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.

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."

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."

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.

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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.

 

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Saturday
Apr282012

The Commentariat -- April 29, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Douthat's hand-wringing over Japanese demographics.

Paul Krugman on ABC New's "This Week" speaks about Fed Chair Ben Bernanke That jer at the end there is David Walker, one of the guys Tom Friedman thinks should be President:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

     ... You can watch more ideologues explaining economics to Krugman here.

President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner last night:

     ... CW: For the third year running, I thought Obama was funnier than the professional comedian.

** Edgar Doctorow in a New York Times op-ed on how "to achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world." Highly recommended.

Martin Amis, in a New York Times essay, remembers his stays in the U.S. in 1958 & 1967.

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "The growth of health spending has slowed substantially in the last few years, surprising experts and offering some fuel for optimism about the federal government's long-term fiscal performance.... Experts said not to discount the accountable-care revolution just because it remained small or because the changes implemented by the Obama health care law had not come into full effect yet."

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "The emerging picture [of Al Qaeda] is of a network that is crumpled at its core, apparently incapable of an attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001, yet poised to survive its founder’s demise."

Peter Bergen, in a New York Times op-ed: "Despite countervailing evidence, most conservatives view the president as some kind of peacenik. From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramatic cognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama’s record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is."

Greedy Bastards. Charles Duhigg & David Kocieniewski of the New York Times on how Apple avoids billions in taxes.

You can listen to oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Arizona v. the United States here. (The audio widget is on the right side of the screen.)

The Presidential Race

** Rick Perlstein of Rolling Stone on how "the ecology of right-wing smears works: Insane horror stories – Clinton is running cocaine out of an Arkansas airport! Barack Obama had gay sex in the back of a limo! -- bubble up from the collective conservative Id at the outset of an election year; professional conservatives in Washington identify the ones that seem most promising and launder them through the suckers in the 'balance'-hungry mainstream media; and presto, before you know it, it's death-panel-palooza, 24/7." Perlstein posits that Obama will be accused this year of trying to establish a state religion in violation of the First Amendment. The religion? Secular Humanism! Want proof? The groundwork is laid, & Mitt Romney is already traveling down the road.

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: Oh, Romney is a fun guy, too. (See Obama above, at Washington Correspondents Dinner.) Romney makes jokes about firing people. Ha ha and ha. CW: This story about Romney's funny side is, not surprisingly, really short.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post bids farewell to Newt.

Right Wing World

Thomas Mann & Norm Ornstein in a Washington Post op-ed: "We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional.... Today ... we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

Vatican Ragout

Maureen Dowd: "It has become a habit for the church to go after women.... Church leaders behave like adolescent boys, blinded by sex. That’s the problem with inquisitors and censors: They become fascinated by what they deplore." ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "If you look at who has more closely emulated Jesus's life, Pope Benedict or your average nun, it's the nun hands down. Since the papal crackdown on nuns, they have received an outpouring of support." ...

... Funny, no word from Ross Douthat on the Vatican's inquisition of American nuns.

Sarah Garfinkel of the Peoria Journal-Star: "Some faculty members at the University of Notre Dame are calling on Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky to renounce statements he made during a controversial April 14 homily or resign from the school's Board of Fellows. More than 90 faculty members have so far signed the letter, which was released Monday to the Notre Dame student newspaper, according to John Duffy, an English professor at the university. Jenky, during his homily, analogized the political actions of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to those of President Obama." Via Steve Benen.

Vatican Rag

Your Sunday Sermon

The Gospel According to Saint Paul. The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it. The overarching threat to our whole society today is the exploding federal debt. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities, and individuals running up high debt levels are ‘living at the expense of future generations’ and ‘living in untruth." -- Paul Ryan (RTP-Wisc.)

Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love. -- Letter to Ryan from a group of Jesuits & Georgetown University faculty

A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons. -- Letter to Ryan from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ...

... Holy Shit! Now the Pope is an economist. Poor Krugman! Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "A small handful of Catholic social justice activists descended on Georgetown University's gothic campus to protest Ryan's speech there this morning, unfurling a 50-foot sign that read, 'Were you there when they crucified the poor?' Organized by Catholics United, a left-leaning advocacy group, members argued that Ryan's proposed cuts to Medicaid and other welfare programs for the poor go against the teachings of the Church to uplift the poor and downtrodden." ...

... Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: "During the Q&A session that followed, where Ryan fielded questions submitted by students, he insisted that welfare reform had brought down child poverty rates. The claim is false, especially in Ryan's home state. According to the most recent data, the child poverty rate in Wisconsin jumped 42 percent between 2000 and 2010. The suffering would have been more significant but for the large increases in federal food assistance that Ryan wants to scale back. Welfare reform is more likely a contributing factor to child poverty, not a solution to it, making it a dubious model for for combating poverty 'at its roots,' as Ryan said he wants to do." ...

... Dana Milbank: "The moderator asked [Ryan] about 'the moral dimension' of a budget that gives tax cuts to the wealthy and cuts spending for the poor. Ryan’s answer included the phrase 'subchapter S corporations.' ... If government does too much for the poor, 'you make it harder' for churches and charities to do that work. It was a bold economic — and theological — proposition. Even Jesus said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Ryan would rather give the rich a tax cut."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Obama administration scrambled on Sunday to contain a growing diplomatic crisis between the United States and China, sending a senior diplomat to Beijing to discuss the fate of a blind dissident who fled house arrest last week."

New York Times: "If the winds are forgiving enough over Lower Manhattan -- up where workers can see the whole outline of the island's tip -- a steel column will be hoisted into place Monday afternoon atop the exoskeleton of 1 World Trade Center and New York will have a new tallest building."

New York Times: "President Obamapoked fun at himself, Congress, the Secret Service, the media and particularly his rival Mitt Romney on Saturday night, mocking his Republican opponent as a fuddy-duddy rich guy who travels with his dog in a cage strapped to the roof of the family car." Full video above.

New York Times: "Google's harvesting of e-mails, passwords and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households in the United States and around the world was neither a mistake nor the work of a rogue engineer, as the company long maintained, but a program that supervisors knew about, according to new details from the full text of a regulatory report."

Guardian: "Concern is growing for relatives and supporters of Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist who fled from 19 months of house arrest in a Chinese village in Shandong province and is said to be sheltering inside the American embassy in Beijing. Police have detained four family members and two of those who aided his escape, a rights group said."

New York Times: "Egypt's most conservative Islamists endorsed a liberal Islamist for president late Saturday night, upending the political landscape and confounding expectations about the internal dynamics of the Islamist movement. The main missionary and political groups of the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, threw their support behind Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a dissident former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood known for his tolerant and inclusive view of Islamic law."

Guardian: Prime Minister "David Cameron has insisted there was 'no grand deal' with Rupert Murdoch over the BSkyB bid in exchange for support for his party....The prime minister indicated he regretted attending a Christmas party at the Oxfordshire home of the then News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, in December 2010, and admitted discussing matters with James Murdoch, but insisted it did not involve 'any inappropriate conversations'."

Al Jazeera: "The Co-Operative Group, a British supermarket chain, is extending a boycott of goods from illegal Israeli settlements and will now shun any supplier known to source from these areas, a statement has said."

Friday
Apr272012

The Commentariat -- April 28, 2012

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

Gail Collins just nicks the tip of the iceberg on the privitization of education, but it's enough to infuriate me. If you want to talk war on everything, the war on public education is perhaps the most scandalous, because it is, to borrow a phrase from Obama, winning our future. That is to say, our future is losing. CW: BTW, it may be coincidental, but ever since I wrote a column (which nobody liked) in the NYTX criticizing Collins for wasting her NYT real estate on frivolous stuff, Collins has written mostly substantive columns.

Kevin Drum: "Can the government provide healthcare more efficiently than the private market? There's no simple answer to that, but a couple of recent data points suggest the answer is yes." This is an interesting post in that Drum cites studies that indicate both Medicare & Medicaid costs are actually holding steady or decreasing. This was news to me.

Paul Krugman: "Obama, far from presiding over a huge expansion of government the way the right claims, has in fact presided over unprecedented austerity, largely driven by cuts at the state and local level. And it’s therefore an amazing triumph of misinformation the way that lackluster economic performance has been interpreted as a failure of government spending." With a chart to prove it. ...

... Here's Krugman on NPR; includes summary of the interview.

How to Control the Narrative. Glenn Greenwald doesn't like it: "This is what the Obama administration does over and over. It’s a flagrant abuse of its secrecy powers. It uses anonymous leaks to selectively boast about what it does and thus shape media narratives and public understanding of its conduct (also called 'domestic propaganda'). But it then simultaneously insists that the whole matter is classified — Top Secret — when it comes time to be subjected to any form of legal accountability or have its assertions publicly tested."

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Obama campaign officials have asked the president’s elite donors and fund-raisers to donate to [Hillary] Clinton’s defunct presidential campaign committee, with the goal of retiring $245,000 in debt left over from her 2008 White House bid. As secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton is barred from engaging in political activity or actively fund-raising for herself." Naturally, there's a tit for tat.

CW: Sorry, forgot to post this yesterday. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama plans to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 13 people, including Bob Dylan, John Glenn, Toni Morrison and John Paul Stevens, the White House announced Thursday." Post includes complete list of honorees.

Richard Ryan & William Ryan in the New York Times: "In this month’s issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we and our fellow researchers provide empirical evidence that homophobia can result, at least in part, from the suppression of same-sex desire.

Steve Kornacki of Salon: "After a week of public squabbling, both [Scott Brown & Elizabeth Warren] publicly released several years of tax returns earlier today, and it turns out their incomes aren't very different. According to the Boston Globe's report, Brown and his wife (a former television reporter at Boston's ABC affiliate) took in $510,856 in 2011. The total for Warren and her husband: $616,181. Their 2010 returns tell a similar story, with Brown reporting around $840,000 in income and Warren about $955,000. Those totals put each of them near the top of the income scale. There's a wider gulf in earlier years, before Brown's 2010 Senate victory, which he parlayed into a lucrative book deal."

Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "On Capitol Hill, Democrats are aggressively pushing the case that Republicans are now waging a 'War on Women' on three legislative fronts. First, they are blasting House Republicans for their proposal to block changes to the Violence Against Women Act.... Second, they've cast the GOP proposal to lower student rates by taking money out of Obamacare's prevention fund as another 'assault on women.' ... [Third,] Senate Democrats are planning to hold a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which 'would put more pressure on employers to prove that differences in wages are not rooted in gender difference.' ..."

Meanwhile, in ...

... Right Wing World

The Presidential Race

We’ve always encouraged young people: Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business. -- Mitt Romney, rich person with rich parents, like so many of us ...

Steve Benen chronicles Mitt's lies of the week; 15th in an extraordinary series.

Alec MacGillis of The New Republic: President Obama may use climate change to smoke out Willard Romney and his climate change denials turns; it could play well with upscale voters who think Romney is appealing.

Local News

Believe me, there is [sic.] a lot of good and hardworking people that work for the state. They are not the problem. The problem is the middle management of the state is about as corrupt as you can be. Believe me, we’re trying every day to get them to go to work, but it's hard. -- Gov. Paul LePage (RTP-Maine) ...

... Eric Russell of Bangor Daily News: LePage "offered no proof of corruption, no data to back his case that these managers don't work and he didn't identify a specific department. He did go on to talk about how most of these employees are not appointed by him and are protected through union contracts."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The latest high-level talks on ending a diplomatic deadlock between the United States and Pakistan ended in failure on Friday over Pakistani demands for an unconditional apology from the Obama administration for an airstrike. The White House, angered by the recent spectacular Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, refuses to apologize."

New York Times: "The recently retired chief of Israel's internal security agency said Friday night that he had 'no faith' in the ability of the current leadership to handle the Iranian nuclear threat, ratcheting up the criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak from the defense and intelligence communities."

New Rules. New York Times: "... the Secret Service ... announced on Friday that it had tightened its rules for staff members traveling in foreign countries."

AFP: "A leading Chinese activist who escaped from house arrest last weekend is now under US 'protection' and Washington and Beijing are in talks over his status, an overseas rights group said Saturday. Chen Guangcheng, who has been blind since childhood, fled last Sunday with the help of his supporters from under the noses of dozens of guards and subsequently recorded a video alleging abuses against him and his family."

New York Times: police chiefs from 250 American cities gathered in Washington this week to focus on disparities in gun violence among cities.

AP: "Calling it an 'oversight,' George Zimmerman's attorney said Friday the neighborhood watch volunteer did not disclose that a website had raised more than $200,000 for his defense, even though his family told the judge they would have trouble coming up with his bond.... Florida Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said he wanted to know more about the money."

AFP: "A Ukrainian court adjourned until May 21 on Saturday the new tax evasion trial of the jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko, who is on hunger strike, on account of her failing health. The unexpected decision came as Western concern mounted over the fate of the fiery opposition leader after she stretched her fast into a ninth day to protest an alleged beating at the hands of three prison guards."

Thursday
Apr262012

The Commentariat -- April 27, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' latest attempt to take down Paul Krugman. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

... Driftglass has something to say about Brooks, too:

Mr. Brooks, in case you hadn't noticed, the government of the United States has been conducting a massive experiment for about the last 30 years. It's called 'Conservatism'. Maybe you've read about it? Its key features radical deregulating of everything, the mass rejection of science, running up staggering debt by throwing money at rich people, gutting our manufacturing base, shredding our social safety net, lying our way into some of the worst foreign policy decisions in our history, slandering, lying and impeaching opponents, voter suppression, mass-distributing firearms as if they were free sausage samples being handed out at the mall....

Paul Krugman: "... something has changed [in Europe] in the past few weeks. Several events — the collapse of the Dutch government over proposed austerity measures, the strong showing of the vaguely anti-austerity François Hollande in the first round of France’s presidential election, and an economic report showing that Britain is doing worse in the current slump than it did in the 1930s — seem to have finally broken through the wall of denial. Suddenly, everyone is admitting that austerity isn’t working."

NEW. Governing by Executive Order. Anne Gearan of the AP: At Ft. Stewart today, President Obama signed "an executive order mandating several new education protections for military service members. Though there is little the federal government can do to shut down diploma mills, the new protections would make it harder for post-secondary and technical schools to misrepresent themselves to military students.... Bills pending in Congress, largely backed by Democrats and unlikely to become law soon, would do many of the same things Obama was ordering Friday."

Thirty-one Republican Senators voted against reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act (see yesterday's Ledes):

Robert Farzad of Business Week: we taxpayers still have a "special relationship" with A.I.G.; Treasury has effectively given them another bailout, according to Elizabeth Warren & is playing numbers tricks according to Neil Barofsky. And A.I.G. hasn't learned a thing -- its CEO can hardly wait to get back into risky business. ...

... Speaking of Elizabeth Warren -- Robert Rizzuto of The (Massuchusetts) Republican: "With Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown set to release six years of tax returns sometime today, the Massachusetts Democratic Party released a new video this morning portraying him as 'a millionaire under that $675 barn jacket" (via Greg Sargent):

The Presidential Race

** New York Times editors: "Mitt Romney has made [Robert] Bork a chairman of his Justice Advisory Committee. As with other Republicans leaders, Mr. Bork's central position in Mr. Romney's legal team says a great deal about the presumptive presidential nominee's approach to the law, none of it good."

E. J. Dionne: "Mitt Romney ... has a utopian view of what an unfettered, lightly taxed market economy can achieve. He would never put it this way, of course, but his approach looks forward by looking backward to the late 19th century, when government let market forces rip and a conservative Supreme Court swept aside as unconstitutional almost every effort to write rules for the economic game. This magical capitalism is the centerpiece of Romney's campaign.... This is Romney’s true radicalism."

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: no matter how "moderate" Gov. Etch-a-Sketch becomes on immigration, he won't be able to top McCain 31% of the Hispanic vote because "Romney, like his party, is just too white.... Average Latino voters, men and women who work really hard every day for white bosses, are just going to find that he reminds them too much of the guy who docks their pay when the bus comes late. And they won't be wrong -- he basically is that guy."

John Broder of the New York Times: "The group Americans for Prosperity just went up with a $6.1 million ad buy in swing states that accuses the Obama administration of squandering American taxpayer dollars on green energy projects, asserting that some of the money actually went to foreign entities. The ad is going up in eight states." And it's full of lies. CW: Good for Broder for debunking the ad. ...

     ... NEW. Stephen Lacey & Rebecca Leber of Think Progress fact-check the ad. Oops, no facts! ...

     ... AND. NEW. Steve Benen: "If President Obama has failed as spectacularly as his Republican detractors argue, shouldn't it be easier for them to come up with honest attack ads?"

... Paul Waldman of American Prospect on the "Cool Obama" ad from Karl Turdblossom Rove (see the ad in yesterday's Commentariat): "So once again, we have to wage a campaign of the cool kids versus the squares. This all started in the 1960s, when people like Rove and Romney watched their contemporaries smoking grass, listening to music with electric guitars, and dancing wildly about with adventurous girls in sheer peasant blouses, and thought to themselves, 'Gosh darn it, I hate those guys!'" CW: my thoughts exactly.

Right Wing World *

Russell Berman of The Hill: "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sounded a pessimistic note on the prospects of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) modified DREAM Act proposal making it into law this year.... 'I found it of interest,' he said of Rubio’s proposal, 'but the problem with this issue is that we’re operating in a very hostile political environment. And to deal with a very difficult issue like this … I think it would be difficult at best.'" CW: Hostile political environment: see also 20-foot electrified double border fence with alligator mote. ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "The Rubio proposal hardly puts Obama in a 'box,' as the Post suggests [see yesterday's Commentariat]. All Obama has to do is endorse the Rubio option as a stopgap measure, say it's the best that can be done for now, and tell Congress to get to work. At that point, the GOP will fling it into a black hole of obstruction, from which neither hope nor light can escape." CW: and if Romney also endorses it, that will leave him once again at odds with the Xenophobe Party. C'mon, Obama, you know what to do.

* Where it sucks not to be white. -- Akhilleus

News Ledes

New York Times: "The economic output of the United States grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter of the year, largely on the strength of consumer spending and a surge in residential building helped by unseasonably warm weather."

Vice President Oops! Politico: "The Federal Election Commission has fined Sen. Marco Rubio $8,000 for accepting more than $210,000 in improper contributions during his 2010 run for the Senate."

New York Times: "Moments after an unusual fiery appeal from Speaker John A. Boehner, the House voted 215 to 195 on Friday to prevent a doubling of student loan rates and challenge President Obama over a veto threat. The bill, which would strip $5.9 billion from a program within the health care law to pay to keep rates on subsidized undergraduate loans at 3.4 percent, is all but certain to fail in the Senate, where lawmakers have put together their own measure to keep the rate from reverting to 6.8 percent by closing tax loopholes for some wealthy business owners."

New York Times: "The dramatic nighttime escape of a blind rights lawyer from extralegal house arrest in his village dealt a major embarrassment to the Chinese government and left the United States, which may be sheltering him, with a fresh diplomatic quandary as it seeks to improve its fraught relationship with Beijing."

New York Times: "Defying a veto threat from President Obama, the House on Thursday passed a bill that encourages intelligence agencies and businesses to share information about threats to computer systems, including attacks on American Web sites by hackers in China and other countries."

New York Times: "Federal regulators escalated their antitrust investigation of Google on Thursday by hiring a prominent litigator, sending a strong signal that they are prepared to take the Internet giant to court."

Guardian: "Japan and the US have agreed to relocate thousands of US marines from Okinawa in a move aimed at reducing the island's military burden amid lingering anger among residents over pollution, accidents and crime. Under a deal reached in Washington late on Thursday, about 9,000 marines will move from the southern Japanese island to the US Pacific territory of Guam and other locations in the region, including Hawaii and Australia."

New York Times: "... the Secret Service has begun to change its policies after the scandal [in Colombia]. The agency plans to bar employees from drinking alcohol beginning 10 hours before their shift.... The previous cutoff was six hours.... According to a Congressional official, the employees involved [in the prostitution scandal] included nine Secret Service agents and three uniformed officers. None were part of the president's personal detail."

Guardian: "The military judge in the court-martial of the US soldier accused of handing WikiLeaks the biggest trove of unauthorised state secrets in American history has put army prosecutors on notice that they must prove Bradley Manning knew he was helping the enemy or face the possibility that the most serious charge against him be dismissed."

Reuters: "A nearly three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is expected to find there is little evidence the harsh 'enhanced interrogation techniques' the CIA used on high-value prisoners produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs."

New York Times: Jeremy Hunt, the "embattled British cabinet minister who has drawn criticism for his dealings with Rupert Murdoch's media empire, promised on Friday to hand over text messages and e-mails relating to his role in a failed $12 billion bid by Mr. Murdoch to take full control of BSkyB, Britain's main satellite broadcaster."

Reuters: "George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer who is accused of murder in the death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, has raised at least $200,000 through a website set up to fund his defense, his lawyer said on Thursday."

ABC News: "While U.S. officials say publicly there is no specific threat of a terror attack, behind the scenes law enforcement officials tell ABC News there are plans for a major security surge at airports and transportation hubs in advance of next week's anniversary of Osama bin Laden<'s death."

Wednesday
Apr252012

The Commentariat -- April 26, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is ostensibly on Charles Blow's uncritical post re: Mitt Romney's "victory" speech Tuesday night. But since Blow totally missed it, my column is most useful, I think, as a rundown of what a bunch of crap Romney's speech was. The NYTX front page is here with links to some great stuff. NYTX is in the last week of its subscription drive, so if you were of a mind to sign up, now would be a good time to do so. ...  

... If I coulda, I woulda defended Krugman in the Krugman-Bernanke brouhaha, but I told NYTX editor Chris Spannos I wasn't smart enough. He contacted economist Dean Baker, who is smart enough. Tho Baker was reluctant, he has weigned in, coming down on Krugman's side. Here's Baker's post. The "debate" started with this article, to be printed in this week's New York Times Magazine, in which Krugman criticizes Bernanke for not sticking to his own principles & doing more to manipulate the economy to encourage jobs growth -- which is half of the Fed's charter. In response to a question from New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum, Bernanke responded that Krugman was "absolutely incorrect." In a blogpost, Krugman replied, "... as I see it, in effect he [Bernanke] declared that he has been assimilated by the Fed Borg." ...

... Charles Pierce's review of Ross Douthat's book about religious stuff is priceless.

Here's an American Crossroads (Karl Rove) anti-Obama ad that just makes me like the President better:

Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone interviews President Obama.

Episode 2 of "Money, Power & Wall Street." You have to play through at the end of the video to see the full episode:

Jared Bernstein enters into the World-Where-Facts-Matter & reviews scholarly research that all shows that raising the tax rate on high-income earners has no negative impact on the economy.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "An increasing number of the nation’s large banks — U.S. Bank, Regions Financial and Wells Fargo among them — are aggressively courting low-income customers ... with alternative products that can carry high fees. They are rapidly expanding these offerings partly because the products were largely untouched by recent financial regulations, and also to recoup the billions in lost income from recent limits on debit and credit card fees."

Nicholas Kristof: autopsies of dozens of veterans' brains show evidence of a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., raising the question, "Could blasts from bombs or grenades have a catastrophic impact similar to those of repeated concussions in sports, and could the rash of suicides among young veterans be a result?"

Dream Act -2.0. Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: Sen. Marco Rubio's (RTP-Fla.) "alternate" Dream Act "puts Obama in a box. Democrats are reluctant to see Rubio's efforts as anything other than a political gambit to repair his party's tarnished image with Hispanics and boost his own profile as a potential vice-presidential pick or future White House contender. But if Obama does not at least try to work with Rubio, he could risk losing a centerpiece of his appeal to Hispanic voters — that he is their fiercest ally in Washington and that the GOP is to blame for lack of action on fixing the country's immigration ills." ...

... CW: Obama should call Rubio into the Oval, tell Rubio he knows what he's up to, then green-light the plan, if Rubio ever gets it written down, even tho the plan leaves these kids as 2nd-class noncitizens. This is the only way Obama can one-up Romney's certain embrace of the plan, which Romney says he's "studying."

The Presidential Race

"The Wrong Message." Fareed Zakaria: "Recently the president and his advisers have focused on taxing the rich and tackling inequality. The 'Buffett rule' tax on millionaires has become Obama’s bumper sticker. The proposal is reasonable — but does not deserve the attention Obama is showering on it. It raises a trivial sum.... It adds one more layer to a tax code that is already the most complex and corrupt in the industrialized world. If the president wants to be bold, he could propose comprehensive tax reform and eliminate the hundreds of deductions, exemptions, credits and loopholes, many of which Congress sells in exchange for campaign contributions.... Warren Buffett has said that, in the midst of the economic slowdown, his strategy was to invest in America. That's the Buffett rule Obama should follow."

Gail Collins: "We are now in for six months of Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama, and with the polls showing the race to be very close, you could argue that it is going to be really exciting. Except for the fact that it's Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama."

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos makes the case that, with two exceptions, Mitt Romney hasn't been much of a flip-flopper. On the contrary, he has stuck to his newly-honed conservative guns.

Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect: "In his victory speech last night, the former Massachusetts governor offered a startlingly dishonest take on the last three and a half years of the Obama presidency." Bouie, by contrast, offers a starltingly honest take.

Right Wing World *

"The Wonk Gap." Steve Benen: right-wing experts, even when they know better, will say anything, do anything to score points for their side. Case in point, economist Glenn Hubbard, once a Dubya's economist, now working for Romney, "has a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that President Obama's budget plan includes a secret plan to raise everyone's taxes by 11%. Commenting on the piece, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said Hubbard's argument is 'completely made up,' and a 'remarkably hackish observation for an economist.'"

Tim Noah of The New Republic: "House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last week became, I think, the highest-ranking Republican poobah to say, pretty much outright, that we need to soak the poor. More remarkable still, he said we need to do it in order to avoid raising taxes on the rich!" Here's that sniveling little weasel on the Utoobz:


* From which no fact returns unmutilated. -- Akhilleus

News Ledes

Reuters: "The family of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, killed almost a year ago by American special forces in a military town in northwest Pakistan, left Pakistan for Saudi Arabia early on Friday morning, the family lawyer told Reuters. The move ends months of speculation about the fate of the three widows and 11 children, who were detained by Pakistani security forces after the May 2 raid. 'Yes, they're being deported to Saudi Arabia,' said Aamir Khalil, the family lawyer. 'It is a special flight.'"

San Diego Union-Tribune: "Sgt. Gary Stein, the Camp Pendleton-based Marine who made national headlines for his disparaging remarks about President Barack Obama on Facebook, has been thrown out of the Corps."

Washington Post: "A measure that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act was approved by the Senate Thursday with broad bipartisan support, despite some Republican objections to key provisions. The battle over those differences now moves to the House, where Republicans are pushing an alternative version of the bill."

New York Times: "The drama of former Senator John Edwards's trial took a few more twists on Thursday as Andrew Young ... admitted submitting misleading financial statements to a wealthy benefactor who thought he was helping the senator hide a mistress." ...

     ... News & Observer: "Andrew Young, the former aide for John Edwards, acknowledged under a rough cross-examination Thursday afternoon that much of the money obtained from two wealthy supporters went into the construction of his $1.5 million Orange County home." The News & Observer's Edwards page is here.

AP: "A military judge rejected a defense motion Thursday to consolidate some of the charges against [Pfc. Bradley Manning].... Col. Denise Lind was still considering a defense motion to dismiss the most serious charge against [him] — aiding the enemy — which carries a maximum life sentence. She said problems with a Fort Meade Internet connection had slowed her work on that matter and might delay her ruling until a later date."

AP: "The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits remained stuck near a three-month high last week, a sign that hiring has likely slowed since winter. The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications dipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000. It was little changed from the previous week's figure, the highest since Jan. 7."

AP: "Chrysler followed its strong first-quarter sales with a big profit, sending its 2009 brush with financial death farther into the rearview mirror. The Auburn Hills, Mich., company made a net profit of $473 million, its best quarter in 13 years, mainly on the back of strong U.S.sales."

Washington Post: "The United States has begun launching drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen under new authority approved by President Obama that allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known.... The policy shift marks a significant expansion of the clandestine drone war against an al-Qaeda affiliate that has seized large ­pieces of territory in Yemen and is linked to a series of terrorist plots against the United States. U.S. officials said that Obama approved the use of 'signature' strikes this month and that the killing of an al-Qaeda operative near the border of Yemen's Marib province this week was among the first attacks carried out under the new authority."

New York Times: "Charles G. Taylor, the former president of Liberia and once a powerful warlord, was convicted by an international tribunal on Thursday of 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes committed in Sierra Leone during that country's civil war in the 1990s. The ruling, announced by Presiding Judge Richard Lussick of Samoa, said Mr. Taylor was guilty of involvement in crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, rape, slavery and the use of child soldiers. The court, however, said the prosecution failed to prove that Mr. Taylor had direct command responsibility for the atrocities in the indictment."

New York Times: "The front-runner for the French presidency, the Socialist candidate François Hollande, said on Wednesday that if elected he would ask other European leaders to renegotiate a fiscal treaty in order to promote growth."

Washington Post: "Israel’s military chief said in an interview published Wednesday that he believes Iran will choose not to build a nuclear bomb, an assessment that contrasted with the gloomier statements of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pointed to differences over the Iran issue at the top levels of Israeli leadership." Here's the interview of Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz in Haaretz.

Washington Post: "Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday convicted Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of contempt for defying its orders to reopen an old corruption case against the president, but the justices spared Gilani any prison time. The sentence was symbolic, lasting only until judges left the courtroom. But Gilani's political future remains clouded with the possibility that he could still be removed from office."

AP: "Analysts who have studied photos of a half-dozen ominous new North Korean missiles showcased recently at a lavish military parade say they were fakes, and not very convincing ones, casting further doubt on the country's claims of military prowess."

Guardian: "Rupert Murdoch has admitted to the Leveson inquiry there was a 'cover-up' at News International over the phone-hacking scandal. Murdoch, the News Corp chairman and chief executive, giving his second day of evidence to the inquiry in London, said he was 'misinformed and shielded' from what was going on at the News of the World, adding that there was a 'cover-up'."