Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President thanked Congress for its strong bipartisan support for efforts to train and equip Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIL":

The Ledes

Saturday, September 20, 2014.

Guardian: "The United States has quietly released 14 Pakistani citizens from military detention in Afghanistan, where the US holds its most secret cohort of detainees in its war on terrorism. The US military transferred the 14 to Pakistani government custody on Saturday. It did not publicize the release, as is typical with releases from the detention center on the outskirts of Bagram Airfield which is known formally as the Detention Facility in Parwan. A Pakistani human rights group instead announced the transfer and said it was the largest number of Pakistanis the US has thus far released."

New York Times: "Polly Bergen, an actress, singer and businesswoman who won an Emmy in 1957 for her portrayal of the alcoholic torch singer Helen Morgan and was nominated for another 50 years later for her role on the television show 'Desperate Housewives,' died on Saturday at her home in Southbury, Conn. She was 84."

New York Times: "The two candidates for president of Afghanistan have agreed on a power-sharing deal that will give the losing candidate substantial influence in the next government, initialing the American-brokered deal Saturday night and promising to sign it at a formal ceremony on Sunday. The deal promised an end at last to the tumultuous, five-month-long aftermath of the Afghan presidential elections, although previous settlements have repeatedly collapsed at the last minute despite the candidates’ promises."

New York Times: "A Texas man who scaled the White House fence made it through the North Portico doors on Friday night before being apprehended, the Secret Service said. The intruder, Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, was arrested just inside the doors and taken to George Washington University Hospital after complaining of chest pains, said Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman. None of the Obamas were home when the security breach occurred about 7:20 p.m., but White House staff members were evacuated as a precaution, officials said. President Obama and his daughters had left for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., just minutes before the incident." ...

     ... New Lede: "The Secret Service will conduct an internal review of its security procedures around the White House after a man who jumped the fence Friday night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue managed to make his way through the front door of President Obama’s home before being stopped, officials said Saturday." ...

     ... ** Washington Post UPDATE: "Within seconds, the man who relatives said served as a sniper in the Iraq War got to the front double doors of the North Portico, turned the brass knob and stepped inside the vestibule. There he was grabbed and subdued by an officer standing post inside the door. He was carrying a folding knife with a 2-1/2 inch serrated blade." ...

... Fox "News": "A New Jersey man was arrested Saturday outside the White House after driving up to a gate and refusing to leave, less than 24 hours after another man jumped the fence and got inside the presidential mansion before being arrested, which has resulted in increased security and a “comprehensive internal review,” according to the Secret Service."

New York Times: "Forty-nine Turkish hostages who had been held for months in Iraq by Islamic State militants were returned to Turkey on Saturday after what Turkey said was a covert operation led by its intelligence agency. The hostages, including diplomats and their families, had been seized in June from the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul." ...

     ... Too Good to Be True? AP UPDATE: "Turkish authorities say they have freed 49 hostages from one of the world's most ruthless militant groups without firing a shot, paying a ransom or offering a quid pro quo. But as the well-dressed men and women captured by the Islamic State group more than three months ago clasped their families Saturday on the tarmac of the Turkish capital's airport, experts had doubts about the government's story."

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, September 19, 2014.

Guardian: "Alex Salmond declared he will stand down as Scotland's first minister and the lead of the Scottish National party after failing to secure a majority for independence, as the country's vote to remain in the United Kingdom foreshadowed months of constitutional turmoil. After 55% of Scottish voters rejected independence, a higher margin than suggested by the final opinion polls of the campaign, Salmond, who has dominated Scottish politics for the past decade, said he would quit in November."

CBS/AP: "France said Friday it had conducted its first airstrike in Iraq, destroying a logistics depot held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The office of President Francois Hollande's office said Rafale fighter jets struck the depot in northeastern Iraq on Friday morning and the target was 'entirely destroyed.'"

Guardian: "David Cameron has declared a 'clear result' in the Scottish independence referendum after Scotland voted by a 10.6-point margin against ending the 307-year-old union with England and Wales. Earlier, Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, struck a defiant note at a downbeat Scottish National party rally in Edinburgh, saying he accepted Scotland had not 'at this stage' decided to vote for independence. He paid tribute to what he called a 'triumph for democratic politics' and said he would work with Westminster in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK – warning the leaders of the three main parties to make good on their promises of enhanced devolution for Scotland." ...

... The Guardian's liveblog on the referendum is here. ...

... The Scotsman's front page has links to numerous related stories. The paper's main story is here.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
September 19

10:00 am ET: Annoucement of Department of Defense awards on biofuel production

10:15 am ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden host a White House event to launch the "It's on Us" campaign

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Sunday
May062012

The Commentariat -- May 7, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "The Life of Ross." The NYTX front page is here. My thanks to Douthat for giving me an excuse to write a column in which mention of young Douthat's limp member and blow-up dolls is more-or-less appropriate. ...

... Chris Spannos, the NYTX editor, writes a terrific piece correlating the New York Times' poor coverage of Occupy Wall Street with its own bad labor practices.

Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan District Attorney for more than three decades, in a New York Times op-ed: "... it's not just the low tax rates that make [island] jurisdictions attractive to those following the rules. The secrecy of offshore jurisdictions allows some individuals and corporations to engage in outright tax fraud, costing America at least $40 billion each year.... The secrecy laws in these tax havens are at the root of serious crimes: fraud, money laundering and international terrorism.... There's more money on deposit in the Caymans than in all the banks in New York City combined.... Many American corporations, including Halliburton, have done business with Iran through their offshore tax haven subsidiaries." Congress can act, but it won't, despite pending legislation.

On Speaking Evangelical. T. M. Luhrmann in the New York Times: "If Democrats want to reach more evangelical voters, they should use a political language that evangelicals can hear. They should talk about the kind of people we are aiming to be and about the transformational journey that any choice will take us on. They should talk about how we can grow in compassion and care. They could talk about the way their policy interventions will allow those who receive them to become better people and how those of us who support them will better ourselves as we reach out in love. They could describe health care reform as a response to suffering, not as a solution to an economic problem."

Paul Krugman: "The French are revolting. The Greeks, too. And it’s about time." ...

... Judd Gregg, former governor of & U.S. from New Hampshire, & all-around stuffed shirt, writes an op-ed in The Hill warning that the French election results are a foreboding of a socialist takeover of the U.S. government. CW: I wish.

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "For President Obama, the sight of Nicolas Sarkozy, a fellow member of the Presidential class of 2007-2008, being sent packing by French voters will bring mixed feelings."

Kevin Sieff of the Washington Post: "The United States has for several years been secretly releasing high-level detainees from a military prison in Afghanistan as part of negotiations with insurgent groups, a bold effort to quell violence but one that U.S. officials acknowledge poses substantial risks."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "... it is the rare oral argument that wins or loses a case.... Oral arguments are ... far less important than the written briefs."

Ian Shapira of the Washington Post tells the story of Barbara Annette Robbins, killed in the 1965 car-bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, whom the CIA finally acknowledged last year was "one of their own. But the slain secretary holds enough historic titles to make her an object of curiosity within the CIA. Robbins was the first woman at the male-dominated CIA killed in the line of duty. She is the youngest CIA employee ever killed. And, according to [Leon] Panetta, she was also the first American woman to die in the Vietnam War." Here's a related photo gallery.

Ahrnold's Back. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Los Angeles Times op-ed: "... the extreme right wing of the [Republican] party is targeting anyone who doesn't meet its strict criteria. Its new and narrow litmus test for party membership doesn't allow compromise. I bumped up against that rigidity many times as governor.... It's time to stop thinking of the Republican Party as an exclusive club where your ideological card is checked at the door, and start thinking about how we can attract more solution-based leaders...."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: Angus King, the front-runner for Maine's open U.S. Senate seat, is "a two-term independent governor who, because he refuses to say whom he would support for majority leader next year, may well decide which party controls an evenly divided Senate."

Presidential Race

I missed this essay by Charles Pierce on President Obama's failure to use the bully pulpit -- or even to understand what to say -- but it's worth a read, because it is exactly right. Many of us have been saying the same thing for a long time, but not so well. AND it remains hard for me to reckon how someone so politically savvy could really think that if he was just a little nicer, just a little more accommodating, the Republicans in Congress would step up & do the jobs they were sworn to do.

NEW. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "... in 1981 presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney was arrested for disorderly conduct. The issue of Romney's arrest first came to light during his 1994 Senate run against incumbent Senator Ted Kennedy...." A magistrate dropped the charges -- which were Mickey Mouse anyway -- when Romney threatened to sue. CW: Meh. Now imagine, if you will, the hysteria on the right if Obama had been arrested for disorderly conduct for participating in a demonstration or whatever.

The Obama-Biden campaign's latest one-minute ad is a shorter version of the 7-minute "Forward" ad:

George Packer of the New Yorker: "Mitt Romney has dropped the severe conservatism, stopped denouncing the children of illegal immigrants, and started claiming authorship of the auto-bailout plan, which he had formerly dismissed as a goodbye kiss to the industry. By Election Day, he will have replaced so many parts so many times that nothing of the original Romney will be left but the hair."

Alex Koppelman of the New Yorker and others see Vice President Biden's endorsement of gay marriage as a flareup of Biden's foot-in-mouth disease. Here's Biden, via Igor Volsky of Think Progress:

 

... Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "The comments, which aides described as the off-the-cuff views of a vice president not known for fidelity to a script, sent the White House scrambling to clarify that Mr. Biden was not articulating an official change in policy, a reaction that highlighted the administration's unease over the subject." ...

... Jamelle Bouie of the American Prospect: "I don't see any reason for why Obama shouldn’t come out in support of same-sex marriage.... With the exception of conservatives, support is broad-based...." ...

... Steve Kornacki of Salon: in context, it appears Biden's remarks may be all about Biden: "... to be a contender for '16, he needs to build and sustain as much goodwill as possible with his party's base. And by now, rank-and-file Democrats are far, far ahead of the Obama White House when it comes to gay marriage." ...

... NEW. Drew Katchen of NBC News: "On Morning Joe, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan echoed Biden. Asked by TIME's Mark Halperin whether he thinks same-sex couples should be legally allowed to marry, Duncan said flatly: 'Yes I do.'"

News Ledes

CNN: "U.S., Yemeni and other intelligence agencies broke up a plot to bomb a U.S. airliner around the anniversary of the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, a U.S. counterrrorism official said Monday, although a second U.S. counterrorism official said that the threat was not timed to coincide with the death of the al Qaeda leader."

ABC OTUS News: "In May 2011, just weeks before John Edwards was indicted for allegedly using $725,000 from an elderly heiress to hide his pregnant mistress, Edwards asked Rachel "Bunny" Mellon for an additional $3 million, her librarian testified today."

AP: "Vladimir Putin took the oath of office in a brief Kremlin ceremony on Monday, while on the streets outside thousands of helmeted riot police prevented hundreds of demonstrators from protesting his return to the presidency."

AP: "In a video released Sunday by al-Qaida, American hostage Warren Weinstein said he will be killed unless President Barack Obama agrees to the militant group's demands.... Weinstein was abducted last August in Lahore, Pakistan, after gunmen tricked his guards and broke into his home. The 70-year-old from Rockville, Md., is the country director in Pakistan for J.E. Austin Associates, a Virginia-based firm that advises a range of Pakistani business and government sectors." With video excerpt.

AP: "Al-Qaida militants staged a surprise attack Monday on a Yemeni army base in the south, killing 20 soldiers and capturing 25 just hours after a U.S. drone strike killed a senior figure in the terror network wanted in connection with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen."

Reuters: "Syrians voted in a parliamentary election on Monday touted by authorities as a milestone of political reform but dismissed by the opposition as a facade while people are killed every day in an anti-government uprising. Violence persisted across the country between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels fighting to end four decades of dynastic rule by his family."

Reuters: "Greek and French election results rattled investors on Monday by undermining confidence in the region's plans to cut spending and tackle its debt crisis, sending the euro to a three-month low."

Saturday
May052012

The Commentariat -- May 6, 2012

Super moon over the Temple of Poseidon SE of Athens, Greece, yesterday. AP photo.There's a pretty good slideshow of photos here.

President Obama kicked off his 2012 campaign yesterday in Columbus, Ohio:

It Depends on Where You Get Your News:

     ... Glenn Thrush of Politico: "The [Obama] campaign was only able to muster 14,000 supporters at the first event in an arena designed to hold more than 18,000. Several thousand empty seats ringed its upper deck, mostly out of view from the cameras. About 8,000 supporters turned out for the VCU rally, a full house, and most seemed to like their candidate's blend of hope, change and Romney-bashing." ...

     ... Alexander Marlow of Breitbart "News": "Obama launches campaign in empty arena. Barack Obama launched his campaign in unspectacular fashion today at Ohio State University, the largest college in the crucial swing state. A photo posted to twitter by Mitt Romney's campaign spokesman Ryan Williams reveals sparse attendance."

Christopher Bodeen of the Associated Press: Gary Locke, the U.S. Ambassador to China, played a pivotal role in the drama over legal activist Chen Guangcheng. Locke is popular among the Chinese people. "Locke has drawn overflowing audiences to his speeches at Chinese universities and been the subject of magazine cover stories. Huge crowds showed up when he visited his ancestral home in the southeastern province of Guangdong. At one point, Chinese Foreign Ministry officials complained to the U.S. Embassy about Locke's popular image of being thrifty as an attempt to defame the Chinese government."

Alice Randall in a New York Times op-ed: "Four out of five black women are seriously overweight. One out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes. With $174 billion a year spent on diabetes-related illness in America and obesity quickly overtaking smoking as a cause of cancer deaths, it is past time to try something new."

Pastor Bob Still Not Impressed with Willard. Peter Nicholas of the Wall Street Journal: "Mitt Romney might have been hoping to make inroads with Christian conservatives when he questioned the Obama administration's handling of the case involving the blind Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng.... Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas..., said it wasn't the time to criticize administration officials working toward a solution.... Asked about Mr. Romney's statements, he added: 'I don't think now is the time to engage in political partisanship.' Mr. Jeffress stirred a controversy last year when he called the candidate, who is Mormon, a 'non-Christian.' He has since endorsed Mr. Romney in the general election race."

Presidential Race

In his "This Week in God" post, Steve Benen notes that the religious right have "forced one of Romney's spokespersons to resign, and right about now, they're wondering what else they can make the campaign do."

Right Wing World

More GOP Super Sperms. George Talbot of the Mobile, Alabama, Press-Register: "Bill Johnson, a former Alabama [Republican] gubernatorial candidate, has left his wife and family in Prattville to be with babies he secretly conceived as a sperm donor in New Zealand. Johnson’s wife, Kathy Hale Johnson, told the New Zealand Herald that Johnson recently returned to live in New Zealand where he donated sperm to at least 10 women without her knowledge." Here's the New Zealand Herald story.

News Ledes

Reuters: "Voting started in mainland France on Sunday in an election that could make Nicolas Sarkozy the 11th European leader to be swept from office by the economic crisis and crown Francois Hollande as France's first Socialist president in 17 years." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "François Hollande swept into office on Sunday, becoming the first Socialist to be elected president of France since François Mitterrand left office in 1995."

Reuters: "Greeks enraged by economic hardship voted on Sunday in a deeply uncertain election that could reignite Europe's debt crisis and throw into doubt the country's future in the euro zone." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Greek voters appeared to radically redraw the political map on Sunday, bolstering the far left and neo-Nazi right in a wave of protest against the dominant political parties they blame for the country's economic collapse."

New York Times: "Lawyers for five men charged before a military commission with conspiring in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, complained on Sunday that the process was rigged to lead to the execution of their clients, and they offered new details and explanations for a sometimes chaotic daylong arraignment on Saturday."

New York Times: "A senior Qaeda militant in Yemen linked to the deadly bombing of an American warship there in 2000 was killed in an airstrike on Sunday, the Yemeni government said, in the latest sign of an escalating American campaign to counter the terrorist threat there. Yemeni authorities said the militant, Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, 37, who has been on the F.B.I.'s Most Wanted list in connection with the bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole that killed 17 sailors in October 2000, died in the strike in Shabwa Province in one of the rugged tribal areas controlled by insurgents."

New York Times: "Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Sunday that he was 'comfortable' with same-sex marriages, a position that appeared to go beyond the 'evolving' views that President Obama has said he holds on the issue."

Washington Post: "After signing a 10-year lease and spending more than $80 million on a site envisioned as the United States' diplomatic hub in northern Afghanistan, American officials say they have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous."

AP: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce Sunday night that he'll dissolve parliament to hold early elections, a move designed to fend off domestic critics and perhaps put him in a stronger position to act against Iran." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday called for early elections, vowing to win a 'renewed mandate' and 'form the broadest government that is possible' to 'guarantee the future of the people of Israel in the land of Israel, for eternity.'"

... Haaretz: "Israel's High Court justices sharply criticized the government on Sunday for not fulfilling its legal commitment to demolish a West Bank settlement."

AP: "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will use a two-day visit to India this week to urge further reductions in Indian imports of Iranian oil."

AP: "Connecticut lawmakers' approval of the use of medical marijuana includes strict regulations for the cultivation and distribution in an attempt to avoid problems other states have run into when legalizing the plant for medical use."

Here's the Al Jazeera report on the Guantanamo hearing.

AP: Against 15-1 odds, "I'll Have Another ran down Bodemeister in the final furlong Saturday to win the Kentucky Derby, winding up in the winner's circle despite a rookie jockey, a more famous stable pony, and a price tag of just $11,000 as a yearling."

Saturday
May052012

The Commentariat -- May 5, 2012

According to the Obama-Biden campaign site, you can watch the first campaign rally, in Columbus, Ohio, here, beginning at 12:45 pm ET.

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: "Placing a final punctuation mark on a week devoted to foreign policy, President Barack Obama on Saturday declared that his goal of defeating al-Qaida was within reach and said it was now time to turn the country's attention to more domestic concerns like strengthening the middle class."

Brad Plumer of the Washington Post: "The percentage of Americans in the labor force has been declining for more than a decade.... And while part of the story is clearly that the labor force is shrinking because the bad economy is driving workers out, another significant factor is that baby boomers are beginning to retire early -- a trend that has worrying implications for future growth. ...

... The New York Review of Books has an excerpt/adaptation of Paul Krugman's book End This Depression Now!

Dana Milbank: "A cornerstone of [Tea Partier] Richard Mourdock's effort to oust [Sen. Richard] Lugar [R-Ind.] is the six-term senator’s bad habit of bipartisanship — never mind that Lugar's bipartisanship was in the service of protecting millions of Americans from nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism.... Hoosier Republicans should reject Mourdock ... because they still believe that national security trumps partisanship."

Andy Rosenthal of the New York Times: 'After an unconscionably long delay of nearly a decade, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks will be arraigned Saturday in a military commission at Guantanamo Bay. Observers, including journalists, will be able to watch the hearing through glass. But the government has insisted on a 40-second audio delay, meaning censors can just switch the sound off if something happens that they don't want the public to hear -- like for example if Mr. Mohammed mentions that he was water-boarded 183 times in one month."

A rally for the candidate of the center-right New Democracy party, Antonis Samaras, who some analysts say is likely to head a coalition government as prime minister. Getty image.Rachel Donadio & Niki Kitsantonis of the New York Times: As Greece "heads to elections on Sunday in which no single party is expected to secure enough votes to form a stable government, they may have to try governing with political chaos. Along with elections in France, and with a rising tide of anti-austerity sentiment across Europe, Greece's vote is expected to have a clear impact on the future of the euro."

Presidential Race

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times reports on President Obama's close involvement in campaign strategy.

Gail Collins considers Barack Obama's New York years. ...

David Maraniss on why Barack Obama is comfortable being Commander in Chief: "Obama is the first president to whom Vietnam is ancient history.... Obama feels more affinity toward his grandfather's generation (Stan Dunham fought in Europe during World War II) than to his mother’s, or he at least finds it more culturally appealing."

Ben Armbruster of Think Progress: "Yesterday Mitt Romney attacked President Obama over the administration's handling of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. Citing 'very troubling developments,' Romney said yesterday was 'a dark day for freedom and it's a day of shame for the Obama administration.' Last night on Fox News, Bill Kristol advised Romney to stand down on the Chen case, calling his attacks on Obama 'foolish.'" Kristol said, "There is no need to butt into a fast moving story when the secretary of state is in Beijing with delicate negotiations and say it's a day of shame for the Obama administration." Today Mr. Romney's campaign has released a statement criticizing President Obama for playing golf when the nation is at war, for his partisan decision to invite only Republicans to his foursome, for scoring too high & for looking lousy in golf shirts; the President is expected to tee up at 11:00 am ET. (CW: Could be I made up that last sentence. But seriously, Romney's buttinsky remarks on the Chen negotiations isn't just foolish -- it shows how shockingly little Romney understands about international relations & how willing he is to undermine his own country for possible political gain.)

New York Times Editors: "On Friday, Mitt Romney blamed President Obama for the April jobs figures, saying that in a normal recovery 'we should be seeing numbers in the 500,000 jobs created per month.' The truth is that the economy has not seen job growth like that in nearly 30 years. More to the point, the policies Mr. Romney espouses -- notably deregulation and tax cuts for the rich -- were the favored policies under President George W. Bush, years when job growth and wage gains were, at best, anemic." ...

... Oh, but you know that's not the only lie The Great Prevaricator came up with this week. Steve Benen lists 18 lies of the week.

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: Ric Grenell, the disgruntled Employee of the for a Week, has put Romney in an awkward spot: Romney "is now forced to insist that he didn't fire an aide for his sexuality, an assertion that could jeopardize his already shaky relationship with the religious right." ...

... Tim Murphy of Mother Jones: "The [Grenell] episode is reminiscent of a controversy that occurred when Romney was governor of Massachusetts: The 2004 dismissal of Ardith Wieworka, longtime head of the state's Office of Child Care Services, who alleged that she had been terminated because of her decision to marry her partner."

Your Puzzling News of the Day. Emily Friedman of ABC News: "Tagg Romney, the eldest son of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, announced via Twitter that he and his wife Jen have new twin boys, delivered by a surrogate today. 'Happy 2 announce birth of twin boys David Mitt and William Ryder. Big thanks to our surrogate. Life is a miracle,' Tagg tweeting, linking to a photo of himself and one of his new sons. This the second time that Tagg, 42, and his wife, Jen, 39, have used a surrogate. The same surrogate was used for the twins carried their youngest son Jonathan, who was born in August of 2010. Their other three children were not born via surrogacy." CW: I know this is none of our business & has nothing to do with the presidential race, but I personally think it's weird to use a surrogate when a couple already has three children, let alone four. I'm open to second opinions. ...

... Oh, wait. Maybe Tagg & Mrs. Tagg want to have more kids to give them an advantage at this year's family baby toss:

 

... Apparently the Mittster plays this game all the time. I guess Ann Romney was right: he really is a wild and crazy guy:

... This kid is so not into the game. Must be one of the 99 Percent. You're doomed, child:

How Cool Is This? Ted Nugent loses it again. Remember, Willard's crew was thrilled when Nugent endorsed him:

     ... According to the Hollywood Gossip site, here's the bleeped language Nugent used, only partially bleeped here: "'I'm an extremely loving and passionate man, and people who investigate me honestly, without the baggage of political correctness, ascertain the conclusion that I'm a damned nice guy ... and if you can find a screening process more powerful than that, I'll suck your d-ck.' The musician then turned to a female producer and added: 'Or I'll f-ck you, how's that sound?'" ...

     ... Justin Sink of The Hill: "Mitt Romney's campaign is denying it expressed support for Ted Nugent after he made controversial comments last month that led to him being interviewed by Secret Service agents. Nugent on Friday gave his first television interview since the investigation, and the aging rocker said that Romney's team "expressed support" for him after his remarks.

AND, finally Joel Pollak of Breitbart, who must be a genius, has discovered proof positive, hiding in plain sight, that Barack Obama is a Communist sympathizer. Thank you, Joel, for this insightful piece of investigative journalism. You are a great advertisement for a free press.

Right Wing World

Heartland billboard in Chicago.

Leo Hickman of the Guardian: "The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based rightwing thinktank notorious for promoting climate skepticism, has launched quite possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns." Heartland itself boasts, "Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute point out that some of the world's most notorious criminals say they 'still believe in global warming' -- and ask viewers if they do, too…The billboard series features Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber; Charles Manson, a mass murderer; and Fidel Castro, a tyrant. Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden.... Of course, not all global warming alarmists are murderers or tyrants." ...

... CW: Stalin was a meat-eater. Therefore, all meat-eaters are mass murderers. Hitler was a vegetarian. Therefore all vegetarians are mass murderers. Ergo, everybody is a mass murderer. That’s the logic to the Heartland ad ad campaign despite the disclaimer they throw into their press release. ...

... Brian Vastig of the Washington Post: "The billboard went live Thursday afternoon. But by 4 p.m. Eastern time, an outcry from allies and opponents alike led the Heartland Institute’s president, Joe Bast, to say he would switch off the sign within the hour."

News Ledes

New York Times: "President Obama sought to rekindle the passion of his 2008 victory with a huge rally on Saturday that signaled a new, politically aggressive phase in the debate over the country's direction and the official start of his personal confrontation with Mitt Romney." Washington Post story here.

New York Times: "The arraignment of [Khalid Shaikh] Mohammed and four other accused conspirators in the Sept. 11 attacks got off to a slow and rocky start on Saturday. Defendants ignored the judge and stood at random intervals to pray, as defense lawyers repeatedly tried to change the subject to restrictions on their ability to communicate with their clients."

Reuters: "China said on Friday that blind dissident Chen Guangcheng could apply to study abroad, a move praised by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and suggesting an end may be near to a diplomatic standoff between Beijing and Washington."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said Friday that he had permanently removed five priests from active ministry for sexual abuse or misconduct with minors, and reinstated three others after an investigation could not substantiate similar claims against them. The decisions, which followed a 14-month review, marked one of the largest ousters of active priests in the archdiocese's history. It also validated a February 2011 grand jury report that accused local church leaders of ignoring evidence of clergy sex abuse and stirred new outrage among area Catholics.

AFP: "Boris Johnson was re-elected mayor of Olympic host city London late Friday to the relief Prime Minister David Cameron, after his Conservative Party took a beating in mid-term local elections."

Guardian: "David Cameron has apologised to hundreds of Conservative councillors who lost their seats in the local elections 'against a difficult national backdrop'. Earlier, the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, described his sadness at the party's results in elections which saw both the coalition parties suffer widespread losses."

Guardian: "The bodies of 23 people have been found hanging from a bridge or decapitated and dumped near city hall in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, where drug cartels are fighting a bloody and escalating turf war. It follows the discovery in Veracruz of four journalists' bodies in a canal."

Thursday
May032012

The Commentariat -- May 4, 2012

I'll be away for several days. I'll try to post from time to time, but I don't know what kind of Internet connection I'll have where I'm going, so at best posting will be sporadic. -- Marie

Gene Robinson: "Does anybody really understand the U.S. policy in Afghanistan? The president’s televised address from Bagram air base raised more questions than it answered."

** Sara Robinson of AlterNet, in Salon, on the myth of the self-made man.

In the Daily Beast, Stephen King advocates for raising the top income tax rate to 50 percent. BTW, King would pay at the 50-percent rate. "The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing 'Disco Inferno' than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar." Thanks to my very first boyfriend ever, David B. for the link. (He was the most adorable third-grader you ever saw.)

Paul Krugman on the correlation between income inequality & recession/ depression. "Many pundits assert that the U.S. economy has big structural problems that will prevent any quick recovery. All the evidence, however, points to a simple lack of demand, which could and should be cured very quickly through a combination of fiscal and monetary stimulus. No, the real structural problem is in our political system, which has been warped and paralyzed by the power of a small, wealthy minority. And the key to economic recovery lies in finding a way to get past that minority's malign influence."

Floyd Norris of the New York Times on why the U.S. economy has fared better than European economies. His analysis includes this remark: "There is nothing more grating than an ungrateful welfare recipient riding around in a chauffeured Mercedes complaining that he is not being treated fairly."

** Sabotage! Andrew Leonard of Salon: "Machiavelli would applaud. Republicans may have lost the 2008 presidential election, but their insurgency-style guerrilla tactics ever since have ensured that the war is far from over. In 2012, the politics of sabotage rule Washington." Leonard looks at critical elements of Paul Ryan's latest effort to destroy the government.

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "The wages of austerity don’t stop with continental recession. They include, in some nations, the revival of the kind of political extremes not seen in Europe since World War II.... The United States has austerity demons of its own, of course. While the private sector has rebounded somewhat from the 2008-09 collapse, creating 4 million jobs since the turnaround began in 2010, state and local governments have shed 611,000 employees -- including 196,000 teachers -- since President Obama took office...."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker calls the upcoming presidential election in France the "austerity election." CW: It appears that's what the British municipal elections were, too.

Novelists Margaret Atwood, Edgar Doctorow & Martin Amis discuss the U.S.'s place in the world with New York Times film critic A. O. Scott:

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The details of Bin Laden’s thoughts and frustrations while hiding in the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, emerge from a sheaf of letters released on Thursday that provide a sort of anthropology of a terror network."

Jonathan Cohn & David Strauss in Bloomberg News: "A decision to uphold the health-insurance mandate would be a powerful defense of liberty in the modern age."

John Dunbar & Michael Beckel of the Center for Public Integrity: "What the Citizens United decision and a lower court ruling have done is make household names out of a bunch of relatively unknown, very wealthy conservatives. Of the top 10 donors to super PACs so far in the 2012 election cycle, seven are individuals -- not corporations -- and four of those individuals are billionaires. The top 10 contributors gave more than a third, or $68 million of the nearly $202 million reported by the outside spending groups this election...."

Presidential Race

William Saletan of Slate: "Elections can change history. But mostly, they decide which party will pretend that the president changed history for the better, and which party will pretend that he changed it for the worse."

Jonathan Bernstein, in the Washington Post, on right-wing -- and mainstreamish -- hyperventilation about David Maraniss's biography of Obama: "There's a Republican-driven idea out there, one Sarah Palin is big on repeating, that Barack Obama wasn't fully vetted by the press in 2008. It's preposterous. The truth is that Obama has been the mainstream Democrat he ran as, and I'd guess that it's very difficult to tie whatever idiosyncrasies he's had within that to anything in particular about his personal history, and certainly not anything we didn't know about in November 2008."

David Corn asks economists to analyze Romney's claim that when ObamaCare kicks in, the government will control 50 percent of GDP; e.g., "Bruce Bartlett, who served as a senior economist in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations...: 'This analysis is so stupid it is hard to know where to begin.'"

Considering the Source.... Elicia Dover of ABC OTUS News: "Shown a new ad from the Obama campaign during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer Thursday -- a clip reel of Gingrich's slams on Romney during the primary season -- [Newt] Gingrich laughed and said, 'You have a rough-and-tumble primary season and you'll get words like that.' He was asked if he still believes Romney is a liar. 'I still believe the Romney campaign said things that weren't true,' Gingrich said. 'I also believe that compared to Barack Obama, I would trust Mitt Romney 100 times over.'" Here's the ad:

MaddowBlog readers helped Newt write his concession speech.

Outsourcing. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times: "The Republican National Committee on Thursday stepped up its assault on President Barack Obama in advance of his campaign formal kick off Saturday in Ohio and Virginia -- hitting him on 'high unemployment' in the U.S. as the RNC used a firm located in the Philippines to set up the 'messaging' call."

Alex Pareene of Salon: "Americans Elect is a weird experiment in applying a lot of money and time and resources into proving a common elite myth: That Americans as a whole are crying out for 'bold,' nonpartisan political leadership, and that their strong desire for moderate, independent solutions is stifled by the two-party system. So far, the organization has managed to win presidential ballot access in 26 states, which is a remarkable achievement. The only problem is, it has no candidate. And the process it developed to select a candidate is turning out to be a big, hilarious mess." CW: But, hey, it has the support of Tom Friedman!

Right Wing World *

Tim Egan: "The House run by John Boehner is stuffed with zealots and intellectual dead-enders who think compromise is a synonym for treason."

Steve Benen: "As part of his ongoing fascination with the 'Fast and Furious' controversy, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) released a draft memo yesterday, making the case for holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.... The worst case scenario: the House holds Holder in contempt and instructs the House sergeant at arms to try to arrest the Attorney General, creating a bizarre constitutional crisis. That's an exceedingly unlikely scenario, though."

* Where sunrise is just a theory. -- Akhilleus

Local News

Charles Pierce: "Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to run their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, sat down with the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel to chat things over, and the talk was portentous on a couple of different levels." CW: sorry, can't find the original interview. ...

... Save the Caucasians! AND here, Charles Pierce keeps us abreast of developments in other laboratories of democracy.

News Ledes

Raleigh News & Observer: "A Raleigh lawyer who represented John Edwards before he was charged with violating campaign finance laws told an attorney for the Virginia philanthropist at the center of the case that Edwards had benefited from the payments funneled to his former political campaign aide."

Reuters: "Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Friday signed into law a bill banning abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving money through the state, her office said in a statement."

ABC News: "President Obama highlighted the 'good news' in the latest jobs report today, but, speaking in the battleground state of Virginia, stressed 'we've got to do more to boost the economy, including freezing low interest rates for student loans."

Bloomberg News: "Employers in the U.S. added fewer workers than forecast in April and the jobless rate unexpectedly declined as people left the labor force, underscoring concern the world's largest economy may be losing speed. Payrolls climbed 115,000, the smallest gain in six months, after a revised 154,000 rise in March that was more than initially estimated...."

New York Times: "China's Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the dissident Chen Guangcheng can apply to study outside China in the same manner as more than 300,000 Chinese students already abroad, signaling a possible breakthrough in a diplomatic crisis that has deeply embarrassed the White House and threatens to sour relations with Beijing."

Washington Post: "Five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks, including the self-proclaimed mastermind, are headed back to a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay on Saturday, more than three years after President Barack Obama put the case on hold in a failed effort to move the proceedings to a civilian court and close the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba. This time the defendants may put up a fight."

AP: "From tasteless photos to urinating on dead insurgents, bad behavior by U.S. troops in Afghanistan has hampered America's war effort over the past year, triggering a broad new campaign by defense leaders to improve discipline in the ranks. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in his first personal appeal to troops on the issue, is expected Friday to remind U.S. forces that they are representing the American people and they must behave up to military standards."

New York Times: "At a time of deepening austerity, social cutbacks and political fallout from the long-running phone hacking scandal, Britons seemed to have turned against their national leaders in bellwether mayoral and local council elections claimed as a resounding triumph by the opposition Labour party, according to partial results on Friday." Guardian story here with related links.

Washington Post: "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday pulled a $5,000 solicitation for a magician to motivate employees at a leadership training event, weeks after a mindreader hired by the General Services Administration became an embarrassing symbol of a Las Vegas spending spree." CW: they just keep on keepin' on, don't they?

Winnipeg Free Press: "The last Canadian penny will be manufactured today."