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."

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, September 19, 2014.

Guardian: "Alex Salmond declared he will stand down as Scotland's first minister and the lead of the Scottish National party after failing to secure a majority for independence, as the country's vote to remain in the United Kingdom foreshadowed months of constitutional turmoil. After 55% of Scottish voters rejected independence, a higher margin than suggested by the final opinion polls of the campaign, Salmond, who has dominated Scottish politics for the past decade, said he would quit in November."

CBS/AP: "France said Friday it had conducted its first airstrike in Iraq, destroying a logistics depot held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The office of President Francois Hollande's office said Rafale fighter jets struck the depot in northeastern Iraq on Friday morning and the target was 'entirely destroyed.'"

Guardian: "David Cameron has declared a 'clear result' in the Scottish independence referendum after Scotland voted by a 10.6-point margin against ending the 307-year-old union with England and Wales. Earlier, Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, struck a defiant note at a downbeat Scottish National party rally in Edinburgh, saying he accepted Scotland had not 'at this stage' decided to vote for independence. He paid tribute to what he called a 'triumph for democratic politics' and said he would work with Westminster in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK – warning the leaders of the three main parties to make good on their promises of enhanced devolution for Scotland." ...

... The Guardian's liveblog on the referendum is here. ...

... The Scotsman's front page has links to numerous related stories. The paper's main story is here.

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.

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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.

 

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Saturday
Apr282012

The Commentariat -- April 29, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Douthat's hand-wringing over Japanese demographics.

Paul Krugman on ABC New's "This Week" speaks about Fed Chair Ben Bernanke That jer at the end there is David Walker, one of the guys Tom Friedman thinks should be President:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

     ... You can watch more ideologues explaining economics to Krugman here.

President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner last night:

     ... CW: For the third year running, I thought Obama was funnier than the professional comedian.

** Edgar Doctorow in a New York Times op-ed on how "to achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world." Highly recommended.

Martin Amis, in a New York Times essay, remembers his stays in the U.S. in 1958 & 1967.

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "The growth of health spending has slowed substantially in the last few years, surprising experts and offering some fuel for optimism about the federal government's long-term fiscal performance.... Experts said not to discount the accountable-care revolution just because it remained small or because the changes implemented by the Obama health care law had not come into full effect yet."

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "The emerging picture [of Al Qaeda] is of a network that is crumpled at its core, apparently incapable of an attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001, yet poised to survive its founder’s demise."

Peter Bergen, in a New York Times op-ed: "Despite countervailing evidence, most conservatives view the president as some kind of peacenik. From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramatic cognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama’s record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is."

Greedy Bastards. Charles Duhigg & David Kocieniewski of the New York Times on how Apple avoids billions in taxes.

You can listen to oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Arizona v. the United States here. (The audio widget is on the right side of the screen.)

The Presidential Race

** Rick Perlstein of Rolling Stone on how "the ecology of right-wing smears works: Insane horror stories – Clinton is running cocaine out of an Arkansas airport! Barack Obama had gay sex in the back of a limo! -- bubble up from the collective conservative Id at the outset of an election year; professional conservatives in Washington identify the ones that seem most promising and launder them through the suckers in the 'balance'-hungry mainstream media; and presto, before you know it, it's death-panel-palooza, 24/7." Perlstein posits that Obama will be accused this year of trying to establish a state religion in violation of the First Amendment. The religion? Secular Humanism! Want proof? The groundwork is laid, & Mitt Romney is already traveling down the road.

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: Oh, Romney is a fun guy, too. (See Obama above, at Washington Correspondents Dinner.) Romney makes jokes about firing people. Ha ha and ha. CW: This story about Romney's funny side is, not surprisingly, really short.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post bids farewell to Newt.

Right Wing World

Thomas Mann & Norm Ornstein in a Washington Post op-ed: "We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional.... Today ... we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

Vatican Ragout

Maureen Dowd: "It has become a habit for the church to go after women.... Church leaders behave like adolescent boys, blinded by sex. That’s the problem with inquisitors and censors: They become fascinated by what they deplore." ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "If you look at who has more closely emulated Jesus's life, Pope Benedict or your average nun, it's the nun hands down. Since the papal crackdown on nuns, they have received an outpouring of support." ...

... Funny, no word from Ross Douthat on the Vatican's inquisition of American nuns.

Sarah Garfinkel of the Peoria Journal-Star: "Some faculty members at the University of Notre Dame are calling on Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky to renounce statements he made during a controversial April 14 homily or resign from the school's Board of Fellows. More than 90 faculty members have so far signed the letter, which was released Monday to the Notre Dame student newspaper, according to John Duffy, an English professor at the university. Jenky, during his homily, analogized the political actions of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to those of President Obama." Via Steve Benen.

Vatican Rag

Your Sunday Sermon

The Gospel According to Saint Paul. The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it. The overarching threat to our whole society today is the exploding federal debt. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities, and individuals running up high debt levels are ‘living at the expense of future generations’ and ‘living in untruth." -- Paul Ryan (RTP-Wisc.)

Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love. -- Letter to Ryan from a group of Jesuits & Georgetown University faculty

A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons. -- Letter to Ryan from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ...

... Holy Shit! Now the Pope is an economist. Poor Krugman! Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "A small handful of Catholic social justice activists descended on Georgetown University's gothic campus to protest Ryan's speech there this morning, unfurling a 50-foot sign that read, 'Were you there when they crucified the poor?' Organized by Catholics United, a left-leaning advocacy group, members argued that Ryan's proposed cuts to Medicaid and other welfare programs for the poor go against the teachings of the Church to uplift the poor and downtrodden." ...

... Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: "During the Q&A session that followed, where Ryan fielded questions submitted by students, he insisted that welfare reform had brought down child poverty rates. The claim is false, especially in Ryan's home state. According to the most recent data, the child poverty rate in Wisconsin jumped 42 percent between 2000 and 2010. The suffering would have been more significant but for the large increases in federal food assistance that Ryan wants to scale back. Welfare reform is more likely a contributing factor to child poverty, not a solution to it, making it a dubious model for for combating poverty 'at its roots,' as Ryan said he wants to do." ...

... Dana Milbank: "The moderator asked [Ryan] about 'the moral dimension' of a budget that gives tax cuts to the wealthy and cuts spending for the poor. Ryan’s answer included the phrase 'subchapter S corporations.' ... If government does too much for the poor, 'you make it harder' for churches and charities to do that work. It was a bold economic — and theological — proposition. Even Jesus said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Ryan would rather give the rich a tax cut."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Obama administration scrambled on Sunday to contain a growing diplomatic crisis between the United States and China, sending a senior diplomat to Beijing to discuss the fate of a blind dissident who fled house arrest last week."

New York Times: "If the winds are forgiving enough over Lower Manhattan -- up where workers can see the whole outline of the island's tip -- a steel column will be hoisted into place Monday afternoon atop the exoskeleton of 1 World Trade Center and New York will have a new tallest building."

New York Times: "President Obamapoked fun at himself, Congress, the Secret Service, the media and particularly his rival Mitt Romney on Saturday night, mocking his Republican opponent as a fuddy-duddy rich guy who travels with his dog in a cage strapped to the roof of the family car." Full video above.

New York Times: "Google's harvesting of e-mails, passwords and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households in the United States and around the world was neither a mistake nor the work of a rogue engineer, as the company long maintained, but a program that supervisors knew about, according to new details from the full text of a regulatory report."

Guardian: "Concern is growing for relatives and supporters of Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist who fled from 19 months of house arrest in a Chinese village in Shandong province and is said to be sheltering inside the American embassy in Beijing. Police have detained four family members and two of those who aided his escape, a rights group said."

New York Times: "Egypt's most conservative Islamists endorsed a liberal Islamist for president late Saturday night, upending the political landscape and confounding expectations about the internal dynamics of the Islamist movement. The main missionary and political groups of the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, threw their support behind Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a dissident former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood known for his tolerant and inclusive view of Islamic law."

Guardian: Prime Minister "David Cameron has insisted there was 'no grand deal' with Rupert Murdoch over the BSkyB bid in exchange for support for his party....The prime minister indicated he regretted attending a Christmas party at the Oxfordshire home of the then News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, in December 2010, and admitted discussing matters with James Murdoch, but insisted it did not involve 'any inappropriate conversations'."

Al Jazeera: "The Co-Operative Group, a British supermarket chain, is extending a boycott of goods from illegal Israeli settlements and will now shun any supplier known to source from these areas, a statement has said."

Reader Comments (8)

E.L. Doctorow's piece says it all. It is the end of the United States of America. And since only about 10% of the population will ever read such a thing, it will have no impact. So goodbye America. Welcome to the united states of profit, a corporate entity where people who previously were called citizens are now called serfs.

April 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

If any of you saw Obama and Jimmy Kimmel at the White House Correspondents' Dinner tonight, I think you will feel "less bad" about supporting Obama--a very funny man--and his self-irony is delicious. A real grown up. The faux ad by the right wing PAC praising Mitt Romney for "liberating" dogs (by allowing Seamus to ride strapped to the top of his car) VS. Obama with the spoiled Bo, who is "dependent on Government handouts" and rides in limousines is absolutely hysterical!

I am less and less ambivalent about supporting Obama--although I still cannot bring myself to send money (which I don't have). I think it is that Jimmy Messina "thing!"

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate Madison

I am fascinated by these religious leaders--followers––who are embroiled in all things sexual, especially the Catholic males in high places dictating the ways of the flesh. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, all politics may not be sexual, but all sex is political so says this illuminating essay and boy, oh, boy does it have the ring of familiarity with our brothers here with the incense, wine and wafers.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/23/the_ayatollah_under_the_bedsheets?page=full

I found Doctorow's piece perfect. I'd like to see printed copies sent to every household with that ubiquitous message on the outside envelope "URGENT–-OPEN IMMEDIATELY"

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@Marvin Schwalb's "united states of profit": Good phrase, that. Once we move discussion away from the particulars of what we like and what we don't like about our witty black President or his buffoonish predecessor, the overall national tussle has long centered on the shifting division between what should properly be public and what private, between what's good for the country as a whole and what might be better for a few individuals.

In the economic realm, Republicans want to corporatize everything, claiming efficiencies that don't exist in pursuit of their goal to maximize profit for the few. Their "freedom" here is absolute corporate freedom, unquestioned and unregulated. Economically speaking, corporate freedom trumps that of the individual and private interest reigns supreme over the public. Anywhere there's a revenue stream, schools, post offices, medical services, retirement savings, Republicans want unfettered access to fish exclusively in it.
It's not enough that most wealth in this country is founded on one kind of government subsidy or another (from mineral, timber or land grants to defense industries) the insatiable corporate appetite wants it all. Hence the shifting line between public and private; I call it corporate colonization of new, unopened territory, only this time around the Native Americans are us.

Ironically, extending corporate freedoms into all this new territory goes hand in hand with limiting the freedoms long enjoyed by individuals. As it intrudes more and more into their lives, the corporate state wants fewer protests from its Natives; hence in the name of national security more restrictions on divergent thinking and action. Here, as in the case of sexual preference, contraception and abortion, strictly private matters are subject to increasing public scrutiny and control. For the corporate state to function, its citizens have to fall in line and if they will not do so willingly, the coercion public power can wield in the form of restrictive laws is just the ticket.

In short, more freedom for corporations means less for individuals. We can see the shadow of the shifting line between public and private in almost every current political issue. My most recent favorite: the Catholic hospitals that want to extend the reach of their "private" morals to those who don't share them, while at the same time taking "public" money for doing so.

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Hey Ken––don't know whether you saw this in the Times, but it corresponds nicely to what you and Marvin are addressing: Here's the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/business/apples-tax-strategy-aims-at-low-tax-states-and-nations.html?ref=todayspaper

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

"I call it corporate colonization of new, unopened territory, only this time around the Native Americans are us."

Excellent observation.

Manifest Destiny..21st century style

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Just occurred to me: Is American Exceptionalism also the new Manifest Destiny?

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

@DaveS No. Manifest Destiny existed because of its time & place; American Exceptionalism doesn't. It's a bumper sticker.

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer
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