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.

 

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Monday
May072012

The Commentariat -- May 8, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Brooks' nonsense of the day. The NYTX front page is here.

Alec MacGillis of The New Republic writes a fabulous post on "Robert Caro and Our 'Great Man" Fetish."

Paul Krugman speaks to Chrystia Freeland about stimulus spending & jobs growth:

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "After months on the sidelines, major liberal donors including the financier George Soros are preparing to inject up to $100 million into independent groups to aid Democrats' chances this fall. But instead of going head to head with the conservative 'super PACs' and outside groups that have flooded the presidential and Congressional campaigns with negative advertising, the donors are focusing on grass-roots organizing, voter registration and Democratic turnout."

Presidential Race

Steve Peoples of the AP: "Campaigning in the backyard of America's auto industry, Mitt Romney re-ignited the bailout debate by suggesting he deserves 'a lot of credit' for the recent successes of the nation's largest car companies. That claims comes in spite of his stance that Detroit should have been allowed to go bankrupt." CW: That's the lede. Later in the piece, Peoples writes, "Romney has repeatedly argued that Obama ultimately took his advice on the auto industry's woes of 2008 and 2009. But he went further on Monday by saying he deserves credit for its ultimate turnaround. The course Romney advocated differed greatly from the one that was ultimately taken. GM and Chrysler went into bankruptcy on the strength of a massive bailout that Romney opposed.... Romney opposed taxpayer help." It is worth emphasizing that this is an AP story -- one that may appear in many papers throughout the U.S. The MSM -- even in straight news stories -- is beginning to point to Romney's implausible stories. ...

... ** In a comment on this story, Akhilleus offers hope that Willard will be abducted by aliens. (CW Update: to clarify, I guess I should say that by "aliens" I mean extraterrestrials, not those nice young men who used to mow & trim the Romneys' lawns before Willard was running for President, for Pete's sake.)

Beth Reinhard of National Journal: "... it’s hard to see [President Obama's] unwillingness to declare his support for gay marriage as anything other than political expedience. For evidence, look no further than  North Carolina, poised on Tuesday to join the majority of states with constitutional bans on gay marriage." ...

... Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post: No, Obama's positions on gay rights are not just like Romney's. ...

... BUT Greg Sargent: "Some leading gay and progressive donors are so angry over President Obama's refusal to sign an executive order barring same sex discrimination by federal contractors that they are refusing to give any more money to the pro-Obama super PAC, a top gay fundraiser's office tells me. In some cases, I'm told, big donations are being withheld." ...

... NEW. Walter Shapiro, writing for Yahoo! News: "In 2013, either as a second-term president or as a private citizen beyond political ambition, Obama almost certainly will reinvent himself as a supporter of gay marriage." ...

... NEWER. Dana Milbank: Jay Carney didn't have a big enough mop to clean up this mess. A funny, if frustrating, reprise of yesterday's press briefing wherein Carney's briefs were tied in knots.

... NEWEST. Peter Wallsten & Dan Eggen of the Washington Post: "Several people close to the White House said the [Biden] episode has exposed internal tensions within Obama’s team between those who want the president to say he favors same-sex marriage before the November election and others who worry about a political backlash if he does -- not just among conservatives and working-class voters but among African Americans.... About one in six of Obama's top campaign 'bundlers' are gay..., making it difficult for the president to defer the matter. Activists are planning a campaign for the adoption of a pro-gay-marriage plank in this year's Democratic Party platform. And a series of referendums this year on same-sex marriage -- including one in the swing state of North Carolina on Tuesday -- are putting the issue at the forefront." ...

... AND New York Times Editors: "By failing to go the next step and actually say that he supports the freedom to marry as Mr. Biden does and as polls show nearly a majority of Americans do, Mr. Obama risks dampening the enthusiasm of allies without gaining the support of equality's opponents. It's not an unfamiliar place for this president to be, unfortunately."

Dave Weigel of Slate: "New Frontiers in Neo-Swiftboating: Obama Was Ready to Blame the Troops!" The right wing, including former Bush AG Mike Mukasey, goes insane trying -- without success -- to find ways to undermine Obama's success in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Reid Epstein of Politico: "Faced with a questioner who declared that President Barack Obama should be 'tried for treason,' Mitt Romney calmly answered the woman’s question about constitutional principles and then allowed her a follow-up question.... As the event ended, Romney told reporters on the ropeline [who asked] if he agreed that Obama should be tried for treason. 'No, no, no,' he said, shaking his head. 'No, of course not.'” ...

... Andy Rosenthal: "Why do politicians have this cowardly habit of standing by while their supporters say ridiculous things, without making the slightest attempt to set them straight? Afterward, they say they have no control over their supporters. But presumably they have some control over themselves." ...

... Jonathan Bernstein: "If everything that Mitt Romney, Republican Members of Congress, and the other Republican presidential candidates say about Barack Obama was true, then Obama should be tried for treason. It's that kind of rhetoric that's the problem, not Romney's immediate response to what someone says at a rally."

Brian Bakst & Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "Don't tell Ron Paul the Republican primary is over. He's too busy mucking up Mitt Romney's efforts to accumulate enough convention delegates to officially claim the GOP nomination for president. Paul's supporters won control of state GOP conventions in Maine and Nevada last weekend, stripping Romney of delegates in Maine but graciously letting him keep the ones he won in Nevada's February caucuses. Next up: Republican state conventions in Minnesota, Missouri, Louisiana and Iowa."

AND "The Dog Ate My Birth Certificate." In another interesting presidential election aside, Prof. Janet Davis, in a New York Times op-ed: "Our fears of consuming canines ... have had more to do with moralistic xenophobia and exclusion than with animal welfare, public health or ethical taboo. The flap over Mr. Obama's youthful consumption of dog meat is a resurrection of the birther-conspiracy wolf dressed in dog's clothing."

News Ledes

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Shrugging off millions of dollars spent by labor groups to defeat him, Tom Barrett walked to victory in Tuesday's Democratic primary and set up a more taxing sprint toward June 5 -- a historic recall that will be a rematch of his unsuccessful 2010 race against Gov. Scott Walker."

New York Times: "Richard G. Lugar, one of the Senate's longest-serving members, a collegial moderate who personified a gentler political era, was turned out of office on Tuesday, ending a career that had spanned the terms of half a dozen presidents and had seen broad shifts in the culture of Washington."

AP: "North Carolina voters have approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman, making it the 30th state to adopt such a ban. With 35 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday, unofficial returns showed the amendment passing with about 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent against."

Raleigh News & Observer: "Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney added to his big lead in the race for convention delegates Tuesday by winning Republican presidential primaries in North Carolina and Indiana, inching closer to the number of delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination."

Yahoo! News: "After learning of the alleged sex tape featuring John Edwards and his mistress, Rielle Hunter, during the 2008 presidential campaign, a former Edwards adviser said he tried to warn the Obama campaign not to consider Edwards for a spot in the administration."

New York Times: "Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche, died on Tuesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83 and lived in Ridgefield, Conn."

ABC News: "In a stunning intelligence coup, a dangerous al Qaeda bomb cell in Yemen was successfully infiltrated by an inside source who secretly worked for the CIA and several other intelligence agencies, authorities revealed to ABC News." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The suicide bomber dispatched by the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda last month to blow up a United States-bound airliner was actually an intelligence agent for Saudi Arabia who infiltrated the terrorist group and volunteered for the mission, American and foreign officials said Tuesday. The suicide bomber dispatched by the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda last month to blow up a United States-bound airliner was actually an intelligence agent for Saudi Arabia who infiltrated the terrorist group and volunteered for the mission..."

New York Times: "With a polarized Congress already on the defensive, President Obamaon Tuesday will outline a five-point 'to do' list for lawmakers that packages job creation and mortgage relief ideas he has proposed before, administration officials say." ...

     ... Yahoo! News Update: "President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Tuesday to act on a modest five-item 'to-do list' to fight unemployment, showcasing the tasks on a virtual Post-It note he mockingly said would not 'overload' lawmakers."

There are elections today in Indiana, Wisconsin & North Carolina:

     ... Indianapolis Star: "Polls opened at 6 a.m. today as Hoosiers make their final picks for Republican and Democratic nominees for the November election. Headlining today's election is the Republican race for U.S. Senate between Sen. Richard Lugar and Treasurer Richard Mourdock." ...

     ... Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The four Democratic candidates Monday rolled into their final day of campaigning before the primary election in Wisconsin's historic gubernatorial recall."

     ... Raleigh News & Observer: "A final poll of likely North Carolina voters conducted over the weekend continues to give a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions an easy margin of victory in Tuesday’s election while the Democratic contest for governor is tightening." The News & Observer election page is here.

AP: "The Senate is steaming toward a showdown on a Democratic proposal to keep student loan interest rates from doubling for 7.4 million students. In a measure of how the upcoming election is driving work in Congress these days, it's a vote Democrats won't terribly mind losing -- which is probably what will happen."

New York Times: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the chairman of the opposition Kadima Party struck a deal early Tuesday morning to form a unity government, a surprise move that staves off early elections and creates a new coalition with a huge legislative majority."

New York Times: "Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist whose escape last month from house arrest and subsequent flight to the American Embassy here triggered a diplomatic crisis, said Tuesday that Chinese authorities have begun to assist him in applying for permission to travel to the United States."

New York Times: "Late last year, fishermen began finding dead dolphins, hundreds of them, washed up on Peru’s northern coast. Now, seabirds have begun dying, too, and the government has yet to conclusively pinpoint a cause."

Washington Post: "U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter announced to his staff Monday morning that he was stepping down this summer after serving less than two years on the job."

Washington Post: "Rick Santorum, who bowed out of the Republican nominating contest after capturing 11 states and some 3 million votes, endorsed Mitt Romney late Monday. In a letter to his supporters, the former Pennsylvania senator said that he was impressed with Romney's 'commitment to economic policies that preserve and strengthen families.'”

Reader Comments (5)

Regarding the belated efforts on the part of the mainstream media to out Romney as the shameless liar that he is, I'm reminded of a famous Twilight Zone episode starring the inimitable Andy Devine.

In it, Devine played a small town's chronic liar who spun out massive whoppers for the consumption of anyone gullible enough to listen. While pumping gas for newcomers to the town he claims to have been the one who told Henry Ford how to construct his cars. The newcomers (like many Republicans) and unable to discern fact from fiction. They are aliens for whom lies are an unknown. They take even the craziest statements at face value and determine, pretty quickly, that Mr. Devine must be the smartest man on the planet and so, abduct him, for removal to their home planet.

We can only hope for a similar fate for Willard, with the understanding that no matter how weird the alien culture into which he is absorbed (the modern GOP), he will be weirder still.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Oh yeah, I meant to pass this along earlier.

This is a reminder of the glory that used to be the New York Times. Back in 1951, the Times Magazine published what has come to be known as a Liberal Decalogue, written by British gadfly, philosopher, activist, and occasional pain in the ass, Bertrand Russell. Now whatever your personal feelings about old Bertie, you have to at least give the guy credit for coming up with a thought experiment on definite descriptions with an unforgettable name: "The Present King of France is Bald."

Here then is Russell's prescriptions for a better world.

Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it.

The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.

4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.


The name of Russell's article, by the way, was "The Best Answer to Fanaticism: Liberalism."

Ain't it the truth.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

CW,
For today's post, take a bow. Not being a learned person,
I could never marshal the words you use to shred the gentleman's column. Thank you doing this site daily.
Mae Finch

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMae Finch

Mr., Ms. Republican candidate please let me know what you think of taxes.
Bachmann : God told me to work at the IRS so I know a lot.
Perry: Uh, duh, what exactly do you mean?
Cain: Sorry, it is now sex time.
Gingrich: This is not important enough for a mind like mind to address.
Santorum: In the year 1200, taxes were a item given by the poor to the rich. Some things should not change.
Paul: Taxes should be voluntary.
Romney: Just tell me what you think, I am sure I will agree.

Welcome to America.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

@Akhilleus--

I might re-name Russell's "Liberal" Decalogue slightly differently, and call it "The Rational Thinker's Decalogue." I see nothing inherently "Liberal" about it, except perhaps in the tradition of Lockean and Burkeian "Classical Liberalism," which, I think, does not correspond to modern-day conceptions of "Liberalism."

Still, words to live by, especially for one like myself, who values "doubt" as an important character trait in and of itself.

As to whether or not "The Present King of France is Bald," well, I'll leave that important question to philosophers and logicians to parse out, if they can.

May 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee
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