Tonight is the WH correspondents’ dinner.
via the NYT Caucus blog’s live coverage:
Obama’s speaking right now… says tonight he’s going to release his birth video….
He played Lion King Circle of Life.
“I want to make clear to the Fox News channel. That was a joke.” — Obama
Also, here’s some more theater of the absurd from this week… Fake Obama v. Real Ron Paul on Stossel’s Fox show (h/t Stacy):
A Nato air strike in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, has killed the son of the Libyan leader, Colonel Gadaffi, a government spokesman has said.
Colonel Gaddafi himself was in the house which was hit by the strike, the spokesman added, but he was unharmed.
His son Saif al-Arab was killed, as well as three of the Libyan leader’s grandsons.
Saif al-Arab, aged 29, was the youngest of Muammar Gaddafi six sons …
Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the villa was attacked “with full power.”
“The attack resulted in the martyrdom of brother Saif al-Arab Muammar Gaddafi, 29 years old, and three of the leader’s grandchildren,” he said.
“The leader with his wife was there in the house with other friends and relatives, the leader himself is in good health, he wasn’t harmed.” Col Gaddafi’s wife was also unharmed, he said.
“This was a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country,” the spokesman added.
Good afternoon, here are some updates on the tornadoes that destroyed towns, neighborhoods and lives. The death toll is now over 350, making this one of the worst storms to hit the US in 80 years.
The death toll from the second deadliest U.S. tornado outbreak on record rose above 350 on Saturday as thousands of stunned survivors camped out in the shattered shells of their homes or moved into shelters or with friends.
With some estimates putting the number of homes and buildings destroyed close to 10,000, state and federal authorities in the U.S. South were still coming to terms with the scale of the devastation from the country’s worst natural catastrophe since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
One disaster risk modeler, EQECAT, is forecasting insured property losses of between $2 billion and $5 billion from the havoc inflicted by the swarm of violent twisters that gouged through seven southern states this week.
The death toll in Alabama, the hardest-hit state, rose to 255 on Saturday, with at least 101 more deaths reported in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, Virginia and Louisiana.
The death toll from the week’s tornado outbreak, which is still expected to rise, was the second highest inflicted by this kind of weather phenomenon in U.S. history. In March 1925, 747 people were killed after tornadoes hit the U.S. Midwestern states of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
The next two links are local areas that are accepting help and donations for the victims of the tornadoes in Alabama:
This next link is to a press release from the Red Cross. There are personal stories which bring the human tragedy of these storms into focus.
The physical needs created by a disaster—for food and shelter—are relatively straightforward. But as entire communities deal with what nature has wrought, getting back a sense of security and stability may be an even greater battle.
On Friday night, more than 1100 people spent the night in American Red Cross shelters across multiple states, including more than 700 in hard-hit Alabama.
In addition to giving people a safe place to stay, the Red Cross will have more than 115,000 ready-to-eat meals and thousands of relief supply items to distribute in Alabama over the next three days. The Red Cross has 61 emergency response vehicles in the state that will be traveling through neighborhoods to help residents.
Behind these large aggregate numbers are individuals whose world has been turned upside down and who are seeking to put their lives back together again. Here are some of their stories.
To donate funds to the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, please click the links below:
I won’t post pictures of destruction, that is something we all have seen…I will post images of the people…the victims. Click the images to read the articles they are associated with.
Morning, news junkies.
Chris Hedges ushered in 2011 by calling it a brave new dystopia. For a brief moment in time, the Egyptian and Wisconsin protests provided a glimmer of “there’s something happening here,” but then we were returned to our regularly scheduled dystopic nightmare. I don’t know about you, but lately I’m finding that the actual headlines these days sound more satirical than the ones in the Onion. They leave me either wanting to lolsob…or just sob. So, on that note…
Above, to the right… from National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel:
This photo of sailboats at sunset has us yearning for the sea, which makes it an Editors’ Pick for week one of our 2011 Traveler Photo Contest in the category of Outdoor Scenes. The photographer Ken Michael Jon Taarup writes, “Boracay has never ceased to amaze many people from all over the world. With its white crystal sand, pristine blue waters, and beautiful sunsets, this place still tops the list of the most visited and beautiful resorts in the Philippines.”
That’s so you have something calming to visualize while you read my Saturday picks.
Alright, grab your morning cuppa if you haven’t already, and read on.
Let’s just get the biggest distraction out of the way first…
- William and Kate are married. You can now call them Duke and Duchess. That’s all I’m going to cover on that.
Tornado aftermath: Pictures say a 1000 words
- via the Columbia Missourian, PHOTO GALLERY: Tornado damage in Alabama. The photo of the woman carrying her clothes away while looking down at what used to be her home says so much, so simply. Also, via the Mobile Press-Register, Alabama tornadoes: Epic scenes of disaster across state (photos, video)
- In case you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a facebook page called “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes” trying to help victims find their belongings. Here’s a CNN report on it.
“Depressing women’s history news of the week”
- via Historiann, Roe v. Wade lawyer Sarah Weddington to be fired from adjunct position at U. Texas. Way to not Hook ’em, Horns.
- Pro-choice, defined. This one is a real barn-burner, though it’s sad that in the year 2011, the pro-choice position has to be spelled out to both Republicans AND Democrats:
Being pro-choice means understanding that self-determination for women regarding sex, sexuality, reproduction and motherhood is a fundamental precursor to womens’ ability to achieve their own educational, economic and familial aspirations, a fundamental precursor to the health and well-being of individuals and families, and a core condition of the long-term stability and health of society. It therefore also means understanding the profound connections for women–supported by more than ample evidence–between economic and educational status and unfettered access to comprehensive sexual health education, contraception, family planning services, and abortion care.
The War on Unions… now brought to you by Dems in MA?
The bill will take a month before coming to the state Senate, but the overwhelming vote in the House, and [Gov.] Patrick’s kinder, gentler rights-stripping plan, make it look like something’s going to happen in Massachusetts. Time to get out in the streets in another blue state.
- Solidarity forever. WI State Journal/Capital Times… Fight Songs: Musicians take a stand to support Wisconsin protests, quoting RATM guitarist Tom Morello:
“I’ve played at hundreds of protests and demonstrations, and this was really unique,” he said. “It was every segment of society. It was radical students and cops on the same side, and I’d never seen that before.”
- The otherwise serious and reliable Laura Rozen overreacted a bit to Hillary taking a few days of Easter R&R time off with her family. There’s a reason Hill was dubbed the “Energizer Secretary.” The woman works non-stop. She has a personal life that she’s entitled to attend to and/or just recharge every few years or so.
- Sean Penn spotted at Foggy Bottom on Thursday. Rozen says one reason for his visit to the State Department might be his recent humanitarian work in Haiti.
- Hill pic of the week — Women in power pow-wow: Hillary and Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa met on Friday:
When Bushies fight… Get out your popcorn
- Via yahoo’s The Ticket, Condoleezza Rice fires back at ‘grumpy’ Donald Rumsfeld:
First of all, I didn’t have modest experience in management. Managing Stanford University is not so easy. But I don’t know what Don was trying to say, and it really doesn’t matter. Don can be a grumpy guy. We all know that.
As always, Black Agenda Report tells it like it is…
- This is an instant classic! Please read and disseminate. Bruce A. Dixon’s Top Ten Answers To Excuses For Obama’s Betrayals and Failures. Note Number 9 — it’s for all the Obamaphiles who won’t accept that Obama is the third Bush-Cheney term. And, to quote a snippet from Numero Uno (Re: “It’s our fault the Obama presidency hasn’t kept its commitments. We need to ‘make him do it.’”):
You cannot make a US president do what he fundamentally doesn’t want to. Michelle Obama is nice to look at, but she is no Eleanor Roosevelt. Franklin Roosevelt used to publicly bask in the hatred of wealthy banksters. Barack Obama’s dream is mostly not to piss off rich people.
- For more on the atrocities of Bush-Cheney III, give BAR’s April 25th podcast a listen. In the first segment BAR’s Glen Ford interviews Labor Notes editor Mark Brenner, who sees no growth and no jobs on the horizon and says:
“Absolute disaster for working folks. If we follow the Ryan plan or if we follow the Obama plan, none of it spells good news for the rest of us.”
- In another segment, Clarence Thomas, former Local 10 union secretary-treasury, says “what one needs to understand is that this is not simply an attack on public sector workers, it is also an attack on public services.” Thomas says the goal is to put labor back where it was before the New Deal, noting that it is a corporate and rightwing agenda in which “the Democratic party is complicit.”
The ongoing crackdown on dissidents: Syria, China
- Friday was Another bloody day of rage in Syria (via Rozen/Envoy):
In response to the brutality of the crackdown, President Barack Obama signed an executive order today instituting sanctions against the Syrian intelligence agency and two of Assad’s brothers, a White House official confirmed. Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council voted in Geneva today to condemn the Syrian crackdown.
“The [Executive Order] is a watershed,” Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Envoy. “This is the first time an Assad has been designated by the [U.S. government], and the first time the USG has issued an EO on human rights in Syria. Until a few months ago Human Rights was a distant fifth on our list of issues with Syria. Now it’s emerged as the center of our policy.”
- Melissa Chiu, director of the Asia Society Museum in NY, in a special to CNN about detained Chinese artist and human rights activist Ai Weiwei: A dangerous mix of art and politics. See also FP’s slideshow on the detention of Weiwei and others.
- China’s DDoS attack on Change.org after petition backing Weiwei went viral; Stacy at SecyClintonBlog: “The silence from the administration is deafening.”
- Nick Kristof, Great Leap Backward. Teaser:
Ms. Cheng was arrested on what was supposed to have been her wedding day last fall for sending a single sarcastic Twitter message that included the words “charge, angry youth.” The government, lacking a sense of humor, sentenced her to a year in labor camp.
Timeout: Art break
- Did you know this much intricacy could be created by the art of creasing? Check out this slideshow of Simon Schubert’s folded paper artwork. There are some gorgeous interior pieces in there!
We’re about halfway through, so click to read the rest… Read the rest of this entry »
Mitch Daniels told THE WEEKLY STANDARD’s Andy Ferguson that the next president “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” until economic issues are resolved.
Well, that was back in June, of 2010 … obviously the economic issues must all be resolved today, right?
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said today he will sign a controversial bill that cuts off government funding to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
Indiana will become the first state to take such action.
“I supported this bill from the outset, and the recent addition of language guarding against the spending of tax dollars to support abortions creates no reason to alter my position,” said Daniels, a Republican.
You can’t trust any of them. They say anything. Way to call a truce, Governor … right on the backs of poor women!
The Fed’s been doing some pretty nontraditional things recently under Ben Bernanke. A lot of this was not unexpected given his record of academic research on the subject of the Fed trying to be more public about its actions and the role of Quantitative Easing in Japan’s lost decade recovery. I thought I’d put a few things up about both. I’m going to have to use some monetarist jibber jabber so please ask questions if the jargon is overwhelming! It’s easier to explain the jargon downthread than write a long run on post with explanations included.
The Roosevelt Institute held a Future of the Federal Reserve Event. Here’s video via RortyBomb of Joseph Stiglitz discussing QE2 among other Fed issues. I mentioned something yesterday down thread about the effectiveness of transmission of monetary policy through the traditional interest rate channel into the real economy and Stiglitz has a fairly succinct comment on that. There is some debate on how much the Fed can actually do much at this point–with zero bound interest rates–to get at unemployment and even the inflation coming from higher oil and food prices. We know it can happen, it’s just we don’t have empirical evidence under similar situations–other than from Japan–to know the degree to which stuff can happen right now. So it could be an infinitesimally positive effect even thought it’s a positive effect.
There’s been some discussion of this on economists’ blogs since the Bernanke Presser a few days ago. Mark Thoma tweeted this critique of both him and Brad Delong on the Bernanke Presser from a monetarist’s site from blogger economist Stephen Williamson. My first masters was in Monetary Economics so I’m well-steeped in monetarist theory.
In standard form, Mark Thoma’s heartgoes out to the unemployed, as mine does. However, Mark is much more certain than I am that the Fed can actually help these people out. Here is what Mark would have asked Ben about, if he could:
The main question I wanted to hear Bernanke answer is, given that inflation is expected to remain low, why isn’t the Fed doing more to help with the employment problem? Why not a third round of quantitative easing?
In retrospect, more aggressive action by the Fed was warranted in every instance. Perhaps this time is different — I sure hope so — but the recovery has been far too slow to be tolerable. Green shoots require more than hope, they require the nourishment, and with fiscal policy out of the picture it’s up to the Fed to provide it.
Well, the answer to the question: “Why not a third round of quantitative easing?” should be: “Because it does not do anything.” (see here). In retrospect, the Fed could not have done any more than it did, even if you think that sticky wages and prices matter in a big way. Mark may think that the level of employment is intolerable, but the Fed has to tolerate it in the same way I have to tolerate the soggy weather outside.
I wanted to put this up before I linked to Krugman’s Op-Ed today which argues that Bernanke may be unduly influenced by inflationistas and Ron Paul, of all people called “The Intimidated Fed” and that he can do more. Because, I’m not so sure the FED can do much more or if it’s Ron Paul that’s the dragon needing slaying. First, I think it more like that Bernanke is being influenced by two Fed Presidents sitting on the Board of Governors right now than by Ron Paul. But, I’m not a DC or FED insider so it’s pure speculation on my part.
Some background: The Fed normally takes primary responsibility for short-term economic management, using its influence over interest rates to cool the economy when it’s running too hot, which raises the threat of inflation, and to heat it up when it’s running too cold, leading to high unemployment. And the Fed has more or less explicitly indicated what it considers a Goldilocks outcome, neither too hot nor too cold: inflation at 2 percent or a bit lower, unemployment at 5 percent or a bit higher.
But Goldilocks has left the building, and shows no sign of returning soon. The Fed’s latest forecasts, unveiled at that press conference, show low inflation and high unemployment for the foreseeable future.
True, the Fed expects inflation this year to run a bit above target, but Mr. Bernanke declared (and I agree) that we’re looking at a temporary bulge from higher raw material prices; measures of underlying inflation remain well below target, and the forecast sees inflation falling sharply next year and remaining low at least through 2013.
Meanwhile, as I’ve already pointed out, unemployment — although down from its 2009 peak — remains devastatingly high. And the Fed expects only slow improvement, with unemployment at the end of 2013 expected to still be around 7 percent.
It all adds up to a clear case for more action. Yet Mr. Bernanke indicated that he has done all he’s likely to do. Why?
Second, I’m not sure Bernanke (i.e. The FED) is in a very strong position to do much that can influence the real economy right now. The QE stuff really only shifts the FED portfolio around between long and short term debt which can influence yield curves, but, at the zero bound, there’s still a limited impact on real interest rates. You really can’t go lower than zero in nominal terms. Also, the FED’s bought all this crap from every one from Belgian cities to AIG to give them more liquidity and for the most part, that money’s not channeling back into the US economy in the forms of loans. Monetary policy is never very effective when an economy is in a liquidity trap (extremely low interest rates) and its transmission channel–the way the policy gets to the real economy where GDP lurks–morphs during various economic conditions. We’re not seeing anything resembling 20th century economic conditions.
Well, it’s getting to be the silly season. Now we have Republicans who were for oil subsidies before they were against them or against them before they were for them. Evidently, angry town hall participants can’t figure out why oil companies that keep making record profits while gouging at the pump deserve huge tax breaks. So, Republicans are making up their minds as they go along. Here’s one such example from the Wonk Room: Paul Ryan Endorses Ending Oil Subsidies, Even Though He Voted For Them
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) agree.d to end subsidies to oil companies during a town hall in Waterford, Wisconsin, this morning, eliciting great applause from an overflow crowd in a very conservative section of his district. “We also want to get rid of corporate welfare,” Ryan insisted. “So we propose to repeal all that”
But Ryan voted twice this year to actually extend subsidies to oil companies, once on a motion to recommit on a shorter-term continuing resolution and again when he supported an amendment to the initial House CR. The Ryan budget, meanwhile, doesn’t specifically target oil subsidies, but only generally promises to end “corporate welfare.”
Earlier this week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also indirectly endorsed ending subsidies to the oil industry, before walking back his support.
CBS Reporter Lara Logan is offering up more information on her ‘merciless’ assault during the Egyptian uprising. Logan was separated from her colleagues for about 25 minutes.
She declined to go into more detail about the assault but said: “What really struck me was how merciless they were. They really enjoyed my pain and suffering. It incited them to more violence.”
After being rescued by a group of civilians and Egyptian soldiers, she was swiftly flown back to the United States. “She was quite traumatized, as you can imagine, for a period of time,” Mr. Fager said. Ms. Logan said she decided almost immediately that she would speak out about sexual violence both on behalf of other journalists and on behalf of “millions of voiceless women who are subjected to attacks like this and worse.”
It appears the Lake Havusu Arizona Newspaper filed to see Barack Obama Senior’s immigration file. Their EXCLUSIVE–“Dad’s Immigration File Offers More Evidence Of Obama’s Birthplace” is an interesting read. Sounds like Harvard couldn’t get rid of this particular Obama soon enough. This really brings an interesting contrast to the President’s Book “Dreams of my Father”.
The documents also show that the CIS investigated the elder Obama as a polygamist, having a wife in Kenya and a “wife and child in Honolulu.” Dahlim’s memo adds that “Polygamy is not an excludable or deportation charge as Subject is a non-immigrant.”
Documents show that Obama, Sr. was denied an extension on his student visa in July, 1964, in part because Harvard University, where Obama, Sr., was a Ph.D. candidate, sought his removal. Obama Sr. eventually left the United States willingly after becoming an illegal alien for remaining in the country past the expiration of his visa.
An INS investigator, M.F. McKeon, wrote “They (Harvard officials) weren’t very impressed with him and asked us to hold up action on his application until they decided what action they could take in order to get rid of him. They were apparently having difficulty with his financial arrangements and couldn’t seem to figure out how many wives he had.”
Documents show that Harvard officials considered Obama, Sr. to be a “slippery character,” and conspired with the INS to have him deported.
After raising nearly every racist dogwhistle in the play book, Donald Trump Bristles at Claim He’s a Racist. Gee, why would anyone think that when the guy questions how the President–a legacy who graduated summa sum laude from Harvard–got into Harvard in the first place.
Trump tells TMZ … “That is a terrible statement for a newscaster to make. I am the last person that such a thing should be said about.”
Bob Schieffer delivered a scathing statement against Trump Wednesday night on the “CBS Evening News,” reacting to Trump’s insinuation that President Barack Obama may not have had the grades to get into Harvard.
Schieffer said, “That’s just code for saying he got into law school because he’s black. This is an ugly strain of racism that’s running through this whole thing.”
We asked Trump if he was suggesting Obama got into Harvard Law School through affirmative action. He said, “Affirmative action is out there. It’s a program that is available. But I have no idea whether it applies in this case. I’m not suggesting anything.”
Politically-motivated accusation and innuendo is nothing new–as pointed out by Politico–but does Trump’s birther agenda shift the practice to a new low because it rose to the level of a media feeding frenzy?
Lurid conspiracy theories have followed presidents for as long as the office has existed. Yet even Obama’s most recent predecessors benefited from a widespread consensus that some types of personal allegations had no place in public debate unless or until they received some imprimatur of legitimacy — from an official investigation, for instance, or from a detailed report by a major news organization.
“There are no more arbiters of truth,” said former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “So whatever you can prove factually, somebody else can find something else and point to it with enough ferocity to get people to believe it. We’ve crossed some Rubicon into the unknown.”
It’s hard to imagine Bill Clinton coming out to the White House briefing room to present evidence showing why people who thought he helped plot the murder of aide Vincent Foster— never mind official rulings of suicide — were wrong. George W. Bush, likewise, was never tempted to take to the Rose Garden to deny allegations from voices on the liberal fringe who believed that he knew about the Sept. 11 attacks ahead of time and chose to let them happen.
Well, at least it’s Friday! So, what’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?