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.

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 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."

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.

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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.

Tuesday
Feb212012

Worse than the Dark Ages

CW: This post began as a comment, but I wanted to give it greater prominence. Many thanks to author Akhilleus for reminding us that churchmen once were leaders in scientific inquiry in stark contrast to the Santorums & Gingrich's who would take us back to primitive explanations for natural phenomena. 

Bishop Robert Grosseteste. 1168-1253.The antipathy towards science and truth regarding the natural world on shocking display in the warped funhouse mirror that is the Republican Presidential primary campaign represents a new low in the right’s never-ending search for more and more insidious ways to grab onto power with every sucker on each of its slimy tentacles.

The Rick Santorum quotes about the environment offer a chance to consider how far we've come -- and how low we've sunk.

The contemporary hatred and distrust of science by the religious right and right-wingers in general has not always had this kind of power, even in the Dark Ages during which the pursuit of scientific knowledge was highly regarded among many religious teachers, scholars, and leaders. Robert Grossteste, an English bishop and master of theology, wrote extensively on optics, mathematics, astronomy, and even composed a treatise explaining the scientific basis for tidal activity (Bill O’Reilly’s mental capacity has yet to rise to the level of a guy who was writing on parchment paper in the 13th century).

The rise of methods of investigating the natural world and which prompted several scientific revolutions was supported and, largely, created by medieval churchmen like Grossteste, Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Henry of Ghent, William of Ockham, and one of the big guns in Church history, Thomas Aquinas hisself.

Aquinas, at least according to my reading of his work, would kick the intelligent design people down the stairs. They just don't fit in with his understanding of the workings of the natural world. This isn’t to compare Aquinas with Einstein as a pure scientist, but it is a recognition that for these scholars, science and religion could live together. In fact, many of them went toe to toe with the less enlightened clerics of their day. They didn’t always win, but in some cases (Roger Bacon) they were even supported by the pope (Clement IV, I believe).

These guys laid the groundwork for what became the empirical method eventually taken up by beacons of enlightened thought such as John Locke and David Hume, neither of whom were buddies of reactionary religious troglodytes.

So why the regression? Why is today’s religious right and their political enablers and supporters like Santorum and Gingrich even more benighted, more backward than ignorant, uneducated pissants who lived nearly a thousand years ago? Why do today’s religiously (un)informed right-wingers scream bloody murder at the very mention of climate change, stem cell research, natural selection, and a myriad other scientific topics when many of these same fields of study were avidly pursued by prominent members of the Church centuries ago with an eye toward increasing, rather than diminishing, humanity’s knowledge and understanding of the natural world?

The best guess is power and control. Empowering ignorance is a useful way to to stave off the sovereignty of truth. Holding up science as a straw-man/boogieman enables the right to distract the masses from the real problems facing them, problems often directly caused by right-wing policies. The religion vs. science screamfest is a handy smokescreen for the right as they attempt to divert scrutiny away from their actual plan of taking control of the country away from anyone who is not of their tribe and handing it to the wealthy, the oligarchs, and those whose motives are firmly grounded in their book of rules, the right-wing quarto of money, power, war, and control.

There’ve been a number of pieces written recently pointing out the strategic problems of this scheme. First, by elevating the ignorant, they have inadvertently ceded a certain amount of power and now the ringmasters are the ones having to jump through hoops of fire and stumble around the big top after tumbling out of their primary season clown car. The masses, fired up with the fury of imbecility, hatred, and ignorance, now want their show trials in which their enemies (science, truth, rationality) are hung in effigy, if not in reality. And what the rest of the country is left with is the very real possibility of an uninformed, willfully ignorant, hate-spewing birdbrain like Rick Santorum, as President of the United States.

It’s one thing when hypocrisy and rank desire for power cause you to foul your own house with the stinking sluice of sluggish stupefaction and feeble-minded ineptitude, but when you drench the rest of the country with this effluence, you deserve nothing less than perdition and infamy.

And demanding that schoolchildren learn magical thinking in place of scientific truth is more than a step backwards. It’s a descent into insignificance and complete collapse.

But that's the Way of the Right: If we can't be in charge, we'll burn it all down.

Any better reason to go out and vote against these monsters?

-- Akhilleus

Reader Comments (7)

Amen!

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

@Akhilleus
I agree with you on all points except I take offense at comparing Santorium's brain to that of a bird. I'm an avid bird watcher and can say with certainty that birds are very intelligent!

I am quite worried over the things that Santorium has been spewing. I find I must remind myself that not all Christians are so radical. Him and his ilk with their words spread fear among people. I just hope that the majority of citizens are more tolerant of differences among people or least we see a revival of the Salem witch trials.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie in Massachusetts

@Akhilleus--

As a scientist--by worldview, education and career--and, yet, a Progressive Christian, let me say that IF the whack jobs who seem to dominate Republican primaries actually DO succeed in nominating Santorum, the Republican party will experience the greatest LANDSLIDE LOSS since they ran with Barry Goldwater.

Thinking Conservatives, Independents and, yes, even most Christians will finally take a close look at this guy and either flock back to Obama, sit out the election, or vote for third-party candidates. I know I will do one of the latter two actions.

Here's the latest extremist religious lunacy that has been dredged up on Santorum:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57382008-503544/santorum-in-08-satan-is-attacking-america/

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee

Charles Pierce performs his magic once again:

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/rick-santorum-church-talk-6789284?src=rss

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

From outside the United States, there is very little difference - and what there is only works to US disadvantage - between it and the most fanatical countries on the planet. Exaggeration? Vaginal probes? Ultrasound on fetuses? Arguments against contraception? Years ago, while the Iran hostage crisis was in full swing, our national broadcaster, the BBC, had an interview with an American historian, who said that in order to understand Iran, we had to understand that there was very little difference between the two countries. Imagine what that historian would say now, three decades later.

On another note, I would like to thank Ms Burns for her tireless work on this blog and NYTXaminer. It is much appreciated, although at my darkest moments, I hear her voice as one crying in the wilderness. Thank you very much for your good sense.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerence

Sorry! Read CBC, not BBC. I was listening to the BBC telling us of the death of Marie Colvin.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerence

Julie, my apologies for the avian gaffe. You're quite correct about birds. I have several feeders near our kitchen windows that allow us to observe their sociology up close. They seem much more able to negotiate turf disputes and group dynamics than many current politicians. And Zee, I'm always thrilled to hear from thoughtful members from the conservative ranks. I'm thinking that were I in your shoes I would bristle at the way the term "conservative" has been co-opted by those on the far right. When I think of conservatives I think of Theodore Roosevelt not Rick Santorum who is clearly out beyond the pale. And by the way, your self identification as a progressive Christian would make you, in Rick Santorums rheumy eyes no Christian at all. In fact, according to comments he made in 2008, you are the handmaid of the devil. I think (at least I hope) that it is this kind of complete intolerance of any who exhibit the tiniest difference from these buffoons that may eventually bring them down. Claims to be the sole source of the Truth of God, coming from hypocritical fools like Santorum should be a clear indication to real Christians that this guy is damaged. Spiritually, ethically, morally, and intellectually. The pathology of the Rick Santorums of the world would keep a psychology grad student busy for years. It used to be that hard times brought out the crazies. Certainly for many, these are hard times. The incredible part of this puzzle is the fact that a huge number of the difficulties in which we are embroiled stem from policies promoted by politicians like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

The country is in dire need of two serious political parties (we'll leave aside Tom Friedman's third party for the nonce) who can work together when necessary and serve to balance each other when required. Right now we don't have that. We've got a Democratic Party so battered by decades of bullying that they've adopted a permanent shell to hide under. Then we've got a Republican Party that has sold its soul to the likes of Santorum.

What a state we're in!

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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