The Ledes

Thursday, August 28, 2014.

New York Times: "Declaring that Russian troops had crossed into Ukraine, President Petro O. Poroshenko on Thursday canceled a planned visit to Turkey and convened a meeting of the national security council to focus on the 'marked aggravation of the situation' in the southeast of his country.The meeting of the national security council will focus on shaping a response, and Ukraine will also request a meeting of the United Nations Security Council." ...

     ... UPDATE. New Lede: "Supported by NATO satellite imagery showing Russian forces on the move in eastern Ukraine, its president accused Russia on Thursday of an invasion to aid the separatists, and his national security council ordered mandatory conscription to help counter what he called an 'extremely difficult' threat."

Time: "In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, said the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a 'much bigger problem than anyone anticipated.' ... But Frieden says ... Ebola can be stopped.” ...

... New York Times: "As the tally of deaths from the worst known outbreak of the Ebola virus continued its seemingly inexorable rise, the World Health Organization said on Thursday that the epidemic was still accelerating and could afflict more than 20,000 people — almost seven times the current number of reported cases — before it could be brought under control."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, August 27, 2014.

Los Angeles Times: "One of the longest-running shows in television history suffered its worst tragedy this week when an audio technician for the reality program 'Cops' was accidentally shot and killed by police while trying to film a robbery in Omaha. Officers thought the suspect was shooting at them. They opened fire, killing the suspect as well as Bryce Dion, 38, a seven-year veteran of the show. When police examined the suspect's weapon, they discovered it was a pistol that fired only pellets." ...

... New York Times: "The Omaha police chief said Wednesday that the fatal shooting of a crew member filming the television show 'Cops' by one of his officers was an 'unfortunate incident' and that it appeared that the three officers involved had acted professionally.

New York Times: "Tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed from Russia into an unbreached part of eastern Ukraine in recent days, attacking Ukrainian forces and causing panic and wholesale retreat not only in [the] small border town [of Novoazovsk, Ukraine,] but also a wide section of territory, in what Ukrainian and Western military officials described on Wednesday as a stealth invasion. The attacks outside this city and in an area to the north essentially have opened a new, third front in the war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists, along with the fighting outside the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk."

Washington Post: "The mother of Steven J. Sotloff, an American journalist who was captured last year by the Islamic State, has made a video plea to the head of the terrorist organization asking for her son’s release. In a video released Wednesday, Shirley Sotloff asks Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to 'please release my child. And as a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over.'” Story includes video.

Guardian: "The US has said little about Mount Sinjar since 14 August, when Obama declared the siege broken, but recent satellite imagery and interviews with Yazidis still on the mountain indicate a humanitarian emergency continuing to unfold."

New York Times: "A number of United States banks, including JPMorgan Chase and at least four other firms, were hit by hackers in a series of coordinated attacks this month, according to four people familiar with the investigation, which is incomplete. The hackers infiltrated the networks of the banks, siphoning off gigabytes of data, including account information, in what security experts described as a sophisticated cyberattack."

AP: "Syrian rebels, including fighters from an al-Qaida-linked group, seized control of a frontier crossing with Israel in the Golan Heights on Wednesday after heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, activists and rebels said. The capture of the post along Syria's de facto border in the Golan held more symbolic value than strategic, but rebels said it would provide relief to nearby villages that were under siege by government troops."

Washington Post: "An open-ended cease-fire between Hamas and Israel was holding Wednesday after seven weeks of warfare that killed more than 2,200 people."

Washington Post: "Ukraine accused Russia on Wednesday of stepping up military activity in the annexed territory of Crimea and sending in troops to help separatists near a key seaport in southeastern Ukraine."

New York Times: "Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, said on Wednesday that French prosecutors had placed her under formal investigation over a murky business affair that dates to her time as finance minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 28

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

***********************************************

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 York Times: "The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out. AMC’s 'Breaking Bad' scored big on Monday night, winning a total of five awards, including its second consecutive prize for outstanding drama series. The crime drama, about a high school teacher who receives a diagnosis of lung cancer and starts selling crystal meth with a former student, concluded its final season." Here's the L.A. Times' coverage.

... Via Slate.

Looking for a bucolic retreat where the townspeople will protect you from curious outsiders? Got about $700K to burn? Then you might be interested in purchasing the former home of fiction writer J. D. Salinger. the property is located in Cornish, New Hamphire:

... Many more pix & a virtual tour here.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

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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Thursday
Aug282014

The Commentariat -- August 29, 2014

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama confronted a pair of volatile international crises with restraint on Thursday as he said he was not close to authorizing airstrikes against Islamic extremists in Syria and played down the latest escalation of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. With tensions rising in Europe and the Middle East, Mr. Obama emphasized that a military response would not resolve either situation and pledged to build international coalitions to grapple with them. Despite pressure from within his own government for more assertive action, he tried to avoid inflaming passions as he sought new approaches." ...

... David Nakamura & Katie Zezima of the Washington Post: "President Obama said Thursday he has not decided on stepped-up military action against the Islamic State in Iraq or Syria, cautioning that he remains committed to a strategy that protects U.S. interests and builds broader partnerships to combat the threat posed by the militant group":

Sarah Kliff of Vox: "Pennsylvania has struck a deal with the Obama administration to expand its Medicaid program to more than 300,000 poor residents, the state announced Thursday. Pennsylvania would be the 27th state (not including the District of Columbia) to participate in Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, and Gov. Tom Corbett would be the ninth Republican governor to sign on."

Today, Chuck Todd Went to Work. Caitlan MacNeal of TPM: On his daytime show, he asked RNC Chair Prince Rebus if the reason the Republican party couldn't attract women voters was because "there's just too many crazy white guys who have crazy theories about my reproductive system?" He noted the GOP had the same problem with Latinos. Okay, Chuck, I guess that's "edgy." The Little Prince's response was along the lines of

Brendan James of TPM: "MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell is less than surprised by the revelations of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) about being subjected to sexual harassment by her congressional colleagues, sharing her own experiences reporting on 'the oldest white male club in the world.' 'We all had our stories of whom you'd not get in an elevator with and whom you'd protect your young female interns from,' Mitchell told her guests...." ...

... Kay Steiger of TPM: "A debate broke out on Twitter among three male journalists — New York Times’ Nick Confessore, Politico’s Alex Burns, and MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin — on Thursday afternoon: Does Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), whose anonymous colleagues she said told her she was 'porky,' 'chubby,' and 'fat' during the months just after she had a baby, have a responsibility to name her harassers?"

Peter Baker: "More than 150 years after standing his ground against Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, Lieutenant [Alonzo] Cushing will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama — a result both of his heroism in those dark days and of the persistence of a 94-year-old Wisconsin woman who lobbied on his behalf for more than a quarter-century.... His cause ... lingered for years in the bureaucratic and legislative trenches of the capital... [Rep. Ron] Kind [D-Wisc.] said some Southern colleagues were also less than enthusiastic. 'There was some resistance to awarding a Union soldier the congressional medal at Gettysburg even 150 years after the fact,' Mr. Kind said." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "If you’re wondering how long it’s going to take the South to stop letting its poor people suffer and die for lack of medical care rather than accept free Medicaid money, the answer is: probably a long time."

Beyond the Beltway

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "The video texting service Glide has verified the recording played by CNN this week of the purported shots in the Ferguson, Mo., killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown." Glide is turning over their verification data to the FBI. CW: Kind of a bummber for those CNN "experts" who claimed the tape was hoax. (See yesterday's Commentariat.) ...

... Carey Gillam of Reuters: "A group of people caught up in unrest in Ferguson, Missouri..., sued local officials on Thursday, alleging civil rights violations through arrests and police assaults with rubber bullets and tear gas.... The lawsuit seeks a total of $40 million on behalf of six plaintiffs, including a 17-year-old boy who was with his mother in a fast-food restaurant when they were arrested. Each of the plaintiffs was caught up in interactions with police over a period from Aug. 11 to 13, the suit allege."

Paul Krugman: "... Europe desperately needs the leader of a major economy — one that is not in terrible shape — to stand up and say that austerity is killing the Continent’s economic prospects. [François] Hollande[, president of France & head of the Socialist party,] could and should have been that leader, but he isn’t."

Wednesday
Aug272014

The Commentariat -- August 28, 2014

I’ve been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t really understand the details here. -- Rick Perry, on whatever those criminal charges are ...

... CW: If mangling the King's English were a criminal offense, Perry would be behind bars. ...

... NEW. This belongs down the page, where I'll stick it later. Arit John of the Atlantic: "Maybe Rick Perry should have read up on his indictment charges before he started using them as a campaign talking point. During a speech last week, the Texas governor said he was being indicted for bribery, which isn't actually true.... This is another oops moment for Perry, but it also signaled his transition into the 5th and, likely for him, final stage of indictment related grief: confusion. After grinning mugshot denial, angry ads "setting the record straight," bargaining over who should pay the lawyers and depression over a loss of Second Amendment privileges, all that's left for Perry is to be slightly unsure of what, exactly, people are accusing him of doing."

This Is a Big Fucking Deal. Margot Sanger-Katz & Kevin Quealy of the New York Times: "Every year for the last six years in a row, the Congressional Budget Office has reduced its estimate for how much the federal government will need to spend on Medicare in coming years. The latest reduction came in a report from the budget office on Wednesday morning. The changes are big. The difference between the current estimate for Medicare’s 2019 budget and the estimate for the 2019 budget four years ago is about $95 billion." The CBO report is here (pdf). ...

... Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "... all the 'deficit hawks' out there who are deeply concerned about too much borrowing and the terrible choices our grandchildren will confront might want to write a letter of thanks to one Barack Hussein Obama.... The reasons for the slowdown [in the deficit] in Medicare spending are complicated. But a big part of it is — you guessed it — the Affordable Care Act. The ACA has found direct savings in Medicare with things like cuts to some provider payments.... Medicare is still the biggest driver of future deficits, but the next time you hear a conservative say we have to 'rein in entitlements,' you can remind them that nothing any president has done to achieve that goal has been nearly as effective as the reforms contained within the hated Obamacare." ...

... Sorry, Paul. Here's a winger -- Romina Boccia, a "fellow in federal budgetary affairs" for the Heritage Foundation -- who wants you to know, in her screaming headline, that the CBO report shows that the budget deficit for "Just This Year Is Huge," & in her post asserts that it's proof of the need for "entitlement reform." ...

... CW: I believe I'll have a small slice of humble pie on this myself. While wonks & pundits (at least on the left) are giving Obama the credit for this, our current Ambassador to China & former Sen. Max Baucus (ConservaD-Mont.), along with annoying former Sen. Kent Conrad (ConservaD-N.D.) were the U.S. senators insising that the ACA be "revenue-neutral." So thanks, Max & Kent. Sorry I repeatedly suggested (as best I can recall) you were anal-retentive jerks. ...

... MEANWHILE, I see that Annoying Kent -- who, surprise, surprise, is now a lobbyist -- is in the news complaining that President Obama is "more detached" than he should be. Thanks again, Kent.

Josh Rogin & Eli Lake of the Daily Beast. "President Obama wants to decide by the end of the week whether or not his war in Iraq against the Islamic State will expand to the group’s haven in eastern Syria. But nearly everything about the potential military campaign is still in flux, administration officials tell The Daily Beast — from the goals of the effort to the intelligence needed to carry it out." ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate: "Let’s hope that President Obama does not bomb ISIS inside Syria — unless, maybe, the airstrikes are coordinated with some other country’s troops on the ground.... It’s not likely to happen for two reasons.... First, there are no ground forces inside Syria that can both repel ISIS and serve as palatable American allies. Second, the Obama administration and the neighboring Middle Eastern countries appear to have no strategy of what an intervention in Syria might look like or of what Syrian politics should look like in its aftermath."

Karen Tumulty & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Both political parties are in a state of high anxiety about the possibility that President Obama will allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the country, fearing that White House action on the issue could change the course of November’s midterm elections. In the past few days, Democratic candidates in nearly every closely fought Senate race have criticized the idea of aggressive action by Obama." ...

... Dana Milbank: "Hosted by a hard-line immigration group, the [Republican] mayor [of Lynn, Massachusetts], Judith Flanagan Kennedy, [came to Washington, D.C., &] told an alarming tale about how unaccompanied minors emigrating illegally from Guatemala have caused havoc in her fair burg.... But upon closer inspection, Kennedy’s tale of woe doesn’t quite add up." CW: Just another Republican politician, following in the party's tradition of telling tall tales to make an unsupportable political point.

Lauren Windsor of the Nation: "Last week, in an interview with Politico, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlined his plan to shut down President Obama’s legislative agenda by placing riders on appropriations bills.... What McConnell didn’t tell Politico was that two months ago, he made the same promise to a secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers.... McConnell’s pledge to 'go after' Democrats on financial services — a reference to declawing Dodd-Frank regulation — is a key omission from his Politico interview." Windsor has the tape. A full transcript is here. ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "To a large extent, Mr. McConnell’s promises are more bluster for the Republican donor base than a foolproof plan. Through a budget procedure called reconciliation, Republicans could clear a path to tax legislation or changes to entitlement programs that could pass later in the year with simple majorities in the House and the Senate. But unless a Republican majority plans to end the filibuster on legislation as Democrats ended it on some presidential nominees, spending bills with 'riders' would need 60 votes in the Senate. If the Republicans win control of the Senate, their majority is almost certain to be short of 60." ...

... Josh Israel of Think Progress: "At a Koch Brothers-hosted secret strategy conference of right-wing millionaire and billionaire political activists in June, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised that if his party wins control of the United States Senate this November, the Senate will not waste time on things like increasing the minimum wage for people making only about $15,000 annually. Instead, audio of his remarks obtained by The Nation reveals, his Senate will focus on repealing Wall Street reforms, environmental protections, and affordable healthcare." ...

... Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell is "threatening to use the appropriations process as leverage to extract concessions. That's a government shutdown fight. And no matter how he plays it, he will unleash forces he and other GOP leaders have proven incapable of restraining. They can’t control the plot.... Nobody’s saying a government shutdown will definitely happen. But a confrontation is very likely, and Republicans in Congress are the reason. Even if they never say the words 'government shutdown.'” ...

... Kathy Obradovich of the Des Moines Register: "Congressman Steve King said today the threat of another government shutdown could be Republicans' leverage to pass border security and immigration legislation this fall." ...

... Molly Ball of the Atlantic: "A well-placed House Republican source tells me GOP leadership is increasingly nervous about the potential for a rebellion on the funding bill.... Officially, Republicans insist there will be no drama, although they aren't yet saying what the plan is for getting the funding bill passed." ...

... Funny Thing. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Democrats hear only one thing when Republicans talk about fighting President Barack Obama’s immigration agenda or GOP plans for controlling Congress: government shutdown. In fundraising requests, media appearances and conference calls, Democrats are painting Republicans as the 'shutdown party' just in time for the midterm elections.... The shutdown talk is being stoked after recent comments by prominent Senate Republicans like Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida that predicted a confrontational stance toward Obama on spending bills if either the GOP takes the Senate or the president announces new changes to immigration policy."

The Old Boys Club I. Jake Sherman & Anna Palmer of Politico: "A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups — including one backed by Karl Rovepaints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as 'intolerant,' 'lacking in compassion' and 'stuck in the past.' Women are 'barely receptive' to Republicans’ policies, and the party does 'especially poorly' with women in the Northeast and Midwest, according to an internal Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report.... One bright spot is among married women. Married women without a college degree view Republicans favorably, the polling shows. Married women prefer a Republican over a Democrat, 48 percent to 38 percent." ...

... The Old Boys Club II. "Members of Congress Called Me 'Porky.'" Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand reveals in her new book that a number of her male colleagues on Capitol Hill made remarks about her weight, the New York Post and People magazine reported Wednesday.... 'It was all statements that were being made by men who were well into their 60s, 70s or 80s,' she said, in an excerpt published Wednesday of her People interview. 'They had no clue that those are inappropriate things to say to a pregnant woman or a woman who just had a baby or to women in general.'” ...

... Annie Lowrey of New York: "... to help these civic-minded geniuses understand when it is appropriate to comment on a woman’s physical appearance here and now in the 21st century, I have created a flowchart."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

... As the person who has the most appearances on ‘Meet the Press,’ I’ll be glad to give you a lot of advice and counsel. -- John McCain to Chuck Todd

... Hadas Gold of Politico: "In a surprise appearance on MSNBC Wednesday morning, Sen. John McCain told Chuck Todd that 'Meet the Press' should not try to expand too far and should stick to focusing on the political dynamics facing the country. [CW Translation: "Having me -- John McCain -- on air every week is a sure ratings winner."] McCain's comments come just a few days after NBC News President Deborah Turness said the show needed more 'edge' and should do away with the one-on-one conversation in favor of a 'coffeehouse conversation.' ... Todd, who takes over hosting duties on "Meet the Press" on Sept. 7 after the unceremonious departure of David Gregory, said he’s been getting a lot of 'unsolicited advice.'”

Charles Pierce states what should be obvious, but is a necessary lesson for the likes of Maureen Dowd: "White people never get to pick black people's leaders for them." ...

     ... CW: Also, Pierce slips in something I hadn't realized: "detached," as in "President Obama is too detached" (see news on Kent Conrad linked above, ferinstance) is a white person's code word for "shiftless" as in "shiftless Negro." Pierce is right. I recall reading, many decades ago. that one small reason Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan was that people didn't like to see the President (Carter) carrying his own luggage (there were several photos of him, published at the time, carrying his bags onto AF1); they wanted a more "dignified" president. Now, by contrast, the white peoples want the black president & leader of the free world to be more deferential to the white peoples who run the Congress. President Obama's refusal to play obsequious Nee-gro is pissing off the white peoples. Among them, Mizz Dowd. Nicholas Kristof's column today -- "Is everyone a little bit racist?" (Answer: Yup) might well be directed at his colleague.


Garrett Epps
of the Atlantic on John Roberts' extremely partisan Supreme Court: "Like Barack Obama, the chief justice came into office promising an age of apolitical comity. And like the president, he has seen his dream die." ...

... CW: Epps makes some good points about the Supremes, but his thesis is highly flawed. The difference between Roberts & Obama, of course, is who's at fault. Roberts promised comity & then proceeded to lead the four other justices in moves to the far right, gutting the venerable Voting Rights Act, campaign finance law (twice) & the ACA (the ACA two or three times, depending upon how you count), etc. As Epps points out, even in his vote upholding the constitutionality of the ACA, Roberts struck down the Medicaid expansion provision; right-wing litigants are now hoping to use that ruling to deprives millions of red-state Americans of the ACA tax break. By contrast, after the 2010 election, Obama knocked himself out to come to agreements with Congressional Republicans.

Charles Blow busts Bill O'Reilly for O'Reilly incredible claim that there's no such thing as "white privilege."

** Thomas Edsall of the New York Times on "the expanding universe of poverty capitalism. In this unique sector of the economy, costs of essential government services are shifted to the poor." ... CW: I've linked a few articles on this in the past, but Edsall does a superior job of describing the extent of this egregious phenomenon.

CW: Now here's something about which I know zip. Jared Bernstein in the New York Times: "To get the American economy on track, the government needs to drop its commitment to maintaining the dollar’s reserve-currency status.... The privilege of having the world’s reserve currency is one America can no longer afford." I can hear the howls from Republicans if Obama/the Fed? did so.

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "William Kennedy Smith, who counts among his uncles two senators and a president, is going into the family business — in the political equivalent of the mailroom. William K. Smith is one of two names that will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot for Advisory Neighborhood Commission seat 2A04, representing a sliver of Washington’s Foggy Bottom area that includes the Watergate complex and, yes, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.... Smith came to national attention more than two decades ago after being accused of raping a woman in Palm Beach, Fla., when he was 30. He was acquitted...."

Beyond the Beltway

Casey Ross of the Boston Globe: "The epic battle over Market Basket that sparked an extraordinary worker revolt and captivated the public through the summer ended Wednesday when Arthur T. Demoulas reached a deal to buy the company from rival relatives for more than $1.5 billion. Market Basket’s shareholders announced the deal at 11:15 p.m. after several days of suspenseful negotiations. Arthur T. Demoulas and his sisters will buy the shares of their cousin Arthur S. Demoulas and other relatives on his side of the family, who collectively own 50.5 percent of the company. In a statement stripped bare of the emotion of recent days, the company and its shareholders asked managers, employees, and customers to return to stores to help get Market Basket running again. It also announced the reinstatement of Arthur T., who had been fired as president in June." Many thanks to Julie L. for the link.

Steve Hendrix & Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: The separate arrivals each day of Bob & Maureen McDonald to their corruption trial are "sidewalk set pieces [which] have provided a riveted public with daily glimpses of the ­made-for-Netflix drama unfolding inside. And, according to criminal lawyers, they are as likely to be scripted as everything else in a high-stakes legal battle. The McDonnells move as if cued by a stage manager." ...

... Today's Washington Post liveblog is here. ...

... The Defense Rests. Rosalind Helderman & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "Poignant, once-private moments in a deeply troubled marriage were again offered up Wednesday as a core defense in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, as the couple’s eldest daughter said her parents were almost completely estranged from one another and only faked affection in public."

** Mark Follman of Mother Jones: On the evening of Michael Brown's death, people gathered at the site. Some created a makeshift memorial, which included flowers. The cops showed up with dogs. "An officer on the street let the dog he was controlling urinate on the memorial site." Others, including Brown's mother, made another memorial, which included tea lights & rose petals pressed into his blood, still on the street. "Soon the candles and flowers had been smashed, after police drove over them.... One state official told me that people in the community saw the way Brown's body was handled as a deliberate act of intimidation, echoing the slavery era, 'when somebody was beaten or lynched and they made everybody come out and watch.' Brown's killing and the heavy-handed response to the protests were seen by many in the community as 'a declaration of war.'"  ...

... CNN had some law enforcement experts on the teevee to claim that the audio that was supposed to have been taped at the time of Michael Brown's shooting might be a hoax....

... Steve M. writes that he has no idea if the tape is a hoax, but he doesn't buy the "experts"' arguments. ...

... CW: I'd add that the supposed hoaxster lawyered up & turned over a copy of the tape to local law enforcement officials, so if it was a hoax it was an incredibly stupid one & would likely subject the hoaxster to some kind of obstruction-of-justice or impeding-an-investigation charges. ...

... AND now it's time to hear from Ben Stein, who presents the racist's POV on the Michael Brown shooting death. CW: By Stein's argument, every hefty black man is "scary" & implicitly "armed," like "Cassius Clay" (not Mohammed Ali, mind you). So, if you are black, young man, you are in & of yourself armed & dangerous.

Jacques Billeaud & Gene Johnson of the AP: "The accidental shooting death of a firing-range instructor by a 9-year-old girl with an Uzi has set off a powerful debate over youngsters and guns.... Jace Zack, chief deputy for the Mohave County Attorney's Office, said the instructor was probably the most criminally negligent person involved in the accident for having allowed the child to hold the gun without enough training." ...

... Kimberly McGee & Fernanda Santos write the New York Times story. ...

... Mark Follman: "In the wake of the Arizona Uzi killing..., a tweet posted on Wednesday afternoon by NRA Women, which is part of the National Rifle Association's Women's Programs and is sponsored by gun manufacturing giant Smith & Wesson. "7 Ways Children Can Have Fun at the Shooting Range" the tweet announced, linking to a recent story that details how kids can get bored with target practice if not properly entertained. NRA Women posted the tweet at 1:51 p.m. Pacific on Wednesday; by about 3 p.m. it had been removed...."

Senate Race

Brown Fudge ... Looks a Lot Like Bullshit. Greg Sargent: "There is no GOP candidate who has raised [ObamaCare] fudgery to a higher art than Scott Brown in New Hampshire."

Presidential Race(s)

Jonathan Topaz & Kendall Breitman of Politico: "The day after Mitt Romney opened the door to another possible presidential run, a new poll shows he has a huge lead among likely 2016 Iowa Republican caucus voters. According to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Wednesday, 35 percent of likely GOP caucus voters would vote for the 2012 GOP nominee in 2016. When Romney’s name was added to the pool, no other candidate received double-digit votes." ...

... CW: Actually, if Romney "opened the door," the crack is so narrow you might not notice door is even slightly ajar. The results of that Iowa survey are the same as the results of all the surveys that show Hillary Clinton way out in front on the Democratic side. Voters can see these people as presidential candidates because both already have been credible presidential candidates. These polls reflect name recognition & voters' lack of imagination.

Jason Noble & William Petroski of the Des Moines Register: "A former Iowa state senator concealed payments he received in exchange for defecting from one presidential campaign to another ahead of Iowa's 2012 caucuses and then obstructed an investigation into the incident. Kent Sorenson of Milo now faces up to 25 years in prison, after pleading guilty on Wednesday to two counts in federal court in Des Moines. The case revolves around Sorenson's dramatic jump from the presidential campaign of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann to then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's rival campaign in late December 2011, just days before the Iowa caucuses.... According to a statement of facts accompanying Sorenson's plea agreement, he secretly negotiated with the Paul campaign over a period of months to join the campaign and received $73,000. The payments ... [were] routed through a film production company and a second company before being received by Sorenson. Those circuitous routes circumvented reporting requirements of the Federal Election Commission, ensuring the payments were kept hidden from the public....

Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political scientist, said Sorenson's conviction will hopefully have only a minor effect on the Iowa caucuses, but he suspects that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., may be asked questions about it because payments came from the presidential campaign of his father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

      ... Read the whole story. It's a hoot. The investigation began as a result of suspicions that Sorenson first accepted money from Bachmann's campaign & a Bachmann PAC, payments which Bachmann & Sorenson also routed through go-betweens. Seems Sorenson had this money-laundering scheme down pat. Almost. As Rachel Maddow likes to say, "Wash, rinse & repeat."

Over There

Paul Krugman: "OK, this has to be the funniest headline I’ve seen for a while, on Business Insider: The French Government Has Collapsed, And It’s Partly Paul Krugman’s Fault. The French prime minister has tendered his resignation amid a dispute set off by the economy minister’s decision to go public with opposition to austerity orthodoxy, and since he cited me on the subject, Business Insider has made a funny. The real story, of course, is the combination of the abject failure of austerity at a Europe-wide level, and the intransigence of the policy’s instigators."

Tuesday
Aug262014

The Commentariat -- August 27, 2014

Side-Stepping Congress to Save the World. Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress. In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a 'politically binding' deal that would 'name and shame' countries into cutting their emissions."

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "United States Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican from Florida who once advocated for a broad immigration overhaul that would have included a path to legal status for people now in the country illegally, urged President Obama [in a letter] on Tuesday not to take unilateral action on the issue even to slow the pace of deportations.... In an interview..., Mr. Rubio said he found that the 'fundamental impediment' to an overhaul was that Republican lawmakers and many voters did not trust Mr. Obama to carry out enforcement provisions. By taking unilateral action to suspend deportations, Mr. Rubio said, the White House would be 'proving them right' and would 'further exacerbate the divisions.' Rubio's new immigration plan: border security!” ...

... Peter Hamby of CNN: Marco Rubio "... the Florida senator and likely presidential candidate, was the headline speaker at a 'Faith and Freedom' barbecue fundraiser for Rep. Jeff Duncan, the tea party-backed congressman who represents what many Republicans consider the most conservative House district in the state.... Rubio ... was quickly interrupted by a group of protestors -- self-identified DREAMers..., who loudly heckled the senator for abandoning last year's sweeping immigration package.... The audience of nearly 1,200 conservatives jeered the protestors as Rubio waited for them to be escorted out of the Anderson Civic Center, scolding them in the process. 'We are a sovereign country that deserves to have immigration laws,' Rubio said. 'You're doing harm to your own cause because you don't have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States.' The crowd cheered him on." ...

... Greg Sargent has a good post reminding us how far Rubio & other Republicans have descended on immigration reform. ...

... NEW. Obama Is Not Listening to Marco. David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "The White House is considering proposals from business and immigrant rights groups that are pressing President Obama to provide hundreds of thousands of new green cards for high-tech workers and the relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents."

Maureen Dowd: President Obama "dispatched Eric Holder to Ferguson, and deputized Al Sharpton, detaching himself at the very moment when he could have helped move the country forward on an issue close to his heart. It’s another perverse reflection of his ambivalent relationship to power." ...

... CW: I would like to know exactly how Dowd thinks Obama "could have helped move the country forward" on race relations. Maybe Marco Rubio has some ideas. Or Cornel West! ...

Jonathan Chait: "The political subculture of anti-Obama leftists has entered a phase by this point in the Obama presidency where the truth of its worldview is so well-established to its own adherents that it requires no exposition. Tom Frank, an anti-Obama leftist, interviews Cornel West, another anti-Obama leftist, in a conversation so deeply marinated in shared assumptions that, at one point, both interviewer and interviewee agree that nobody disagrees with them.... Because they cannot conceive of any limits to Obama's power, betrayal and haplessness are the only causes they can imagine for their distress." CW Note: Some readers thought I should link the Frank-West interview, tho I had already decided against it. Well, it's linked now.

BTW, Simon Maloy of Salon has a good response to Dowd's previous column excoriating President Obama (from way back on Sunday), which you could just apply to today's Dowd column excoriating Obama.

Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Tuesday named Kevin J. Counihan, who ran Connecticut’s successful health insurance marketplace, as the chief executive of the federal marketplace serving consumers in 36 states." ...

... MEANWHILE.... Andrea Peterson of the Washington Post: "A former acting director of cybersecurity at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was convicted on child pornography charges, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday. Timothy DeFoggi, 56, was convicted of 'engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, conspiracy to advertise and distribute child pornography, and accessing a computer with intent to view child pornography.'" ...

     ... CW: Wouldn't you think a cybersecurity expert would know how to hide his Web identity? DeFoggi worked for HHS during the Obama administration (not clear if he's a career employee who's been around for a long time or a Sebelius hire). His disgusting little sexual proclivities aside, his carelessness is another indicator of the ineptitude of HHS. Maybe the new team can fix it.

Down the Donut Hole. Kelsey Snell of Politico on Burger King's move from the U.S. to Canada (via it's purchase of Tim Hortons, a Canadian donut shop chain): "Even the loss of the Whopper and fries won’t budge Congress.... The impotent Washington response to losing an iconic American fast food company over a tax issue is a reflection of just how dysfunctional Congress has become — and a stark illustration of how far apart the two parties are on tax reform. Simply put, many Democrats want to ban these so-called tax inversions, where companies flee U.S. taxes by taking headquarters overseas. Republicans say the solution is cutting corporate taxes to make the U.S. more competitive. And not surprisingly, broad tax reform has gone nowhere."

Helene Cooper & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "The United States has begun to mobilize a broad coalition of allies behind potential American military action in Syria and is moving toward expanded airstrikes in northern Iraq, administration officials said on Tuesday. President Obama, the officials said, was broadening his campaign against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and nearing a decision to authorize airstrikes and airdrops of food and water around the northern Iraqi town of Amerli, home to members of Iraq’s Turkmen minority. The town of 12,000 has been under siege for more than two months by the militants." ...

... Aaron Miller of Foreign Policy explains why air strikes against ISIS in Syria won't work & why President Obama will initiate them anyway. ...

... Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: "Bill Kristol wants to bomb first and figure it out later. News at ten. During a Monday interview with Laura Ingraham on the ongoing situation in Iraq, the Weekly Standard founder discussed his desire to forgo national debates and simply bomb ISIS forces immediately." ...

... ** George Packer of the New Yorker: "Among the many reasons to mourn [James] Foley’s death is the loss of his reporting, and of reporting in general, from Syria. News of the civil war from Western media organizations has been dwindling as security has deteriorated, and it is now likely to dry up. Local Syrian reporters face an even greater threat. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that at least eighty journalists have been kidnapped since the start of the war and at least seventy have been killed, almost all of them Syrians, and almost all in 2012 and 2013." Read the whole post. Packer points out the huge disservice Darryl Issa, John McCain, et al., do to developing & maintaining sensible U.S. foreign policy.

Zach Carter of the Huffington Post: "House Republicans are agitating to dramatically curb federal bank regulators' ability to combat money laundering, calling for changes in decades-old financial fraud standards in an effort to aid payday lenders."

Melinda Deslatte of the AP: "Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Obama administration, accusing it of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards. The U.S. Department of Education has used a $4.3 billion grant program and federal policy waivers to encourage states to adopt uniform education standards and testing. The Republican governor says that 'effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum" in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content.'"

Kathleen Hennessey of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama said Tuesday that he is working to 'regain the trust' of the nation’s veterans by improving their access to quality healthcare and education as he struggles to recover from a scandal that thrust the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs into the spotlight earlier this year. 'We are going to get to the bottom of these problems. We’re going to fix what is wrong,' Obama told thousands of veterans gathered in Charlotte, N.C., for the annual American Legion conference.... Shortly before Obama’s remarks, the White House announced a series of policy changes and public-private partnerships aimed at easing service members’ transition to civilian life":

Jonathan Chait: Paul Ryan picks his favorite books, accidentally forgets Atlas Shrugged. Never fear. According to Chait, one of Ryan's picks "is a weird, rambly, mostly unoriginal recitation of free-market homilies" & another "is a work of genuine derangement on the same intellectual level as the sorts of unpublishable hand-scrawled diatribes that I used to scan through when I sorted the mail as a magazine intern.... So it seems the lesson Ryan has drawn from the harmful publicity surrounding his Rand fixation is not that he shouldn’t associate himself publicly with crackpot authors but merely that he should find different crackpot authors."

... CW Note: Ryan's reading list provides more evidence of his perpetually child-like mind. Some commenters to yesterday's thread discussed the book & film Being There, about a simple-minded man whom the Very Serious People all take very seriously. I believe we have found the real Chauncey Gardiner, & he is about to become chair of the House Ways & Means Committee. Worth remembering: Mitt Romney thought this inchoate goofball would make a great president.

Shock! New College Board History Exam Does Not Insist the U.S. Is the Greatest Country Ever. Nor does it name Newt Gingrich & Phyllis Schlafly among great Americans. Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "The National Review on Monday published a piece claiming that the College Board's new framework for the AP U.S. History exam was the result of a leftist movement to change the way American history is taught.... According to [NRO blogger Stanley] Kurtz, the College Board's redesign of the exam is linked to an 'attack on American exceptionalism' and 'a highly politicized and left-leaning approach to American history.'" ...

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. -- Barack Obama

For the rest of Obama's comment, for which the right regularly lambastes him, see this piece by Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post.

... CW Note to Kurtz: American "exceptionalism" is an opinion (or a belief), not a fact. Ergo, it has no place in teaching curricula, other than in, say, attempts to decipher what drove Dubya's foreign policy views. As an underpinning of U.S. policy, American exceptionalism it is just as valid as whatever they're teaching North Korean kiddies about North Korean exceptionalism. It's a crock. In my opinion.

Beyond the Beltway

Maureen McDonnell's lawyers are presenting her defense today in the Bob & Maureen McDonnell corruption trial. The Washington Post is liveblogging testimony here. ...

... Matt Zapotosky & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell concluded his nearly 24 hours on the witness stand Tuesday by telling jurors he regretted taking lavish gifts from a businessman, but firmly insisting he never promised favors in return. 'I, as governor, allowed my life to get out of balance,' McDonnell testified, agreeing that he and his family should not have accepted as many luxury goods from Jonnie R. Williams Sr. 'That was my error.'” ...

... Here's the Post's liveblog for Tuesday. ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Five days of grueling, often contentious testimony by Bob McDonnell, the former Virginia governor accused of corruption, ended Tuesday with an apology from Mr. McDonnell for accepting so many gifts and so much money, but an emphatic denial that he had conspired with his wife to sell his office. The federal trial, already 22 days long, could go to the jury as early as Wednesday. Lawyers for the former Virginia first lady, Maureen McDonnell, must present her defense, but her lead attorney promised that it might take only three hours."

Walking While Black in Beverly Hills. Anthony Kurzweil of KTLA: "A film producer who was in Beverly Hills to attend a pre-Emmy party Friday night was handcuffed and detained for about six hours before authorities investigating a nearby bank robbery realized they had the wrong man." The "suspect," Charles Belk, is black. The Beverly Hills police released a statement saying "A witness then positively identified Belk as the second suspect, according to the news release." Because all black people look alike to people in Beverly Hills. ...

... Worse. Shopping While Black in WalMart. Travis Gettys of the Raw Story: "Surveillance video shows an Ohio man talking on a cell phone, leaning on a toy gun, and facing away from officers moments before police shot and killed him in a Walmart store, according to an attorney for the man’s family. John Crawford III died Aug. 5 after police were called to Walmart in Beavercreek, near Dayton, by another shopper who reported a man carrying what appeared to be an AR-15 rifle. The 22-year-old Crawford was instead carrying an unpackaged MK-177 (.177 caliber) BB/pellet rifle he picked up in the store’s toy department.... Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine [R] announced Tuesday handed the case over to a special prosecutor...." ...

He was doing nothing more, nothing less than just shopping. -- Michael Wright, attorney for John Crawford's family

... Kim Palmer of Reuters: "... lawyers for the family of John Crawford III, who was shot and killed by Beavercreek police earlier this month, said his death was unjustified, demanded that all surveillance video of the shooting be released and called for the case to be turned over to federal authorities."


Lauren Raab of the Los Angeles Times: "An instructor at a shooting range in Arizona died Monday after a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot him in the head with an Uzi he was showing her how to use, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said. Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City was shot Monday morning, airlifted to a medical center in Las Vegas and pronounced dead shortly before 9 p.m., the sheriff’s office said." CW: I'm not sure the girl is the killer here. No one in his right mind would give a child an Uzi. ...

... Susie Madrak of Crooks & Liars: "Just another one of those tragic accidents that so often happen with responsible gun owners!"

It turns out Krugman has been wrong all along. The U.S. is in danger of becoming the next Greece. Greece, New York, that is. Sahil Kapur of Think Progress: "Earlier this year, the Supreme Court gave its blessing to local governments that want to open their public meetings with religious prayer. It was a victory for the town board of Greece, N.Y., which stressed that it was fighting not just for Christian prayer but for the right of all people express their views regardless of their faith. In a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines, the Court ruled against the Jewish and atheist plaintiffs, who argued that the practice violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Less than four months later, the town of Greece has adopted an invocation policy that excludes non-religious citizens and potentially shuts out faiths that aren't well-established in the town, according to a top secular group."

Mireya Navarro of the New York Times: "A 33-story glassy tower rising on Manhattan’s waterfront will offer all the extras that a condo buyer paying up to $25 million would expect, like concierge service, entertainment rooms, and unobstructed views of the Hudson River and miles beyond. The project will also cater to renters who make no more than about $50,000. They will not share the same perks, and they will also not share the same entrance. The so-called poor door has brought an outcry, with numerous officials now demanding an end to the strategy. But the question of how to best incorporate affordable units into projects built for the rich has become more relevant than ever as Mayor Bill de Blasio seeks the construction of 80,000 new affordable units over the next 10 years. The answer is not a simple one."

Gubernatorial Races

Mark Caputo of the Miami Herald: Former Florida Republican governor-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist easily won his primary race, but the general election battle between current Gov. Rick Scott (RCrook) is a toss-up. "While each solidifies his base and tries to snatch as many independent voters as possible — anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of the electorate — Crist and Scott also have to warily eye the Libertarian Party’s nominee, Adrian Wyllie, who could draw as much as 9 percent of the vote, according to one recent poll." ...

... Politico's report, by James Hohmann, is here.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/08/26/4310853/early-returns-show-charlie-crist.html#storylink=cpy

The New York Times Editors pointedly make no endorsement in the Democratic primary for governor of New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who most certainly will win the primary & likely the general election, has one primary opponent, "Zephyr Teachout, a professor at Fordham Law School who is a national expert on political corruption and an advocate of precisely the kind of transparency and political reform that Albany needs. Her description of Mr. Cuomo as part of a broken system 'where public servants just end up serving the wealthy' is exactly on point, but we decline to endorse her because she has not shown the breadth of interests and experience needed to govern a big and diverse state."

Noam Scheiber of the New Republic argues that the Wisconsin gubernatorial race is "a very big deal," & its result "could shape U.S. politics for years to come."

Congressional Races

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "The GOP primary in Arizona’s 1st district remained too close to call hours after polls closed Tuesday night. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Republicans’ best- and worst-case candidates to take on Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) this fall were just a few hundred votes apart.... As of 4:30 a.m. EST, Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, the establishment pick..., led rancher Gary Kiehne by just 291 votes, 15,168 to 14,877, about half a percentage point difference.... A win by Kiehne would deliver Democrats their best shot at holding onto a seat that routinely ranks at the top of the party’s most-vulnerable list. Republicans won it at the presidential level twice, and Kirkpatrick lost it once before, before going on to narrowly win her seat back in 2012 against a flawed challenger in a favorable Democratic year." ...

... Alexandra Jaffe: "Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers defeated former Arizona State University quarterback Andrew Walter for the chance to take on Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) this fall.... Rogers’ nomination gives Democrats an early and easy opportunity for attacks, due to comments during her unsuccessful 2012 congressional run when she suggested she wants to see Social Security 'phased out.'”...

... Alexandra Jaffe: "Former state Rep. Ruben Gallego defeated retiring Rep. Ed Pastor’s (D-Ariz.) choice to succeed him, former Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, in a fiery primary fight on Tuesday night.... Gallego ran a ground- and youth-focused campaign that utilized data and technology to facilitate voter outreach in the young district, and he drew the support of a number of national progressive groups." ...

PLUS. Mary Beth Faller of the Arizona Republic: "Diane Douglas defeated incumbent John Huppenthal in the Republican primary for Arizona superintendent of public instruction on Tuesday.... During the campaign, Huppenthal faced relentless questioning about controversial comments he posted on local political blogs using pseudonyms — including remarks that people who receive public assistance are 'lazy pigs' and that Spanish-language media should be shut down." CW: Huppenthal led the effort to ban Mexican-American studies in Tucson public schools. Via Roque Planes of the Huffington Post.

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: All Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to be is Senate Majority Leader.

** Alec MacGillis of the New Republic: "... what is going on right now in Wisconsin’s Sixth Congressional District is truly historic, and demands more attention.The district, northwest of Milwaukee, has been represented for nearly half a century by only two men, both of whom were standard bearers for a brand of moderate Republicanism that has all but vanished from the landscape. The latter of the two, Tom Petri, is retiring after 35 years in office, and the Republican primary earlier this month to replace him was won, very narrowly, by Glenn Grothman, a proudly polarizing state senator (pictured above) considered by many to be the most radically conservative member of the Wisconsin legislature." ...

... Here's the August 13 story by Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast, which MacGillis links.

Hice, et al. BuzzFeed Photoshop.... Meet a strong runner-up for Worst-Congressman-in-Waiting, Jody Hice. Hice won the primary in Georgia's ultra-conservative 10th District, currently represented by serious loon Paul Broun, who gave up his seat to run for Senate. (He lost the primary.) Hice is expected to easily win the general election. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: Hice "really loves freedom. He calls himself a 'constitutional conservative' and LOVES the Founding Fathers.... Hice also loves to naturally share Founding Fathers quotes. Unfortunately, many of them are fake." Kaczynski provides ample examples.

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "Three top Republican Senate candidates heaped praise on the political network built by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference held by the brothers this past summer, according to audio of the event. Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst and Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton directly credited donors present at the June 16 retreat in Dana Point, California, for propelling them forward. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told attendees that his race would likely be decided by the presence of 'third party' money -- an obvious pitch for generosity from the well-heeled crowd." ...

... Greg Sargent: "... this ... undercuts GOP complaints about the Dem strategy of targeting the Koch brothers and linking GOP candidates to them. Republicans have fretted that this is all about a concerted strategy to 'demonize' big GOP donors."

Peter Suderman of Reason: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS "is knocking ... [Democratic Senators Mark Pryor (Ak.) & Kay Hagan (N.C.)] ... from the left — criticizing both candidates for wanting to cut and reform entitlements.... These shallow, shell-game attack ads are meant to play on voter fear and confusion about important policy details, but what they end up revealing is the party’s own fear and confusion about how to answer some of the biggest policy questions of the day." Via Paul Waldman.

Elise Viebeck of the Hill: "Republican Senate candidates are staying silent on President Obama's latest changes to the birth control coverage mandate even as the policy catches flak from the religious right.... The lack of response reveals would-be GOP senators' extreme caution as they approach the birth control debate at this point in the election cycle."

Monday
Aug252014

The Commentariat -- August 26, 2014

Mark Landler & Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a precursor to airstrikes there, but a mounting concern for the White House is how to target the Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar al-Assad." ...

... Oren Dorell of USA Today: "Briitish intelligence said a London rapper who traveled to Syria last year to fight with Islamist militants is suspected of beheading American journalist James Foley last week, according to the British newspaper The Sunday Times.... A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said U.S. intelligence officials have yet to confirm the killer's identity on the video showing the killing and continue to work the case.... British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 identified the killer and named Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 24, as a key suspect, The Sunday Times reported, citing unnamed officials. Abdel Bary, also known as L Jinny or Lyricist Jinn in London, left a budding music career that included appearances on BBC Radio in 2012, several British newspapers reported." ...

... Luke Harding & Fazel Hawramy of the Guardian: "The United Nations said on Sunday it had evidence that fighters from Islamic State (Isis) had killed as many as 670 prisoners in Mosul and had carried out further abuses in Iraq that amounted to crimes against humanity. Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said Islamic State and allied fighters were committing 'grave, horrific human rights violations' on a daily basis. These included, including targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, trafficking, slavery and sexual abuse, Pillay said." ...

... The hawks on the Washington Post editorial board call for "boots on the ground" against ISIS.

Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian: "An American journalist who was freed after almost two years of captivity in Syria is believed to be in the custody of the US embassy in Tel Aviv, where he is likely to be undergoing medical checks and preliminary debriefing. Peter Theo Curtis, 45, was handed over to UN peacekeepers in the village of al-Rafid, close to the boundary between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria. He had been held by Jabhat al-Nusra, an affiliate of al-Qaida, since autumn 2012."

David Kirkpatrick & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Twice in the last seven days, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have secretly launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli, Libya, four senior American officials said, in a major escalation of a regional power struggle set off by Arab Spring revolts. The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied to American diplomats that their military played any role in the operation, the officials said, in what appeared a new blow to already strained relations between Washington and Cairo." ...

... CW: As contributor Haley Simon asks, "Anybody else wondering how it was that the US had 'no idea' that Egypt and the Emirates were bombing Libya given their worldwide surveillance of everybody? We surely do suck at whatever it is that the NSA is doing."

Connie Bruck has a long piece in the New Yorker on AIPAC, which has captured nearly every legislator in Washington, a fearsome fact given Israel's right-wing, militaristic government. CW: Another reminder that we will never have representative government without a Constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform.

** Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "The Veterans Affairs Department says investigators have found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a VA hospital in Phoenix, deflating an explosive allegation that helped expose a troubled health care system in which veterans waited months for appointments while employees falsified records to cover up the delays." ...

... Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: "Three months after a veterans' health care scandal rocked his administration, President Barack Obama is taking executive action to improve the mental well-being of veterans. The president was to announce his initiatives during an appearance before the American Legion National Convention that is fraught with midterm politics. The president's address to the legionnaires Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the latest administration response to the health care lapses that led to the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in May."

The Tie Goes to the Republicans. Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "... more than 200 times in the past six years that the [Federal Election Commission] has split votes, reflecting a deep ideological divide over how aggressively to regulate money in politics that mirrors the partisan gridlock in Congress. But instead of paralyzing the commission, the 3-to-3 votes have created a rapidly expanding universe of unofficial law, where Republican commissioners have loosened restrictions on candidates and outside groups simply by signaling what standards they are willing to enforce." The rule is: it's legal if the members of the commission vote 3-3.

** Peter Mancuso in the Washington Monthly. The militarization of police forces in only part of the story: "That larger story begins many years before our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It involves a tit-for-tat escalation of armaments between criminals, citizens, and police departments that has been egged on by America's arms manufacturers and gun rights groups.... [The] call to increase police officer fire power was further exacerbated by the fact that state legislatures failed miserably in the face of the gun lobby to curb the sale of some of the most powerful and lethal firearms that posed threats to police officers across the country in the first place.... New huge profits for weapons makers [by opening up the law enforcement market for heavier firepower] meant increased contributions from these same firearms manufacturers to the National Rifle Association, (NRA).... The NRA's unabated, vigorous, and highly successful marketing strategy, wrapped the whole sales pitch in 'Second Amendment' parchment and a 'Red, White, & Blue' ribbon for the American public market." Read the whole post. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "It’s actually a bit worse than Mancuso suggests. The arms race between police departments and lawbreakers created an atmosphere of spectacularly lethal violence (even as violent crime rates actually went down) that made it easy for the gun lobby and its paymasters to argue that every single citizen needed to become his or her own police force, as heavily armed as the cops and robbers. 'Army of One' indeed. So we aren't just witnessing the consequences of the 'militarization of the police.' It's the militarization of America, which happens when you deliberately destroy the state monopoly on means of lethal violence.... [This is an] angle that libertarian folk like Rand Paul do not want to pursue: cops bulking up with military hardware as part of an arms race created by Second Amendment absolutism."

Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "House Republicans have hired D.C. law firm BakerHostetler to provide legal representation to sue President Obama. House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-Mich.) signed a contract on Monday for BakerHostetler to represent the House in the civil action lawsuit in a U.S. district court against the president.... The contract authorizes the House general counsel to pay BakerHostetler $500 per hour for 'all reasonable attorney time expended in connection with the litigation.' However, the contract states that the legal costs will not exceed a 'firm cap' of $350,000 that 'will not be raised.'" ...

... CW: There is some good news here. It turns out that Miller, who is the only woman committee chair -- appointed after multiple news sites noted that all of the House committee heads were white guys -- actually gets to do something more substantial than keeping the coffee room stocked & ironing her colleagues' shirts. Always look on the bright side.

Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "As the shaded quadrangles of the nation's elite campuses stir to life for the start of the academic year, they remain bastions of privilege. Amid promises to admit more poor students, top colleges educate roughly the same percentage of them as they did a generation ago. This is despite the fact that there are many high school seniors from low-income homes with top grades and scores: twice the percentage in the general population as at elite colleges.... As Anthony P. Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, put it, 'Higher education has become a powerful force for reinforcing advantage and passing it on through generations.'" ...

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: Our educational system is largely to blame for the lack of gender & racial diversity in high-tech companies.

Vauhini Vara in the New Yorker: "The problem with [the DOJ's multi-billion-dollar settlements with big banks] isn't that banks' relief efforts don't have a wider scope; it's that by describing the settlements in grandiose terms, banks and officials risk misleading the public about the scope, which, at best, can confuse people and, at worst, can set them up to fall victim to fraud." CW: Actually, the point seems to be to mislead the public.

The Whopper Challenge. Danny Vinik of the New Republic: "The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday evening that Burger King is seeking to buy Tim Horton's, the Canadian coffee and donut chain, to lower its U.S. tax bill.... The deal is structured as a 'tax inversion' which allows Burger King to switch its official tax jurisdiction from the United States, where the federal corporate tax rate is 35 percent, to Canada, where it is 15 percent.... If it sounds ridiculous that an American company can purchase a foreign firm and suddenly avoid the U.S. corporate tax system, that's because it is." ...

... Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider: "There has been talk of legislation to limit tax inversions, but in this political climate, the idea of anything actually passing both houses of Congress seems very slim. So earlier this month, the White House said it may use an executive order to limit tax inversions, though it remains unclear how much teeth any executive order would have.... Greg Valliere of Potomac Research says that Burger King's actions are a direct statement to the White House and the Treasury, basically daring them to back up their warning with action." ...

... AND This Tidbit. Richard Rubin of Bloomberg News: "Two top Republican lawmakers profited from a corporate tax-avoidance maneuver that the U.S. Treasury Department is seeking to curb. While U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp have resisted calls for a crackdown on companies adopting overseas addresses to pay lower taxes, both have made money off one of the deals. They also have investments at risk of losing value because of government action.... Their actions are legal.... Still, the two lawmakers, who have more sway over tax policy than any other House members, are invested in deals that Obama and other Democrats say are wrong and unpatriotic."

Libertarian Ascending? Hah. Ed Kilgore: Pew Research Center discovers even "self-identified libertarians aren't much 'libertarian,' either." Here's a funny bit: "These findings of the non-particularity of 'libertarian' views, mind you, is after Pew has melted the category down from 17% of the public to 11%, since a lot of 'libertarians' could not accurately distinguish 'libertarian' from 'communist' or -- get this -- 'Unitarian.'"

... The Pew Research findings are here:

Self-described libertarians tend to be modestly more supportive of some libertarian positions, but few of them hold consistent libertarian opinions on the role of government, foreign policy and social issues... In some cases, the political views of self-described libertarians differ modestly from those of the general public; in others there are no differences at all.

Charles Pierce reviewed the Sunday shows yesterday, & he remains unkind to Chris Jansing, who filled in as host for the rudderless "Press the Meat": "... the Dancin' Master's old place ... was later turned into a Rand Paul infomercial by guest DJ Chris Jansing. Prior to that, of course, Jansing let [Rep. Mike] Rogers [R-Mich.] deliver the kind of old boogedy-boogedy that's going to make his new show a hit among the canned-peach shut-ins of his target audience." ...

... CW: It occurs to me that Chuck Todd's new show may not be a hit with "the canned-peach shut-ins." Maybe the NBC Chipmunk has the same "problem" David Gregory had: he's just too young to connect with the shut-ins. Ergo, the most popular Sunday morning show today is anchored by "onetime military advisor to the House Of Rurikovich Bob Schieffer." If a network want an actual audience for its Sunday news show, it would have to turn over the airwaves to the likes of John Oliver or Jon Stewart. This week's guest host: Chris Rock. No, it's not gonna happen. The networks, aware that they are dying, have advanced along the Kubler-Ross model to Stage 5 (acceptance), whereas many viewers are stuck at an earlier stage -- anger or depression. ...

     ... CW Update: Oh, I must have been wrong. It turns out the new & improved "Press the Meat" will have "more edge":

The show needs more edge. It needs to be consequential. I think the show had become a talking shop that raked over the cold embers of what had gone on the previous week. The one-on-one conversation belongs to a decade ago. We need more of a coffeehouse conversation. -- Deborah Turness, President of NBC News

     ... CW: Wow! I'm really looking forward to hearing a "coffeehouse conversation" between Newt Gingrich & Mary Matalin. I guess Chuck will play the part of the hippie waiter. Maybe a bona fide newsmaker like Dick Cheney will drop by & order a cup of GI Joe. It will be like SNL just carries right through to Sunday morning. Eddddgy! ...

... [Emmy Awards host] Seth Meyers made a sardonic joke about network television holding an awards show and giving all the trophies to cable and other services. 'That would be crazy,' he said. 'Why would they do that?' ...

... TeeVee for the Well-Heeled. Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times: "There is an exhilarating confluence of talent and opportunity at places like HBO and Showtime. Shows like 'Breaking Bad' and 'True Detective' are more inspired than movies, telling stories that are a complete vision rather than a committee-dulled compromise. But it's increasingly obvious that the most rewarded series are also the ones that penalize audiences with costs that add up and count many viewers out."

Beyond the Beltway

Here is the Washington Post liveblog of the Bob & Maureen McDonnell corruption trial.

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "A pivotal moment in the corruption trial of Robert F. McDonnell and his wife began Monday as a prosecutor aggressively opened his cross-examination of the former Virginia governor. In a series of rapid-fire questions, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry asked whether McDonnell denied key facts about his relationship with businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. -- who prosecutors say bribed the first couple in an effort to curry favor for his onetime company." ...

... Here's the blow-by-blow by Washington Post reporters.

Elisa Crouch of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Hundreds of mourners gathered at a St. Louis church this morning for the funeral of 18-year-old Michael Brown...." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Darryl Fears, et al., is here. The New York Times story, by Monica Davey, is here. ...

... Annals of Journalism, Ctd.

... CW: I can't help it -- I love the way Fox "News" covered Brown's funeral. Here's the headline: "More White House officials at Michael Brown's funeral than Thatcher's." Here's the lede: "The White House sent three officials to attend Monday's funeral for Michael Brown in St. Louis -- three more than it sent for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral last year. The administration's handling of the Brown funeral already has started to raise comparisons between the two." Yessiree, the first think I thought of in regard to Michael Brown's funeral was how many Obama administration attended Margaret Thatcher's funeral. "Started to raise comparisons"? I wonder who might be doing the comparing. It appears Fox "News" has launched a new school of journalism: self-referential reportage.

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post with a few of the "outraged" responses to the New York Times' profile of Michael Brown (profile linked here yesterday). ...

... Margaret Sullivan of the New York Times: "Two words -- 'no angel' -- have become a flash point for many of the difficult, contentious, entrenched issues that have arisen in Ferguson, Mo. On Twitter, in my email queue and across the Internet, many Times readers are angry and disappointed about the use of those words, which have become yet another Ferguson-related hashtag. Let's get the obvious out of the way first: That choice of words was a regrettable mistake." ...

... CW: All-in-all, I'm with Steve M. on this: "I read John Eligon's New York Times profile of Mike Brown this morning and came away with the impression that it was a largely positive portrait. Then I went online and realized that I was supposed to be appalled by it." ...

     ... CW: I do think the Times made two mistakes, neither of which was the fault of the piece's author, John Eligon, who is a young black man. (1) The Times published the Brown profile on the day of Brown's funeral; ergo, readers are looking for an obituary-type remembrance, not a warts-and-all profile. Obituaries, unless the subjects are primarily famous for their notoriety, tend to be rather kind glosses. (2) The Times published the Brown profile side-by-side with one of Brown's killer Darren Wilson, & that piece found no specific fault with Wilson; rather, it seemed to explain the factors that might have led to his wantonly shooting dead a black man. Max Read of Gawker highlights the problem with that ill-conceived editorial decision. ...

... ** Matthew Yglesias of Vox: "Michael Brown didn't do anything as a teen that I didn't — but only one of us got killed.... But since the officer who apprehended us managed to handle the situation without killing us, the NYPD and the New York Times never felt the need to air our dirty laundry in public.... Angels, it turns out, are pretty rare. But if you look the right way, you don't need to be one to survive into adulthood." CW: This is the same point that Aqua Buddha boy -- and others -- have made. Acting like a jerk, including doing illegal things, is something in which probably most young men & many young women engage. It's a rite of passage. Some get caught by law enforcement. Few of the youthful miscreants end up dead or even with a criminal record. That small percentage goes way up for young black offenders. ...

CNN plays an audio recording of the shots that killed Michael Brown. Holly Yan of CNN: "In the recording, a quick series of shots can be heard, followed by a pause and then another quick succession of shots. Forensic audio expert Paul Ginsberg analyzed the recording and said he detected at least 10 gunshots -- a cluster of six, followed by four":

... Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "... the average black person's friend network is 8 percent white, but the average white person's network is only 1 percent black. To put it another way: Blacks have ten times as many black friends as white friends. But white Americans have an astonishing 91 times as many white friends as black friends.... A full 75 percent of whites have 'entirely white social networks without any minority presence.' The same holds true for slightly less than two thirds of black Americans." ...

Presidential Race

Chuck Lindell & Tony Plohetski of the Austin American-Statesman: In a 60-page motion to dismiss, Rick Perry's lawyers argued that "The two-count indictment ... defies common sense and should be dismissed 'immediately if not sooner' as a violation of the U.S. and Texas constitutions.... The wide-ranging attack argued that Perry's criminal charges were based on state laws that are unconstitutional or, at the very least, were misinterpreted -- constituting an improper attempt to criminalize politics and limit gubernatorial power in 'intolerable and incalculable' ways." ...

... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post followed Rick Perry around New Hampshire for two days. Here's what he learned about Perry: He really wants to run for president again.... The dude is stylish.... He's decided which foreign policy lane he wants to occupy in 2016. Perry wants to be the hawkish, authoritative voice on national security.... He likes retail politics." ...

... Brian Beutler: Rick Perry's biggest gaffe in the 2012 primary debates, in the eyes of the GOP faithful was "Not the time he drew a blank, under pressure, about his desire to abolish the Department of Energy, but the time he called Republicans who oppose in-state tuition for so-called DREAMers heartless." He's making up for that now in his border antics & is setting the bar for all Republican presidential hopefuls: "Perry is helping to establish a theoretical baseline -- militarized border, maximum deportation of low-priority offenders -- that will become policy if a Republican manages to win the presidency in 2016."

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) is gearing up for a presidential primary challenge against Hillary Clinton and hopes to capitalize on Democratic concerns over Clinton's coziness with Wall Street banks. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, plans to travel to two crucial presidential battleground states next month."

Senate Races

Larry Sabato, et al., in Politico Magazine: "... the midterms are far from over. In every single one of the Crystal Ball's toss-up states, (Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina), the Republican Senate candidate has not yet opened up a real polling lead in any of them. Democratic nominees have been running hard and staying slightly ahead, or close to, their Republican foes.... As we've said many times, 2014 should be a Republican year, with GOP gains in both houses of Congress. Yet Republicans have a terrible record of beating incumbent Democratic senators, going back to their last good year in this category, 1980."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index reached a milestone on Tuesday, closing above 2,000 for the first time ever, if just barely. It was a lazy day of trading that picked up on some encouraging signs in the United States economy, but not enough for sustained optimism in the market."

ABC News: "A third American hostage held by ISIS has been identified as a 26-year-old American woman who was kidnapped a year ago while doing humanitarian relief work in Syria. The terror group is demanding $6.6 million and the release of U.S. prisoners for the life of the young woman, whom a representative for the family requested not be identified."

New York Times: "A 33-year-old American who was fighting for the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was killed in recent days in a battle with a rival group in Syria, a senior American official said on Tuesday. The authorities identified the man as Douglas McAuthur McCain, of San Diego. According to a human rights group that tracks the conflict in Syria, Mr. McCain was killed in a battle in Marea, a city in northern Syria near the Turkish border. Mr. McCain had been on a watch list of potential terrorism suspects maintained by the United States government...."

New York Times: "Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday reached a long-term cease-fire after seven weeks of fighting, according to officials on both sides, halting the longest, bloodiest battle either side has experienced in years -- but without resolving many of the bigger issues underlying the conflict."

New York Times: "Burger King Worldwide agreed on Tuesday to buy the Canadian restaurant chain Tim Hortons for about $11.4 billion, creating one of the biggest fast-food operations in the world -- with a little help from Warren E. Buffett. As part of the transaction, however, the American burger giant will move its home to Canada, where the combined company's biggest market will be."

Washington Post: "Ukraine said Tuesday its forces detained a group of Russian paratroopers who crossed the border into eastern Ukraine, and the U.S. ambassador to Kiev warned of a possible 'Russian-directed counteroffensive' by pro-Moscow separatists, raising tensions between the two countries as their presidents attended a regional summit."