New York Times

The Best Columns of the Year

The Daily Beast

From the Boston Marathon bombings to a tribute to Margaret Thatcher and a searing reaction to the Trayvon Martin verdict, a crowdsourced collection of our 2013 favorites.
I’m a fan of the American art form once known as the newspaper column. That’s why I co-edited two Deadline Artists anthologies with my friends Errol Louis and Jesse Angelo—to honor and archive the best of the past.

But the digital era is disrupting not just the newspaper business but the form itself. On the positive side of the ledger, as the barriers to entry have been reduced, more opinions are available than ever before. On the negative side, the sheer tonnage of opinions can overwhelm and cause a degree of amnesia. The emphasis on the quick opinion undercuts ambitions of artistry, and great individual columns can be lost in the wall of sound.

Perhaps that’s why I think it’s still worthwhile to crowdsource a still highly subjective list of the best columns of the year. Here is the list, in no particular order, that emerged from 2013, with special assistance from the members of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. I added a few of my favorites from The Beast at the end. Enjoy.

“Far from the Madding Crowd”

Kevin Cullen, The Boston Globe

The Boston Marathon bombings were the defining domestic horror of 2013. But nothing brings out the best in a metro columnist like the opportunity and obligation to help his hometown heal. That’s what The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen did throughout the final weeks of April, especially with this dispatch, which offered a dose of perspective and a tribute to the cop killed before the Tsarnaev brothers’ capture.

“Margaret Thatcher and Her Vigorous Virtues”

George Will, The Washington Post

George Will’s ubiquitous TV appearances make it easy to forget that he is a master craftsman, particularly when he is paying tribute to those few folks he actually admires. In this farewell to Margaret Thatcher, Will deploys his talents to honor an ideological soul mate who turned the tide of history across the Atlantic.

“The Virtue of Moderation”

Pete Wehner, Commentary

Moderation used to be a conservative virtue, as Pete Wehner reminded his party faithful in the wake of the 2012 election and President Obama’s inauguration. Wehner has written powerfully on the subject, armed with a sense of historic perspective and a driving sense of decency.

“The Whole System Failed Trayvon”

Charles Blow, The New York Times

The Trayvon Martin case captivated the nation, or at least cable TV, in 2013, highlighting our still polarized takes on questions of justice and race. Charles Blow’s eloquent outrage after the verdict, in his column “The Whole System Failed Trayvon Martin,” perfectly captures the debate and why it matters for us all.

“The de-Newspaperization of America”

Will Bunch, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Sometimes a column manages to bridge economics and an elegy. This look at layoffs at the Cleveland Plain Dealer manages to capture the anxiety of an entire industry.

“The Man Who Got Gay Marriage Passed”

Mary Schmich, The Chicago Tribune

Mary Schmich won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2013, and her hitting streak continued throughout the calendar year. In this column, she pays tribute to Illinois state legislator Greg Harris, who doggedly fought for same-sex marriage in the Land of Lincoln.

“The Kurtz Republicans”

Ross Douthat, The New York Times

From prodigy to established pundit, Ross Douthat has distinguished himself as one of the more thoughtful observers of politics, faith, and culture. As conservatives search for a path out of the wilderness, his reasoned voice has become more vital than ever, as in this column, published on the brink of the government shutdown.

“Washington Doesn’t Deserve Shanahan or Snyder”

Thomas Boswell, The Washington Post

Sports columns. Humor columns. Perennial reader favorites that rarely rise to the level of something like literary journalism. But Tom Boswell makes it all look easy, gliding between the seasons with appreciation and acerbic wit. This diatribe against the pitiful Washington Redskins summed it all up for their fans.

“Inequality Isn’t The Defining Challenge of Our Times”

Ezra Klein, The Washington Post

Progressive populism may be a rising political tide on the left, but Ezra Klein took a brave contrarian stand against his usual comrades when he wrote this column casting a critical look on feel good bumper sticker policies. He caught some hell for it, but it presaged future debates and may prove prophetic.

“Long-Ago Death Still Haunts a Family’s Christmas”

Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times

Christmas columns can be saccharine stuff, but this instant classic by Sandy Banks is a heartfelt meditation on love and loss that never touches cliché. Instead, it reminds us all to appreciate what we are always in danger of taking for granted until it is too late—family.

And finally, in a separate list, because I’m both proud and biased, just a few of my favorite columns from The Daily Beast in 2013.

“Why House Stenographer Dianne Reidy Snapped”

by Michael Daly

While the country briefly gawked at the spectacle of the House stenographer striding up to the podium and screaming biblical admonitions, Mike Daly was getting the backstory, talking to her husband about how she got to the breaking point. For an extra dose of vintage Daly, read his blistering take on Adam Lanza.

“Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Political Parties”

by David Frum

With seemingly effortless ease, David Frum diagnosed the problems afflicting the Republican Party as it lurched toward the entirely predictable disaster of the government shutdown.

“Don’t Sanitize Nelson Mandela—He’s Honored Now, but Was Hated Then”

by Peter Beinart

When Nelson Mandela died, the tributes righteously rolled out, but Peter Beinart was one of the first to remind us that Mandela had not always been lionized in the United States. That whitewashing of history does both him—and our political debates—a deep disservice.

10 things you need to know today: December 29, 2013

The now-functional Healthcare.gov has allowed at least 1 million Americans to sign up for coverage.

The now-functional Healthcare.gov has allowed at least 1 million Americans to sign up for coverage. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Week

Obamacare enrollment surpasses 1 million, a bomb kills 13 at a Russian train station, and more

1. Obamacare enrollment surpasses 1 million
A December surge propelled Obamacare sign-ups through the rehabilitated Healthcare.gov past the 1 million mark, the Obama administration said Sunday, reflecting new signs of life for the problem-plagued federal insurance exchange. Of the more than 1.1 million people now enrolled, nearly 1 million signed up in December, with the majority coming in the week before a pre-Christmas deadline for coverage to start in January. [TIME]
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2. Suspected terrorist bomb kills 13 at Russia train station
A Sunday afternoon explosion at the main railroad station in Volgograd, a city about 550 miles south of Moscow, has killed at least 13 people, raising the concerns of a wave of terrorism ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Dozens of others were wounded by the bomb, meaning the death toll may still rise. If proved to be a terrorist act, as officials initially suspected, it would be the second in Volgograd in barely two months. [New York Times]
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3. New Benghazi report refocuses blame
The deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last year was not orchestrated by al Qaeda but rather by a local militia leader who was outraged by a video lampooning Islam, according to a new report. An investigation by The New York Times, published Saturday, supports the initial version of events provided by the Obama administration immediately after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. The paper described the prime suspect in the attack, Ahmed Abu Khattala, as an “erratic extremist” and militia leader with no known ties to Al Qaeda. [NY Daily News]
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4. Lebanese rockets strike Israel
Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries. The Israel-Lebanon border has remained mostly quiet since a monthlong war in the summer of 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. [USA Today]
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5. New York prepares for de Blasio’s inauguration
A panel on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday debated whether New York’s mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has fellow Democrat Anthony Weiner to thank for his victory. “I believe you could argue we have Bill de Blasio as the mayor because of Anthony Weiner,” said conservative commentator S.E. Cupp. “He really sucked a lot of oxygen out of Christine Quinn’s race and allowed Bill de Blasio to come up.” Former president Bill Clinton will swear in de Blasio at his Jan. 1 inauguration at City Hall. [Politico]

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6. Separate avalanches kill two in Wyoming
A skier and a snowmobiler died less than two hours apart this week in separate snow avalanches in western Wyoming, according to a National Forest official. The skier, Michael Kazanjy, was buried under four feet of snow on Thursday in back-country near Jackson, Wyoming. The snowmobiler, Rex J. Anderson, died in an avalanche less than two hours later near the Idaho border. Snow conditions were not especially hazardous on Thursday when the deaths occurred. [Reuters]
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7. Florida’s population expected to overtake New York’s
As the U.S. Census Bureau prepares to release its latest population estimates on Monday, many expect Florida to overtake New York as the nation’s third-most populous state. Stan Smith, population program director at the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR), told CNN that if this has not already occurred, it will likely happen at some point in 2014 or 2015. In last year’s census, New York’s population was just under 19.6 million, only about 250,000 higher than Florida’s. [CNN]
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8. Ice ship stranded in Antarctica awaits second rescue mission
Reports from the Akademik Shokalskiy, a Russian-flagged ship that has been stranded in Antarctica since Christmas Eve, have suggested the ice is cracking around them. A Chinese icebreaker attempted to reach the icebound ship carrying 74 passengers on Friday but failed, and a more powerful ship is due to arrive later tonight for a second attempt to break through the ice. The Akademik Shokalskiy had been retracing Sir Douglas Mawson’s Antarctic expedition and conducting scientific research when sea ice closed in. [ABC News]
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9. Mysterious “fireball” proven to be meteor
What was assumed by some to be a giant fireball streaking across Midwestern skies Dec. 26 is most likely a meteor entering and burning up in our atmosphere. Moments after CCTV cameras and people in states including Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas saw the fiery sight, the American Meteor Society received hundreds of reports. [NBC News]
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10. Kennedy Center Honors airs tonight
The 36th annual Kennedy Center Honors will air tonight at 9 on CBS. Opera diva Martina Arroyo, virtuoso jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, Oscar-winning actress-singer-dancer Shirley MacLaine, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Billy Joel and Carlos Santana are this year’s honorees. [Boston Globe]
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5 Takeaways From The New York Times Benghazi Investigation

No doubt the Sunday Morning talk shows will be replete with GOP politicians taking a “The NY Times is not a bi-partisan newspaper…”  stance.

Time

Al Qaeda was not involved; “Innocence of Muslims” video motivated the initial assault

An in-depth New York Times investigation published Saturday sheds new light on questions surrounding the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens. Questions surrounding the attack have become a major political flashpoint in Washington, but the report reveals a truth much murkier than either the Obama administration or its critics in the GOP-led Congress has grasped upon.

Here are five major revelations from the report:

  • Al Qaeda was not involved in the assault. It has become an article of faith for some in the GOP that the Benghazi attack was a highly orchestrated terrorist attack led by the same group that carried out the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. “It was very clear to the individuals on the ground that this was an Al Qaeda-led event,” said Michigan Republican Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, in an interview on Fox News in November. But according to the Times report, there is no evidence to support this assertion.
  • Anger at the “Innocence of Muslims” video motivated the initial assault and fueled the anger that powered the attack. After the film appeared online dubbed into Arabic in September 2012, media in Cairo played a major role in stoking the rage that led to an assault on the American embassy in Benghazi. Witnesses on the ground at the attack recount numerous ways in which leaders of the assault used the video to stoke the rage of militiamen.
  • The spontaneous response to the video stoked another attack that was already in the works, planned by smaller militia not affiliated with Al Qaeda. Evidence suggests that hardline elements within the complex web of Islamist militias operating in Benghazi, including an uneducated loner and contrarian named Ahmed Abu Khattala, had been planning an attack, though it’s unclear when they had intended to strike. The U.S. government has sought to have Khattala apprehended in order to press charges, but authorities and powerful Islamist elements in Libya have closed ranks around the hardliner.
  • American officials were overly reliant on moderate Islamist elements for protection. As the assault turned full fledged, officials called on the leaders of militias that had been publicly friendly to the U.S. to come to their aid. But when the time came, almost none turned up to rescue Americans trapped inside the compound. “Whatever happened, they were other Libyans,” said one Islamist leader who eventually did enter the compound after resisting at first.
  • Inside the compound, attackers looted and plundered wildly. Witnesses describe men taking out suits on hangers, televisions and found food. One man reportedly poured what appeared to be Hershey’s chocolate syrup into his mouth.

[The New York Times]

10 things you need to know today: December 26, 2013

Ice, ice baby.

Ice, ice baby. (REUTERS/Gary Hershorn)

The Week

Resignations rock Turkey’s government, ice storms leave hundreds of thousands without power, and more

1. Resignations rock Erdogan’s government
Three ministers in Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s cabinet abruptly resigned on Wednesday after their sons were implicated in a corruption investigation. One said Erdogan should step down — a rare challenge from someone within a party known for stifling dissent. Erdogan, who promptly replaced the ministers, has denounced the deepening crisis as part of a foreign plot against his Islamist-supported government. [New York Times]
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2. Winter weather leaves hundreds of thousands without power
Ice storms left about a half million customers without electricity on Wednesday, most of them in Michigan, New York, New England, and Canada. Some of the power lines were toppled as early as last weekend. Crews, many from other states, are working around the clock but thousands of people in the hardest hit areas won’t get power restored until Friday. [Los Angeles Times]
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3. A majority says this is the worst Congress ever
Two-thirds of Americans think the current Congress is the worst they have ever seen, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday. Nearly three-quarters say it is a “do-nothing” Congress that has so far failed to address any of the nation’s problems. All groups — men and women, rich and poor — share these dim views, but older Americans, who have seen more congressional sessions come and go, are the most negative of all. [CNN]
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4. Bombers target Iraqi Christians on Christmas
At least 37 people died in two Christmas Day bombings targeting Christians in Iraq. A car bomb killed at least 26 people near a church during Christmas Mass, and another blast in an outdoor market killed 11. Nobody claimed responsibility, but al Qaeda-linked insurgents have attacked Iraq’s half-million Christians in the past. The U.S. is rushing the Iraqi government missiles and drones to help it contend with rising insurgent attacks. [Fox NewsNew York Times]
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5. Storms and high demand delay some UPS Christmas deliveries
UPS apologized to customers after many packages it promised would arrive by Christmas didn’t get delivered on time. The shipping company said bad weather and a surge in demand that exceeded projections overloaded its systems. The scope of the problem remains unclear, but two big UPS clients — Walmart and Amazon — said they would issue gift cards to customers whose packages did not arrive on time. [New York Times]
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6. Haitian immigrants die after boat tips over
Eighteen Haitians trying to reach the U.S. died on Wednesday when their sailboat capsized off the Turks and Caicos. The boat was being towed to port after being intercepted by police. Thirty-two other suspected undocumented immigrants were rescued from the water. Police were still searching late Wednesday for several other people who reached shore and fled. [Reuters]
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7. Abe visits a controversial war shrine, infuriating China
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a controversial World War II shrine on Thursday, stoking U.S. fears of deepening tension between Japan and China, the world’s second- and third-largest economies. Beijing called the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors soldiers killed in battle as well as Japanese leaders convicted of war crimes, “absolutely unacceptable.” Abe said he was merely expressing his resolve avoid another war. [ReutersBBC News]
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8. Kidnapped American pleads for help in video
A government contractor kidnapped by al Qaeda militants in Pakistan recorded a video message emailed to journalists saying he felt “totally abandoned and forgotten,” and calling on the Obama administration to negotiate with his captors. “You are now in your second term as president of the United States,” the contractor, Warren Weinstein, says to President Obama, “and that means that you can take hard decisions without worrying about reelection.” [Washington Post]
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9. McDonald’s closes website where employees bashed its food
McDonald’s has shut down an employee “McResource Line” website where workers posted what it called “inappropriate commentary.” CNBC reported that posts on the site had bashed fast food and branded McDonald’s fare as unhealthy. News of the criticism went viral. The company said the scrutiny that resulted was “unwarranted.” A McDonald’s spokesperson said the company would still offer employees the help they once got from the website — by phone. [CNBC]
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10. Girl dies shortly after receiving final wish
An eight-year-old Pennsylvania girl named Laney Brown died on Wednesday days after some 10,000 people gathered on her street to sing her Christmas songs after hearing that one of her two dying wishes was for carolers to come by her house. Laney, who suffered from leukemia, also got her other wish, which was to meet country music superstar Taylor Swift. The two video chatted on Friday, her birthday. [Allentown Morning Call]

10 things you need to know today: December 24, 2013

Activists from the Internet Party of Ukraine perform during a rally supporting Edward Snowden in front of the U.S. embassy in Kiev on June 27.

Activists from the Internet Party of Ukraine perform during a rally supporting Edward Snowden in front of the U.S. embassy in Kiev on June 27. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

The Week

Snowden says “mission accomplished,” Americans get an extra day to enroll for ObamaCare coverage, and more…

1. Snowden says his mission is accomplished
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told The Washington Post — in his first in-person interview since seeking asylum in Russia — that he had “already won” in his effort to expose what he felt was a surveillance system growing out of control. Since he began leaking top-secret NSA documents in April the government has come under intense pressure to curb the spying. “The mission’s already accomplished,” Snowden said. [Washington Post]
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2. ObamaCare signup extended by 24 hours after last-minute rush
The Obama administration extended the deadline to enroll for health coverage taking effect Jan. 1 by one day after people swamped HealthCare.gov in a last-minute rush to sign up. More than one million people had visited the ObamaCare website by 5 p.m., five times as many as the Monday before. The one-day grace period was the latest in a series of accommodations the administration has made to make up for the site’s disastrous Oct. 1 launch. [New York Times]
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3. Obama signs up for ObamaCare insurance in a symbolic gesture
As the deadline to enroll for ObamaCare health coverage to begin Jan. 1 arrived, President Obama signed up for a new insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act’s online exchange, the White House said Monday. Obama’s enrollment in a Bronze plan on the Washington, D.C., exchange was just symbolic, though, because he receives care from the White House Medical Unit’s military doctors. [TIME]
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4. Retailers get creative to get procrastinators into stores
Sales at brick-and-mortar stores fell by 2.1 percent last weekend compared to last year, according to data firm ShopperTrak. The dip on the final weekend of holiday shopping — the busiest of the year — followed a weak Thanksgiving weekend at the start of the season. Retailers are experimenting with new ways to lure in Christmas procrastinators, including expanding lists of items people can purchase online and pick up in stores. [Reuters]
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5. Judge refuses to delay his ruling allowing gay marriage in Utah
A judge in Utah declined to delay his own decision that gay marriages must be allowed in the state. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled last week that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, making the state the 18th in the nation to allow same-sex couples to get married. Utah Governor Gary Herbert was trying to block the granting of marriage licenses while he appeals to a higher court. [Reuters]
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6. U.S. Marines prepare to enter South Sudan if necessary
The U.S. military has moved a force of 150 Marines to the Horn of Africa so they would be ready to enter South Sudan to help evacuate Americans and protect the U.S. Embassy if fighting between government forces and rebels gets worse, American officials said Monday. Some Americans have already been evacuated, but there are still many U.S. citizens in the world’s newest country. [CNN]
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7. Family fights to keep girl on life support
The family of California teen Jahi McMath, who was declared brain dead on Dec. 12 after routine tonsil surgery, said she would probably be kept on life support through Christmas. The girl’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, won a court restraining order barring the hospital from removing Jahi, 13, from her respirator. The hospital wants the restraining order lifted, but the family is fighting to keep the girl alive, hoping she’ll recover. [ABC News]
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8. Egyptian government calls the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group
A car bombing killed 13 people and wounded 130 more at a police compound in Egypt’s Nile Delta on Tuesday. It was one of the deadliest attacks since the military ousted president Mohamed Morsi in July. The army-backed government’s cabinet responded by labeling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, without specifically blaming the now-banned pro-Morsi Islamist group for the attack. The Muslim Brotherhood condemned the bombing, too. [Reuters,Ahram Online]
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9. The father of the AK-47 dies in Russia
Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, designer of a Soviet assault rifle that became the most widely used firearm ever, died Monday in the Russian republic of Udmurtia. He was 94. Kalashnikov was born a peasant and used self-taught mechanical skills to develop the now-ubiquitous guns with trademark curved magazines. His role in the AK-47’s creation vaulted him to high positions in the Red Army and six terms on the Supreme Soviet legislative body. [New York Times]
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10. Auburn’s Malzahn named AP‘s coach of the year
Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn has been named The Associated Press national coach of the year after taking a demoralized team coming off its worst season in decades and turning it into one of the best teams in the country. Malzahn, with his aggressive offense, led the second-ranked Tigers to a Southeastern Conference championship and into a Jan. 6 national championship game against No. 1 Florida State. [Associated Press]

Mayor Bloomberg On Homeless Girl Featured In The New York Times: ‘That’s Just The Way God Works’

bloomberg2

CREDIT: AP

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and people in his economic class are so out of touch with real world problems..

Think Progress 

Outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-NY) went on the defensive when asked whether he was moved by the New York Times’ powerful series on a homeless family struggling to survive in New York City. Bloomberg defended his homelessness policies and claimed that 11-year-old Dasani, the star of the piece, ended up in dire straits due to bad luck.

“This kid was dealt a bad hand. I don’t know quite why. That’s just the way God works. Sometimes some of us are lucky and some of us are not,” he told Politicker, calling her plight “a sad situation.”

Bloomberg argued that New York “has done more than any city to help the homeless,” citing the city’s policies of subsidized health care, job training, and shelter counseling. “But if you are poor and homeless you’d be better off in New York City than anyplace else,” he insisted.

The New York Times series explicitly tied Bloomberg’s homelessness policies to Dasani’s destitute situation. “The Bloomberg administration adopted sweeping new policies intended to push the homeless to become more self-reliant,” the Times’ Andrea Elliott wrote. “They would no longer get priority access to public housing and other programs, but would receive short-term help with rent.”

As a result, Dasani’s family and others like hers found themselves unable to escape the shelter system. Homelessness swelled by 60 percent during Bloomberg’s term, despite his vow to reduce the city’s homeless population by two-thirds in five years. The mayor told the New York Times last year that families were staying in shelters longer because he had improved them to be “a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before” — a quote that stood in stark contrast with Elliott’s descriptions of Dasani’s decrepit shelter, which is still operating after inspectors cited it for violations 400 times.

Bloomberg went on to attack the media for not understanding how good Dasani and her family have it compared to poor people in developing countries. “I think one of the problems is a lot of journalists have never looked around the world,” he said, going on to tell the reporter that “your smirk shows you haven’t been outside the country and don’t know what poverty means elsewheres.”

Mayor-Elect Bill De Blasio last week said he was deeply affected by Dasani’s story, vowing, “We are simply not going to allow this kind of reality to continue.”

The Slow Motion Lynching of President Barack Obama

The following essay is by author,  Frank Schaeffer.  When I started this blog I mentioned him here.

The essay is compelling and thought-provoking yet may be uncomfortable for some…

Patheos

I’ve watched liberal and right-wing commentators alike blame the president for being lynched. They say “he’s not reaching out enough” or “he’s too cold.” It’s the equivalent of assuming that the black man being beaten by a couple of thug cops must have “done something.”

I am a white privileged well off sixty-one-year-old former Republican religious right-wing activist who changed his mind about religion and politics long ago.  The New York Times profiled my change of heart saying that to my former friends I’m considered a “traitorous prince” since my religious right family was once thought of as “evangelical royalty.”

I’ve just spent the last 7 years writing over 200,000 words in blogs and articles in support of President Obama. My blogs on the Huffington Post alone would add up to a book in support of the President of over 300 pages. Weirdly, I just realized that through all my writing, this has been the first time in my life I’ve personally gone to bat for a black man. It just happens that he’s a president. But my emotional stake in his life is now personal.

So I’ve changed from a white guy who used to read news about some black man getting shot or beaten by cops or stand-you-ground types who assumed that the black man must have “done something,” to a white guy who figures that the black man was probably getting lynched. I’ve changed ideology but I’ve also changed my gut intuitive reactions.

I’ve changed because if this country will lynch a brilliant, civil, kind, humble, compassionate, moderate, articulate, black intellectual we’re lucky enough to have in the White house, we’ll lynch anyone. What chance does an anonymous black man pulled over in a traffic stop have of fair treatment when the former editor of the Harvard Law review is being lynched?

One famous liberal commentator wrote a book on how Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil could disagree and still be friends. Why, he asked on many a TV show promoting his book, couldn’t President Obama be like that? Because, I yelled at the screen, those two men were white Irish Americans and part of a ruling white oligarchy.

Because, I yelled, you might as well ask why Nelson Mandela didn’t talk his jailers in South Africa into seeing reason.

Because, I yelled, the president is black and anytime he’s reached out he’s pulled back a bloody stump.

Because, I yelled, liberal white commentators have been as bothered by a black man in the White House, who’s smarter than they are as much as right-wing bigots have been bothered.

Because, I yelled, President Obama has been lied about, attacked, vilified, and disrespected since Day One.

Because, I yelled, this country may have passed laws so blacks can vote and eat in a white man’s world, but in our hearts are stuck in a place more like 1952 than 2013.

We’ve been watching a slow motion lynching of a moderate brilliant family man, a father, and faithful loving husband. The Republicans in Congress are so dedicated to lynching the President they’ve been willing to shut down our government and risk the future of our economy.

Evangelical “Christians” have been so stuck on putting a rope around this black man’s neck they have denied their faith and been the backbone of the lying Tea Party who spawned the so-called “birthers” and the rest of the white trash driving our news cycle.

Roman Catholic bishops have denied their tradition of helping the poor and been so eager to destroy this president they aligned themselves with white Evangelical bigots and tried to stop health care reform, all because the President wants to give women a fair shake. The bishops even called him “anti-religious” because the president wants insurers to pay for contraception.

This is a slow motion lynching of a black man who is so moderate and centrist that he favored Wall Street enough so that the Left is all over his case. He’s so “radical” and “leftist” and “hates America” so much, and “coddles our enemies” so much, that he killed bin Laden and used drones to kill our enemies. He’s such a “socialist” that he presided over the revival of our economy from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and led us to the present day stock market boom. President Obama is such a “Marxist” that he tried to give insurance – not socialized medicine – to all Americans.

President Obama never answered back to the disgusting southern right-wing rubes from the former slave states that have tried to belittle, mock and stymie his presidency shouting “You lie” in a million ways, while actually meaning “You lie, nigger!”

And did the “enlightened” Left have President Obama’s back? No. They carp about his “failure” because a website was slow to get running! The white privileged “progressive” few were too busy blaming him for getting lynched and telling him how to craft policy while a rope was put around his neck again and again and tightened with each filibuster, each lie told on the radio, each self-defeating scorched earth action to stop him from succeeding, even if it meant taking us all down too.

We don’t like to admit who we really are. So we make excuses and blame the victim. I’m ashamed for our country, a country my Marine son fought for in two stupid wars this president has been working to end. And I’m still rooting for the best, smartest and most decent man who has been president in my lifetime. I pray for his health care reform to succeed. I pray for his immigration reform to succeed. I’m amazed he’s gotten anything done, but he has, even while the lynch mob gathers again and again to laugh, lie and spit and claim he’s “failed” while “liberal” commentators nod sagely and talk about his “mistakes” as if President Obama has been playing on a level playing field.

We have a lot to do to heal this country of the damage done by the right-wing Obama-haters and the Left wing know-it-all pundits who did not have his back because they don’t have the honesty to admit that we still live in a backward racist swamp of prejudice. Maybe in 50 years our country will be worthy of someone of President Obama’s forbearance again. For now we can just hope that the hatred of the Republican Party for our first black president doesn’t drive us to the brink of ruin again as they strip food from the mouths of the poor, and try to get people to not sign up for health care, just to get even with the black man they swore to destroy from the day that “uppity” black who is smarter than all of them put together took the oath of office.

God bless you Mr. President. I’m praying for you. I am so very sorry. But take heart, in the long reach of history the door you opened will stay open for the millions of Americans of all colors, genders and beliefs who will follow you. They will bless your name. So will history.

H/t: DB

10 things you need to know today: December 13, 2013

Kim Jong Un's uncle was accused of being a "traitor for all ages."

Kim Jong Un’s uncle was accused of being a “traitor for all ages.” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-Joon)

The Week

The House passes a two-year budget truce, North Korea says it executed Kim Jong Un’s uncle, and more

1. House approves budget compromise
The House passed a two-year bipartisan budget deal on Thursday as Congress wrapped up its business for the year. The bill, which passed 332-94, is intended to serve as a truce between Republicans and Democrats in their ongoing war over taxes and spending, which has led to government shutdowns and bitter fighting for three years. The vote exposed a GOP rift, with mainstream Republicans slamming Tea Party groups for fighting the compromise. [New York Times]
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2. Kim Jong Un’s uncle reportedly executed
North Korea announced Friday that Kim Jong Un’s once powerful uncle, Jang Song Thaek, had been executed, days after being purged from the government. State media said Jang had plotted against his nephew, calling him a traitor and “worse than a dog.” Jang helped the untested Kim consolidate power after inheriting it from his late father, Kim Jong Il. Experts differed on whether the execution showed Kim was growing confident, or desperate. [Associated Press]
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3. American who disappeared in Iran was on rogue CIA trip
Intelligence officials say an American man, Bob Levinson, who disappeared in Iran more than six years ago had been working in a rogue CIA operation. The CIA had said that Levinson, an ex-FBI agent and CIA contractor, wasn’t working for the U.S. when he disappeared in 2007, but emails and documents later surfaced suggesting he had gone to the country while working for the CIA, under the direction of analysts who lacked the authority to send him overseas. [Washington Post]
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4. Mandela memorial organizers admit error in hiring interpreter
South African officials admitted Thursday they made a mistake and will investigate the hiring of a mentally ill man, Thamsanqa Jantjie, as a sign-language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial. Jantjie, who waved his arms in meaningless gestures, said he was hallucinating on stage, and that he had been violent in similar episodes in the past. At one point he stood next to President Obama, but was never screened by the Secret Service. [ABC News]
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5. U.N. reports several chemical weapons attacks in Syria
Chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and not just in the infamous Aug. 21 attack near Damascus that led to a deal to destroy the government’s stockpile, according to a United Nations report released Thursday. Inspectors confirmed four other cases, two of which targeted government soldiers. The report was based on interviews and samples collected despite continued fighting, in the most extensive examination of the evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria to date. [New York Times]
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6. Newlywed pleads guilty to pushing her husband to his death
A newlywed bride, Jordan Graham, unexpectedly pled guilty Thursday to pushing her husband, Cody Johnson, off a cliff to his death on a trip to Glacier National Park just eight days after their wedding. In exchange for the plea to second-degree murder, prosecutors dropped a first-degree murder charge as well as one count of lying to police. Graham, 22, said she wasn’t thinking about where she was when she pushed Johnson during an argument. [Associated Press]
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7. Twitter reverses a change to its blocking feature after uproar
Twitter caved to an outcry from users late Thursday, and scrapped a change to its “block” feature. The change briefly allowed people to still see and respond to tweets by users who had blocked them. Opponents to the change complained that it empowered online abusers at their expense. Twitter has reinstated the policy that allows users to prevent people from following them or interacting with their tweets in any way. [Reuters]
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8. Bangladesh puts Islamist leader to death
Four people were killed in Bangladesh Friday in an outburst of violence over the execution of Islamist leader Abdul Kader Mullah, who was convicted of committing atrocities in the country’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. Prosecutors at Mullah’s trial earlier this year accused him of massacring unarmed civilians, calling him the Butcher of Mirpur, a Dhaka suburb. Mullah denied the crimes. [ReutersBBC News]
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9. Judge orders war memorial cross removed from federal property
A federal judge on Thursday ordered a cross, part of a war memorial, to be removed from federal property on top of San Diego’s Mount Soledad. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said it was “time for finality,” 22 years after a judge first ordered the 43-foot cross taken down. An appeals court ruled in 2011 that the cross violated the constitutional separation of church and state. The Supreme Court declined to review the case. [Associated Press]
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10. Beyonce releases surprise album
With no advance notice, Beyonce released a new album overnight. Consumers woke up Friday to find the self-titled “visual album,” with 14 new tracks and 17 music videos, available on iTunes. Beyonce worked on the project secretly with Jay Z, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and several other artists, but never said it was in the works. “I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” she said. “I am bored with that.” [Los Angeles Times]

10 things you need to know today: November 29, 2013

Black Friday shoppers carry discounted items from a Florida Best Buy that opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

Black Friday shoppers carry discounted items from a Florida Best Buy that opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Week

HealthCare.gov braces for a key test, Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping rush, and more

1. ObamaCare website faces crucial new deadline
The Obama administration’s technology team is scrambling to complete a workaround for the ObamaCare website ahead of the self-imposed Saturday deadline to fix it. The focus is on a new mechanism called EZ App to let people enroll without calculating the precise subsidy they could receive to help cover their health insurance premiums, eliminating a major complaint since the site’s disastrous Oct. 1 launch. Administration officials say 80 percent of users will find the site faster, but some will still encounter delays. [Washington Post]
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2. China patrols its disputed defense zone with warplanes
China said Thursday that it had sent fighter jets to patrol its newly declared air defense zone over a disputed part of the East China Sea, raising the stakes in a dispute with Japan over control of a remote island chain. China’s show of force came after Japan and South Korea defied Beijing’s new claim on the area by flying surveillance aircraft through the area. The U.S. also sent military aircraft into the area this week and condemned China for demanding to be notified before any aircraft enter the zone. [Washington Post]
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3. Black Friday kicks off holiday shopping spree
American retailers officially launched the holiday shopping season with deep discounts in Black Friday sales, hoping to lure in shoppers still hurting as the economy limps through a slow recovery. Brawls broke out at several stores. A dozen major chains, including Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us, got a jump on the competition by offering savings on Thanksgiving Day. Last year Thanksgiving sales reduced the Black Friday haul by $810 million, but it was still the biggest shopping day of the year with $11.2 billion in sales. [Associated PressNew York Daily News]
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4. Karzai vows to not sign security deal if drone strikes continue
Afghan President Hamid Karzai harshly criticized the U.S. for two alleged drone strikes that reportedly killed civilians, including a 2-year-old, in southern Afghanistan. Karzai suggested that he would not sign a long-term security agreement with Washington as long as the attacks continue. Tribal leaders last week overwhelmingly approved the pact, which would let the U.S. leave behind thousands of troops to train and support Afghan forces after NATO withdraws at the end of next year. [New York Times]
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5. Thai leader rejects new elections despite protests
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday ruled out holding early elections following six days of protests calling for her to step down. Yingluck called for negotiations on Thursday after surviving a no-confidence vote, but protest leaders rejected her plea. At least 1,000 demonstrators forced their way into the country’s military headquarters on Friday to call for the army to back them, then left peacefully. Yingluck has vowed not to use force to quiet the protests. [BBC News]
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6. Iran clears inspectors to visit key nuclear site
The International Atomic Energy Agency announced Thursday that Iran had invited its inspectors to visit a heavy-water production facility that is part of a site where Tehran is building a new reactor. The invitation marked the first concrete step by Iran to honor its obligations under alandmark deal with world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some of the international sanctions hobbling its economy. The reactor, if completed, would produce plutonium that could fuel a nuclear bomb. [New York Times]
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7. SpaceX aborts satellite launch
SpaceX called off the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket just before it was supposed to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Thursday. The problem was a “slower than expected thrust ramp,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said. It was the second time the launch had been delayed in three days. The private aerospace company has a contract with NASA to fly supplies to the International Space Station, but this mission will put a telecommunications satellite into orbit. SpaceX will inspect the rocket and try again in a few days. [CNN]
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8. Abenomics stops deflation in Japan
Prices in Japan rose by the most in 15 years, in what government officials said Friday was a sign Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s aggressive effort to stimulate the economy and stamp out deflation was working. Prices, not including energy and fresh food, increased by 0.3 percent in October, a little better than economists expected. The Bank of Japan’s easy money policy has weakened the yen by 15 percent against the dollar, pushing up prices for imports. Next Abe wants companies to hike wages to sustain growth. [Bloomberg]
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9. Part of comet lives through a close encounter with the sun
Scientists say a part of Comet ISON might have survived a near crash with the sun. The comet passed through the solar corona on Thursday. Karl Battams, a comet scientist for the Naval Research Laboratory, says the comet appears to have re-emerged and started to brighten, although its too early to be sure about its fate. “It’s throwing off dust and (probably) gas,” Battams says, “but we don’t know how long it can sustain that.” [CNN]
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10. Unpublished Salinger stories leaked online
Three unpublished works by the late reclusive author J.D. Salinger reportedly were leaked online this week. Scans of the works were posted after an unauthorized book was sold on eBay. It includes the short stories PaulaBirthday Boy, and The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls, which is seen as a prequel to Salinger’s best known novel, Catcher in the Rye. [Reuters]

10 things you need to know today: November 27, 2013

Two unarmed B-52 bombers flew through airspace that China recently claimed as its own.

Two unarmed B-52 bombers flew through airspace that China recently claimed as its own. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force)

The Week

The Supreme Court reviews another ObamaCare challenge, the U.S. challenges China’s claim over disputed airspace, and more

1. Justices agree to review another ObamaCare challenge
The Supreme Court is wading back into the battle over ObamaCare. The high court, which upheld the law’s individual mandate to buy insurance last year, agreed on Tuesday to review a provision requiring private companies to offer coverage of birth control and other reproductive health benefits with no co-pay. Appeals courts have sided with employers who say some treatments, such as morning-after pills designed to prevent embryos from implanting, violate their religious beliefs. [CNN]
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2. The U.S. and Japan defy China’s new airspace claims
The U.S. sent two unarmed B-52 bombers on a training mission over disputed islands in the East China Sea on Tuesday in defiance of China’s newly declared airspace defense zone. Japanese airlines also ignored Beijing’s claim to the airspace and flew through on Wednesday, without notifying Beijing. The provocative moves intensified a standoff between China and Japan over which country controls the area, and experts in U.S.-China relations said Beijing would be forced to respond if the flights continue. [Reuters]
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3. Government moves to limit non-profits’ political spending
The Obama administration is proposing new rules to curb the political activities of tax-exempt non-profit groups. The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service want to spell out more clearly what constitutes political spending — such as TV ads or get-out-the-vote drives — and put limits on how much of it non-profits can do. The move threatens to drag the IRS deeper into partisan politics, as some Republicans complain it will encourage attacks on free speech by administration opponents. [New York Times]
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4. Storm fouls up Thanksgiving plans 
The deadly and messy winter storm that is fouling up Thanksgiving travel plans on the East Coast is threatening to disrupt another holiday tradition — the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The sloppy mix of snow, rain, and winds gusting to 36 miles per hour has already forced the cancelation of hundreds of airline flights. Parade organizers say if the nasty conditions continue through Thursday they could also force the grounding of the parade’s giant flying balloons depicting Snoopy, SpongeBob, and other cartoon favorites. [Christian Science Monitor]
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5. Pope Francis attacks the “tyranny” of unchecked capitalism
Pope Francis, in a statement outlining his papacy’s mission, called unchecked capitalism a “new tyranny” plaguing the world’s poor. “We… have to say thou shalt not to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” said the Pope, who has drawn admirers in and out of the church for his modest ways and defense of the poor. He called on world leaders to fight poverty and overhaul the global financial system to share the world’s wealth more evenly. “Money must serve,” he said, “not rule!” [Associated Press]
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6. CBS News star Lara Logan is put on leave
Lara Logan, a high-profile CBS News correspondent, has been placed on leave for using a discredited source in 60 Minutes’ October report on the Benghazi attack. Logan told an account of the attack, which left ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead, by security contractor Dylan Davies, even though he had told his employer he was not at the scene. CBS didn’t say whether Logan — or producer Max McClellan, who was also suspended — would be out, or whether she would still be paid. [USA Today]
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7. A once-distant comet zooms close to the sun
Comet ISON, which soared far out on the edge of the solar system for 4.5 billion years, will make a spectacular fly-by past the sun on Thursday. Some scientists believe the comet will burn up as it nearly grazes the sun, but they are also pretty sure that it will provide a never-before-seen glimpse of some of the building blocks that formed planets. If the comet survives, it could provide an impressive light show in the early December night sky. [New York Times]
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8. Microsoft executives debate how to block NSA spying
Microsoft is preparing a major push to better encrypt its internet traffic over growing suspicions that the National Security Agency might have hacked into its global communications networks. Microsoft was worried even before news reports in October that said the NSA had been intercepting traffic of Microsoft rivals, Google and Yahoo. Insiders say leading Microsoft executives are meeting this week to decide when and how to beef up their company’s encryption. [Washington Post]
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9. Historic book sells for a record $14.2 million
One of 11 surviving copies of the first book printed in America — the Bay Psalm Book — sold for $14.2 million at a Tuesday night auction at Sotheby’s in New York. It was the most ever paid for any book in an auction. The previous record was set in December 2010 when a buyer paid $11.5 million for John James Audubon’s Birds of America. David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of private equity firm Carlyle Group, purchased the Bay Psalm Book and plans to loan it to libraries. [Reuters]
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10. Maddux and Glavine make Hall of Fame ballot
Major League Baseball has unveiled this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, and it includes some revered pitchers, including four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux and two-time winner Tom Glavine. The nominees also include tainted heroes from baseball’s steroid scandal, including pitcher Roger Clemens and sluggers Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire. About 600 sports writers will cast votes. The inductees will be announced Jan. 8. [Associated Press]