The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, September 15, 2014.

Washington Post: "Thomas H. Boggs Jr., who sat for decades at the epicenter of Washington legal, business and political circles as the city’s marquee name in lobbying and political fund-raising, died Sept. 15 at his home in Chevy Chase. He was 73. The cause was an apparent heart attack, said his sister, the broadcast journalist Cokie Roberts."

AP: "Oscar Pistorius is free to compete for South Africa again, as long as his running doesn't go against the ruling of the judge. Pistorius, who is to be sentenced next month after being found guilty in the negligent killing of his girlfriend, could compete at any time because the South African Olympic committee has no regulations preventing someone with a criminal record from representing the country."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

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
September 16

1:30 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the Legal Services Corporation conference

4:05 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.

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

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

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New 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.

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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Tuesday
Sep162014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 17, 2014

CW: I'm traveling again for the rest of the week. I should be able to post in the mornings & evenings.

Slip 'n Slide. Jeremy Peters & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States combat forces against Islamic extremists in specific operations if the current strategy of airstrikes was not successful, offering a more expansive view of the American role in the ground war than that of President Obama. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he said that while he was confident in the ability of the coalition of American, European and Middle Eastern governments to stop the Islamic State, he could not completely close the door to eventually asking Mr. Obama to commit ground troops to fight the group, known as ISIS or ISIL." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Craig Whitlock, is here. ...

... Justin Sink & Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "The White House and congressional Democrats on Tuesday pushed back against speculation that President Obama could order ground troops into Iraq, after the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said combat forces could fight Islamic militants. Gen. Martin Dempsey was 'referring to a hypothetical scenario in which there might be a future situation in which he might make a tactical recommendation to the president as it relates to ... the use of ground troops,' White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday." ...

... Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "As the Obama administration and the American public have focused their attention on ISIS in recent weeks, conservative groups and leading Republicans have issued stark warnings ... that ISIS and other extremists from Syria are planning to enter the country illegally from Mexico. But the Homeland Security Department, the F.B.I. and lawmakers who represent areas near the border say there is no truth to the warnings. 'There is no credible intelligence to suggest that there is an active plot by ISIL to attempt to cross the southern border,' Homeland Security officials said in a written statement, using an alternative acronym for the group." ...

... Burgess Everett of Politico: "With the House expected to attach a Syria amendment to the government funding bill and pass the package on Wednesday, the Senate appears on track to vote on the legislation by Thursday and send senators home until November — a recess key to the reelection chances of [Mitch] McConnell and a number of [Harry] Reid’s vulnerable incumbent Democrats." ...

Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday challenged world powers to ramp up the global response to the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging three West African countries, warning that unless health care workers, medical equipment and treatment centers are deployed quickly, the disease could take hundreds of thousands of lives":

... ** Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday said he has 'a few knuckleheads' in his conference. As a result, Boehner described his House majority as being a 'paper majority.' 'On any given day, 16 of my members decide they’re going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing,' he said. 'You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.'” Boehner was making a pitch for a bigger majority to neutralize the knuckleheads.

Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "Sen. Maria Cantwell said Tuesday that she will introduce legislation that will aim to strip the National Football League of its tax-exempt status.... The league is organized as a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization, and this status, as well as the other leagues who share it, has been the focus of Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn." CW: I'll be damned if I can see why there even is a 501(c)(6); which exempts from taxes "business leagues," including the NFL & chambers of commerce.

Mike Lillis of the Hill: "A pair of House lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday designed to de-militarize the nation's local police departments. Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and  Raúl  Labrador (R-Idaho) said the Pentagon's 1033 program, which arms local law enforcers with surplus military equipment, goes too far to put the tools of war onto America's streets." CW: I hate to say it, but this bill & Cantwell's will probably go nowhere.

The Word from the Snake Crude Oil Salesman: The reality is right now we've got an administration in the Obama administration that are science deniers when it comes to harnessing America's energy resources and potential to create good-paying jobs for our economy and for our future. Right now we've got an administration whose policies are holding our economy hostage. -- Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)

... CW: I think maybe Republicans have a new I-Know-You-Are-But-What-Am-I strategy. Yesterday Flip-Flopper Rand Paul called President Obama a flip-flopper, & today evolution-dissembler Jindal is calling Obama a science denier (Jindal does not dispute man-made climate change; he says he just doesn't give a damn. [Jindal is "a Rhodes scholar who studied biology and public policy at Brown University). ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Betcha the authorities at New College, Oxford, are daily regretting the degree they bestowed upon this dude, who daily applies his intellectual gifts to the worst kind of yahooism."

"You Can't Feed a Family with GDP." Neil Irwin of the New York Times: "There are a few sunnier points in [a new U.S. Census] report [on American income]. The poverty rate fell to 14.5 percent, from 15 percent. And as the White House Council of Economic Advisers points out, incomes rose a good bit more in 2013 for the median family — that is households where people who are related live together — than they did for the more widely cited measure of households, which includes singles and roommates.... But the new evidence that pay is stagnant for middle-income families strikes us as the most important thing contained in this report.... You can’t eat G.D.P. You can’t live in a rising stock market. You can’t give your kids a better life because your company’s C.E.O. was able to give himself a big raise."

Unintended Consequence? Hobby Lobby Hobbles FBI. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Citing Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court’s decision last June holding that the religious objections of a business’ owners could trump federal rules requiring that business to include birth control coverage in its health plan, a federal judge in Utah held last week that a member of a polygamist religious sect could refuse to testify in a federal investigation into alleged violations of child labor laws because he objects to testifying on religious grounds." Judge David Sam, a Reagan appointee, "concludes based on a single paragraph of analysis that the federal government’s efforts to obtain [the sect member]’s testimony is a 'substantial' burden on his faith." ...

... Scott Lemieux: "The Supreme Court just created a huge mess."

Senate Race

John Hanna of the AP: "Several Kansas Supreme Court justices expressed skepticism Tuesday about a Republican official's decision to keep the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate on the ballot against his wishes as they reviewed a legal dispute that could affect the national fight for control of the Senate. During arguments before the court, justices focused on whether a formal letter from Democrat Chad Taylor to withdraw from the race required Secretary of State Kris Kobach to remove Taylor's name from the Nov. 4 ballot. Some Democrats nudged Taylor out of the race because they see independent candidate Greg Orman as the stronger rival to three-term Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts.... Four justices — a majority for the seven member court — were appointed by former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.... Two others were appointed by Sebelius' predecessor, former moderate GOP Gov. Bill Graves." (A 7th seat is open.) ...

... Here's Bryan Lowry's report for the Wichita Eagle. ...

... OR, if you've got an hour, you can watch the oral arguments yourself:

Beyond the Beltway

Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Most voters who have already returned absentee ballots will have to provide their local clerks with copies of photo identification — as will thousands of others who have received absentee ballots but not yet submitted them. Kevin Kennedy, the head of the agency that runs state elections, said new steps are being put in place to contact such voters after a Friday ruling by an appeals court that reinstated Wisconsin's long-stalled voter ID law." CW: I'm not too sure this clusterfuck is actually going to help Republicans. Plus, let's see what happens here:

 ... Also Tuesday, the groups challenging the voter ID law said they would ask the full, 10-member 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse Friday's decision. Friday's order came from a three-judge panel.

     ... CW: I understand en banc re-hearings are unusual, but changing the rules within weeks of an election is mighty unusual -- Rick Hasen wrote the other day that the U.S. Supremes had declared last minutes "new rules" unconstitutional.

More tomorrow.

Monday
Sep152014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 16, 2014

Martin Matishak & Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "House Republicans expect to unveil legislation Monday evening that would give President Obama the authority to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels, but with some limits on that authority. The House Armed Services Committee is drafting the bill in consultation with the administration. It is expected to take the form of an amendment to a stopgap-spending bill that would keep the government funded through Dec. 11, according to a senior committee aide. Votes on the spending bill and the Syrian aid could come as soon as Wednesday."

Maggie Severns of Politico: "The House passed a bill to overhaul child care for low-income families Monday, and it will likely become law before the end of the year. Lobbyists and advocates say they didn’t expect the House and Senate, which passed its version of the bill earlier this year, to successfully broker the child care deal during this Congress. But with legislators on both sides of the aisle eager to score points during an election and high-profile education lawmakers retiring at the end of this Congress, legislators managed to strike a deal they announced Friday."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Republicans rejected a measure written by Senate Democrats aimed at bridging differences in pay between men and women. The Paycheck Fairness Act fell short 52-40, failing to clear a 60-vote procedural vote hurdle on Monday evening, the third time the measure has failed since spring of 2012."

Jacob Fischler of BuzzFeed: "Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff will introduce a bill Tuesday that provides direct authorization to fight ISIS while also sunsetting the two laws the administration has used to justify current efforts against the militants.... Regardless of whether a new AUMF is passed, President Obama has said he has all the authority needed to fight ISIS right now from the 2001 and 2002 AUMF laws. It’s a justification that’s drawn some criticism — from those who question whether ISIS is covered under the 2001 AUMF at all, to others who note that Obama once vowed to repeal the 2001 AUMF and is now using it to justify this new campaign." Via Paul Waldman.

Helene Cooper, et al., of the New York Times: "Under pressure to do more to confront the Ebola outbreak sweeping across West Africa, President Obama on Tuesday is to announce an expansion of military and medical resources to combat the spread of the deadly virus, administration officials said.... Mr. Obama will offer help to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia in the construction of as many as 17 Ebola treatment centers in the region, with about 1,700 treatment beds.... Officials said the military expected to send as many as 3,000 people to Africa to take charge of responding to the Ebola outbreak."

Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration is preparing to introduce major steps to phase out production of a popular chemical coolant used in refrigerators and air conditioners, citing growing evidence that the substance is contributing to the warming of the planet. The White House will announce on Tuesday a series of voluntary commitments by some of the country’s largest chemical firms and retailers to move rapidly away from R-134a and similar compounds used in nearly every office, home and automobile in the country...."

David Siegel in a Hill opinion piece: "The planned response to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as presented by the president on Sept. 10, places too much emphasis on military force.... There is a substantial constituency in both countries that views ISIS as preferable to its alternatives and offers the group either tacit or material support. Without this support, ISIS is a collection of terrorists with arms inferior to those of local militaries which has nowhere to hide and no promise of significant expansion. With this support it is a de facto state. The distinction between a nongovernmental actor and one that holds territory like a state is crucial." Siegel suggests a path forward, using "concrete incentives [CW: cash!] to turn [popular support] support away from" ISIS.

Sen. Flip-Flop Flip-Flops on His Flip-flops. Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Sen. Rand Paul on Monday pushed back against heightened criticism (link fixed) that he has flip-flopped on foreign policy issues, saying he has stood firmly against the Obama administration’s policies in Syria. Appearing on CBS 'This Morning,' the Kentucky Republican conceded that he has shifted his views in some areas, including on what is an appropriate U.S. response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. 'As world events change, obviously you change your analysis. Five years ago, ISIS wasn’t a threat,' he said, using an alternate name for the terrorist group that has mobilized across much of northern and central Iraq.... The Washington Post on Sunday documented Paul’s evolution on several issues, including airstrikes against ISIL targets. The report came a month after a similar Politico report noted some of Paul’s policy shifts on several issues, from immigration to Guantánamo Bay prison." CW: I guess Li'l Randy found out about videotape. Up till now his tack has been to deny having taken positions he had taken in the not-so-distant past.

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Former President Bill Clinton says he agrees that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is 'not the guy' for a peace deal. A C-SPAN video — first reported by Israeli newspaper Haaretz — shows the 42nd president at Sen. Tom Harkin’s Iowa steak fry on Sunday speaking with an individual along a rope line. 'If we don’t force him to make peace, we will not have peace,' the man told Clinton in the video. 'First of all, I agree with that,' Clinton responded, before discussing the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts he brokered during his administration. 'But Netanyahu is not the guy,' the unnamed person told Clinton, cutting in. 'I agree with that,' Clinton responded." ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York doesn't think Bill Clinton is a political genius. CW: I think Chait is being a little unfair: he's citing as evidence some offhand remarks Clinton made at a steak fry, remarks that it is true don't demonstrate genius, but weren't wrong, either. Clinton's "genius" is more visceral than intellectual (though he really does have a tremendous command of policy). Clinton wants you to like him & agree with him, & he knows how to get you to like & agree, at least momentarily. I have repeatedly found myself in his thrall, only to rethink an issue later & realize (a) he had masterfully manipulated me, & (b) I felt a little dirty.

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "After a generation of campaigns in which Republicans exploited wedge issues to win close elections, Democrats are now on the offensive in the culture wars. Democrats see social issues as potent for the same reasons Republicans once did, using them as a tool to both stoke concerns among moderate voters, especially women, and motivate their base." Relevant factoid: "When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, white voters without a college degree made up 65 percent of the electorate; by 2012, that number had dropped to 36 percent."

Jennifer Haberkorn & Burgess Everett of Politico: "There are widespread instances of Obamacare insurance plans violating the rigid rules surrounding whether customers can use federal health care subsidies on insurance policies that cover abortion procedures, according to a Government Accountability Office investigation. The report, commissioned by House Republican leadership and obtained by Politico on Monday night, found that 15 insurers in a sample of 18 are selling Obamacare plans that do not segregate funds to cover abortion (except in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s life) from their Obamacare subsidies.... The report’s release is likely to elicit new election-year attacks on congressional Democrats from anti-abortion groups and Republicans who warned that Obamacare would allow for taxpayer subsidized abortions." ...

     ... CW: Somebody might tell those shocked anti-abortion fanatics that this is capitalism at work. No doubt the insurance companies find it cheaper to pay for a few abortions than to process hundreds of thousands of duplicate payments. The cheapest way to handle this is probably for insurance companies to increase the co-pay for the abortion procedure to match what the individual's contribution would have been under the law.

Nick Anderson of the Washington Post: "Ohio State University has agreed to several steps to strengthen its policies on sexual assault and harassment, the federal government said, concluding a four-year civil rights investigation at one of the nation’s largest public universities.... The resolution will remove Ohio State from a list of 79 colleges and universities under federal investigations related to their handling of sexual violence reports." ...

... Allie Jones of Gawker: "On his show [Monday], Rush Limbaugh decried Ohio State's new policy instructing students to get explicit, verbal consent before having sex, because 'no means yes if you know how to spot it.'"

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Charles Pierce, in the context of Ken Burns' "The Roosevelts," highlights a speech from the last Gilded Age by early-20th-century progressive Sen. Bob LaFollette (Wisc.) to magazine & newspaper publishers. "Now, as we are in the second gilded age, one that camouflages effectively all it has in common with the first one, we should all be wary of that spirit as consumers of the political news brought to us mainly by even larger and more powerful -- and more heavily concentrated -- corporate enterprises. In related news: Hillary Clinton has all but wrapped up the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Everybody says so."

Beyonce. This is an exhibitionist, not a feminist.The New Republic decides to highlight feminist issues by pitting two feminists & TNR senior editors -- Judith Shulevitz & Rebecca Traister -- against each other. CW: Traister & Shulevitz should not have been foolish enough to fall for the "bitches bickering" format. 

"We're just being a little more honest than you guys." Harvey Levin of TMZ explains to Howie Kurtz of Fox "News" how Fox "News" -- & all other major media outlets -- work. Via Driftglass, who finds Kurtz's question/assertion & Levin's putdown hilarious:

Tom Raum of the AP: "The National Labor Relations Board ruled against the CNN cable television network on Monday in an 11-year-old labor dispute, ordering the network to rehire or compensate about 300 former workers. The NLRB agreed with a November 2008 ruling by one of its administrative judges that CNN improperly replaced a unionized subcontractor, Team Video Services (TVS), with in-house non-union staffers, claiming 'anti-union' bias."

Senate Races

Nate Silver: "When we officially launched our forecast model two weeks ago, it had Republicans with a 64 percent chance of taking over the Senate after this fall’s elections. Now Republican chances are about 55 percent instead.... Whatever the reason, the GOP’s path to a Senate majority is less robust than before.

The Kansas Supreme Court will live-video oral arguments in the case re: the state's U.S. Senate ballot beginning at 9:45 am ET today. The case, styled Taylor v. Kobach, pits Chad Taylor, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, against Kris Kobach, the righty-right Secretary of State & a co-chair of incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) re-election campaign. Taylor asked to be removed from the ballot within the legally-specified time-frame, but did not state in his request that he was "incapable" of filling the position. Taylor's removal would help the independent candidate Greg Orman. Kobach, whose deputy of elections guided Taylor in the writing of the withdrawal request, according to Taylor, has refused to remove Taylor from the ballot. Each side will be allotted 20 minutes to present arguments, according to Rick Hasen.

Beyond the Beltway

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Local clerks and state elections officials are putting their absentee ballot mailings on hold as they hustle to reinstate Wisconsin's photo ID requirement for voters in the wake of Friday's federal appeals court decision. University of Wisconsin-Madison officials are also analyzing the decision and considering whether to begin issuing ID cards that could be used for voting. While some student IDs can be used for voting, the ones issued at UW-Madison and some other schools cannot."

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "Texas has proposed re-writing school text books to incorporate passages denying the existence of climate change and promoting the discredited views of an ultra-conservative think tank [CW: propaganda mill]. The proposed text books – which come up for public hearing at the Texas state board of education on Tuesday – were already attracting criticism when it emerged that the science section had been altered to reflect the doctrine of the Heartland Institute, which has been funded by the Koch oil billionaires."

Sunday
Sep142014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 15, 2014

NEW. Steve M. has two excellent post's -- here and here -- comparing Fox "News"'s "reporting" on the reactions of President Obama & British PM David Cameron (Friend of Rupert) to the beheading of their citizens by ISIS terrorists. ...

... Manu Raju, et al., of the Politico on the extraordinary efforts President Obama, Vice President Biden & Congressional leaders are making to get Congressional authorization to provide support to Syrian rebels. "What prompted the developments, a White House official said, were high-level discussions with Syria’s neighbors about 'cooperating and hosting' a program to train and equip the rebels since the president first requested the change in the law back in June. 'We were finally able to secure high-level Saudi commitments to host the program during [national security advisor] Lisa Monaco’s meetings on Sunday,' [a White House] official said." ...

... Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Several Arab countries have offered to carry out airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, senior State Department officials said Sunday. The offer was disclosed by American officials traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is approaching the end of a weeklong trip that was intended to mobilize international support for the campaign against ISIS."

Katie Glueck of Politico: "White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on Sunday the administration 'didn’t threaten' with prosecution the families of two American journalists slain by an extremist group, as the families have alleged. Families of journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley have ... [said] the federal government ... threatened prosecution. 'In terms of what was communicated to the families, in the midst of many, many meetings over the course of this very difficult circumstance, we obviously made clear what the law is,' McDonough said on 'Fox News Sunday.' ... As a father, McDonough said, he personally feels deeply for the families and the 'very difficult circumstances' they are experiencing."

** E. J. Dionne on the Congressional debates preceding the first U.S.-Iraq War. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) "proposes a two-step process involving, first, quick congressional approval of Obama’s proposal to train and arm Syrian rebels, and then a broader debate about the president’s overall policy after the country votes on Nov. 4." CW: Something I forgot: "Without congressional authorization, Bush had already sent 500,000 U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia to prepare for war. He insisted he did not need Congress’s approval to put them into action. His request for a resolution was essentially a courtesy. It came just a week before the deadline he had set for Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait — and, as it happened, just nine days before the war started [on January 17, 1991]. ...

... Here, BTW, is Bush I's Secretary of State James Baker, speaking on "Meet the Press" Sunday:

... Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly on "bedwetter" Sen. Lindsay's Graham's [R-S.C.] claim that Americans "will be killed here at home" if President Obama is allowed to follow his "disingenuous & delusional" plan to degrade ISIS: "There really in no excuse for a 59 year old man to not be housebroken. The idea that we are all going to get killed if the president doesn’t immediately send ground troops to Iraq and Syria is the intellectual equivalent of having night terrors about monsters in your closet and under your bed."

Ari Berman of the Nation: "Late Friday afternoon, a panel of Democrat-appointed judges on the Sixth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction from a Democrat-appointed district court judge striking down Ohio’s cuts to early voting. Two hours earlier, however, a trio of Republican-appointed judges on the Seventh Circuit overturned an injunction from a Democratic judge blocking Wisconsin’s voter ID law. This is why elections matter. And the courts are increasingly becoming the arbiters of who does and does not get to participate in them." (Emphasis added.) ...

     ... Rick Hasen: The Wisconsin decision "is a big, big mistake for election administration reasons (regardless of how the court ultimately comes out) and I expect now an emergency motion to the Supreme Court, based upon Purcell v. Gonzalez, to stop this change. I think there’s a decent chance the Supreme Court could intervene on this, even if the Court ultimately is likely to reject the constitutional and Voting Rights Act challenges to this ruling." (See also Hasen's comments to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, linked in Saturday's Commentariat.) ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Democrats have reversed the partisan imbalance on the federal appeals courts that long favored conservatives, a little-noticed shift with far-reaching consequences for the law and President Obama’s legacy. For the first time in more than a decade, judges appointed by Democratic presidents considerably outnumber judges appointed by Republican presidents. The Democrats’ advantage has only grown since late last year when they stripped Republicans of their ability to filibuster the president’s nominees.... With control of the Senate at stake in November’s midterm elections, the success of Democrats in reshaping the courts is a reminder of the subtle power that the majority party has even in a moribund Congress."

Jonathan Chait takes exception with Thomas Frank's "polemic" against political science (linked here yesterday): "He argues that political science has always run Washington and that political science is the main problem with Washington. Frank is tellingly wrong on all these things, but in one way he is dead-on: He has correctly identified the field of political science as the true enemy of his worldview." ...

... CW: For what it's worth, I think Chait's analysis of reasons for the 1994 election results is off-base, too. What really shifted the balance of power -- and it was a decades-long shift that's still ongoing -- was civil rights legislation & "liberal" court decisions of the 1950s, '60s & '70s. The majority of people are inherently conservative, selfish & miserly. These selfish people are "liberal" only when they belong to a group that the majority has excluded or disadvantaged; i.e., when it's in their self-interest to vote "liberal." And they are tribal. Conservative Roman Catholics voted for Jack Kennedy. Conservative Southerners voted for Jimmy Carter. Once. Barack Obama won in 2008 because of the confluence of extraordinary circumstances: (a) of the financial crisis, & (b) a singularly unappealing Republican opponent (& his Hillbilly sidekick), & (c) the unpopularity of Dubya's actions, not the least of which was starting the Iraq War. Obama won in 2012 because -- voters are conservative: they (fairly narrowly) danced with the one that brung 'em. One might argue that the outlier in this pattern was Bill Clinton (the guy Frank criticizes for moving Democrats to the right), but even that isn't true. Besides pulling down a good deal of the tribal Southern vote, Clinton got a tremendous assist from crazy Ross Perot, who directly appealed to people's selfish tendencies. The sitting president, George H. W. Bush, had two strikes against him.

NEW. Charles Pierce comments, in hilarious fashion, on the contretemps over the remains of Saint-in-Waiting & Dad TeeVee Personality Fulton Sheen.

Isla Bennie of Reuters: "Pope Francis married 20 couples on Sunday, some of whom had already lived together and had children, in the latest sign that the Argentine pontiff wants the Catholic church to be more open and inclusive."

Paul Krugman: "Clearly, economics as a discipline went badly astray in the years — actually decades — leading up to the [2008 economic] crisis. But the failings of economics were greatly aggravated by the sins of economists, who far too often let partisanship or personal self-aggrandizement trump their professionalism. Last but not least, economic policy makers systematically chose to hear only what they wanted to hear. And it is this multilevel failure — not the inadequacy of economics alone — that accounts for the terrible performance of Western economies since 2008."

Mike Florio of NBC Sports: "According to multiple [National Football L]eague sources, [Ray] Rice will appeal the indefinite suspension on Monday. The appeal will be handled by the NFLPA and by an outside lawyer retained by Rice."

Martin Longman on Rep. Mark Sanford's Facebook break-up with his fiancée Maria Belen Chapur: "... one does wonder how awful a Republican would have to behave to get kicked out of office in the Palmetto State."

In the interest of fair, both-sides linking, here is the Palin family's version of the infamous Saturday night brawl, according to "a source close to the Palin family," via Scott Conroy of Real Clear Politicis. CW: It sure took a long time for the Palins to come up with their spin on this yarn, which goes like this: a former boyfriend of Willow's started the fight; he tried to get into the Palins' stretch Hummer, & a gang of four men -- including the boyfriend -- attacked Track, who ended up with four cracked ribs. Todd joined the melee & the gang of meanies bloodied him. Sarah, "in full mama grizzly mode," yelled, "Don't you know who he is? He's a vet!" Also, Bristol couldn't have a "mean right hook" because she's left-handed. Definitely need that video. ...

... NEW. Jeanne Devon of the Mudflats weighs in, adding some details & lots of context. Thanks to James S. for the link. AND to Devon for her swell effort to re-construct the scene:

Capitalism Is Awesome. Jessica Roy of New York: "Urban Outfitters, the official clothing store of Outrage Twitter, reached a new low yesterday when shoppers noticed that the site was selling a 'vintage' Kent State sweatshirt, complete with blood spatter. The Ohio university was the site of the 1970 Kent State shooting, when the Ohio National Guard killed four students during a peace protest." Do read on. (CW: Clicking on the link to the e-bay auction page for the sweatshirt doesn't work. Maybe somebody had a change of heart.)

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

T. Bogg: "America’s Most Annoying Neighborhood Kid™, Luke Russert, tried out and made NBC’s Meet the Press team this week.... Friday, Chuck 'Figure It Out For Yourself' Todd emailed his NBC/MSNBC colleagues excitedly announcing that young master Luke would be joining the MTP cast — which, as I am sure you are aware and will be made aware no matter how much you try to avoid it–  where Luke’s father [editors note to nerds: not Darth Vader] used to totally rule. It’s just like The Lion King, but with self-important large-headed people instead of adorable cartoon lions and meerkats." ...

... T. Bogg helpfully provides Simba's MTP "audition tape":

Evan McMurry of Mediaite: "In his new guise as a political commentator for CNN, former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dished out conventional wisdom on State of the Union Sunday morning, which in this case meant diagnosing the Democrats’ chances in the upcoming midterms as poor."

Congressional Elections, Etc.

I’ve studied all the polls and I really believe that we’re still in a zone where they’re all real close and it depends on who decides to show. And our side’s not used to voting in midterms. We gotta get used to it. There’s a lot at stake. -- Bill Clinton, in Iowa yesterday

... Greg Sargent on Senate race polling/odds: "The Washington Post and New York Times forecasts have tightened considerably, with the WaPo Election Lab showing the GOP with a 50 percent chance of taking the Senate and the NYT Upshot putting it at 52 percent. FiveThirtyEight gives the GOP a 58 percent chance, but the poll-focused models run by Sam Wang and HuffPollster give Dems roughly the same-sized edge.... CNN will release a poll today that finds the New Hampshire battle between Dem Senator Jeanne Shaheen and GOP challenger Scott Brown is all tied up at 48-48. However, Reid Wilson reports that the DSCC will release a poll showing Shaheen up by 51-43."

Kentucky Democratic nominee Alison Grimes is running against Mitch McConnell AND Barack Obama. It's a good ad:

** Arizona GOP Leader Would Sterilize Poor People. Resigns over Controversy. Yvonne Sanchez of the Arizona Republic: "Former [state] Sen. Russell Pearce, who has recently served as the Arizona Republican Party's first vice chair, resigned his post late Sunday in the wake of criticism from powerful GOP candidates about contraception.... Pearce [spoke on] his talk-radio program on KKNT 960 AM [recently] ... about changes he would make to the state's public assistance programs and was quoted in the Democratic Party's news release as saying: 'You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations…. Then we'll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.' In his [resignation] statement, Pearce wrote that during [the] recent radio show ... he 'shared comments written by someone else and failed to attribute them to the author.' ... Pearce, best known for his role in passing the state's hard-line immigration law Senate Bill 1070, served as Arizona Senate president before he was recalled in 2011." CW: Ah, well. He's just an accidental plagiarist. He's not really into sterilizing the poor; he just promotes the idea. And congrats to GOP candidates for condemning his remarks -- after Democrats highlighted their silence on Pearce's policy proposal/"mistake." Read the whole story.

Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald: Fielding criticism about "a cigar-smoking boys-only 'roundtable' he held," Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), in a tight race against Democrat Gwen Graham, "wondered why the press isn't asking ... Graham about whether she ever attended a ladies-only 'lingerie shower.' ... Paging Dr. Freud." Via Steve Benen.

John Eligon of the New York Times: "Although every statewide elected official in Kansas is a Republican and President Obama lost the state by more than 20 points in the last election, [Gov. Sam] Brownback’s proudly conservative policies have turned out to be so divisive and his tax cuts have generated such a drop in state revenue that they have caused even many Republicans to revolt."


Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2014/09/paging-dr-freud-rep-steve-southerland-opens-mouth-inserts-lingerie-shower-.html#storylink=cpy

Presidential Election

Amy Chozick & Jonathan Martin: Hillary & Bill Clinton go to Tom Harkin's steak fry. CW: Like déjà vu all over again. Pretty depressing. ...

... Roger Simon of Politico: “'Hello, Iowa!' says Hillary Clinton, who has not set foot in Iowa for six years and eight months, and in fact, until quite recently has loathed the place. She cautiously enunciates each word from her prepared text, even the jokes. She is careful, modulated, meticulous. She is Hillary." CW: It seems that Roger saw a different show from the one Amy & Jonathan were watching. The NYT reporters characterize Bill Clinton as dominating the event; Simon sez just the opposite. But then that might be expected, given that ...

NEW. There were more than a hundred reporters, camera-people, a human centipede of boom microphones waiting by a chain link fence, waiting for Hillary Clinton to grill a steak. Yes, Hillary Clinton and dead meat. The conventional wisdom at the moment is that the Democratic presidential field for 2016 is pretty much the same thing. -- Charles Pierce (Read the whole post.)

... Benjamin Bell of ABC News: "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be headlining Sen. Tom Harkin's annual Steak Fry today, but the longtime progressive senator indicated that shouldn't be taken as an endorsement should she decide to run for president in 2016. Harkin, who is retiring after 30 years in the Senate and was hosting his last annual Steak Fry today, said progressives should raise questions about Clinton's foreign policy and economic positions."

Arit John of the Atlantic: "During a talk with the New Hampshire chapter of Generation Opportunity (a millennial-focused group best known for using a creepy Uncle Sam mascot to convince people not to enroll in Obamacare) a young man asked [Sen. Rand] Paul  if he would repeal any executive orders. 'I think the first executive order that I would issue would be to repeal all previous executive orders,' Paul said, according to Breitbart.... [This left] "the impression that ... Paul ... would want to repeal all executive orders as president, probably because he said that he would repeal all executive orders if he was president. But as a Paul aide told The Huffington Post, the senator didn't mean to be taken at his word." ...

... Steve Benen: "By one account, Paul's vow to repeal all previous executive orders was met with 'booming cheers' from his conservative audience." ...

... CW Translation/Explanation of Paul's, Aide's Remarks: Paul was addressing a fringe group in the first state to hold a presidential primary. Naturally, he told the wackos what they wanted to hear. It isn't lying. It's retail politics. ...

... Benen, Ctd.: "It's worth noting that executive orders have been issued to advance some worthy causes over the years. The Emancipation Proclamation, for example, was one of Lincoln's executive orders. Truman ended racial discrimination in the military through an executive order. Ford banned political assassinations through an executive order."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Glenn Greenwald & Ryan Gallagher of the Intercept: "The New Zealand spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), worked in 2012 and 2013 to implement a mass metadata surveillance system even as top government officials publicly insisted no such program was being planned and would not be legally permitted. Documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the government worked in secret to exploit a new internet surveillance law enacted in the wake of revelations of illegal domestic spying to initiate a new metadata collection program that appeared designed to collect information about the communications of New Zealanders. Those actions are in direct conflict with the assurances given to the public by Prime Minister John Key..., who said the law was merely designed to fix “an ambiguous legal framework.'...” ...

... Edward Snowden, in the Intercept: "... any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false." ...

... Philip Dorling of the Sydney Morning Herald: "The latest disclosures from top secret documents leaked by Mr Snowden come in the context of the final stages of New Zealand's election campaign where New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has been under pressure to explain the extent of GCSB's surveillance activities. On Sunday Mr Key stridently attacked US journalist Glen[n] Greenwald." ...

... Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald: "Snowden ... appeared by video link before a capacity crowd at the Kim Dotcom organised Moment of Truth event at Auckland Town Hall this evening.... Visiting US journalist Glen[n] Greenwald who has made the same claims and who introduced Snowden to the audience of about 1700.... Snowden began his talk with the claim the NSA had a facility in Auckland and went on to expand on his article in which he said: 'If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched.' ... Information about New Zealand communications was available [to the NSA] simply by clicking on a check box in [NSA] software [called XKEYSTROKE]. This evening to huge cheers he told the audience that if political leaders were 'going to use check boxes against us... election time is when we get to check boxes about them.''' ...

... CW: So now Eddie is explicitly working to bring down the government of a U.S. ally. Okay. ...

... Key & Dotcom have a history.

Nicholas Watt, et al., of the Guardian: The Queen [of England & Scotland! & Other Places] made a rare intervention on the political stage when she expressed the hope that voters will 'think very carefully about the future' before the Scottish independence referendum on Thursday. As [British PM] David Cameron prepares to issue a warning in Scotland that a vote for independence will lead to a permanent split from the UK, campaigners for the union welcomed the Queen's remarks.... The comments by the Queen came as she left Crathie Kirk near her Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire after the Sunday morning service. The Queen told a well-wisher: 'Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future.'" ...

... Telegraph: "Most polls show a small lead for No, but opinion has shifted sharply in the past month, and twice in the past fortnight pollsters have put Yes ahead."

Saturday
Sep132014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 14, 2014

The World According to Chicken Little. Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blasted President Barack Obama's plan to defeat ISIS during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, calling the commander-in-chief 'disingenuous and delusional' and warning that Americans will be 'killed here at home' unless he sends ground troops into Iraq and Syria to defeat the terrorist threat."

Peter Baker of the New York Times on President Obama's private remarks re: the steps leading up to his speech to the nation on his plans to "destroy" ISIS. ...

... Rebecca Kaplan of CBS News: "Secretary of State John Kerry backtracked on the language he had used to describe the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL), saying in an interview on CBS' 'Face the Nation' Sunday that, 'we are at war' with the group." See yesterday's Commentariat for context. Seems "war" is the new White House buzzword.

Raya Jalabi of the Guardian: "Islamic State (Isis) militants have released a video showing the apparent beheading of a British hostage, David Haines. Site, an intelligence group, which was the first to report US journalist Steven Sotloff's beheading last month, confirmed the video's release. In the video, entitled A Message to the Allies of America, a masked man is shown carrying out the beheading of Haines, whose life had earlier been threatened in a video showing the murder of ... Sotloff." ...

... Rowena Mason of the Guardian: "Britain stands ready to take 'whatever steps are necessary' to help an international push to destroy the 'evil' extremist group that murdered British aid worker David Haines, [British PM] David Cameron has said. In an emotional statement in Downing Street after chairing a meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee to discuss the killing, the prime minister hailed Haines as a 'British hero' and vowed to 'hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice no matter how long it takes'." ...

... The New York Times story, by Rukmini Callimachi &Kimiko de Freytax-Tamura, is here. It has been updated. ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The White House believes that Congress's 2002 authorization of the Iraq war -- and not just the 2001 authorization to fight Al Qaeda -- provides a legal justification for President Obama's air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration said Friday. The White House has not issued a formal analysis of its legal thinking, but the disclosure adds to an evolving public understanding of its theory about the basis for the strikes against ISIS." ...

... Michael Gordon & David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry received broad assurances but no public commitments from Egypt on Saturday as he continued his tour of the Middle East to try to assemble a coalition behind an American campaign against [ISIS].... In Baghdad, meanwhile, the new prime minister ... said Saturday that he had ordered the Iraqi security forces to stop 'the indiscriminate shelling' of civilian communities under the control of the militants. Together, the professions of good intentions in Baghdad and Cairo underscored the long road ahead for the Obama administration...." ...

... David Sanger & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The Obama administration is struggling to cut off the millions of dollars in oil revenue that has made the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria one of the wealthiest terror groups in history, but so far has been unable to persuade Turkey, the NATO ally where much of the oil is traded on the black market, to crack down on an extensive sales network." ...

... Ken Dilanian of the AP: "Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.
Rise of the Know-It-Alls

NEW. Ezra Klein, Chief Know-It-All: "Perhaps the single best thing that's happened to political journalism in the time I've been doing it is the rise of political science." CW Note: Any article that contains the phrase "the late, great David Broder," unless appearing in an ironical context, is probably bollocks. ...

... NEW. Thomas Frank, Chief Rebuttal Witness, in Salon: "Not only does Washington routinely fill the No. 1 spot on those 'most educated cities' articles, but the town positively seethes with academic experts. Indeed, it is the only city I know of that actually boasts a sizable population of fake experts, handing out free-market wisdom to passers-by from their subsidized seats at Cato and Heritage. The characteristic failing of D.C. isn't that it ignores these herds of experts, it's that it attends to them with a gaping credulity that they do not deserve." Thanks to James S. for the link.

Marie's Sports Report

NEW. CW: TMZ -- and nobody else -- reports that the Carolina Panthers have "deactivated" defensive end Greg Hardy, who is appealing his misdemeanor conviction for physically assaulting & threatening to kill a woman. See links in yesterday's Commentariat .

** Kent Babb & Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: The NFL, "America’s most popular sports league..., generat[es] about $10 billion in annual revenue, and behind the scenes is an intricate and largely secretive three-layered security force -- mainly comprised of former federal agents -- in charge of staying in front of the league's problems. Its emphases are swiftness and thoroughness, its tentacles reaching into states even without an NFL team, its code mostly one of silence. And while its agents can help keep bad actors from ever getting to the league by vetting them beforehand, they are equally if not more valuable in funnelling information back to the league office once problems occur to help make sure NFL leaders are not caught off guard." ...

... CW: AND TMZ, a celebrity-watcher outfit, breached this wall. This report further illuminates how farcical is the NFL's "internal investigation" -- many in the NFL security team are ex-FBI agents, some of them high-ranking. The NFL chose former FBI director Robert Mueller -- who would have worked directly with these top FBI grads -- to "investigate" them. (Mueller already was known to have deep ties to the NFL & Ravens management. This just adds another layer to the cover-up.) ...

... A War Game for a Warring Nation. Mark Edmundson in the Los Angeles Times: "Football is a warlike game and we are now a warlike nation. Our love for football is a love, however self-aware, of ourselves as a fighting and (we hope) victorious people.... The rise of football over baseball is about a change in America's self-image.... Plato fears that we become what we behold." ...

... Jonathan Zimmerman in a Los Angeles Times op-ed: "For the last century, schools and colleges have tried to modify the [football] game so fewer people get hurt. And it hasn't worked." ...

... CW: There are, obviously, direct connections among (1) playing a war game from the time you're 11; (2) regularly getting your brains bashed, (3) the trappings of celebrity that come with the game (even at the high-school level), (4) the remuneration -- or potential remuneration for playing the game well; (5) the value of a player to his team's bottom line, & (6) domestic violence. Every "institution of learning" that has a football team is molding young sociopaths, some percentage of whom -- because of football-related brain damage -- really cannot control themselves. Most Americans, myself included, contribute or have contributed to perpetuating this ring of violence. ...

... Maureen Dowd: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had a model in his father Charles of a profile in courage. He has no excuse for his own slimy behavior.

God News

Sharon Otterman of the New York Times: "Since [Roman Catholic Archbishop Fulton Sheen's] death in 1979, his remains have been sealed in a white marble crypt at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, the city where he spent much of his life. And though the Peoria diocese says it was promised the remains, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who considers Archbishop Sheen something of a personal hero, has refused to part with them, citing the wishes of the archbishop and his family. Now the dispute over Archbishop Sheen's corpse has brought a halt to his rise to sainthood, just as he appeared close to beatification, the final stage before canonization. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, Peoria's leader, announced this month that the process had been suspended because New York would not release the body."

Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God. -- Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the fully armed; because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. -- Pat Robertson 9:2014

"So Help Me, God." Stephen Losey of the Air Force Times: "An atheist airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada has until November to change his mind and swear a reenlistment oath to God, the Air Force said. The unnamed airman was denied reenlistment Aug. 25 for refusing to take an oath that concludes with the phrase 'so help me God,' the American Humanist Association said in a Sept. 2 letter to the inspectors general for the Air Force and Creech." ...

... Air Force Finds Constitution Irrelevant. Steve Benen: "In the Army and Navy, Americans have the discretion to omit [the words "so help me God." The Air Force, however, has a different 'interpretation' of Pentagon regulations.... It's worth noting that the U.S. Constitution -- the one the military supports and defends, and which trumps Defense Department regulations and forms -- says quite explicitly that 'no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.' To date, the Air Force has found this unpersuasive." ...

... Brad Knickerbocker of the Christian Science Monitor: "The US Air Force has gotten itself into a bureaucratic, legal, and public relations snarl over what would seem to be a simple thing: Four words included in its reenlistment oath."

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.... -- Leviticus 19:33-34

... Strangers in the Land of the South: David Wren of the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Sun News: "Reginald Wayne Miller, the president of Cathedral Bible College, was arrested Thursday on accusations that he forces foreign students at his school to work long hours for low wages and then threatens to revoke their student visas if they complain or fail to comply with his demands. Via Steve Benen.

Congressional Races

NEW. Rick Hasen: "A three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit has just issued this order denying Ohio's request to put on hold a district court order requiring Ohio to restore early voting days (including 'Golden Week') which the Republican legislature tried to cut.... All the judges in the Sixth Circuit today were Democrat-appointed."

Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly on Bill Maher's choice of targeting John Kline (RTP-Minn.) in his "Let's Flip a District" gag: "John Kline has a reputation as a moderate but he votes with the teabaggers all the time. All the Democrats need is for his constituents to become aware of how radical his recent voting record really is and they toss him out in favor of Some Dude." See yesterday's Commentariat for context.

Southern Gothic, Ctd.
A Week in Paris

Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: Rep. Mark Sanford's (R-S.C.) former fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur said she had asked him to make their break public, but that Mr. Sanford did not warn her before announcing it on Facebook on Friday, catching her off guard. 'I learned it from the press today,' she said Saturday."

News Ledes

AP: "North Korea's Supreme Court on Sunday sentenced a 24-year-old American man to six years of hard labor for entering the country illegally and trying to commit espionage. At a trial that lasted about 90 minutes, the court said Matthew Miller, of Bakersfield, California, tore up his tourist visa at Pyongyang's airport upon arrival on April 10 and admitted to having the "wild ambition" of experiencing prison life so that he could secretly investigate North Korea's human rights situation."