The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, December 18, 2014.

New York Times: "The stock market began the week burdened by geopolitical worries, but by the close of trading on Thursday it had bounced back to achieve one of its biggest upswings in recent years. Soothing words from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, saying that it would be 'patient' on raising interest rates, drove the surge, analysts said. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index jumped 2.4 percent on Thursday, to 2,061.23 — its biggest one-day gain since January 2013. That came on the back of a 2 percent rise on Wednesday."

CNN: "U.S. airstrikes have killed two top-level and one mid-level ISIS leader, a senior U.S. military official tells CNN. Haji Mutazz was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's deputy in Iraq; Abd al Basit was his military emir in Iraq; and Radwan Talib was his Mosul emir. Their deaths resulted from multiple strikes going back to mid-November -- it has taken until now to determine conclusively they were killed."

AP: "Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year. The rates' historically low levels could be a boon to potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from 3.93 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Thursday refused to release Don E. Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, from prison as he continues to appeal a prosecution that Republicans say exposed pervasive corruption in state government but Democrats regard as a case pursued for political retribution."

Boston Globe: "Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stood in federal court in Boston this morning for a brief pretrial hearing, which was punctuated by an interruption in Russian and English from a woman in the gallery. Several journalists reported she exclaimed 'stop killing innocent people' in English as she was escorted out for yelling in Russian. The woman identified herself to reporters as a relative of Ibrahim Todashev: a friend of Dzhokhar’s brother who was killed by an FBI agent during an incident that arose from the investigation of a Waltham triple homicide."

AFP: "Two owners and 12 former employees of a US pharmacy were arrested Wednesday in connection with a 2012 outbreak of meningitis that killed 64 people across the country, prosecutors said. Barry Cadden and Gregory Conigliaro owned the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which lost its license in 2012 after inspectors found it guilty of multiple sanitary violations. the pharmacy, located in the city of Framingham, Massachusetts in the US northeast, voluntarily shut down and recalled all products following the unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis."

Public Service Announcement

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
December 18

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

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

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

A former resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, calls into outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick's last regular monthly radio call-in show:

Sixteen times Stephen Colbert broke character on his show. With videos. ...

... Winger John Hinderaker of Powerline has never seen Colbert's show, but he's pretty sure it was an hour-long ad for the Democratic party. "I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?"

Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:

 

Washington Post: "Scientists are 99.999 percent sure, in their most conservative estimate, that remains found in 2012 really do belong to King Richard III. These results, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, put a 529-year-old cold case to rest -- all thanks to some intense genetic detective work." CW: Let's hope one of the expert detectives wasn't Shaun Parcells. You may weigh in, Dr. Schwalb. ...

Welcome to Gramercy Park! -- "one of the most forbidden places in Manhattan." New York Times: Woody Allen couldn't get in to film, Robert De Niro couldn't get in, but Shawn Christopher, who was honeymooning in Manhattan, borrowed a key and "took three 360-degree panoramas using Photo Sphere, a Google app, and then uploaded them to the company’s ubiquitous Maps site. He had gotten into the park using another of his favorite technologies, Airbnb, where the room he rented included not only fresh linens and Wi-Fi but also one of the 383 coveted keys to the park. Mr. Christopher was unaware at the time that guests had to be accompanied by key holders on their visits and that commercial photography was prohibited." So take an insider's view of the park.

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Sunday
Jun242012

The Commentariat -- June 25, 2012

CW: Everybody is writing about health care in anticipation of the Supreme Court's ruling -- expected this week -- on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, so I guess I should share:

This is the year of the Supreme Court’s Obama smack down. -- Adam Winkler, law professor

... Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "The impending health care ruling by the Supreme Court has become this city's O. J. Simpson verdict crossed with a papal conclave -- polarizing, maddeningly unpredictable and shrouded in mysterious signaling. The ruling is expected to come this week, either shortly after 10 a.m. on Monday, the last scheduled day of the term, or on an extra day later in the week." ...

... Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: "Some prominent legal scholars say a series of tactical decisions by President Obama's legal team may have hurt the chances of saving his landmark health-care legislation from being gutted by Supreme Court conservatives. The warnings are a preview of the finger-pointing certain to ensue if the law is overturned." ...

... Bob Drummond of Bloomberg News: "The U.S. Supreme Court should uphold a law requiring most Americans to have health insurance if the justices follow legal precedent, according to 19 of 21 constitutional law professors who ventured an opinion on the most-anticipated ruling in years. Only eight of them predicted the court would do so." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "Death and taxes aren't the only certain things in life. Accident, illness, and injury are too.... The Affordable Care Act won't help all [Americans].... But it will help an awful lot of them. In fact, it's already starting to make a difference.... A decision to strike down even part of the law would have grave consequences -- for the court's legitimacy and, perhaps, the norms that make our constitutional system function." ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine on the moral issue: The Republican party "is the only mainstream political party in the advanced world" that holds that citizens should be deprived "of basic medical care" if they can't afford it. ...

... Chait on how badly the Court may "screw up Obamacare." Chait explains, BTW, what will happen this week: the Court is "announcing whether Anthony Kennedy hates health care reform a lot or only a little, because everybody assumes the other four Republican justices hate it so much they'll declare it unconstitutional," despite the fact that it is obviously constitutional. ...

... Robert Barnes of the Washington Post writes about the Obama administration's poor showing in cases before the Court, but the administration's losses, as Barnes documents, are not all attributable to the conservative-liberal divide. ...

... AND E. J. Dionne gets to the heart of the matter: "if [the Court] throws out all or part of ... 'Obamacare,' we will need a fearless conversation about how a conservative majority of the court has become a cog in a larger right-wing project to make progressive political and legislative victories impossible." ...

... ** FINALLY. CW: Jim Fallows expresses exactly what I was getting at yesterday -- in fact, he traces the recent history in one sentence: "when you look at the sequence from Bush v. Gore, through Citizens United, to what seems to be coming on the health-care front; and you combine it with ongoing efforts in Florida and elsewhere to prevent voting from presumably Democratic blocs; and add that to the simply unprecedented abuse of the filibuster in the years since the Democrats won control of the Senate and then took the White House, you have what we'd identify as a kind of long-term coup if we saw it happening anywhere else."

Paul Krugman: "Why won't the Fed act [to stimulate job growth]? My guess is that it's intimidated by those Congressional Republicans, that's it's afraid to do anything that might be seen as providing political aid to President Obama, that is, anything that might help the economy. Maybe there';s some other explanation, but the fact is that the Fed, like the European Central Bank, like the U.S. Congress, like the government of Germany, has decided that avoiding economic disaster is somebody else's responsibility. None of this should be happening.... The fundamentals of the world economy aren't, in themselves, all that scary; it's the almost universal abdication of responsibility that fills me, and many other economists, with a growing sense of dread."

The Washington Post excerpts Little America, a book by Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who writes that "infighting and incompetence within the American government" -- i.e., the Obama administration -- characterized the Afghanistan war effort: "a war cabinet arrested by vicious bickering among top national security aides; diplomats and aid workers who failed to deliver on their grand promises; generals who dispatched troops to the wrong places; and headstrong military leaders who sought a far more expansive campaign than the White House wanted. Through their bungling and quarreling, they wound up squandering the first year of the surge." ...

... Anne Gearan of the AP: "As President Barack Obama considered adding as many as 40,000 U.S. forces to a backsliding war in Afghanistan in 2009, Vice President Joe Biden warned him that the military rationale for doing so was flawed, a new book about Obama's expansion of the conflict says. The book, 'Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan,' also says that in planning the drawdown of troops two years later, the White House intentionally sidelined the CIA. Obama purposely did not read a grim CIA assessment of Afghanistan that found little measurable benefit from the 30,000 'surge' forces Obama eventually approved...."

Washington Post Reporters: John "Boehner [R-Ohio] is one of 34 members of Congress who took steps to recast their financial portfolios during the financial crisis after phone calls or meetings with [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson; his successor, Timothy F. Geithner; or Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, according to a Washington Post examination of appointment calendars and congressional disclosure forms. The lawmakers, many of whom held leadership positions ... in the House and Senate, changed portions of their portfolios a total of 166 times within two business days of speaking or meeting with the administration officials. The party affiliation of the lawmakers was about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, 19 to 15." Here are links to related content.

Josh Israel of Think Progress: "Last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) claimed that the White House decision to invoke executive privilege to prevent the release of some documents related to the 'Fast and Furious' investigation indicated some sort of admission of a White House cover-up. Today, pressed by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) admitted that there is absolutely no evidence to back up Boehner's allegation." With video. ...

... BUT. Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) predicted Sunday that Republicans and Democrats would vote to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress this week." CW: yeah, and as we learned from Chris Hayes yesterday (see link in June 24 Commentariat), the Oracle Issa got a little help from the NRA, which is scoring votes on Holder.

Rachel Donadio of the New York Times has a good follow-up story on the Vatican's hiring of Fox "News" correspondent & Opus Dei member Greg Burke as a "message strategist." (See link in yesterday's Commentariat to the AP breaking story.)

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has launched a campaign calling on British Home Secretary Theresa May to stop the extradition to the U.S. of U.K. student Richard O'Dwyer, who is facing alleged copyright offenses because he posted links to sites that allowed viewing or downloading of TV content usually not available outside the U.S. Wales' op-ed in the Guardian is here, with links to related content.

Presidential Race

** Ruthless Romney & the Junk Bond King. Michael Kranish & Beth Healy of the Boston Globe: "...at the height of the 1980s buyout boom ... Mitt Romney went in search of $300 million to finance one of the most lucrative deals he would ever manage. The man who would help provide the money was ... famed junk-bond king Michael Milken. What transpired would become not just one of the most profitable leveraged buyouts of the era, but also one of the most revealing stories of Romney's Bain Capital career.... It is one that Romney has rarely, if ever, mentioned in his two bids for the presidency, perhaps because the Houston-based department store chain that Bain assembled later went into bankruptcy.... At the time of the deal, it was widely known that Milken and his company were under federal investigation, yet Romney decided to go ahead.... He used junk-bond financing to turn a $10 million investment into a $175 million profit for himself, his partners, and his investors." CW: this is a 4-pager & worth reading.

     ... Via Margaret Hartmann of New York magazine.

Local News

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "Three years after voters in Maine rejected same-sex marriage, they will consider the matter again in November. This time, advocates say they have reason for optimism."

News Ledes

Boston Globe: "President Barack Obama, campaigning in Mitt Romney's backyard, criticized his Republican rival anew Monday for what his re-election campaign says is a record of shipping American jobs overseas." ...

... New York Times: "Elizabeth Warren opened for President Obama at his Boston fund-raiser on Monday, ripping into his rival, Mitt Romney ... using themes from her own campaign."

Montana campaign law "summarily reversed" 5-4. Update: the order is here (pdf). ...

** Per SCOTUSblog, Justice Kennedy announcing Arizona case. "Most of the key provisions of [Arizona] SB1070 (3 of 4) are invalidated. One provision is held not to be proved preempted; it must be construed.... The provision that the Court says is not yet preempted is the 'check your papers' provision that commands officers to check immigration status. Update: here's the opinion on Arizona v. U.S. "The upshot of the SB1070 ruling is that, for now, Arizona can apply the 'check your papers' provision. And the Court's opinion is a guide to the State on how to apply that provision without being invalidated.... The Court's decision on the 'show your papers' provision strongly suggests it will have to be read narrowly to survive.... On net, the #SB1070 decision is a significant win for the Obama Administration. It got almost everything it wanted. Scalia would uphold Az. law in toto. CW characterization: Scalia, totally pissed off, is reading his 7-page dissent from the bench. ...

... The healthcare ruling will be Thursday at 10am. The SCOTUSblog liveblog will start at 9am at the latest.

... AP Item: "The Supreme Court has reaffirmed its two-year-old decision relaxing limits on corporate campaign spending [i.e., Citizens United]. The justices on Monday reversed a Montana court ruling upholding state restrictions.By a 5-4 vote, the court's conservative justices said the decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 applies to state campaign finance laws and guarantees corporate and labor union interests the right to spend freely to advocate for or against candidates for state and local offices." ...

... ** New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday delivered a split decision on Arizona's tough 2010 immigration law, upholding its most controversial provision but blocking the implementation of others." ...

... ** Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Monday rejected much of Arizona's controversial immigration law, but upheld other provisions, giving a partial victory to the Obama administration."

New York Times: "As more high-ranking Syrian officers were reported on Monday to have defected to Turkey, the European Union urged the government in Ankara to show restraint in a crisis over the downing of one of its jet fighters by Syria, an episode that has heightened regional tensions over the 16-month crisis there." ...

... AP: "Dozens of members of Syria's military defected to Turkey overnight with their families, a Turkish official said Monday, at a time of heightened tensions between the two countries over Syria's downing of a Turkish military plane. The state-run Anadolu news agency said 33 soldiers crossed into Turkey overnight and the group -- 224 people in all -- included a general and two colonels." ...

... AP: "Syria's Foreign Ministry spokesman says his country has 'no hostility' toward Turkey as tensions soar between the former allies three days after Syria shot down a Turkish plane. Jihad Makdissi said on Monday that the Turkish plane violated Syrian air space. Turkey said the plane had unintentionally strayed into Syria's air space, but was inside international airspace when it was brought down."

New York Times: "Documents unsealed in a fraud case against Pfizer suggest that research officials were less than forthcoming about the safety of the arthritis drug Celebrex during an early trial study."

Guardian: "Lawyers acting for the convicted serial paedophile Jerry Sandusky have said that they tried to withdraw from the case at the beginning of proceedings because they had insufficient time to prepare a proper defence. The claim, from Sandusky's main defence lawyer Joe Amendola, lays down a possible line of argument should he decide, as expected, to appeal his sexual abuse conviction."

Saturday
Jun232012

The Commentariat -- June 24, 2012

Courtesy of the Weather Channel.

CW: BTW, I've been living on the outskirts of a tropical storm for the past 24 hours -- torrential rains, not much wind, but getting worser & worser -- so may lose power at any time for a long period of time. My landline & teevee satellite are already gone. If my power goes, or if just my DSL connection fails, I'll be back when I'm back.

CW: The vast, right-wing conspiracy was not trying to ruin Bill Clinton & it is not trying to ruin Barack Obama. They're small potatoes. The vast, right-wing conspiracy is trying to ruin all of us. And if voters are as stupid as I'm afraid they are, they will let the wingers win. So far, I think the wingers' odds are very good.

Jodi Kantor of the New York Times writes about how President Obama is dealing with the possibility that the Supreme Court will strike down all or part of the Affordable Care Act.

On the 40th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX -- the law that bans sex discrimination in public schools -- President Obama reflects on the impact of the law.

Chris Hayes in "the era of post-truth politics," compromise is not going to happen. Hayes thinks President Obama is finally getting it. An excellent essay. CW: something I didn't know: the NRA "scored" the votes on holding Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

Rachel Swarns of the New York Times answers some reader questions about Michelle Obama's white ancestors and publishes a photo of one of them for the first time.

The Vatican Foxifies. Nicole Winfield & Victor Simpson of the AP: "The Vatican has brought in the Fox News correspondent in Rome to help improve its communications strategy as it tries to cope with years of communications blunders and one of its most serious scandals in decades.... Greg Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican's secretariat of state, the Vatican and Burke told the AP.... Burke, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement." Via Dylan Byers of Politico.

Presidential Race

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: In Park City, Utah, "The Romney campaign, whose fund-raising prowess has defied assumptions about President Obama's financial advantages, offered wealthy donors and bundlers an extraordinary level of access to the candidate, his staff members, advisers and family this weekend at a three-day retreat that even seasoned political contributors said dwarfed previous presidential powwows."

New York Times Editors: "No American is dedicating as much of his money to defeat President Obama as Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who also happens to have made more money in the last three years than any other American. He is the perfect illustration of the squalid state of political money, spending sums greater than any political donation in history to advance his personal, ideological and financial agenda, which is wildly at odds with the nation's needs." Read the whole editorial.

The Romney Rule. Jonathan Martin & Alexander Burns of Politico: "Vague, general or downright evasive policy prescriptions on some of the most important issues facing the country are becoming the rule for Romney. Hoping to make the campaign strictly a referendum on the incumbent, the hyper-cautious challenger is open about his determination to not give any fodder to Obama aides hungry to make the race as much about Romney as the president."

New Priorities USA ad, via Maggie Haberman of Politico:

News Ledes

New York Times: "Clients of J. Ezra Merkin, a prominent Wall Street hedge fund manager who invested his clients' money in Bernard L. Madoff's epic Ponzi scheme, will recover more than $400 million under a civil settlement negotiated by the New York State attorney general's office."

Denver Post: "The Waldo Canyon Fire is spreading in three directions and forced 11,000 people from their homes, according to fire officials. The fire has burned at least 2,500 acres and forced evacuations of about 4,000 homes in El Paso County and the City of Colorado Springs and the blaze remains at zero containment." Includes perimeter map.

New York Times: "A United States Drug Enforcement Administration agent shot a man to death in Honduras during a raid on a smuggling operation early Saturday, a spokesman for the American Embassy in Honduras said Sunday. The man who was killed had been reaching for his weapon, the official said, and the agent fired in self-defense."

New York Times: "Lockheed Martin said it had reached a tentative agreement Saturday night with the machinists union to end a nine-week strike at its fighter jet plant in Fort Worth and two other sites."

New York Times: "Election regulators named Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood the winner of Egypt's first competitive presidential elections, handing the Islamist group a symbolic triumph and a new weapon in its struggle for power with the ruling military council.... In Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands had gathered to await the result, the confirmation of Mr. Morsi's win brought instant, rollicking celebration. Fireworks went up over the crowd, which took up a pulsing, deafening chant: 'Morsi! Morsi!'" ...

... Al Jazeera's liveblog on Egypt is here.

Al Jazeera: "Turkey has said that Syria shot down its military aircraft in international airspace and declared it would formally consult with NATO allies on a reaction. Turkey's assertion came as reports said search teams had located the wreckage in Syrian waters at a depth of 1,300 metres."

Guardian: "David Coombs, [Bradley] Manning's civilian lawyer, has made his strongest accusations yet about the conduct of the military prosecutors. In motions filed with the military court ahead of a pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, on Monday, he goes so far as to accuse the government in essence of lying to the court.

Friday
Jun222012

The Commentariat -- June 23, 2012

Okey-doke. My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is one NOBODY will agree with. Eh, so I'm mean. The NYTX front page is here.

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

** Joe Stiglitz in a Washington Post op-ed: "Inequality is greater here than in any other advanced country. The data remind us how a combination of monetary, fiscal and regulatory policies have contributed to these outcomes. Market forces play a role, but they are at play in other countries, too. Politics has much to do with the difference in outcomes.... The Fed has consistently failed to understand the links between inequality and macroeconomic performance." ...

... Henry Blodgett of the Business Insider: "In case you needed more confirmation that the priorities of US companies and the US economy are screwed up (specifically, they're engineered to create a country of a few million overlords and 300+ million serfs) ... Corporate profit margins just hit an all-time high. Fewer Americans are working than at any time in the past three decades. Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time " With charts to prove it.

In a Washington Post op-ed, legal scholar Jonathan Turley argues that Congress should expand the number of members of the Supreme Court. "The nine-member court is a product not of some profound debate or study, but pure happenstance." Having the whims of one unelected old fogy repeatedly decide national law is a stupid system. CW: I'll have Boehner & McConnell get on that right now.

The Anti-Union Supremes. New York Times Editors: "The Supreme Court’s ruling this week in Knox v. Service Employees International Union is one of the most brazen of the Roberts court.... Under the court's rules, only the questions set out in the appeal are to be considered by the court." But the 5 conservatives decided they would add a constraint on unions that wasn't part of the suit. CW: I think this is similar to what they did in Citizens United, altho there they asked the litigants to come back & make new arguments; here they just dispensed with the lawyers' cases & legislated from the bench, unbid. ...

... Or as a Yahoo! News contributor, Andrew Riggio, writes, "Supreme Court rules in favor of freeloading." ...

... NEW. AND Markos Molitsas is asking us to do something about it: in retaliation, he has put up a petition on Daily Kos "asking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to introduce legislation requiring corporations to get opt-in permission from shareholders in order to be allowed to use company resources for political purposes." CW: I signed. ...

     ... Here's a related post by Kos.

... Lisa Lambert & James Kelleher of Reuters: "As America's biggest state and local government employees' union gathered [in Los Angeles] this week, it faced obstacles like never before.... Lee Saunders, who became the union's first African American president on Friday, said ... the mission for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was to save nothing less than organized labor itself."

Ethan Bronner of the New York Times: "David Blankenhorn, a national figure in the movement against same-sex marriage, has recanted his opposition.... Mr. Blankenhorn, the founder and president of the Institute for American Values, wrote an influential book that argued against same-sex marriage in 2007 ... and served as an expert witness against the constitutional challenge to California's Proposition 8, which limited marriage to heterosexuals. On Friday, he said in an opinion article for The New York Times, published online, and in an interview on NPR that his concerns about same-sex marriage remained, but that 'the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over.'"

Richard Gizbert of Al Jazeera on why Julian Assange's application for asylum in Equador is no surprise.

Presidential Race

Michael Luo & Julie Creswell of the New York Times: While Mitt Romney ran Bain Capital, "Bain structured deals so that it was difficult for the firm and its executives to ever really lose, even if practically everyone else involved with the company that Bain owned did, including its employees, creditors and even, at times, investors in Bain's funds.... In at least three of the seven bankruptcies..., companies appear to have been made more vulnerable by debt taken on to return money to Bain and its investors...." CW: so where does "savvy businessman" morph into "ruthless predator"?

Dream Small. Dream Tiny. Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney ... did reiterate his support for ... a narrow version of the DREAM Act that would provide a path to legalization for immigrants who serve in the military." Romney's immigration policy would offer legal status to "just 1.5 percent of the 2.1 million illegal immigrants who would qualify for legal status under DREAM overall...." CW: so basically, the Romney plan is to "let Mexicans do the jobs Americans won't do" -- like fighting & dying for the rest of us slackers. Semper Filipe. ...

... Major Garrett of the National Journal: "Hill Democrats and Republicans alike believe that [President] Obama outfoxed and outmaneuvered [Sen. Marco] Rubio [R-Fla.], who for three months advertised his intention to draft a GOP version of the Dream Act (which Obama's executive-policy gambit has now temporarily addressed).... Mitt Romney had been waiting expectantly for the never-to-emerge Rubio bill. Now both are left stranded -- much to the White House's delight -- on the sidelines of immigration and Latino politics, while the president soaks up attention."

Here's a surprise. The Wall Street Journal published this op-ed by Prof. Jeffrey Liebman, an Obama advisor, explaining why the jobs bill President Obama proposed 9 months ago -- and which the Congress refused to pass -- "would have strengthened our economy now & for years to come.... What would Gov. Romney do to create jobs now? In a word, nothing. In fact, the proposals he has put forward would slow the recovery, reversing the gains we have made since the recession ended." Thanks to contributor Trish R. for the link.

Washington Post Editorial Board: "On Friday, Mitt Romney -- along with an entourage of his most important donors and fundraisers -- arrived at the tony Utah ski resort of Deer Valley.... Unknown ... are the identities of the 'bundlers' present at this weekend fete, the fundraisers largely responsible for Mr. Romney's unexpected outraising of President Obama in May.... The Romney campaign's refusal to identify those who bring in a quarter-million dollars or more differentiates it not only from the Obama campaign but also from those of the past two Republican contenders for the White House.... Selling access has become nearly universal in political campaigns. Seeking to do so in secret sets Mr. Romney apart."

"Romney's Bid to Become Liar-in-Chief." Michael Cohen of the Guardian: "The United States has never been witness to a presidential candidate, in modern American history, who lies as frequently, as flagrantly and as brazenly as Mitt Romney.... Those of us in the pundit class are really not supposed to accuse politicians of lying -- they mislead, they embellish, they mischaracterize, etc. Indeed, there is natural tendency for nominally objective reporters, in particular, to stay away from loaded terms such as lying. Which is precisely why Romney's repeated lies are so effective. In fact, lying is really the only appropriate word to use here, because, well, Romney lies a lot." ...

... Steve Benen chronicles a staggering 30 lies Romney told this week alone.

Robert Costa of the National Review: "I'm reliably informed that Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin ... has submitted paperwork to the Romney campaign. Sources confirm that he is being vetted for the vice-presidential nomination." Via Greg Sargent.

Right Wing World

Fergitt Mitt. Dana Milbank: Grover Norquist is the head of the Republican party.

News Ledes

AP: Mandatory minimum sentences mean Jerry Sandusky will likely die in prison. Sentencing will likely be in about three weeks.

Washington Post: "Gov. Robert F. McDonnell told members of the University of Virginia's governing board Friday that if they do not resolve the leadership crisis at the historic school next week, he will remove all of them. McDonnell (R), who had repeatedly resisted involving himself in the escalating troubles at the state's flagship university, sent a stern three-page letter to the Board of Visitors late Friday, nearly two weeks after the ouster of President Teresa Sullivan."

New York Times: "Turkey announced Friday that Syrian forces had shot down a Turkish warplane with two crew members over the Mediterranean, a potentially ominous turn for the worse in relations already frayed because of Turkey's support for Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad." Al Jazeera story here.

Al Jazeera: "Tens of thousands of Egyptians have returned to Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand the rollback of what they see as politically biased court decisions and military power grabs designed to throttle last year's revolution and steal the presidential election. The mass protest and sit-in, initiated by the Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday night, has since then grown and remained determined as ever on Saturday. The anti-military rally comes ahead of anxiously awaited results of a runoff vote between the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi against Ahmed Shafik, the final prime minister to serve under ousted president Hosni Mubarak."

Washington Post: "In a searing letter sent to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Review Board on Friday, Lance Armstrong made it clear he intends to fight the agency's allegation that he participated in a vast doping conspiracy while winning his seven Tour de France titles."

Thursday
Jun212012

The Commentariat -- June 22, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "The First Draft of History -- Will be Vaporized." The NYTX front page is here.

Matthew Stevenson writes a terrific send-up for NYTX of the New York Times' coverage of the "Dating Game" between President Obama & Chancellor Merkel.

CW: contributor Janice recommends this American Prospect article by Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson on Michael Harrington's The Other America, the seminal work on poverty in America that helped inspire Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty." Janice says it's a must-read. I agree.

CW: I was prepared not to care for this long article on how privileged women balance work and family by Anne-Marie Slaughter in The Atlantic, but she mostly succeeds at reining in the whiney factor & makes some mild proposals -- and has taken some itty-bitty steps -- toward easing the burdens of the two-career woman: worker & mommy. Of course I would go much further & urge that all jobs be cut to a 35-hour work week -- a sure-fire way to create millions of jobs, jobs, jobs. ...

... I learned about Slaughter's piece thru this article by Jodi Kantor of the New York Times, which discusses the article & the difficulties elite women still have competing with elite men. Why should those of us who are not -- or whose children or grandchildren will not become -- secretary of state give a rat's ass? Because, however slowly, what happens at the top does trickle down. I'd like to have your input on this.

"Illegal Movie":

Paul Krugman: "... you shouldn't imagine that what The Times discovered about prison privatization in New Jersey is an isolated instance of bad behavior. It is, instead, almost surely a glimpse of a pervasive and growing reality, of a corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage that is undermining government across much of our nation."

Krugman, from an undisclosed location, on the Fed's inaction: "I'm sorry, but this looks like pure concession to political intimidation -- a Fed refusing to do anything that would let Republicans accuse it of helping Obama. And for the sake of its own political comfort, the Fed is essentially betraying the unemployed. All in all, the degree of elite failure in this crisis is just stunning."

CW: sorry, I thought I linked this earlier, but I guess not. Ezra Klein has a pretty good piece in the New Yorker on the history of the individual mandate. Since after next week, we may not ever hear much about it ever again, you might consider Klein's piece a swan song. ...

... Here's the Chorus. Dr. Donald Berwick, in a Washington Post op-ed: "Obamacare is helping our nation achieve health care that is excellent, accessible to all and affordable. In the 17 months that I led the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), I saw how this law is helping tens of millions of families and is finally putting our health-care system on the right track."

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: maybe the Supremes would have been able to write a meaningful decision in F.C.C. v. Fox if they weren't so loath to write the words "fuck" and "shit," which were, after all, the issues of the case. Davidson's post includes this excellent video:

Reality Chek: the vaunted Democratic super-majority lasted about six months. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Alexander Burns of Politico: "Indiana Treasurer and GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock applauds the Supreme Court's decision invalidating the Affordable Care Act in a new video uploaded to his YouTube account. The catch, obviously, is that the Court hasn't ruled on Obamacare just yet.... Mourdock's video ... is apparently a pretaped message in the event that the health care law goes down, but it hit the web early.... But wait -- there's more! Mourdock uploaded three more videos so as to cover multiple contingencies in the Supreme Court decision. There's a video for a ruling that upholds the Affordable Care Act, one for a split decision and one for a totally inconclusive decision." CW: Moredick is going to be this season's Rand Paul. Let's just hope he loses the election. ...

... Plus, either Moredick didn't get this memo or it doesn't apply to Senate candidates. Reuters: "U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday told the Republican rank-and-file there will be no celebrating in Congress if the Supreme Court rules against President Barack Obama's sweeping healthcare reform law."

David Nakamura & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "A day after a congressional committee recommended that the House hold the nation's attorney general in contempt in connection with an investigation of a botched federal gun-running operation, the White House and its Republican rivals sought to position themselves as the principled parties in a high-stakes game of election-year brinkmanship."

Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker: "... in 2012, abortion remains — more than ever, in fact — the biggest and clearest difference between Republicans and Democrats."

Presidential Race

Jacob Weisberg of Slate: the President "and his campaign have cleverly recognized that Romney's slow-footedness and lack of imagination present an opportunity for them to shine in contrast. They have reversed the usual dynamic of re-election campaigns, highlighting the challenger's stodginess while making Obama into a nimble incumbent."

** Willard, the Outsourcing King. Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney's financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India. During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain..., it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to [SEC] filings.... Romney in recent months has lamented the toll [outsourcing has] taken on the U.S. economy. He has repeatedly pledged he would protect American employment by getting tough on China.... A Washington Post examination of securities filings shows the extent of Bain's investment in firms that specialized in helping other companies move or expand operations overseas."

¿Como se dice 'Flip Flop' en Español? Trip Gabriel & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney on Thursday offered what he called a strategy for 'bipartisan and long-term immigration reform' in an address to a convention of Latino elected officials in Florida. In the speech, which also touched on the economy, Mr. Romney dropped the confrontational tone he took on immigration during the Republican primary. Instead, he promised to work in a series of areas to help immigrants and their families while discouraging people from coming to the country illegally.... The nearly twenty-minute speech was met with tepid applause and moments of pointed silence." ...

... Or Maybe Not. Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "Romney has now shifted to a strategy of strategic obfuscation.... Romney completely avoided the two big questions: How will Romney deal with the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the US, and what will he do about the DREAM Act-eligible immigrants.... [The speech was] just vague enough to give the impression that Romney has moderated on immigration policy without making an actual commitment to any policy changes." ...

... Lawrence Downes of the New York Times: "To qualify for Mr. Romney’s plan, an illegal immigrant would first have to serve in the military. That's about 30,000 people, according to Frank Sharry, an immigration-rights advocate.... Mr. Romney finally had the chance to explain what he would do about the 11.5 million illegal immigrants in this country, apart from hope they go away, and do it before an eager audience. But he didn't."

... Mark Murray of NBC News: "In remarks he delivered in Florida before Latino political leaders, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney once again declined to answer if he would overturn President Obama's executive action to no longer deport qualified young illegal immigrants.... Left unsaid, of course, is what Romney -- if elected president -- would do before signing long-term legislation into law, or if the legislation couldn't be passed. Remember: Due to congressional opposition, both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been unable to pass comprehensive legislation dealing with illegal immigration."

Ben Adler of The Nation, citing numerous big-business flame-outs, makes an excellent case against ever choosing a businessperson as president or treasury secretary.

Dressage as Tax Dodge. Amy Davidson: "The Romneys reported a business loss for the care of Rafalca that added up to some seventy-seven thousand dollars."

Local News

California, an Actual Laboratory of Democracy. New York Times Editors: "A bill moving through the California Legislature, aptly named the Trust Act, seeks to counter the damage done to community policing and public safety by the Obama administration's Secure Communities program.... The bill would enhance the ability of local departments to fight crime by restoring community trust and saving jail space for serious offenders. It deserves to become law."

News Ledes

... Here's the "money quote," literally:

Tampa Bay Times: "President Barack Obama used the first Florida rally of his 2012 campaign on Friday to blast Mitt Romney as an 'outsourcing pioneer' and promised a second term focused on helping the middle class more than the wealthiest Americans."

New York Times: "President Obama assailed Republicans on Friday as obstacles to fixing the nation's immigration system and said his opponent would block efforts to let young immigrants stay if they were brought into the United States illegally by their parents." Orlando Sentinel story here.

New York Times: "Msgr. William J. Lynn, a former archbishop's aide, was found guilty Friday of one count of endangering children, becoming the first senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States to be convicted of covering up child sexual abuses by priests under his supervision. The 12-member jury acquitted Monsignor Lynn, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, on a conspiracy charge and a second count of endangerment after a three-month trial that prosecutors and victims rights groups called a milestone in the sexual abuse scandals that have shaken the Catholic church." Philadelphia Inquirer story here.

Philadelphia Inquirer: "... jurors in the child sex abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky asked a judge to re-read a portion of his instructions involving one of the more controversial elements of the case.... Judge John M. Cleland called jurors back to the courtroom at 3:25 p.m. and instructed them once again on how to weigh testimony involving the alleged abuse of a man known in court documents as Victim 8. His identity remains unknown to prosecutors. Last week, Penn State janitor Ron Petrosky testified that in 2000 a co-worker, James Calhoun, walked out of a locker room shower claiming he had seen Sandusky 'licking on' the young boy's genitals." ...

     ... ** New York Times Update: "Jerry Sandusky ... was convicted Friday of sexually abusing young boys, completing the downfall of a onetime local hero." Philadelphia Inquirer story here.

New York Times: "Egypt's military rulers warned on Friday that they would use 'the utmost firmness' against anyone they deem to threaten 'the higher interests of the country' just as tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded into Tahrir Square here for the fourth day of demonstrations against the dissolution of Parliament and reassertion of their power." ...

... Al Jazeera: "Tens of thousands have packed Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square to denounce a power grab by the ruling military, as the nation nervously awaited the results of the first post-Mubarak presidential election."

Al Jazeera: "A Turkish fighter jet has gone missing over the Mediterranean near Syria, risking a new crisis between Middle Eastern neighbours already at bitter odds over a 16-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The military said a search and rescue operation for the two pilots of the F-4 plane was under way.... Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said at a news conference on Friday that he did not know whether Syria had shot down the plane, and said that Syria had sent no word of apology."

Washington Post: "The University of Virginia governing board will meet next week to discuss whether to reinstate President Teresa Sullivan, whose abrupt ouster this month caused an uproar on the historic campus. Sullivan supporters on the board of visitors called for a special meeting after they secured what they think are enough votes to retain her, according to current and former board members briefed on the conversations."

Washington Post: "The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain were gathering in Rome Friday for crucial talks aimed at reaching a compromise on short- and long-term fixes for the region's worsening financial crisis, ahead of a European Union summit in Brussels next week." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The leaders of the euro zone’s four largest economies vowed on Friday to defend the common currency with all means necessary, trying to reassure markets before yet another key summit meeting of the European Union next week in Brussels."

Washington Post: "Pakistan's ruling party picked a new prime minister Friday -- former government power and water chief Raja Pervez Ashraf -- but the choice seemed to guarantee continued political turmoil: Ashraf, the energy minister from 2008 to 2011, is associated with a persistent energy crisis that has crippled the country with blackouts, water shortages and steep increases in the price of fuel." ...

     ... Al Jazeera Update: "Raja Pervez Ashraf has been elected Pakistan's new prime minister and sworn in by the president, just days after the Supreme Court had dismissed Yousuf Raza Gilani for contempt."

New York Times: "Twenty people were killed when seven Taliban militants shot their way into a much-visited lakeside resort [in Afghanistan] and took scores of hostages during an 11-hour siege, Afghan officials said on Friday."

Reuters: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Friday that he was ready for a life in Ecuador and said the country had been 'quite supportive' of his bid for asylum."