WASHINGTON — Congressional negotiators briefly reopened the conference proceedings on a sweeping financial regulatory bill on Tuesday after Senate Republicans who had supported an earlier version of the measure threatened to block final approval unless Democrats removed a proposed tax on big banks and hedge funds.
Conference negotiators voted to eliminate the proposed tax and adopted a new plan to pay the projected five-year, $20 billion cost of the legislation.
Slate has an interesting and somewhat 'contra' article on ebooks by writer Jan Swafford here.
It's definitely worth reading. One of the things he gets very right is the difference in how we perceive various media (and yes, he does give the nod to Marshall McLuhan).
Of course the question is, will that actually matter in a few years, when the way most readers have learned to assimilate written thought is through screens.
(And yes, many writers though not all, work the way he describes. But it's not absolutely necessary, and for most books it's been a long time since I've worked that way. Same with most of the writers I know.)
Iran sees no risks to its gasoline imports, an oil official said on Tuesday, a day after France's Total TOTA PA joined the list of Western oil companies stopping sales to Iran due to sanctions.
The head of the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company told the oil ministry website SHANA that consumption was declining, helping trim Iran's reliance on gasoline imports.
"Under any conditions we are able to supply the country's gasoline needs and there is no problem in producing or importing gasoline," said Farid Ameri, sharing the optimism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has dismissed the sanctions threat.
And until it does, sanction will never have a chance to work. If they were going to work at all . . .
Actually, the action by Total will have more of an impact than the government admits. But sanctions have a long way to go. Now if the world were to stop buying Iranian oil . . .
WASHINGTON – In what law enforcements officials portrayed as an extraordinary takedown of a Russian espionage network, the Justice Department on Monday announced charges against 11 people accused of living for years in the United States as part of a deep-cover program by S.V.R. -- one of the successors to the Soviet-era K.G.B.
Looks like I just lost some of my most devoted readers. Bummer . . .
Full story here.
Last week's ruling favoring Google over Viacom has been billed as a victory for YouTube, but it's really a victory for copyright pirates.
Basically, the court threw out a suit against Google for illegally allowing copyrighted material owned by Viacom to be posted on its website. The case was summarily dismissed, with the court claiming that YouTube had no way of knowing whether copyrights were infringed, and therefore had no liability. Even though they then turned around and put ads on that material.
Basically, that says that anyone can pretend that his head is in the sand and "allow" files - as in movies, music and books - to be posted and "shared" . . . make money off the process . . . and have zero liability or responsibility to the original creator.
Pawn shops should be so lucky.
Viacom general counsel Michael Fricklas called the ruling “fundamentally flawed,” and vowed to appeal. “It is, and should be, illegal for companies to build their businesses with creative material they have stolen from others,“ he said, adding that “legitimate websites shouldn’t have to compete with pirates.”
A military source close to Gen. David Petraeus told Fox News that one of the first things the general will do when he takes over in Afghanistan is to modify the controversial rules of engagement to make it easier for U.S. troops to engage in combat with the enemy.(One version of the story here.)
Troops on the ground and some military commanders have said the strict rules -- aimed at preventing civilian casualties -- have effectively forced the troops to fight with one hand tied behind their backs.
Even if the order is mostly a clarification of McChrystal's intent, it's a step in the right direction - for the troops, anyway.
One thing that has been semi-lost in the McChrystal controversy is the validity of the so-called COIN strategy, which the general was closely identified with. Reporters and analysts seem to accept it as the latest and greatest thing.
Really, though, it's a rehash of old ideas that have never really worked the way advocates say they have. The U.S. tried a version of it in Vietnam, though no one ever - EVER - talks about that. And while Iraq is often cited as a validation of that strategy, that's a complete misread of what happened there.*
The problem is that these philosophies and strategies are advanced largely through politics - not Democratic-Republican politics, but the people politics everyone plays, whether they're in the military or government or vying for a talking head slot on FOX or MSNBC. They need a cause or something to talk about, a reason for to advance or to put down the next person.
Call me unreconstructed, but I think an army's job is to kill. You start doing other stuff, you get into trouble.
Yes, we don't want to have to use it too often. Killing sucks. It means you get killed, too. Sometimes. But if you're out to build sewers, you don't use tanks.
* Even if it weren't, there is a vast difference between Iraq and Afghanistan. Vast.
My post yesterday surprised a few people who hadn't realized that there was so much controversy in the Allied command during the war.
Believe me, that just barely scratched the surface. If you think McChrystal's staff dissed people in the Rolling Stone article, you should read some of the diaries and even official communications from World War II.
And these guys were taking live ammo into meetings.
Of course, one key difference is that 99 percent of the controversy was kept out of the newspapers and radio reports at the time. Partly because of censorship, partly because of self-censorship*, but mostly because Blackberries and the internet hadn't been invented.
And Twitter. We can blame it on that.
They never teach you about that in high school. Which I guess is why everyone acts so surprised to find that different members of an administration - whether it's Bush's or Obama's - don't get along.
* For example: the slapping incident was well-known among war correspondents, who actually reported it to Eisenhower. They could easily have written about it once they returned to the U.S. But it wasn't reported until months later, and then by a columnist in the States.
Patton and Bradley - Bradley is on the right.
General controversies . . .
The controversy over the Rolling Stone story about General McChrystal happened to resonate with a bit from the book I've been working on about Omar Bradley.
Not about Bradley - it's hard to imagine a more discreet subject, military or otherwise - but Patton, whose career during the war intertwined with Bradley's.
In the months before D Day, Patton was brought into England to prepare to lead an army in Normandy under Bradley. (Until the invasion the chain of command had him under Eisenhower, not Bradley, which was probably a relief for Bradley.) Eisenhower had Patton on a fairly short leash, not just because of the infamous slapping incident, but because of an investigation into whether he had incited men to kill prisoners. (He hadn't.)
As part of his keep-up-the-morale-of-the-people-whose-homes-we're-overrunning duty, Patton accepted an invitation to speak at a small gathering of the British equivalent of a local USO. He gave a brief, off-the-cuff speech. For Patton, he was pretty dialed back, but dialed-back Patton is shock jock brash for everyone else. At some point, he joked that after the war the U.S. and UK would run the world. And Russia, too.
Patton thought he was talking mostly to housewives and at worst slightly scandalizing them. But it turned out there was a reporter in the audience, and within days the story that Patton was figuring on ruling the world was all over Great Britain, and the States.
General Marshall was not pleased. Eisenhower, who had stuck his neck out insisting that he get Patton for an army command, was even less enthused. He almost fired Patton. But Patton stayed.
Why? For one thing, he hadn't dissed the President, Vice President, or his boss.
And he had Eisenhower. Beyond their friendship - severely tested in the war - Eisenhower felt Patton would be extremely useful in the push across the continent. He also thought he could keep Patton on a short enough leash to avoid catastrophes large enough to negate his value. Bradley was critical in that arrangement, though that part of the story isn't ordinarily told.
Why not? Because the only one who could tell it was Bradley - and Bradley was the last person in the world who would.
Especially to a reporter.
You can have my seat anytime you want. No charge. No rules.
Especially no rules.
* Actually, it's just the locker room, and at certain times. But there are certain situations where you have to be a little shameless, and anything to do with Lady Gaga is pretty much the definition of shameless . . .
Went to the game the other night with the Guru, which is always fun, and not just because he pays for the beer.
The setting always provokes baseball stories, and this time he told one about Yogi*:
Guy comes up to Berra complaining about something - life, I think - and the diatribe quickly moves on to the worst things that can happen to you, and what you're afraid of.
That's nothing, says Yogi when the complainer pauses. Try standing in against Bob Feller's fastball.
Yogi Berra, who landed on two beaches in Normandy, was more afraid of a fastball than German bullets.
* The Guru tells it much better - ask him next time you see him.
Police in Idaho think they might have solved a yearlong condiment crime spree. Authorities said a 74-year-old Boise woman arrested after pouring mayonnaise in the Ada County library's book drop box is a person of interest in at least 10 other condiment-related crimes.
So today was mostly Ernie Pyle, who wrote the best thousand or so words on Omar Bradley that will ever be written.
It's not that there's anything profound in his descriptions, but that's what makes it so good. He picks up little things - the book on how to speak French in the general's trailer (this is in Sicily; Normandy's not for another year). And yet a few sentences later can talk about the reality of ordering men to their deaths without making it sound phony or overly philosophical. Pyle found the thing right in front of everyone's eyes and showed why it was important.
To me, General Bradley looked like a schoolteacher rather than a soldier. When I told him that, he said I wasn't so far wrong, because his father was a country schoolteacher and he himself had taught at West Point and other places. His specialty was mathematics.
No one else to that point in the war had talked about Bradley as a math teacher, yet in many ways it was the key, or one of them, to his character. Know that about him, and know that he had been hunting since he was old enough to hold a rifle, and you know quite a bit about how he saw war. But no other news story at the time, at least to that point, ever mentioned his days as a math teacher. (Or the connection to his father, which is critical to understanding who was as a man.)
And his bit on Bradley's not even close to his best piece.
If you're looking for a good book on the war, dig out Brave Men from the dusty confines of the local library. You'll be glad you did.
From the Wall Street Journal:
To wine and dine Sasha, a 450-pound Siberian tiger at the Bronx Zoo, try serving beef and rabbit. To lure him for a snack, whip out the frozen treats his zookeepers call "bloodcicles." But to really get his olfactory engines running, you need the secret weapon: Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men.
Item in the FT UK edition:
Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London, launched an attack on Thursday on what he called the “anti-British rhetoric that seems to be permeating from America”. His statement typified the growing British backlash against the perceived scapegoating of BP by Barack Obama.
The tone of British resentment against the US president’s outspoken criticism of BP and Tony Hayward, the oil company’s chief executive, was set by the headline in Thursday’s Daily Telegraph. “Obama’s boot on the throat of British pensioners”, the rightwing paper declared, as it highlighted the impact of the fall in BP’s share price on the wider London stock market.Mr Johnson was among a host of politicians taking up the same theme, albeit in a more nuanced manner.
The London mayor called for an end to the “buck passing and name calling”, saying the anti-British rhetoric from the US might damage UK interests. “It starts to become a matter of national concern if a great British company is being continually beaten up on the international airwaves,” Mr Johnson told the BBC.
So today, working on my biography of Bradley, I tried to untangle (again) the replacement of 1st Infantry Division general Terry Allen in the middle of the battle for Troina.
The question isn't so much the replacement itself, since the events can be laid out in a logically illogical manner. (There seems to have been an administrative screwup that sent the orders out prematurely, at least according to Carlo Este's source. And it's pretty clear that Bradley wanted to get rid of Allen at some point, and that Patton agreed.) No, the real question is why Bradley lied about it in his memoirs.
There doesn't really seem to be a good answer. Which naturally makes it all the more intriguing, if frustrating. Of course, it's also the sort of thing that ultimately is of more interest to experts than a "general reader," and my book is aimed at the latter. Or should be.
Writing Bradley is in some ways an exercise in examining how different historians have made use of the same source material, and how other historians have made assumptions based on that. But sometimes choice completely baffle me.
Kind of a side note to the Allen affair is a report filed by newsman Quenten Reynolds during the Sicily campaign. According to Reynolds, Terry Allen excused himself from a session with his officers and disappeared for a while. Supposedly, Reynolds went in search of him a while later and found him praying in the middle of a field.
I don't know - call me suspicious, but I'm saying he was doing something other than praying. Attitudes at the time were a lot different, but even so there were plenty of rumors that Allen drank to excess. So maybe it was a call to the bottle. Or maybe a call of nature. anyway, I'm thinking no general is going to interrupt himself to go say a few Hail Marys.
That's especially possible given the overall tenor of Reynolds reporting. He definitely had a certain spin to his dispatches.
Even so, the story is repeated verbatim, with nary a raised eyebrow. It supposedly illustrates Allen's devotion to God.
After all, even historians know there are no atheists in foxholes.
The video caption says it's the last tank battle in Tunisia, though I'm not sure how accurate that is; 1st Armored Command B cut the road between Tunis and Bizerte May 8, coming up against some Tigers; by my estimate that would be the last tank battle (or at least in the running), but the terrain didn't look like this.
Anyway, it looks cool. And that's where I'm at... Tunisia, with Bradley.
Item: Armando Galarraga robbed of perfect game by bad call at the end of the game.
This will undoubtedly become Exhibit 1 for bringing (more) instant replay to baseball.
But in a funny way, I think its Exhibit 1 for what is so interesting and essential about baseball: With all our technological and cultural changes, it remains a human game.
Forget replay, forget over-ruling umpires - that play and that game are destined to be talked about more than any other perfect game ever, aside from Larsen's.