The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States economy rebounded heartily in the spring after a dismal winter, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday, growing at an annual rate of 4 percent from April through June and surpassing economists’ expecations. In its initial estimate for the second quarter, the government cited a major advance in inventories for private businesses, higher government spending at the state and local level and personal consumption spending as chief contributors to growth."

Guardian: "At least 19 Palestinians were killed and about 90 injured early on Wednesday when a UN school sheltering people was hit by shells during a second night of relentless bombardment that followed an Israeli warning of a protracted military campaign. Gaza health officials said at least 43 people died in intense air strikes and tank shelling of Jabaliya, a neighbourhood of Gaza City. The death toll included the people at the school who had fled their own homes." ...

     ... AP Update: "Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault of the Gaza war on Tuesday, destroying key symbols of Hamas control, shutting down the territory's only power plant and leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead on the bloodiest day of the 22-day conflict. Despite devastating blows that left the packed territory's 1.7 million people cut off from power and water and sent the overall death toll soaring past 1,200, Hamas' shadowy military leader remained defiant as he insisted that the Islamic militants would not cease fire until its demands are met."

Los Angeles Times: "Pacific Gas & Electric was charged Tuesday with lying to regulators during the immediate aftermath of the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and ravaged a San Bruno, Calif., neighborhood. The new indictment includes obstruction charges related to what the company said about its records immediately after the incident, according to a release from the Northern District of California U.S. attorney's office. The filing comes three months after an April indictment claimed that PG&E violated federal pipeline safety laws."

Los Angeles Times: "A top Los Angeles utility official faced tough questions Tuesday night about the response to a massive pipe break that flooded UCLA and surrounding areas with millions of gallons of water and threatened the near-term use of Pauley Pavilion. The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said."

Reuters: "Militant fighters overran a Libyan special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a battle involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people. A special forces officer said they had to abandon their main camp in the southeast of Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from a coalition of Islamist fighters and former rebel militias in the city."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 29

10:10 am ET: White House Agricultural Champions of Change meet

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

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Monday
Dec192011

December 19 -- Gifts for the Kids!

Fred Drumlevitch has assembled a nice toy collection to help you if you're having difficulty deciding on those last-minute gifts for the little kids on your list. The theme here: teach your children well -- so they'll grow up to respect police brutality. Drumlevitch's shopping catalogue is a bit limited, so perhaps you can suggest some more ideas for great educational toys. I, for instance, have been looking for Protester Barbie.

Write on this or something sensible.

P.S. My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's amazement that "believers" actually liked Christopher Hitchens, an atheist. Would someone please explain to me why Hitchens' death has been treated to so much hype & remembrance while comparatively little attention has been paid to the death of Vaclav Havel, who, you know, sort of brought down the Iron Curtain?

Reader Comments (14)

How can I be sensible when I was just as good as Fred all year long and I'm gettin' squat for Christmas? No coal, no nothin'. Fred is getting everything including Dr. Denton's with the built-in foot slippers and back side drop pocket in state police blue. Lucky bastard... Hey Fred, can I come over and play? I promise I won't fly the drone into the Christmas tree or cover the Leggos with peanut butter and watch the dog eat them. Marie and Karen want to come over too; but they're girls and girls got cotties.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@"Doubthat" I'm an atheist that believes in all religions just not the followers of them. As to "The Answer"; we'll know when we get there. Till then, just guessing.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

Hmmmm is there a Mitch McConnell doll in Fred's bag of gifts? Squeeze it and it lies. Automatically. Any time, day or night.

I see on the front page of RC that ol' Mitchy is up to his usual tricks, making demands that a Democratic president not do things he supported when they were done with impunity by the last Republican president. So Mitchy is apoplectic that Obama might make some recess appointments. It never bothered him that Bush made scores of recess appointments that included such lights of intellectual honesty and sobriety as raving lunatic John Bolton. But one recess appointment caught my eye as I reviewed the many wildly inappropriate and downright incompetents candidates set up by Bush when congress' back was turned (seven in one day in 2003!).

In January of 2002 Bush appointed one Eugene Scalia to be Solicitor for the US Department of Labor. If the name sounds familiar, it is. And it wouldn't be at all a problem that the guy is Nino Scalia's son. What made it bad were these facts: Scalia worked night and day to discount problems experienced by workers, especially those who suffered repetitive motion injuries. Some solicitor for Labor. But Bush specialized in fox-in-henhouse appointments, much as Reagan did (remember James Watt as Sec'y of Interior?????). One other interesting nugget about Scalia was that Bush had hired Scalia's law firm to represent him in his 2000 bid to make sure that legitimate votes in Florida that did not support his bid to become King were not counted. He won that bid because Scalia's dad did not recuse himself from case, the outcome of which had direct impact, personally, professionally, and financially, on his son. Two years later, Bush rewarded both Scalias by appointing little Eugene to a post in which he could continue his work of harassing American workers and standing up for the rights of corporations to fuck them over.

I don't recall Mitchy ever once demanding that Bush not make those appointments.

One other thing. Mitch had no problem with Bush's recess appointments, likely because most of those appointees were outrageously unqualified or inappropriate for the positions they were handed. He has a problem with a possible Obama appointment because he's afraid the appointee to oversee corruption on Wall Street WILL be competent and appropriate.

Welcome to Right Wing World.

Send that McConnell Doll COD. I may not want it after all.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@ Akilleus. Thanks. Nino's little boy Gino slipped right by me. In the Department of Nepotism, I do remember Bush's appointing Michael son of Colin Powell to chair the FCC (Powell the Younger was a holdover to the FCC, having been appointed by President Clinton to be a Republican member of the commission, and as such did not have to be confirmed by the Senate when Bush promoted him.) At the FCC, Powell made himself Deregulator-in-Chief, which was his most important bad work, but his most famous act of stupid was fining Viacom/CBS more than half a million bucks for briefly airing Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.

I don't much care for Howard Stern, but he has his moments. To little Michael's face he said, "Guys like me who came from nowhere out of nothing and worked their way up and committed themselves to broadcasting and making a career of broadcasting have to answer to you. And it is a question as to how you got to where you got to. And let's face it: You got to where you got to, you got to the head of the class the way George W. Bush got out of the draft."

These legacies are just more reminders of why it's better to have a Democrat -- no matter how bad -- in the White House than a Republican. Don't like Eric Holder? (I don't.) Reminisce a moment about Alberto Gonzoles. Think Ken Salazar sucks? (I do.) Think back to Gail Norton & -- as Akhilleus reminds us -- James Watt.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

@Akhilleus;
Great comment as usual, but I just had to mention Elaine Chao (Labor Secretary January 29, 2001 – January 20, 2009), the only person who served under both Bush terms all the way through... here are the highlights of her tenure from wikipedia;

{"...After analyzing 70,000 closed case files from 2005 to 2007, the Government Accountability Office reported that the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division inadequately investigated complaints from low-wage and minimum wage workers alleging that employers failed to pay the federal minimum wage, required overtime, and failed to issue a last paycheck.
A 2008 report by the department's inspector general found that despite implementation of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (MINER Act), mine safety regulators did not conduct federally required inspections at more than 14 percent of the country's 731 underground coal mines during the previous year. The number of worker deaths in mining accidents more than doubled to 47. A 2009 internal audit appraising an Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiative under the Bush administration to focus special attention on problem workplaces revealed that OSHA employees failed to gather needed data, conducted uneven inspections and enforcement, and sometimes failed to discern repeat fatalities because records misspelled the companies' names or failed to notice when two subsidiaries with the same owner were involved, resulting in preventable workplace fatalities.
During Chao's tenure, Labor Department gave Congress inaccurate and unreliable numbers that understated the expense of contracting out its employees' work to private firms, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued on November 24, 2008.
A report by the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform alleged that Chao and other White House officials campaigned for Republican candidates at taxpayer expense. The report describes this as a violation of the Hatch Act of 1939, which restricts the use of public funds for partisan gain, but no action was taken by any entity with responsibility for enforcing the Hatch Act...."}

The esteemed Mr McConnell came into office with a net worth of approx. half a million dollars, he is now worth well over 10 times that amount. When he got married his father-in-law gave him a Mansion. His father-in-law is a billionaire Chinese shipping magnate. His wife is Elaine Chao, beautiful, powerful and incredibly wealthy. Mr. McConnell has all the charm and good looks of spoiled offal... He and his wife are arguably two of the most powerful people in the world, a world which they have had a large part in shaping.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Doktor

@Marie Burns:

Thanks for the mention and link.

It's a good point you've made (via your comment at my blog): Where are the protest toys?

At TOYS R US, TARGET, and WALMART, a search for "protest", "protester", and "protestor" either under "toys", or their "all categories" (or equivalent) doesn't produce any toys whatsoever.

Nothing at all at Toys R Us. Under some searches at Target and Walmart, served up are some books and CDs (any seemingly interesting ones requiring an online order, so not something to be picked up locally on impulse). There is (online) a "Protest Stencil Toolkit", which, not being under "toys", seems more directed at adults than kids. (It's also $10 cheaper at Walmart than Target!). Walmart does list "Gandhi: The Young Protester Who Founded a Nation", a National Geographic Society Childrens Book. I have no idea whether it's any good --- and it also requires an online order.

Which brings us back to your question: Where are the protest toys? Perhaps they are available via smaller manufacturers and retailers. Perhaps we should we glad that the majors aren't selling them --- appearance there might mean, like peace symbol pendants, that they are not considered to be a threat to the status-quo by the political and economic powers-that-be.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch

Dok,

Thanks for that reminder of how much the McConnell/Chao family has profited off the backs of American taxpayers while using their lofty positions to ensure that their corporate buddies never have to worry about pesky things like complaints from workers damaged or killed by corporate negligence.

I love Marie's point about considering how bad things could have been with Republicans in the White House. You think Alberto Gonzales was bad? Just imagine who the kind of whack jobs the Teabaggers would have insisted John McCain install in the various seats of power. We already know what kind of upside down cloud cuckoo land can obtain with out of control right wing extremists in the White House. In addition to good ol' Gonzales, just think of the many other scary characters Bush foisted on the American public. Many of these were people, like David Addington and John Yoo, who most people didn't even know about. Then we had idiots like Rumsfeld, Michael Brown, John Ashcroft, Douglas Feith, Hank Paulson, Monica Goodling, Paul Bremer, Bradley Schlozman, Ari Fleischer, and the lowest of the low, Karl Rove. And plenty more.

Wow. Just remembering how bad it was give me a migraine.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus, The Doktor, & Marie Burns:

The whole propensity to nepotism shouldn't surprise. Beyond the usual family enrichment, nepotism is simply the most effective way of insuring that the head political honcho's desired agenda moves forward, with reduced risk that the underling will at some future point testify or otherwise expose illegal directives.

For the above reasons, nepotism can occur in administrations of either political party. (Consider the Chicago Democratic machine). The real difference between Republican and Democratic nepotism is that Republican nepotism more directly and deliberately advances an agenda of reducing the effectiveness of government with regard to what I consider some essential functions, whereas most efficacy reduction under Democratic nepotism is probably incidental.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch

@Fred; I know you are a big kidder by your writing style but you can only yank my chain so far. Protest toys? Come on; your target market is protesting the very carp that you'd be trying to sell them. The real protest toys are the same ones I played with as a kid. My folks did not buy weaponry of any kind. We made our swords out of broom handles, shields out of garbage can lids and guns out of sticks. That's what the real occupy protest is about. People are sick and tired of having commercialism occupy their imaginations. They just don't know that yet. Corporate America wants to occupy your soul and they will sell you a little Lenin doll with a little coil of capitalistic rope if they can just open your wallet.
@nepotism; Not such a bad thing; think about Jesus and his Dad. Now that's a joke. But really it depends on the characters, certainly you all know someone who took over the family business or got a job by knowing somebody who knew somebody. Deny that and you live in a world I don't know. Whether the person is up to the job is another matter. Public office is different; civil service jobs should not be offered as a reward for being geneticly connected otherwise I think nepotism doesn't have to be bad. And, No. My father said I would never make it in the blue no collar world because my family was not of that world.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@Marie. Vaclav Havel's problem is that he wasn't an alzheimers addled murrican. He should've thought about that if he wanted us to revere him in death.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer

@FD;
I was alluding to something much more insidious. mcconnell is from a backwoodsy state of people who may be easily manipulated into voting for him repeatedly. he is no catch. his wife comes from a society with a distinct history of arranged marriages. while the Chinese think in terms of centuries Americans think about a new flat screen in 3D that'll just fit on their credit card. think trade deficit. think outsourced jobs. think stolen intellectual property that China has no cultural concept of. think about the fact that the U.S.has done almost nothing while China has eaten our lunch for almost 20 years.
That might be the only good thing that has come out of the economic crisis... Americans are finally starting to notice what country their widgits are made in.

The best protest toys are books.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Doktor

@Dok; couldn't agree more. Salud.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

On NPR this afternoon, moving tribute to Havel by Madeleine Albright.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCalyban

@JJG

Yes, I know that "protest toys" might be considered an oxymoron. But the fact is, unless they have grown up without exposure to television, computers, and contact with other children, most of today's kids have had enormous exposure to consumer products and slick sophisticated toys, and I believe that they are quite impressed — overly impressed — by such things. Unless they are dirt-poor, many kids nowadays aren't likely to be satisfied with the homemade toys familiar to someone your age or mine. Many of the toys I see advertised seem absurd to me — but probably are objects of envy to many kids.

Sure, it would be better if parents encouraged basic creative play by their kids rather than look for a ready-made, slick solution — better for the kids, and better for the family budget, which all-too-often takes an unaffordable hit from the spending done for Christmas presents. It would be better if parents could communicate to their kids what commercialism and other manipulations are all about, and why they aren't going to succumb to them. It would be better if parents spent adequate time with their kids, rather than try to substitute presents for attention.

But fact is, different parents vary greatly on how well they would rate with regard to those above considerations. Despite the political polarization in the country, I'd bet that parents would be distributed along a much smoother continuum with regard to toy-buying behavior. And unless the parents are willing to go against some very strong forces, they'll probably buy something.

So it's in that context that I actually see a place for "protest toys". IF parents buy their child a Barbie, I'd rather it was a "protest Barbie" than a fashion or paramilitary one. Better yet might be a cloth protest doll made by a small entrepreneur. If parents buy their child a toy vehicle, I'd rather it was a hippie VW bus replica — or a plumber's truck — than a police car. As far as the "Protest Stencil Toolkit" I mentioned is concerned, that's a true product, but yeah, my mention of it was sort of tongue-in-cheek, an example of what these stores were actually carrying.

With regard to my comment about nepotism, I was thinking about nepotism in government. As far as nepotism in private enterprise is concerned, while it may be within the business owner's right to operate that way, he or she should be careful, even if for no other reason than a purely business one. Nepotism can be awfully disheartening to loyal unrelated employees who may have done more over a long period of time to build up that business than the newly-installed relative of the owner ever will.


@The Doktor:

I do agree that, in general, the best protest toys are books. But my point about "protest toys" was related (as was my piece about police toys) to younger kids who are probably not yet big readers.

Your point about the dynamic with McConell wasn't what I was thinking about, but it's well taken, and correct.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch
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