The Ledes

Monday, May 25, 2015.

New York Times: "Texas marked 24 counties as disaster areas on Monday as drenching rains and violent weather swept through that state and Oklahoma, forcing thousands of people from their homes and killing at least three."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, May 21, 2015.

New York Times: "John F. Nash Jr., a mathematician who shared a Nobel Prize in 1994 for work that greatly extended the reach and power of modern economic theory and whose long descent into severe mental illness and eventual recovery were the subject of a book and a film, both titled 'A Beautiful Mind,' was killed, along with his wife [Alicia], in a car crash on Saturday in New Jersey. He was 86."

New York Times: "Anne Meara, who became famous as half of one of the most successful male-female comedy teams of all time and went on to enjoy a long and diverse career as an actress and, late in life, a playwright, died on Saturday in Manhattan. She was 85. Her death was confirmed by her husband and longtime comedy partner, Jerry Stiller, and her son, the actor and director Ben Stiller."

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
May 25

11:20 am ET: President Obama speaks at Arlington National Cemetery

Go to


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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-- Constant Weader

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If Secessionists Wrote Their Own Declaration of Independence

By via reader Bonnie. To see a larger image, click here, scroll down a bit, then click on the Declaration. I can't stop laughing:


The Commentariat -- Nov. 19, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Maureen Dowd's takedown of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice (also linked yesterday). ...

... On That Note -- Anne Flaherty of the AP: "Lawmakers said Sunday they want to know who had a hand in creating the Obama administration's now-discredited 'talking points' about the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and why a final draft omitted the CIA's early conclusion that terrorists were involved." ...

... AND Brian Knowlton of the New York Times: "The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Sunday that she planned to investigate why the C.I.A.'s quick determination of terrorism in the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, was not reflected in the 'talking points' used days later on television by Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations. But the chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, also said she was certain that the White House had not been behind any change in the original C.I.A. language to that later used by Ms. Rice." ...

... AND all this because ...

     ... Thanks to Jeanne B. for the graphic. ...

... Un-fucking-believable. John McCain Has a Good Idea. Brendan Sasso of The Hill: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) suggested on Sunday that President Obama should send former President Bill Clinton to lead cease fire talks between Israelis and Palestinians." With video. ...

... BUT McCain Just Gets Crazier. Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "McCain went even further than simply opposing Rice's nomination and said that, 'until we find out all the information' on the Benghazi consulate attacks, he would not support any Secretary of State nominee." CW: needless to say, there will never be a time when "we find out all the information" on Benghazi. ...

... AND, Sad News to Report via Ben Ambruster of Think Progress. Lame Duck "Independent" Joe Lieberman is kinda breaking up with the other two amigos, John & Lindsey. Three-ways so seldom work out well. Of course, there could be more to the story (there always is). After all, Lonesome Joe, about to relinquish his Senate seat to an actual Democrat, is soon to be completely irrelevant, a forgotten footnote in the history of how the exceptional American nation got stuck with President Dubya.

... Matt Vasilogambros of the National Journal: "Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says the Obama administration deserves some credit for Israel's 'Iron Dome' missile defense system, which has protected Israelis during the rocket assaults that have taken place in the last five days."

** Paul Krugman: "... the '50s — the Twinkie Era -- do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today's conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich." CW: except for the Twinkie part, this has been my manifesto, too, as some readers know. ...

... Daniel Altman in a New York Times op-ed: "... the real menace for our long-term prosperity is not income inequality -- it's wealth inequality, which distorts access to economic opportunities.... Replacing the income, estate and gift taxes with a progressive wealth tax would do much more to reduce [income inequality] than any other tax plan being considered in Washington.... A flat wealth tax of just 1.5 percent on financial assets and other wealth like housing, cars and business ownership would have been more than enough to replace all the revenue of the income, estate and gift taxes.... The majority of American families would receive an enormous tax cut."

... Steven Greenhouse & Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times: "In a rare move, Wal-Mart is trying to stop a union-backed group from staging a series of demonstrations against the company on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year." CW: glad to see Wal-Mart sticking up for the big guys. It's just wrong for low-paid, part-time, no-benefits 47-percenters to pick on a company owned by THE RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.

Bill Keller of the New York Times: Secretary of Defense Leon "Panetta proposed a budget that would cut $487 billion -- about 8 percent -- from planned defense spending over 10 years. The fiscal cliff, known to defense wonks as 'sequestration,' would cut an additional $492 billion. Most of the experts I follow think defense can be safely cut below Panetta's level." CW: Here's my cost-savings plan: let's put the generals on a diet of MREs & let them -- or their spouses -- cut their own damned lawns. Maybe showoffs like Gen. Petraeus wouldn't prance around in his medals (he wears them even on his civies) if he didn't have a valet to pin the ribbons on his jackets.

This looks like an old photo -- no comb-over -- so Petraeus probably has more medals now. But close enough.Richard Lardner of the AP: "The [FBI] probably would have ignored [Jill] Kelley's complaint had it not been for information in the emails that indicated the sender was aware of the travel schedules of [David] Petraeus and [John] Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Instead, the FBI considered this from the earliest stages to be an exceptional case, and one so sensitive that FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Eric Holder were kept notified of its progress."

"'Couples' with Epaulettes." Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker comments on the Petraeus, et al., affair & novelist Philip Roth's announcement of his retirement: "As the baffling and then burlesque and then baroquely burlesque affair enveloping General Petraeus and his friends, of both sexes, fell upon us like another hurricane last week, it seemed to confirm once again Philip Roth's fifty-year-old assertion that you can't write good satirical fiction in America because reality will quickly outdo anything you might invent."

** Peter Maass in the New Yorker: "... the Petraeus case shows that among the people who have the most to lose from unchecked surveillance are the people who thought they would benefit from it -- government élites who allocate the funding and make the laws and operate the bureaucracy of surveillance. Perhaps they will start worrying a bit more about becoming the next Petraeus or [Judge Robert] Bork. Our legislators, who are not all angels, now have real skin in the game, so to speak." CW: an interesting history lesson here.

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "On the Sunday talk shows, senior Republicans, former Romney surrogates and prominent conservatives piled on their defeated presidential nominee for telling donors that he lost because President Obama bought off minorities and young voters with 'gifts.'" ...

... CW: I missed this commentary by Jamelle Bouie, which the Washington Post published Friday. But on the Romney-Jindal(and now the pilers-on) "gifts" divide, Bouie nails it: "Bobby Jindal's criticism of Romney rings hollow.... This summer, in explaining his decision to reject Medicaid funds, Jindal declared that Republicans need to 'repeal Obamacare' so that they can 'end this culture of dependence.' If there's a problem with Romney's statement, it was the language, not the sentiment.... There's something odd about this line of criticism. Voters elect and support politicians to do things for them. There's nothing illegitimate about the fact that Obama won by providing tangible benefits to people who needed them." ...

... Adam Serwer agrees with Bouie: "The Republican reaction from party leaders like Jindal is not a rejection of the worldview underlying Romney's remarks, which is extremely popular in right-wing media. It's an expression of political opportunism from politicians who want to leave their footprints on Romney's back as they chase their own ambitions. If it were anything else, you'd see Jindal telling Rush Limbaugh or Fox News, not Romney, to shut up. But you aren't." ...

... In an interesting post in which he provides more examples that support Bouie & Serwer's conclusion, Thomas Edsell examines the demographics behind the rising Democratic-leaning coalition that so frightens the Romney-Limbaugh crowd: "As Obama negotiates with Republican House and Senate leaders to prevent a dive over the 'fiscal cliff,' he will be under strong pressure from his reinvigorated liberal supporters to take a tough stand in support of tax hikes on the well-to-do and to more firmly limit spending cuts." ...

... CW: maybe they'll try a new tack, but as I see it, Republicans have two choices: (1) admit government works & should work harder for ordinary people/voters; OR (2) continue to exploit prejudices in an effort to mask their "gifts" to the rich. I might be wrong, but I don't think Option (2) is in the Republican DNA. They. just. can't. do. it.

An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics. -- Plutarch, via Cory Booker ...

... AND Cory Booker is off my list of Men Who Disappointed Me. Margaret Hartmann of New York: in his usual Twitter correspondence Sunday, "Booker was accused of plotting to redistribute wealth and told 'nutrition is not a responsibility of the government.' Since simply debating the merits of providing food assistance to impoverished Americans doesn't fit into Booker's ridiculously hands-on approach to governing, by the end of the night he'd challenged the Twitter user to a contest in which they'd both try to live off of food stamps for a week."

Congressional Races

Welcome to Florida, State of Denial. David Adams of Reuters: "Tea Party-backed Republican U.S. Representative Allen West said he was still not ready to concede defeat on Sunday... when the clock ran out on a partial recount in South Florida. Results showing West trailing Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy by 1,900 votes were expected to be turned over to the state Division of Elections to be ratified on Tuesday. West was granted a recount of early ballots in St. Lucie County during the weekend, but officials were unable to complete the process before time ran out at midday on Sunday." ...

     ... Update. Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Democrat Patrick Murphy, a 29-year-old construction company executive, gained 242 votes after the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections completed its re-tabulation, increasing his lead to more than 2,100 votes over West...."

Local News

Alex Pareene of Salon: "Democrats ought to know what sort of Democrat [New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo] is. If Cuomo allows Republicans to subvert the will of the voters of New York, so that he has an easier time cutting taxes and rolling back regulations, he shouldn't be allowed to sell himself to future primary voters as a progressive."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The European Union offered crucial support for the new Syrian political opposition on Monday, calling the group legitimate representatives for the Syrian people in a move that burnished the new coalition's credibility as it seeks more international aid to help in the fight against the government of Bashar al-Assad. The union stopped short of conferring full diplomatic recognition, as France, Turkey and several Arab countries of the Persian Gulf have done, and instead urged the coalition to develop a plan to create a 'credible alternative to the current regime.'"

Washington Post: "The nation's biggest banks provided more than $26 billion in relief to struggling homeowners between March 1 and Sept. 30, as part of a settlement earlier this year with state and federal officials over widespread foreclosure abuses, according to numbers released Monday."

Reuters: "Moody's stripped France of its prized triple-A badge on Monday, cutting the sovereign credit rating on Europe's No. 2 economy by one notch to Aa1 from Aaa, citing an uncertain fiscal outlook and deteriorating economy."

AP: "Authorities launched a homicide investigation Monday into the house explosion that killed a young couple and left numerous homes uninhabitable in an Indianapolis neighborhood. Indianapolis Homeland Security Director Gary Coons made the announcement after meeting with residents affected by the Nov. 10 blast and shortly after funerals were held for the victims, who lived next door to the house where investigators believe the explosion occurred." The Indianapolis Star story is here.

AP: "Rebels believed to be backed by Rwanda fired mortars and machine guns Monday on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Goma, [Congo,] threatening to capture one of the largest cities in eastern Congo in a development that could drag this giant Central African nation back into war."

New York Times: "After a night of sustained Israeli strikes by air and sea, the Health Ministry [in Gaza City] said on Monday the Palestinian death toll in six days of conflict had risen to 91 with 700 wounded, including 200 children." ...

... AP: "Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers traded fire and tough cease-fire proposals Monday, and threatened to escalate their border conflict if diplomacy fails. No deal appeared near."

New York Times: President "Obama arrived [in Myanmar] as the first sitting American president to visit Myanmar with the hope of solidifying the stunning changes that have transformed this Southeast Asian country and encouraging additional progress toward a more democratic system. With the promise of more financial assistance, Mr. Obama vowed to 'support you every step of the way.' The president was greeted on a mild, muggy day by tens of thousands of people lining the road from the airport -- and by further promises of reform by the government, which announced a series of specific commitments regarding the release of political prisoners and the end of ethnic violence." Washington Post story here. AP story here. ...

... AP: President "Obama is making the first visit ever by a U.S. president to Cambodia because it is hosting the annual East Asia Summit. But White House aides say the president will also raise human rights concerns in his meeting with [Cambodian Prime Minister/strongman] Hun Sen."

New York Times: "President Hamid Karzai ordered Afghan forces to take control of the Bagram prison and accused American officials of violating an agreement to hand over the facility to Afghan control, according to a statement issued by his office on Monday. The move came after what Mr. Karzai said was the expiration of a two-month grace period agreed with President Obama to complete the full transfer of the prison."

Space: "A Russian Soyuz space capsule made a rare nighttime landing in the frigid steppes of Kazakhstan early Monday, returning three astronauts to Earth after a four-month voyage to the International Space Station."


The Commentariat -- Nov. 18, 2012

Okay, by popular request, I wrote a column on Dowd for today's New York Times eXaminer. And I wasn't very nice.

Contributor MAG is right. Chris Christie's Got Talent!:

Peter Baker & Jane Perlez of the New York Times: "Mr. Obama will make a historic visit to Myanmar to mark the emergence of the long-isolated country and encourage its migration from China's orbit toward a more democratic future with the West. He will also stop in Thailand, America's longtime ally in the region as well as a friend of China's. And he will fly to Cambodia for a summit meeting of a Southeast Asian organization as the United States tries to increase its influence in that part of the region. With the election over, the White House has softened its language, and presents the trip not as an explicit attempt to contain China but as the next stage of its so-called pivot to Asia, reorienting American foreign policy after a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan toward the economic and political future of the Pacific. On the cusp of a second term, Mr. Obama sees such a shift as a mission for the next four years and a possible legacy." ...

... Peter Baker: "The president's Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, spent part of World War II in what was then called Burma as a cook for a British Army captain. Although details are sometimes debated, the elder Mr. Obama's Asian experience proved formative just as his grandson's time growing up in Indonesia did decades later." ...

Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP has more on the President's itinerary.

Reuters: "The White House did not heavily alter talking points about the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, an official said on Saturday [aboard Air Force One]. 'If there were adjustments made to them within the intelligence community, that's common, and that's something they would have done themselves,' Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, told reporters. 'The only edit ... made by the White House was the factual edit as to how to refer to the facility.'" ...

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: "Yes, the right wing is still trying to turn the Benghazi attack into a cut-rate Watergate scandal, despite David Petraeus's testimony backing up everything the administration said." CW: quite a good post.

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "In her sure-footed ascent of the foreign-policy ladder, [U.N. Ambassador Susan] Rice has rarely shrunk from a fight. But now that she appears poised to claim the top rung -- White House aides say she is President Obama's favored candidate for secretary of state -- this sharp-tongued, self-confident diplomat finds herself in the middle of a bitter feud in which she is largely a bystander." ...

... Maureen Dowd peppers her usual snark with some relevant context about the Susan Rice talkshow brouhaha. CW: BTW, I'm not buying Dowd's catfight supposition, & if I have time (time is my enemy), I'll write a NYTX piece on Dowd's column. ...

... President Obama & McKayla Maroney are not impressed. Backstory here. ...

... Kathleen Geier of Washington Monthly: "It's maddening that this country is more or less run by old, white, out of touch, sexist, racist men like McCain and Mitt Romney, whose accomplishments, intellectual and otherwise, are dubious, and who would reaped [sic.] enormous unearned benefits from the wealth and connections they were born into. And yet these same people, rather than being humble about their own modest abilities and respectful of others [like Susan Rice & President Obama] who have accomplished so much in the world despite facing far more formidable obstacles, have the unmitigated call to question their credentials." ...

... BUT Michael Hirsh of the National Journal: Rice has other problems that dwarf the Benghazi flap.

Michael Fletcher & Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "AARP's rejection of any significant changes to the nation's safety net could be a major factor as policymakers seek a deal to put the government's finances in order through raising taxes and cutting spending on federal programs, possibly including popular entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security."

So Yesterday. Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: "Romney is being erased with record speed from his party's books for three reasons. First, many Republicans backed him because they thought he had a good chance of winning; that appeal, obviously, is gone. Second, Romney had shallow roots, and few friends, in the national Republican Party. And those shallow roots have allowed Republicans to give him a new role: As a sort of bad partisan bank, freighted with all the generational positions and postures that they are looking to dump."

It Ain't Your Pappy's Confederacy No More. Karen Cox in a New York Times op-ed: "THE coalition that voted for Mr. Obama nationally -- single women, minorities and young people -- is the same coalition that voted for the president in Southern states. Latino voters, for example, voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama, and they also represent the fastest-growing population within the South. Future elections will be determined by this expanding diversity in the region, much to the chagrin of conservative whites.... The Democratic Party and liberals north and west of us should put a lid on their regional biases and encourage the change that is possible here."

** Trevor Potter, a former FEC commissioner & chairman, whom you know best as Stephen Colbert's SuperPAC lawyer, blames the moribund, deadlocked Federal Elections Commission for failing to rein in SuperPACs, not the Supremes' Citizens United decision. CW: I found this quite enlightening. I hope the President gets around to reading this Washington Post op-ed because he can do something about this.

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "A little more than a week after Mitt Romney lost his bid for the presidency, [former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt], the prominent Republican tapped to head his transition is encouraging states to implement the Affordable Care Act, a law which Romney had pledged to eliminate on 'day one'" during the 2012 campaign." Leavitt, "who also served as Health and Human Services Secretary under President George W. Bush..., is heavily invested in the law's state-based exchanges." CW: That's okay, Mike. When there's money in it for you, forget loyalty to the loser.

Your Tax Dollars at Play. Rajiv Chandrasekaren & Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "The commanders who lead the nation's military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.... The amenities afforded to today's military leaders are more lavish than anyone else in government enjoys, save for the president." CW: this makes the proverbial $400 hammer look like a bargain.

Greg Miller & Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: The FBI's probe of the Petraeus Affair reveals its nearly unfettered access to electronic communications. "Law enforcement demands for e-mail and other electronic communications from providers such as Google, Comcast and Yahoo are so routine that the companies employ teams of analysts to sort through thousands of requests a month. Very few are turned down."

Agence France Presse: "In March, a Florida radio talk show host named Todd Alan Clem but known as Bubba the Love Sponge said he was going to 'deep fat fry' a copy of the Koran as a stunt, the reports said. Gen. John Allen ... and CIA director David Petraeus, both asked Kelley, who lives in Tampa, to try to intervene and stop the radio host by contacting the city's mayor, Bob Buckhorn. 'I have Petraeus and Allen both emailing me about getting this dealt with,' Kelley wrote to the mayor, according to NBC News.... Kelley's emails were released by the mayor." CW Note: AFP is, of course, basing its assertion on Kelley's claim to the mayor, and Ambassador/Consul General Kelley has been known to exaggerate.

Congressional Races

Emma Fitzsimmons of the New York Times: "The former district director for [Rep. Gabrielle] Giffords [D-Az.], Ron Barber, had enough votes on Saturday to win the race for Arizona's Second Congressional District. Mr. Barber won a special election to fill Ms. Giffords's seat in June. But on Nov. 6, he barely eked out a victory over the Republican candidate, Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, in an election for a full two-year term."

Right Wing World

No comment necessary.

News Ledes

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton tour the Viharn of the Reclining Buddha with Chaokun Suthee Thammanuwat, the Dean of Buddhism of Wat Phra Chetuphon at the Wat Pho Royal Monastery in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday. AP photo.Washington Post: "President Obama on Sunday defended his trip to Burma, insisting that the visit Monday is 'not an endorsement' of the nation's long-repressive leadership but rather an acknowledgment that the country is making progress toward reform."

President Obama on Israel's right to defend itself:

Space: "A veteran astronaut crew representing the United States, Russia and Japan is returning back to Earth aboard a Soyuz capsule today (Nov. 18) to wrap up a four-month mission to the International Space Station."

New York Times: "Israel pressed its assault on the Gaza Strip for a fifth straight day on Sunday, deploying warplanes and naval vessels to pummel the coastal enclave and striking at two media offices here as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a possible 'significant' expansion in the onslaught." ...

... Al Jazeera: "Israel is continuing its assault on the Gaza Strip for a fifth straight day, bombarding the Palestinian enclave from both the air and sea. Medical sources said at least three children and two women were killed on Sunday.... Meanwhile, fighters in Gaza fired rockets into Israel. Two of them, aimed at the commercial hub of Tel Aviv, were shot down by Israel's anti-missile system, police said." ...

... Washington Post Update: "Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Sunday killed at least 10 members of one family, including a mother and her four children, and struck two buildings used by journalists, inflicting the heaviest toll on civilians since fighting began Wednesday. Militants in Gaza continued to lob dozens of artillery rounds toward Israel, including two powerful long-range rockets that burst over Tel Aviv on Sunday after Israel's antimissile system intercepted them in mid-air." ...

... AP Update: "The U.S. and Britain on Sunday warned about the risks of Israel expanding its air assault on the Gaza Strip into a ground war, while vigorously defending the Jewish state's right to protect itself against rocket attacks. The remarks by President Barack Obama and Britain Foreign Secretary William Hague were part of a diplomatic balancing act by the West as it desperately seeks an end to the escalating violence without alienating its closest ally in the region."

AP: "Divers hired by the owner of an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico that caught fire recovered a body in the waters near the site Saturday evening, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and the rig's owner." ...

... AP: "The company that owns an oil platform that caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico has vowed to continue searching for a second missing worker after a body was recovered in the waters near the site."


The Commentariat -- Nov. 17, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' latest pontifications.

The President's weekly address:

     ... The transcript is here.

... ** The Upside Down World of Alan Greenspan. Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider... here is Greenspan being completely misleading, talking about how the big challenges now are to find places to cut spending, rather than to reverse spending cuts that we've agreed to. He's framing the cliff 100 percent backwards, and so naturally the public and politicians are going to be totally confused about the issue at hand. At some point we need to decide if taxes should be higher. And we can talk about whether we want to allocate fewer resources to the aged. But right now there's one task: Preventing austerity." CW: the Oracle of the Very Serious People is the guy who led us into this quagmire in the first place. If he had an ounce of humility, which he does not, he would STFU, get into the bathtub & quietly reread his favorite Ayn Rand books. ...

** "The Moocher Majority." Paul Krugman has a terrific post on how Romney & the Republican party came to the worldview that improving Americans' lives was a dirty trick. Hint: "It began as a deliberate appeal to racism, with explicit condemnation of Those People as welfare moochers." This short post is the must-read of the day.

** Philip Bump in Grist: "If you were born in or after April 1985, if you are right now 27 years old or younger, you have never lived through a month that was colder than average. That's beyond astonishing." Via Jonathan Bernstein.

** "Death by Ideology." E. J. Graff of American Prospect: "... without safe abortions, real women really die." An excellent essay.

CW: I'm not much of a fan of former Bush speechwriter David Frum who has reinvented himself as a "reasonable conservative." But he gets stuff right sometimes. On his HBO show last night, Bill Maher read this bit from a recent Frum column (Frum was a guest). It is worth repeating:

In 1962, the government regulated the price and route of every airplane, every freight train, every truck and every merchant ship in the United States. The government regulated the price of natural gas. It regulated the interest on every checking account and the commission on every purchase or sale of stock. Owning a gold bar was a serious crime that could be prosecuted under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The top rate of income tax was 91%.

It was illegal to own a telephone. Phones had to be rented from the giant government-regulated monopoly that controlled all telecommunications in the United States. All young men were subject to the military draft and could escape only if they entered a government-approved graduate course of study. The great concern of students of American society ... was the country's stultifying, crushing conformity. Even if you look only at the experiences of white heterosexual men, the United States of 2012 is a freer country in almost every way than the United States of 1962.

Never Mind. Hayes Brown of Think Progress: "Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has admitted that the CIA and intelligence community approved U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice's talking points before she made her much-derided Sept. 16 appearance on several Sunday news shows to discuss the attacks in Benghazi. King, one of the most outspoken critics of the Obama administration's response to the attack, came to his conclusion following testimony from former CIA Director David Petraeus." ...

... Donna Cassata of the AP: "Republican senators' angry criticism of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over her initial account of the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Libya smacks of sexism and racism, a dozen female members of the House said Friday. In unusually personal terms, the Democratic women lashed out at Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham who earlier this week called Rice unqualified and untrustworthy and promised to scuttle her nomination if President Barack Obama nominates her to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton." ...

... Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution in the Washington Post: "It seems a big reach to suggest that Susan Rice, of all people, should be barred from another job in the Obama administration because of what happened in Benghazi." ...

... On the other hand, Dana Milbank really does not like Susan Rice, who he says "can be a most undiplomatic diplomat." CW: Milbank provides a number of examples, only one of which I find at all compelling. My favorite is that Rice flipped off Richard Holbrooke back in the day. RIP, Dick; I'll bet you had it coming. Maybe Rice flipped off Milbank, too. If she did, he had it coming.

New York Times Editors: "Montanans overwhelmingly approved Initiative 166 on Election Day. The measure requires the state's congressional delegation to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution that would prohibit corporate contributions and expenditures in Montana elections.... As Gov. Brian Schweitzer [D] summed it up, Montanans are saying loudly enough for the Supreme Court to hear, 'Now it's up to Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to get the dirty, secret, corporate, foreign money out of our elections for good.'"

Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "Now that the presidential election is over, Americans look a bit more positively toward both the winner (Barack Obama) and the loser (Mitt Romney) than they did in the final days leading up to the election. Americans' views of the Democratic Party are up significantly, while their views of the Republican Party are unchanged." ...

Gail Collins: "It appears that Mitt Romney was a terrible presidential candidate." ...

... Dan Eggen of the Washington Post: Mitt Romney -- "who attracted $1 billion in funding and 59 million votes in his bid to unseat President Obama -- has rapidly become persona non grata to a shellshocked Republican Party, which appears eager to map out its future without its 2012 nominee."

Zeynep Tufekci in a New York Times op-ed: "The confluence of marketing and politics," quantified in the Obama campaign's $100 million data operation, is worrisome.

Ken Belson of the New York Times: "The N.F.L. is being sued by several thousand retired players who accuse the league of concealing a link between head hits and brain injuries. The league denies the accusation and has said it did not mislead its players."

Union Saves Nation from Twinkies. NBC Dallas-Fort Worth: "Hostess, the makers of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, is going out of business after striking workers failed to heed a Thursday deadline to return to work, the company said." ...

... What's happening with Hostess Brands is a microcosm of what's wrong with America, as Bain-style Wall Street vultures make themselves rich by making America poor. Crony capitalism and consistently poor management drove Hostess into the ground, but its workers are paying the price.... This is wrong. It has to stop. It's wrecking America. -- Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO ...

... David Dayen has some background on Hostess's really bad business decisions. ...

... Kris Benson of Wonkette: "Today is a sad day for Americans because we are losing a quintessentially American dessert, maybe forever. This is mostly the fault of commie liberal 'labor' unions who have the NERVE to demand a living wage for their work, which makes the whole thing double plus sad. Of course, it isn't actually the fault of labor unions but corporate spokespeople the media has SAID it's the fault of labor unions so CASE CLOSED.... Labor unions mean no dessert, ever, for anyone, in Obama's America.... The company tripled CEO pay in 2011 even though the company been in bankruptcy twice since 2004." ...

... Byron Tau of Politico: "A new White House petition wants President Obama to nationalize the 'Twinkie industry,' saving the popular junk food from possible extinction." CW: sorry, not going to happen. As Kris Benson writes, there's every likelihood that the demise of Twinkies "is actually a conspiracy between Michelle Obama and Muslim communists."

Dorothy Wickenden of the New Yorker speaks with Jane Mayer, Steve Coll & Patrick Keefe about the Petraeus Affair. A sane discussion:

Local News

Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster has apologized for alleging widespread voter fraud by mysterious groups of black people in rural parts of the state.... In his statement Thursday, he said he was dropping the plan to investigate" the alleged black people he said nobody knows. He also told TPM he knows "a black guy." (I'm not making that up. The guy is "Onion"-proof.) ...

... Bill Nemetz of the Kennebec Journal: Craig Hickman, 45, will represent his hometown of Winthrop, [Maine] and neighboring Readfield in the Maine House of Representatives. He's gay. He's black. People know him. Thanks to reader Gail L. for the link.

Congressional Races

George Bennett & Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post: "A divided St. Lucie County canvassing board decided Friday night to recount all 37,379 ballots from early voting in the tight congressional race between Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West and Democrat Patrick Murphy. The 2-1 decision is at least a temporary victory for West, who trails Murphy by less than 2,000 votes or about 0.6 percent in unofficial returns from congressional District 18, which includes St. Lucie, Martin and northern Palm Beach counties.... The canvassing board's decision came hours after Treasure Coast Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn declined to intervene in the case and denied a request from the West campaign that he order a recount of all the early votes."

News Ledes

New York Times: "New York City is moving to demolish hundreds of homes in the neighborhoods hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, after a grim assessment of the storm-ravaged coast revealed that many structures were so damaged they pose a danger to public safety and other buildings nearby."

New York Times: "Many of at least a dozen Afghan Taliban prisoners being released by Pakistan are significant figures, according to officials on all sides, and Afghan peace representatives were exultant on Saturday as they announced that more releases might follow."

Reuters: "Thousands of people protested in Egyptian cities on Friday against Israeli air strikes on Gaza and Egypt's president pledged to support the Palestinian enclave's population in the face of 'blatant aggression'."

New York Times: "Israel retaliated for Palestinian rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with five airstrikes before dawn Saturday on the Gaza City offices of Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of Hamas -- the militant Islamist group that governs Gaza." (CW Note: the Times has a new system that prevents me from linking long stories as a single page. Sorry for their inconvenience.) Washington Post story here. ...

     ... AP Update: "Israel bombarded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with about 300 airstrikes Saturday and shot down a Palestinian rocket fired at Tel Aviv, the military said, widening a blistering assault to include the Hamas prime minister's headquarters, a police compound and a vast network of smuggling tunnels. The intensified airstrikes came as Egyptian-led attempts to broker a cease-fire and end Israel's four-day-old Gaza offensive gained momentum." ...

     ... AP Update 2: "The White House on Saturday defended Israel's right to defend itself against attack and decide how to respond to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, blaming the ruling Islamic militant Hamas group for starting the conflict."

... Al Jazeera: "Israeli air strikes have killed at least eight Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, medics said, with Palestinian security sources confirming that at least three of them were Hamas fighters. The Israeli army, meanwhile, said on Saturday that four soldiers were injured by a rocket fired from Gaza. Palestinian medics said 39 Palestinians have been killed and 345 wounded since Israel launched the aerial campaign on the Palestinian enclave on Wednesday. In the same period, three Israelis have been killed and 13 injured, including 10 soldiers."

Al Jazeera: "British Foreign Secretary William Hague has indicated his country would decide within days whether to officially recognise the new Syrian opposition after 'encouraging' talks with its leaders in London. Hague on Friday said he had pressed Ahmed Mouaz al-Khatib and his two deputies, who are on their first visit to a Western capital since a united Syrian opposition was formed last weekend, on the need to be inclusive and to respect human rights."

Al Jazeera: "The United States has said it will allow imports from Myanmar for the first time in a decade days before President Barack Obama arrives for a historic visit, the first by a US president to the former pariah state. The lifting of the ban on most imports, excluding jade, rubies and jewelry, was announced as the latest measure to reward political and economic reforms of President Thein Sein." ...

... Al Jazeera: "Myanmar has pardoned hundreds of prisoners under an amnesty that appears to be a goodwill gesture just days before a visit by US President Barack Obama. The government ordered the release of 452 prison inmates on Thursday in a move criticised by pro-democracy activists for allegedly failing to grant freedom to many political detainees."

Guardian: "Iran has expanded its enrichment capacity and is enriching uranium at a pace that would bring it to what Israel has declared an unacceptable red line in just over seven months, according to a report by the UN nuclear watchdog."