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.

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

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

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.

 

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-- Constant Weader

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Tuesday
Mar062012

The Commentariat -- March 7, 2012

My column in today New York Times eXaminer is titled "The Devil Is in the Details -- Ross Douthat's Vision." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

M. J. Lee of Politico: "Embattled conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday dismissed reports of dozens of advertisers pulling their commercials from his show.... Limbaugh, citing claims he had lost 28 sponsors, said that is 'out of 18,000. That’s like losing a couple of french fries in the container when it’s delivered to you in the drive thru. You don’t even notice it.'”

CW: Expect to see a lot of stories like this. Travis Waldron of Think Progress: "Paul Carroll, an 86-year-old World War II veteran who has lived in the same Ohio town for four decades, was denied a chance to vote in the state’s primary contests today after a poll worker denied his form of identification, a recently-acquired photo ID from the Department of Veterans Affairs." BTW, the story doesn't say what Carroll's party affiliation is; he not necessarily a Republican -- Ohio had some Congressional primaries yesterday because of redistricting. Thanks to Kay S. for the link. ...

... Carroll was offered a provisional ballot, which he did not accept because he couldn't read it. More insights on the "provisional ballot" scam from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a former Ohio Secretary of State, via Katy at Balloon Juice.

I meant to post a link to this the other day: Dean Baker has a very good, short post that illuminates what is awry in the deficit hawk's nest. I blame 95 percent of Washington politicians & punkdits (typo I'm letting stand) for this form of "morality" that urges "belt-tightening" in a recession.

President Obama's press conference Tuesday:

     ... Loose Nukes, Loose Cannons. Michael Crowley of Time: "In their speeches to AIPAC [Tuesday], the Republican presidential candidates made clear that they consider an Iranian nuclear weapon a nightmare that must be stopped at all costs. Yet however potentially dangerous Iran may be, there’s something askew about the emphasis on its nuclear program to the near-exclusion of the many other nuclear threats America faces–threats the GOP candidates have spent virtually no time addressing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "I don't think we should ever minimize the political value of carefully bridled contempt. The president ... held a press conference on (Super) Tuesday afternoon in which most of the questions were about the ongoing concerns about the Iranian nuclear program, the issue on which the Republican presidential candidates have become increasingly bellicose.... The president pretty much feels as though he's been pecked at by ducks who really don't have any skin in the actual game, and that he finds their bellicosity not only against the national interest, but also politically offensive. They don't have the courage to stand up against their own compulsion to demagogue the most serious job a president has. Who are the cowards now? ... This was a subtle, deft assault on the notion that anyone on the Republican side has any real idea of the gravity of the job they're running for...." ...

     ... "Feckless." Here Pierce, piece by piece, tears to shreds Mitt Romney's (or whoever's) Washington Post op-ed. The op-ed is here. ...

     ... AND. How Do Iranians Get Those Cute Little Boats to the Strait of Hormuz? Oh, Through Syria! Steve Benen:  "At the most recent debate for the Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney wanted to show off his understanding of international affairs, and told the audience that Syria is Iran's 'key ally' and Iranians' 'route to the sea.' Iran, of course, has 1,520 miles of its own coastline -- and doesn't share a border with Syria.... And yet, the former governor continues to feign expertise on the subject matter. Today he has an op-ed in the Washington Post, calling for Iranian sanctions (which Obama has already imposed); backing Israel (which Obama has also already done); and shaping a U.S. policy towards Iran that's "the same as Ronald Reagan's." Um, Mitt? The Reagan administration sold Iran weapons, in violation of an arms embargo, in order to help illegally finance the Contras in Nicaragua. Reagan also sought a check on Iranian power by cozying up to Saddam Hussein after he used chemical weapons against his own people." ...

     ... Benen has a good piece on President Obama's response to a question about the Limbaugh controversy. (See also Right Wing World.)

Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe analyzes the Massachusetts Senate contest between Sen. Scott Brown (R) (instead of hitting "R" there, I kept typing "$" -- just as appropriate) & his likely challenger Elizabeth Warren.

Right Wing World

I think it’s been the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life. I hate that people think compromise is a dirty word. It’s not a dirty word. I think the rest of the world is looking at us these days and saying, ‘What are you doing?’ -- Barbara Bush (R), former First Lady

Too Poor to Go to College? Get over It. -- Willard. David Firestone of the New York Times: Romney takes a question from a high school senior worried about rising college tuition costs: "... the advice was pretty brutal: if you can’t afford college, look around for a scholarship (good luck with that), try to graduate in less than four years, or join the military if you want a free education. That’s the face of modern Republican austerity. Don’t talk about the value of higher education to the country’s economic future, and don’t bother to think about ways to make it more accessible to strapped families. Tell students not to take on more debt than they can afford, wish them well, and move on."

Bomb First, Think Later. Maureen Dowd: with GOP warmongers -- i.e., most of the GOP --  hubris trumps humility.

Confessions of a Campaign Volunteer. Charles Pierce campaigns for Rick Santorum. Really. If you've ever worked on a campaign, you'll see yourself in Pierce's post.

"I'm Not Prejudiced, But...." Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times: Mitt Romney just doesn't click in the rural, religious South. CW: this is because the rural, religious South is full of well-informed, intellectual geniuses, to wit:

On Romney: Christ is the head of my church, and his was some Smith guy who claimed to be a latter-day prophet. I'm not prejudiced against a Mormon. It's just some of their beliefs that I'm against. -- Don Teikling, The Barber of Oneonta (Alabama)

On Obama: It's not that he's black, It's that he's not an American citizen. -- Don Teikling

On Obama: I got no use for Obama, and it's not because of the color of his skin. It's his socialist government and all the money he's throwing away. -- Leldon Thomas, Retired Truck Repairman, Tobacco Chewer, Wal-Mart Shopper & Savant

Paper Tigers. Gene Robinson: "Asked to comment [on Rush Limbaugh's slander of Georgetown Law stud Sandra Fluke], the leading Republican presidential candidates — who bray constantly about 'courage' and 'leadership' — run from the bully and hide.... These guys want us to believe they’re ready to face down Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Eun, the Taliban and what’s left of al-Qaeda. Yet they’re so scared of a talk-radio buffoon that they ignore or excuse an eruption of venom that some of Limbaugh’s advertisers ... find inexcusable." ...

... Upping the Stakes:

... Mizz Murkowski Regrets.... Julia O'Malley of the Anchorage Daily News: "Over the weekend, Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R-Alaska] learned the hard way not to get between women and birth control. Back from Washington, D.C...., the senator kept running into female voters who wrote in her name in the last election.... These women were coming unglued. The reason: Murkowski's support for a measure that would have allowed not just religious employers, but any employer, to opt out of providing birth control or other health insurance coverage.... Regrets are one thing, but real votes in the Senate are another. If she's a moderate, she should vote like one."

Murkoski: I have never had a vote I've taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me.

O'Malley: If you had it to do over again, having had the weekend that you had with women being upset about the vote, do you think you would have voted the same?

Murkowski: No. ...

... Greg Sargent: Murkowski's vote "exposes yet again the hollowness of the complaints by GOP 'centrists' about how both sides are responsible for creating a polarized atmosphere in Washington that has made bipartisan compromise impossible."

Dreaming of the Moon??? --

News Ledes

Virginia Is for Lovers. CBS News: "Amid continued protests from Democrats, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell on Wednesday signed into law a controversial bill requiring Virginia women to undergo an ultrasound procedure prior to having an abortion."

New York Times: "President Obama has asked the Pentagon for military options on Syria, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, told the Senate on Wednesday.But both General Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said the administration still believed that diplomatic and economic pressure was the best solution for protecting Syrians from the Assad regime."

New York Times: "The United Nations’s top relief official visited the ravaged Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday as part of her assessment of emergency needs in swathes of the country devastated by a year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad."

Reuters: "The pace of job creation by private employers in the United States accelerated more than expected in February, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday. The private sector added 216,000 jobs last month, the ADP National Employment Report showed, topping economists’ expectations for a gain of 208,000."

Guardian: "Six British soldiers are missing, believed killed, after an explosion hit an armoured vehicle in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said. The five soldiers from the 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment and one from the 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment were on mounted patrol when their Warrior armoured fighting vehicle was struck on Tuesday in Helmand province. If they are dead it will take the number of British service personnel killed in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001 to more than 400 and intensify debate about the timetable for withdrawal of troops."

Guardian: "Allen Stanford, the Texan financier, knight of Antigua, Washington power player and billionaire benefactor of English cricket, has been found guilty of orchestrating a $7bn Ponzi scheme. After a six-week trial in Houston, Texas, a jury found him guilty of conspiracy and 12 other criminal charges including obstruction. He was acquitted of one wire fraud charge. Stanford ... faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced." ...

... Houston Chronicle: "Jurors in the R. Allen Stanford case return today to federal court, perhaps for the last time, to consider whether international accounts held by the one-time billionaire and cricket mogul’s Antigua bank should be forfeited. Yesterday, the same jury convicted Stanford on 13 of 14 fraud-related counts against him that accused him of masterminding a $7 billion Ponzi scheme through his offshore bank’s certificates of deposit, or CDs sold to customers worldwide. He now faces up to 230 years in prison." CW: hmm, not sure if that's 20 or 230 years.

AP: "President Barack Obama told business leaders Tuesday that the nation needs to reform its tax system to help boost the economy, saying the American people 'instinctually understand' that the U.S. needs a more balanced approach to solve its economic problems."

Monday
Mar052012

The Commentariat -- March 6, 2012

I'll have a column up on the New York Times eXaminer soon, on Stanley Fish's defense of Rick Santorum. It is not posted yet (at 12:30 pm ET), but there IS other good stuff linked on the NYTX front page. ...

     ... Update: here's my column. AND excellent stuff in today's & yesterday's comments sections!

The Rich Get Richer. Emmanuel Saez via Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "Top 1% incomes grew by 11.6% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.2%. Hence, the top 1% captured 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery....It is likely that this uneven recovery has continued in 2011 as the stock market has continued to recover....This suggests that the Great Recession will only depress top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asserted on Monday that it is lawful for the government to kill American citizens if officials deem them to be operational leaders of Al Qaeda who are planning attacks on the United States and if capturing them alive is not feasible." Holder made a distinction between "due process" and "judicial process," asserting that the Constitution guarantees the former, not the latter. The justification was pretty damned vague -- no footnotes, no case law. ...

... ** Adam Serwer of Mother Jones translates and elaborates. "Who decides when an American citizen has had enough due process and the Hellfire missile fairy pays them a visit? Presumably the group of top national security officials — that, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, decides who is targetable and forwards its findings to the president, who gives final approval." ...

... AND Glenn Greenwald: President Obama makes the case for preventive war.

The "Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011” has nothing to do with Mitt Romney's employment of undocumented workers to maintain the lawn on one of his estates, for Pete's sake. The bill -- which passed the House 388-3, with Ron Paul among the three dissenters, & which passed the Senate by voice vote, with no "nays" -- makes it a felony to remain in an area the Secret Service designates "restricted" and covers any person protected by the Secret Service (some presidential candidates). The President has not yet signed it. Some are calling it the anti-Occupy law; Paul says it "could make the First Amendment illegal." Well, that's a stretch; the Constitution trumps Congressional law, but of course it's up to the Supremes to decide whether or not the law is unconstitutional, and they won't be making any decision prior to the party conventions this summer....

     ... AND/BUT according to Gene Howington, a guest blogger on Jonathan Turley's blog, the language is so vague that "This would allow for the arrest of protesters just about anywhere. Outside political rallies, near the hotels of visiting foreign dignitaries, outside sporting or other public events like the Super Bowl." The bill has received somewhere around zero mainstream media attention. Just thought you'd want to know. Thanks to contributor Dave S. for the heads-up.

The State of Missouriogyny. CW: I don't usually link to Daily Caller stories, but this one by Caroline May is worth reading: "... the Missouri State Capitol will be honoring [Rush] Limbaugh with a bust of his likeness in the Hall of Famous Missourians.... Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s 2012 senate campaign penned and began circulating a petition to prevent Limbaugh from being inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians. 'No one who disrespects women in this way deserves such an honor. The State of Missouri should condemn this kind of language, not honor it,' read McCaskill’s statement." ...

Adam Peck of Think Progress: Twelve commercial sponsors "have pulled ads from [Limbaugh's] program, and several others are considering following their lead." ...

... Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "Rush Limbaugh is really sorry that he had to apologize.... House Speaker John Boehner called Mr. Limbaugh’s language (just the language, not the substance) 'inappropriate' – a formulation that the columnist George Will later mocked as 'comical.' Mr. Will said: 'Using a salad fork for your entrée, that’s inappropriate.'" ...

... Open Salon: "... does Limbaugh's brand of misogyny really have a place on government-funded airwaves? Particularly when it's beamed to a military where some 30% of American servicewomen are sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers at some point in their deployment?" The post links to this White House petition, which I also linked the other day.

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Two polls out this past weekend show Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) pulling ahead of challenger Elizabeth Warren (D) in the Massachusetts Senate race."

Right Wing World

Here's the New York Times' quick guide to Super Tuesday, state by state.

We can be poor in spirit, and I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing. It can be here today and gone tomorrow. How I measure riches is by the friends I have and the loved ones I have and the people that I care about in my life, and that’s where my values are and that’s where my riches are. -- Ann Romney

Seriously, Platitudes mean more than Cadillacs. And yes indeedy, Mrs. Williard, a Platitude is a very interesting thing. Even if you can't drive your Platitutde to your lousy job. -- Constant Weader

When Even Billions Are Not Enough. Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: the Cato Institute, a libertarian "think" tank bought & paid for by Charles Koch, et al., is resisting his & Bubba's "attempts to install their own people on the institute’s 16-member board and to establish a more direct pipeline between Cato and the family’s Republican political outlets, including groups that Democrats complain have mounted a multimillion-dollar assault on President Obama. Tensions reached a new level with a lawsuit filed last week by the Kochs against Cato over its governing structure." CW: It is a joy to see the jester turn on the king. Of course, the king(s) may win the round, but the cracks in their kingdom are beginning to show. ...

... Alex Pareene of Salon: "Cato is mostly antiwar, decidedly anti-drug war, and sponsors a lot of good work on civil liberties. That … is basically what the Kochs don’t like about them, because white papers on decriminalization don’t help Republicans get elected. As Jonah Goldberg complains in a post that otherwise resolutely refuses to come to a conclusion or have a point, Cato has an annoying habit of not always seeing itself as a natural member of the glorious Republican coalition. (Current Cato headline: 'It’s Not Obama’s Fault That Crude Oil Prices Have Increased.)'”

News Ledes

New Jersey Star-Ledger: "U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, the elder statesman of New Jersey's congressional delegation, died after a months-long battle with colon cancer today, according to his office. The longtime politician was 77."

President Obama will hold a press conference at 1:15 pm ET today. AP: "In his first full news conference of the year Tuesday, Obama was to announce plans to let borrowers with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration refinance at lower rates, saving the average homeowner more than $1,000 a year." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "President Obama challenged his Republican critics to make a case to the American people for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities if they really believe that is the right course to follow, throwing down an election-year challenge to the men who are vying to succeed him and who say that his Iran policy has been too weak." Washington Post: "President Obama sharply criticized his Republican presidential rivals Tuesday for talking 'casually' about going to war with Iran, saying that when such decisions are made for political reasons, 'we make mistakes. What is said on the campaign trail — those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities,' Obama said during an afternoon news conference. 'They are not commander in chief. When I see the casualness with which those folks talk about war, I am reminded of the costs involved in war'.” See Wednesday's Commentariat for video of the full presser. ...

     ... AND Washington Post: "President Obama on Tuesday unveiled two new housing initiatives intended to assist Americans with government-insured loans and members of the military.... Obama announced a new plan to cut refinancing fees for any loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The president also outlined a new agreement with banks to review foreclosures for members of the military that have taken place since 2006 and provide compensation to anyone who wrongfully lost a home. Neither proposal requires Congress's approval."

Today is the GOP's Super Tuesday. Here is the New York Times story about it. Here is the Washington Post story, which I am leaving in single-page mode so you can see the accompanying dorky video in which hyperactive Chris Cillizza explains voting to dummies. ...

     ... NBC Update: here's absolutely everything you could possibly want to know about Super Tuesday. And then some. Oh, and it's a pdf.

Reuters: "Iran said it will give the U.N. nuclear watchdog access to its Parchin military complex, ISNA news agency reported on Tuesday, a site where the agency believes Tehran pursued high explosives research relevant to nuclear weapons." ...

... Guardian: "Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, invoked the spectre of Auschwitz as he chided those who question whether Iran is in pursuit of a nuclear weapon and warned that 'none of us can afford to wait much longer' to act against Tehran. In an address to the powerful pro-Israel lobby [AIPAC] in Washington, Netanyahu derided the effectiveness of sanctions hours after a meeting with Barack Obama at which the US president appealed for time for diplomacy to pressure Iran to open up its nuclear programme to inspection."

Reuters: "Dozens of protesters> angry over fee hikes and budget cuts at California's public universities were arrested on Monday night during a boisterous but peaceful demonstration inside the state Capitol building. The arrests capped a day in which hundreds of students and others marched on the statehouse and rallied outside the Capitol before many of the activists moved the demonstration inside the building, clogging hallways in and around the rotunda." The Sacramento Bee story is here.

Sunday
Mar042012

The Commentariat -- March 5, 2012

Paul Krugman writes the anti-Olympia Snowe column (he doesn't mention her, but ...): "... we can take a big step toward full employment just by using the federal government’s low borrowing costs to help state and local governments rehire the schoolteachers and police officers they laid off, while restarting the road repair and improvement projects they canceled or put on hold." ...

... Here was Matt Yglesias of Slate last week on Snowe's "feckless" impact on the 2009 stimulus: "She chose to use her influence to trim down the spending side of the package, with a particular focus on reducing federal financial assistance to state and local governments."

Steven Sloan & Kathleen Hunter of Bloomberg News: "Senate Democrats are considering a debate on ending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for top earners before the November election because they think they’re in a stronger position than in 2010, said Senator Charles Schumer."

President Obama's Ode to Israel speech to AIPAC yesterday contained a fairly blunt warning to his GOP rivals:

     ... Helene Cooper of the New York Tiimes: "As Republicans on the campaign trail ramped up their support for Israel in a possible military strike on Iran, President Obama used a speech before a pro-Israel lobbying group on Sunday to warn against the 'loose talk of war' that could serve to speed Iran toward a nuclear weapon." ...

     ... ** Amir Oren of Haaretz: "After a speech like that, [President Obama's] meeting with [Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu on Monday is almost superfluous: It already seems clear that Obama is determined not to grant him anything. Obama sent a complex, multifaceted message. He is a loyal friend of Israel, as evidenced by both the record of his actions over the last three years and the testimony of an eminent witness, President Shimon Peres. He is absolutely and unequivocally opposed to Iran having nuclear weapons. But he is first and foremost the U.S. president, whose commitment to do everything possible to thwart Iran's nuclear program has properly been given to the citizens of his own country -- the ones who will pay the price of any war with their lives and their wallets -- rather than to the impudent leader of a foreign country." Read the whole piece.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: President Transparency is mighty opaque -- a sorry assessment of the administration's so-called efforts to create "the most open and transparent government in history." ...

Obama Administration lawyers are aggressively fighting FOIA requests at the agency level and in court — sometimes on Obama’s direct orders. They’ve also wielded anti-transparency arguments even bolder than those asserted by the Bush administration. -- Josh Gerstein

Sari Horwtiz & Peter Finn of the Washington Post: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday plans to provide the most detailed account to date of the Obama administration’s legal rationale for killing U.S. citizens abroad, as it did in last year’s airstrike against an alleged al-Qaeda operative in Yemen, officials said. The rationale Holder plans to offer resembles, in its broad strokes, those previously offered by lower-ranking officials. But his speech Monday will mark a new and higher-profile phase of the administration’s campaign to justify lethal action in those rare instances in which U.S. citizens, such as New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki, join terrorist causes devoted to harming their homeland."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "Every version of the Supreme Court is different from the one that came before, and the current edition, it has been widely noted, is unusual in many ways."

NEW. Sandra Fluke appears on ABC's "The View":

video platform video management video solutions video player

     ... NEW. Media Matters has some excellent posts on the Limbaugh remarks and his "apology." Here is the post Fluke mentioned in her interview -- Justin Berrier & Eric Schroeck name some of the wingers who rushed to Rush's defense. Here is a roundup of commentators who criticize Limbaugh's "apology"; e.g., conservative David Frum calls it "about the most graceless apology ever": includes videos of commentary. And this one, by Chelsea Rudman, which might be titled, "Explaining Birth Control Methods to Misogynists & Health Insurance to Dummies." ...

Art by David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times.... NEW. David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times: on Limbaugh's attack on Fluke: "But it is nothing new. This is how he has 'entertained' day after day for years. He doesn’t debate. He doesn’t inform. He vilifies, insults, smears, slanders, distorts and misleads. Rush is a schoolyard bully who specializes in picking on girls – or 'feminazis,' as he loves to call them. Limbaugh has led the way in destroying civility in politics. It’s bad enough that his overbearing pseudo-patriotism has been emulated by other right-wing radio and TV commentators; worse is the fact he has become the oracle of the dominant wing of the Republican Party."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times: "On Sunday, a seventh company, ProFlowers, said that it was suspending all of its advertising on 'The Rush Limbaugh Show' despite his apologetic statement a day earlier.... Mr. Limbaugh ... is estimated to make $50 million a year and whose program is a profit center for Premiere Radio Networks, the company that syndicates it. The program makes money both through ads and through fees paid by local radio stations." ...

... Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC Chair, speaks about Limbaugh & contraception coverage:

... Whitehouse.gov has a petition urging Sec. Panetta to take Limbaugh off Armed Forces Radio. You have to establish a White House account to sign the petition. ...

... Will Dunham of Reuters: "... Ron Paul expressed doubt on Sunday that conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh truly meant it when he apologized for calling a law student a 'slut' over her support for President Barack Obama's new policy on insurance coverage of contraceptives. 'I don't think he's very apologetic. He's doing it because some people were taking their advertisements off his program. It was his bottom line that he was concerned about,' Paul told the CBS program 'Face the Nation.'"

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "The wave of incriminating headlines and the surging stock price reflect the cognitive dissonance generated by News Corporation’s phone hacking scandal."

If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed. -- Mitt Romney, Oracle of Detroit, in a New York Times op-ed, November 18, 2008. Thanks to Greg Sargent for the Reminder ...

... Yo, Willard! Chris Bury of ABC News: Arthur J. Gonzales, "the federal judge who presided over Chrysler’s bankruptcy, told ABC News ... that the ailing company could not have survived without taxpayer money.... President Obama is taking credit for saving more than a million jobs because of the bailouts, while Republican candidates have voiced their opposition to the government loans.... Mitt Romney insists, 'It was the wrong way to go,' and that General Motors and Chrysler should have gone through 'a private bankruptcy process.' ... The former chief judge also denied that the speedy bankruptcy hearing somehow prevented private investors from stepping up, pointing out that the government and Chrysler’s creditors had been seeking a solution for 18 months, to no avail."

Right Wing World

Prof. Neil Gross in the New York Times: Research indicates that attending college does not actually make you more liberal and less religious. The main reason this idea took hold is that it suited the conservative cause: "... attacking liberal professors as elitists ... helps position the conservative movement as a populist enterprise by identifying a predatory elite to which conservatism stands opposed — an otherwise difficult task for a movement strongly backed by holders of economic power."

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker provides an historical overview of how extremists took over the Republican party; short version: public participation.

Mark Murray of NBC News: "Four in 10 of all adults say the GOP nominating process has given them a less favorable impression of the Republican Party, versus just slightly more than one in 10 with a more favorable opinion."

Art by Bob Staake.

Steve Holland & Jeremy Pelofsky of Reuters: "Mitt Romney closed in on Rick Santorum in Ohio and picked up a crucial endorsement in Virginia on Sunday as he grows in strength ahead of 'Super Tuesday,' the biggest day yet in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination."

CW: just around to reading this New York Times article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Laurie Goodstein on the evolution of Rick Santorum's faith. It's interesting -- and scary, if you think he could be president. ...

... Carrie Budoff Brown of Politico interviews Karen Santorum. ...

A conservative, a liberal, and a moderate walk into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Hi, Mitt.' -- Foster Friess, Rick Santorum's sugar daddy

Ha! Romney Advised Obama to Use the Individual Mandate. Alec Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "... Mitt Romney often ... says his [healthcare] plan was done on a state level, where the central theme to both plans, the individual mandate, was actually a conservative approach. But in a July 2009 op-ed in USA Today Romney thought the President could learn a thing or two from the plan he signed into law in Massachusetts, including using the individual mandate as an incentive for people to buy insurance."

David Brooks explains how Mitt Romney decided to run for president:

There he was a few years ago sitting on the front porch of his fourth summer home innocently wondering why the trees of New England are so unpleasantly tall, and he turns to his buddies, who own Nascar teams, hotel chains, political parties and various small emirates, and he asks them if it would be a good idea if he ran for president. They point out that a presidential campaign would allow him to recite obscure verses of patriotic songs all across America, so he agrees to do it.

News Ledes 

New York Times: "Syria's government made diplomatic gestures on Monday toward seeking an end to the uprising that has convulsed the country, agreeing for the first time to allow visits by the top United Nations relief official and by the newly designated envoy who represents the United Nations and the Arab League."

When One (Afghanistan) or Two (Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran) Wars Are Not Enough. Politico: "Arizona Republican John McCain on Monday will become the first U.S. senator to call for U.S.-led air strikes to stop the slaughter of unarmed civilians being carried out by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad."

New York Times: "With Israel warning that it may mount a military strike against Iran, President Obama welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to the White House, but signaled that he would press for more time for a campaign of economic sanctions to work on Tehran." Story has been updated.

Guardian: "Al-Qaida militants have launched a surprise attack against army bases in southern Yemen, killing 78 soldiers, military officials say. The scale of Sunday's attack in Abyan province points to the militants' combat readiness as they launch more and more attacks in a region that the US considers a key battleground in the war on al-Qaida."

Haaretz: "Iran has tripled its monthly production of higher-grade enriched uranium and the UN nuclear watchdog has 'serious concerns' about possible military dimensions to Tehran's atomic activities, the agency's chief said on Monday. Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also told the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors about the lack of progress in two rounds of talks between the Vienna-based UN agency and Tehran this year."

Reuters: "American International Group (AIG) is selling part of its stake in AIA Group to raise about $6 billion to help the U.S. insurer repay a huge federal government bail-out."

Al Jazeera: "Russia's presidential elections were 'clearly skewed' in favour of Vladimir Putin and 'lacked fairness', international election monitors have reported as Putin celebrated returning to the Kremlin for a third term. In a statement issued on Monday, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said that voting had been 'assessed positively overall and had produced a clear winner with an absolute majority'. But it said: 'Voter's choice was limited, electoral competition lacked fairness and an impartial referee was missing.'" ...

     ... New York Times Update: "While Mr. Putin was still celebrating his win, thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in a city square to blast his victory as illegitimate, chanting 'Russia without Putin,' and 'Putin is a thief; we are the government!' When riot police demanded the crowd disperse an hour later, dozens of demonstrators encircled the blogger Aleksei Navalny, the most charismatic figure to emerge in this wave of activism, but officers detained him and pushed him into a police van along with most of the movement’s other prominent leaders. Dozens of other arrests were reported, while determined protesters tried to keep regrouping."

Saturday
Mar032012

The Commentariat -- March 4, 2012

Updated: My column in in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "Joe Nocera's Phony Defense of Bipartisanship." My next column, which I haven't written yet, will be is titled "Frank Bruni's Phony Defense of Bipartisanship." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

** "Whitewashing Gay History." Frank Rich: "Liberals applaud themselves for championing gay marriage. But there are ghosts at the wedding."

Ricardo Lopez & Kim Geiger of the Los Angeles Times: "In what was surely a rare move for the conservative radio host, Rush Limbaugh apologized Saturday to the Georgetown University law school student he called a 'slut' and 'prostitute' earlier in the week. The apology, posted to his website, said he did not mean to make a 'personal attack' against Sandra Fluke." The article doesn't mention, nor does Rush's post, that he carried on these denigrating comments for days. Here's a portion of Rush's "apology":

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? ... My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

CW Translation: I'm losing my sponsors, for Christ's sake! And about those word choices -- I just couldn't think of another way to say 'slut,' 'prostitute' and 'round-heels.' Hope you like 'personal sexual recreational activities' better. BTW, Rick Santorum, I'm not the one who's 'absurd'; Ms. Fluke is. She should act more responsibly, the way I do. Never mind my constant lies, intemperate language & vilification of others, the four wives, the Oxycontin habit & the illegal drug deals.

... Maureen Dowd: "Rush and Newt Gingrich can play the studs, marrying again and again until they find the perfect adoring young wife. But women pressing for health care rights are denigrated as sluts."

We kind of got our Irish up when leaders in government seemed to be assigning an authoritative voice to Catholic groups that are not the bishops. If you want an authoritative voice, go to the bishops. They’re the ones that speak for the truths of the faith. -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. -- St. Augustine of Hippo ...

... This Is All We Need. Tim Stelloh & Andy Newman of the New York Times: "Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan told Roman Catholics on Saturday that in an era when the church was fighting the government on several fronts, they needed to make their voices heard more clearly in the political sphere." Read the whole article.

It’s state-sanctioned abuse. It borders on a definition of rape. Many states describe rape as putting any object into an orifice against a person’s will. Well, that’s what this is. A woman is coerced to do this, just as I’m coerced. The state of Texas is waging war on women and their families. The new law is demeaning and disrespectful to the women of Texas, and insulting to the doctors and nurses who care for them. -- Dr. Curtis Boyd, a Texas physician, on the new Texas law requiring women who want abortions to submit to transvaginal ultrasound probe, listen to the fetal heartbeat, view the fetus on an ultrasound screen, go to anti-abortion "crisis" centers, & listen to their doctors read "a politicized list of so-called dangers of abortion" ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "If Texas legislators wanted to reduce abortions, the obvious approach would be to reduce unwanted pregnancies. The small proportion of women and girls who aren’t using contraceptives account for half of all abortions in America.... Yet Texas has some of the weakest sex-education programs in the nation, and last year it cut spending for family planning by 66 percent."

** "Innocence Is Not Enough." In a New York Times op-ed, lawyer & former New York Times reporter Raymond Bonner recounts the case of Edward Lee Elmore, a man who served 30 years in prison, much of the time "under the threat of imminent execution," for a rape and murder he did not commit....

... Naomi Wolf in Al Jazeera: "... while Obama should continue to apologise for the Quran burnings, we must understand that Afghans' rage is a response to an even deeper, rawer wound. Obama should also apologise for kidnapping Afghans; for holding them at Bagram without due process of law; for forcing them into cages, each reportedly holding up to 30 prisoners; for denying them Red Cross/Red Crescent visits; for illegally confiscating family letters; for torturing and sexually abusing them; and for casting a pall of fear over the country. The Quran forbids that kind of injustice and cruelty. So does the Bible." Thanks to reader Victoria for the link.

Right Wing World

Newt & Callista Make Plans for Lent. For those who think all is well with "traditional Republican wives," even among those of the Roman Catholic persuasion, kept barefoot in Manolos and strangely not pregnant, our thanks go to Nicole Belle of Crooks and Liars and my friend Kate M. for setting us straight:

     ... If you need a translation, Belle obliges. Warning: clicking on the audio will throw you to Crooks & Liars, & I can't figure out how to disable that fun feature.

News Ledes

Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Thirty-one women's-rights demonstrators were arrested this afternoon in a protest at the state Capitol that drew hundreds of protesters and Virginia State Police in riot gear.... The demonstration came after the General Assembly approved hotly disputed legislation that requires women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion."

New York Times: "Russian voters overwhelmingly granted Vladimir V. Putin a six-year term as president on Sunday, a widely expected outcome that set the stage for a far more suspenseful post-election confrontation between the freshly emboldened leader and an opposition movement that has repeatedly rallied tens of thousands of protesters."

Here's the Washington Post's report on President Obama's speech before AIPAC.

Washington Post: "House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Sunday, becoming the first member of GOP leadership to back the GOP frontrunner."

Haaretz: Israeli "President Shimon Peres will meet with President Barack Obama in the U.S. capital on Sunday. Peres will also tell delegates of pro-Israel lobby AIPAC that Israel is not rushing into a war, but will defend itself if it has to."

AP: "While scattered damage was reported elsewhere, the worst destruction was in Limestone and Madison counties [Alabama], where 190 homes were damaged or destroyed."

Washington Post: "Complaints of vote-rigging were starting to pile up Sunday, even as an intensely watched presidential election is underway across Russia’s nine time zones."