Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President repeated his call for Republicans in the United States Senate to give Chief Judge Merrick Garland a fair hearing and a vote":

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, April 29, 2016.

** New York: "An ISIS-linked hacking group has posted a hit list that includes the names of thousands of New Yorkers. The list, released by the ISIS-related group Caliphate Cyber United, reportedly includes as many as 3,600 names, some of whom are employees at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, but many of whom are average residents. Experts speculate that the list is being used as a scare tactic and that there’s no immediate threat." -- CW

NBC News: "A man infected with Zika virus in Puerto Rico has died from complications of the infection, health officials said Friday.... It's the first death in the United States from Zika virus." -- CW

Washington Post: "North Korea has sentenced a former Virginia man to 10 years in prison with hard labor for subversion, its official news agency said Friday, in the latest case involving an American being detained by Kim Jong Un’s regime." -- CW

Public Service Announcement

New York Times: "Taking a stance sharply at odds with most American public health officials, a major British medical organization urged smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes, saying they are the best hope in generations for people addicted to tobacco cigarettes to quit. The recommendation, laid out in a report published Thursday by the Royal College of Physicians, summarizes the growing body of science on e-cigarettes and finds that their benefits far outweigh the potential harms." -- CW

Washington Post: "More than a third of advanced-melanoma patients who received one of the new immunotherapy drugs in an early trial are alive five years after starting treatment -- double the survival rate typical of the disease, according to a new study."

Zoe Schlanger of Newsweek: "If you are eating fast food, you're probably also eating phthalates,... a class of chemicals that have been linked to everything from ADHD to breast cancer, ...[which] are common in food packaging, drink containers, the tubing used to transport dairy and the equipment used to process fast food." --LT

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

New York Times: "The Pulitzers are in their centennial year, and the winners announced by Columbia University reflected in part the changes sweeping the media landscape." Here's the full list of the prize winners, via the New York Times.

CW: The AP produced this video in January 2015, but I just came across it:

New York Times: "James Levine, who transformed the Metropolitan Opera during four decades as its music director but has suffered from poor health in recent years, will step down from his post after this season to become music director emeritus, the company announced Thursday."

Politico: "Gabriel Snyder, editor in chief of The New Republic for the past 17 months, is leaving the magazine in the wake of its sale to Win McCormack.... The masthead change marks the first big move since McCormack, a publisher, Democratic booster and editor in chief of a literary journal called Tin House, bought TNR from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in February after Hughes was unsuccessful at turning around the money-losing magazine’s business during his four years of stewardship."

The Great Octopus Escape. Guardian: "An octopus has made a brazen escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand by breaking out of its tank, slithering down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappearing into the sea. In scenes reminiscent of Finding Nemo, Inky – a common New Zealand octopus – made his dash for freedom after the lid of his tank was accidentally left slightly ajar. Staff believe that in the middle of the night, while the aquarium was deserted, Inky clambered to the top of his glass enclosure, down the side of the tank and travelled across the floor of the aquarium."

... Charles Pierce: "One of the best biographies I've ever read was Scott Berg's brilliant, National Book Award-winning account of the life of Maxwell Perkins, the editor at Scribner's who was responsible for bringing out the best work in Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ring Lardner, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.... I'm going to be first in line to see [the film "Genius."] OK, so there won't be a line, but I'll be there nonetheless."

Michael Cavna of the Washington Post on the artistry in the film "All the President's Men."The real Woodward & Bernstein weigh in.

"You think old people are weirdos but then you understand that they don't see you and they can't hear you." Reuters: "The Genworth Aging Experience is a traveling show created by Genworth Financial Inc., an insurance company, in partnership with Applied Minds, a design and engineering company, that allows museum visitors to feel first-hand the effects of aging...[with the goal of building] empathy and awareness of the challenges elderly people face in everyday situations." -- LT note: this world could always use a little more empathy.

Washington Post: An archivist found the original patent for the Wright brothers' "Flying Machine" "in a special records storage cave in Lenexa, Kan., where it was sent at some point after it vanished around 1980." Somebody in the National Archives apparently had misfiled it.

New York Times: "A thousand years after the Vikings braved the icy seas from Greenland to the New World in search of timber and plunder, satellite technology has found intriguing evidence of a long-elusive prize in archaeology — a second Norse settlement in North America, further south than ever known. The new Canadian site, with telltale signs of iron-working, was discovered last summer after infrared images from 400 miles in space showed possible man-made shapes under discolored vegetation. The site is on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, about 300 miles south of L’Anse aux Meadows, the first and so far only confirmed Viking settlement in North America, discovered in 1960."

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.

Friday
Nov292013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 30, 2013

Sharon LaFraniere, et al., of the New York Times: "As the Obama administration's weekend deadline for a smoothly functioning online marketplace for health insurance arrives, more than a month of frantic repair work is paying off with fewer crashes and error messages and speedier loading of pages, according to government officials, groups that help people enroll and experts involved in the project. But specialists said weeks of additional work lie ahead, including a major reconfiguration of the computer hardware, if the $630 million site, Healthcare.gov, is to accommodate the expected flood of people seeking to buy health insurance." ...

... Juliet Eilperin & Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "Administration officials are preparing to announce Sunday that they have met their Saturday deadline for improving HealthCare.gov, according to government officials, in part by expanding the site's capacity so that it can handle 50,000 users at once. But they have yet to meet all their internal goals for repairing the federal health-care site, and it will not become clear how many consumers it can accommodate until more people try to use it."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: A November 1 ruling by the D.C. circuit, comparing "contraception to 'a grave moral wrong' and sid[ing] with businesses that refused to provide it in health care coverage" was the straw that broke the donkey's back & caused Senate Democrats to revise the filibuster. "All the more glaring, Democrats believed, was that they had allowed confirmation of the conservative judges now ruling in the abortion cases. Republicans were blocking any more appointments to the court of appeals in Washington, which issued the contraception decision."

The final tipping point was this month, when the minority launched a campaign to block President Obama from appointing anyone, regardless of experience and character, to three vacancies on the D.C. circuit court, This constituted an attack on the balance and integrity of our courts. -- Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)

Herein lies the reason you vote for Democrats, even when they aren't the best candidates. -- Constant Weader

CW: AND some Democrats do have a heart. Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "On Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days on the year, a group of seven Democratic lawmakers came out in support of Wal-Mart employees who are protesting the company to improve labor standards. 'Across the country, there are countless Wal-Mart workers who are paid poverty wages, cannot get enough hours, and have erratic work schedules that make it difficult to survive,' said the statement, issued by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.)." ...

... Allison Kilkenny of the Nation: "Walmart employees and supporters protested in cities all across the country on Black Friday in opposition to Walmart's low wages and poor treatment of workers. In some cases, protesters volunteered to engage in acts of civil disobedience and were arrested by police." ...

... Walton Abbey. Sadhbh Walshe in the Guardian: "Whatever it is that we find so charming about ["Downton Abbey"]..., we should try to keep in mind that the rampant inequality it celebrates is not something we should be hankering after. America has its own real-life upstairs/downstairs thing going on at the moment, best embodied by the Walton clan, who own the lion's share of Walmart Stores, Inc." CW: Actually, I think the series makes pretty clear that no matter how stuffy Lord Grantham & Lady Mary are, the "rampant inequality" is coming to an end & a number of the characters, even among the swells, celebrate that. More on WalMart below.

Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "Key senior administration officials have advocated splitting the leadership of the nation's largest spy agency from that of the military's cyberwarfare command.... At a White House meeting of senior national security officials last week, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said he was in favor of ending the current policy of having one official in charge of both the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command.... Also, officials appear inclined to install a civilian as director of the NSA for the first time in the agency's 61-year history."

Unfriendly Skies. Peter Baker & Jane Perlez of the New York Times: "On the same day that China scrambled fighter jets to enforce its newly declared air defense zone, the Obama administration decided to advise American commercial airlines to comply with China's demands to be notified in advance of flights through the area."

Christopher Drew & Danielle Ivory of the New York Times: "A scandal involving the Navy's ship supply network, until now focused on the Pacific Fleet, has spread to another contractor working for Navy ships in the waters off the Middle East, Africa and South America. The Justice Department is looking into allegations that the company, Inchcape Shipping Services, with the help of subcontractors, overcharged the Navy by millions of dollars.... Inchcape, which is owned by the government of Dubai, was suspended this week from winning new federal contracts...."

Kevin Liptak of CNN: "President Obama paid a visit Friday to a group of activists who have been fasting for weeks in the hopes of pressuring Congress to pass new immigration laws. The President and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, visited the group on the National Mall to lend support for the cause." With video.

MEANWHILE, Josh Romney, a son of the First Runner-up in the 2012 Presidential Beauty Content makes sure everybody knows he's a hero. There could be a President Romney yet, people. Lucy McCalmont reports.

Abby Phillip of ABC News: "The first family might choose to stay in Washington, D.C., after President Obama leaves office in 2016, the president and first lady Michelle Obama told ABC News' Barbara Walters in an interview. By then, their eldest daughter Malia will be in college, and their youngest daughter Sasha will still be in high school as a sophomore. 'So we've gotta -- you know we gotta make sure that she's doing well ... until she goes off to college,' the president said. 'Sasha will have a big say in where we are.'"

Jonathan Zimmerman argues in the Washington Post against the presidential term limit.

Michelle, Malia & Sasha Obama accept the White House Christimas tree:

... Americans Go to WalMart to Honor the Baby Jesus

Jay Hart of Yahoo! News: "By midnight [Friday morning], #WalmartFights was trending on Twitter. Attached were pictures and videos and Vines of all sorts of violence and chaos and other nonsense. None of this is a surprise. It was expected, which is why police were at the ready at your local Walmart." ...

... Lacy Donohue of Gawker: "According to a Walmart press release, Thanksgiving was a day of record-breaking sales, sales that were 'bigger, better, faster, cheaper and safer than ever.'." Safer, huh? Let's examine the video evidence":

     ... A WalMart Theologian. CW: No doubt the woman who calls fellow-shoppers "motherfuckers" was thinking of the Virgin Mary & the Trinity. The Gawker piece has more videos of Thanksgiving Day fights. ...

... Sometimes deadly weapons are involved. In a Virginia WalMart parking lot, one man brandishes a rifle & his adversary cuts him to the bone with a knife. The men were fighting over a parking space. Police arrested them both, who of course also missed their chance to battle it out inside the store over big-ass teevees. This is why Christians believe in heaven, where there are no WalMarts & no parking lots so no assholes threatening to kill you over a parking space. Because Jesus gives everybody a big-ass teevee. Or so I hear. ...

     ... The gun-knife incident reminded contributor James S. of this:

Right Wing World *

Jeb Bush Joins the VaticanGate Truthers. Lucy McCalmont (apparently the only Politico reporter working this weekend): Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush claims President Obama closed the U.S.'s embassy to the Vatican. Bush is "hopeful" the move -- which didn't occur -- isn't "retaliation for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare." The embassy didn't close; it just moved to another site for security & cost-savings reasons. CW: Even rumors of Obama administration actions are evidence of sinister motives. Besides, I'm pretty sure the reason Obama shut down the U.S. embassy to the Vatican is that he's a Muslim. ...

... Daily Caller: Leading Roman Catholic wingnuts are furious:

It's not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it's also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See. -- former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, Bill Clinton's ambassador to the Vatican & an alleged Democrat (Flynn endorsed George W. Bush for president in 2000 & Republican Scott Brown for Senator in 2010)

"Revisionaries." Mariah Blake of the Washington Monthly: Crusading right-wing Christian fundamentalists continue to exert undue influence over the nation's textbooks. Besides the usual creationist, anti-climate change nonsense, their agenda includes aggrandizing Ronald Reagan, "rehabilitat[ing] Joseph McCarthy, bring[ing] global-warming denial into science class, and downplay[ing] the contributions of the civil rights movement," airbrushing out George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the New Deal, & of course Martin Luther King, Jr., & Thurgood Marshall.

Travis Gettys of the Raw Story: "A birther preacher is pushing the conspiracy theory that Miriam Carey, who was shot to death Oct. 3 after police said she tried to ram her car into a barrier outside the White House, was the mother of President Barack Obama's illegitimate child. Rev. James David Manning, pastor of Atlah World Missionary Church who believes the president was born in Kenya, claims that Carey's family has called for a paternity test to determine whether the woman's 15-month-old daughter was fathered by the president." CW: As I have said before, there is a rational explanation for even events that on their face seem irrational. Thanks to the Rev. Manning for making sense of Carey's seemingly bizarre actions. I predict Donald Trump will launch an all-out effort to prove Manning's thesis, an effort that will end only when President Obama says, "I did not have sex with that woman."

* Where even the "moderates" are crazy, Reagan was a deity & Obama is responsible for everything bad.

News Ledes

Guardian: "The United States has moved to end the tense standoff with Afghan president Hamid Karzai over his refusal to sign a security pact between the two countries by formally apologising for a US drone strike in Helmand province that killed a toddler and injured two women. The apology was delivered in a phone call to Karzai late on Thursday by marine General Joseph Dunford, the top US and Nato commander in Afghanistan." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "After its longest war in history, the United States is suddenly contemplating having to dismantle the bulk of its counterterrorism infrastructure in the region [of Afghanistan] and abandon Afghanistan's fledgling security forces. A wholesale withdrawal would also shut down the foreign-aid pipeline that keeps the Afghan state afloat and sharply limit any enduring U.S. diplomatic presence."

New York Times: "North Korea accused an elderly American veteran of war crimes, and released a video Saturday of him confessing to 'hostile acts' during the Korean War and while he was a tourist there last month. The veteran, Merrill Newman, 85, of Palo Alto, Calif., who has been held since Oct. 26, appeared on the video dressed in a blue American-style shirt and wearing rimless spectacles as he read excerpts from the apology from several sheets of white paper."

AFP: "EU leaders slammed Russia on Friday for meddling in its affairs after Ukraine rejected a landmark accord with the European Union designed to draw the ex-Soviet state into the Western fold. The snub by Ukraine highlighted a worsening EU-Russia tug-of-war over former Soviet satellites in eastern Europe."

Reuters: "Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Friday he would call a new confidence vote in parliament to confirm his government's majority after the withdrawal of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party from the ruling coalition."

AFP: "China and India are among countries that have dodged US sanctions by cutting back on Iranian crude, Washington said Friday as it pledged to 'aggressively' enforce such punitive measures despite a recent nuclear deal with Tehran."

Thursday
Nov282013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 29, 2013

Amy Merrick of the New Yorker posts some myths about Black Friday. Hint: the deals aren't that great. ...

... Black Friday Is Not About You. Derek Thompson of the Atlantic: "When you hit the stores this weekend, remember that shopping is a sport, this is its Super Bowl, and retail corporations are better at playing than you." ...

... Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "For retail workers nationwide, who earn a median pay of about $9.60 an hour, or less than $20,000 a year, holiday shopping sprees are most often enjoyed by customers on the opposite side of the counter." ...

... What's Wrong with This Picture? From the front page of the online New York Times:

     ... One of the suggested gifts: a $60,000 traveling desk/trunk. It is quite nice. Maybe some of those McDonald's workers will buy out the trunks to take on their round-the-world cruises.

... Mike DeBonis & Reid Wilson of the Washington Post: "Efforts in Congress to raise the national minimum wage above $7.25 an hour have stalled. But numerous local governments ... driven largely by Democrats ... are forging ahead, in some cases voting to dramatically increase the pay of low-wage workers. The efforts, while supported by many unions, threaten to create a patchwork of wage rates that could mean workers in some areas will be entitled to vastly less than those working similar jobs nearby. The campaigns reach from coast to coast."

Paul Krugman: Is ObamaCare bending the cost curve as the law was intended to do? "The answer, amazingly, is yes. In fact, the slowdown in health costs has been dramatic.... And the biggest savings may be yet to come. The Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel with the power to impose cost-saving measures (subject to Congressional overrides) if Medicare spending grows above target, hasn't yet been established, in part because of the near-certainty that any appointments to the board would be filibustered by Republicans [CW: and pundits like Mark Halperin] yelling about 'death panels.' Now that the filibuster has been reformed, the board can come into being." ...

... David Morgan of Reuters: "The Obama administration says it is on target to make its problematic health insurance website work smoothly for the 'vast majority' of users by this weekend, but some Americans who want coverage by January 1 may not be able to get it - even if they successfully navigate the portal and sign up for a plan. The problem, according to insurance industry officials and other specialists, is that the administration is behind schedule in building a computer program needed to help insurers verify the names, insurance plan choices and other details of those who sign up for health coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act...." ...

... Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: Especially in states which have accepted the Medicaid expansion available under the ACA, but in other states as well, a shortage of doctors -- and of specialists in particular -- is a looming problem, largely because many doctors won't accept Medicaid patients because the program pays them such low reimbursement rates. ...

... Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times: "In Oregon, a state envied for its high tech, sign-ups under the new federal healthcare law have been anything but. About 400 newly hired workers in Salem are processing paper applications by the thousands for health insurance under President Obama's law....Meanwhile, at the headquarters of Cover Oregon, the agency set up by the state to run its transition under the Affordable Care Act, dozens of software engineers have fanned out at long tables on the first floor, trying to untangle the technical problems that have made Oregon the only state with a health insurance exchange that has yet to go online." ...

... Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News: Maybe President Obama thinks he's too damned smart to dither with the "details" of ObamaCare. ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM on why the ACA will survive, no matter what. "Nothing will happen on the legislative front that Obama doesn't approve of. This is a cardinal fact.... The [insurance] carriers themselves have huge incentives to make the system work.... By early next year you will have millions of new people enrolled in Medicaid, large numbers of people who have health care covered who couldn't get it at any reasonable price before who now have coverage and you will have large numbers of people who have care that is better or cheaper and often both than it was before.... I do not think anyone will be able to claw that back.... Obamacare is good policy." ...

... Steve M. is not convinced. The right really believes in a country of "makers" and "takers," & the takers are just not full citizens in the view of the right. "... the right's efforts to dehumanize the less well off would make it a lot easier than we think just to strike millions of people from the health care rolls. I think the right-wing worldview is headed more and more in Mitt Romney's direction -- it just won't have Richie Rich as its figurehead in the future."

Greg Weston & Ryan Gallagher of CBC News, with Glenn Greenwald: "Top secret documents retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden show that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government allowed the [N.S.A.] to conduct widespread surveillance in Canada during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits.... The briefing notes, stamped 'Top Secret,' show the U.S. turned its Ottawa embassy into a security command post during a six-day spying operation by the National Security Agency while U.S. President Barack Obama and 25 other foreign heads of government were on Canadian soil in June of 2010. The covert U.S. operation was no secret to Canadian authorities." ...

... Ian Austen of the New York Times: "Canadian opposition politicians expressed shock and anger on Thursday over a report that the National Security Agency conducted widespread surveillance during a summit meeting of world leaders in Canada in June 2010."

Ben Goad of the Hill: "Guns that cannot be detected by X-ray machines will no longer be banned if Congress does not renew the decades-old prohibition by Dec. 9. The 1998 Undetectable Firearms Act will sunset that day, ending the prohibition at a time when new technology has made it easier than ever before to manufacture plastic guns with 3-D printers. Gun control activists warn that a lapse would allow anyone with a few thousand dollars to build a homemade gun that would be undetectable at airports, government buildings or schools. 'That threat was little more than "science fiction," when Congress overwhelmingly backed the ban 25 years ago,' said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who is pressing legislation to renew the law."

Humor Break. Joshua Keating of Salon Slate writes a "report" on Thanksgiving, employing the "tropes and tone" the American press uses in describing similar events in other countries. Here's the lede paragraph: "Washington, D.C. On Wednesday morning, this normally bustling capital city became a ghost town as most of its residents embarked on the long journey to their home villages for an annual festival of family, food, and questionable historical facts. Experts say the day is vital for understanding American society and economists are increasingly taking note of its impact on the world economy."

News Ledes

TPM: "A 28-year-old alleged 'former Exalted Cyclops' of the Ku Klux Klan and his mother have both been arrested and are facing federal charges relating to a 2009 cross burning in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Ozark, Ala."

AFP: "US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan on Friday vowed to investigate an airstrike that President Hamid Karzai said killed a two-year-old boy, as acrimony deepens over a deal to allow US troops to stay in the country after 2014." ...

... Washington Post: "The [U.S.-led] coalition acknowledged the incident on Friday, saying that a child was apparently killed during an operation targeting 'an insurgent riding a motorbike.'"

AFP: "China's state media called Friday for 'timely countermeasures without hesitation' if Japan violates the country's newly declared air zone, after Beijing sent fighter jets to patrol the area following defiant military overflights by Tokyo. Japan and South Korea both said Thursday they had disregarded the air defence identification zone (ADIZ) that Beijing declared last weekend, showing a united front after US B-52 bombers also entered the area."

AP: "An Italian court has accused ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi and his lawyers of tampering with evidence by paying off witnesses in a trial related to his notorious 'bunga bunga' parties. Citing testimony and telephone wiretaps, the Milan court said Berlusconi convened about a dozen young women to his Milan mansion on Jan. 15, 2011 to meet with his lawyers after the women's homes were searched as part of the police investigation into the parties. From then on, the judges wrote, the women began receiving 2,500 euros each month from Berlusconi and subsequently they offered unusually identical testimony in court denying that the parties had sexual overtones."

Wednesday
Nov272013

Remember This

Thanks to contributor Kate M. for the link.

Wednesday
Nov272013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 28, 2013

Freedom from Want. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers was one of the recipients of the 2013 Roosevelt Institute's 2013 Four Freedoms Awards. The Coalition received the award for Freedom from Want. "The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a farm worker organization that is spearheading the national movement for Fair Food. With its Fair Food Program, launched in 2010 in over 90 percent of Florida's $600 million tomato industry, the CIW has created a sustainable blueprint for worker-driven corporate social responsibility, winning fairer wages; work with dignity; and freedom from forced labor, sexual harassment, and violence in the workplace for nearly 100,000 workers." -- Roosevelt Institute

The First European Thanksgiving Celebration in America. Kenneth Davis, in a New York Times op-ed, November 2008: "Long before the Pilgrims sailed in 1620, another group of dissident Christians sought a haven in which to worship freely. These French Calvinists, or Huguenots, hoped to escape the sectarian fighting between Catholics and Protestants that had bloodied France since 1560. Landing in balmy Florida in June of 1564, at what a French explorer had earlier named the River of May (now the St. Johns River near Jacksonville), the French émigrés promptly held a service of 'thanksgiving.'" Thanks to contributor P. D. Pepe for the lead.

** "A WalMart Thanksgiving." Labor Prof. John Logan, in the Hill: "The disastrous economic consequences of Walmart's bad jobs and worker intimidation are now well known. Taxpayers pick up the tab for the company's poverty-level wages. The company's employees are often so poor that they and their dependents are among the nation's biggest users of food stamps, health programs for low-income individuals and other forms of public assistance. This public subsidy of the nation's largest corporation, owned by its richest family costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year. But those who suffer the most from poverty-level wages are its employees.... Walmart could immediately stop intimidating workers, improve their conditions and pay a minimum wage of $25,000 per year for full-time work. Last week, the think tank Demos reported that if Walmart stopped buying back shares of its own stock -- which adds nothing to its productivity -- it could afford to raise employee wages by almost $6 per hour without increasing retail prices. In 2012, the company spent $7.6 billion to buy backs shares." ...

Dominic Rushe of the Guardian: "Retail workers and union activists are preparing for a record day of action across the US on Friday, protesting wages and conditions on the busiest shopping day of the year. Retailers, including Macy's, are opening their doors on Thanksgiving for the first time this year, joining other store giants including Target, Sears and Kmart. But it is Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, which has attracted the focus of protests. Protests are planned at more than 1,500 of Walmart's 4,000 US stores on Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday and traditionally the start of the festive shopping season."

Thanksgiving Eve News Dump. Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Obama administration announced Wednesday a one-year delay in the element of the new health care law that allows small businesses to go online to buy insurance for their employees through the new federal marketplace website.... The announcement of the delay, just before Thanksgiving, is reminiscent of the way the White House announced, just before the Independence Day weekend, a one-year delay in the requirement for larger employers to offer health insurance to employees." ...

... Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "Small businesses will still have the option to purchase SHOP health insurance plans through a broker or agent, who will assist the employer with filing a paper application. The federal government expects to process those filings for eligibility within three to five days...."

The Christology of Sex. Linda Greenhouse: "The religious-based challenges that have flooded the federal courts from coast to coast -- more than 70 of them, of which the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear two -- aren't about the day-in, day-out stuff of jurisprudence under the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause: Sabbath observance, employment rights, tax exemptions. They are about sex." ...

... Steve Lemieux in the American Prospect: "... it's not just economic libertarianism -- the challenge to the mandate is rooted in misogyny and puritanism as well. Employers are free to have reactionary views about economics and gender, but these beliefs are not protected.... The idea that a secular, for-profit corporation can 'exercise' religion is a strange concept that would be inconsistent with a substantial body of precedent." ...

... An Online Magazine Is a Blog Is a, a Tabloid! Eden Foods chairman & founder Michael Potter didn't much like it when the Sixth Circuit cited his remarks to Irin Carmon of Salon when it rejected his fake religious objection to providing contraceptive care. Potter didn't claim he had been misquoted, just that it didn't count because he made the remarks to a reporters on a blog or a tabloid.

New York Times Editors: President Obama's claim during his speech Monday that "it would be illegal" for him to halt deportations was "misleading.... While the president cannot throw out whole sections of immigration law to bypass Congressional inaction, he does have discretion in choosing how to enforce it wisely.... He can undoubtedly expand administrative efforts to protect other immigrants left stranded by legislative failure."

Glenn Greenwald, et al., in the Huffington Post: "The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as 'exemplars' of how 'personal vulnerabilities' can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target's credibility, reputation and authority."

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "With the United States sending two B-52s to reinforce its protest over China's attempt to control the airspace over the islands, it served as a timely reminder that President Obama wants to turn America's gaze eastward, away from the preoccupations of the Middle East. Mr. Obama's shift ... has always seemed more rhetorical than real. But when Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. travels to China, Japan and South Korea next week, the administration will have another chance to flesh out the policy."

Maria Golovnina & John Chalmers of Reuters: "President Hamid Karzai's stubborn refusal to sign a pact that would keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 is a high-risk gamble that Washington will give in to his demands, one that has left him isolated as the clock runs down on his presidency. Diplomats said he may have over-played his hand, raising the risk of a complete U.S. withdrawal.... It also risks a backlash at home by critics who believe he is playing a dangerous game with the country's future security." ...

... Tim Craig of the Washington Post: "President Hamid Karzai is facing a growing backlash from Afghan political leaders over his reluctance to sign a long-term security agreement with the United States."

What a Difference a Year Makes. Steve Benen: A year ago departing Sen. Joe Lieberman promised he would never become a lobbyist. Uh, he's a lobbyist now. CW: Hard to believe Joe would go back on his word. (Medicare for 55+.)

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee Campbell Soup Chef.David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) on Wednesday said that Lara Logan's botched reporting on Benghazi made her a 'hero journalist' and he was shocked that CBS News would force her off the air." ...

... Huckleberry himself is losing his radio show, billed as an alternative to Rushbo. Having failed to unseat Rush, Huckleberry is thinking of running for POTUS. CW: The White House is a consolation prize, I guess.

The Pompous v. the Pontiff. ...

     ... Eric Dolan of the Raw Story: Fox Business host Stuart Varney lectures Pope Francis on capitalism & religion. With video. ...

This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope. -- Rush Limbaugh

Local News

Kirk Johnson of the New York Times: Alaskan Democrats like former Half-Gov. Sarah Palin's tax on oil companies. CW: Half-Gov. Palin's tax was totally socialistic Robin Hood stuff, which -- as I recall -- just happened to especially benefit large families. It provided a per capita payout & kids were capita.


CW
: I hadn't planned to post much today, but the jerks just don't take a holiday, do they? It's hard to keep up with them.

News Ledes

New York Times: Afghanistan's "President Hamid Karzai lashed out at his American allies again on Thursday after word came that at least one, and possibly two, NATO drone strikes had killed civilians in southern Afghanistan."

New York Times: Despite "brisk winds and an occasional gust," Macy's parade went ahead as scheduled today.

AP: "A wintry blast of heavy rain, wind and snow across the eastern United States disrupted Thanksgiving travel plans on Wednesday for some of the millions of Americans hitting the roads and taking to the skies on the busiest holiday travel day of the year. While the travel delays were not as bad as many had feared, meteorologists warned that falling temperatures could create icy road conditions for those who put off travel until Wednesday night."

AP: "After keeping away inspectors for two years, Iran has invited the U.N. nuclear agency to a facility linked to a still unfinished reactor that could produce enough plutonium for up to two warheads a year, the agency's head said Thursday."

Washington Post: "Both Japan and South Korea said Thursday that they'd flown surveillance aircraft through China's newly claimed air defense identification zone, the latest challenge to an airspace that China has vowed to defend. flights drew no unusual response from Beijing, but they intensify the game of dare being played above Asia's contested maritime territory." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "China sent fighter jets on the first patrols of its new air defense zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea on Thursday, the state news agency, Xinhua, said. The patrols followed announcements by Japan and South Korea that their military planes had flown through the zone unhindered by China."