I’ve not been in a very good mood the last few days. I’m trying to get my manuscript camera ready and have found that the adjustments to the font size and smaller margins have just about done me in. It’s really messed up the pagination and my seemingly endless tables of statistics. I am about ready to chew off all my nails and pull out quit a bit of hair. It’s very nerve wracking.
Here’s a few links to get you start this morning. I’ve been trying to read some interesting things in the hopes of finding some inner calm.
The best news of the weekend came when Larry Summers withdrew his name from consideration for FED chair. The last thing we needed was yet another financial market sycophant in position that matters as much as that one. The Fed has been one of the few functional institutions and thankfully, it looks like even congress respected the need for its independence.
The decision marks a disappointing turn of events for the renowned economist, who had operated at the highest levels of academia and government. But he has been dogged by controversies. Summers has come under fire for his support for deregulating parts of the banking sector while he was Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton. While president of Harvard University in 2005, he also sparked controversy for his comments on women’s aptitude in math and science.
People close to the White House said Summers faced not only a rebellion among liberal Democrats but also other challenges, including a debate over whether to launch a military strike against Syria that stretched out the Fed process and gave more time for opposition to build.
Summers was a top initial candidate for the Fed job among senior current and former White House officials. Obama was also inclined to appoint Summers to the post, people close to the White House said. But the longer time dragged on without a nomination, the more liberal groups and some Democratic senators were able to organize to oppose Summers, who many on the left viewed as too close to Wall Street and not strong enough on financial regulation.
Opposition to Summers among Senate Democrats has been obvious for weeks but it escalated on Friday when Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) announced he would vote against Obama’s former economic adviser if he was nominated.
At least three other Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee were expected to oppose Summers — Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) – raising the politically uncomfortably scenario of Obama needing to rely on Republican votes just to get his choice for a Fed chief out of committee.
Obama has said the other candidates for the job are Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen and former Fed Vice Chair Donald Kohn. But Summers was said to be the president’s first choice and it’s unclear if he will fall back on one of these two candidates or look elsewhere.
There are some interesting studies on obesity and the way different people process food. I found this article while reading my copy of The Economist. Links to the studies are provided in the article. A lot of the differences may have to do with bacteria found in your digestive tract.
Even more intriguing is the notion that the same diet may be treated differently by different people. Four recent papers explored this theme. In one, published in Science in July, Joseph Majzoub, also of Boston Children’s Hospital, deleted in mice a gene called Mrap2. Dr Majzoub and his colleagues showed that this helps to control appetite. Surprisingly, however, even when the mutant critters ate the same as normal mice, they still gained more weight. Why that is remains unclear, but it may be through Mrap2’s effect on another gene, called Mc4r, which is known to be involved in weight gain.
The second and third papers, published as a pair in Nature in August, looked at another way that different bodies metabolise the same diet. Both studies were overseen by Dusko Ehrlich of the National Institute of Agricultural Research in France. One examined bacteria in nearly 300 Danish participants and found those with more diverse microbiota in their gut showed fewer signs of metabolic syndrome, including obesity and insulin resistance. The other study put 49 overweight participants on a high-fibre diet. Those who began with fewer bacterial species saw an increase in bacterial diversity and an improvement in metabolic indicators. This was not the case for those who already had a diverse microbiome, even when fed the same diet.
Jeffrey Gordon, of Washington University in St Louis, says these two studies point to the importance of what he calls “job vacancies” in the microbiota of the obese. Fed the proper diet, a person with more vacancies may see the jobs filled by helpful bacteria. In the fourth paper, by Dr Gordon and recently published in Science, he explores this in mice. To control for the effects of genetics, Dr Gordon found four pairs of human twins, with one twin obese and the other lean. He collected their stool, then transferred the twins’ bacteria to sets of mice. Fed an identical diet, the mice with bacteria from an obese twin became obese, whereas mice with bacteria from a thin twin remained lean.
Archaeologist Nicolaus Seefield found the gravesite in an “artificial cave,” which he explains to LiveScience had likely functioned as a water reservoir before the burial “since the cave’s floor was perfectly clean.”
The skeletons found there were not “in their original anatomical articulation,” he says. “The observed hatchet marks on the cervical vertebra are a clear indication of decapitation”; most had their lower jaw detached, and the “spatial pattern” of the bones is consistent with dismemberment.
The archaeologists believe the dead were either prisoners of war or Uxul nobles; they hope upcoming isotope analysis will reveal whether they were from Uxul — which is near what is now the Guatemala border — or elsewhere. Neat fact from LiveScience: “Uxul” means “at the end.”
It wasn’t the only Mayan discovery of the summer: A “lost” Maya city was discovered in June.
There are many things that depress me about how eager Republicans are to punish poor people for whatever their perverse reasons. What really gets me is how they continue to ensure that poor children will have no chance. Early childhood education has usually be the one program that every one agrees on because it’s efficacy is amazing. The sequestration has led to a large number of children being tossed out of Head Start. I find this beyond troubling. Early childhood education has been shown to be one very effective way to fight inequality. Here’s yet another article on how this country has started to do things all wrong.
In many ways, we do education backwards in this country. We skimp and shortchange the poor children who need education the most, while at the same we lavish public moneys on those who need it least. Take, for instance,this article about the outrageous practice of taxpayer subsidies for the legacy admits of rich alumni of elite colleges.
In this context, advocacy for educational programs that alleviate, rather than exacerbate, inequality is particularly welcome. That’s why I especially appreciated today’s New York Times’ Opinionator blog, in which economist James Heckman writes a great op-ed about the dramatic impact of early childhood education in the lives of poor children. Heckman, as you may know, is a Nobel Prize winning economist from the University of Chicago. He’s a typical University of Chicago economist in that yes, he’s a free market true believer type. But he’s been studying pre-K programs for poor kids for years, and he supports them for conservative reasons: because they are economically rational. Early childhood education for at-risk kids is one of those (relatively) rare government programs that the free market types like because it produces not just equity, but also efficiency.
Here’s an interesting piece on the connections between the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party. It seems the Kochs just have their nasty little fingers in every thing that is unraveling our democracy.
Politico.com, the Washington insider website, has the money-in-politics scoop of the year: It has unmasked a previously unknown political money laundering operation, set up by the energy billionaires and libertarian Koch brothers, that raised $256 million and secretly spent almost all of it last year against Democrats.
The “Koch brothers’ secret bank,” which is what the website calls the Virginia-based group, whose formal name is Freedom Partners, is the glue that has been holding together the right-wing pantheon of pro-corporate, anti-regulatory, anti-Obama, anti-labor front groups that are against everything from healthcare reform to labor unions to financial market reform to progressive taxation.
“The group has about 200 donors, each paying at least $100,000 in annual dues,” Politico reported, saying Freedom Partners would soon be filing papers with the IRS disclosing its existence. “It raised $256 million in the year after its creation in November 2011, the [IRS] document shows. And it made grants of $236 million—meaning a totally unknown group was the largest sugar daddy for conservative groups in the last election, second in total spending only to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which together spent about $300 million.”
The fact that secretive right-wingers could amass and spend a quarter-billion dollars in a presidential election cycle and go undetected under federal campaign finance law is an astounding indictment of the American electoral system, revealing that all the laws intending to inform the public about who is slinging political mud are meaningless. The mockery goes even further when considering the section of the federal tax code the group is operating under: 501(c)6. That designation is for trade associations, which lets the group conceal its donors.
Trade asociations, like trade unions, were created to represent single industries or crafts. Freedom Partners’ “trade” is the business of political assassination. What follows is Politico’s list of the groups, causes and amounts received from the Kochs’ cartel. The group’s members are drawn from the energy barons’ semiannual political conferences, which feature speeches by Congress’ Republican leadership.
So, that’s a little this and that from me this morning. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’m still really tired and quite removed from the total weirdness of the current Beltway antics. From my groggy eyes, it seems like some odd, abstract dance done to music with an oft-repeated, dissonant theme. I’m very much lost in a world of books and games right now and catching up with things around the house. Oh, and sleep. I just can’t seem to get enough of that. Who invited all these tacky people and why hasn’t some one taught them how to behave properly at a national cotillion?
So, the journalistic dance theatrics orchestrated by the right wing appear to be spinning out there in a place that no one cares much about. However, it should be noted that while no one real seems to care, the press is still tap dancing to the jingoism. Have the little republican boyz cried wolf so many times that only the villagers listen and no one else? Cue the polls and the pols,
President Barack Obama comes out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady, according to a new national poll. But a CNN/ORC International survey released Sunday morning also indicates that congressional Republicans are not overplaying their hand when it comes to their reaction to the three controversies that have consumed the nation’s capital over the past week and a half. And the poll finds that a majority of Americans take all three issues seriously.
“That two-point difference is well within the poll’s sampling error, so it is a mistake to characterize it as a gain for the president,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Nonetheless, an approval rating that has not dropped and remains over 50% will probably be taken as good news by Democrats after the events of the last week.”
The CNN poll is in-line with Gallup, which also indicated a very slight rise in Obama’s approval rating over the same time period. And Gallup’s daily tracking poll also indicated a slight upward movement of Obama’s approval rating over the past week. But as with the CNN poll, it was within that survey’s sampling error.
More than seven in 10 in the CNN poll say that the targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of tea party and other conservative groups that were applying for tax exempt status was unacceptable. While the White House and both parties in Congress are criticizing the IRS actions, congressional Republicans are depicting the controversy as a case of the federal government gone wild.
But more than six in 10 say that the president’s statements about the IRS scandal are completely or mostly true, with 35% not agreeing with Obama’s characterizations. And 55% say that IRS acted on its own, with 37% saying that White House ordered the IRS to target tea party and other conservative groups.
It’s nice to see that a lot of real folks are not taking all these conspiracy theories very seriously. How can any one take them seriously with idiots like Senator Aqua Buddha pushing them? Why does any one give this whackadoodle air time? Not every US senator deserves national face time. This one should be placed in a carnival sideshow in a Scheherazade costume. However, this crackpot may try to take on Hillary Clinton for the presidency next time out so it’s a way for the press to rattle the Clinton cage. Rand Paul’s trying to spin his little tail and tale into something credible. Good luck with that!! It all come off as fundraising theatrics to me. A little snake oil music from the maestro please!!!
Sen. Rand Paul continued with his charges from earlier this week that former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton had “her fingerprints all over these talking points” on the Benghazi attack and claims that she never “really accepted culpability” because she failed to resign shortly after the tragedy. When CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Paul if he was worried about appearing to politicize the controversy by making his remarks in Iowa and other presidential battleground states, Paul dismissed the notion that his remarks were based on politics.
It’s laughable that anyone expects us to believe that Republicans care one iota about this trumped up Benghazi story for any other reason than to muddy up Hillary Clinton, because they all assume she’s going to be the front-runner for the next presidential election.
And I’d say it’s safe to assume Rand Paul is going to take up his father’s mantle and make a career out of perpetually running for president as a fundraising scheme. It worked out pretty well for his dad and the press is already propping him up because of it — with this being the latest example — so why not?
Meanwhile, the choreography of the supposed liberal bias in the press came apart when ABC’s Jonathan Karl was caught telling right wing whoppers and had to apologize. Actually, he kinda sorta, sashayed towards an apology. Here’s his anti-mea culpa. Oh, and you gotta laugh about exactly who got to read it on air yesterday!!!
Jonathan Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News, addressed criticism of his reporting on the Benghazi talking points controversy, saying in a statement to CNN that he regrets the inaccuracy of his report.
“Clearly, I regret the email was quoted incorrectly and I regret that it’s become a distraction from the story, which still entirely stands. I should have been clearer about the attribution. We updated our story immediately,” he said in the statement to Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
Earlier this month, Karl reported that he obtained emails by White House staff that indicated they had a dramatic role in altering the talking points that were later used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Sunday morning talk shows to explain the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.
From those talking points, she said the attack spurred from a spontaneous demonstration outside the compound, while the Obama administration later stated the violence came from a premeditated terror attack.
Questions soon arose over how the error took place, as reports showed that initial drafts of those talking points included references to extremists but were later changed to attribute the incident to protests over an anti-Islam film.
Karl reported on May 10 that, based on summaries of the emails, the White House had a leading role in the editing process and had scrubbed vital information from the talking points.
But CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s “The Lead,” reported days later that the actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told a different story.
Karl’s high profile at ABC demonstrates that conservative messages can find a comfortable home inside the so-called “liberal” media. Karl channeled former ABC corporate cheerleader John Stossel with a segment (3/5/11) complaining that regulation of the egg and poultry industries was “almost embarrassing,” since different government agencies regulate different aspects of the industries. “Got that?” Karl asked. “Fifteen separate agencies have responsibility for food safety.”
During the rollout of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Karl (1/26/11) gushed that the Republican media darling was “a little like the guy in the movie Dave, the accidental president who sets out to fix the budget, line by line.” And while Democrats were saying Ryan “is a villain,” Karl was clear about which side he was on: “Ryan knows what he sees…. Paul Ryan is on a mission, determined to do the seemingly impossible: Actually balance the federal budget.” (Actually, even with its draconian spending cuts and absurdly optimistic economic assumptions, the Ryan plan still foresees a cumulative deficit of $62 trillion over the next half century—Congressional Budget Office, 1/27/10.)
On a This Week roundtable (2/20/11), Karl declared that state budget debates were “the Tea Party’s moment” and “also the Chris Christie phenomenon. Will politicians be rewarded for making tough choices—again, something I don’t think we’ve ever seen happen?” Of course, it’s hard not to conclude that the “tough choices” made by Christie and other Republicans are the ones that ought to be rewarded.
And in one World News segment (2/14/11), Karl likened the federal budget to stacks of pennies in order to demonstrate that deeper spending cuts would be necessary in order to balance the budget. Karl concluded that “the bottom line, Diane, is unless you’re willing to talk about cutting entitlements or defense or both, really, there’s no way you can even think about balancing the budget.” This is not actually true—one could raise revenues by increasing taxes on the wealthy—but it is how Republicans want to frame the budget debate.
Just think of how horrible things are going to get when the Koch Brothers take over media outlets. Eric Alterman–writing for The Nation–things that they could make Rupert Murdoch look good. May the wisdom beings protect us all!! Talk about your odd dance partners!! Could Murdoch actually step in to take over the Trib and could that make us all actually breathe easier? Well, not really.
But chill out for a minute and consider the following: should they enter the newspaper publishing business, the Koch brothers would be King Midas in reverse. Their commitment to producing disinformation designed to defame liberals, moderates and, indeed, all manner of sane individuals would result in the destruction of the professional purpose of their purchase. A Los Angeles Times or a Chicago Tribune answerable to Koch ownership would soon lose most of its serious journalists and all of its credibility with readers. This would vaporize the value of their investment and leave them with extremely expensive propaganda sheets to publish and loads of legacy costs to assume. Other publications would jump in to fill the vacuum, though it’s unlikely that any of them would be able even to approach the scope and reach of what will be lost. Ideally, the Koch brothers will soon recognize the folly of their ambitions and withdraw.
The scenario that should truly alarm and depress the rest of us is the one that many have posed as the salvation of these papers: a Tribune Company takeover by Rupert Murdoch. While one group of Los Angeles businessmen is interested in buying the LA Times, they have no interest in the package of eight. That leaves Murdoch. And while resistance to a Koch purchase among editors and reporters is strong enough to convince the new owners that they might be buying an empty shell, the attitude toward a Murdoch takeover is quite the opposite. When, during a meeting of the entire staff, LA Times columnist Steve Lopez asked those assembled to “raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Rupert Murdoch,” only a handful reportedly did so (compared with about half of the staff when the Koch purchase was proposed). Similarly, one member of the Baltimore Sun staff wrote Jim Romenesko that “Murdoch, at least, is a newsman,” a view that was echoed nearly word for word by a Chicago Tribune journalist: “Murdoch, for all his flaws, is a newspaper man.”
True, but by the same logic, Jack the Ripper was a lover of the ladies. Murdoch may be a “newspaper man,” but he is surely not a man who respects honest journalism or even the laws of society as they apply to it (or much else, for that matter). Just in the past few weeks, Murdoch has been making news in the following ways:
He paid out $139 million to settle a class-action suit by News Corp. shareholders, who accused the board of directors of putting the Murdoch family’s interests above those of the company with regard to both the British phone-hacking episode—one of the most egregious criminal scandals in the history of journalism—and News Corp.’s sweetheart acquisition of his daughter Elizabeth’s television production company. The lawsuit alleged that the board “disregarded its fiduciary duties” and allowed Murdoch to run News Corp. as his “own personal fiefdom.”
So, want the worst example? Guess who was on MTP yesterday? Dancing Dave managed to embarrass the entire journalistic bordello in one short hour.
GREGORY: And we’re back. For our remaining moments, joining me now, author of the new book Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, the Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mister Secretary, welcome back. You have such an interesting distinction here because I remember President Bush who I covered called you a matinee idol and now you’re soon to be a great grandfather. That’s a pretty good combination.
MR. DONALD RUMSFELD (Former Secretary of Defense/Author, Rumsfeld’s Rules): Think of that. It’s exciting.
GREGORY: I want to ask you first about a very disturbing subject within the military that of course you’ve worked over for so long and that is sexual assaults in the military. Some of the reported cases going back to when you were Defense Secretary and reported and then the estimates is that much larger number and the alarming rise between 2010 and 2012. And the issue at hand here is what should the military do about it? Does it have to change the way these crimes are reported at the chain of command and go outside of that to a special prosecutor? What would you do?
MR. RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t know that a special prosecutor is the answer, but there is an argument that can be made for handling them in a way different than they’re being handled because they’re serious. And– and I would suspect that an awful lot of them don’t even get reported.
MR. RUMSFELD: And– and that’s probably true in the public sector, in private citizens as well as in the military.
MR. RUMSFELD: But– but it’s a terrible thing. There has to be zero tolerance. And it– it appears that– that something different is going to have to be done and I wish I knew what the answer was. I don’t. But– but it had– people have simply got to not tolerate it.
GREGORY: What about the culture in the military? Is that a part of what’s contributing to this? Is it a major part of what’s contributing to it?
MR. RUMSFELD: Well, people talk about that. The military– they talk about athletic teams and– and male environments. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think– there’s certainly nothing about the military that would contribute to it in terms of– of the purpose of the armed forces. The– but I don’t know the answer. I– and I think they better– they better really land all over people that are engaged in any kind of abuse of that nature.
GREGORY: There’s so much happening in Washington and you are a veteran of so much controversy as even in your most recent incarnation as defense secretary in the Bush administration. You write this from the book, Rumsfeld’s Rules, “If you foul up, tell the boss and correct it fast. Mistakes can usually be corrected if the adminis– the organization’s leaders are made aware of them and they are caught up early enough and faced honestly. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. If you have fouled something up, it’s best to tell the boss first.”
MR. RUMSFELD: That’s true.
GREGORY: Accountability. Whether it’s IRS or the questions about Benghazi, who is accountable? How do you assess that in these cases?
MR. RUMSFELD: Well, in these cases, I don’t think they know yet. Clearly, the president and in the case of Benghazi, the Secretary of State. That’s the way life works. But what bothers me about it is that two things really concern me. One, you think of a manager, a leader. When something like that happens, you call people in, you sit them down and you let them know that you intend to find ground truth fast. And he seems not to have done that. The other thing that’s worrisome is, as they say, truth leaves on horseback and returns on foot. What’s happening to the president is incrementally trust is being eroded because of the different messages coming out. You know, it’s important that you avoid the early reports because they’re often wrong, and you have to get people in, find ground truth, and then communicate that as fast as you can to the extent information goes out that’s– proves not to be accurate. Presidents and leaders lead by persuasion and for persuasion to work, they don’t lead by command. You have to be trusted. And to the extent trust is eroded, as it is when stories get changed and something more is learned and– and it kind of incrementally destroys your credibility, I think that clearly is a problem. I was worried, for example, I came back from being ambassador of NATO when President Nixon had resigned and President Ford was in office. And the reservoir of trust had just been drained during the– that– that experience that we went through.
Yes. I saved the best for last. Dancing Dave asked Donald Rumsfeld about how to hold the federal government accountable for made up scandals. Hasn’t this man been put in jail for crimes against humanity yet? And, aren’t you glad I didn’t quote the rest of the damn panel?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I wonder if the Koch Brothers have a bet going on between them about their proposed deal to buy up some big circulation newspapers like the LA Times and Chicago Tribune.
I tried to find a clip of this little bit of dialogue, but no such luck:
Randolph Duke: Money isn’t everything, Mortimer.
Mortimer Duke: Oh, grow up.
Randolph Duke: Mother always said you were greedy.
Mortimer Duke: She meant it as a compliment.
There are grumblings behind the scenes, check it out:
Recently you’ve seen many petitions asking that the Koch brothers not be allowed to buy the Tribune Company’s newspapers. We understand why the Kochs breed this distrust. They are active political proponents of harsh right-wing positions. We’re also not certain that Tribune will listen to anything but money when the final decision is made.
What we do know is that great papers publish credible, trusted journalism online and on the printed page. Whoever comes to own these mastheads needs to understand that protecting newsrooms from ideological taint is no small thing. The future of American journalism depends on the ability to print truth, not opinion.
We call on Tribune to make a pledge that they’ll only sell to a buyer that will protect the objectivity of the news product by making a public commitment to doing so. The Newspaper Guild-CWA and the Communications Workers of America seek your support in this goal.
The Newspaper Guild
Communications Workers of America
AFL-CIO, CLC and IFJ
And then there is this…it is a long article, so please go read it in full…it is just to much to parse down into a few quotes. I will just give you this bit to chew on. Kathleen Miles: If Koch Brothers Buy LA Times, Half of Staff May Quit
So if the agenda at the Times changes, the agenda at the other LA news outlets will change — unless those news outlets are watching carefully. LA has to worry more about the stories that the Times stops covering than stories that are covered with a bias.
An example of how bias can take the form of lack of coverage is Fox News’ scant coverage of the national gun control debate. When President Barack Obama gave his moving speech chastising Congress for failing to pass background checks, Fox cut away to a panel discussion on the liberal media bias before the president had even finished his first sentence.
It seems the rationale is that the more silence there is on gun control, the greater the likelihood that status quo will continue. So the silence is what we have to listen for.
All LA journalists, including those at the Times, will need to research the friends and interests of the paper’s new owners and make sure they don’t get special treatment. If Times reporters hit a wall, will other LA journalists step up to report on those topics?
As I said, go read the entire article.
I kind of always felt the LA Times was right leaning anyway…but not the the extent of what it could be under a Koch ownership.
By the way, that cartoon up top is by David Horsey..cartoonist for the LA Times.
This is an open thread.