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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
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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