The blossoms reached peak Thursday and should still be putting on a good show this weekend. Because of the variability of weather, they aren’t always this near peak at parade time.
The parade proceeds west along Constitution Avenue from Seventh to 17th streets.
Further south, in Augusta GA, the azaleas are in full bloom just in time for the Masters Tournament, which is going into its third day despite the loss of Tiger Woods to back surgery this year and Phil Mickelson’s failure to make the cut. Left-hander Bubba Watson was leading the pack by 3 strokes as of last night.
From the Augusta Chronicle: Bubba Watson storms to 3-stroke lead.
Bubba Watson never led during the first three rounds of the 2012 Masters Tournament but rallied on the final day and won in sudden death. The former Georgia Bulldog is on top now, halfway through the 78th Masters, with some breathing room.
Watson, 35, ripped apart the second nine at Augusta National Golf Club on Friday with five consecutive birdies en route to 4-under-par 68 – which included bogey on No. 18 – to build a three-shot lead over John Senden, of Australia. It matched the largest 36-hole lead since 2006.
Senden, who qualified for the Masters on March 16, when he won the Valspar Championship, also had a second-round 68 and is alone in second place.
Australian and defending champion Adam Scott made a spirited comeback to stay within shouting distance of Watson. Scott, who opened with 69, was 3-over after five holes Friday but played his final seven in 3-under, finishing with 72, tied for third place, four behind Watson.
Tiger’s absence has hit ESPN hard: ESPN’s Masters ratings plummet without Tiger Woods.
There was a feeling around the Masters that the absence of Tiger Woods might not hurt as much as expected. With Tiger having ceded some of the spotlight to younger golfers in recent years, the sport was healthy enough to survive without him in Augusta.
Television viewers apparently had a different opinion.
ESPN’s first-round telecast was down 800,000 viewers from last year to a record low of 2 million. That’s the lowest Thursday viewership in the seven years the network has been broadcasting the Masters.
Okay, I know it’s unlikely that anyone else here cares about professional golf; I just wanted an excuse to post some pretty photos of spring flowers.
Up here in southern New England we’re just beginning to see a little yellow showing up on the forsythia bushes, but it’s going to be warm for the next few days, and soon Arnold Arboretum will showing off acres of yellow blossoms like those in the photo to the right. And it won’t be long before our cherry trees and azaleas are in bloom too!
Spring has sprung!
Can you tell I’m trying to avoid the news?
In a little over a week, Boston will host its big spring event, the Boston Marathon, and between now and then we’ll be hearing endless talk about what happened here last year.
I’d like to avoid all the coverage, but I’ve decided instead to try to pay close attention to the coverage in corporate and alternative media and notice how the powers that be attempt to shape the narrative of last year’s dramatic events as well as the public process of dealing with them.
Yesterday, Boston NPR station WBUR had a very good discussion of Unanswered Questions Around The Marathon Bombing on the local program Radio Boston. It’s worth a listen.
I was quite surprised that one of the participants, Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone Magazine brought up the fact that nearly every breaking story on the events of last year came from CBS’ John Miller, who was obviously the designated target for FBI leaks. And Reitman was actually permitted to discuss this issue at some length.
Miller began working for CBS in 2011; before that he worked for the Federal Government as “Associate Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analytic Transformation and Technology”; and before that he was “Assistant Director for Public Affairs for the FBI.”
Currently he is working with his old friend Bill Bratton as “Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence” for the NYPD. Is this guy a journalist or is he a tool of law enforcement? He did work for ABC News in the 1990s. As such, he got an interview with Osama bin Laden in 1998. I wonder how that happened?
Here’s a piece about Miller in Men’s Journal from March 2013–shortly before last year’s Boston Marathon.
John Miller’s office at CBS News is filled with keepsakes from his two lives as top cop and leading reporter: badges from his tours with the New York and Los Angeles police departments; a photograph from his 1998 interview with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan; his FBI badge and ID; even an LAPD Beach Patrol cap. (“The one job I never got,” Miller jokes.) “When I was covering the cops, I wasn’t one of those guys who showed up to work everyday saying ‘I’ve gotta find the scandal in the police department,’” says Miller. “And when I was with the police department, I didn’t hate the press for doing its job, either. Which I think has made it easier to toggle back and forth.”
But is avoiding anti-cop stories really the best attitude for a “journalist?” And how can such a journalist be expected to critically analyze leaks handed to him by law enforcement sources? I think the answers to those questions are obvious. And yet Miller basically shaped the news narrative on last year’s Boston Marathon bombings.
Last night NBC aired an hour-long program on the Boston attack: 108 Hours: Inside the Hunt for the Boston Marathon Bombers, hosted by Brian Williams. It was interesting for me to watch the video of the events that took place in Watertown as police hunted for the accused bombers; but of course no hard questions were asked. Everything law enforcement officials had to say was taken at face value.
One tidbit I learned was that President Obama had been on the phone with Governor Patrick during the lockdown of much of the city, and Obama had expressed concerns about the notion of government officials shutting down a major American city. I found that fascinating considering that critics on both the left and right have portrayed Obama as a tyrant who was probably in control of those kinds of decisions.
The news event that I’ve really been avoiding is the deadly bus accident in California.
I find it so painful to read or hear about children being hurt that I generally avoid such stories, but today I feel I have to cover the terrible bus crash in California. You may recall that we had a terrible bus accident in Boston just about a year ago. In fact there have been bus crashes all over the country. What’s going on?
Despite new regulations mandating seat belts on recently built tour buses, passengers are still losing their lives in crashes.
A crash Thursday in Northern California killed 10 people and injured 34 when a tour bus carrying Los Angeles-area students collided with a FedEx truck. Eerily, the crash occurred almost exactly one year from the date of a tour bus crash in Irving that killed three people and injured dozens of senior citizens.
The history of serious crashes involving tour buses or motor coaches stretches back into the 1950s and highlights a pattern of danger that federal regulations have just begun to attempt to mitigate.
Congress wrapped bus safety improvements, including a provision for seat belts in recently built tour buses, into a larger transportation bill which was signed into law in 2012. Those regulations, however, only apply to buses produced in 2007 or later. The regulations do not order buses built before 2007 to be retrofit with safety belts.
The industry opposes requiring that existing buses be retrofitted with seat belts saying the seats are not designed for them and may not be strong enough to withstand the repeated pulling of straps. Retrofitting is also more expensive than adding belts to new buses.
Read more at the link. The story references numerous other articles about bus accidents.
Reuters on the latest incident: Investigators focus on cause of deadly California crash
Investigators were focusing on Saturday on what caused a FedEx tractor-trailer to collide with a bus in a fiery crash in northern California that killed 10 people, five of them teenage students en route to a college recruitment event.
It remained unclear whether the FedEx driver was somehow distracted or lost consciousness, or whether a mechanical failure occurred when his truck swerved across the median of Interstate 5 and slammed head-on into the motor coach full of students from the Los Angeles area on Thursday.
The California Highway Patrol also raised the possibility that a separate collision on the truck’s side of the highway might have been a factor in Thursday evening’s fatal crash.
According to early highway patrol accounts of the accident, the truck side-swiped a car after crossing the center divider but before hitting the bus. Two witnesses, Bonnie and Joe Duran, who were reported to be in the clipped car, told California media outlets that the truck was on fire before the collision. “I was heading along in the outside lane and I looked over and saw the FedEx truck coming straight for me and he was in flames already,” Bonnie Duran told a local CBS-affiliate.
More at the link.
I have a few more interesting reads for you today that I’ll just list briefly.
I highly recommend reading this op-ed at the WaPo by former SCOTUS Justice John Paul Stevens: The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment. It’s an excerpt from his new book Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.
See also Scott Lemieux’s review of Stevens’ book at The American Prospect: How John Paul Stevens Would Amend the Constitution.
Here’s a brief but encouraging story by WBUR (NPR) about the three women running for governor of three New England states: Women’s Groups Target New England Gubernatorial Races.
I really liked this thoughtful post about the internet, privacy, and the NSA leak story at Haft of the Spear blog: You Were Promised Neither Security Nor Privacy.
Don’t miss this troubling story at the WaPo: Inside the FBI’s secret relationship with the military’s special operations. Can we all agree that the FBI (and CIA) are a lot scarier than NSA metadata storage?
Those are my offerings for today. What stories have you been following? Please share your links in the comment thread and have a nice Spring weekend!
Yesterday Politico published one of their bizarre pieces about the trials and tribulations of the whiny Village media. According to Dylan Byers, the White House press corps experienced ‘Extreme frustration’ over ‘having absolutely no access’ to Obama during his brief golfing vacation over the long Presidents’ Day weekend.
Ed Henry, the Fox News correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents Association, released a statement Sunday evening in which he said the press corps had been given no access to the president, who was joined on his outing by star golfer Tiger Woods, and that the WHCA would fight for greater transparency in the days ahead.
“Speaking on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, I can say a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend,” Henry said in a statement, relayed in a White House pool report. “There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency.”
Has Ed Henry ever complained about the White House press not getting access to information about drone strikes? Has he released any statements about the White House not being “transparent” about the DOJ defending Bush’s torture policies or involvement by the administration in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz?
No, it’s only when the press corps sees an opportunity for star-fucking. Obama goes golfing with Tiger Woods and wants a little privacy–probably requested by Woods–and the press corps goes nuts over lack of “transparency.” Here’s the White House response to the kerfluffle:
“The press access granted by the White House today is entirely consistent with the press access offered for previous presidential golf outings,” Earnest said. “It’s also consistent with the press access promised to the White House Press Corps prior to arrival in Florida on Friday evening.”
Excuse me if I don’t see this as a major issue. But for Politico, it’s earth-shaking. This morning they’ve posted another of their “Behind the Curtain” exposes by Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen, and, as usual, it’s hilarious. Get this–the headline is “Obama, the puppet master.”
President Barack Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.
Not for the reason that conservatives suspect: namely, that a liberal press willingly and eagerly allows itself to get manipulated. Instead, the mastery mostly flows from a White House that has taken old tricks for shaping coverage (staged leaks, friendly interviews) and put them on steroids using new ones (social media, content creation, precision targeting). And it’s an equal opportunity strategy: Media across the ideological spectrum are left scrambling for access.
No, this is not a gag post from the Onion. Vandehei and Allen are deadly serious about what they see as a scandalous situation. They are horrified to report that the Obama administration likes to use new technologies like e-mail and social media to communicate with the American people instead of just letting the DC media filter their message for them.
The results are transformational. With more technology, and fewer resources at many media companies, the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government. This is an arguably dangerous development, and one that the Obama White House — fluent in digital media and no fan of the mainstream press — has exploited cleverly and ruthlessly. And future presidents from both parties will undoubtedly copy and expand on this approach.
OMG! Scandalous!! And that’s just the beginning of a four-page article. Because this isn’t just about an outing with Tiger Woods. Oh no! It’s a vital national security isssue . . . or something. Turning to another related piece at Politico–this is obviously the issue of the week for them–Ed Henry says “This isn’t about a golf game.”
White House Correspondents Association president Ed Henry is standing by his complaints about the lack of press access to President Obama, pushing back against critics who say he and his fellow White House correspondents are just “whining” and don’t respect the president’s privacy.
“This is a fight for more access, period,” Henry told POLITICO late Monday night. “I’ve heard all kinds of critics saying the White House press corps is whining about a golf game and violating the president’s privacy. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“We’re not interested in violating the president’s privacy. He’s entitled to vacations like everyone else. All we’re asking for is a brief exception, quick access, a quick photo-op on the 18th green,” Henry continued. “It’s not about golf — it’s about transparency and access in a broader sense.”
Sure, Ed. Back to the “Behind the Headlines” piece:
“The way the president’s availability to the press has shrunk in the last two years is a disgrace,” said ABC News White House reporter Ann Compton, who has covered every president back to Gerald R. Ford. “The president’s day-to-day policy development — on immigration, on guns — is almost totally opaque to the reporters trying to do a responsible job of covering it. There are no readouts from big meetings he has with people from the outside, and many of them aren’t even on his schedule. This is different from every president I covered. This White House goes to extreme lengths to keep the press away.”
So why doesn’t the press complain during and after those big meetings then? And then there’s this:
“White House handout photos used to be reserved for historically important events — 9/11, or deliberations about war,” Kraft said. “This White House regularly releases [day-in-the-life] images of the president … a nice picture of the president looking pensive … from events that could have been covered by the press pool. But I don’t blame the White House for doing it, because networks and newspapers use them. So the White House has built its own content distribution network.”
Were any of these people around when the Bush administration was actually paying writers and pundits like Armstrong Williams to get their version of events into the media? From the NYT, January 29, 2005:
The Bush administration acknowledged on Friday that it had paid a third conservative commentator, and at least two departments said they were conducting internal inquiries to see if other journalists were under government contract. The investigative arm of Congress also formally began an inquiry of its own.
The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed having hired Michael McManus, who writes a weekly syndicated column and is director of a nonprofit group called Marriage Savers. Mr. McManus was paid $10,000 to help train counselors about marriage, an arrangement first reported in USA Today, but officials said he was paid for his expertise rather than to write columns supporting administration policies.
At the same time, the Government Accountability Office told the Education Department it was investigating a $240,000 contract with the commentator Armstrong Williams that came to light earlier this month, requesting that education officials turn over any paper or video materials related to the case. Another conservative writer, Maggie Gallagher, admitted earlier this week having a $21,500 deal with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Besieged with questions about contracts with outside public relations firms and columnists, officials at the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services said they were conducting their own inquiries…
Not to mention the supposedly legitimate reporters like Judy Miller who helped Bush/Cheney get us into the war in Iraq with the willing assistance of their editors and publishers. Here James C. Moore at Salon, from May 27, 2004:
When the full history of the Iraq war is written, one of its most scandalous chapters will be about how American journalists, in particular those at the New York Times, so easily allowed themselves to be manipulated by both dubious sources and untrustworthy White House officials into running stories that misled the nation about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. The Times finally acknowledged its grave errors in an extraordinary and lengthy editors note published Wednesday. The editors wrote:
“We have found … instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been … In some cases, the information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge … We consider the story of Iraq’s weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.”
The editors conceded what intelligence sources had told me and numerous other reporters: that Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi was feeding bad information to journalists and the White House and had set up a situation with Iraqi exiles where all of the influential institutions were shouting into the same garbage can, hearing the same echo. “Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations — in particular, this one.”
The reporter on many of the flawed stories at issue was Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and authority on the Middle East. The Times, insisting that the problem did not lie with any individual journalist, did not mention her name. The paper was presumably trying to take the high road by defending its reporter, but the omission seems peculiar. While her editors must share a large portion of the blame, the pieces ran under Miller’s byline. It was Miller who clearly placed far too much credence in unreliable sources, and then credulously used dubious administration officials to confirm what she was told.
That’s hardly ancient history, is it?
Here are a couple of good reactions to the Politico articles, while we wait for Charles Pierce to write about how he could barely keep himself from gargling anti-freeze this morning.
Eight years of accusing the Clintons of every possible crime, up to and including large-scale drug running and multiple murders, followed by eight years of dutifully promulgating whatever bullshit and phantasms the Cheney Regency invented, and the Very Serious Media is shocked, shocked that President Obama would rather “spend way more time talking directly to voters via friendly shows and media personalities”. Or that “Obama’s aides are better at using technology and exploiting the president’s ‘brand.’… [T]hey are obsessed with taking advantage of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and every other social media forums, not just for campaigns, but governing.”
The good news is that the Villagers don’t waste a lot of time and energy worrying about transparency when it comes to trivial information that is only interesting to gossip columnists. For instance, nobody’s issuing any ultimatums over silly issues like this:
For a country exhausted after more than a decade of war, remote-controlled drones—unmanned machines that deliver swift death to terrorists—are undeniably tempting. President Obama has ordered hundreds of strikes on “high-value,” as well as medium- and low-value, targets in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The administration says these killings have decimated al-Qaeda’s top ranks and done significant damage to the Taliban but refuses to say much more. Obama has yet to explain the basics of the broader policy: how decisions are made to send drones across sovereign borders; how officials determine a target is dangerous enough to merit assassination; what oversight is in place; and what is done to limit civilian casualties
I’m awfully relieved that the fourth estate has its priorities straight.
So…that should get you started on your morning’s reading. I’ll have some links on other topics in the comments section. Now, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in Greece to protest austerity measures being forced on them by the government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Government leaders are so nervous that
Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece said on Wednesday that he would reshuffle his cabinet and request a vote of confidence in Parliament after talks with the opposition about a unity government foundered.
Earlier in the day….Mr. Papandreou offered to step aside so that his Socialist party could form a coalition government with the center-right opposition, but only if the opposition would support a new bailout plan for the debt-ridden country.
Mr. Papandreou’s support has been plummeting, even within his party, and the Socialists appear to be lagging behind the center-right opposition for the first time since the current government was elected in 2009. With a five-seat majority in Parliament, Mr. Papandreou has been struggling to get his government fully behind the measures and to contain growing rifts within his party.
Antonis Samaras, the leader of the center-right New Democracy party, has opposed spending cuts. He has called instead for tax breaks and a renegotiation of the terms of Greece’s agreement with its foreign creditors.
The markets reacted negatively to the situation in Greece.
Greece’s financial and political crisis, compounded by new fears about the pace of the United States economic recovery, sent financial markets reeling on Wednesday….
Anxious investors feared the situation could spin out of control, igniting a series of crises in other heavily indebted euro zone countries, like Portugal, Ireland and Spain. That, in turn, could threaten Europe’s banks and even reach into the United States financial system.
“We are pretty much giving back everything we got yesterday and more,” said Lawrence R. Creatura, a portfolio manager at Federated Investors, noting the rise in the main American indexes of more than 1 percent Tuesday. “Today the market just can’t escape the undertow of deteriorating economic data and political events.”
Awwww…poor little rich men…just let me break out my tiny violin.
In just a few days, President Obama will be playing golf and schmoozing with John Boehner, supposedly to try to come to a “compromise” on the raising the debt ceiling. But according to The New York Times, voters don’t relish seeing privileged politicians playing and watching golf with the economy being so bad for the majority of Americans.
…with two wars, a tight economy and a high national unemployment rate, the prevailing belief is that constituents do not want to see their representatives having fun at the golf course.
“Right now, some constituents think that members of Congress playing golf is a big deal and they don’t like it,” Tate Sr., who lobbies for the PGA Tour, said. “There is so much less talk about politicians going fishing or hunting, because that supposedly makes those members of Congress seem more normal. How ambushing and slaughtering another living creature makes you more normal, I have no idea. But it’s all about perception.”
Do Obama and Boehner care? Apparently not.
The decision issued by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Donovan was prompted by a joint bankruptcy filing by a Los Angeles gay couple legally married in 2008. The U.S. trustee assigned to vet the filing by Gene Balas and Carlos Morales had asked Donovan to dismiss the Chapter 13 petition because the 15-year-old law, known as DOMA, restricts federal benefits like joint filings to marriages between a man and a woman. Donovan ruled that the law violated the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee.
Legal analysts said the ruling could have broad implications for gay spouses seeking equal treatment from federal agencies because it adds weight to two other federal court rulings in Massachusetts last year making their way through the appeals process.
The rulings last July by U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro dealt only with the law as it affects Massachusetts residents, and Monday’s ruling by the Los Angeles bankruptcy court was likewise specific to the local case. But the rulings are seen as bellwethers for the possible extension of federal benefits to gay spouses in states where such marriages are legal, including the estimated 18,000 gay couples who wed in California in 2008.
Potential presidential candidate Rick Perry considers himself a “prophet.”
In his first national TV interview since presidential rumors surfaced, Perry answered Fox News’ Neil Cavuto question about why he’s so unpopular in his home state by suggesting he’s a “prophet”:
CAVUTO: You have kind of like the Chris Christie phenomenon: very popular outside your state, still popular but not nearly as popular within your state. There are even Tea Party groups within your state who like you but don’t love you. [...] What do you say?
PERRY: I say that a prophet is generally not loved in their hometown. That’s both Biblical and practical.
You can watch the video at Think Progress.
An interesting trial will begin on Monday in New Hampshire. A woman who was raped by a member of her church and impregnated when she was only 15 years old may finally get a chance for justice.
Jury selection starts Monday at Merrimack Superior Court in New Hampshire in the case against Ernest Willis, who prosecutors charge raped Tina Anderson twice in her home in 1997, leaving her pregnant, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.
The then-teenager was then compelled by leaders of the Trinity Baptist Church to apologize for becoming pregnant with a married man’s child, the Concord Monitor reported.
Willis, now 52, has admitted to the sex, but claims it was consensual.
Anderson, now 29, who asked media outlets to publicly identify her to draw attention to the case, told police the church’s pastor, Charles Phelps, spirited her away to another church member in Colorado in an effort to muddle a police investigation back in 1997.
Finally, a little provincialism once again…The Boston Bruins are the Stanley Cup Champions!!!!