Lazy Saturday Afternoon News Reads

michael caine reading

Good Afternoon!!

It’s a perfect day to curl up with a great detective novel. As you can see, Michael Caine up there is deeply engrossed in Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely. Chandler is terrific for those of us who are connoisseurs of the hard-boiled school of mystery writers; I think his masterpiece was The Long Goodbye. I’ve read it multiple times. Here are a few great one-liners from the book:

“I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.”

“The girl gave him a look which ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back.”

“I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split.”

“A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic, is not the same man at all. You can’t predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before.”

“The French have a phrase for it. The bastards have a phrase for everything and they are always right. To say goodbye is to die a little.”

Years later, another hard-boiled detective novelist, Ross MacDonald, wrote a kind of paeon to The Long Goodbye called The Goodbye Look, which I also enjoyed and have read more than once.

These days I tend to prefer female detectives and women writers, but I still prefer the hard-boiled types over the “cozy” ones.

There’s not a whole lot of exciting news out there, but I have a variety of recent reads for you to delve into today if you choose.

I wish John Boehner and Mitch McConnell would read this article in today’s New York Times, although it probably wouldn’t begin to melt their cold cold hearts: Restored Payroll Tax Pinches Those Who Earn the Least.

Jack Andrews and his wife no longer enjoy what they call date night, their once-a-month outing to the movies and a steak dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse in Augusta, Ga. In Harlem, Eddie Phillips’s life insurance payment will have to wait a few more weeks. And Jessica Price is buying cheaper food near her home in Orlando, Fla., even though she worries it may not be as healthy.

Like millions of other Americans, they are feeling the bite from the sharp increase in payroll taxes that took effect at the beginning of January. There are growing signs that the broader economy is suffering, too.

Chain-store sales have weakened over the course of the month. And two surveys released last week suggested that consumer confidence was eroding, especially among lower-income Americans.

While these data points are preliminary — more detailed statistics on retail sales and other trends will not be available until later this month — at street level, the pain from the expiration of a two-percentage-point break in Social Security taxes in 2011 and 2012 is plain to see.

“You got to stretch what you got,” said Mr. Phillips, 51, a front-desk clerk and maintenance man for a nonprofit housing group who earned $22,000 last year. “That little $20 or $30 affects you, especially if you’re just making enough money to stay above water.” So he has taken to juggling bills, skipping a payment on one this month and another next month.

Don’t I know it!

President Obama used his Saturday radio address to once again poke Congress to deal with the upcoming “sequester” cuts.

“If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or energy are likely to be laid off,” he said. “All our economic progress could be put at risk.”

Mr. Obama’s remarks echoed a statement issued by the White House Friday that warned the sequester would “threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class.”

But, as usual, Republicans are blaming Obama for the problem.

“We know the President’s sequester will have consequences,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement this week. “What we don’t know is when the President will propose a plan to replace the sequester with smarter spending cuts and reforms.”


I hope President Obama reads this op-ed in The Washington Post by Georgetown constitutional law professor David Cole. Cole is the author of the recent book The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable.

There are plenty of problems with President Obama’s targeted killings in the war against terrorism: The policy remains secret in most aspects, involves no judicial review, has resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, has been employed far from any battlefield and has sparked deep anti-American resentment in countries where we can ill afford it.

But when it comes to the particular legal issue raised in a recently leaked “white paper” from the Justice Department — namely, whether it is legal to kill Americans with drones — one problem looms largest: The policy permits the government to kill its citizens in secret while refusing to acknowledge, even after the fact, that it has done so.

There may be extraordinary occasions when killing a citizen is permissible, but it should never be acceptable for the government to refuse to acknowledge the act. How can we be free if our government has the power to kill us in secret? And how can a sovereign authority be accountable to the people if the sovereign can refuse to own up to its actions?

Cole likens Obama’s assassination policy to the “disappearances” in Argentina in the 1970s.

When Argentina’s military junta secretly abducted and killed its citizens during that country’s “dirty war” in the 1970s, the world labeled these acts “disappearances” and condemned them as violations of human rights. A disappearance is not just an abduction or killing, but an unacknowledged abduction or killing. To “disappear” citizens not only deprives them of their liberty or life without fair process but is deeply corrosive of democratic politics, casting a shadow of fear over all.

Please read the whole thing if you can.

I liked this piece by Gary Gutting at The New York Times, despite my initial hesitation to read anything by a professor at Notre Dame. I finally decided I shouldn’t condemn him by association over the ND football team scandals. Headlined “Depression and the Limits of Psychiatry,” it’s a philosophical discussion of the upcoming changes in the definition of depression in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Current psychiatric practice is guided by the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM). Its new 5th edition makes controversial revisions in the definition of depression, eliminating a long-standing “bereavement exception” in the guidelines for diagnosing a “major depressive disorder.” People grieving after the deaths of loved ones may exhibit the same sorts of symptoms (sadness, sleeplessness and loss of interest in daily activities among them) that characterize major depression. For many years, the DSM specified that, since grieving is a normal response to bereavement, such symptoms are not an adequate basis for diagnosing major depression. The new edition removes this exemption.

Disputes over the bereavement exemption center on the significance of “normal.” Although the term sometimes signifies merely what is usual or average, in discussions of mental illness it most often has normative force. Proponents of the exemption need not claim that depressive symptoms are usual in the bereaved, merely that they are appropriate (fitting).

Opponents of the exemption have appealed to empirical studies that compare cases of normal bereavement to cases of major depression. They offer evidence that normal bereavement and major depression can present substantially the same symptoms, and conclude that there is no basis for treating them differently. But this logic is faulty. Even if the symptoms are exactly the same, proponents of the exemption can still argue that they are appropriate for someone mourning a loved one but not otherwise. The suffering may be the same, but suffering from the death of a loved one may still have a value that suffering from other causes does not. No amount of empirical information about the nature and degree of suffering can, by itself, tell us whether someone ought to endure it.

Think Progress has a couple of interesting pieces on the relationship between climate change and our recent extreme weather. Posted yesterday: Historic Blizzard Poised to Strike New England: What Role Is Climate Change Playing? by Joe Romm.

I asked Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to comment on the role climate change has on this storm. He explained:

1. This is a perfect set up for a big storm, with the combination of two parts: a disturbance from the Gulf region with lots of moisture and a cold front from the west.

2. Ingredients for a big snow storm include temperatures just below freezing. In the past temperatures at this time of year would have been a lot below freezing but the ability to hold moisture in the atmosphere goes down by 7% per degree C (4% per deg F), and so in the past we would have had a snow storm but not these amounts.

3. The moisture flow into the storm is also important and that is enhanced by higher than normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs). These are higher by about 1 deg C [almost 2°F] than a normal (pre-1980) due to global warming and so that adds about 10% to the potential for a big snow.

Every storm and “event” is unique. It always has unique ingredients. So it is hard if not impossible to take apart, because any piece missing means the storm behaves differently. So event attribution is not well posed. Instead we look for the environment in which the storm is occurring and how that has changed to make conditions warmer and moister over the oceans.

And here’s supplement to that piece: Must-Read Trenberth: How To Relate Climate Extremes to Climate Change

The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….
The air is on average warmer and moister than it was prior to about 1970 and in turn has likely led to a 5–10 % effect on precipitation and storms that is greatly amplified in extremes. The warm moist air is readily advected onto land and caught up in weather systems as part of the hydrological cycle, where it contributes to more intense precipitation events that are widely observed to be occurring.

Yesterday I came across this piece with some background on Christopher Dorner, the fugitive ex-cop in California.

The final straw for Christopher Jordan Dorner grew out of a relatively minor arrest outside San Pedro’s DoubleTree hotel nearly five years ago.
Dorner and his training officer were called to the well-manicured hotel because a scruffy, angry, mentally ill man would not leave. Together, the Harbor Division officers grappled with the man in a bush until he was shot with a Taser gun and submitted. But the pair differed in their versions of what happened that morning.

The discrepancy became an obsession for Dorner, who claimed his training officer brutally and unnecessarily kicked the man in the collarbone and face. His intense feelings about that incident are the core of the lengthy, stream-of-consciousness manifesto he wrote to explain why he embarked on a killing spree – complete with a 40-person hit list.
In the 14-page manifesto (written in the parlance of a police report), Dorner directly addresses “America,” and describes himself as a heroic figure rendered helpless by a series of racist attacks that began when he was a first-grade student at Norwalk Christian School in Norwalk, when another student called him a racial slur.

The school closed down Thursday during the massive manhunt for Dorner. The disgraced former officer wrote that the first of a series of injustices that defined his life happened at the Norwalk school, where he says he was the only “black kid.” He said he was repeatedly disciplined for fighting throughout elementary school, but it was only because he was responding to racist name-calling.

This guy definitely fits the analysis of workplace and school shooters by Mark Ames in his book Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and Beyond, except that Dorner is on the move. He’ll most likely end up killing himself or committing suicide by cop. If he’s not dead already, it’s hard to figure how he could be eluding the manhunt for this long.

Okay, I need to go out and shovel some more snow. What are your recommended reads for this afternoon? I look forward to clicking on your links when I come back inside.


34 Comments on “Lazy Saturday Afternoon News Reads”

  1. RalphB says:

    U.S. Cancels Regular Drone Strikes on Saturdays

    WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Citing budgetary concerns, the United States announced today that it would discontinue regular Saturday drone strikes on U.S. citizens, beginning in 2014.

    In announcing the decision, the White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged that the cutback in drone service was “bound to be controversial.” “In the United States, we’ve always prided ourselves on our ability to target our citizens with drone strikes, Monday through Saturday, regardless of the weather,” he said. “We know that losing Saturday drone service is going to take some getting used to.”

    But the move to cut back drone service drew sharp criticism from a longtime defender of the program, the former Vice-President Dick Cheney. “Like most Americans, I thought I’d never see the day when drones just up and take Saturdays off,” he said. “This would never be happening if I were still President.”

    As if to silence critics, Mr. Carney assured reporters that drones could “still get the job done” Monday through Friday, and reminded U.S. citizens to update the government on any change of address so the drones would know where to reach them.

  2. NW Luna says:

    Bill would put tight restrictions on drone use in state

    Rep. David Taylor’s proposal was introduced Friday, a day after Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn ordered the city’s Police Department to abandon its nascent drone program, which had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration but was awaiting the go-ahead from the City Council. Taylor’s extensive bill covers the purchase of drones, data collection by the unmanned aerial vehicles, search-warrant requirements and mandated audits. ….

    “Aerial drones can provide law-enforcement agencies with unprecedented capabilities to engage in surveillance and intrude on people’s privacy,” ACLU spokesman Doug Honig said in an email. ….

    U.S. Department of Homeland Security drones do enter Washington airspace occasionally, patrolling the Canadian border east of the Cascade mountains. The two Predator-B aircraft are based in North Dakota.

  3. ecocatwoman says:

    bb, not envying you and the others trapped in those snowdrifts. I can’t imagine what it’s like having spent my entire life in Florida. Hope everyone stays warm.

    My favorite crime/mystery authors are Sara Paretsky & the late Tony Hillerman. I wish I had all of my weekend chores done & could curl up with a book. I had to have my remaining dog, Celie, euthanized this morning. I’m waiting to hear from the crematory so that I can pick up her cremains. Being dogless hasn’t quite sunk in yet & I’ll likely be spending the evening weeping. To those SD readers with dogs, give ’em an extra hug from me.

    • bostonboomer says:

      So sorry for your loss, Connie. Take care. Believe it or not, I love the snow and don’t mind shoveling at all. I find it very energizing as long as I don’t overdo it.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        Thanks. It doesn’t get easier to make that decision, but Celie was a 15 year old Lab mix, so I must have done something right for her to live that long.

        Snow is as foreign a concept to me as the landscape on Mars. It looks pretty in pictures, but I can’t imagine not being able to open my door to get outside, or having to dig my car out from under the snow. My old, wrecked body doesn’t do well in cold weather, even what passes for cold weather in Florida. Sending warm thoughts your way.

      • HT says:

        Oh ecocat, my condolences. When I had to euthanize my beloved Holmes I cried for weeks and went dogless for three years because I couldn’t bear to think about losing another best beloved. Be thankful that she went with you by her side – I think Celie is.

        Up here snow is wonderful – just not so much at the same time, please.

        Love Raymond Chandler – I don’t think there is another mystery writer that even comes close to his prose. I do like James Patterson’s Murder Club mysteries and am a big fan of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels. I also love Martha Grimes’ Inspector Jury novels.

        • ecocatwoman says:

          I haven’t been dogless in 36 years. If my “luck” holds, I won’t have to go looking, one will find me.

          And, I forgot – I love Dashiell Hammett.

      • RalphB says:

        If you like James Lee Burke, you’ll probably also like his daughter Alifair’s work. She’s a chip off the old block in a very good way.

      • HT says:

        Ralph thanks – I’ll check Alifair out. Funny that, Dave Robicheaux’ daughter is also Alifair. Sounds promising.

      • bostonboomer says:

        As the Romans said, “There is can be no disputing about taste.” I’ll take a snowstorm over a hurricane any old day.

    • Fannie says:

      Ecocatwoman………….I know she must have loved you so, and I know letting that grand old girl go is hard on you. I hope another precious girl will find you, and put her head in your lap. I spent a part of the morning with my Murphy and about 28 other dogs getting shots and check up at a clinic…….trying to stretch the bill from $140 to $38…………..and then took him for a long run in the park. Will do, and hug him tight.

      • HT says:

        What a delightful name for a companion – Murphy. When I broke down and got a rescue dog (from Kentucky for goodness sake 500 miles away) she was a year old and named Millicent. Millicent is not a good name for a companion so renamed her Milly so she wouldn’t be confused. I think it’s important how you name your companions – call me simple but they need to know that you have thought about their needs. Love Murphy – it’s so elegant.

    • NW Luna says:

      Oh, I am so sorry. It hurts so much to lose a companion like that. I’m sure that Celie was beloved and had a wonderful home with you.

  4. RalphB says:

    LAPD Had “No Idea” Who They Were Shooting At In Dorner Pursuit. They just lit ’em up.

  5. Propertius says:

    If the President is (rightfully) opposed to sequestration, then perhaps the White House shouldn’t have proposed it in the first place. As Politico pointed out during the campaign when the President attempted to deny responsibility for this wretched idea:

    Bob Woodward says President Barack Obama got some of his facts wrong on sequester at Monday night’s debate.

    Woodward’s book “The Price of Politics” has been the go-to fact check source for the president’s answer, in which he claimed the idea of using deep, automatic, across-the-board domestic and defense spending cuts to force Congress to address the nation’s burgeoning federal deficit originated from Congress, not from the White House.

    (Also on POLITICO: D.C. caught off guard by Obama sequester vow)

    “What the president said is not correct,” Woodward told POLITICO Tuesday. “He’s mistaken. And it’s refuted by the people who work for him.”

    Woodward, a Washington Post journalist who was a key reporter on the initial coverage of the Watergate scandal, said he stands behind his reporting in the book, which drew upon sources involved in last year’s deficit talks and detailed notes taken in the meetings.

    (Also on POLITICO: Woodward’s book: 5 telling moments)

    Woodward reports in his book that White House Office of Management Director Jack Lew and Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors took the proposal for sequestration to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and then it was presented to congressional Republicans.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That may be true, but I would need more evidence. I don’t trust Bob Woodward or Politico. Woodward is a pathetic, burned-out hack who has sold out any credit he deserved for Watergate reporting. Even the WaPo fact checker concedes the following:

      But even if we assume that the idea did originate in the White House, we need to remember one more thing: The debt ceiling agreement that contained the sequestration cuts got significantly more Republican support than Democratic support.

      In fact, 174 of 240 House Republicans voted for it, while just half of House Democrats joined them (95 out of 190 votes). In the Senate, Democrats carried the vote, providing 45 of the 74 “yes” votes, but Senate Republicans also supported it by a 28-19 margin.

      So in total, more than 70 percent of congressional Republicans voted for the deal that included the sequester, while 58 percent of Democrats voted for it.

      In part because of that bipartisan vote, a Romney ad that labeled the sequester as “Obama’s defense cuts” was rated only “half true” by Politifact.

      • bostonboomer says:

        According to Politico, Mitch McConnell was the “chief Republican architect” of the sequester. Last summer, the NYT called out Republicans who were trying to blame it on Obama.

        Republican lawmakers started a fire last year when they created a debt-ceiling crisis to force cuts in spending. Now that it is beginning to damage their most treasured military programs, they are blaming President Obama for not putting it out.

        “It’s all the president’s fault” seems to be the theme of a tour led by Senator John McCain this week of states with a large military presence. Mr. McCain and two other Republican senators are scaring town-hall meetings with warnings that military bases will be closed and civilian employees will be laid off by the thousands.

        Their goal is partly to drum up opposition to the $500 billion across-the-board defense cut that begins in January, but it also is to get voters to blame Mr. Obama for those cuts. To do so, they have had to be less than forthright about their role in creating one of the worst examples of governance in many years. And they are not explaining that the defense cuts are hardly the most damaging of the big reductions they helped bring about.

        Mr. McCain and his two colleagues, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, all supported using the threat of a debt default to win ideological goals that they could not achieve through normal legislation. Ms. Ayotte said she could not approve a debt-limit increase without a cap on all federal spending. Mr. Graham demanded cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age, in exchange for his vote.

        The final deal, negotiated by Republicans and the White House, required more than $2 trillion in cuts, far more than could have been won without extortion. But Mr. Graham and Ms. Ayotte voted no because it also included the possibility of defense cuts and left insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare largely intact.

        Mr. McCain voted yes, but that has not held him back from denouncing the very deal he supported. He called the defense cuts “an emergency situation” and said he held the president responsible for allowing them to continue. “Facing draconian cuts, it seems to me that the president of the United States ought to at least be involved in trying to prevent this,” he said at a town meeting on Monday in Fayetteville, N.C.

      • bostonboomer says:

        NYT conclusion:

        The three Republican senators have proposed closing some unspecified tax loopholes and selling federal lands to bring in more revenue, but that’s hardly a substitute for making the wealthy pay their fair share of income taxes. Shouting about the severity of the defense cuts simply underscores the cost of their no-tax-increase pledges.

        The Pentagon, which has had a blank check for a decade, can easily absorb hundreds of billions in cuts, but using an across-the-board cleaver is the wrong way to make them. If the senators are serious about averting a problem they helped create, they can support negotiating a deficit-reduction package that includes tax revenues from the wealthy, or they can urge that both sides of the sequester simply be set aside.

        Blaming the president for their own mistake is not a solution.

      • SophieCT says:

        Sigh…clearly nobody likes the sequester now, so you’d think with all this agreement going around, it would be easy to do something about it.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Did anyone ever like it?

      • SophieCT says:

        I suppose the 269 Representatives and 74 Senators who voted for it weren’t really for it as much as they were against doing anything else.

      • RalphB says:

        That’s probably a safe bet. Wouldn’t really want to do anything.

  6. Pilgrim says:

    I often enjoy Boomer’s writing. I appreciate her intellectual bent.

    Boomer, you were mentioning that you appreciate detective stories, and women writers.

    Perhaps you know of Ruth Rendell. I’m not an avid detective story reader, but I enjoy her writing. She has also written some books under name of Barbara Vine. They are very psychological in character. She really is fascinated by the workings of the mind. I seem to have the sense that this is also a main interest with you.

  7. RalphB says:

    Astronaut teams up with ‘Barenaked Ladies’ for interstellar duet

    Cheers for Chris Hadfield, Bare Naked Ladies, the Wexford Gleeks, and the CBC.

  8. Tonight was the squid show on Discovery. They had these tweets popping up on the screen it was so damn annoying!

  9. RalphB says:

    Slate: Don’t Let Economists and Politicians Hack Your Math

    Tax brackets, Social Security, Medicare, and various indexed payments, together affecting tens of millions of Americans, are pegged to the CPI as a measure of inflation.

    A new book, The Physics of Wall Street by James Weatherall, tells that story: In 1996, five economists, known as the Boskin Commission, were tasked with saving the government $1 trillion. They observed that if the CPI were lowered by 1.1 percent, then a $1 trillion could indeed be saved over the coming decade. So what did they do? They proposed a way to alter the formula that would lower the CPI by exactly that amount!

    Nifty little nugget,