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.

 

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Monday
Dec192011

December 19 -- Gifts for the Kids!

Fred Drumlevitch has assembled a nice toy collection to help you if you're having difficulty deciding on those last-minute gifts for the little kids on your list. The theme here: teach your children well -- so they'll grow up to respect police brutality. Drumlevitch's shopping catalogue is a bit limited, so perhaps you can suggest some more ideas for great educational toys. I, for instance, have been looking for Protester Barbie.

Write on this or something sensible.

P.S. My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's amazement that "believers" actually liked Christopher Hitchens, an atheist. Would someone please explain to me why Hitchens' death has been treated to so much hype & remembrance while comparatively little attention has been paid to the death of Vaclav Havel, who, you know, sort of brought down the Iron Curtain?

Reader Comments (14)

How can I be sensible when I was just as good as Fred all year long and I'm gettin' squat for Christmas? No coal, no nothin'. Fred is getting everything including Dr. Denton's with the built-in foot slippers and back side drop pocket in state police blue. Lucky bastard... Hey Fred, can I come over and play? I promise I won't fly the drone into the Christmas tree or cover the Leggos with peanut butter and watch the dog eat them. Marie and Karen want to come over too; but they're girls and girls got cotties.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@"Doubthat" I'm an atheist that believes in all religions just not the followers of them. As to "The Answer"; we'll know when we get there. Till then, just guessing.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

Hmmmm is there a Mitch McConnell doll in Fred's bag of gifts? Squeeze it and it lies. Automatically. Any time, day or night.

I see on the front page of RC that ol' Mitchy is up to his usual tricks, making demands that a Democratic president not do things he supported when they were done with impunity by the last Republican president. So Mitchy is apoplectic that Obama might make some recess appointments. It never bothered him that Bush made scores of recess appointments that included such lights of intellectual honesty and sobriety as raving lunatic John Bolton. But one recess appointment caught my eye as I reviewed the many wildly inappropriate and downright incompetents candidates set up by Bush when congress' back was turned (seven in one day in 2003!).

In January of 2002 Bush appointed one Eugene Scalia to be Solicitor for the US Department of Labor. If the name sounds familiar, it is. And it wouldn't be at all a problem that the guy is Nino Scalia's son. What made it bad were these facts: Scalia worked night and day to discount problems experienced by workers, especially those who suffered repetitive motion injuries. Some solicitor for Labor. But Bush specialized in fox-in-henhouse appointments, much as Reagan did (remember James Watt as Sec'y of Interior?????). One other interesting nugget about Scalia was that Bush had hired Scalia's law firm to represent him in his 2000 bid to make sure that legitimate votes in Florida that did not support his bid to become King were not counted. He won that bid because Scalia's dad did not recuse himself from case, the outcome of which had direct impact, personally, professionally, and financially, on his son. Two years later, Bush rewarded both Scalias by appointing little Eugene to a post in which he could continue his work of harassing American workers and standing up for the rights of corporations to fuck them over.

I don't recall Mitchy ever once demanding that Bush not make those appointments.

One other thing. Mitch had no problem with Bush's recess appointments, likely because most of those appointees were outrageously unqualified or inappropriate for the positions they were handed. He has a problem with a possible Obama appointment because he's afraid the appointee to oversee corruption on Wall Street WILL be competent and appropriate.

Welcome to Right Wing World.

Send that McConnell Doll COD. I may not want it after all.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@ Akilleus. Thanks. Nino's little boy Gino slipped right by me. In the Department of Nepotism, I do remember Bush's appointing Michael son of Colin Powell to chair the FCC (Powell the Younger was a holdover to the FCC, having been appointed by President Clinton to be a Republican member of the commission, and as such did not have to be confirmed by the Senate when Bush promoted him.) At the FCC, Powell made himself Deregulator-in-Chief, which was his most important bad work, but his most famous act of stupid was fining Viacom/CBS more than half a million bucks for briefly airing Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.

I don't much care for Howard Stern, but he has his moments. To little Michael's face he said, "Guys like me who came from nowhere out of nothing and worked their way up and committed themselves to broadcasting and making a career of broadcasting have to answer to you. And it is a question as to how you got to where you got to. And let's face it: You got to where you got to, you got to the head of the class the way George W. Bush got out of the draft."

These legacies are just more reminders of why it's better to have a Democrat -- no matter how bad -- in the White House than a Republican. Don't like Eric Holder? (I don't.) Reminisce a moment about Alberto Gonzoles. Think Ken Salazar sucks? (I do.) Think back to Gail Norton & -- as Akhilleus reminds us -- James Watt.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

@Akhilleus;
Great comment as usual, but I just had to mention Elaine Chao (Labor Secretary January 29, 2001 – January 20, 2009), the only person who served under both Bush terms all the way through... here are the highlights of her tenure from wikipedia;

{"...After analyzing 70,000 closed case files from 2005 to 2007, the Government Accountability Office reported that the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division inadequately investigated complaints from low-wage and minimum wage workers alleging that employers failed to pay the federal minimum wage, required overtime, and failed to issue a last paycheck.
A 2008 report by the department's inspector general found that despite implementation of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (MINER Act), mine safety regulators did not conduct federally required inspections at more than 14 percent of the country's 731 underground coal mines during the previous year. The number of worker deaths in mining accidents more than doubled to 47. A 2009 internal audit appraising an Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiative under the Bush administration to focus special attention on problem workplaces revealed that OSHA employees failed to gather needed data, conducted uneven inspections and enforcement, and sometimes failed to discern repeat fatalities because records misspelled the companies' names or failed to notice when two subsidiaries with the same owner were involved, resulting in preventable workplace fatalities.
During Chao's tenure, Labor Department gave Congress inaccurate and unreliable numbers that understated the expense of contracting out its employees' work to private firms, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued on November 24, 2008.
A report by the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform alleged that Chao and other White House officials campaigned for Republican candidates at taxpayer expense. The report describes this as a violation of the Hatch Act of 1939, which restricts the use of public funds for partisan gain, but no action was taken by any entity with responsibility for enforcing the Hatch Act...."}

The esteemed Mr McConnell came into office with a net worth of approx. half a million dollars, he is now worth well over 10 times that amount. When he got married his father-in-law gave him a Mansion. His father-in-law is a billionaire Chinese shipping magnate. His wife is Elaine Chao, beautiful, powerful and incredibly wealthy. Mr. McConnell has all the charm and good looks of spoiled offal... He and his wife are arguably two of the most powerful people in the world, a world which they have had a large part in shaping.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Doktor

@Marie Burns:

Thanks for the mention and link.

It's a good point you've made (via your comment at my blog): Where are the protest toys?

At TOYS R US, TARGET, and WALMART, a search for "protest", "protester", and "protestor" either under "toys", or their "all categories" (or equivalent) doesn't produce any toys whatsoever.

Nothing at all at Toys R Us. Under some searches at Target and Walmart, served up are some books and CDs (any seemingly interesting ones requiring an online order, so not something to be picked up locally on impulse). There is (online) a "Protest Stencil Toolkit", which, not being under "toys", seems more directed at adults than kids. (It's also $10 cheaper at Walmart than Target!). Walmart does list "Gandhi: The Young Protester Who Founded a Nation", a National Geographic Society Childrens Book. I have no idea whether it's any good --- and it also requires an online order.

Which brings us back to your question: Where are the protest toys? Perhaps they are available via smaller manufacturers and retailers. Perhaps we should we glad that the majors aren't selling them --- appearance there might mean, like peace symbol pendants, that they are not considered to be a threat to the status-quo by the political and economic powers-that-be.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch

Dok,

Thanks for that reminder of how much the McConnell/Chao family has profited off the backs of American taxpayers while using their lofty positions to ensure that their corporate buddies never have to worry about pesky things like complaints from workers damaged or killed by corporate negligence.

I love Marie's point about considering how bad things could have been with Republicans in the White House. You think Alberto Gonzales was bad? Just imagine who the kind of whack jobs the Teabaggers would have insisted John McCain install in the various seats of power. We already know what kind of upside down cloud cuckoo land can obtain with out of control right wing extremists in the White House. In addition to good ol' Gonzales, just think of the many other scary characters Bush foisted on the American public. Many of these were people, like David Addington and John Yoo, who most people didn't even know about. Then we had idiots like Rumsfeld, Michael Brown, John Ashcroft, Douglas Feith, Hank Paulson, Monica Goodling, Paul Bremer, Bradley Schlozman, Ari Fleischer, and the lowest of the low, Karl Rove. And plenty more.

Wow. Just remembering how bad it was give me a migraine.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus, The Doktor, & Marie Burns:

The whole propensity to nepotism shouldn't surprise. Beyond the usual family enrichment, nepotism is simply the most effective way of insuring that the head political honcho's desired agenda moves forward, with reduced risk that the underling will at some future point testify or otherwise expose illegal directives.

For the above reasons, nepotism can occur in administrations of either political party. (Consider the Chicago Democratic machine). The real difference between Republican and Democratic nepotism is that Republican nepotism more directly and deliberately advances an agenda of reducing the effectiveness of government with regard to what I consider some essential functions, whereas most efficacy reduction under Democratic nepotism is probably incidental.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch

@Fred; I know you are a big kidder by your writing style but you can only yank my chain so far. Protest toys? Come on; your target market is protesting the very carp that you'd be trying to sell them. The real protest toys are the same ones I played with as a kid. My folks did not buy weaponry of any kind. We made our swords out of broom handles, shields out of garbage can lids and guns out of sticks. That's what the real occupy protest is about. People are sick and tired of having commercialism occupy their imaginations. They just don't know that yet. Corporate America wants to occupy your soul and they will sell you a little Lenin doll with a little coil of capitalistic rope if they can just open your wallet.
@nepotism; Not such a bad thing; think about Jesus and his Dad. Now that's a joke. But really it depends on the characters, certainly you all know someone who took over the family business or got a job by knowing somebody who knew somebody. Deny that and you live in a world I don't know. Whether the person is up to the job is another matter. Public office is different; civil service jobs should not be offered as a reward for being geneticly connected otherwise I think nepotism doesn't have to be bad. And, No. My father said I would never make it in the blue no collar world because my family was not of that world.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@Marie. Vaclav Havel's problem is that he wasn't an alzheimers addled murrican. He should've thought about that if he wanted us to revere him in death.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer

@FD;
I was alluding to something much more insidious. mcconnell is from a backwoodsy state of people who may be easily manipulated into voting for him repeatedly. he is no catch. his wife comes from a society with a distinct history of arranged marriages. while the Chinese think in terms of centuries Americans think about a new flat screen in 3D that'll just fit on their credit card. think trade deficit. think outsourced jobs. think stolen intellectual property that China has no cultural concept of. think about the fact that the U.S.has done almost nothing while China has eaten our lunch for almost 20 years.
That might be the only good thing that has come out of the economic crisis... Americans are finally starting to notice what country their widgits are made in.

The best protest toys are books.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Doktor

@Dok; couldn't agree more. Salud.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

On NPR this afternoon, moving tribute to Havel by Madeleine Albright.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCalyban

@JJG

Yes, I know that "protest toys" might be considered an oxymoron. But the fact is, unless they have grown up without exposure to television, computers, and contact with other children, most of today's kids have had enormous exposure to consumer products and slick sophisticated toys, and I believe that they are quite impressed — overly impressed — by such things. Unless they are dirt-poor, many kids nowadays aren't likely to be satisfied with the homemade toys familiar to someone your age or mine. Many of the toys I see advertised seem absurd to me — but probably are objects of envy to many kids.

Sure, it would be better if parents encouraged basic creative play by their kids rather than look for a ready-made, slick solution — better for the kids, and better for the family budget, which all-too-often takes an unaffordable hit from the spending done for Christmas presents. It would be better if parents could communicate to their kids what commercialism and other manipulations are all about, and why they aren't going to succumb to them. It would be better if parents spent adequate time with their kids, rather than try to substitute presents for attention.

But fact is, different parents vary greatly on how well they would rate with regard to those above considerations. Despite the political polarization in the country, I'd bet that parents would be distributed along a much smoother continuum with regard to toy-buying behavior. And unless the parents are willing to go against some very strong forces, they'll probably buy something.

So it's in that context that I actually see a place for "protest toys". IF parents buy their child a Barbie, I'd rather it was a "protest Barbie" than a fashion or paramilitary one. Better yet might be a cloth protest doll made by a small entrepreneur. If parents buy their child a toy vehicle, I'd rather it was a hippie VW bus replica — or a plumber's truck — than a police car. As far as the "Protest Stencil Toolkit" I mentioned is concerned, that's a true product, but yeah, my mention of it was sort of tongue-in-cheek, an example of what these stores were actually carrying.

With regard to my comment about nepotism, I was thinking about nepotism in government. As far as nepotism in private enterprise is concerned, while it may be within the business owner's right to operate that way, he or she should be careful, even if for no other reason than a purely business one. Nepotism can be awfully disheartening to loyal unrelated employees who may have done more over a long period of time to build up that business than the newly-installed relative of the owner ever will.


@The Doktor:

I do agree that, in general, the best protest toys are books. But my point about "protest toys" was related (as was my piece about police toys) to younger kids who are probably not yet big readers.

Your point about the dynamic with McConell wasn't what I was thinking about, but it's well taken, and correct.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch
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