The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, September 21, 2014.

New York Times: "Afghanistan’s election commission on Sunday pronounced Ashraf Ghani the winner of the country’s presidential election, but it withheld an announcement of the total votes won, despite an exhaustive and costly audit process overseen by the United Nations and financed by the American government. The suppression of the vote totals was apparently the final step necessary for the two presidential candidates to sign an American-brokered agreement to form a power-sharing government, giving the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah, substantial powers in what is, in effect, the post of prime minister."

New York Times: "NASA’s latest Mars spacecraft, Maven, arrives Sunday evening to study the mystery of what happened to the planet’s air. A 33-minute engine firing, beginning at 9:37 p.m. Eastern time, will put Maven in orbit around the planet. Acknowledgment will reach mission controllers 12 1/2 minutes later, the time it takes for a radio signal to travel to Earth from Mars. NASA’s website will provide a live broadcast beginning at 9:30 p.m."

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":

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 22

10:15 am ET: Latino educators meet

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

1:00 pm ET: Mental health & suicide prevention 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.

 

Contact the Constant Weader

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

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'."

Reader Comments (4)

What happened to the Republican Party?

Just scan a few selections here on RC today and you find a microcosm of the mendacious morass that has mired the GOP in an outrageously extreme, unsupportable, and anti-factual alternate universe. The problem for the rest of us is that (for all you fans of Fringe) this cracked mirror fantasy universe and the real universe everyone else lives in are inextricably linked. They are trying to force public policy based on a dismal ideology down everyone’s throat. Our future is a potential wasteland worse than anything T.S. Eliot could concoct:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.


So Eliot wasn’t far off, but I doubt even his febrile imagination could navigate the insanity of the present GOP.

And so today we see Eric Cantor advocating for higher taxes on the poor and indigent in order that millionaires and billionaires can get some relief. Those lucky duckies have had their day in the sun, I suppose, but now, it’s time for that family of four trying to make it on $20,000 a year to quit their moaning and pay up. The Kochs are tired of them not paying any taxes. Get under that rock and stay there.

Intellectually, the right doesn’t fare much better than they do as models of moral intelligence. We see, in the efforts of Ross Douthat cherry picking whatever suits his argument for why we are all bad boys and girls for not bowing down to the pope and behaving like characters in a 1940s Bing Crosby movie, a daftness and blinkered approach to intellectual investigation that would make most high school term papers read like an Isaiah Berlin essay. All you heretics, you get under that rock too.

And this morning I read that John Boehner has decided that the student loan situation can be fixed by borrowing billions from the President’s private slush funds hidden under the sheets of his health care act. Let’s not even mention the fact that Boehner and his party are working with jack hammers day and night to eviscerate this law. But you have to love the slickness of that mention of "slush funds". Whatever for? Why, junkets for the Secret Service to Cartagena, no doubt! Plenty of room for everyone under that rock.

But all three of these guys are considered serious, thoughtful players in the current scorched desert right-wing landscape.

Life under the red rock, I suppose.

Whatever happened to truly thoughtful Republicans, to people like Rockefeller, Eisenhower, Henry Cabot Lodge? Hell, even Prescott Bush. Well, okay, maybe not Bush. There’s that small business of his getting rich by doing business with German companies that supported the Nazi war machine, even while we were at war with them. Oops. At least the other guys, whether you agreed with them or not, lived in the same universe and on the same planet. Actual adult conversation was possible.

Now we’re faced with life under Eliot’s red rock where slither the likes of Cantor, Boehner, Douthat and a vast army of reptiles. Fear in a handful of dust, indeed. The opening question is rhetorical. We know what happened. The problem is that no one (read: the media) seems to recognize that we’ve been dragged under that rock, our new home, by these aliens.

If Obama doesn’t come out blazing against these guys I am gonna be very upset.

April 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus, the media is just another business that will say anything to sell a paper or catch a viewer. Getting into controversy is no longer possible. And remember we call it the media, not journalism. Also note that the new Republicans are playing to the human minds of many. The same kind of minds that think that the underwear they wear protects them from evil or that saying the right words over and over again gets you into heaven. It's easy. What I want Obama to say is the real truth, the current Republican party really,really are the new fascists. The approach is exactly that of the Nazis, gain control by making people believe that their problems are caused by others. Even though they have nothing special they are 'exceptional'. So much easier than accepting responsibility.They want to end democracy and create a new state that fits their concept of the 'free enterprise' America. Of course the freedom and the money is only for them.

April 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

@ Akhilleus: I recall what Isaiah Berlin said about what Washington had taught him: that even great political figures rarely understood the history they were trying to shape to their own design, and that politics always had a potential for tragedy because the forces it sought to master were never fully within human grasp.

Today we have some terrific journalists––this site is run by one of them––the trouble is their voices don't reach those under your red rock.

April 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Marvin and PD, both your comments call to mind two different sides of this problem. First, the point that we're dealing with creatures of media empires and not journalists is an excellent one. There are a few good reporters out there but their work is often buried amidst the dreck from outlets like Fox. PD's observation that there are plenty of great journalists at work, just out of earshot or eyesight of most was given ironic energy by some of the comments the president made in a Rolling Stone interview. If a smart guy like Obama can only make room, as Driftglass noted yesterday, for the mainstream outlets, the Times, the Post, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, with never a glance at the scores of excellent sites out there, like this one, whose writers and editors labor mightily to make sense of the senselessness, then we really do have a battle on our hands.

April 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakhilleus
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