The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, September 21, 2014.

New York Times: "Afghanistan’s election commission on Sunday pronounced Ashraf Ghani the winner of the country’s presidential election, but it withheld an announcement of the total votes won, despite an exhaustive and costly audit process overseen by the United Nations and financed by the American government. The suppression of the vote totals was apparently the final step necessary for the two presidential candidates to sign an American-brokered agreement to form a power-sharing government, giving the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah, substantial powers in what is, in effect, the post of prime minister."

New York Times: "NASA’s latest Mars spacecraft, Maven, arrives Sunday evening to study the mystery of what happened to the planet’s air. A 33-minute engine firing, beginning at 9:37 p.m. Eastern time, will put Maven in orbit around the planet. Acknowledgment will reach mission controllers 12 1/2 minutes later, the time it takes for a radio signal to travel to Earth from Mars. NASA’s website will provide a live broadcast beginning at 9:30 p.m."

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":

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 22

10:15 am ET: Latino educators meet

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

1:00 pm ET: Mental health & suicide prevention briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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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

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Friday
Sep282012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 29, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

     The transcript is here.

The Republican Voter Fraud Scandal Grows. Matea Gold, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "Florida elections officials said Friday that at least 10 counties have identified suspicious and possibly fraudulent voter registration forms turned in by a firm working for the Republican Party of Florida, which has filed an election fraud complaint with the state Division of Elections against its one-time consultant. The controversy in Florida -- which began with possibly fraudulent forms that first cropped up in Palm Beach County -- has engulfed the Republican National Committee, which admitted Thursday that it urged state parties in seven swing states to hire the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting. The RNC paid the company at least $3.1 million -- routed through the state parties of Florida, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia -- to register voters and run get-out-the-vote operations. Wisconsin and Ohio had not yet paid the firm for get-out-the-vote operations it was contracted to do." ...

... CW: this story was first exposed by blogger Brad Friedman & amplified by at least one other blogger, Gregg Flynn of Blue North Carolina, before mainstream media began picking it up. The Internets is where it's at.

Joe Nocera: U.S. News & World Report's college rankings are a counterproductive sham. "Universities that want to game the rankings can easily do so. U.S. News cares a lot about how much money a school raises and how much it spends: on faculty; on small classes; on facilities, and so on. It cares about how selective the admissions process is. So universities that once served populations that were different from the Harvard or Yale student body now go after the same elite high school students with the highest SAT scores. And schools know that, if they want to get a better ranking, they need to spend money like mad -- even though they will have to increase tuition that is already backbreaking." Schools lose points for effecting cost-saving measures. ...

     ... CW: bear in mind when reading Nocera that here -- and oftentimes -- he makes a broad assertion based on a single source who has a vested interest in pushing the assertion. I think Nocera & his source are probably right in this case, but if you have different information, please share it. Nocera's "methodology" is really unserious, & the Times should be ashamed for allowing him to repeatedly push the agendas of people he likes. This would be a good place for a little he-said/she-said.

Prof. Roger Martin, in a New York Times op-ed, writes that the capitalistic battle of today is not merely between capital & labor, but among capital labor and "talent." The result, labor loses.

Jim Fallows, who is a long-time friend of Sen. Jim Webb, comments on Webb's remarks -- embedded in yesterday's Commentariat -- about Mitt's characterization of the "47 percent": "This is a theme straight out of Webb's heart and brain and soul. I remember hearing almost exactly the same views from him when we first met in the late 1970s. We sometimes think about campaigns as if they're all about positioning and micro-strategy and all the rest. But every now and then we see the genuine passions and principles that are at stake." CW: watch the video if you missed it.

Presidential Race

Lydia Saad of Gallup: "Gallup election polling trends since the advent of televised presidential debates a nearly a half-century ago reveal few instances in which the debates may have had a substantive impact on election outcomes. The two exceptions are 1960 and 2000, both very close elections in which even small changes could have determined who won. In two others -- 1976 and 2004 -- public preferences moved quite a bit around the debates, but the debates did not appear to alter the likely outcome." Saad has the numbers, of course.

Markos Moulitsas: The Rasmussen polling operation "is doing its mightiest work to try and keep the fiction of Romney's candidacy alive, which really, is the only reason it exists." With charts to prove his point.

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "The Obama administration's shifting accounts of the fatal attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, have left President Obama suddenly exposed on the national security and foreign policy issues where he had enjoyed a seemingly unassailable advantage over Mitt Romney in the presidential race." ...

... Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy: "The two most discussed candidates to be America's next top diplomat now find themselves on opposite sides of the Libya issue, with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in the role of defending the administration's narrative and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) promising tough congressional oversight while giving the State Department room to conduct its own investigation. As the controversy over the administration's handling of the issue grows, Rice's comments on the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi are coming under increasing attack. Her insistence on a number of Sunday talk shows Sept. 16 that, according to the best information available at the time, the attack was an unplanned assault and the result of an anti-Islam video is facing harsh criticism from senators."

Jonathan Landay & Lesley Clark of McClatchy News: "Extremists from groups linked to al Qaida struck the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in a 'deliberate and organized terrorist attack,' the top U.S. intelligence agency said Friday, as it took responsibility for the Obama administration's initial claims that the deadly assault grew from a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam video. The unusual statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence appeared to have two goals: updating the public on the latest findings of the investigation into the assault, and shielding the White House from a political backlash over its original accounts." ...

... CW: Greg Sargent, BTW, characterizes the DNI's statement as a Friday afternoon news dump because, um, it was a Friday afternoon news dump. This suggests to me that -- contra the McClatchy report -- the goal wasn't to "shield the White House." If it had been, DNI would not have tried to bury the news.

... Bobby Cervantes of Politico: "Rep. Peter King [{R-NY}, who never saw a rolling camera he didn't like,] called for the resignation Friday of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for initially saying that the deadly Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was spontaneous." ...

... BUT WAIT! There's More. Igor Volsky of Think Progress: Mike Huckabee hints that President Obama should be impeached over his administration's evolving remarks about the Libya incident. ...

... CW: I know it's election season, but Peter King is a sitting Member of Congress & chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. Mike Huckabee is a former governor who thought he should be president. Don't these yahoos have some responsibility to stick to rational remarks? ...

Finally, Time to Play "Where's Willard?" Major Garrett of National Journal (& formerly of Fox "News") writes, "Nearly two weeks after promising to launch a multilayered critique of President Obama's handling of the Arab Spring, Mitt Romney has remained oddly silent even as evidence grows the administration misled the country about the motives behind the lethal attack in Libya that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead." Via Greg Sargent.

Michael Cooper of the New York Times: Mitt Romney just discovered the primaries are over, & he's running in the general election. Or something like that. He's "recalibrating his message"; i.e., changing his story.

Scott Shane of the New York Times: the Romney campaign tries to hang the Jimmy Carter label on President Obama. "Historians say the broad parallels between Mr. Carter's term and Mr. Obama's make for legitimate comparisons. But many of the details differ, and some tilt decisively in Mr. Obama's favor, both factually and politically."

CW: I'm totally with Ta-Nehisi Coates on this: Mitt's "47 percent" remark was no gaffe: "It is a thesis, delivered at some length, with confidence and vigor. It is unfortunate for Romney that it is now public, and that it fits right into the narrative Obama started drawing months ago. But I don't think this was a 'slip-up.'"

In Week 36 of Steve Benen's chronicle of Mitt's Mendacity, Benen identified 37 lies.

Right Wing World

CW: I have been making the point for some time that birtherism is beyond ridiculous because whether or not Barack Obama was born in the U.S., nobody doubts his mother was an American citizen, thus making Barack a "natural-born American," just like, say, John McCain, who was born in Panama to American parents. Well, evidently a few birthers got the message, so now there is a sickening, festering movement to smear the President's mother. The crazies -- a few of whom are rather prominent -- are not calling her a Russian-born Communist plant yet, but just you wait. Steve Benen has the details on the smears. ...

... Here's more from Michelle Goldberg of Newsweek.

Congressional Races

Freedom's Just Another Word for "Discrimination." I don't think the government should be telling people what you pay and what you don't pay. I think it's about freedom. -- Rep. Todd Akin (RTP-Missouri), on why he voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act ...

... Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "Gender discrimination in compensation has been illegal in the United States since the passage of the 1963 Equal Pay Act. But ... [Rep. Todd] Akin responded to a question about the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- which made it easier for workers to sue over unequal pay -- by suggesting that employers shouldn't even be barred from paying women less in the first place." CW: As Ari Berman pointed out while appearing on MSNBC today, this is the same argument employers used during the Gilded Age to quash child labor laws. You can see why Newt Gingrich -- who thinks poor (read "black") children should take the jobs of school janitors -- has endorsed Akin. Newt & Akin are of a feather. ...

... Rebecca Schoenkopf of Wonkette: "When Republican consultant Kellyanne Conway told Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin to be more like David Koresh -- the cult leader in Waco whose standoff with the ATF led to the death of 80 of his followers and himself -- apparently, Todd Akin listened! So how did Todd Akin set his compound on fire today? Oh just by saying that the Equal Pay Act, which dates back to 1963 and says it is illegal to pay Fallopian-Americans less than men solely on the basis of their plumbing, is unfair, because freedom." ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "So the only 'freedom' Akin is talking about here is the freedom of businesses to break the law. Which he thinks is fine, because he doesn't think that equal pay should be the law, even in largely unenforceable theory. Just like he doesn't think there should be a minimum wage. Hey, then businesses could pay women, like, 50 cents an hour. That's freedom for you!" ...

... CW: I hope readers don't pay too much attention to Schoenkopf & Clawson. They are just girls, they probably have PMS & they clearly have "issues." Let's hope they are not getting paid as much as the guys writing in the profitable bloggersphere. Besides, it's a disgrace those feminazis are not home making meatloaf, mashed potatoes & babies for their deserving hubbies. ...

... Update: Todd Akin distances himself from David Koresh. CW: see, Akin is way more liberal than you thought.

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Washington Democrats ... moved into the Maine Senate race on Friday with a sizable advertising buy to attack the Republican seeking to succeed Senator Olympia J. Snowe.... The $410,000 ad buy came as the position of the front-runner, former Gov. Angus King, an independent, has seen some erosion. Washington Democrats ... have avoided supporting their own candidate, Cynthia Dill, a state senator, hoping that Mr. King would walk away with the race and ultimately side with Democrats in Washington."

Ian Lovett of the New York Times: California's new voting law pits Democrat against Democrat in an expensive Congressional race in the San Fernando Valley.

News Ledes

BBC: "The youngest prisoner to be held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre has been returned to his native Canada. Omar Khadr had been held at the US base in Cuba since 2002, after being detained in Afghanistan aged 15. A military plane flew Khadr, the last Westerner at Guantanamo, to Canada early on Saturday. He will serve the rest of his eight-year jail term in Canada. He pleaded guilty to killing a US soldier in Afghanistan."

Washington Post: "Yemen's leader said Saturday that he personally approves every U.S. drone strike in his country and described the remotely piloted aircraft as a technical marvel that has helped reverse al-Qaeda's gains. President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi also provided new details about the monitoring of counterterrorism missions from a joint operations center in Yemen that he said is staffed by military and intelligence personnel from the United States, Saudi Arabia and Oman."

New York Times: "Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, who guided The New York Times and its parent company through a long, sometimes turbulent period of expansion and change on a scale not seen since the newspaper's founding in 1851, died early Saturday at his home in Southampton, N.Y. He was 86."

AP: "... the Supreme Court is embarking on a new term beginning Monday that could be as consequential as the last one, with the prospect for major rulings about affirmative action, gay marriage and voting rights."

AP: "One Somali journalist was shot dead by gunmen on Friday while a second journalist was beheaded and his body dumped in the street, officials and residents said, two attacks that bring the number of Somali journalists killed this year to 15."

Reuters: "Authorities in Libya thwarted plans for a huge demonstration against militia in the capital Tripoli on Friday, while in Benghazi, scene of mass anti-militia protests last week, supporters of an ousted Islamist group returned to the streets. Activists had hoped that a planned demonstration in the capital would be as successful as a giant anti-militia protest held in Benghazi last week, but only about 400 protesters turned up on Friday after the country's mufti and mosque preachers warned people not to attend."

Reader Comments (7)

Re polling results from Maine. (Story posted 2 years ago: http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/06/17/the-polling-business-a-close-look-at-rasmussen-reports/ ) A number of major news organizations like the New York Times will not cite Rasmussen's surveys because, unlike polls by Gallup, the Pew Research Center and those commissioned by the national newspapers and networks, which do live telephone interviews with respondents, Rasmussen uses what is known as IVR, for interactive voice response. This is an automated method where people who pick up the phone hear a recorded voice that asks them to give their responses to questions by punching a number on the keypad.

Checking comments on a recent & related story in the Portland Press-Herald suggests this is the polling method experienced by many Mainers. (Can such a poll have any legitimacy when it is likely based on, oh say 500 robo calls and probably 498 hang-ups?) Also, many said, even tho' they liked Dill, on election day they'd vote for Angus King vs. the fear & loathing of Charlie Summers; or as one commenter said: "... in other words, people who would prefer to not see Maine become a national laughingstock again a la 2010, when we put a man of questionable integrity and sub-standard intellect into a high public office. Yeah, probably best to avoid that. "

Interestingly, Jonathan Weisman's does not cite either of the two polls as background in his NY Times article—other then to say, "two recent polls"!

September 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

@Marie: I don't think there is a "she said" side to the Nocera story. As someone who has been a faculty member (and faculty spouse) in a number of different kinds of colleges and universities, it has been painfully obvious since US News started doing the college rankings that not only are they completely spurious, but they induced a kind of noxious money-eating competition (or should we say Mutual Assured Destruction) among the colleges that jumped into the improve the ranking game. My wife taught at a small but distinguished college when it decided to join the rankings race. Faculty stars were promoted at the expense of real scholars. The college went in ruinous pursuit of the same students being recruited by Yale and Harvard. An obscenely expensive and never-ending "capital campaign" lumbered into gear. I don't like Nocera and his hobby horses any more than you do. But this time, I think he has it right.

September 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCalyban

Let's connect some dots...

The unconventional mosaic of voting blocs the Romney campaign has been appealing to is quite clearly not going to outnumber the groups the 'modern' GOP has directly offended and/or berated.

Nearly every poll claims an increasing lead for Obama yet the Neo-Con wing is muddying the waters denouncing them as "fraudulent" liberal media propaganda ploys. Now even the VP hopeful is denouncing them, surely followed by a similar response from Romney. (Who wears the pants in that family?). Preparing the foundations for a surprising GOP win? (Well as you see here the polls said we we're winning in that state, didn't you see?)

Now we have mounting evidence of a DIRECT link to the GOP party and voter fraud. Knowing their cunning ways, Rove and his strategists will correct their revealing mistakes and return their patriotic practices back behind the curtains where they rightly belong. These accusations will therefore, unfortunately, be a non-issue unless a serious group of Very Important People take up the mantle and shine a national spotlight on these egregious activities.

I'm not holding my breath.

Illegal and immoral activities appear to be the only lifesaver for the GOP's sinking ship. Maybe that explains the apparent lack of funds for the Romney campaign's 'war' chest (BTW I just love our constant poetic military imagery use in our language, what explains this?). The Republican financiers might have finally given up on the democratic process and moved onto investing in more effective means of winning elections.

Get ready for many more YouTube videos of voter suppression and other clever technical tricks to systematically disenfranchise our fellow Americans.

This is the "war of all wars" people so we'd better take up our arms and battle 'til the last (wo)man standing. To the victors go the spoils, so let's not spoil our opportunity to give a decisive blow to the Neo-Con ideologues. All hands on deck!

September 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Could someone please explain why in the "The View" video from yesterday when Ann Coulter was holding court in her usual snarky monotone (I find this woman so obnoxious, so unappealing––her arrogance is astounding) and Whoopi asked Ann what she knew about being black, the video ended. Don't we want to know how Coulter responded? Would love to know the answer if anyone here heard it.

September 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

This comment, which @Mushiba wrote yesterday, got stuck in my infernal spam machine. So here it is, a day late:

As we become more embroiled in the lead up to the election with all the hate speech coming from the right wing, I think it is noteworthy that September 30 through October 6 is Banned Books Week. This event is promoted annually by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom ~ this year marks their 30th anniversary.
Here are two links you may find interesting:
General information: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek
and, to learn why a particular title made the list: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedclassics/reasonsbanned.

While this subject may seem off topic right now, book censorship efforts remain with us and have found fertile ground in places like Arizona and Texas (surprise, surprise).
As we become more embroiled in the lead up to the election with all the hate speech coming from the right wing, I think it is noteworthy that September 30 through October 6 is Banned Books Week. This event is promoted annually by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom ~ this year marks their 30th anniversary.
Here are two links you may find interesting:
General information: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek
and, to learn why a particular title made the list: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedclassics/reasonsbanned.

While this subject may seem off topic right now, book censorship efforts remain with us and have found fertile ground in places like Arizona and Texas (surprise, surprise).

September 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

@PD Pepe

When I Googled “Ann Coulter and The View” I got:

http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=17339061

I think this is what you are referring to. Coulter is just bat shit crazy. I listened to what she was saying and I just don't get it. She seems to be turning the registration of voters or the voting rights act on its head and saying that is what hurt blacks and Hispanics and/or saying the liberal democrats are what is causing the current problem. I kid you not. I did not understand what I first heard so I am sure my analysis s screwed up and frankly I do not want to spend my thoughtful energy trying to figure her out. She is one of the more disgusting talking heads I have ever witnessed. She is arrogant, egotistical, and to me anyway just vapid with her nonsensical blathers.

September 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFrom-the-Heartland

@P. D. Pepe: what I assume is the entire appearance of Ann Coulter on "The View" this week is here. I got as far as the part where Whoopi challenges her -- thank goodness it's near the top -- and Coulter did attempt to answer. Then they got into a back-&-forth, which -- like @From-the-Heartland -- I couldn't stomach, so I didn't listen.

September 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader
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