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.

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

CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

Contact the Constant Weader

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Friday
Mar302012

The Commentariat -- March 31, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer, delayed thanks to my lousy e-mail, is the second of a two-parter on the New York Times' response to the oral arguments in the challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

President Obama's weekly address:

     ... The transcript is here. AP story here.

Cecile Richardson, President of Planned Parenthood, directs supporters to this video:

Gail Collins decides that the worst trend this political season is Americans Elect. CW: this pleases me a great deal inasmuch as Collins surely knows her worst-trend pick is a favorite of Tom Friedman.

Prof. Chris Edelson in Common Dreams: "Now, the Court stands poised to rely on the rhetoric of the Tea Party to stand in the way of Congress’s ability to deal with a truly national problem — if tens of millions of people without health insurance who pass on tens of billions in costs to other Americans isn’t a national problem, then what is? When the Court issues its decision, the question won’t be whether Americans might be forced to eat broccoli.... What we’ll really find out is whether Congress has the power to govern a nation, a problem the Framers seemed to have settled long ago.... The ultimate question, in fact, is whether the United States is a nation or merely a group of 300 million people who happen to share living space." Read the whole post. ...

... Into the Abyss. Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly: "It is sometimes forgotten that state and local governments do the major work of delivering federally-funded domestic services in this country; the feds mostly cut checks and write regs. If a majority of the Supreme Court begins questioning the constitutionality of this relationship, we aren’t just looking at an invalidation of a Medicaid expansion, or even of Medicaid itself, horrid as that would be. We could be on the brink of having to reconsider our basic form of governing. I hope the Justices who so casually toss around contemptuous references to decades of precedents aren’t so arrogant as to throw us into that abyss." ...

... And so on the nation's highest court, satire replaced stare decisis in a slightly altered version of the Red Queen's jurisprudence in Alice in Wonderland: First the verdict, then the trial. -- Bob Shrum ...

... Read Shrum's post in The Week. It's a well-written & thoughtful summation of this week's high courtroom shenanigans. His speculation that striking the ACA would help President Obama's re-election bid is a stretch. Shrum isn't much of a pronosticator. On election day 2004, he assured us Kerry would win (though, to be fair, he hadn't taken account of the GOP's manipulation of the Ohio results). ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine: "... the shock of the liberal analysts who expected a landslide does prove they misjudged the case, but their error lies not in underestimating the arguments, which they imbibed closely, but in overestimating the Republican justices."

... Reed Abelson & Katie Thomas of the New York Times: "Although it would be folly to predict what the court will conclude [on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act], policy experts, insurers, doctors and legislators are now seriously contemplating the repercussions of a complete change in course two years after the nation began to put the law into place."

Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: French "methods of combating homegrown terrorism ... are quite different [from those of the United States], stemming from different histories, legal systems and conceptions of the state.... With the largest number of Muslims in Europe — nearly 10 percent of the population, often concentrated in poorer neighborhoods — and closer proximity to the Middle East and North Africa, France has focused more on preventing the recruitment of potential terrorists through a regular infiltration of mosques and radical Islamic networks.

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "General Motors ... has confirmed that it is pulling funding from the Heartland Institute, an ultra-conservative thinktank known for its scepticism about climate change. The decision by the GM Foundation to halt its support for Heartland after 20 years underlines the new image the carmaker is seeking to project as part of its social responsibility programme.... The funding cut – just $15,000 a year – is small beer for the institute, which has a multi-million dollar turnover, largely from a single anonymous donor."

Michael Doyle of the Sacramento Bee: "San Joaquin Valley congressional candidate Jose Hernandez flew in space, but his astronaut identity is now under political fire. In a pointed new challenge, a Sacramento law firm is asking a judge to block Hernandez from describing himself as an "astronaut/scientist/engineer" on the June ballot. The lawsuit notes Hernandez has left NASA." Via Steve Benen. CW: Excuse me. After being drummed from his speakership for ethics violations & other stuff, Newt Gingrich is still Speaker for Life, but an astronaut is not an astronaut a year after he leaves the program to run for office? ...

... Here is Hermandez' response to the suit:

Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "Last December, in response to an Op-Ed column by David Brooks, [Charles] Snelling [of Allentown, Pennsylvania] contributed a 5,000-word 'Life Report' essay to nytimes.com, devoting the final section to his wife [Adrienne's Alzheimer's] disease and his role in managing it.... On Thursday..., Mr. Snelling killed his wife and himself...." The essay Snelling wrote is here. Washington Post story here. ...

... Coincidentally -- Susan Jacoby in a New York Times op-ed: "... end-of-life planning is one of the few actions within the power of individuals who wish to help themselves and their society. Too few Americans are shouldering this responsibility.... As someone over 65, I do not consider it my duty to die for the convenience of society. I do consider it my duty, to myself and younger generations, to follow the example my mother set by doing everything in my power to ensure that I will never be the object of medical intervention that cannot restore my life but can only prolong a costly living death."

Right Wing World *

** CW: I hope you all will read this article by Chris Mooney, much of it excerpted from his book The Republican Brain, and tell us what you think about it. Obviously, the country cannot go on like this, with a considerable percentage of the population incurably delusional.

We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don’t think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget. I think there’s a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon’s budget. -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Chair of the House Budget Committee

There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus ... calling us, collectively, liars. My response is: I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget. -- Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

CW: Evidently Ryan figures the Chair of the Joint Chiefs & other top brass are lying to Congress when they cut their own budgets because they are not planning ahead for this:

Alex Pareene of Salon: "When John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman join forces, you can be sure of one thing: It will involve state-sponsored violence. Today, they want us to arm Syrian rebels. Though, you know, what they really wanted to call for was actually bombing the hell out of Syria, until there is freedom. They’re just taking it slow.... Sadly, Joe Lieberman will be leaving the U.S. Senate soon, which means John McCain and Lindsey Graham will need to find a new fake-Democrat best friend to add a patina of “bipartisanship” to their endless demands for explosions and shooting and death."

CW: Let that sink in. Paul Ryan is insisting the Pentagon take more money than the brass calculate they need at the same time he is slashing social safety net programs. So dedicated is he to taking from the taxpayer to give to the defense contractors that he is willing to publicly accuse the nation's top generals of perjury. P.S. Defense expert Ryan has never served in the military. He has, however, been the beneficiary of social safety net programs.

Kevin Drum: conservatives don't trust science. "This is not because conservatives are a bunch of undereducated yahoos.... Conservative elites have led the anti-science charge and the rank-and-file has followed. This is presumably part of the wider conservative turn against knowledge-disseminating institutions whose output is perceived as too liberal (academia, the mainstream media, Hollywood) in favor of institutions that produce more reliably conservative narratives (churches, business-oriented think tanks, Fox News). More and more, liberals and conservatives are almost literally living in different worlds with different versions of consensus reality."

As Rick Santorum fades in the polls & party leaders begin endorsing Romney because he's going to win (and not because they like him), Sam Stein & Jason Cheris of the Huffington Post dump their Santorum stuff. It's a pretty good read.

Pink Bowling Balls. I apologize for not linking this timely. Eric Dolan of Raw Story: "Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Wednesday told a young man not to use a pink ball at a bowling alley in Wisconsin. 'You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera,' he said.... 'Friends don’t let friends use pink balls,' he added." ...

... Erin Ryan of Jezebel: "... maybe Rick Santorum's aversion to a man bowling with a pink ball is rooted in the fact that Rick Santorum is a genitalia-obsessed homophobe with a God complex and no self awareness clinging for his life to the flimsy idea that in order for the world to continue existing as Santorum wants it to exist, boys must not bowl with pink balls. Is there anything gender or sex-related about which this man doesn't have a complex?"

* Where it's so comfy to live because everything and everyone is predictable -- even the warmongers.

Local News

Bruce Vielmetti & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A federal judge in Madison on Friday ruled that portions of Act 10 - which removed most collective bargaining for most public employees - are unconstitutional. Though critics of the law welcomed the decision as a major victory, backers seemed unconcerned since it preserved a main limit on bargaining, and suggested broader restrictions would pass muster if applied to all state workers." ...

... Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) has made it official — he’s running against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in this summer’s recall election." Journal Sentinel story here.

News Ledes

The Plot Thickens. Orlando Sentinel: "Tom Owen, forensic consultant for Owen Forensic Services LLC and chair emeritus for the American Board of Recorded Evidence, used voice identification software to rule out [George] Zimmerman [as the person crying for help on the 911 tape moments before Trayvon Martin was shot dead]. Another expert contacted by the Sentinel, utilizing different techniques, came to the same conclusion. Zimmerman claims self-defense in the shooting and told police he was the one screaming for help. But these experts say the evidence tells a different story."

New York Times: "The Muslim Brotherhood nominated its chief strategist and financier Khairat el-Shater on Saturday as its candidate to become Egypt’s first president since Hosni Mubarak, breaking a pledge not to seek the top office and a monopoly on power."

New York Times: "As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton worked hard on Saturday to focus attention on deepening security ties with the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf, she found herself having to deal with a surprising act of diplomatic defiance: the decision by the United Arab Emirates, an ally, to shutter the offices of an American-financed group that promotes democracy.

AP: "Maryland lottery officials announced early Saturday that their state sold what could become the world's largest lottery payout of all-time, but it wasn't immediately clear if that ticket holder would get sole possession of the $640 million jackpot or have to split it with other winners." ...

     ... Update: "Lottery ticket-holders in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland each selected the winning numbers and will split a $640 million jackpot that was believed to be the world’s largest such prize, a lottery official said Saturday."

Reuters: "The U.S. Secret Service is investigating a major cyber intrusion at an Atlanta-based payment processor that could expose millions of MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover cardholders to fraudulent charges. Processor Global Payments Inc said on Friday it had found 'unauthorized access' into its system early in March and notified law enforcement and financial institutions."

Reader Comments (4)

Re: Ryan and the Pentagon Budget: Here is a perfect example of what Chris Moody addresses (see link above for article). Ryan, not a shlep, is a smart cookie, but when confronted with facts, he dismisses them outright because HE knows best––he is right. How can one deal intelligently with such confirmed opinions? It's one thing to confront stupidity; it's a whole different situation when arguing with someone whose brain is functioning at a high level. Moody gives us Phyllis Shafley's Harvard educated son as an example of someone whose opinions and beliefs are blatant lies and fabrications which he puts up on his website and which are gobbled up like candy by the UNeducated.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

P.S. and while I was stirring my oatmeal, I realized I was exactly the type of liberal Moody describes: outraged at the lies of those darn right-wing deniers, although short of addressing them as ignorant. When trying to understand these conservatives, I always think of money––who's lining their pockets––but understanding the psychology is paramount and I think Moody is correct in pointing this out. I also think that "herd" think plays a part––how belonging to a group can give one strength, comfort, security, etc. And for this we could go back to the playground and find out who was who on the playing field. Was Grover calling the shots back there on the swings? or was he the one left behind.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

The Chris Moody article is interesting but manages to come to no real conclusions. Yes, its a little bit of this and that but I think some pieces are more obvious. First, Moody says intelligence has nothing to do with it. Wrong. Yes there are some smart people who are wing nuts but that assumes there is only on cause. Part of this constitutes the issue of what is intelligence. Well, its a complex mixture of abilities that are not necessarily tied to one another. Is it possible to be able to memorize and not think logically? Also to what extent is your upbringing an influence? Can you be trained to be a fool? Oh yes.
I believe that this brand of conservatism comes primarily from two pieces, fear and ignorance, and they are interrelated. It is a lot easier to not believe in the theory of relativity if you have no idea what it is. And if you do know, then you know that it does not go well with the concepts of your religion. And remember, intelligence has two parts, heredity and homework.
Having been brought up and told that your entire existence is dependent on your religious belief and never been taught anything that disagrees with that is a major piece.
So in summary, I don't think its a surprise that religion plays a very big part of this issue. And my 'conclusions' are also a little bit of this and that. But I believe the central piece is being raised in religion. It is easier if you are not so smart, but a really dedicated mother can screw up a very good brain. Remember, the sun travels around the earth.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

The Mooney piece intersected my morning fulminations about a letter to the editor I had just read. "There's no excuse for this kind of nonsense," I said, a bit surprised I was so indignant at what was no more than a typical anti-Obama screed. After all, the other day I had read another letter in the local paper that denounced a union-organizing effort by hospital workers because the union headquarters had an Obama picture on its wall. I just felt sorry for that writer and her ignorance, but this morning's silliness actually irked.

The difference? This AM's writer had a DR. after his name. He may not have learned much but his years of schooling said he had had a chance to be educated. I was annoyed because he chose not to be.

Sure, there's a psychologic element to the delusions of the right, and Mooney nicely summarizes many of them. But there's also a moral element. When someone who had a chance to learn something and chooses not to, there's a stink of self-serving evil to that choice, and it must be fought as well as understood and pitied.

Most of what the Right denounces as "liberal lies" are simply truths that make them uncomfortable, less important in universal scheme of things, or their enterprises less profitable. As I say, the Right Wing World is ego-centered. It's a big baby, juvenile and selfish and resistant to maturation. That's what makes it wrong.

It also has a lot of money. That's what makes it dangerous.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes
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