Cut to the News . . . Your Daily News Briefing
The Read on the news
September 14, 2009
It is afternoon at the presidential palace in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kang Kwan-yong, Chief of Staff to President Kim Jong-Il, has a proposal for the Dear Leader to try to help him get his message out and improve his image throughout the world.
Kang: “Dear Leader, sweetness of the mountain stream, I wish to present to you a new idea that will magnify your wisdom and reflect it throughout the world.”
Kim: “Oh that sounds good. Go ahead. What is it?”
Kang: “Dear Leader, I wish to introduce you to a new technology that will allow you to reach millions more people with your message of peace and enlightenment.”
Kim: “I love technology! I have Play Station 3. Tell me what this new thing is.”
Kang: “Thank you, Dear Leader. The technology is a website called Twitter. All you do is send out little pearls of wisdom and bit by bit you acquire new followers.”
Kim: “What are you talking about? Everybody is my follower!”
Kang: “I mean in other lands, Dear Leader.”
Kim: “I see. OK.”
Kang: “Now please look at the magic screen. You type in any message you want of 140 characters or less.”
Kim: “What is a character?”
Kang: “Well, it’s a letter, a space or some punctuation, like a period or a question mark.”
Kim: “An ampersand?”
Kang: “Well, yes, an ampersand too. Now let’s sign you up. First, Dear Leader, you need a User Name. How about - ”
Kim: “Hot Momma.”
Kang: “Hot Momma?”
Kim: “Hot Momma. I saw it in a movie. An American movie. It’s very funny. Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha.”
Kang: “OK, Dear Leader, I’ll just type it in . . .”
Kim: “Call me Hot Momma now.”
Kang: “Excuse me, sir?”
Kim: “Call me Hot Momma."
Kang: “Really? Um, OK, Hot Momma -”
Kim: “WHAT DID YOU CALL ME??”
Kang: “I'm sorry, Dear Leader – “
Kim: “Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha. Look how scared you are! I’m just joking with you. That’s OK. Call me Hot Momma.”
Kang: “Yes, well, OK, you’re all set up. You can write your first message.”
Kim: “I want to write 141 characters.”
Kang: “Well, sir, the people at Twitter only allow 140 charact-“
Kim: “WHO IS THE DEAR LEADER? WHO IS THE HOT MOMMA? ME OR TWITTER?”
Kang: “You are.”
Kim: “OK. Now we’re getting somewhere. I’m typing in the following: ‘The nuclear bomb I’m dropping on your head is for scientific research purposes only!’ Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha! Only 84 characters. There. This is fun. Do I have any followers yet?”
Kang: “Let me see. Well, only two, but you’re just starting out. OK, there’s me, I signed up to be your follower, and then there’s someone named Bill from Langley, Virginia in the United States.”
Kim: “Oh cools! Let me think of some more messages. How about a riddle. ‘What do you get when you mix South Korea and ten plutonium bombs? . . . Five Party Talks!’ Get it? Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha! Only 90 characters. I love the Six Party talks. I miss them.”
Kang: "Dear Leader."
Kim: "Hot Momma!"
Kang: “Hot Momma, the hope for this is that you will attract new followers throughout the world. I really do fear you may be scaring people.”
Kim: “I have another riddle: What time is it when you do an angry walk-out from the Six Party Talks?”
Kang: “What time is it?”
Kim: “Time to make another nuclear bomb! Ah-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha. I like Twitter! I like Twitter"
Kim: “OK, let me try another Twitter. How about this: ‘President Obama, the people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea perceive with great interest your desire for peaceful discussions.’ Ah-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha . . .”
Copyright 2009 by Bailey Katyonok
August 14, 2009
It is a lazy June afternoon in the fashionable Buenos Aires apartment of a woman named Maria, who is entertaining her boyfriend Mark. He is far from home, and in the idyll of their lovers’ nest he cannot hear the growing clamor back in the United States. There, people are beginning to realize that Mark – that is, Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina and a prominent Republican presidential prospect - is nowhere to be found. As he polishes off a glass of wine, a thought wholly unrelated to the business of South Carolina occurs to him. He speaks it.
“Have I told you how much I love your toes, my dear? They are your best feature.”
“Thank you, my love. More paella?”
“No. Another glass of Malbec, though. You are the peachiest peach in my orchard. I want to shout my love for you from the roof of the governor’s mansion!”
“Well don’t do that. Not yet. What are all these silly ropes and hooks you brought? And why were you wearing those leather boots?”
“I was planning to climb to your window and leap into your bed, my love.”
“That’s ridiculous. You fell off the stepladder last time you were here.”
“I told my wife and my chief of staff I was going hiking.”
“Hiking? Okay, good. They will believe it?”
“What do you mean, ‘They might?’ Listen, would you please feed the piranhas?”
“You mean issue a press release? Announcing our love?”
“No, I mean if you’re not going to finish the dish I made you then feed the chicken and the chorizo to my fish. So who is in charge of South Carolina when you are not there?”
“Well . . . nobody my dear. But it’s OK. The state runs itself. The worst that could happen is that we’re attacked by North Carolina!”
“These North Carolinians, are they dangerous?”
“No, my passion fruit. It was just a joke. States don’t attack each other.”
“So you left your state alone to deal with hurricanes or a terrorist attack and you didn’t put anyone in charge? What will everyone think? They will call you irresponsible. How are you going to get to the White House?”
“What is the difference when we have each other? Your lovely earlobes are –“
“Excuse me. You promised me you are going to be president and then you are going to divorce the bitch and make me first lady and we’re going to host a tango competition in the East Room! And you think you can just disappear for a few days while North Carolina is preparing to attack and it’s going to be fine with everyone?”
“Oh, my fiery Latina. I feel like a teenager again beholding my tigress of Buenos Aires.”
“Are you stupid?”
The governor’s cell phone rings. We hear Elvis singing “Love Me Tender.” He looks at the phone.
“It’s my chief of staff.”
“Why don’t you get it and tell him you’ll be home tomorrow.”
“Uh, governor, how are you? We’ve been trying to reach you.”
“Yes, well, not much cell phone coverage out here on the Appalachian trail, you know. How’s everything back there?”
“OK. How’s your hike going?”
“Oh, great, lots of wildlife, just saw a bear and a tigress and a beaver and . . .”
“Sir, did you just say you saw a tiger?”
“No, of course not. A jaguar – I mean a mountain lion, what do you call those things?”
“Sir, why is your car parked at Atlanta International Airport?”
“My car’s at the airport?”
“I can’t believe my car has been stolen!!”
“Governor, I think you need to get back here. People are asking a lot of questions.”
“Yes, of course. You watch the fort over there. Make sure North Carolina doesn’t try to attack us . . .”
“I knew it!”
“Sir, who was that?”
“Oh, it’s – uh – I ran into some Indians out here. Look, I’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Please, governor, as soon as possible.”
“OK, are you happy now, Mr. Big Shot? We’re finished. You think I’m going to come back to the United States with you to sit around stupid Charleston eating grits and melting in the heat? You promised me a lot. Now your career is over.”
“Nonsense. Everyone does this. Look at Bill Clinton – he’s revered around the world. How about Prince Charles – finally got the woman he loves. He’s still on track to be king if his momma ever gets out of the way. Look at Kennedy, all the girlfriends he had, swimming around the White House pool. I can do what I want. I’m going back to South Carolina to tell the world I love you! Yes, I love you! . . . Hey, now look at that . . . You can see a perfect image of me reflecting off the water in your fish tank.”
“Darling, the next flight out is in three hours. You need to get to the airport now!”
“It’s a perfect, perfect reflection. What do you say I just stay here a while and look at it?”
Copyright 2009 by Bailey Kotyonok
July 27, 2009
President Barack Obama is blaming Republicans, Washington inertia, fear of change, the insurance industry, and assorted other enemies for the stalling of his health care initiative.
And while his plans certainly do have real enemies, the stimulus bill that he helped craft - and that he could have shaped to a greater degree than he did - is an important part of the reason he's in the fix he's in today.
All agreed at the time it was approved early this year that some form of a federal stimulus to the economy was necessary. But with a price tag of $789 billion, the public expected a lot of bang for the significant buck.
Instead, the Obama administration and its Democratic allies loaded on a lot of programs that they wanted anyway and that wouldn't get ginned up for months at best. While his White House sold the stimulus as an immediate necessity, the president today describes the measure as a "two-year" plan that was never intended to work right away.
Which begs the question: Why not? With unemployment rising above where the White House promised it would go and prevailing uncertainty about when the economy will improve, Republicans are attacking the stimulus as a waste of money. Their subtext is clear: do you want to allow Obama to spend more of your money for questionable purposes?
Obama could have solved this problem, at least partially, by adding to legislation more in the way tax cuts that could be taken immediately. This might have induced at least some Republicans to support the plan and gotten a little more money out the door more quickly.
And the Democrats should have resisted Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's call to "never waste a crisis" and spend all that money on a Democratic wish list of long term projects.
The GOP would be less able to criticize the stimulus, and the economy would have gotten more of an immediate jolt.
And the public would feel more comfortable doling out additional money for health care.
June 1, 2000
As you watch events in Washington unfold this summer, remember that everything you see must be reflected through the prism of Obama's top priority for the year and for his presidency, health care system overhaul.
As you probably know, Obama wants to provide universal coverage - likely with a strong federal role - and introduce some new efficiencies.
One thing you will see is a gradual clearing of the decks so that the president can focus on passing his priority, which he must do this year, before the 2010 election year begins in January. Congress will continue hashing out bills this summer, and the pivotal battles will be fought this fall.
So when you hear Obama say he wants Sotomayor confirmed before the end of July because he wants her to participate in the Supreme Court's choosing of its caseload in September, this may be true. But what he especially wants is to not have to deal with a battle over his Supreme Court nominee while he's trying to complete the health care bill.
If you see Democrats in Congress start to slow-walk the energy bill - with the carbon cap and trade program and all the fuel efficiency and renewable energy goodies in it - it's because Congress is not going to pass a major energy and health legislation in the same year, and Obama wants the health bill.
Obama has even told Israel to give diplomacy with Iran until the end of the year. Any relationship to the health bill? Depends on your level of cynicism.
Having passed the stimulus measure earlier this year, Obama's other focus this summer will be on the economy and its expected improvement. You will hear a lot about how the stimulus bill is aiding the economy. The president is counting on this and his health care bill to provide a substantial push toward his reelection.
May 28, 2009
One thing to keep in mind amid the loud back and forth you will hear this summer over Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court: she will be confirmed, and probably by a large margin.
Republicans don't have the numbers to block her, and at least a few will support her. Moderates like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine have a hard time opposing someone like Sotomayor, who doesn't have a truly radical record.
And conservatives with substantial Hispanic minorities in their states are on the spot as well.
Take Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Are the two Republicans from Texas really going to oppose the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice? They might, but not without peril.
Conservatives groups will raise the alarm about Roe v. Wade. How many times has this worked in the past? Never. Instead, the tactic will achieve other ends: it will galvanize the conservative base for future battles, raise money for conservative groups, and paint President Obama as a liberal who appoints liberals.
So far, Sotomayor has said a couple of stupid things, including a suggestion that Latinas would make better judges than than white men and that appeals courts make policy. Much is already being made of these statements, but it's not nearly enough to sink her.
Unless there's much more - a possibility given that she seems like the type who says what's on her mind - or unless she has some secret crack addiction or begins cursing at senators during her hearing, she's in.
Or perhaps she didn't pay her taxes. We've already learned not to overestimate the Obama vetting team.
May 24, 2009
Dick Cheney's emergence as the new spokesman for the Republican Party on national security matters may not be quite the godsend most Democrats think.
Cheney's approval rating is on the rise. True, it had nowhere else to go, but it's risen eight points since he left office to 37 percent.
With the possible exception of Richard Nixon, former leaders tend to become more popular when they leave office. Harry S Truman left the presidency deeply unpopular and today is one of our most revered former presidents.
Before becoming vice president, Cheney was known mainly as an affable politician popular with conservatives and moderates alike. And by just appearing so often, he is shedding one of the main raps against him - that he was a curmudgeon plotting evil designs while holed up in a secret, undisclosed location.
Republicans who say they yearn for Ronald Reagan but who recoil at Cheney may be remembering the avuncular Reagan who left office in 1988 but forgetting the earlier man who sank Jimmy Carter: a tough talking conservative immune to political correctness and willing to advocate strong measures against America's enemies.
Republicans have been carefully posturing carefully for years. If Cheney's popularity begins to take off, watch them all beg for a place on the bandwagon.