Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President addressed critical pieces of national security business that remained unfinished when the Senate left town. This Sunday at midnight, key tools used to protect against terrorist threats are set to expire":

The Ledes

Saturday, May 30, 2015.

Washington Post: "The rebel group that has seized power in Yemen has taken at least four U.S. citizens prisoner, according to U.S. officials who said that efforts to secure the Americans’ release have faltered."

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, May 29, 2015.

New York Times: "Ross W. Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road, a notorious online marketplace for the sale of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other illegal drugs, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday in Federal District Court in Manhattan. Mr. Ulbricht, 31, was sentenced by the judge, Katherine B. Forrest, for his role as what prosecutors described as 'the kingpin of a worldwide digital drug-trafficking enterprise.'”

Washington Post: "The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized pace of 0.7 percent in the first three months of the year, according to government data released Friday morning, a tumble for a recovering nation that until recently seemed poised for takeoff. The contraction, the country’s third in the aftermath of the Great Recession, provides a troubling picture of an economy that many figured would get a lift from cheap oil, rapid hiring and growing consumer confidence. Instead, consumers have proved cautious, and oil companies have frozen investment — all while a nasty winter caused havoc for transportation and construction and a strong dollar widened the trade deficit."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 29

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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New York Times: "Charter Communications is near a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $55 billion, people with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday, a takeover that would create a new powerhouse in the rapidly consolidating American cable industry.... The potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable completes a lengthy quest by Charter and its main backer, the billionaire John C. Malone, to break into the top tier of the American broadband industry. If completed, the transaction would be the latest in a series of mergers remaking the market for broadband Internet and cable television in the United States." ...

     ... Update: "Charter Communications agreed on Tuesday to buy its much larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56.7 billion in a deal that would transform the company into one of America’s largest cable and broadband operators."

Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Contact the Constant Weader

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Saturday
Sep222012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 23, 2012

Art by Evan Hughes for the New York Times.Economist Robert Frank in the New York Times: "The nation doesn't actually face difficult economic choices. Many problems will be expensive to solve, yet we can solve them without requiring painful sacrifices from anyone.... The debt is an important long-run problem, but deferring infrastructure repairs will only worsen it. Relative to current policy, then, such projects would address multiple pressing problems without distress.... By shifting taxes toward activities having harmful side effects, we can raise substantial revenue while expanding the economic pie." CW: good luck getting Congress to do the right thing.

Kathleen Geier, writing in the Washington Montly, comments on the New York Times report (which I also linked a couple of days ago) on a new study that shows "that the least educated white Americans are experiencing sharp declines in life expectancy." Geier writes -- as the Times reporters do not -- that "there is a compelling body of research that suggests that inequality itself -- quite apart from low incomes, or lack of health insurance -- is associated with more negative health outcomes for those at the bottom of the heap." Thanks to Trish R. for the link. ...

... Paul Krugman agrees: "... high inequality isn't just unfair, it kills."

Kevin Begos of the AP: "It sounds like a free-market success story: a natural gas boom created by drilling company innovation, delivering a vast new source of cheap energy without the government subsidies that solar and wind power demand. 'The free market has worked its magic,' the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, an industry group, claimed over the summer. The boom happened 'away from the greedy grasp of Washington,' the [conservative] American Enterprise Institute ... wrote in an essay this year. But ... over three decades, from the shale fields of Texas and Wyoming to the Marcellus in the Northeast, the federal government contributed more than $100 million in research to develop fracking, and billions more in tax breaks."

David Kirkpatrick & Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: "On the eve of his first trip to the United States as Egypt's new Islamist president Mohamed Morsi said the United States needed to fundamentally change its approach to the Arab world, showing greater respect for its values and helping build a Palestinian state, if it hoped to overcome decades of pent-up anger." The linked page has links to portions of the audio of Morsi's New York Times interview.

Gregory Wallace of CNN: Speaking at a Congressional Black Caucus gala, "Attorney General Eric Holder and first lady Michelle Obama weighed in Saturday on a battleground in the 2012 election: voting rights.... She did not specifically address voting laws, but stressed the importance of registering people to vote, calling it 'the movement of our era.'" ...

     ... Video of the First Lady's full speech is here.

Jeff McDonald of the San Diego Union Tribune: "Congressman Darrell Issa [R-Calif.] received a 'dishonorable mention' Wednesday on a list of the most corrupt lawmakers published Wednesday by ... Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington for placing information from a sealed wiretap into the congressional record earlier this year. Twenty members of Congress -- 12 Republicans and seven Democrats -- were singled out for what CREW said was unethical or illegal behavior over the past year. Eight of those, including Issa, received the dishonorablemention citations." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

CW: Frank Bruni's column, in which he interviews McClatchy News CEO & former Pittsburgh Pirates CEO Kevin McClatchy, is getting a lot of buzz today because McClatchy comes out as gay. My reaction is "Yeah, so?" but I guess this is a big deal over there in SportsWorld where at least one player wears gay-slur make-up to work.

Presidential Race

Quote of the Day. It's our turn, you guys. -- Mitt Romney, at a big-ticket fundraiser in California

Michael Barbaro & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "... a review of [Mitt Romney's] remarks at dozens of fund-raisers, in well-off neighborhoods from Los Angeles to Miami over the past year, highlights differences both subtle and significant in how he speaks to voters and donors.... The intimacy of the receptions (at homes and hotels), their transactional nature ($75,000 per couple is often pledged) and familiarity with that audience (usually filled with fellow businessmen and -women), appears to put Mr. Romney at ease. He uses looser language, divulges strategy, tells detailed personal stories and takes pointed questions." CW: Barbaro & Parker never suggest -- directly, anyway -- the obvious: that Romney is more comfortable when he's with "his people."

David Firestone of the New York Times: "Mr. Romney really doesn't see much difference between giving to charity and giving to the government.... In his mind, apparently, you can just add up the two figures into a new hybrid column, perhaps called, Total Obligation to Society, and make yourself look even more generous.... Taxes represent the obligations citizens have to each other and to society.... Charity is entirely voluntary, even for those who, like Mr. Romney, are asked by their religious authorities to tithe a fixed portion of their income.... One would think that someone running to be the government's chief executive would be proud to make tax payments, and would not try to reduce them through exotic foreign tax shelters and an outsized IRA, as Mr. Romney has done for years." CW: Firestone doesn't say so, but Romney has made this argument before: in mid-August, responding to Harry Reid's remark that he'd heard Romney hadn't paid taxes for 10 years, Romney himself said, in part, "... every year I've paid at least 13 percent and if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent."

New York Times illustration.Jill Lepore in the New York Times: Mitt Romney has been characterizing himself as an "underdog" since the primaries. "Mitt Romney is no Downtrodden Man. In May, at a fund-raiser in Florida, Mr. Romney expressed contempt for the '47 percent.' ... This is not a man who loves underdogs.... Research ... demonstrates that telling a story about yourself in which you are an underdog builds brand loyalty...." CW: you might think a man famous for riding in his car literally "under the dog" could find another term to call himself. ...

... Here's how UnderShamus treated Univision, the Spanish-language network which sponsored forums last week with him and with President Obama: according to McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed, both camps agreed to groundrules that the audience for the forums would be comprised mostly of students. But when the Romney camp couldn't come up with enough students, they demanded they be allowed to bus in "rowdy activists from around South Florida" or else Romney might have to "reschedule." Obama stuck to the rules. Then, with cameras rolling, Romney refused to appear on stage because he didn't like his introduction. He demanded it be changed & retaped before he would show his special brownface. One of the show's anchor, Maria Elena Salinas, called Romney's high-handed snits "a little bit of disrespect." ...

... CW: hey, what did she expect? The place was crawling with 47-percenters. At least Romney didn't demand they all show their papers or ask them for tips on lawn maintenance, for Pete's sake. Univision should have called his bluff & let the anchors spend the hour talking to an empty chair, which is of course a favorite GOP routine anyway. ¿Cómo se dice "major douchebag" en español?

Robert Reich: "So much wealth and power have accumulated at the top of America that our economy and our democracy are seriously threatened. Romney not only represents this problem. He is the living embodiment of it."

Jonathan Bernstein, in Slate, blames Tea Party conservatives, Fox "News" & Rush Limbaugh for Mitt Romney's faltering campaign.

Maureen Dowd disses Stuart Stevens, Romney's campaign guru & self-conscious dilettante. The New Republic profile of Stevens by Noam Scheiber, which Dowd refers to a couple of times, is here. Scheiber, BTW, blames Romney. ...

... Dowd also refers to a comment Lady Romney made on Radio Iowa Thursday, which contributor Forrest M. mentions in the Comments section:

Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring. This is hard and, you know, it's an important thing that we're doing right now and it's an important election and it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt's qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country. -- Ann Romney, addressing Republicans who have criticized her husband

... CW: I didn't see Lady Romney's little tantrum as anything more than another display of her customary petulance of privilege. But Jim Fallows of The Atlantic writes, "True as it might have been, Mrs. Romney's 'break' was also sad and damaging. Self-pity is doom for candidates.... Running for president is hard, but there is one thing harder. That's what happens if you win." One of the annoying downsides of our so-called democracy is that we tend to make our top royals sing & dance for the sorts of perks royals elsewhere simply inherit. Surely Republicans plan to fix that constitutional quirk soon.

Are Willard M. & Ann Romney "real Americans"? Not according to their just-released 2011 IRS 1040, where they claim their Belmont, Massachusetts, residence is in the "foreign country" USA.

CLICK RETURN TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.    ... Tax preparers say actual U.S. citizens would have left the "Foreign country name" space blank. As this couple did:

CLICK TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

Jennifer Agiesta & Nancy Benac of the AP: "The challenge for President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is how to lay claim to [undecided voters,] this small but mightily important swath of the electorate. These people are truly up for grabs, claim they're intent on voting and yet aren't paying that much attention." ...

... Just who are these undecided voters? Here are a few of them:

CW: The following belongs in Infotainment, but -- ironically enough -- I can't shrink the video, so I'm posting it here:

Bone-ified. Rushbo blames shrinking penis size on feminazis:

Reader Comments (12)

Check out Lady Ann's Friday diatribe, speaking in Iowa, the gist of
which was "you people (republicans) have to quit attacking my Mitt".
"You're so fortunate to have him to vote for" (I guess meaning that he
is someone other than Pres. Obama). Can't link, but search
upi.comannromneyspeechiowa.

September 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterforrest morris

In the comments recently someone cried "Where's the IRS?!" in reference to a piece about the superpacs. Bill Moyers (http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-elections-for-sale/) has a pretty good primer this week. If what Mr. Potter (oh, the irony!) is true, there's not much the IRS can do. It's up to the courts and congress to mandate disclosure.

Good luck with that people. For the time being we are so screwed.

September 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Here's a tip for Limbaugh:
"Pull quote (http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2012/sep/09/secret-world-male-anorexia?newsfeed=true):

“Being very thin makes your dick look enormous.”

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

Re: Weighing in on something I know nothing about; The old joke about why men die before their wives came to mind after reading the articles about the decline in life expectancy among under-educated whites.
None of the researchers was willing to venture a guess on why; outside the fast growing inequality gap, but I'm sitting in my lab coat with my furry research team gathered around (they do not wear lab coats) and we've come up with some pretty obvious reasons.
High school dropouts marry(or not) other high school dropouts and have babies at a younger age and more often than people that have high school educations. More babies at younger ages takes its toll.
Garage drugs fuck you up, the studies mention script drugs but no mention at all about garbage can meth. There are places in the south and the mid-west that would qualify for a Fed toxic waste clean-up if all the meth shops were identified. "Meth, takin' the last tooth out of the south".
Finally, hard to prove but we here at JJG research believe that the spark of life burns longest when the atmosphere of wonder is present. What's life without curiosity? Sure, we lose a few gatos, but all of us perros say a life without sniffing is a shortened life.
With no education there's no base to build curiosity. To be or not to be maybe the question but the question is the reason to be.
Most 90 and up aware people I have met (including my mother who was a life long learner) are still engaged and fascinated by life. When my mother was no longer interested in her books, music and art I knew she was ready for the next big adventure.
Interesting that the 'Party of Life' is doing its damnest to shorten our lives, isn't it?

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

Gotta love the how Lord and Lady Rat never quit on this bullshit about "turns". Mitt might want to cease and desist with his "It's my turn" whining, as if the presidency were an amusement park ride. Otherwise a helpful attendant will show him that sign outside the Oval Office with the chart indicating that "OCCUPANTS MUST HAVE BALLS VISIBLE TO THE NAKED EYE".

Then again Lady Rat might get in.

Maybe Limpbaugh's theory is true after a fashion, at least for Republicans.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Okay. Everyone needs to check out Sarah Siverman'a tirade against the teabagging Steal the Vote swine.

Go to YouTube/sarahsilverman

and look for her video on Republican cockblockimg at the polls. You can also find a link to this clip on Marie's pal Jim Fallows' Atlantic blog.

Best part is when Sarah determines that veterans who have lost limbs fighting for Bush and Cheney's invented war can't use their IDs to vote in vote stealing states but that NRA turds can use their membership ID (how is this any different from using your Captain Marvel Fan Club card as am "official" ID?????) to cast votes, as long as they vote "correctly".

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Usually I come here to be educated but occasionally, were this a newspaper, I would have the satisfaction of hurling it across the room with a stream of Akhilleus worthy invective. Such is my reaction to the "Are Willard M and Anne Romney....." article. Does anyone think that Mitt actually sits down to create a 300 page tax return? The article is neither Foxnewsworthy nor Bill O'Reilly humorous. At least when someone on MSNBC goes on at nauseum I can switch to CBC for 5 minutes and usually we're on to another subject when I return. Here, for days, I will see that cute headline.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercowichan

Wasn't gonna post today, but... Most days, I spend a lot of waking hours rummaging around in backwater news sites, trying to grasp what the hoi pololi are really worried about. And I gotta tell ya, I sense an enormous shift from republican bullshit to democrats... much of it down-ballot stuff.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer

@cowichan: Actually, no one other than their team of accountants sits down and creates a tax return over 2 pages. And we all know that.
My tax return is only a little less than 100 pages (small business, very
small) but I know enough to look at the first page to know that it's my
name, SSN, where I reside, etc. before I sign it. You should stay with
CBC.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterforrest morris

@cowichen: Lighten up. Of course I don't think the Romneys complete their own tax returns. (I don't do mine, either, & they're a lot less complicated than the Romneys'.) The Romneys' tax preparers at PriceWaterhouse Coopers have been prominently in the news this weekend, & I've linked to stories & posts that mention PWC. In addition, Romney mentioned numerous times in the past 6 months or so that he'd release his returns when the tax preparers got them ready.

I also don't think either the tax preparers or the Romneys themselves consider the U.S. to be a foreign country in which the Romneys happen to be residing in their quest to control the world or something -- any more than does Elizabeth Flock, whose piece I linked.

PWC screwed up the front page of the Romneys' estimated return, & -- especially given Mitt Romney's willingness to accommodate birthers, who actually do believe Barack Obama is a foreign agent who was born someplace else -- I thought it was funny.

Tossing your computer across the room is ill-advised. I'm glad you were able to control your rage. And next time, save it for something worthwhile. There is plenty out there that's PC-tossing-worthy.

Marie

September 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

DaveS thank-you for the Moyers link. I read the transcript with interest. It seems that the IRS could pursue the gift tax angle with mega secret donors but bullying by Congressional Republicans coupled with limited resources were the catalysts to shutting those inquiries down. Although Potter, suggests that passing stronger disclosure laws in the best response, I am cynical that will work. That has been soundly rejected to this point. I see no evidence that the extreme judicial activists on the Court will do little but double down on destroying the basic American ideal of one man one vote.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

The Kevin Begos story on energy subsidies is well worth reading. Especially in light of the fact that Congress, in its wisdom, may cut off further subsidies for wind power at the end of the year. The Republican argument is that the subsidies have dragged on two long and there is no certainty of a payoff. The article points out we have been subsidizing different forms of energy research and exploration for decades, with overall success, even though the condition of uncertainty always applies, and the lengthiness of the search often does as well.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.
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