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 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.

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

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
Apr262012

The Commentariat -- April 27, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' latest attempt to take down Paul Krugman. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

... Driftglass has something to say about Brooks, too:

Mr. Brooks, in case you hadn't noticed, the government of the United States has been conducting a massive experiment for about the last 30 years. It's called 'Conservatism'. Maybe you've read about it? Its key features radical deregulating of everything, the mass rejection of science, running up staggering debt by throwing money at rich people, gutting our manufacturing base, shredding our social safety net, lying our way into some of the worst foreign policy decisions in our history, slandering, lying and impeaching opponents, voter suppression, mass-distributing firearms as if they were free sausage samples being handed out at the mall....

Paul Krugman: "... something has changed [in Europe] in the past few weeks. Several events — the collapse of the Dutch government over proposed austerity measures, the strong showing of the vaguely anti-austerity François Hollande in the first round of France’s presidential election, and an economic report showing that Britain is doing worse in the current slump than it did in the 1930s — seem to have finally broken through the wall of denial. Suddenly, everyone is admitting that austerity isn’t working."

NEW. Governing by Executive Order. Anne Gearan of the AP: At Ft. Stewart today, President Obama signed "an executive order mandating several new education protections for military service members. Though there is little the federal government can do to shut down diploma mills, the new protections would make it harder for post-secondary and technical schools to misrepresent themselves to military students.... Bills pending in Congress, largely backed by Democrats and unlikely to become law soon, would do many of the same things Obama was ordering Friday."

Thirty-one Republican Senators voted against reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act (see yesterday's Ledes):

Robert Farzad of Business Week: we taxpayers still have a "special relationship" with A.I.G.; Treasury has effectively given them another bailout, according to Elizabeth Warren & is playing numbers tricks according to Neil Barofsky. And A.I.G. hasn't learned a thing -- its CEO can hardly wait to get back into risky business. ...

... Speaking of Elizabeth Warren -- Robert Rizzuto of The (Massuchusetts) Republican: "With Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown set to release six years of tax returns sometime today, the Massachusetts Democratic Party released a new video this morning portraying him as 'a millionaire under that $675 barn jacket" (via Greg Sargent):

The Presidential Race

** New York Times editors: "Mitt Romney has made [Robert] Bork a chairman of his Justice Advisory Committee. As with other Republicans leaders, Mr. Bork's central position in Mr. Romney's legal team says a great deal about the presumptive presidential nominee's approach to the law, none of it good."

E. J. Dionne: "Mitt Romney ... has a utopian view of what an unfettered, lightly taxed market economy can achieve. He would never put it this way, of course, but his approach looks forward by looking backward to the late 19th century, when government let market forces rip and a conservative Supreme Court swept aside as unconstitutional almost every effort to write rules for the economic game. This magical capitalism is the centerpiece of Romney's campaign.... This is Romney’s true radicalism."

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: no matter how "moderate" Gov. Etch-a-Sketch becomes on immigration, he won't be able to top McCain 31% of the Hispanic vote because "Romney, like his party, is just too white.... Average Latino voters, men and women who work really hard every day for white bosses, are just going to find that he reminds them too much of the guy who docks their pay when the bus comes late. And they won't be wrong -- he basically is that guy."

John Broder of the New York Times: "The group Americans for Prosperity just went up with a $6.1 million ad buy in swing states that accuses the Obama administration of squandering American taxpayer dollars on green energy projects, asserting that some of the money actually went to foreign entities. The ad is going up in eight states." And it's full of lies. CW: Good for Broder for debunking the ad. ...

     ... NEW. Stephen Lacey & Rebecca Leber of Think Progress fact-check the ad. Oops, no facts! ...

     ... AND. NEW. Steve Benen: "If President Obama has failed as spectacularly as his Republican detractors argue, shouldn't it be easier for them to come up with honest attack ads?"

... Paul Waldman of American Prospect on the "Cool Obama" ad from Karl Turdblossom Rove (see the ad in yesterday's Commentariat): "So once again, we have to wage a campaign of the cool kids versus the squares. This all started in the 1960s, when people like Rove and Romney watched their contemporaries smoking grass, listening to music with electric guitars, and dancing wildly about with adventurous girls in sheer peasant blouses, and thought to themselves, 'Gosh darn it, I hate those guys!'" CW: my thoughts exactly.

Right Wing World *

Russell Berman of The Hill: "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sounded a pessimistic note on the prospects of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) modified DREAM Act proposal making it into law this year.... 'I found it of interest,' he said of Rubio’s proposal, 'but the problem with this issue is that we’re operating in a very hostile political environment. And to deal with a very difficult issue like this … I think it would be difficult at best.'" CW: Hostile political environment: see also 20-foot electrified double border fence with alligator mote. ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "The Rubio proposal hardly puts Obama in a 'box,' as the Post suggests [see yesterday's Commentariat]. All Obama has to do is endorse the Rubio option as a stopgap measure, say it's the best that can be done for now, and tell Congress to get to work. At that point, the GOP will fling it into a black hole of obstruction, from which neither hope nor light can escape." CW: and if Romney also endorses it, that will leave him once again at odds with the Xenophobe Party. C'mon, Obama, you know what to do.

* Where it sucks not to be white. -- Akhilleus

News Ledes

New York Times: "The economic output of the United States grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter of the year, largely on the strength of consumer spending and a surge in residential building helped by unseasonably warm weather."

Vice President Oops! Politico: "The Federal Election Commission has fined Sen. Marco Rubio $8,000 for accepting more than $210,000 in improper contributions during his 2010 run for the Senate."

New York Times: "Moments after an unusual fiery appeal from Speaker John A. Boehner, the House voted 215 to 195 on Friday to prevent a doubling of student loan rates and challenge President Obama over a veto threat. The bill, which would strip $5.9 billion from a program within the health care law to pay to keep rates on subsidized undergraduate loans at 3.4 percent, is all but certain to fail in the Senate, where lawmakers have put together their own measure to keep the rate from reverting to 6.8 percent by closing tax loopholes for some wealthy business owners."

New York Times: "The dramatic nighttime escape of a blind rights lawyer from extralegal house arrest in his village dealt a major embarrassment to the Chinese government and left the United States, which may be sheltering him, with a fresh diplomatic quandary as it seeks to improve its fraught relationship with Beijing."

New York Times: "Defying a veto threat from President Obama, the House on Thursday passed a bill that encourages intelligence agencies and businesses to share information about threats to computer systems, including attacks on American Web sites by hackers in China and other countries."

New York Times: "Federal regulators escalated their antitrust investigation of Google on Thursday by hiring a prominent litigator, sending a strong signal that they are prepared to take the Internet giant to court."

Guardian: "Japan and the US have agreed to relocate thousands of US marines from Okinawa in a move aimed at reducing the island's military burden amid lingering anger among residents over pollution, accidents and crime. Under a deal reached in Washington late on Thursday, about 9,000 marines will move from the southern Japanese island to the US Pacific territory of Guam and other locations in the region, including Hawaii and Australia."

New York Times: "... the Secret Service has begun to change its policies after the scandal [in Colombia]. The agency plans to bar employees from drinking alcohol beginning 10 hours before their shift.... The previous cutoff was six hours.... According to a Congressional official, the employees involved [in the prostitution scandal] included nine Secret Service agents and three uniformed officers. None were part of the president's personal detail."

Guardian: "The military judge in the court-martial of the US soldier accused of handing WikiLeaks the biggest trove of unauthorised state secrets in American history has put army prosecutors on notice that they must prove Bradley Manning knew he was helping the enemy or face the possibility that the most serious charge against him be dismissed."

Reuters: "A nearly three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is expected to find there is little evidence the harsh 'enhanced interrogation techniques' the CIA used on high-value prisoners produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs."

New York Times: Jeremy Hunt, the "embattled British cabinet minister who has drawn criticism for his dealings with Rupert Murdoch's media empire, promised on Friday to hand over text messages and e-mails relating to his role in a failed $12 billion bid by Mr. Murdoch to take full control of BSkyB, Britain's main satellite broadcaster."

Reuters: "George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer who is accused of murder in the death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, has raised at least $200,000 through a website set up to fund his defense, his lawyer said on Thursday."

ABC News: "While U.S. officials say publicly there is no specific threat of a terror attack, behind the scenes law enforcement officials tell ABC News there are plans for a major security surge at airports and transportation hubs in advance of next week's anniversary of Osama bin Laden<'s death."

Reader Comments (4)

The European austerity experiment: Let's see now. If you have less money circulating because you blew up the economy and lost a fifth to a quarter of the world's ready capital, and then you decide to fix the problem by extracting even more capital from circulation by hiding it in (to use Krugman's phrase) the rentiers' pockets, are you wiser or more moral than the great unwashed, hands outstretched clutching their empty begging bowls, or just flat dumb?

Looks like the great unwashed is making its decision. Democracy is such a bother for the rich. Almost as much as a cool President for a Turdblossom.

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Bork is like the horror show villian who, after being thoroughly killed off and we breathe a sigh of relief, pops up to wreak havoc again.
How many years has it been since the Saturday night Massacre?
Mae Finch

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermae finch

@mae finch

Don't you know..The entire GOP is populated with the walking dead. Zombies have devoured their brains.

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Mae,

My mother used to say “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.”

If that’s the case, we can tell a lot about how Romney will govern. I don’t care if he and his advisors look at this as a sop to the tinfoil hat Republicans and Teabagger loons. The choice of Bork as your primary legal advisor opens the door for many more questions than answers about a President Romney.

First, even if he’s agnostic about Bork’s views, what does that say about him? That his only concern for the law of the land and Constitutional interpretation is based solely on the chameleonic requirements of the moment? When he was governor of MA, he was much more moderate, but is that what he believed or were those tricks of the trade? More pandering to get what he wanted? Like a hooker putting on a good show for the client(s)?

Let’s remember what Ted Kennedy had to say about Bork when he was first offered for the Senate's consideration by that other model of moderation, Ronald Reagan:

"Mr. Bork...stands for an extremist view of the Constitution and the role of the Supreme Court that would have placed him outside the mainstream of American constitutional jurisprudence in the 1960s, let alone the 1980s. He opposed the Public Accommodations Civil Rights Act of 1964. He opposed the one-man one-vote decision of the Supreme Court the same year. He has said that the First Amendment applies only to political speech, not literature or works of art or scientific expression...Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens."

(Scarily, this description fits exactly where today's GOP wants to take us.)

Conservatives can scream all they want about Teddy Kennedy, but he was right on the money about Bork and the senate agreed with him.

Now Romney’s shills, and the dominant right-wing media echo chambers will scream that this doesn’t mean anything and people are reading way too much into this. That Bork is only an advisor and his selection as such only matters to lame-brain liberals. But it DOES matter.

These same 'pundits' declared Barack Obama's tangential connections to Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers terribly significant but neither of those guys were presidential advisors.

Bork is.

Just don’t forget the prostitute’s code. Never get emotionally involved with a client and never kiss them on the mouth.
Don’t expect Willard to truly care about any average Americans or to pucker up anytime soon. He’ll be too busy putting on a good show, selling himself to the highest bidders, and wearing whatever costume will get the job done.

It does matter.

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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