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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

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Tuesday
Apr172012

The Commentariat -- April 18, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "The Gospel According to Friedman." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times interviews French economists Emmanuel Saez & Thomas Piketty, renowned for their studies of income inequality. “'The United States is getting accustomed to a completely crazy level of inequality,' Mr. Piketty said.... 'People say that reducing inequality is radical. I think that tolerating the level of inequality the United States tolerates is radical.'” They recommend raising taxes on the rich to somewhere around 70 percent.

Spencer Hsu, et al., of the Washington Post: "... the Justice Department’s promise to protect the rights of defendants became in large part an exercise in damage control that left some prisoners locked away or in the dark for years longer than necessary. The Justice Department continues to decline to release the names of defendants in the affected cases." Link to the first part of this series in yesterday's Commentariat. ...

... Spencer Hsu: "Far from infallible, expert comparisons of hair, handwriting, marks made by firearms on bullets, and patterns such as bite marks and shoe and tire prints are in some ways unscientific and subject to human bias, a National Academy of Sciences panel chartered by Congress found. Other techniques, such as in bullet-lead analysis and arson investigation, survived for decades despite poorly regulated practices and a lack of scientific method."

Kevin Drum: "Generally speaking, domestic spending, defense spending, and Social Security are on extremely sustainable paths... We don't have a spending problem in America. We have a healthcare problem. The other three categories of government spending taken together will probably rise by a point or two over the next few decades, but that's not a big deal.... no one serious should spend an awful lot of time talking about 'the deficit' or about 'government spending.' We should be talking about healthcare. Everything else is just a red herring." Drum makes his point with charts. This is the same point I made in my NYTX column yesterday -- only he presents proofs.

They're Jerks, but They're Not Complete Jerks. Jonathan Easley of The Hill: "The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is criticizing the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan for cutting food stamps and other assistance programs for the poor. In a letter sent to the House Agriculture Committee on Monday, the bishops say the budget fails to meet certain 'moral criteria' by disproportionately cutting programs that 'serve poor and vulnerable people.' A second letter sent Tuesday to the Ways and Means Committee criticizes a provision that makes it more difficult for illegal immigrants to claim child tax credits. The bishops called the credit 'one of the most effective antipoverty programs in our nation.'"

Based on an academic study, Ezra Klein explains why Grover Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge works: "Norquist gets politicians to sign the pledge because it makes them more popular in primaries. And then he keeps them from breaking the pledge because breaking a promise makes them less popular with everybody."

Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly, writing of Jason Zengerle's interview of Barney Frank, linked in yesterday's Commentariat: "’m among those who really get upset when people sort of internalize the recent routine use of the filibuster by Republicans to create a de facto 60-vote requirement for doing business in the Senate, as though it came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets. It didn’t. It’s a revolutionary development in the empowerment of congressional minorities, of special utility to those who wish to obstruct progress. And it has a huge ripple effect on what happens in the House..., the White House, and the country. We should never get used to it...."

Kathy Finn of Reuters: "More than 20 mobile home manufacturers have agreed to pay $14.8 million to thousands of U.S. hurricane victims who said they were harmed by formaldehyde in the trailers.... The number of claims could range from 10,000 to 20,000...." I don't know what the lawyers' compensation is in this particular case, but attorneys usually take about half the settlement. So divide $7,400,000 by 20,000 claimants and each family could get a whopping $370 to compensate them for their illnesses. Finn writes, "The settlement could affect tens of thousands of people...." Yeah, but it won't affect them much.

The Presidential Race

I believe it’s… Mitt’s time… It’s our turn now. -- Ann Romney, explaining what "entitlement" really means

Elections Matter. Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress: "In an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer..., Mitt Romney refuses to say whether he would sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.... Asked about the law, Romney said he supports equal pay for women and has no plans to change the law, but wouldn’t say if he would have signed it, laying out the odd standard that he won't weigh on 'prior laws.' ... Romney’s suggestion that he won't revisit prior law when it comes to Lilly Ledbetter is unusual, especially considering that he’s had no problem saying that he would have vetoed and will work to repeal plenty of laws, such as the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law." CW: almost all Republicans voted against the Ledbetter bill.

If you can’t galvanize and promote and recruit people to vote for Mitt Romney, we're done. We'll be a suburb of Indonesia next year. Our president, attorney general, our vice president, Hillary Clinton -- they're criminals, they're criminals.... We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Any questions? -- Ted Nugent ...

... Josh Glasstetter of Right Wing Watch: "Washed up rocker and reality TV star Ted Nugent appeared at the NRA’s national convention in St. Louis. Nugent, a longtime NRA board member and regular presence at conventions, rallied the NRA faithful on Saturday to vote for Mitt Romney":

     ... In this clip, which has some overlap with the first, Nugent compaires President Obama & Democrats to coyotes who must be shot dead:

     ... Seriously, watch the videos. Early last month, Tagg Romney, one of Romney's adult sons, tweeted, "Ted Nugent endorsed my Dad today.... How cool is that? He joins Kid Rock as great Detroit musicians on team Mitt." ...

... Dan Amira of New York magazine: "A spokesman for the Secret Service tells us, 'We are aware of it, and we'll conduct an appropriate follow up.'" ...

... Kurt Schlosser of NBC News: "Andrea Saul, Romney's spokeswoman, did not condemn Nugent in an email on Tuesday but said Romney wants to promote civility." ...

... CW: Let's see. When a Democrat says, in words taken out of context, "Ann Romney never worked a day in her life," everybody from the President on down does backflips distancing himself from her; the media makes it a huge two-day story. When a Republican threatens the life of the POTUS to the point the Secret Service gets involved, Mitt Romney does not condemn him. And the press, so far, pretty much says "Meh." ...

     ... Update: Tommy Christopher of Mediaite: "... while [Hilary] Rosen had no connection to the President whatsoever (and really said nothing wrong), Republican candidate Mitt Romney actively sought the endorsement of serial mouth-bomber Ted Nugent...." ...

... Hypocrisy Watch. When Ann Romney "Didn't Work." Andrew Sabl resurrects a 1994 Boston Globe interview of Ann Romney. Romney told the Globe's Jack Thomas about how she and Mitt "struggled" when they were students. She sez:

We were living on the edge, not entertaining. No, I did not work. Mitt thought it was important for me to stay home with the children, and I was delighted.

       ... That's funny. It is HORRIBLE when Hilary Rosen says it. But the same expression is an example of family values when Ann Romney says it.

Alex Seitz-Wald: In "a passage from Romney’s book, No Apology: The Case For American Greatness..., he argues that children of 'nonworking parents' will be conditioned to have 'an indolent and unproductive life.'" CW: Here are the standards: rich, white, married mommies do not have to work outside the home because they married wisely & well; their choice of mate sets an example for the kids. Poor women who have no spousal support (much less maids & nannies!) must work outside the home so their kids won't grow up to be indolent & nonproductive like their mothers. It's "we" v. "them"; good v. bad. Willard falsely accuses Obama of class warfare, but hos own double standard betrays his intrinsic belief in a caste system.

Truly Frightened. Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "A week after Rick Santorum quit the presidential race, fundraising mailers from him arrived in Iowa mailboxes Monday with a strongly worded warning. 'It truly frightens me to think what’ll happen if Mitt Romney is the nominee,' says the letter, signed by Santorum and paid for by his campaign."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Dick Clark, the perpetually youthful-looking television host whose long-running daytime song-and-dance fest, 'American Bandstand,' did as much as anyone or anything to advance the influence of teenagers and rock ’n’ roll on American culture, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 82."

New York Times: "American investigators seeking to get to the bottom of the reported late-night activities of a group of Secret Service agents and military personnel assigned to President Obama’s recent visit to Colombia have begun searching for as many as 21 women who are believed to include prostitutes and to have spent the night with the security officers...." ...

     ... Update: "A Secret Service agent preparing for President Obama’s arrival at an international summit meeting and a single mother from Colombia who makes a living as a high-priced escort faced off in a room at the Hotel Caribe a week ago over how much he owed her for the previous night’s intercourse." ...

     ... The Hill Update: "Three secret service agents allegedly involved in the prostitution scandal in Colombia are leaving the law enforcement agency. One supervisor will retire, another supervisor is being 'removed for cause' and a third uniformed agent will resign." ...

     ... ABC News Update: "The partying U.S. Secret Service agents and officers who allegedly brought prostitutes into their Cartagena, Colombia hotel rooms brought the call girls 'into contact with sensitive security information,' the Chair and ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wrote to Mark J. Sullivan, the director of the U.S. Secret Service today."

NEW. TPM: Meanwhile, "Mitt Romney endorser Ted Nugent will meet with the Secret Service Thursday as a followup to his incendiary comments at an NRA convention over the weekend."

Houston Chronicle: "The Obama administration on Friday established a working group to coordinate federal regulation of natural gas production amid industry complaints that an increasing number of government agencies are overseeing the activity. In issuing an executive order creating the interagency task force, President Barack Obama said the group was needed to make sure federal agencies are on the same page as they oversee "the safe and responsible development of unconventional domestic natural gas resources."

New York Times: "The Florida judge overseeing the murder case against George Zimmerman stepped aside on Wednesday at the request of Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, who had questioned whether her assignment could create a potential conflict of interest." ...

     ... Orlando Sentinel Update: "Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester, Jr., who's been on the bench 15 years and has a great deal of experience with high-profile murder cases, on Wednesday was assigned the George Zimmerman murder case."

Washington Post: "The senior government executive who organized the lavish Las Vegas conference at the center of a General Services Administration spending scandal took dozens of trips for the agency. The boss's wife accompanied him on some of them -- and taxpayers picked up the tab.... Deborah Neely, 49, does not work for the government, but she used the credentials of a manager on her husband's staff so she could join him at a trade show...."

Los Angeles Times: U.S. troops in Afghanistan posed with dead Afghans suspected of being suicide bombers in 2010. The U.S. Army launched a criminal investigation after the Times showed the picture to Army officials. Some representatives photos accompany the article. ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "The U.S. military once again condemned the actions of some of its troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday after photographs surfaced of smiling soldiers posing with dead insurgents in the latest battlefield scandal."

AP: "North Korea accused the U.S. of hostility on Tuesday for suspending an agreement to provide food aid following Pyongyang’s widely criticized rocket launch, and warned of retaliatory measures in response."

Reader Comments (3)

Marie, every day we are shocked (shocked!) (not really) at the most recent vile thing a Republican has done or said (and for those Republicans reading this, I'm discussing actual actions and words rather than whatever pipe dream of a gun-free America--sounds good to me, you betcha--Wayne LaPierre relates next).

Can we just agree that we expect Republicans to behave like a**holes? Quoting Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, Republicans have earned our "soft bigotry of low expectations."

This is why Democratic budgets are criticized for their numbers but Republican budgets are complete with asterisks. This is why Elliott Spitzer had to resign but David Vitter didn't. This is why the Dixie Chicks expressing opposition to the Iraq War was "treason," while Ted Nugent's murderous fantasies are featured on "Fox and Friends."

Time after time when we hear of some awful thing some politician has done we immediately run that information through our "was it done by a Republican" filter. If so, we consider it business as usual and go on with our day. If not, we get to hear outrage from Fox for the next 40 or so news cycles.

You have to understand. I don't blame the Republicans. It would be like blaming a bear for sh*tting in the woods. It's what they do. No, the culprits here are the people you address every day in NYTX, the supposedly liberal media who like crooked butchers keep their thumbs heavily on the scale with which they assess the weighty matters of the day.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

@Jack Mahoney. Yeah, you're right, but I'm pretty darned sick of every Republican candidate -- Mitt Romney did it again just yesterday -- blaming all of their own bad acts on media reports. It's great to be a Republican. No matter what you do, the fault lies not with you but with the media for reporting it. In Right Wing World every factual report that isn't absolutely glowing is an "attack." It is no wonder GOP candidates are so over-the-top; they have inoculated themselves against any responsibility for their actions. Mitt can lie and lie and lie again -- he repeats the same lies even when debunked -- and I'd like to know why Diane Sawyer, who used to work for Nixon, didn't call him on the "92.3% of job losses under Obama were women" lie when he repeated it to her.

As P. D. Pepe pointed out last week, even on NPR reporters misreport on Republicans, and their misreporting works in Republicans' favor. It's almost as if the media don't dare tell the truth because telling the truth might "unfairly" influence an election.

But there's no percentage in bending over backwards for Republicans. No matter what the facts, they're always going to blame the media for anything other than full-throated endorsements. So the media might as well let it all hang out.

April 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

For a really good laugh, read Thomas Friedman's column, One for the Country, wherein he concludes that a terrific thing for America would be to have Michael Bloomberg run for president on a third party ticket.
Friedman fleshes out his germ of an idea, if you can call it that, with elaborate constructs based on faulty premises. It is all smoke and mirrors, not to say delusional. He faults Obama, among other things, for proposing the Buffett rule which isn't a comprehensive solution to raising revenue. No shit, Sherlock. The President has gone on record as wanting a more complete plan which would include letting Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest expire and it has gotten nowhere due to blanket Republican refusal to even consider raising taxes. So the Buffet rule was an attempt to put forth something that maybe they would agree to. And they didn't.
How would Bloomberg help this situation - by waving a magic wand and erasing all the Norquist pledges?
Friedman begins the column by complaining about the infrastructure around union station and the inadequacies of the Acela train (Europe has better fast trains!) as if this is Obama's fault. As if the Democrats didn't try to get an infrastructure package passed through Congress. As if the Republicans and their surrogates weren't on record as doing everything to thwart the President's attempts to turn the economy around and solve our problems from Day One.
The real question is, how much does Thomas Friedman even pay attention to what's going on in American politics.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.
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