The Ledes

Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

Guardian: "The US State Department says Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, has been released. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Fowle was home Tuesday after negotiators left Pyongyang. She said the US is still trying to free two other Americans, Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae."

New York Times: "Oscar de la Renta, the doyen of American fashion, whose career began in the 1950s in Franco’s Spain, sprawled across the better living rooms of Paris and New York, and who was the last survivor of that generation of bold, all-seeing tastemakers, died on Monday at his home in Kent, Conn. He was 82."

New York Times: "Oscar Pistorius, the South African track star once seen as an emblem of triumph over adversity, was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp." ...

     ... The Guardian is liveblogging the sentencing.

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, October 20, 2014.

New York Times: "At least one chapter of the Ebola saga neared a close Sunday, as most of the dozens of people who had direct or indirect contact here with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola, had been told by officials that they were no longer at risk of contracting the disease."

New York Times: "Escalating its assistance to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobani, American military aircraft on Sunday dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to resupply the combatants, officials said."

New York Daily News: "Tennessee state Sen. Jim Summerville was arrested twice this weekend — just one month after he was arrested for public intoxication, police said. The outgoing Republican senator from Dickson, Tenn., has been charged with stalking and assault in separate incidents involving his neighbor, Lt. Todd Christian said." CW: Another fine representative of the people.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
October 21

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

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks to the Washington Post (audio only)

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

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

Stephen Colbert describes his workday:


No Surprise Here. Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... online search traffic from behind closed doors in Jesusland suggests that the bad, nasty, sexual impulses righteous believers are trying so hard to shut down may be their own. And if Google search patterns mean anything, they’re not succeeding too well: studies consistently demonstrate that people in conservative religious states search for adult materials online far more often than people in blue states."

Jeffrey Frank reviews, for the New Yorker, a new biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. The review is fairly entertaining & informative.

Michael Cieply of the New York Times: "... several of the companies behind 'Citizenfour' — which takes issue with Mr. Obama’s expansion of Bush-era surveillance, and his administration’s attempt to prosecute [Edward] Snowden for espionage — are led by some of the president’s close political allies. They include Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company’s co-chairman, as well as Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant Media, and Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, who all have been major contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns."

Washington Post: "President Obama's credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York. 'I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was -- during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,' Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. 'It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were -- they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.'"

"Who's Gonna Stand Up & Save the Earth?" Not Stephen Colbert:

Novelist John Grisham recants his apologia for child porn. Good to know.

Unsolved Mystery. Washington Post: "Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list." Original story further down this column. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead.

New York Times: "CBS announced a new subscription Internet streaming service on Thursday that allows people to watch its live television programming and thousands of its current and past shows on demand without paying for a traditional TV subscription. The new 'CBS All Access' service, costing $5.99 a month, is the first time that a traditional broadcaster will make a near-continuous live feed of its local stations available over the web to non-pay-TV subscribers. At its start, the live stream will be available in 14 markets in the United States." ...

... New York Times: "HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix. Just hours after HBO unveiled plans for its new service, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slower than expected...."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Following its initial mercy killing at the hands of Jon Stewart, Crossfire was rebooted last year with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones to dismal returns..., CNN ... scrapped it for good today [October 15] so that Newt can spend more time with his animals — and hopefully run for president again."

Joe Concha of Mediaite: "A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily." CW: I've caught a few minutes of Farrow's show a couple of times, & it was clear the guy was in way over his head. His performance was as embarrassing as the Russert kid's, though he isn't an obnoxious bro in the Russert-kid mold. I'm not sure if the suits will ever figure out that legacies & children-of-famous-people are usually not the best & brightest, perhaps because a lot of the suits themselves are legacies.

Philip Shenon in Politico Magazine: "If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows."

Snowden, The Movie:

... AND, Snowden's girlfriend is living with him in a Moscow apartment. David Harding of the New York Daily News: "His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, moved into his apartment in the Russian capital in July, a detail that was revealed in the new documentary, 'Citizenfour.'” ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Laura Poitras & making the film "Citizenfour." ...

... Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times discusses the film. He attended the premiere at the New York Film Festival, where the documentary got a rare standing O. CW: I'm kinda sensing that "Citizenfour" can best be described as "documentary as hagiography." And, yes, I'm definitely seeing an Oscar here. Call me an oracle.

 

 

A video for Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist-Man Rubio & Bobby I'm-Not-an-Evolutionary-Biologist Jindal, & all their non-scientist Republican friends:

Selina Gray, on right, saved Arlington House treasures during the Civil War.Michael Ruane of the Washington Post: "When Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary, fled Arlington House at the start of the Civil War, she gave her personal slave, Selina Norris Gray, the keys to the mansion and responsibility for the grand house the Lees had lived in for 30 years. Gray fulfilled her duties. She is famously credited with saving from marauding Union soldiers numerous heirlooms belonging to George Washington that were stored in the house. Now the National Park Service, which administers Arlington House, has acquired what it says is a rare and previously unknown photograph of Gray and, apparently, two of her eight children."

"An FBI wanted poster shows William Bradford Bishop Jr. The image on the left shows how Bishop would look now. (Getty)"Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "For nearly 40 years, the legend of Bethesda fugitive William Bradford Bishop Jr. carried an air of not just evil brutality but refined sophistication. This was a man suspected of killing his family with a small sledgehammer in 1976 and setting their corpses on fire. Then he vanished, taking with him fluency in five languages, the experience of a world traveler for the State Department, and a fondness for playing tennis, flying airplanes and drinking Scotch. There were alleged sightings: a public park in Stockholm, a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, a train station in Basel, Switzerland. Now, in a potentiality stunning development in the case — centered in a municipally owned cemetery in the northeastern corner of Alabama — remains that were exhumed Thursday may tell a different story. Bishop could be the heretofore unidentified man called John Doe, who was struck by a car while walking down a highway in 1981, a person who appeared to be homeless, who’d worn several layers of heavy, dirty clothes and weighed just 155 pounds." ...

... CW: If you like mysteries & enjoy reading about how they're unravelled, you should find this a compelling story.

Christopher Schmidt says, "On Oct 8th, I was flying my quadcopter at Magazine Beach Park in Cambridge, [Massachusetts,] when a hawk decided he wasn't too happy with my invasion of his airspace:

... CW: Thanks to Julie L. for the link. So one way to get rid of those annoying drones that will soon be hovering in your air space is to take up falconry. (Since bringing down other people's drones may be illegal, blame the bird.)

Contact the Constant Weader

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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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