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."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President thanked Congress for its strong bipartisan support for efforts to train and equip Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIL":

The Ledes

Saturday, September 20, 2014.

Guardian: "The United States has quietly released 14 Pakistani citizens from military detention in Afghanistan, where the US holds its most secret cohort of detainees in its war on terrorism. The US military transferred the 14 to Pakistani government custody on Saturday. It did not publicize the release, as is typical with releases from the detention center on the outskirts of Bagram Airfield which is known formally as the Detention Facility in Parwan. A Pakistani human rights group instead announced the transfer and said it was the largest number of Pakistanis the US has thus far released."

New York Times: "Polly Bergen, an actress, singer and businesswoman who won an Emmy in 1957 for her portrayal of the alcoholic torch singer Helen Morgan and was nominated for another 50 years later for her role on the television show 'Desperate Housewives,' died on Saturday at her home in Southbury, Conn. She was 84."

New York Times: "The two candidates for president of Afghanistan have agreed on a power-sharing deal that will give the losing candidate substantial influence in the next government, initialing the American-brokered deal Saturday night and promising to sign it at a formal ceremony on Sunday. The deal promised an end at last to the tumultuous, five-month-long aftermath of the Afghan presidential elections, although previous settlements have repeatedly collapsed at the last minute despite the candidates’ promises."

New York Times: "A Texas man who scaled the White House fence made it through the North Portico doors on Friday night before being apprehended, the Secret Service said. The intruder, Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, was arrested just inside the doors and taken to George Washington University Hospital after complaining of chest pains, said Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman. None of the Obamas were home when the security breach occurred about 7:20 p.m., but White House staff members were evacuated as a precaution, officials said. President Obama and his daughters had left for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., just minutes before the incident." ...

     ... New Lede: "The Secret Service will conduct an internal review of its security procedures around the White House after a man who jumped the fence Friday night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue managed to make his way through the front door of President Obama’s home before being stopped, officials said Saturday." ...

     ... ** Washington Post UPDATE: "Within seconds, the man who relatives said served as a sniper in the Iraq War got to the front double doors of the North Portico, turned the brass knob and stepped inside the vestibule. There he was grabbed and subdued by an officer standing post inside the door. He was carrying a folding knife with a 2-1/2 inch serrated blade." ...

... Fox "News": "A New Jersey man was arrested Saturday outside the White House after driving up to a gate and refusing to leave, less than 24 hours after another man jumped the fence and got inside the presidential mansion before being arrested, which has resulted in increased security and a “comprehensive internal review,” according to the Secret Service."

New York Times: "Forty-nine Turkish hostages who had been held for months in Iraq by Islamic State militants were returned to Turkey on Saturday after what Turkey said was a covert operation led by its intelligence agency. The hostages, including diplomats and their families, had been seized in June from the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul." ...

     ... Too Good to Be True? AP UPDATE: "Turkish authorities say they have freed 49 hostages from one of the world's most ruthless militant groups without firing a shot, paying a ransom or offering a quid pro quo. But as the well-dressed men and women captured by the Islamic State group more than three months ago clasped their families Saturday on the tarmac of the Turkish capital's airport, experts had doubts about the government's story."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
September 19

10:00 am ET: Annoucement of Department of Defense awards on biofuel production

10:15 am ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden host a White House event to launch the "It's on Us" campaign

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

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.

Thursday
Apr252013

The Commentariat -- April 26, 2013

Jim Fallows argues, in an essay republished in the National Journal, that despite our "polarized and unequal" economy, the stagnation of the middle class, and our increasingly "stratified and rigid" society, it is still worthwhile to believe in the American dream because it's aspirational. CW: not sure I agree. ...

... Amy Sullivan of the National Journal on the downsizing of the American dream. ...

... Ron Brownsten of the National Journal: "After years of economic turmoil, most families now believe the most valuable -- and elusive -- possession in American life is economic security."

Eric Moskowitz of the Boston Globe interviews the Tsarnaev brothers' car-highjacking victim. ...

... Massimo Calabresi of Time highlights the remarks of Philip Mudd, a former top CIA and FBI terrorist hunter, who spoke at a Brookings conference on Wednesday:

At left, Roger Sterling, a/k/a John Slattery. See today's Comments for context.

 

... CW: according to reports of what Dzhokhar Tamerlan told investigators, the brothers cooked up the bombing plan about a week before the Marathon, & they had no outside assistance. Assuming these assertions are true (and I don't take them as fact), it would have taken pretty close surveillance to catch these two improvisational terrorists. If you think you want a country that catches & incarcerates in Guantanamo Grande every potential terrorist, ask yourself this: "Would I be considered a potential terrorist?" If you have been highly critical of the government, ferinstance, the feds might consider you -- not to mention most of the Congress and the press -- to be potential terrorists. Nixon had an enemies list. If Obama has one, millions of Americans would be on it.

Paul Krugman: "The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor. What the top 1 percent wants becomes what economic science says we must do.... The years since we turned to austerity have been dismal for workers but not at all bad for the wealthy, who have benefited from surging profits and stock prices even as long-term unemployment festers. The 1 percent may not actually want a weak economy, but they're doing well enough to indulge their prejudices."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, declared on Thursday that it was time to consider lifting a ban on repatriating low-level detainees to Yemen from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, amid rising desperation and a hunger strike among inmates there."

Desequestration, When Convenient. Ashley Halsey & Lori Montgomerey of the Washington Post: "The Senate took the first step toward circumventing sequestration Thursday night with a bipartisan vote that would put furloughed air traffic controllers back on the job. The House is expected to take up the measure as early as Friday, and the White House has promised to consider any bill which it receives.... The Justice Department had reversed a plan that would have required 116,000 workers to take 22 unpaid days off between now and Oct. 1. In a letter to his staff, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that additional flexibility provided by Congress and 'aggressive steps' taken by the department to cut costs allowed him to eliminate the need for furloughs." ...

... The World's Greatest Deliberative Body Doesn't Always Deliberate. Steve Benen: "... when it really wants to, the Senate can move with lightning speed.... It appears that lawmakers are also mindful of which Americans are affected [by sequestration cuts] and what kind of inconveniences the political world is prepared to tolerate. Children being thrown out of Head Start centers is a shame, but wealthier air travelers waiting on the tarmac for a couple of hours is a travesty in need of swift congressional intervention." ...

... CW: I missed this, from Greg Sargent, which he published April 24: "Suddenly, the idea of temporarily turning off the sequester altogether is being seriously talked about by top Democrats. It required the outcry over sequestration-caused flight delays to bring it about, however. With Republicans complaining about the flight delays -- and attacking Obama as responsible for them, even as Republicans claim the sequester as a victory for themselves -- Harry Reid is now calling the GOP's bluff by suggesting we simply cancel the sequester temporarily, by counting war savings to reduce the deficit. The White House today endorsed Reid's idea...."

Emmarie Heutteman & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "The House Judiciary Committee announced Thursday that it would introduce a series of bills beginning this week to overhaul the nation's immigration system. The move was designed to keep the committee in the middle of the debate over the issue, which is now percolating on Capitol Hill, and to press a bipartisan group in the House that has been working in private on its own broad legislation." ...

... BUT Greg Sargent: "At an event this morning, John McCain effectively boxed in House Republicans on immigration by stating flatly that reform is a complete nonstarter unless it includes a path to citizenship."

Kim Dixon of Reuters: "The popular U.S. tax deduction for mortgage interest is wasteful and does little to spur home ownership, economists from across the political spectrum said at a congressional hearing on Thursday, but many lawmakers mulling a tax code overhaul were having none of it."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Talks to revive gun control legislation are quietly under way on Capitol Hill as a bipartisan group of senators seeks a way to bridge the differences that led to last week's collapse of the most serious effort to overhaul the country's gun laws in 20 years." ...

... Alex Roarty of the National Journal: progressive groups are already targeting ConservaDems for their opposition to gun safety measures, & these progressives have "drawn a line in the sand" on "entitlement reforms."

Wherein President Obama & his researchers find some nice things to say about George W. Bush:

Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake, in Salon: "Each of the words in his speech were deliberately chosen. Each of the words had a purpose and meaning, and he believed each of them because today President Obama has more in common with former President George W. Bush than with Sen. Barack Obama, who decided to run for president in the 2008 election." ...

... Bill Clinton speaks at the dedication of the Bush library:

... ** "Yes, George W. Bush Was a Terrible President, and No, He Wasn't Smart." Jonathan Chait: "He oversaw a disastrous administration for precisely the reason his critics always grasped: Bush was an intellectual simpleton, a man who made up his mind in absence of the facts, who swatted away inconvenient realities as annoyances.... The failures of Bush's governing method -- the staffing of hacks and cronies, the disdain for evidence -- was perfectly reflected in the outcomes. The Bush presidency was a full disaster at home and abroad, and whatever small accomplishments that can be salvaged barely rate any mention in comparison with the failures." ...

... Gene Robinson: George W. Bush's policies just keep looking worse in hindsight than they did contemporaneously.

President Obama spoke at a memorial service for victims of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion:

... AP: "The service opened with a photo slideshow set to country music and projected onto a movie screen. It showed images of the men from their childhood, their weddings and other moments throughout lives filled with children and friends. Mourners were given programs with full-page profiles of each of the victims, describing their lives, their values and their faith. Both the president and first lady Michelle Obama wiped away a tear as bagpipes sounded 'Amazing Grace.' ... After the service, the president and first lady were planning to visit privately with relatives and friends of firefighters killed in the explosion, the White House said."

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon on the changing reports as to particulars in the Boston Marathon case.

Local News

Katie McDonough of Salon: "While Minnesota state lawmakers consider a measure to legalize gay marriage and an alternative civil unions bill for gay couples, Democratic state Rep. Kim Norton has signed on to a third option: universal civil unions. The bill would offer civil unions to gay and straight couples, getting the state government out of the marriage business altogether and making 'certain that every Minnesotan couple gets a civil union in the state of Minnesota,' Norton told ABC's KAALTV. The measure would leave marriage 'to the churches that are offering them,' she added." CW: this is an approach I suggested years ago (I thought I invented it, but probably other people invented it, too) when it appeared gay marriage wasn't going to be legalized. It made sense then; it's anachronistic now.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Thousands of garment workers rampaged through industrial areas of the capital of Bangladesh on Friday, smashing vehicles with bamboo poles and setting fire to at least two factories in violent protests ignited by a deadly building collapse this week that killed at least 304 workers." CW: the people of Texas should have as much gumption.

New York Times: "George Jones, the definitive country singer of the last half-century, whose songs about heartbreak and hard drinking echoed his own turbulent life, died on Friday in Nashville. He was 81."

Ultimate Ingratitude. Boston Globe: "The family of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev ... received food stamps and welfare when the brothers were growing up, according to a letter from the state Department of Transitional Assistance that was obtained by the Globe. In the letter, sent Thursday to the chairman of the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee, the department outlined the benefits that the brothers had received through their parents, Anzor and Zubeidat, as well as benefits Tamerlan Tsarnaev later received as a member of his wife's household." ...

... Boston Globe: "Authorities are investigating whether an MBTA Transit Police officer wounded during the shoot-out with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was hit by friendly fire, State Police spokesman David Procopio confirmed Thursday. Richard Donohue Jr., 33, was struck in the leg by a bullet, which authorities said remained embedded there. He was listed in serious but stable condition Thursday night at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge."

... AP: "The surviving Boston Marathon bombings suspect has been released from a civilian hospital and transferred to a federal medical detention center in central Massachusetts." ...

... Washington Post: "Nine months before the Boston Marathon bombing, a U.S. counterterrorism task force received a warning that a suspected militant had returned from a lengthy trip to Russia, U.S. officials said.... But officials said there is no indication that the unidentified customs officer provided the information to any other members of the task force, including FBI agents who had previously interviewed the militant."

Reader Comments (7)

The video of Bush being interviewed by that Irish lass who tried her damnest to get some blood out of the stone was hard to watch. I remember when I first saw this interview and felt so embarrassed that we had a president that was so daft. And I remember Tom Lantos, one of the bright bulbs in Congress, and the exchange between him and Bush that Chait cites is a perfect illustration of Bush's stubborn refusal to accept facts that ran counter to his own beliefs. Those of us who endured his presidency cannot forget nor perhaps can we forgive the disastrous results even though we can acknowledge the few good things this man tried to do. The Gosztola piece trying to portray Bush and Obama as a band of brothers is nonsense. Continuing some of the counter intelligence stuff does not make this administration anything like the Bush administration. And if any two people could be classified as opposite it would be these two. The stroking that was on display yesterday ushering in the Bush Museum by all and sundry is what we do in this country at times like that: We are polite, we wear our best outfits, we smile a lot, and we say nice things––Clinton was clever, he talked about Bush's paintings and gushed about his being part of the family as kind of a black sheep Bushie , as Mrs. Bush the elder tittered and George H. wiped a tear from his eye. And in the end we could all say, perhaps, that George W. is, yes, a nice guy, a decent man, a man,as Obama said, who is comfortable in his own skin, but doesn't take himself too seriously. It's that last bit that hit the jackpot and was the problem from the outset––not taking yourself seriously can lead to disaster; terrible if personal, horrific when you have to lead a country.

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Re: The living dead; @PD; it's not a library, it's a mausoleum. Obama was just following our Ms. Manners; don't say bad things about the dead. For a week. Then it's OK.

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

And boy do I like the attitude and comments from Philip Mudd, a stand in for Roger Sterling on Mad Men––Mudd was mad, indeed, having to respond to wackadoos' inane questions and stupid conclusions.

Re: Marie's doubting Fallow's hopeful "it is still worthwhile to believe in the American Dream because it is aspirational" leaves me to ponder whether I still believe that––I'm leaning with Marie, sad to say––so much has to change before I can embrace that once stars and stripes forever kind of optimism.

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@PD Pepe. Haha. Excellent observation. Not only that, Mudd & the Roger Sterling character are equally acerbic. Roger: "Who knows why people in history did good things? For all we know Jesus was trying to get the loaves and fishes account."

Marie

April 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

I've lived in a number of third-world countries where the American Dream remains very much alive. Despite all the recent tarnish on our escutcheon, there are millions who would be happy to come here. (Story - in a Central American country a few years back, in response to the standard U.S. Consular Officer's question "Why do you want to go to the U.S.?," the visa applicant honestly answered "I want to go where the poor people are fat.")

So, comparatively, we still look pretty good. Which doesn't answer the question of those of us lucky enough to be born here ... "How come it's not getting better, like it used to?" I suspect most of Marie's readers know that is a hugely complicated political question. I suggest that to make things "better," our political consensus has to shift so that we prioritize national investment in human capital, environmental protection, and renewable energy. Such a shift can only take place over a long time (because, these are BIG changes) and as the majority of people come to understand that they are individually better off if we, as a nation, invest in those areas. And people will only gain that understanding if the broad middle class is able to share proportionately in the gains from those investments.

I wish I knew how to make that work in the short run, without crises. But I suspect it will take crises to drive us in that direction. We seem able to repair barn doors only after the horses are down the road.

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

The GWB Library opening continues to spur more attempted resurrections of GWB one via a imaginary post-coital, glowingly look back by the Lady of the Magic Dolphins. Thankfully with Charles Pierce's deconstruction of the Mad Woman of Chardonnay's inane and eye-ball rolling statements we are afforded a good laugh. Many of the reader comments are succinctly apt (over thar on the Esquire.com). One leads to a fast-talking John Fugelsang video @ Current.com with "words of damning praise" for the old 43; i.e.:

http://current.com/shows/viewpoint/videos/john-fugelsang-lists-george-w-bushs-good-deeds-eventually

Fugelsang's coup de grâce: "But most importantly, Bush’s greatest achievement for which I will always personally thank him: He didn’t die in office."

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

Re: free bread; For all we know Jesus was trying to get the loaves and fishes account."
@ Marie; Jesus had a tee-shirt that said; "There's no money in manna." Swear to god.

April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJJG
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