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Daily Briefing

Deep buzz for the content-deprived

Every weekday, while you get showered and dressed, we pluck these dewy- fresh, breaking stories from the info-clogged byways of the datasphere. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and stoke up on everything you need to know, or at least enough to fake it.

The Dark Lord of the Debt Mess
Lloyd Grove, The Daily Beast | The Dark Lord of the Debt Mess | August 10, 2011

Here’s one possible narrative of how and why Monday’s Dow Jones industrial average went on a harrowing toboggan ride into a tree: The market was still freaked out over Friday’s S&P downgrade, which in turn was influenced by the refusal of congressional Republicans to consider even the teensiest of tax hikes in the debt-ceiling sweepstakes—which in turn was the absolute edict of a powerful yet unelected Washington operative who chirpily answers his cell phone: “Grover G. Norquist!”...

Ames is the GOP's Grim Reaper
Roger Simon, Politico | Ames is the GOP's Grim Reaper | August 10, 2011

The Ames Straw Poll is a delightful fraud, an amiable hoax, that most people in Iowa don’t care about, but the national media eat up because the event seems so charmingly “Iowan.”

To its credit, there is no man behind the curtain. Its fraudulence is open and above board: It is organized bribery on a grand scale...

Voice of the Workingman to Be Poet Laureate
Charles McGrath, The New York Times | Voice of the Workingman to Be Poet Laureate | August 10, 2011

The Library of Congress will announce on Wednesday that Philip Levine, best known for his big-hearted, Whitmanesque poems about working-class Detroit, is to be the next poet laureate, succeeding W. S. Merwin. He was selected from a long list of nominees by James Billington, the librarian of Congress, who said on Monday, “I find him an extraordinary discovery because he introduced me to a whole new world I hadn’t connected to in poetry before.”...

Damages: An Appeals Court Allows A Suit Against Donald Rumsfeld To Go Forward

Last week, a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., determined that a lawsuit filed against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by a former military translator who claimed to have been tortured by U.S. forces at Camp Cropper in Iraq could go forward despite claims from Rumsfeld and the Obama administration that he should be immune from suit. After assessing the claims of "John Doe," Judge James S. Gwin found that American citizens don't lose their constitutional rights simply because it's wartime. "The court finds no convincing reason," wrote Gwin, "that United States citizens in Iraq should or must lose previously-declared substantive due process protections during prolonged detention in a conflict zone abroad."...

With a Flip of the Knob, He Heard the Future
Amy Wallace, The New York Times | With a Flip of a Knob, He Heard the Future | August 9, 2011

Del Casher has done a lot of impressive things with his guitar over the last 50 years. He has performed with Gene Autry, Lawrence Welk, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. He’s appeared, strumming, in movies with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lewis. He’s been a featured player on dozens of film and TV soundtracks. But there is one accomplishment that Mr. Casher, now 73, wishes more people knew about: his role in the invention of the wah-wah pedal...

Origins of the Debt Showdown
The Washington Post | Origins of the Debt Showdown | August 9, 2011

In mid-January, newly installed as the GOP House majority leader, Virginia’s Eric Cantor rose to the podium inside a spacious hotel ballroom to deliver a message to his troops, including the 87 newcomers who had given the party control of the House....

A Timeline of Events
Steve Benen, The Washington Monthly | A Timeline of Events | August 8, 2011

Let's take a stroll down memory lane, shall we?...

How I Learned the Secret Rule of Grief
Sheila M. Trask, Salon | How I Learned the Secret Rule of Grief | August 8, 2011

After I lost my family, I refused to believe how long it would take to heal. Now I see the wisdom in that number...

Plenty of Good Seats Still Available: The Collapse of the Sports Ticket Bubble

A few months ago, it seemed like Major League Baseball was in the throes of a ticket apocalypse. Through the first two weeks of the season, six teams had set all-time single-game lows at their current homes. The surprising Cleveland Indians led the American League Central in the standings, but remained in the cellar at the turnstiles. The New York Yankees, whose ultrapricey new stadium has been beset by empty seats since it opened in 2009, hosted record-low crowds for four games in a row. It was as if fans, having quietly absorbed more than a decade of price hikes and the advent of $9 beers, had spontaneously decided to go on strike...

Cat Fight at U.S. Embassy in Kabul
Joshua Partlow, The Washington Post | Cat Fight at U.S. Embassy in Kabul | August 4, 2011

Veteran diplomat Ryan C. Crocker can handle Islamist insurgencies, hostile heads of state and management of some of the world’s largest embassies. But what’s he going to do about the cats?...