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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

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Wednesday
Aug012012

The Commentariat -- August 2, 2012

Palestinians are a hard-working and an incredible community. They have done remarkably well outside their country. I have never met a poor Palestinian in the United States; every Palestinian I know is a college professor or a doctor. -- Bill Clinton, in Riyadh, "showing Romney how it's done"

Simon Johnson in the New York Times: the big banks rely on three myths to justify their hegemony: (1) that their critics are whacked-out "populists"; (2) that Dodd-Frank reforms are not justified by a costs-benefits analysis; & (3) that financial reform will hurt economic growth.

New York Times Editors: "The I.R.S., citing 'current public interest in this issue,' promised a review [of political activity for social welfare nonprofits that enjoy exemptions under section 501(c)(4)] after receiving complaints from ... watchdog groups that have been tracking the ballooning use of the 'social welfare' guise to finance classic hardball politics. It is ludicrous to perceive Karl Rove, the canny Republican strategist and money raiser, as primarily nonpartisan and civic-minded...." The review is unlikely to affect the current campaign season.

I tell all my people, 'I'm not working for Chick-fil-A; I'm working for the Lord.' -- Donald Elam, a Chick-fil-A franchisee in -- appropriately enough -- Superstition Springs, Arizona

It's interesting that the Lord chooses to pay them a third of what they would get if they owned any other franchise. He does work in mysterious ways. -- Digby

"The Cult of Chick-fil-A." Emily Schmall of Forbes: Chick-fil-A "seeks loyal employees and operators who believe serving chicken is God's work. Careful screening of new hires keeps it out of trouble." They get away with likely discriminatory practices because so many of their workers are franchisees who are not covered under anti-discrimination laws.

Michael Hiltzig of the Los Angeles Times: "In an interview with a Baptist publication and an appearance on a devotional radio program, [Dan] Cathy, [president & CEO of Chick-fil-A] unburdened himself of the view that gay marriage violated God's plan.... Cathy's outburst ignited a very predictable outbreak of partisan posturing.... Sarah Palin and Todd Palin had their picture taken holding up big bags from Chick-fil-A, as if to prove that in modern America you can affiliate yourself with retrograde social prejudice and line your arteries with cholesterol at one stop, without moving the car."

Scott Shane of the New York Times: "F.B.I. agents on a hunt for leakers have interviewed current and former high-level government officials from multiple agencies in recent weeks, casting a distinct chill over press coverage of national security issues as agencies decline routine interview requests and refuse to provide background briefings."

Dave Weigel of Slate covers the Pennsylvania voter fraud case for Slate. It's going so badly for the state that a Republican strategist tells Weigel that the state is probably saving its thunder for the higher courts. CW: Really? The state can't call witnesses in the appellate & Supreme Courts. ...

     ... Here's a follow-up post from Weigel.

Presidential Race

The Great Suppression of 2012. Charles Blow: "... a lot of people who say that they are likely to vote may not actually be eligible to vote. The greatest margin of uncertainty may well be caused by poll respondents who think that they will able to vote for President Obama in November, but may not be allowed to do so." Update: see also links to posts, above, by Dave Weigel of Slate on the Pennsylvania case.

Maggie Haberman of Politico: Harry Reid doubles down. He now claims that "I have had a number of people tell me that" Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years. Asked by reporters in Nevada to elaborate, Reid said, "I don't think the burden should be on me. The burden should be on him. He's the one I've alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn't he release his tax returns?"

"He pays less, you pay more":

Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "The Romney campaign is pushing back against a new study from researchers at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center suggesting Mitt Romney's tax proposals would actually increase taxes for a whopping a 95% of Americans, denouncing the Tax Policy Center ... as a 'liberal' group.... While the Romney campaign hasn't rebutted the substance of the study, they claim the Tax Policy Center should be dismissed entirely as a biased source. But" the Romney camp called the Tax Policy Center an "objective third party" when they used its analysis to slam primary opponent Rick Perry's budget proposal. ...

... Worse Than Romney. Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post: "Romney can take some solace in knowing his allies in Congress have proposed a plan that shifts the burden from high-income to middle-income taxpayers even more dramatically." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... Mitt and his party are committed to fiscal policies that would significantly skew the tax burden towards in the middle and bottom of the income scale, while concentrating 'spending restraint' on the same people as well. And why wouldn't they do so? If wealth is a measurement of 'success,' and if success is a measurement of 'virtue,' then regressive policies become a moral imperative, and that's pretty much the unstated overriding goal of today's conservative movement and GOP."

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change culture and save it from itself. -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Geographer Jared Diamond in a New York Times op-ed: Mitt Romney misrepresented my views. What he said "is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it.... Our geography won't keep us rich and powerful if we can't get a good education, can't afford health care and can't count on our hard work's being rewarded by good jobs and rising incomes." ...

... Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post: "... most people still believe that two cultures in particular, African and Islamic, inhibit economic development. But the two countries that will next achieve a gross domestic product of $1 trillion are both Muslim democracies -- Turkey and Indonesia. Of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world today, seven are African.... Ironically, the argument that culture is central to a country's success has been used most frequently by Asian strongmen to argue that their countries need not adopt Western-style democracy."

... Bob Wright of The Atlantic: "... what is alarming ... is that [Romney] probably has no awareness of the stunning irony of going to Jerusalem, having a lovefest with Bibi Netanyahu, defender-in-chief of the Israeli occupation, and then preaching to Palestinians that they'd be better off if only they'd get themselves some freedom! ... There's one thing he just can't seem to wrap his mind around: not being Mitt."

Every policy prescription Romney comes up with -- even when he tries to hide the details as he does with his economic proposal -- is bad policy & would be unpopular if voters heard what it was. That is, of course, the reason Secret Mitt has a secret agenda. Besides --

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: one of the old Mitt Romneys -- the one who wrote No Apology -- thought government investing in innovation was important & cited -- contra the new winger meme -- the Internet as one example of government-funded innovation. "Romney calls for increasing government spending on R&D in his book, he has supported GOP plans like Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, which would slash this kind of investment."

Congressional Races

Gail Collins: "Texas Republicans have just nominated a Senate candidate who is promising to protect America's golf courses from the United Nations.... [Ted] Cruz's victory was the latest in a number of Tea Party triumphs in Republican primaries, and it certainly does suggest that next year the Republican Senate contingent will be composed almost entirely of right-wing purists and people who are afraid they're going to be primaried by a right-wing purist." ...

... Russell Goldman of ABC News: "The stunning Texas victory of Ted Cruz, a young Tea Party-backed Republican over an establishment candidate vying for a Senate seat, has already so emboldened the insurgent conservative movement that activists are warning Mitt Romney he had better get on board. 'These guys [newly elected Tea Party candidates]" are going to force Romney to the right,' said Andrea Shell, a spokeswoman for Tea Party group Freedom Works. 'That is our entire mission.'"

Right Wing World *

I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that's Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that's the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates. -- Mike Kelly (RTP-Pa.) ...

... Pema Levy of TPM: "Beginning Wednesday, private insurers are required to cover contraceptive services in new plans without a co-pay as mandated by the health care reform law."

* Where the implementation of every Democratic act is the equivalent of an alien invasion.

News Ledes

Too Bad about the Disaster, Folks. We're Going on Vacation. New York Times: "After refusing to consider a sweeping five-year farm measure, House Republican leaders jammed through a short-term, $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of farmers.... Democratic leaders in the Senate, which already passed a bipartisan five-year bill, refused to take up the House measure, faulting House Republican leaders for failing to consider the broader legislation in time."

Politico: "The Senate's late-summer race to pass cybersecurity legislation before leaving for recess came to a dead end Thursday when Democrats couldn't muster enough gas to clear a procedural vote over objections of GOP leaders and many big business lobbies. The bill required 60 votes to cut off debate and get it to the floor for a vote, but fell short 52-46."

Reuters: "Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is stepping down as the U.N.-Arab League mediator in the 17-month-old Syria conflict at the end of the month, the United Nations said on Thursday, the latest sign that the outlook for a diplomatic solution is bleak." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Frustrated by the seemingly intractable Syrian conflict, Kofi Annan announced his resignation on Thursday as the special peace envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, throwing new doubts on whether a diplomatic solution is possible. He also said President Bashar al-Assad of Syria 'must leave office.'"

AP: "Nearly 220 counties in a dozen drought-stricken states were added Wednesday to the U.S. government's list of natural disaster areas as the nation's agriculture chief unveiled new help for frustrated, cash-strapped farmers and ranchers grappling with extreme dryness and heat.... More than half of all U.S. counties -- 1,584 in 32 states -- have been designated primary disaster areas this growing season...."

AP: "Arab countries pushed ahead Wednesday with a symbolic U.N. General Assembly resolution that tells Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign and turn over power to a transitional government. It also demands that the Syrian army stop its shelling and helicopter attacks and withdraw to its barracks. A vote is set for Friday morning."

Bloomberg News: "The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency warned its employees and contractors last week to stop using their government computers to surf the Internet for pornographic sites, according to the agency's executive director."

New York Times: "New York City, embracing an experimental mechanism for financing social services that has excited and worried government reformers around the world, will allow Goldman Sachs to invest nearly $10 million in a jail program, with the pledge that the financial services giant would profit if the program succeeded in significantly reducing recidivism rates."

ABC News: "Dr. Lynne Fenton, the psychiatrist who was treating [mass murder suspect James] Holmes, 24, at the school, was also a key member of the university's threat assessment team, [and] ... by early June, Fenton had informed other members of the team about her concerns regarding Holmes. But on June 10 -- three days after Holmes bought an assault weapon and added it to his already growing arsenal -- he suddenly told the university that he was dropping out.... KMGH-TV reported last week that he'd purchased the weapon hours after failing a key oral exam."

AP: "Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, her running mate and three others have been arrested amid a sit-in at a downtown Philadelphia bank over housing foreclosures."

AP: Heidi Wys, "an adviser to Puerto Rico's most powerful female lawmaker, faced calls to resign on Wednesday after she sent a tweet to President Barack Obama" that read, ".. Take her [Michelle Obama] to Burger King, buy her a sundae with double banana, take her to your homeland, Kenya!"

Reader Comments (7)

I will miss Gore Vidal--although living until age 86 certainly does not make his death a tragedy. I was fortunate to see him twice in person and many times on the Tee Vee. I will always treasure his Cassandra-like temperament and his brilliant mind. I have also enjoyed many of his books, especially his memoir, "Palimpsest."

Gore Vidal was a radical--an unafraid, honest, true-to-self, incredibily snotty brat. Here is one of my favorite quotes:

"We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic. The founding fathers hated two things, one was monarchy and the other was democracy, they gave us a constitution that saw to it we will have neither. I don't know how wise they were."

REST IN INTERESTING PEACE, GORE VIDAL!

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate Madison

Re: Fried chicken parts, Sarah Palin, and gay marriages. Can it get better? Yes, in two or three years there will be a report of unnatural man chicken relationships at Chic-an-fic. Right now Gore Vidal and Kurt Vonnigut (sp) are chuckling like a couple of old hens and scratching out words for the musical, "Gallo de mio"; three acts; boy finds chicken, boy loses chicken, boy marries chicken.
Collectively we have become dumber than chicken shit. Right now it what world would we be exceptional?

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

Remember in the years before Citizens United, before ',,,corporations are people, my friend." that corporations were pretty circumspect and ONLY SPOKE OF BUSINESS THINGS. They went about the business they were IN, producing, marketing, selling, yada yada.

Then along came Citizens United...and we suddenly have all these corporate bigmouths from Target to Chick-fil-A going on record with the most outrageous pronouncements. I wonder if their PR guys (if any remain) are now spending days & nights at the bar drowning their woes. Also, I am now at the point of questioning every purchase—because if I don't like their political position, I don't buy. On the plus side, I am saving money!

P.S. @kate - the Gore Vidal quote is classic Vidal. His voice will be missed.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

@JJG I don't think we are becoming dumber. The problem is we are not any smarter than we were 5000 years ago. In order become smarter we have to accept the idea that much of what we believed back then is not true. You know all that science crap. Look at gay marriage, women's rights, contraception, global warming, evolution. All of this is the conservative effort to conserve their fantasies. It's dumb by denial.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Well, fellow Mericans, after feeling somewhat mellow after my dream yesterday––mentioned on yesterday's comments––I now face another new day realizing that things are getting more and more bizarre: Chickens who sit on the right hand side of god; election of Cruz whose tea is spiked with NUT-meg; a guy named Kelly who equates the ACA's expansion of women's health services to Pearl Harbor & 9/11; and best of all was Jared Diamond's piece in the Times which castigated Romney for misrepresenting his theories––how could he have read Diamond's book and come up with such twisted notions? How indeed!! JJG thinks we are becoming dumber and dumber, but Marvin says he doesn't think we are any smarter than we were 5000 years ago. We as a species have made great strides; the trouble is we humans seem to screw things up so badly that the gains we have made keep getting sabotaged by those that DON'T evolve, won't accept certain truths, refuse to learn new ways and cling to yesterday's ways and means. I guess it all boils down to crossed fingers and breath holding for a saner tomorrow. I'm just not sure I believe that will happen any time soon.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

In reference to the discussion of JJG, Marvin, and PD, it appears that exceptional human beings raise the level of civilization, and the rest of us go along for the ride. Then, as we drive in a finely-tooled car along roads built by the Eisenhower Administration, we think about how much we've accomplished. I would say that self-esteem has improved during the last 5000 years, but the Moses-era Jews were kinda full of themselves too.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

Re: now news is good news; late comment on early comment. By saying "collectively" I meant the following; if communication is society and society is culture, culture is becoming gross as communication becomes more sophisticated. Two hundred years ago the Palins would be standing outside their cabin with bags of chicken parts and only a few of their neighbors would witness their behavior. Communication would exchange and the locals would know that the Palins stood strongly on the side of chicken parts. But overall the national culture would know little about the Palins and their odd fixation with chicken parts and the Bible.
The grossness of the Palins has always been part of of culture but only a small part.
Now days because of the sophistication of communication the Palins have a national voice and play a large part of culture.
As the amount of communication grows the quality of knowledge diminishes. Romney's private tax evasion evidence is boring next to Life styles of the Rich and Famous. As the speed of communication increases the import of the information decreases. The killing in Florida is erased with the killings in Denver. This post is an example, tomorrow already has come; nobody will read this.
So we are not getting dumber but we are numbed by faster and more knowledge of matters that mean less and less.
Someone who watches Fox News two hours a day and reads the National Enquirer every week and receives twit updates every couple of minutes certainly has more information that someone who has only the Sonnets to mull over. But who would you consider smarter or more knowledgeable?
In short I believe in todays world we think more about what matters least; there for we are becoming dumber.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG
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