Saturday News Potpourri

Draper-Pot_Pourri

Good Morning!!

I have quite a few articles to share this morning, a real Saturday potpourri! So let’s get started. First up, on Thursday Attorney General Eric Holder gave a wide-ranging interview to Ari Melber of MSNBC, and quite a bit of breaking news came out of it. Here are some of the resulting headlines: NY Daily News: Eric Holder: Could talk deal with NSA-leaker Edward Snowden, but no clemency

Holder told MSNBC that the Obama Administration “would engage in a conversation” about a resolution in the case, but said it would require Snowden acknowledge wrongdoing…. At a University of Virginia forum, where Holder was asked about Snowden, he  elaborated on his position, saying, “If Mr. Snowden wanted to come back to the United States and enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers. We would do the same with any defendant who wanted to enter a plea of guilty, so that is the context to what I said.” But he stressed that the NSA leaker would not walk. “We’ve always indicated that the notion of clemency isn’t something that we were willing to consider.”

eric-holder-marijuana

Seattle PI: Holder: Marijuana banking regulations on the way

Attorney General Eric Holder says the Obama administration is planning to roll out regulations soon that would allow banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers. During an appearance Thursday at the University of Virginia, Holder said it is important from a law enforcement perspective to enable places that sell marijuana to have access to the banking system so they don’t have large amounts of cash lying around. Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges. Because of the threat of criminal prosecution, financial institutions often refuse to let marijuana-related businesses open accounts.

There’s a good piece about this at Forbes, but they won’t even let you copy their headlines anymore. Mediaite: Eric Holder: Voter ID Used to ‘Depress the Vote’ of People Who Don’t Support GOP

Attorney General Eric Holder sharply criticized state-level voter identification policies and said that he believes those policies are a “remedy in search of a problem.” He added that, while some may be arguing for voter ID in good faith, he believes that most are advocating for this policy in order to “depress the vote” of those who do not support the “party that is advancing” voter ID measures. “I think many are using it for partisan advantage,” Holder said of voter ID. “People have to understand that we are not opposed to photo identification in a vacuum,” he continued. “But when it is used in — certain ways to disenfranchise particular groups of people, whether by racial designation, ethnic origin, or for partisan reasons, that from my perspective is problematic.” He added that “all the studies” show that in-person voter fraud “simply does not exist” at a level that requires a legislative solution.

Politico: Eric Holder: Timing of Robert Gates book release ‘a mistake’

Attorney General Eric Holder waded into the controversy over former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s new book Thursday, calling it “a mistake” for Gates to have published his recollections before President Barack Obama left the White House. “It’s my view that it’s just not a good thing thing to write a book about a president that you served while that president is still in office,” Holder said during an appearance at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “From my perspective I think the world of Bob Gates, but I think that the publication of that book — at least at this time — was a mistake.” [….] In the course of offering his critique of the timing of Gates’s book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Holder twice praised the former defense secretary for his leadership. “I like Bob Gates a great deal. He was a good secretary of defense,” the attorney general said.

LA Times: Holder says no bank ‘too big to indict,’ more financial cases coming

“I think people just need to be a little patient,” Holder said, according to a transcript of an interview with MSNBC to air at noon Pacific time Friday. “I know it’s been a while. But we have other things that are in the pipeline.” [….] Holder has taken heat for telling a Senate hearing last year that some financial institutions were “so large that it becomes difficult to prosecute them” because criminal charges could hurt the U.S. and even world economies. Since then Holder has tried to emphasize that the Justice Department is not intimidated by the size of a financial institution and would bring any charges it believed it could prove.

As I said, quite a bit of news out of one interview. Good job by Ari Melber.

In other news . . .

The Economist has a brief article that provides some background on the situation in Ukraine: On the march in Kiev –The protests turn nasty and violent, but the president is not giving ground. ukraine-protests-2

JANUARY 22nd was meant to mark Ukraine’s unity day, a celebration of its short-lived pre-Soviet independence. Instead, it was a day of civil unrest and perhaps the biggest test of Ukraine’s post-Soviet integrity. After two months of largely peaceful encampment on the Maidan in Kiev, the protests turned violent. Five people were reported killed and hundreds were injured. An armoured personnel carrier pushed through the streets. Clouds of black smoke and flames mottled the snow-covered ground. Never in its history as an independent state has Ukraine witnessed such violence. It was triggered by the passage of a series of repressive laws imposing tight controls on the media and criminalising the protests of the past two months. One law copied almost verbatim a Russian example, including stigmatising charities and human-rights groups financed from abroad as “foreign agents”. If Russian human-rights activists denounce their parliament as a “crazy printer” churning out repressive legislation, says Oleksandra Matviichuk of the Centre for Civil Liberties in Kiev, Ukraine has a “crazy photocopier”. The clashes show vividly the refusal of the protesters to heed such laws.

Brian Glyn Williams, the U. Mass Dartmouth professor who interacted with Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and recommended some sources of information on Chechnya for a report Tsarnaev was writing, has a post up at HuffPo on how the history of Chechya and Dagestan is coming back to haunt the Winter Olympics in Russia: The Dark Secret Behind the Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Efforts to Hide a Tsarist-Era Genocide. Here’s the conclusion:

The twin bombings in Volgograd in late December 2013 and an earlier one in October are clearly meant to show the Russians that the Chechen-Dagestani terrorists have reignited their terror jihad. They are also meant to remind the world of the tragedy that befell the Circassians of the Caucasus’s Black Sea shore exactly 150 years ago this winter. This is the dark secret that Russia’s authoritarian leader, Putin, does not want the world to know. Putin has thus far been very successful in conflating Russia’s neo-colonial war against Chechen separatists with America’s war on nihilist Al Qaeda Arab terrorists. Any attempt to remind the world of Imperial Russia/Post-Soviet Russia’s war crimes in the Caucasus is a threat to Putin’s pet project, the whitewashed Sochi Olympics. This of course not to excuse the brutal terroristic acts of the Caucasian Emirate or the Chechen rebels, but it certainly provides the one thing that Putin does not want the world to see as he constructs his “Potemkin village” in Sochi, and that is an honest account of the events that have made this the most terrorist fraught Olympic games since the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

erik prince Remember Erik Prince, the Michigan millionaire who founded Blackwater? Guess what he’s doing these days? The WSJ has the scoop: Erik Prince: Out of Blackwater and Into China. Erik Prince —ex-Navy SEAL, ex-CIA spy, ex-CEO of private-security firm Blackwater —calls himself an “accidental tourist” whose modest business boomed after 9/11, expanded into Iraq and Afghanistan, and then was “blowtorched by politics.” To critics and conspiracy theorists, he is a mercenary war-profiteer. To admirers, he’s a patriot who has repeatedly answered America’s call with bravery and creativity.

Now, sitting in a boardroom above Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, he explains his newest title, acquired this month: chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China’s largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. Beijing has titanic ambitions to tap Africa’s resources—including $1 trillion in planned spending on roads, railways and airports by 2025—and Mr. Prince wants in…. “I would rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next,” says the crew-cut 44-year-old. Having launched Blackwater in 1997 as a rural North Carolina training facility for U.S. soldiers and police, Mr. Prince says he “kept saying ‘yes’ as the demand curve called—Columbine, the USS Cole and then 9/11.” In 100,000 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says, Blackwater contractors never lost a U.S. official under their protection. But the company gained a trigger-happy reputation, especially after a September 2007 shootout that left 17 civilians dead in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. At that point, charges Mr. Prince, Blackwater was “completely thrown under the bus by a fickle customer”—the U.S. government, and especially the State Department. He says Washington opted to “churn up the entire federal bureaucracy” and sic it on Blackwater “like a bunch of rabid dogs.” According to Mr. Prince, IRS auditors told his colleagues that they had “never been under so much pressure to get someone as to get Erik Prince,” and congressional staffers promised, “We’re going to ride you till you’re out of business.”

Awwwwww…..Poor little rich boy. Where’s my tiny violin?

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Speaking of entrepreneurs, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ plans for his latest acquisition–The Washington Post–are becoming clearer, as he hires more right wing libertarians for the op-ed page. Now Pando Daily reveals what Don Graham is up to now that he’s dumped the family business: The company formerly known as WaPo moves into tech apps.

Today, the company formerly known as WaPo — now called Graham Holdings – has announced a new business endeavor in journalism. Surprisingly, said endeavor doesn’t have much to do with actual journalism at all — it falls squarely in the tech camp. It’s a content discovery app called Trove. Trove fits in the now-torrential trend of such applications. Companies like Flipboard,Prismatic, Rockmelt, and N3twork have all tread this ground long before Trove. They’re all convinced that places like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS readers are not good enough for finding the best stories…. The two men behind Trove have rich and storied histories. Vijay Ravindran, the CEO of Trove, served as The Washington Post’s Chief Digital Officer before the sale, and ran ordering at Amazon for seven years before that. Reuters oped columnist Jack Shafer even divpredicted (incorrectly) that Ravindran would be named the new WaPo publisher after the sale. The other Trove heavyweight is product lead Rob Malda, who is also the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Slashdot — the predecessor of every user-focused news aggregator since, from Digg to Reddit to Hacker News.

Read all about it at the above link.

A few short takes:

In other tech news, CSM’s Security Watch reports that Booz Allen, Snowden’s old firm, looking to help US government with ‘insider threats’. Author Dan Murphy asks, “Are defense and intelligence contractors the best choice to manage a threat they’ve contributed to?” Read it and weep.

According to Fox News, gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Ruger will no longer do business in California because they don’t want to comply with a new CA law that allows law enforcement to trace bullets to the individual gun they came from. After all, why would gun companies want to help police catch murderers? Unbelievable!

Did you know that this month is the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant satire, Dr. Strangelove? IMHO, it is one of the funniest movies of all time. Well, Eric Schlosser has a not-so-funny article about it at The New Yorker: ALMOST EVERYTHING IN “DR. STRANGELOVE” WAS TRUE. Don’t miss this one; it’s a must read!

Apparently the latest food craze to emerge from San Francisco is “artisanal toast.” How did toast become the latest artisanal food craze? Ask a trivial question, get a profound, heartbreaking answer. John Gravois writes about it at Pacific Standard: The Science of Society. Weird.

A silly test to take at Buzzfeed: Which Pop Diva Are You? I got Pink. I know nothing about her…but she looks kinda cool. PINK

Finally, I posted this link in the comments recently, but I don’t know if anyone looked at it. I’m posting it again, because I think it’s absolutely adorable. It’s some glamour shots of elderly people having fun dressing up and posing as various movie heroes and heroines. Here’s just one example:

"Easy Rider": Walter Loeser (l.), 98, & Kurt Neuhaus, 90

“Easy Rider”: Walter Loeser (l.), 98, & Kurt Neuhaus, 90

I hope you found something to tickle your fancy in this potpourri of articles. Now it’s your turn. Please post your recommended links in the comment thread, and have a wonderful weekend!


Tuesday Reads: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, a “Moderate Republican,” Buyer’s Remorse, and Sellouts

Coffee and Morning News, by Tim Nyberg

Good Morning!

Yesterday, Newsweek published a list of job-creating strategies by former President Bill Clinton. The headline is “It’s Still the Economy, Stupid.” I’m not going to excerpt from the article, you can read it at the link above.

But I’ll share part of the bad review Dean Baker gave Clinton’s suggestions, some of which seemed credible to to me. Dean Baker really has a bug up his a$$ about Bill Clinton. He makes a case that we began losing manufacturing jobs under Clinton and Bush simply continued was Clinton’s policies. I’d be interested to hear people’s responses this critique.

I don’t watch the Sunday shows anymore, but I learned from Steve Benen that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked about jobs and unemployment on Face the Nation this week.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday, host Bob Schieffer asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday, “Do Republicans have any plans to do anything on the unemployment front or are you just going to let things take their course?” It seemed like a good question.

McConnell replied, “No, I — I think — what — what we’re doing is encouraging the president to — to quit doing what he’s doing.”

Clearly McConnell isn’t even worried enough about the current unemployment crisis to have even thought about a response to what should be an obvious question.

From Jay Bookman, I learned that McConnell’s primary concern is “overregulation.”

McCONNELL: If you talk to business people and Bill Daley, the present chief of staff did recently, you find out their biggest complaint is overregulation. You know, the federal government with that stimulus money hired a quarter of a million new employees. These people are busily at work trying to regulate every aspect of American life in– in health care, financial services, through the Environmental Protection Agency, really sort of bureaucrats on steroids that are freezing up– the private– private sector and making it very difficult, Bob, for them to grow and expand. You know, you’re seen the reports that they’ve two trillion in cash. The reason they’re not investing that in hiring more people is the government has made it very expensive to expand employment.

His recommendations for Obama:

Quit overspending. And we’re hoping with the debt ceiling discussions we can begin to address deficit and debt. And second, they need to quit over-regulating the American economy. This is something they can do on their own. They don’t have to come to us for permission to rein in these regulators who are really at work across the American economy making it very, very difficult for businesses to function.

What about the Democrats? Benen links to this piece at Politico: Democrats eye new jobs agenda.

Senate Democrats are beginning to fear that the country’s increasingly dim economic outlook will cost them their seats in 2012 and are trying to craft a new agenda aimed at spurring job creation.

Wow! The Dems in the Senate have finally figured out that they might be in trouble with the electorate. Someone go find the President on the golf course or the basketball court or whereever he’s hanging out today and tell him the breaking news.

Fearing the economy may be getting worse, Democrats plan to soon unveil what they’ll call a “Jobs First” agenda — and the stakes are high. A bleak economic outlook, like the May jobs report, could cost Democrats their thin Senate majority and even the White House if they can’t make a strong case to an anxious electorate that their policies will create jobs.

“Jobs First?” Isn’t it a little late for that? It has already been “Wall Street First” for three years. Maybe “Jobs Second” would be a little more accurate, although I doubt if this latest project will amount to anything.

Everyone is talking about the NYT Sunday Magazine profile of Jon Huntsman, who is spouting the usual Republican economic insanity: Jon Huntsman Supports Radical Balanced Budget Amendment

In a private conference call with a handful of university students across the country, GOP Presidential hopeful — and President Obama’s former Ambassador to China — Jon Huntsman argued in support of one of the most far-reaching, controversial elements of the conservative political agenda.

As first reported in a broader piece by the Huffington Post, Huntsman argued in favor of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to maintain a balanced budget — an innocuous-sounding, but radical plan pushed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and numerous other congressional conservatives.

“We’re going to have to fight for a balanced budget amendment,” Huntsman said. “Every governor in this country has a balanced budget amendment. It keeps everybody honest. It’s the best safeguard imaginable.”

At its core, a balanced-budget amendment would make it unconstitutional for the government to spend more than it collects in revenue — a requirement that, without safeguards, would make stimulus and emergency spending impossible.

Ezra Klein adds:

I’ve noted previously that Jon Huntsman’s campaign strategy appears to be to match a moderate, conciliatory tone with an orthodox conservative policy platform. And sure enough, he’s endorsing a balanced-budget amendment. It’s not clear if the specific balanced-budget amendment he’s endorsing is The Worst Idea in Washington — in which case, Huntsman will have to explain how he’ll handle the fact that Paul Ryan’s budget, which he has also endorsed, will be unconstitutional — or just a relative of it. Either way, it’s not moderate in the least. Which isn’t to say it’s not good politics.

From Andrew Leonard at Salon: The imaginary GOP “moderate” candidate

Reporter Matt Bai manages to deliver more than 6000 words on Huntsman without providing a single practical reason why anyone, Republican, Democrat, or Independent, might possibly consider voting for him. Whether this is because Bai simply isn’t interested in actual positions on the issues or because Huntsman just doesn’t have a platform to campaign on — or some evil toxic combination of both — is hard to say. But the result is just plain baffling. Bai quotes Huntsman as saying “I think what’s going to drive this election, really, are two things — authenticity and the economy” — and then proceeds to write a profile that doesn’t contain a single iota of insight into Huntsman’s views on any economic policy issue.

6000 words — and not a single one of them is “jobs” or “taxes” or “budget” or “deficit” or “Wall Street.” This amounts to political reporting malpractice. If Huntsman isn’t interested in delineating a stance on these issues, then why is Bai bothering to cover him? And if Bai isn’t interested in trying to discern what Huntsman’s stance is, why is the New York Times publishing him?

LOL! That’s pretty funny. Have I ever told you how much I hate Matt Bai?

It’s hard to believe it at this point, but some bloggers are just now figuring out that Obama isn’t “The One.” At Shakesville, Melissa McEwan reacts to a quote from Russ Feingold in which he says Jeffrey Immelt is “not the right guy…”

“It’s not just campaigns and contributions,” Feingold noted. “We have to say to the president, ‘Mr. President, Jeff Immelt is not the right guy – the CEO of GE is not the right guy to be running your Jobs & Competitiveness Council, not when your company doubled its profits, increased his compensation, and asked its workers to take huge pay and benefits cuts.'”

McEwan writes:

But as I read Feingold’s words—not the right guy—a not fully formed thought that has been hanging around the edges of my consciousness suddenly came sharply into focus: Obama is not the right guy.

It’s not (just) that his policies are insufficiently progressive, or even insufficiently Democratic, and it’s not (just) the arrogance, the hippie-punching, the bipartisan blah blah, the 12-dimensional chess, and it’s not (just) his tepid, half-assed, pusillanimous governance and his catastrophic ally fail. All of these things are just symptoms of this basic truth: Obama’s not up to the job.

I don’t mean he’s not up the job of being president; I mean he’s not up to the job of being president right now. I’m sure he’d have made a fine president some other time, some decade of relative peace and prosperity, where the biggest demand on his capacity was “don’t fuck it up.”

Check the date on that post. It’s June 17, 2011. She is just figuring all that out in 2011. How come I could already see it in 2007? And you should see the fawning comments on that post!

Here’s another buyer’s remorse post, and it’s very well thought out and well written. Janet Rhodes has clearly been angry with Obama for quite some time. But she still worked for his Campaign and voted for him. Why? Because he gave inspiring speeches!

Still her rant is worth reading. Fawning comments follow, naturally. Where were all these people back in 2008 when we had a choice? OK, I know I’m beating a dead horse, but still….

Finally, Kathryn Graham’s surviving relatives prove they couldn’t care less about news or the newspaper she valued so highly.

Washington Post Co. Chairman Don Graham sold off about $10 million in company stock days after successfully lobbying to loosen regulations on the for-profit higher education firm that is its most lucrative business.

A spokeswoman for the Washington Post Co. said the sale was on behalf of a trust for one of Graham’s siblings, not for Graham himself, and the company last week amended its filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission to clarify that Graham’s family, rather than he personally, was benefiting from the sale….

The disclosure indicates that the family that owns the paper profited from the bump in its stock price after the regulations became public and drove stock prices up across the for-profit education industry. Washington Post Company stock jumped 9% on reports of the new regulations; it has settled a bit since, but it still trading higher than before the news broke.

Let’s face it, newspapers are dead. Decent reporters should head to the internet.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?