Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "This week, President Obama called on Republicans in Congress to take action and vote to fund the Administration’s response to the Zika virus. In February, the President asked Congress to fund emergency resources, including mosquito control, fast-tracking diagnostics tests and vaccines, tracking the spread of the virus, and monitoring women and babies with Zika. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have failed to take action on this issue. So the President continues to direct his Administration do what it can without help from Congress, with the primary focus of protecting pregnant women and families planning to have children'":

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: (August 2): "Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.” -- CW

... Guardian: "The search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun. Thought to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth, the planet lies within the so-called 'habitable zone' of the star Proxima Centauri, meaning that liquid water could potentially exist on the newly discovered world." -- CW 

Guardian: "A fisherman in the Philippines has kept what might be the largest natural pearl ever found hidden in his home for more than 10 years. The enormous pearl is 30cm wide (1ft), 67cm long (2.2ft) and weighs 34kg (75lb). If it is confirmed to have formed within a giant clam, as has been reported, it would likely be valued in excess of US$100m." CW: Looks like there will be a fight on this: when he moved house, the fisherman entrusted it to his aunt for safekeeping. "With his permission, she offered the pearl to the mayor, Lucilo R Bayon, to serve as new tourist attraction of city." -- CW 

"Giovanni della Robbia’s 'Resurrection of Christ,' made for an entrance gate to the villa of the Antinori family outside Florence." Brooklyn Museum photo. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "One of the most innovative art-as-advertising firms in late-15th- and early-16th-century Florence was the della Robbia workshop, a family concern that prospered for three long-lived generations. Its specialty was a brand of glazed terra-cotta sculpture that was physically durable, graphically strong and technologically inimitable. (The exact methods for producing it remain a mystery to this day.)... The Museum of Fine Arts [in Boston is mounting] “Della Robbia: Sculpting With Color in Renaissance Florence”..., a show of ideal size and scholarly weight that includes among 46 pieces one of the tenderest Renaissance sculptures in existence — 'The Visitation' by Luca della Robbia — on first-time American loan from its Tuscan church."

Michelle & Barack -- The Movie. Richard Brody of the New Yorker reviews “Southside with You,” "a drama about Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date." Brody calls the film "a fully realized, intricately imagined, warmhearted, sharp-witted, and perceptive drama, one that sticks close to its protagonists while resonating quietly but grandly with the sweep of a historical epic." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Requiring longer passwords, known as passphrases, usually 16 to 64 characters long, is increasingly seen as a potential escape route from our painful push toward logins that only a cryptographer could love."

The New York Times features photos of the exteriors of Bill & Hillary Clinton's residences over the years.

Brian Hickey of the Philly Voice: When Leroy Black died at age 55, he got two obituaries in the Press of Atlantic City: " In the first obit, his 'loving wife, Bearetta Harrison Black' gets top survivor billing. In the second, however, Bearetta is nowhere to be found, but 'his long-tome (sic) girlfriend, Princess Hall' appears in her place. A man answering the phone at Greenidge Funeral Homes told PhillyVoice that the obituaries were placed separately because 'the wife wanted it one way, and the girlfriend wanted it another way.'" ...

... CW: Kinda reminds me of the headstone a widow placed on her husband's grave in the Key West cemetery: "Harry, I Know Where You're Sleeping Tonight."

New York Times: "A surprisingly specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things has been generated by scientists who say that the likeness sheds considerable light on the mystery of how life first emerged on Earth. This venerable ancestor was a single-cell, bacterium-like organism. But it has a grand name, or at least an acronym. It is known as Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old."

Ian Crouch of the New Yorker: "For a few days, at least, [Stephen] Colbert abandoned the political equanimity that he’d adopted when he started his 'Late Night' job." BTW, here's Laura Benanti's segment:

Washington Post: "Benny" (for Ben Franklin), the mystery philanthropist of Salem, Oregon, has given away more than $55,000 in $100 bills, which s/he hides in odd places like "pockets of clothing, in diapers, in baby wipes and in candy." -- CW 

Jumping Jupiter! New York Times: "Ducking through intense belts of violent radiation as it skimmed over the clouds of Jupiter at 130,000 miles per hour, NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally clinched its spot on Monday in the orbit of the solar system’s largest planet. It took five years for Juno to travel this far on its $1.1 billion mission, and the moment was one that NASA scientists and space enthusiasts had eagerly — and anxiously — anticipated. At 11:53 p.m., Eastern time, a signal from the spacecraft announced the end of a 35-minute engine burn that left it in the grip of its desired orbit around Jupiter." -- CW ...

... Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post has more on the importance of the mission. CW: This, BTW, is another fine example of your government actually at work.

New York Times: "Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” signed off the air for good on Saturday evening [July 2], after 42 seasons, as millions of listeners, many in their cars on a holiday weekend, tuned in via public radio. With the exception of a telephone call from President Obama, the show, which was recorded Friday at the Hollywood Bowl in front of 18,000 people, ambled along the way it always has. There were pretty country-folk songs; an ad for Powdermilk Biscuits; a clippety-clop 'Lives of the Cowboys' skit; a heartfelt version of 'Every Time We Say Goodbye.'”

Washington Post: Gay Talese disowns his forthcoming book, 'The Voyeur’s Motel,' after he learns some of the incidents in the supposed true story are certainly fictional. The narrative “chronicles the bizarre story of Gerald Foos, who allegedly spied on guests at his Colorado motel from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s.... 'I should not have believed a word he said,' the 84-year-old author said after The Washington Post informed him of property records that showed Foos did not own the motel from 1980 to 1988.... The book, which will be published July 12, was excerpted in the New Yorker magazine in April. The story attracted widespread media attention and led producer-director Steven Spielberg to buy the movie rights to the book. Spielberg has lined up Sam Mendes...." ...

     ... Update. CW: For a day, I thought maybe Talese had developed a smidgen of ethics in his old age. Guess not. Here's the story now, from the WashPo: "Upon reflection, author Gay Talese says he’s disavowing his earlier disavowal of his own work."

Dan Shaw of New York writes a lovely remembrance of New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham.

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Tuesday
Jun262012

The Commentariat -- June 27, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is a review of today's New York Times op-ed page. It's short. The NYTX front page is here.

"Five Signs the U.S. Is Undergoing a Coup." Jim Fallows of the Atlantic elaborates on a post he wrote (& I linked) last week. Thanks to Dave S. for this link. (Fallows changed the title of his post; I like the more imprudent one.)

Bernie Sanders & Ed Schultz on more-or-less the same subject:

... ** Continuing That Theme. Paul Krugman & Robin Wells review three books & mention a fourth in the New York Review of Books. Bottom line: "President Obama bears some of the blame...; he chose to listen to the wrong people, and arguably missed his best chance to turn the economy around. (Just to be clear, this isn't a suggestion that Mitt Romney would do better.... If he wins, he will make a bad situation much, much worse.) But ultimately the deep problem isn't about personalities or individual leadership, it's about the nation as a whole. Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it's hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed."

Get off the Dime, Ben! New York Times Editors: with politicians refusing to act, the U.S. Federal Reserve & the European Central Bank must step in to rescue the economy.

** NEW. Katherine Eban in Fortune: "AFortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The National Rifle Association has joined a Republican push to make Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. the first sitting cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress, turning a once obscure fight over a gun-smuggling investigation into a proxy war over gun control.... The N.R.A. is pressing to win Democratic votes...." CW: Gail Collins has wondered out loud what the NRA would do now that it has everything it wants. Well, here's her answer -- meddling in stuff only peripherally related to gun laws. Next up, they'll be scoring defense budget votes. And so forth.

The GOP Alternative to ObamaCare = Nothing. Jake Sherman of Politico: "Republicans still have only one thing in mind when it comes to President Barack Obama's health care law: full repeal. If the Supreme Court wholly or partially strikes down the law on Thursday, House Republicans won't rush to pass a bill that allows young adults under 26 to stay on their parents' insurance. They won't pass legislation forcing insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. And the gap in drug coverage that requires seniors to pay more out of pocket -- the so-called donut hole -- won't immediately be closed." ...

... NEW. The Democratic Alternative. Brian Beutler of TPM: "The progressive activists who put the public option at the heart of the health care reform debate in 2009 and 2010 will return in 2012 to press Democrats to back a single-payer ["Medicare for All"] system if the Supreme Court throws out the Affordable Care Act on Thursday."

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: Justice "Alito's ruling [in Knox v. SEIU] struck at the heart of American unionism. By laying the groundwork for creating a right for nonmembers to avoid dues payments, he came close to nationalizing the right-to-work laws that 23 states have adopted.... As [Justice] Sotomayor noted in a somewhat astonished dissent [Justice] Ginsburg and Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented on this point as well), this wasn't the question before the court. Neither side had argued that issue in their briefs or oral presentations.... Knox creates a legal disparity between [corporations & workers]: a worker's free-speech right entitles him to withhold funds from union campaign and lobbying activities, but not the value of his work from the company's similar endeavors." Meanwhile, "In the world according to Nino, Arizona has the rights of a nation-state, but Montana must submit to the Gang of Five. You're sovereign when Scalia agrees with you; you're nothing when he doesn't."

... CW: P. D. Pepe made me read that Janet Malcolm article on confirmation hearings, which featured the loathsome Sam Alito. Service on the Court has not mellowed him; I think you have to read both this and this to understand what's behind Alito's hissy-fit Monday, in which he read his dissent from the bench, on the Court's decision invalidating general and mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile murderers. The law that so agitated Alito is one that is not even controversial. And Alito more than likely applied the very reasoning that so riled him yesterday to his rationale for striking down the ACA (which we'll know for sure Thursday).

CW: While I'm on my soapbox, there an important aspect of the dissenting opinion that I don't think any commentators have developed. That is Chief Justice Roberts' argument that mandatory sentencing of juveniles can't be "cruel & unusual" because so many states do it. (Here's conservative tut-tutter George Will agreeing with that thinking.) As far as I know (and I well may be wrong), this is the first time a member of the Court has separated out "unusual" as a standard for application of the Eighth Amendment. For instance, FindLaw notes that "No universal definition [of "cruel and unusual punishment"] exists, but any punishment that is clearly inhumane or that violates basic human dignity may be deemed 'cruel and unusual.'" By this standard, the death penalty could never be declared unconstitutional because it is legal under federal and many state laws. What Roberts is doing and Will is popularizing, as I see it, is creating a new definition of "cruel and unusual" which would severely restrict application of the Eighth Amendment. In fact, the best way for states to get away with treating people inhumanely would be to do it a lot. So. Pepper-spraying protesters? Can't be "cruel and unusual" because cops are doing it everywhere! See Fallows above, re: coup.

Juliet Lapidos of the New York Times: "A new study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows what liberals have always suspected: States that don't impose an income tax are not more competitive. No income tax? No boost. Drawing from the study, Bloomberg News reports that 'the nine states with the highest personal income taxes on residents outperformed or kept pace on average with the nine that don't tax their residents' incomes.'"

Presidential Race

Finally, a Public Opinion Poll That Matters. M. J. Lee of Politico: "The majority of Americans, nearly 65 percent, say Obama is better suited than Romney to handle an alien invasion, according to a new National Geographic Channel poll."

Charles Pierce thinks President Obama's stump speech -- and its message -- are not nearly enough.

Jared Favole of the Wall Street Journal: "Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday continued the Obama campaign's attacks on Mitt Romney's business career, saying to a group of union workers that the presidential hopeful is good at creating jobs -- but only overseas, not in the U.S."

Justin Sink of The Hill: "Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney argued Tuesday that if the president's signature healthcare legislation was overturned Thursday by the Supreme Court, it would mean that President Obama's first term was a waste." With video.

Right Wing World

NEW. Orrin Hatch -- RTP, Utah. Dave Weigel of Slate argues, correctly I think, that the Tea Party really won in Utah. Yes, Orrin Hatch won the primary (and will win re-election), but a Freedom Works spokesman boasted of "the 180-degree change in Senator Hatch's votes and rhetoric over the past two years."

Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: "This week in crazy? We have Darrell Issa endorsing a completely nutso theory that Fast and Furious was all a plot to rally people around gun control.... And then Jon Kyl today raised impeachment as a remedy to Barack Obama's new plans for enforcing immigration policy.... This kind of thing did not happen on a regular basis when George W. Bush was president."

Left Wing World

Admittedly, this is a Politico production, but there's definitely some truth to it:

Local News

Iowa, Where Voting Is a "Privilege," Not a Right. Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: Iowa "is exhibiting one of the boldest exercises in tilting the ballot box, via Gov. Terry Branstad's [R] determination to reduce the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons to a number closely approximating zero.... There's not a question in my mind that these people would reinstitute poll taxes if the courts and Grover Norquist would let them."

News Ledes

Bloomberg News: "Republican and Democratic congressional leaders are weighing whether to delay automatic federal spending cuts until March 2013, according to a House aide and industry officials who were briefed on the discussions."

New York Times: "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York has begun investigating contributions to tax-exempt groups that are heavily involved in political campaigns, focusing on a case involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been one of the largest outside groups seeking to influence recent elections but is not required to disclose its donors."

Los Angeles Times: Stockton, California "will become the nation's largest city to seek protection under the U.S. bankruptcy code after its City Council on Tuesday stopped bond payments, slashed employee health and retirement benefits and adopted a day-to-day survival budget. City Manager Bob Deis ... is expected to file bankruptcy papers immediately."

AP: "A stubborn and towering wildfire jumped firefighters' perimeter lines in the hills overlooking Colorado Springs, forcing frantic mandatory evacuation notices for more than 9,000 residents, destroying an unknown number of homes and partially closing the grounds of the sprawling U.S. Air Force Academy." The front page of the Denver Post currently has links to numerous stories about the fire.

Washington Post: "More than 7 million college students could be spared higher loan rates under a deal reached Tuesday by Senate leaders. The agreement would freeze the interest rate for a year, preventing it from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1.... The proposal's passage will be contingent upon an embrace from the GOP-held House...."

New York Times: Two lawsuits are challenging the lack of air-conditioning in most Texas state prisons, claiming a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel & unusual punishment.

AP: "Gunmen raided the headquarters of a pro-government Syrian TV station early Wednesday, killing seven employees, kidnapping others and demolishing buildings, officials said. The government blamed terrorists and described the killings as a 'massacre.'"

Guardian: "Anglo-Irish relations took a momentous step forward on Wednesday when the Queen [Elizabeth II] shook hands with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness. The historic encounter between the former IRA commander - now Northern Ireland's deputy first minister - and the Queen was unthinkable a little over 10 years ago. But the success of the peace process and the Queen's acclaimed visit to the Republic of Ireland last year ... paved the way for their meeting."

AP: "Assailants attacked the offices of Microsoft in Athens, [Greece,] early Wednesday, driving a van through the front doors and setting off an incendiary device that burned the building entrance, police said."

Reader Comments (9)

Jim Fallows has it right. It is a coup, more sophisticated than we're used to seeing.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/06/5-signs-the-united-states-is-undergoing-a-coup/258904/?google_editors_picks=true

follow the link

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Marie,

I saw your synopsis and didn't follow the link. I have many irons in the fire atm and as much as I try to keep up life gets in the way. I was sent the link and didn't make the connection. Still I'm glad for the result since it appears someone pressured Fallow's to "reconsider". I've lost a little respect.

Hope your basement is dry:)

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Yes, I, too, hope your basement is dry. Thought of you last night while watching the news and seeing the torrential rains in Florida. Not only in politics are things going awry, but weather wise it's just as crazy––floods and fires. Gosh, if I were a mystical person I'd be getting my herbs and essences ready to fend off the evil ones. Alas, I can only shed tears and bay at the moon.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Paul Krugman may be correct in his estimation of the difficulties of fixing our problems. Perhaps a little history may be in order since the United States has been, for some time now, trudging down a hard road full of teabagger potholes, Republican roadblocks, and road signs full of bad directions written in fundamentalist cant.

One guy we might look to is our old friend Edward Gibbon, chronicler of the decline and fall of Rome and her far flung empire. Gibbon traces the decline to a lack of what he calls civic virtue. In Gibbon’s reading, Rome’s citizens simply forgot how things worked, neglected the social compact they all had with each other and the state. They ripped into the fabric of government and severed the social ligatures that held them together. The Empire was riven by greedy, selfish ideologues and wealthy patricians who no longer felt any responsibility for ensuring the smooth functioning of society. Rome, over the centuries had, for a culture of the ancient world, a remarkably modern approach to social problems. They understood the importance of a strong government that included infrastructure, civil servants, public works employees and was able to collect the taxes necessary to build roads, aqueducts, public buildings, keep an army intact, and provide protection and food for its citizens.

For Gibbon, the dissolution of the social glue, in the form of the government and social and civic entities, signaled the end. Economic enterprises had become so corrupt and so untrustworthy that a series of collapses buried Romans under a mountain of bad debt from which most never recovered. The courts also suffered a loss of public faith due to their reverence for power and riches.

Sound familiar?

And what comes right after a loss of civic virtue and a faith in good government in terms of significantly weakening the empire?

Religion. Specifically Christianity.

Early Christians rejected the social compact in favor of their connection to god. Earthly matters had no import for many of them and that included anything that might aid the longevity and health of the Empire. American fundamentalists may not have completely thrown over social obligations but their incessant and insistent demands that all Americans believe as they do and strike down any laws and customs they deem inconsistent with their belief system has, in its own way, been quite toxic to civility and the concept of a democratic, secular society.

Something else Gibbon points to had to do with a loss of connection to Rome’s past, a lack of interest in and knowledge of history. History had been supplanted with convenient tales and fables spun purely to advance the economic and political interest of various parties. There was no sense of a shared past. Parties battled one another for control of the national narrative. And one other major reason for Rome’s collapse? You’re gonna love this one.

Outsourcing and privatizing. Two of Romney’s favorite schemes, both wholeheartedly supported by everyone on the right.

Rome, by outsourcing many of its most important jobs, including defending the nation by hiring soldiers of fortune (can you say Blackwater?), drained the empire of self-sufficiency and autonomy, it also lost significant connection to important skill sets and ripped apart its own safety net by trusting its protection to outsiders whose only interest in the empire was financial.

One last note on the loss of interest in history. After publishing his masterpiece, a task at which he labored for nearly twenty years, Gibbon was visited by the brother of King George III, the Duke of Gloucester. The Duke, assaying Gibbon’s hefty tome said “Another damn’d thick, square book. Always scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr. Gibbon?” a comment which said as much about the Duke’s enthusiasm for history as it did about Gibbon’s prolixity. Something you could easily imagine coming out of the mouth of Rick Santorum.

Oh, and did I mention, just around that time the Duke’s brother was getting his royal ass kicked by their American cousins? It was the beginning of the end of the British Empire.

Maybe now it's our turn.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Akhilleus, thanks for the excellent post. It is another reminder that religion and politics are dependent on avoiding that annoying thing called history.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Marie noted that Gail Collins has been wondering what the NRA and its acolytes and high priests will do now that they rule the universe. Why, they can rewrite history for one.
Heavyweight right-wing intellectual (an oxymoron, I know) Joe the Plumber has handed down the results of long seconds of research into why so many millions of Jews and Armenians died in ethnic cleansing holocausts during the last century. And it's not because of Turkish plans for Armenian genocide or Nazi Final Solutions.

Gun control killed them all.

Yup. According to Joe, Turkey and Germany instituted gun control laws and next thing ya know, freakin' holocausts. If those 7 - 8 million people had all been packing heat like Joe and his pals, there'd never have been any death camps. "Eat lead, you stinkin' Ratzi!" Joe has been watching way too much Quentin Tarentino.

If it wasn't so incredibly fucking stupid and insulting, it might be funny. Don't worry though. Fox won't put him on the "too stupid to call" list because Fox doesn't have a "too stupid to call" list.

Guns for everyone.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Marvin,

Quite right. History is bloody annoying if you're trying to gull an entire population. Which is why morons like Joe the Plumber can just make shit up for wholesale consumption by the knuckle draggers. Do that a few times and that power rush becomes addictive. Just say whatever the hell you want.

Remember how the right's obsession with Clinton's dick morphed into the most insane conspiracy theories involving murder and real estate scams and alien abductions and who the hell knows what else? The Obama conspiracy theorists are only just getting warmed up. If he's re-elected his second term will be a circus of right-wing mayhem; the cuckoos will descend into heretofore unexplored depths of dementia and off-the-chain derangement. Add to that the already stinking stew of racial hatred and there looms a stomach churning goulash of conservative foulness, the depravity of which has never been imagined.

History, facts, and truth are not their friends.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

After reading you, Akhilleus, I wanted to bring some historical perspective into the conversation re: the British Empire and its demise, but I've got to shuck the corn, make a salad and my gin and tonic is down to its watery nothingness, but I just wanted to let you know I had such a good laugh even though you say re: that lousy plumber guy who masquerades as a credible human being that has a brain, "if it wasn't so incredibly stupid and insulting, it might be funny,"–––YOU make it funny and I thank you for that and for your wonderful way with words which I just love.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

PD,

Aww..thanks. And apropos of the British Empire, I'm thinking watery gin just about describes the state of bulldog in the 21st century.

I wonder what potable will best describe us after Joe and his crew are done with us. Alcohol is right out since fundamentalists don't drink (so they'd like us to believe. But then again they also want us to believe they don't have sex. But if that's the case why the hell are there so fucking many of them?!!).

I guess it would have to be something like New Coke diluted with run off water from fracking sites.

Hmmmm methane cola. Preferred drink of late empire dissemblers.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakhilleus
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