I read the Sunday New York Times, so you don’t have to: Aug. 14

First coffee of a damp, very coffee-friendly day: Kenyan. First music of the day: Saxophonist Stanley Turrentine.

1, Your lead story, perhaps one year too late: “President Obama and his senior aides are considering whether the White House should adopt a  more combative approach on economic issues, seeking to highlight substantive differences with Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail rather than continuing to pursue elusive compromises, advisers to the president say.”

2, An awesome quote from the Chinese dissident filmmaker Zhao Liang, on how he felt while making Petition, his documentary on government crackdowns on Chinese citizens lodging protests against their local officials: “I remember quite clearly one of my middle-school teachers telling me that I was a stone with sharp, jagged edges, but that I would turn into a smooth river stone as I grew older. During the years while I was making this film, I felt like I was getting sharper and sharper instead.”

3, The obituary of Howard G. Paster illuminates not only some key policy moments of the Clinton administration, but reflects what’s happening today, as well. Paster, who was 66 when he died of encephalitis this week, was a key member of the Clinton team that pushed the NAFTA agreement through Congress. NAFTA is much criticized by both political parties – but by the Republicans in particular – as one of the main drains on jobs in this country. “As Mr. Clinton’s principal ambassador to Congress at the time, Mr. Paster had to overcome the opposition of a majority of House Democrats to pass NAFTA, relying heavily on Republican support instead,” The Times writes. Got that? Republicans were the driving force that enabled that piece of job-killing legislation. And then there’s this echo, one that resounds today: Paster “was less persuasive in selling Mr. Clinton’s package of measures to stimulate a faltering economy through public works, education grants and the extension of unemployment benefits,” The Times writes, quoting Paster: “I miscalculated over what it would take to negotiate a bill.”

4, Not too many people get an opening line like this in their obituary: “Nancy Wake did not like killing people.” Wake, who died last week in London at age 98, was credited with saving the lives of hundreds of Allied airmen and soldiers by sneaking them out of France and Spain. Her life “careered along a path that Hemingway might have sketched, from impoverished childhood to high society hostess in the south of France,” The Times writes. Wake also claimed “she once killed a German sentry with her bare hands and ordered the execution of a woman she believed to be  a German spy.” Neither act caused her any worry, she added. Wake was the model for many female resistance fighters in movies and TV, which Wake was fine with. However, she didn’t like it when her characters were involved in romances, a storyline which she insisted she never allowed herself during the war. “And in my old age, I regret it,” she said in a 1987 interview. “But you see, if I had accommodated one man, the word would have spread around, and I would have had to accommodate the whole damn lot!”

5, In the Sunday Review, essay writer Neil Gabler laments how The Atlantic magazine selected the 14 biggest ideas of the year – Hey it’s only August! – and picked “The Rise of the Middle Class – Just Not Ours” as No. 1. Not Exactly the Big Bang Theory, Gabler writes. “If  our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we are dumber than our forebears but because we just don’t care as much about ideas as they did.”

6, Like most humans, I’m always wondering what Anthony Bourdain will be eating. He mentions the New York City’s Japanese/Korean barbecue restaurant Takaski, “heavy on the raw meat and offal. To have a place in New York that serves so much guts is encouraging and, in this case, delicious.”

7, In Texas, “coyotes are turning up on suburban lawns in search of food and water.” The Times notes that a paper published in 2007 in Science magazine claimed “Droughts will become the new climatology of the American Southwest within a time frame of years to decades.” Gov. Rick Perry is running for president, but “has had precious little to say about the drought that is devastating his state,” writes Richard Parker. “He did organize a prayer for rain back in April. Looking at that blazing hot, clear blue sky up there, it seems heaven isn’t listening.”

8, The Times editorial page continues to place the most recent economic lunacy, the debt ceiling debate and non-functional budget agreement that followed, in the laps of the Republican party. “The Republicans who produced this artificial crisis, and are responsible for its effects, say they would like nothing more than to see a reduction in state as well as federal spending. That is where government hits closest to home, affecting the size of classrooms,the bulbs in streetlights, the asphalt in potholes, and the lines in emergency rooms. They are well on their way to achieving their goal, making life more difficult on every city and town.”

9, This week in Iowa, Mitt Romney reminded a citizen that “Corporations are people, my friend.” Unfortunately, the Supreme Court says this is true allowing many millions of dollars, their sources hidden in a muddle of transactions, to alter the outcome of our elections. “The back-door money infused by Karl Rove, the Chamber of Commerce, the Koch brothers and others elected a slew of radial Republicans,” Maureen Dowd writes of the Tea Party conservatives. “Thanks to that Congressional wrecking crew, America’s credit rating has been downgraded and its economy has been hurt. At least Republicans are getting most of the blame for that, my friend.”

10, Last week, an appellate court ruled that two American citizens who had been tortured by American forces while imprisoned in Iraq in 2007 could go ahead with a lawsuit against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The men had been working for a private security contractor, and turned whisteblower when they became suspicious that the company was engaged in illegal weapons trafficking. One was detained for three months, the other for six weeks. They were released without explanation, or charges being filed.  Judge David Hamilton said that immunity for Rumsfeld “would amount to an extraordinary abdication of our government’s checks and balances that preserves Americans’ liberty.”

11, In the magazine, actor Larry Hagman – best known for his role as Dallas‘ J.R. Ewing, or maybe that astronaut fella in I Dream of Jeannie – tells of his plans for a final resting place, after acknowledging it’s probably illegal to throw a body in a wood chipper. “But I did want to be spread over a field and have marijuana and wheat planted and harvest it in a couple of years and then have a big marijuana cake enough for 200 to 300 people. People would eat a little of Larry.”