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."

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.

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

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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Monday
Apr092012

The Commentariat -- April 9, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's Easter Sunday sermon, and I think it's a winner even if it is full of typos I can't see. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

In a fabulous column, and without naming names, Paul Krugman explains why self-described centrists have fallen for Paul Ryan, "a garden-variety modern G.O.P. extremist, an Ayn Rand devotee who believes that the answer to all problems is to cut taxes on the rich and slash benefits for the poor and middle class." ...

... Krugman blogpost coda: "... the Ryan proposal would lead to bigger, repeat bigger, deficits than the Obama proposal."

** Eric Alterman of The Nation, in the New York Times: "... economic liberalism is on life-support, while cultural liberalism thrives. [That's largely because] cultural liberalism comes cheap.... Liberals must find a way to combine their cultural successes with new approaches to achieving economic equality.... So far the president has been unwilling to put his budgetary moneys where his mouth is. In fact, Obama has proved far more adept at adapting his positions toward the increasingly radical views enunciated by the leaders of the Republican Party than he has in articulating — and sticking to — an alternative vision of the role of government in ensuring a fair economic shake for all its citizens."

Prof. Philip Kitcher has a terrific essay in the New York Times on social Darwinism. ...

E. J. Dionne: "Conservatives are not accustomed to being on the defensive.... So imagine the shock when President Obama decided last week to speak plainly about what a Supreme Court decision throwing out the health-care law would mean, and then landed straight shots against the Mitt Romney-supported Paul Ryan budget as 'a Trojan horse,' 'an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country,' and 'thinly veiled social Darwinism.' ... Conservatives are unhappy because they prefer passive, intimidated liberals to the fighting kind."

Law Prof. Ronald Krotoszynski, in a New York Times op-ed: "In the post-9/11 era, security has too often been an empty pretext for placing dissent out of eyesight and earshot."

Right Wing World

Thomas Edsall, writing in the New York Times, tracks Mitt Etch-a-Sketch Romney's shift to the center. CW: I think it's worth noting, tho Edsall doesn't mention it, that during the general elections the positions of both presidential candidates will be to the left of where they were a year ago. Politicians are shifty people.

James Crugnale of Mediaite: "Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley took a shot at President Barack Obama’s stance on the Supreme Court via Twitter Saturday, tweeting, 'Constituents askd why i am not outraged at PresO attack on supreme court independence. Bcause Am ppl r not stupid as this x prof of con law.' ... Obama chief strategist David Axelrod fired back at the Iowa Senator, alleging a six-year-old had hacked his Twitter account.”

News Ledes

New York Times: "... the aggressive tactics that have served Mr. Romney so well in other states faced an unexpected complication [in Pennsylvania]: the emergency hospitalization of Mr. Santorum’s disabled daughter Bella, which prompted an outpouring of public sympathy."

New York Times: "The special prosecutor appointed to investigate the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin said Monday that she had decided not to convene a grand jury in the case.... The prosecutor, State Attorney Angela Corey, who was appointed last month by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to investigate the shooting, said in a statement that her decision 'should not be considered a factor in the final determination of the case.'”

New York Times: "A judge set bail at $9.1 million each on Monday morning for the two men accused in the shooting spree here in which three people were killed and two others were wounded.... All five victims were black. Many city and community leaders have said that the shootings were racially motivated, but District Attorney Tim Harris of Tulsa County said on Monday that the authorities were trying to determine whether the rampage constituted a bias crime."

New York Times: "Facebook ... said it had agreed to buy Instagram, the popular mobile-centric photo-sharing service, for $1 billion in cash and stock, giving it a stronger foothold on mobile devices. It would be Facebook’s largest acquisition to date by far."

Washington Post: David Foley, "a top official at the General Services Administration, was placed on administrative leave Monday, four days after a video that features him joking about the lavish spending at a Las Vegas conference became public.

New York Times: Iranian diplomats are sending mixed signals in advance of nuclear arms talks.

AP: "Syrian forces fired across the border Monday into a refugee camp in Turkey, wounding at least five people as a U.N.-brokered plan to end more than a year of violence this week all but collapsed...." ...

     ... Updated New York Times story here.

AP: "The U.S. Navy said Monday it has deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region amid rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear program.The deployment of the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise along the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group marks only the fourth time in the past decade that the Navy has had two aircraft carriers operating at the same time in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea...."

New York Times: "AOL agreed on Monday to sell a portfolio of over 800 patents, and license about 300 more, to Microsoft for $1.056 billion, amid an arms race within the technology industry over intellectual property."

AP: "Sony Corp. will cut about 10,000 jobs worldwide over the next year as it tries to return to profit, Japanese news reports said Monday."

Reader Comments (4)

On Douthat: It's not just his lying, which you have illuminated wonderfully, it's his simple-minded conception of religion's psychological and sociological aspects (if, to make my own bias clear, there is any other). Douthat seems to believe--there's that word again--that a religious tenet or practice is a constant, like gravity or the speed of light, when all religions and their convictions are subject to drift and change over time. The reasons for those changes are many but the simple proliferation of street corner churches in this country since Douthat's golden age should be proof enough of religion's inconstancy.

To this non-believing observer, the delicious irony at the heart of Douthat's lamentations is that his own party has done all it can to splinter established religious institutions by substituting consumerism and dollar worship for ethical behavior, by hawking belligerent anti-intellectualism, political paranoia and outright racism, and by funneling millions of tax dollars into the coffers of the religious Right and its private religious-based so called schools.

And then Douthat complains about a nation so ignorant, so confused, so angry, so afraid that thousands, if not millions of its citizens seek security in their own egocentrically defined Church of the One True God--themselves.

The Republican Party has done all it can to make the church business big business and has been remarkably successful in doing so in the last forty years. For them it was a simple matter of votes. Unintended consequences or not, that effort has had a significant effect on our politics, some of which Douthat apparently doesn't like. I don't either but he's blaming the wrong folks for the development. He should look in a mirror.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes. Thanks for the coda to my column. You're right of course about the inconstancy of religious doctrine and about Douthat's inability to see that. I suppose that's a conservative thing -- those guys don't like change! But all faiths have changed their "cast-in-stone" principles, sometimes for practical reasons & sometimes because of changes in leadership. The ones that don't are no longer around; e.g., Shakers. It's true that some well-established religions are more hidebound than others, so in some cases it isn't the doctrine that changes but the parishioners. The Roman church's contraception ban would be a lot bigger problem in this country if Catholic women paid much attention to it.

And I heartily agree that Republicans have encouraged wacky religious views. What's more, the GOP gets worse every year. When some yokel called Obama an A-rab (that's pronounced with a long "A") at a McCain event, McCain said, "No, he's not." When a woman at a Santorum rally said Obama was a Muslim, Santorum didn't disagree. (I will say that last week or so -- and now that he has the nomination pretty well sewed-up -- Romney did say "No" when some guy who seemed to be looking for a "Yes" answer asked Romney if he believed interracial marriage was immoral.) Their war on science is mind-boggling. The GOP has definitely returned to the pre-Scopes trial era.

Marie

April 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

Blame evolution for the spread of religious dogma of all kinds across the world. Becoming a group in awe of one God or another brought people together in a larger society than the family. Grouped together followers of one God or another started helping each other. People that helped each other survived. Those that did not perished. That Darwin fellow described the process as evolution.
Many of the religious groups do not believe in evolution, What the hell Archie.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

Marie, I wanted to share my thoughts on Krugman's take:

Many "Independents" and "Centrists" are closet authoritarian/libertarians (philosophies that would seem to be incompatible until you realize that the combo means "lower taxes for me, behaving yourself for you"). The Republican Redistribution and Redemption Center is doing the heavy lifting for these "centrists" who apparently desire another Golden Age in which we can lionize the rich and admonish the poor about the sin of laziness and then herd them into churches where they can learn about the celestial bootstraps by which they can pull themselves up. (Perhaps the Brooks household can spare a pair.)

Also, it has occurred to me why these folks pine for the 1950s. That era occurred just before television forced us to witness the cost we inflict on those less fortunate for the sake of our elevated lifestyles. In those idyllic times we could choose not to be informed. Television and the Internet have made it impossible for a person to ignore reality, and the response to that has been to split humanity into those who are appalled by much of what they see and those who smugly deny that any of it matters.

One last thing I'd like to ask "centrists": Were you a centrist during, say, the Ford Administration? Can you feel the scale of tectonic shift centrism has experienced since 1975? Does any of that matter to you, or is it important for your own self-image for you to be able to claim to be "fair and balanced"?

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney
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