, finally, the full interview:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

... CW: Update: Obama must be happy with his decision to go public with this; what with our being such close personal friends, he just e-mailed me the video of his remarks.

... David Corn of Mother Jones: "Asked about the timing of Obama's announcement, a White House official tells me that 'this was something the president has been thinking of doing for several months. He spoke a lot with Mrs. Obama. He gave a lot of thought to this. He saw his daughters being friends with children with same-sex parents. He saw what was happening at the state level in New York and elsewhere. This has all been informing his thinking for months, and he had planned to do something prior to the convention.' Did Biden's remarks speed up the process? 'That made it happen sooner than later,' this source says." ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed with the chronology of an evolution. He was for it before he was against it before he was for it. ...

... Frank Bruni: "... history was made today, and millions of Americans right now feel that their country has shown them a new, heightened degree of the respect they richly deserve. Our highest elected official, our president,said that same-sex couples should have the right to marry, something that none of his predecessors had done, something that he had refused to do since becoming a national political figure. There's a powerful message in that." ...

... NEW. BUT. John Cook of Gawker: "He now believes that gay couples should be able to marry. He doesn't believe they have a right to do so. This is like saying that black children and white children ought to attend the same schools, but if the people of Alabama reject that notion -- what are you gonna do? ... Equality is not a state-by-state issue.... Anyone who supports the legitimacy[of state gay marriage bans] -- as Obama just did, in no uncertain terms -- even if they oppose the policy, is adopting the retrograde position in the contemporary gay marriage debate. Obama is moving backward, not forward." ...

... BUT BUT. Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly: Obama's "comments tend to be read outside of the context of other actions being taken by the administration.... If the administration were still defending DOMA and had taken no position on the level of scrutiny to be applied to sexual orientation classifications, then Obama's statement might mean that his view is that states have unfettered rights to legislate as they they wish on marriage. But, that is not the circumstances in which he makes these comments. Instead, Obama's position now is three-fold: (1) he personally supports same-sex marriage; (2) he believes as a policy matter that state, and not federal, law should define marriages, as it always has been in this country; and (3) he believes that there are federal constitutional limitations on those state decisions." CW: I agree with Geidner. My reading is that Obama did much more for gay marriage before yesterday than he did yesterday. He walked the walk before he talked the talk -- which is unusual for a politician. ...

... NEW. AND. Josh Barro of Forbes sees other federal matters related to gay marriage which the Obama administration will have to address. CW: I happen to think the courts in their ponderous ways, will address many of these issues. The amendment to North Carolina's state constitution passed this week simply cannot pass U.S. Constitutional muster. Obama might try to executive-order some of these laws & amendments out of existence, but the issues will still wind up in federal court, as they should.

... NEW. From Stinky Cheese to "General Hospital." Dana Milbank: Obama metamorphosis makes great daytime teevee.

... AND from Right Wing World. Jim Hoft, the Gateway Pundit: "He just threw MILLIONS of Christian Americans under the bus.  Personally, I don't have a problem with gay relationships. I don't have a problem with gay unions. I do have a problem with a president pushing a law on the people with the specific intent of punishing the Church and Christian Americans." CW: Yeah, Jesus is weeping, yada yada yada. ...

... Joe Coscarelli of New York magazine: "... the always reasonable Fox Nation essentially put out a call to arms, declaring in an all-caps headline, 'OBAMA FLIP FLOPS, DECLARES WAR ON MARRIAGE.' But so much for brand unity, because Fox News anchor Shep Smith was not shy on-air about his agreement with the president's stated belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry":

 

Well, when these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts, I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name. My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not. -- Mitt Romney, today ...

... Steve Benen: "Romney is now positioned to the right of Bush/Cheney on legal recognition of same-sex partnerships -- Dick Cheney endorsed marriage equality, and George W. Bush backed civil unions. Yes, Bush was more progressive in 2004 than Romney is in 2012." ...

... NEW. Noam Scheiber of The New Republic on the downside for Romney: "... while swing voters may be ambivalent about gay marriage itself, they're much less comfortable with displays of intolerance. Many of the same voters who profess squeamishness over the idea would punish a politician for crusading against it.... Unfortunately for Romney, the one thing Obama's announcement deprives him of is opportunities to duck the issue."

Why does gay marriage always fail at the ballot box? Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Turnout is ... a factor. Older voters tend to vote in higher numbers, and there's a stark age divide on gay marriage. As Columbia Political Science professor Jeffrey Lax wrote in 2009: 'If policy were set by state-by-state majorities of those 65 or older, none would allow same-sex marriage. If policy were set by those under 30, only 12 states would not allow-same-sex marriage.' Primaries, like the one in North Carolina..., are particularly low turnout affairs -- giving opponents to gay marriage the edge."


CW: I meant to link this post by Michael Shear of Time Wednesday morning but got sidetracked. Sen. Dick Lugar's concession statement is indeed worth reading. ...

... Abby Rapoport of the American Prospect: "Lugar's hardly been a profile in courage these past few years and releasing an honest statement about the state of the party would likely have been significantly more impressive if he had done it when he was active and wielded influence, rather than after his party gave him the boot. But nonetheless, this may be one of the most forceful and direct criticisms of the GOP from someone in office."

... Ezra Klein: In Richard Mourdock, who bested Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary largely on the argument that Lugar voted to confirm Justices Sotomayor & Kagan, Jonathan "Chait [of New York magazine] sees 'the frightening outlines of a future systemic crisis' here. But I might rephrase that a bit: I see the the outlines of a necessary systemic crisis leading to an overdue set of procedural reforms in the Senate." ...

... Doug J. of Balloon Juice: "Our system isn't set up to deal with what the national Republican party already has become, let alone what it is becoming. There are lots of levers a minority party can pull to stop the wheels of government, and there's not much reason for Republicans not to pull them. It doesn't hurt the party much politically to do so—the media will just tell us that both sides do it, that it all started with Robert Bork -- whereas it does hurt individual Republicans when they won't take part in the destruction." ...

... NEW. Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Tuesday’s landslide victory in the GOP primary by Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a staunch conservative who beat longtime Sen. Richard G. Lugar, gave Democrats hope for claiming a seat they have not seriously contested in three decades." ...

... Josh Israel of Think Progress: former Sen. John Danforth (R-Missouri), who is also an Episcopalian priest, is aghast that Dick Lugar was defeated & predicts the demise of the Republican party or something. CW: I was aghast that Danforth handpicked Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. As ye sow, so shall ye reap, Brother John.

Presidential Race

** NEW. Jason Horowitz of the Washington Post: Mitt Romney, boy homophobe and serious, serial bully. All those anti-bullying PSAs are aimed to protect teens from guys like Romney, who led a violent physical attack on a (then-suspected) gay student at his tony prep school. The school did nothing. Romney can't recall a thing about it. Horowitz found five independent witnesses to the physically bullying incident.

David Dwyer of ABC News: "President Obama on Wednesday roundly dismissed GOP rival Mitt Romney's claim to credit for the resurgence of the U.S. auto industry as 'one of his Etch-A-Sketch moments,' in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts." The full ABC News video, which includes Obama's "Etch-a-Sketch" comment, is above.

Jamelle Bouie: "... if there's anything that truly stands out about Romney’s speech in Michigan, it's the extent to which its stuffed with falsehoods, misrepresentations, and outright lies. Romney claims that Obama has brought 'big government' 'back with a vengeance' -- the truth is that government spending has fallen sharply after a decade increase under President Bush.... Romney attacks Obama’s plan to repeal the Bush tax cuts on the rich as a 'throwback to discredited policies', but doesn't tell his audience that those are Clinton-era rates. He attacks the Affordable Care Act as a takeover of American health care (false), blames Obama for the accumulation of debt (false), and warns -- apocalyptically -- that Obama will 'substitute government for individuality, for choice, for freedom.' ...Constant mendacity is the norm for Romney and his campaign, and odds are good that he won't suffer for it. Campaign reporters don't have a strong incentive to challenge him on his misrepresentations, and interested parties have a hard time dealing with the deluge."

News Ledes

The Hill: "The House voted Thursday to override steep cuts to the Pentagon's budget mandated by last summer's debt deal and replace them with spending reductions to food stamps and other mandatory social programs.... Members approved the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act in a party-line 218-199 vote. As expected, the bill was supported by nearly all Republicans -- only 16 opposed it, and no Democrats supported it."

News & Observer: "Prosecutors rested their case against former Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards Thursday afternoon by showing jurors a 2008 TV interview in which Edwards acknowledged having an affair with Rielle Hunter, but denied he was the father of her newborn child."

Six Degrees of Stupid. Politico: "Just hours after President Barack Obama publicly backed gay marriage, the House struck back and passed a measure aimed at reinforcing the Defense of Marriage Act. With a 245-171 vote, the House voted to stop the Justice Department from using taxpayer funds to actively oppose DOMA -- the Clinton-era law defining marriage as between a man and a woman that the Obama administration stopped enforcing in February 2011."

AP: "Federal authorities said Wednesday that they plan to sue Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office over allegations of civil rights violations, including the racial profiling of Latinos."

Washington Post: "The parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American captured by the Taliban nearly three years ago, have made an emotional appeal for the Obama administration to make a deal with the insurgents to release him in exchange for Afghan prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

New York Times: "More than 40 people were killed and at least 170 injured by two powerful explosions outside a key intelligence headquarters in Damascus early on Thursday, Syrian state television reported. The blasts peeled open a new, more treacherous front in the struggle for the country."

Guardian: "Pakistan's prime minister [Yousaf Raza Gilani] has insisted his country had not been 'complicit' in sheltering Osama bin Laden and said the fact the late al-Qaida leader was able to live undetected for so long in Pakistan was down to a universal 'intelligence failure'."

Guardian: "The Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng says police have detained his sister-in-law and nephew in a campaign of revenge against his family as he prepares to move to the US."

Guardian: "Vidal Sassoon, who has died aged 84 after suffering from leukaemia, became the most famous hairdresser of the 1960s, creating styles that caught and then boosted women's new feelings of personal freedom. In doing so, he changed the craft of hairstyling for ever."

New York Times: "After months of testimony in the phone hacking scandal, focused mostly on the inner workings of Rupert Murdoch's businesses here, a judicial inquiry resumed hearings on Thursday into the extent and closeness of personal ties between the tycoon's British newspaper executives and Prime Minister David Cameron. The so-called Leveson inquiry ... summoned Andy Coulson, a former editor of The News of the World Sunday tabloid who later became Mr. Cameron's communications director both in opposition and in office."

"Big-Boy Pants." Reuters: "The Pentagon revealed on Wednesday what was said when an over-cautious court security officer blocked the sound during Saturday's arraignment of five Guantanamo prisoners charged with plotting the September 11 attacks."

Reader Comments (10)

So this morning we're greeted with several items of note. First, President Obama has thrown that crazy "evolving opinion" thing overboard. What was he thinking? And don't you love all these breathless, self-righteous right-wing blundits who are predicting that Romney has won the race because Obama just handed him all those social conservatives on a platter. Like any of them were going to vote for him anyway. Lesson? Politics is all well and good and it's necessary to be politic at times, but on issues of civil rights, don't try to hedge your bets. You look bad all around. At least he did it before the election. That's something. I guess.

On the other hand Romney is, as Marie points out, even further to the right than Bush and Cheney. That's like saying Crazier than Michele Bachmann.

Which brings us to the next item of interest, or maybe that should be item of weirdness. Bachmann is a Swiss citizen now? Well hurray for Switzerland. Maybe she'll run for something there. I thought this was a joke news report when I first heard it. Just imagine what Fox would do with this if, say, Chuck Schumer had just announced that he had obtained citizenship in a fairly liberal or socialist European country. Man the red meat would be on the table!

Finally, I heard on NPR this morning that in Afghanistan, an organization of Muslim clerics has decided to take action against the crazier elements of their membership by kicking them out if they persist in rabid Kill America First type rhetoric in their preaching. They've instituted a three strikes policy.

Why can't the GOP do the same thing with their nuts?

Turns out that a 7th century fundamentalist religious organization in a country whose most modern convenience is cold running water is more progressive, moderate, and reasonable than the Republican Party.

Wow.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

The Justce Department has figuratively wrestled the state of Rhode Island to the ground in order to gain the right to try a local murder case in federal court, and thus be able to possibly seek the death penalty which is not allowed under RI law.
http://nyti.ms/JbTZIp
What a waste of DoJ resources, among other things.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

"There is only one essential point to be made about gay marriage: To acknowledge one’s own sexual being and to define the relationships that follow is a basic human right. How dare anyone intrude on a life choice that is not his to make for others? Whether the president’s family knows gay couples who are monogamous and nice to their children has no more to do with the issue than the old argument of enlightened racists in the American South that there were many fine Negroes who were not at all uppity". Robert Scheer from Truthdig.
So Obama finally coming around to endorse gay marriages is certainly a step forward, but the blatant fact of this issue being one of equality––of basic civil rights somehow gets muddied up with religious clap trap and those magic words "the sanctity of marriage." Such rubbish! I am sick to death of the bones that have been tossed to those who just want what is their due and right.

James Hanson's warning once again won't make a difference because we don't think long term anymore–––well, some do, but their voices, too, seem to fall on deaf ears. When we have idiots like Bachmann who says CO2 is nature's finest and whats-his-name in congress who wrote that book called "the Hoax" on global warming, the sane voices go by the wayside. When we also have a presidential candidate who continually and consistently LIES while the people smile and shake his hand and the press just reports, then I say, bring on those droughts, those hurricanes, those floods and nature's finest hour and we can just all settle back and reflect on what some would call god's fury or the stupidity of those that could have made a difference, but didn't.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Victoria's comment about what the DoJ is doing in Rhode Island is jaw dropping stuff. Have we really moved so far to the right that the federal government now feels the need to usurp a state's legal rights so they can fry someone? This is beyond crazy.

Which brings me to something else that's crazy. So the state of Indiana wants to show us all what fer and kicked out Dick Lugar for daring to conspire with Democrats to actually get things done in Washington. Because that is not the purpose of government. Getting things done is not on the agenda. This brings us back to PD Pepe's point about making a difference. I suppose you can make a difference by doing nothing as well.

So some voters in Indiana want to send a Tea Party barker to congress who has declared that his goal is to get nothing done, but he'll be happy to scream long and hard about how pretty much everything, including the sun rising in the morning, is a conspiracy against conservative values which means even looking at the sun or acknowledging its existence is traitorous.

This, if you're a constituent, is a little going to your doctor to get some help with a medical problem. He or she warns you against elite specialists who will try to trick you into things like 'treatments' and good health choices. Instead, your doctor suggests bloodletting, leeches, prayer, potions, and magic underwear. He won't consult with any specialists to try to diagnose and treat you. But he'll spend a lot of time railing against those things.

So when you die from an easily treatable condition, he'll be proud knowing he did nothing to help you but at least he didn't compromise his no-compromise medical ethos.

I guess that's making a difference.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Akhilleus, Seems to me that if a state legislature were willing to ban staring directly at the sun, they could lure Sarah Palin to the state to show the little children how doing so produces no ill effects.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

Okay I may be overstaying my welcome here but I don't post on the Times site anymore (I wasn't deemed worthy) so I come here to rant. So what's my problem this time?

I just read a story about Willard the Rat who, in prep school, rounded up a posse of similarly inclined gay bashers and attacked a fellow student they believed not to be as heterosexually manly as all of them. They attacked him, tackled him, held him down, and cut off his hair while he screamed for help. One of the other posse members has never forgotten it and considers it one of the stupidest things he's ever done.

Willard?

Hmmmm.....can't seem to recall anything like ever happening. But if it did, and I'm not saying it did, I'm sorry if anyone's feelings were hurt. Of course I actually had no idea that kid was queer, you know, the kid I can't remember, and to whom nothing happened, at least that I can recall, and besides, we never even thought about things like that...you know, torturing kids we thought were homosexual even though thisevent I can't recall ever happening to the kid I can't seem to remember, except for the fact that I had no idea he was gay. Was he really queer? Damn. I should have held him down and cut his hair off!

This asshole can't even make up good lies. He doesn't remember it but he was sure that student he can't remember wasn't gay because he never even thought about stuff like that.

What???

I'm not saying we should hold everyone accountable for stupid things they did in high school. Not many kids escape high school with the "stupid pranks" box unchecked. But we can, and should, hold adults accountable for their truthfulness about such things. I never did anything remotely so stupid in high school but I CAN recall far less egregious things I did that still don't sit well with me today. And I remember every detail.

But not Willard the Rat. Seriously? Not recall tackling another student with a group of cronies then cutting off his hair while he screamed? If that was so unmemorable, I'd hate to hear about the stupid pranks he actually does remember.

One more thing about Willard the Rat's role as a leader of bullies. Bullies are notable for one thing besides their sadism. Cowardice. At heart, bullies are all cowards. All fearful. Fearful of the other, of their own inadequacy, of daddy, of mommy, of not being able to get it up, of...well, you get it.

Willard is still a coward. And a liar. Do we really want another lying coward representing the Republican Party sitting in the White House? This guy becomes more reprehensible every day.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: Take it from someone also unworthy but who still occasionally posts at the Times: No worries. You're always welcome. Re: Romney, I've heard it said he still likes to fire people, something I have done but never liked because I always knew those I pushed out the door, for what I believed to be very good reasons, did not live in isolation and that the action I took was therefore affecting far more people and having far more consequence than I could ascertain or foresee, much like damn near everything we do. It was something that made me queasy, not proud. I can't imagine what I would have felt had I been in a position to bankrupt companies and put thousands out of work. Is it possible that whatever gender issues Romney's prep school behavior might imply, it simply takes a bully to be a high flying Capitalist at heart?

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes, et al. It seems to take a sociopath/bully to win the GOP presidential nomination. At least that's how the last three nominees turned out.

As a child, Dubya thought it was fun to blow up frogs by ramming firecrackers down their throats; as an adult he "kidded" his supposed pals by calling them unflattering nicknames.

I think there was some publicity about McCain's calling his wife a cunt in front of a roomful of people; a former friend of mine who served in the Navy with McCain privately related some bullying incidents to me. There are certainly more.

And now we have the fun-loving Mr. Romney. Reading the Horowitz piece, linked above, made me sick. And lest you think that's just the way it was "back then," no, it wasn't. I went to a working-class-area public high school at the same time Romney was attending his high-toned private school. My best male friend was gay, or so I presumed back then & I recently heard he has come out. No one once every faulted me for my friendship with him, or made fun of him, & if our friendship made me less popular, I was certainly unaware of it. I am also unaware that my friend was bullied, tho of course he might not have told me that.

If you read the whole Horowitz piece, what you'll find is that Romney's "pranks" were mean-spirited, & the crux of the "jokes" relied on specific disabilities of the victims -- like the funny jokes he often played on a nearly-blind teacher. (Bush, when he made fun of a reporter for wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day, apologized when he found out the reporter had a severe eye condition.) Romney picked on people for weaknesses or differences they couldn't help. He even bullied his friends into being bullies. His pranks had victims, & the victims would not have thought the pranks were funny. Most kids pull pranks, but I hope the majority of the pranks are victimless -- that is, the object of the pranks isn't hurt by them & can laugh along with the joke.

Horowitz implies or writes that after Willard met Ann, he became a better person. I doubt it. When he was a bishop & one of his parishioners had a life-threatening pregnancy, he bullied her into not getting an abortion. Look at the way he bullies his opponents. As Winkes says, he still likes to fire people. And he isn't concerned about the poor. He was a mean kid & he's a mean adult. Romney's parents both had empathy for the less fortunate. Romney was born without that gene. Making him more powerful will only make his genetic condition worse.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

Not to beat this into the ground (no chance of that with the MSM) but I've been curious to see what tack the major broadcast outlets would do with the story of sadism and bullying on the part of Willard the Cowardly Rat.

Brian Williams on NBC asked us, pleadingly, and oh so understandingly, if any of us could possibly recall everything we had done in high school and if we would be prepared to defend those things that perhaps we couldn't remember. The event was characterized by one of the commenters as nothing but "youthful hijinks."

What??

Short-sheeting a kid's bed is a hijink. Shaving someone's eyebrows after they pass out from drinking at a party qualifies as a "hijink." Plotting to track down and attack classmate purely for what you believe is his sexual orientation (or any OTHER reason) is not a fucking "HI-JINK" it's a goddamn criminal assault. One of the participants, a lawyer as described it as JUST THIS. An assault, punishable under numerous legal statutes in any state in this country.

But, as usual, NBC couldn't let Romney hang out in the breeze by himself. To demonstrate both their balance and the extremely weak culpability of Rat-Boy Willard, they trotted out a sentence from Barack Obama's memoir in which he mentions drinking and trying drugs when he was younger. As far as NBC is concerned, this is a "all kids do stupid stuff" story, and besides, as Brian Williams cautioned, could any of us remember EVERYTHING we did in high school.

Well, shit, Brian. I'm pretty sure I don't remember most things I did in high school, but a criminal assault I'm pretty sure I'd be able to resurrect from the densest cobwebs.

As for the "balance" and "fairness" achieved by referring to the Obama book. Bullshit. First, this story is not about Obama. It's about Romney's criminal assault on another human being, a huge difference being that Obama volunteered those details on his own to allow his readers to help explore his life at that place and time. Romney never, and never would, volunteer this nugget from his illustrious past. And when it was brought to light with not one, not two, but FIVE eyewitnesses including the posse he rounded up, he lied about it and denied that it ever happened.

So Willard the Rat was in high school when it happened and the GOP spinners want everyone to forget about it. Wait. Isn't this the party that want to prosecute 12 year old black kids as adults for crimes less egregious than their candidate???????

FUCK!!

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakhilleus

Thank you, akhilleus, for your comments. You never abuse our patience. The attack and the comments of people who witnessed it are sufficient evidence of Romney's cruelty. I'm here in New Zealand, and the papers simply state that Romney is a "weak candidate." I think that says all that needs to be said. No drama, just fact.

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria
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