The Ledes

Wednesday, September 17, 2014.

AP: "Islamic State fighters shot down a Syrian war plane using anti-aircraft guns on Tuesday, the first time the group has downed a military jet since declaring its cross-border caliphate in June, a group monitoring the civil war said."

The Wires

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 17

11:50 m ET: President Obama speaks at MacDill AFP in Tampa, Fla.

12:00 noon ET: Vice President Biden speaks at a Nuns on the Bus rally in Des Moines, Iowa; will make effort not to insult Roman Catholics

2:00 pm ET: Recovery at the White House: celebrating 25 years (of something)

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

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

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

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

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Times: "The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out. AMC’s 'Breaking Bad' scored big on Monday night, winning a total of five awards, including its second consecutive prize for outstanding drama series. The crime drama, about a high school teacher who receives a diagnosis of lung cancer and starts selling crystal meth with a former student, concluded its final season." Here's the L.A. Times' coverage.

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

Contact the Constant Weader

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

Tuesday
Apr242012

The Commentariat -- April 25, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer looks at the New York Times' coverage of Mitt Romney's most recent flip-flops. the NYTX front page is here. (Highly recommended: Belen Fernandez on "10 of Thomas Friedman's Dumbest 'Big Ideas.'" Oh, she knows more.) You can contribute here.

President Obama slow-jams the news with Jimmy Fallon & The Root:

Part 1 of Fallon's interview of the President begins here. Play through to Parts 2, 3 & 4:

"Frontline"'s "Money, Power & Wall Street," Episode 1. Thanks to contributor Dave S. for the link:

The Inquisition Lives! (Really.) Norman Birnbaum of The Nation has a good post on "The Vatican's Latest Target in the War on Women -- Nuns."

Michael Schmidt & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "... the misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia, ranges from personnel, including at least one veteran supervisor, who knowingly took prostitutes to their hotel rooms to at least two employees who had encounters with women who investigators now believe were not prostitutes.... Of the dozen originally implicated, a total of three will remain; six have resigned; two have been dismissed; and one has retired." ...

... Carol Leonnig & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Some Secret Service employees accused of misconduct in the Colombian prostitution scandal are privately contending that their conduct didn't warrant dismissal because senior managers tolerated similar behavior during official trips.... Several of the men who agreed to resign under pressure last week are also considering reversing their decisions and fighting to keep their jobs.... The prospect of Secret Service agents sharing embarrassing tales about rank-and-file employees and superiors partying to the hilt could bring more anguish to an agency reeling from scandal."

Maureen Dowd reports from Greensboro, North Carolina, on the John Edwards trial. ...

... Robin Bravender of Politico: Campaign finance law experts from across the political spectrum, including some former Federal Election Commission officials, say the Justice Department is wasting its time and resources and setting a terrible precedent in the John Edwards case.... Even some campaign finance reform groups are arguing that it's overreach."

Jessica Greenberg of the New York Times: "Hospital patients waiting in an emergency room or convalescing after surgery are being confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside. This and other aggressive tactics by one of the nation's largest collectors of medical debts, Accretive Health, were revealed on Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general, raising concerns that such practices have become common at hospitals across the country."

Tom Hamburger, et al., of the Washington Post: "Wal-Mart..., now under fire over allegations of foreign bribery in Mexico, has participated in an aggressive and high-priced lobbying campaign to amend the long-standing U.S. anti-bribery law that the company might have violated. The push to revisit how federal authorities enforce the statute has been centered at a little-known but well-funded arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where a top executive of Wal-Mart has sat on the board of directors for nearly a decade."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Justice Department told the Supreme Court on Tuesday evening that it had provided incorrect information to the justices in an immigration case. The department, in a seven-page letter, expressed regret for failing in its 'special obligation to provide this court with reliable and accurate information at all times.'" Such letters "are quite rare." Post includes a copy of the letter.

Mike Allen of Politico: "A forthcoming biography of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) ... by author Manuel Roig-Franzia ... reveals an immigration hell for Rubio's Cuban-born maternal grandfather, who was ordered deported from Florida because he flew in from Cuba without a visa, a decade before Rubio’s birth. Roig-Franzia ... writes that the grandfather's treatment during his 1962 run-in with federal authorities 'was not unlike the present-day experiences of many Mexicans and Central Americans who come to the United States legally but later run afoul of visa laws and find their lives irreversibly upended.'”

The Presidential Race

Ezra Klein with the most depressing thought for the day: "If Romney wins the election, it's almost a sure bet that Republicans win control of both the House and the Senate. And that matters. Right now, the GOP's agenda is the Ryan budget, and that's entirely fiscal: It's a premium support plan for Medicare, and tax cuts, and deep cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and other domestic programs. All that can be passed through budget reconciliation -- which is to say, all that can be made immune to the filibuster. So if Romney wins and the Republicans take control, they could accomplish quite a lot on party-line votes, even if their majorities are slim, and Democrats are opposed. Indeed, Romney could end up being a fairly transformational president for conservatives...."

Reid Epstein of Politico reports on Mitt Romney's speech last night.

Paul Krugman has this exactly right: "... there's a dangerous lack of focus in the Obama campaign, all too reminiscent of previous episodes. Above all, Obama isn't telling a clear story about the economy." Read his whole post. (I can't link to the Edward Luce column he cites because Luce writes for the Financial Times which has an annoying subscriber requirement.)

Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect on student aid: "... neither Obama nor Romney has proposed anything appropriate to the scale of the problem [of the high cost of higher education].... To a large degree, Romney and Obama embody their respective platforms. The former Massachusetts governor came from a life of incredible wealth and privilege, and wants to defend it with the tools of government. President Obama, by contrast, rose from more modest means, and — at the very least — wants a government that will facilitate mobility for all Americans." ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico finds an instance of Romney 5.0 (or whatever) quite specifically expressing opposition to the government's getting "too involved in student loans." Now that Romney 6.0, contra the GOP Congress, is supporting Obama's push to extend low interest rates to students, Burns tried to get a straight explanation out of the Romney camp on the flip-flop. Surprise! No luck.

Dana Milbank: Russell "Pearce, the former Republican president of the Arizona Senate, is the author and self-described 'driving force' behind ... that state's law — endorsed by Romney -- cracking down on illegal immigrants. Pearce told The Post's Felicia Sonmez this month that Romney's 'immigration policy is identical to mine,' and he told reporters this week that Romney 'absolutely' gave him the impression that he saw the Arizona law as a national model. Democrats ... called Pearce to testify Tuesday before Congress on the eve of the Supreme Court's review of the Arizona law. Republicans boycotted the hearing.... [Pearce] argued, correctly, that the law reflects 'by far the majority opinion of my party.' This is why Romney will have trouble making it disappear." Read the whole column.

Greg Sargent: "In the last few days, Romney has signaled that he is Etch-A-Sketching away his previous positions on immigration and on student loans.... Both of these turnarounds are being widely covered in the press as mere process stories, as if they're as inevitable and unremarkable as a campaign staffing up in advance of the general.... He's paying little price in the way of pundit scorn for flip-flopping right back to the center again."

CW: I missed this post by Alec MacGillis in The New Republic about Willard's "middle-class" upbringing. The Washington Post apparently puts absolutely no fact-checkers at the disposal of their editors & reporters, so they must rely on the candidates' sanitized, nonfactual versions of their biographies. MacGillis points out that a Post "biographical" sketch of Romney's youth "is off on just about every count.... It requires willful blindness to ignore the advantages that carried him through his first decades in life. And it's the job of the rest of us to hold him to the basic facts of his biography, even as he now tries his best to blur them."

Right Wing World

Steve Benen: Speaker Boehner places the blame on Democrats for Republicans' objections to extending the low student loan interest rate. CW: Boehner has accomplished a feat of sociopathic "logic" that could occur only in Right Wing World. Benen explains. ...

... Speaking of right-wing "logic," Thomas Edsell got into the weeds a bit in a Campaign Stops post for the New York Times. It goes like this: income inequality isn't as bad as you think because the government(s) effectively raise their incomes with social safety net programs. So now we're going to cut social safety net programs (but we won't tell you that will of course drive people further into poverty -- it's good for their dignity or something).

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post has a short-course on the history of ALEC -- and how it became a dirty word. ...

... AND Aaron Blake of the Post tells us more than we will ever want to know about Romney's new international policy advisor Richard Grenell.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Justices across the ideological spectrum appeared inclined to uphold a controversial part of Arizona's aggressive 2010 immigration law, based on their questions on Wednesday at a Supreme Court argument."

New York Times: "The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that its expectations for domestic economic growth during the current year have increased modestly since January, but it reduced its growth forecast for 2013 and 2014."

New York Times: "Federal prosecutors ... spent Wednesday morning laying out the crumbling relationship between former Senator John Edwards and Andrew Young, the key witness in the government's case against Mr. Edwards, painting a vivid portrait of the frantic final months of a cover-up that ended Mr. Edwards's political career." News & Observer story here; the paper's Edwards page is here.

ABC OTUS News: "Less than a month after hearing a challenge to the controversial Obama health care law brought by 26 states, the Supreme Court today will explore the relationship between the federal government and the states on another hot-button issue: immigration. At issue is S.B. 1070 - Arizona's strict immigration law that empowers local police to enforce federal immigration laws. It was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer who says that the law was needed to combat illegal immigration."

New York Times: "With a political firestorm cascading over the British government's ties to his media empire, Rupert Murdoch faced rare public scrutiny about his ties to elected officials on Wednesday, seeking to deflect suggestions that he sought to use his links to powerful public figures to further corporate commercial interests." ...

     ... NEW Lede: "With a political firestorm cascading over the British government’s ties to his media empire, Rupert Murdoch presented himself to a judicial inquiry on Wednesday as a blunt-talking businessman with a wide variety of interests and acquaintances who nevertheless did not seek to use his considerable power to manipulate British governments over the last several decades."

... The Guardian's liveblog of the Rupert Murdoch testimony includes a live feed of the proceedings.

Reuters: "Britain's economy has fallen into its second recession since the financial crisis after a shock contraction at the start of 2012, heaping pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron's government as it reels from a series of political missteps."

ABC News: The Government Accountability Office "said in a new report that the Pentagon has squandered millions in taxpayer dollars on expensive and complex weapons systems by spending first and asking questions later." Highlights of the GAO report are here, with a link to the full report.

AP: "The retired top CIA officer who ordered the destruction of videos showing waterboarding says in a new book that he was tired of waiting for Washington's bureaucracy to make a decision that protected American lives. Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the CIA's once-secret interrogation and detention program, also lashes out at President Barack Obama's administration for calling waterboarding torture and criticizing its use."

ABC OTUS News: "Although Newt Gingrich lost the Delaware primary by an overwhelming 29 percent to Mitt Romney, the former speaker of the House still did not announce the suspension of his presidential campaign Tuesday night." ...

     ... CNN Update: "Newt Gingrich will officially end his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and formally express his support for Mitt Romney next week, two sources close to Gingrich tell CNN. While details are still being worked out, Gingrich is likely to hold his final campaign event Tuesday in Washington, DC where he will make the announcement surrounded by his family and supporters." CW: Book a small room, Newt. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Newt Gingrich told Mitt Romney on Wednesday morning that he would suspend his presidential campaign next week and begin working to turn out conservative voters for Mr. Romney and Republican candidates in the fall election, Mr. Gingrich's spokesman said in an interview."

AP: "A senior North Korean army official says his country is armed with 'powerful mobile weapons' capable of striking America."

Reader Comments (5)

FYI

Frontline is airing a 4 part series in depth on the global financial crisis. Get ready to be even more angry.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/money-power-wall-street/

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

A good manager would have fired those fools when they reached the US. A good manager makes problems smaller not larger. The Presidents message was swept away by the bad judgement of Paula Reid. Paula Reid's eager beaver attitude damaged the President, the country and the Secret Service. A competent executive could have kept the lid on this for a few days. The fools could have been fired without the fanfare that now has headline hunting politicians making the damage worse.

April 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

As to Marie's comment on her postal service's handling of her mail box problem: that was indeed frustrating and unnecessary. The postmistress was a poor representative for USPS. On the other hand, I live on a rural route, and have gotten my mail reliably for years. When a package comes, the carrier drives down my very long and hilly driveway and brings the package right to the door. When I need to send a package, I usually find that the USPS is cheaper than FedEx or UPS. Who are probably the culprits that wanted to kill the post office in the first place.
There certainly have been too many instances of rudeness and worse at post offices across the country. I think individual complaints should go right to the Postmaster General. Connie Mack and his ilk will only make matters worse, as they are out to destroy our postal system and hand it to private enterprise.
We may then get more pleasant treatment (or not). But we will be paying a huge increase in price just to deliver a simple letter.

April 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

There are two rebuttal articles relating to Krugman's piece on Bernake on the NYTeXaminer, one by Daniel Alpert, the other by a Rob Urie whose title is "Why Paul Krugman is Full of Shit." Since the "shit" factor has a wide berth and certainly can be used frequently to describe many of our political figures among others, to put that label on Krugman seems way out of line and diminishes the message––at least for me who find it crass and sophomoric.

Watching Obama on Fallon's show is such a pleasure. If there's one thing––and for me there are many––positives about Obama is that he is charismatic–– funny and so COOL.

I felt bad reading about Marie's debacle with her mail business and wondered why SHE had to dig the hole––except for the help of a neighbor there was nobody who could do this for her? And the fact that her bruised eyes did not raise an ounce of empathy at her postal service makes me mad. A pox on their post!

April 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Apropos of not very much at all, I’ve noticed, as likely all of you have, that the favorite word of this political moment is “pivot”, and has been for a few weeks.

“The Romney Pivot” (sorry but I can’t help hear ‘divot’).

“Will GOP hardliners allow Romney to pivot?”

“Pivot towards the general election.”

“Romney starts to pivot away from the far right”

"Pivot back to Wall Street Imminent"

And on and on and on. Time, methinks, for lazy writers and commentators to back (not pivot, because ‘pivot’ evokes the possibility, very likely with Romney, that things will pivot back) away from this word selection and find something else. The problem is that it’s such a wonderful image for what Romney’s doing. Sure we could use swing, shift, redirect, turn, swerve, but some of them come packaged with unpalatable images (for Romney, at any rate). The idea of a campaign swerving bespeaks an attempt to avoid something unpleasant or dangerous at best and at worst a sense of loss of control. And swinging—well, let’s not even go there.

But pivot is perfect. And it has the added benefit of calling up a decisive military image, very useful for any ‘campaign’, as in ‘pivoting to meet the new threat’. Speaking of political-military imagery, Romney already has quite a ‘war chest’ and with Citizens United (is that a great name or what? Citizen Koch and his Billionaire Buddies United, is more like it) there are bound to be additional chests overflowing with additional war bonds and IOUs to come due upon Inauguration Day, and with them, likely many more words of the day, like “you’re fired”, “no social security for you”, “You want health care? Haaaaa-haaaaa”, and the ever popular “more tax cuts for the wealthy.”

But pivot has become the mot du jour for the nonce. “Romney Pivot” brings up almost a million hits on Google. Everybody uses it. And uses it, and uses it.

I suppose in the long history of political campaign expressions it’s a lot less notable and memorable than “Where’s the beef”, “You’re no Jack Kennedy”, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” or the Goldwater campaign slogan which some attempted to repurpose for Palin “In your heart you know he’s right” which was itself repurposed at the time to read “In your guts you know he’s nuts”. (Can’t we come up with something like that for Willard?)

And ‘pivot’ may have a (hopefully) much shorter shelf life, but a quick check of the thesaurus calls up a much more appropriate word for any effort to redirect Willard’s campaign, a word that carries with it the essence of what most of us would get if he were to prevail in November: shaft.

April 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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