The Ledes

Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

New York Times: "With NATO leaders expected to endorse a rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops for Eastern Europe this week, a senior Russian military official said on Tuesday that Moscow would revise its military doctrine to account for 'changing military dangers and military threats.'”

Guardian: "Syrian rebels have issued three demands for the release of 45 Fijian peacekeepers they've held captive for five days, Fiji's military commander has said. Brig Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front wants to be taken off the United Nations terrorist list, humanitarian aid delivered to the capital Damascus, and compensation for three of its fighters it says were killed in a shootout with UN officers."

AP: "U.S. military forces attacked the extremist al-Shabab network in Somalia Monday, the Pentagon said, and a witness described ground-shaking explosions in a strike that reportedly targeted the group's leader. Al-Shabab had attacked the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 67 people a year ago this month and the U.S. had targeted planners of the bloody assault."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, September 1, 2014.

Guardian: "The UK and US governments have criticised, in unusually strong language, Israel's decision to approve one of the largest appropriations of Palestinian land for settlement in recent decades. The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said he deplored the move as 'particularly ill-judged'."

Al Jazeera: "Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shia armed volunteers have retaken more northern towns from the Islamic State group, killing at least two of its senior fighters, sources have told Al Jazeera. A day after breaking the siege in the town of Amerli north of Baghdad, government forces retook the town of Sulaiman Bek on Monday, removing another key stronghold of the Islamic State group." ...

... Guardian: "Barack Obama on Monday formally notified Congress that he had authorised targeted air strikes in Iraq to help deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged Shia town of Amerli, the White House said in a statement."

Washington Post: Pakistan's "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was clinging to power Monday as protesters stepped up their assault on government buildings while the capital was gripped with fear and confusion about whether the country’s powerful military will step in to defuse the tension. As the demonstrations calling for the prime minister’s resignation enter their third week, Sharif is trying to navigate Pakistan’s worst political crisis in more than a decade."

Guardian: "The American government on Monday asked North Korea to release three Americans currently held in the communist country, after foreign media outlets were allowed to interview detainees. 'Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] release them so they may return home,” said Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the State Department, in a statement. 'We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.'”

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
September 1

9:30 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at Detroit's Labor Day parade

2:55 pm ET: President Obama speaks a LaborFest 2014

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


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.

... 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.'”

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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The Commentariat -- Sept. 2, 2014

If I want to, I can take Kiev in two weeks. -- Russian President Vladimir Putin to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso, via La Repubblica ...

... Julie Davis & Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: "As Ukrainian leaders warned on Monday of 'a great war' with Russia, NATO leaders meeting in Wales this week were expected to endorse their most concrete response yet to increased Russian military intervention in Ukraine: establishing a rapid-reaction force capable of deploying quickly to Eastern Europe, officials of the alliance said.... The agreement is planned as the substantive centerpiece of the NATO meeting, which will take place Thursday and Friday and will be attended by President Obama...."

Caitlin Rathe of Salon on the history of the food stamp (SNAP) program -- a program pushed by U.S. grocers. CW: And yes, it continues to appall me that the biggest beneficiaries of social welfare programs are the Richest People in the World -- the Waltons, who benefit not only from the low wages paid by other businesses but also doubly benefit from the low wages WalMart itself pays. Thanks to Haley S. for the link.

As MAG noted in yesterday's Comments, Charles Pierce composed "a rollicking wicked read" on the sorry anachronisms that are the Village People's Gossip for Geezers Shows:

... on Labor Day weekend, with income equality on the rise, and with wages stagnant for decades, and the rate of unemployment officially normalized somewhere in the teens, and with all the roads full of holes and the bridges falling down, on the shows that a dead president once thought were highly influential, on which ISIS and Ukraine and Kirsten Gillibrand's book and the nine-year old with the UZI and the fundamental greatness of my man Chuck Todd were all considered worthy of discussion, there was not a single mention of an American worker because, I guess, rap music. Shazam.

... CW: For all the grandeur of its public buildings & its National Mall of the people, the Beltway encircles a smug, self-segregated community where the actual people who built the place are not only unwelcome but also not worth mentioning. Every couple of years we do get a virtual mention in "polling data," & I'm sure Chuck Todd will do a rootin'-tootin' job of describing us as data points. You have Andrea Mitchell's word on that.  


Beyond the Beltway

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "On Tuesday, in a federal courtroom in Corpus Christi, Tex., Justice Department lawyers will try to persuade a judge to strike down the [Texas] voter ID law, the latest skirmish in a three-year legal battle over whether the law passed by the Republican-led Legislature in 2011 discriminates against blacks and Hispanics. If Texas loses the trial — which opens Tuesday and will last about two weeks — it could again be required to seek federal approval before making changes to its voting procedures, a level of oversight it was freed from by the United States Supreme Court."

James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times: "Leading a Labor Day rally at a park in South Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed on Monday creating a minimum wage in Los Angeles that would reach $13.25 after three years. Garcetti was backed by billionaire businessman Eli Broad, County Federation of Labor chief Maria Elena Durazo and seven members of the City Council, who will have to approve the increase." ...

... Dominic Rushe of the Guardian: "America’s fast food workers are planning their biggest strike to date this Thursday, with a nationwide walkout in protest at low wages and poor healthcare. The strike is the latest in a series of increasingly heated confrontations between fast food firms and their workers. Pressure is also mounting on McDonald’s, the largest fast food company, over its relations with its workers and franchisees." 

There's Something Wrong with the Georgia GOP. Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Over the past week there's been something of a brouhaha surrounding a journalist being forcibly removed from a local Republican event in Georgia. The journalist was Nydia Tisdale, who went to Burt's Farm in Dawsonville, Georgia, to record video of speeches by David Perdue, the state's GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, as well as Gov. Nathan Deal (R) and others. Tisdale runs the website" The Republican party advertised the event on Facebook, inviting the public to attend the rally. The speakers were public officials &/or were running for public office. The event was held on private property, & Tisdale claims that one of the propertyowners gave her permission to tape. That's all she was doing. She was not speaking up, holding a sign or otherwise protesting or showing disrespect for the proceedings. Other individuals attending the event also were recording it.... 

     ... Jim Galloway's Atlanta Journal-Constitution report is here. An earlier report, by Galloway & Greg Bluestein is here. The sheriff's deputy who made the arrest was not on duty at the time. (You can see in the picture he's strapped with a gun, but is wearing street clothes. His shirt has the logo of the Dawson County Sheriff's Department on it. The sheriff, who cleared the officer of wrongdoing, said the officer also was wearing a badge. ...

     ... Oh, P.S. Here the top of the lead comment on the story posted by Brian Pritchard of Pritchard, who attended -- and recorded -- the event, broke the story of Tisdale's arrest. "What a disturbing story. Are we still citizens of the United States or has Obama succeeded in leading us down the path of a socialist society where individual freedom is no longer valued?" As you know, Everything Is Obama's Fault.

Rene Stutzman of the Orlando Sentinel: "Two friends were injured Sunday afternoon at Shoot Straight, a Casselberry[, Florida,] gun range, when one tried to unjam a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and wound up shooting himself in the finger and his friend in the thigh, police reported.... Several witnesses saw what happened and one described it as 'just a case of stupidity.'" ...

... According to this 2012 MinnPost story, "Nonfatal gun injuries occur at the average rate of 20 a day in the United States — and that doesn’t include pellet-gun injuries (which average 45 day) or injuries that don’t involve a bullet wound (like powder burns and recoil injuries)." Whaddaya bet most of them are "just cases of stupidity"? ...

... ALSO from the report: "If you have a gun, everybody in your home is more likely than your non-gun-owning neighbors and their families to die in a gun-related accident, suicide or homicide. Furthermore, there is no credible evidence that having a gun in your house reduces your risk of being a victim of a crime. Nor does it reduce your risk of being injured during a home break-in." In other words, statistically, gun ownership is a lose-lose situation. ...

Presidential Race

Patrick Svitek of the Houston Chronicle: "A tweet mischaracterizing Gov. Rick Perry’s indictment was sent Sunday evening from his personal account, setting the social network abuzz and leaving his critics fuming. An hour later, the message was deleted, with his account calling it 'unauthorized.' ... The original tweet ... included a graphic mocking Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.... The text on top of the graphic read: 'I DON’T ALWAYS DRIVE DRUNK AT 3X THE LEGAL BLOOD ALCOHOL LIMIT… …BUT WHEN I DO, I INDICT GOV. PERRY FOR CALLING ME OUT ABOUT IT. I AM THE MOST DRUNK DEMOCRAT IN TEXAS.' Lehmberg did not indict Perry. She and other officials in solidly Democratic Travis County recused themselves.... Although the tweet came from Perry’s personal account — as opposed to the ones run by his staff — it was unclear Sunday evening whether he actually sent it out." CW: How does he think he can run the country when he can't even manage his own Twitter account?

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: After making a series of gaffes in which he showed his ignorance of foreign affairs, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is going to Mexico this week to show he's a "global guy." CW: I'm looking forward to seeing him insult all of Central America, not just Mexico. 


The Commentariat -- Sept. 1, 2014

The History of Labor Day:

Maybe for you, as for most Americans, the holiday simply means a weekend away:

E. J. Dionne on the Market Basket walk-out. ...

... Arthur T. Demoulas addresses Market Basket employees:

Fuck the U.A.W. -- Rahm Emanuel, re: the auto industry bailout, according to Steve Rattner

... "Why white men hate unions." Edward McClelland in Salon on the evolution of union demographics. ...

... Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "... a flood of recent cases ... accuse employers of violating minimum wage and overtime laws, erasing work hours and wrongfully taking employees’ tips. Worker advocates call these practices 'wage theft,' insisting it has become far too prevalent. Some federal and state officials agree. They assert that more companies are violating wage laws than ever before, pointing to the record number of enforcement actions they have pursued.... Many business groups counter that government officials have drummed up a flurry of wage enforcement actions, largely to score points with union allies. If anything, employers have become more scrupulous in complying with wage laws, the groups say, in response to the much publicized lawsuits about so-called off-the-clock work that were filed against Walmart and other large companies a decade ago." CW: They said/they said; Who's to know? ...

... Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post on the real reason for economic stagnation: "From the end of World War II through the late 1970s..., major U.S. corporations retained most of their earnings and reinvested them in business expansions, new or improved technologies, worker training and pay increases. Beginning in the early ’80s, however, they have devoted a steadily higher share of their profits to shareholders." ...

... CW: I wonder how much this has to do with the ballooning of MBA's & what-all business schools have been teaching the kids. There's a chicken-&-egg issue here; young people who opt for MBAs are probably not, on the whole, the most socially-conscious. But doesn't that leave you with institutions devoted to teaching little dickheads how to be bigger, more ruthless dickheads?

** NEW. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Some of the factual assertions in recent amicus briefs would not pass muster in a high school research paper. But that has not stopped the Supreme Court from relying on them. Recent opinions have cited 'facts' from amicus briefs that were backed up by blog posts, emails or nothing at all.... Some 'studies' presented in amicus briefs were paid for or conducted by the group that submitted the brief and published only on the Internet. Some studies seem to have been created for the purpose of influencing the Supreme Court. Yet the justices are quite receptive to this [sic.!] dodgy data."

Erin Cunningham & Abigail Hoslohner of the Washington Post: "Iraqi troops aided by U.S. airstrikes entered the besieged town of Amerli on Sunday, residents and Iraqi officials said, breaking a months-long blockade of the Shiite Turkmen village by Islamic State militants that raised fears of a massacre..... The U.S. strikes around Amerli on Saturday appeared to swiftly tilt the balance in favor of Iraqi forces." ...

... Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "After a week in which [President Obama] was criticised for failing to develop military plans for tackling Islamic State militants inside Syria and taking a relatively cautious approach to Russian incursions in Ukraine, senior figures [of both parties] in Congress took turns to demand greater US intervention." ...

... Martin Matishak of the Hill: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), "the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that President Obama has perhaps been 'too cautious' in confronting the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)." ...

... Timothy Cama of the Hill: "The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on Sunday sharply criticized President Obama’s lack of a strategy to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Speaking on 'Fox News Sunday,' Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said statements from the White House last week that it does not yet have a firm strategy on ISIS are indicative of the Obama administration’s foreign policy failures." ...

... Martin Matishak: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday said President Obama’s responses to the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine             (Fill in the Blank)            ." * ...

     * A few weeks ago, Jon Soltz, in the Huffington Post, wrote a piece laying out some of the wrong calls McCain has made regarding military policy & our international military adventures. Soltz can't figure out why John (pronouced "wrong" McCain is the most popular guest ever on the Sunday shows. Via Heather of Crooks & Liars. ...

... ** Steve Coll of the New Yorker: "If the United States is returning to war in the region, one might wish for a more considered vision than Whack-a-Mole against jihadists."

... In case you were unaware of it, Howie Kurtz is still on the teevee, ostensibly watchdogging the media & wondering what-all is wrong with it from his Fox "News" perspective (having been dumped from his slightly more respectable perspectives, in the last instance for "serial inaccuracy"). Driftglass tuned in Sunday morning.

CW: I'm having trouble not seeing Bibi Netanyahu as Baby Vladimir. Of course Putin hasn't directly killed hundreds of Ukrainian children. Too bad U.S. politicians haven't the guts to say, "Bibi, that BFF thing has a limit, & you're over the top." If Israeli voters want to stick with Netanyahu or another hardliner, the U.S. should cut off funding & transfer of military equipment. Nearly as long as there has been an Israel, I have been an ideological supporter. Not anymore. See Sunday's News Ledes.

Paul Krugman: "For years, pundits and politicians have insisted that guaranteed health care is an impossible dream, even though every other advanced country has it. Covering the uninsured was supposed to be unaffordable; Medicare as we know it was supposed to be unsustainable. But it turns out that incremental steps to improve incentives and reduce costs can achieve a lot, and covering the uninsured isn’t hard at all. When it comes to ensuring that Americans have access to health care, the message of the data is simple: Yes, we can." Read the whole column.

AP: "Fearing a Russian invasion and occupation of Alaska, the U.S. government in the early Cold War years recruited and trained fishermen, bush pilots, trappers and other private citizens across Alaska for a covert network to feed wartime intelligence to the military, newly declassified Air Force and FBI documents show. Invasion of Alaska? Yes. It seemed like a real possibility in 1950."

Beyond the Beltway

Collier Meyerson of msnbc: "The St. Louis County police officer who was recently suspended after video surfaced of him threatening to 'kill everybody' and who shoved CNN’s Don Lemon on live television in Ferguson has retired. Officer Dan Page, a 35-year veteran of the force, had his last day on August 25th. Sergeant Colby Dolly, aid to the St. Louis County Police Chief, told msnbc by phone that Page is expected to receive his full pension." CW: And before he got a chance to kill everybody. ...

... Denise Hollinshed of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Ferguson "Police officers ... began wearing body cameras on Saturday as marchers took to the streets in the most recent protest of a shooting two weeks earlier by a city officer that left an unarmed teenager dead. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said his department was given about 50 body cameras by two companies, Safety Visions and Digital Ally, about a week ago. The companies donated the body cameras after the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson." ...

... Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times: "After raising more than $400,000 for the police officer who killed an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo., two online donation pages appear to have been shut down by their organizers without explanation this weekend." Thanks to James S., for the link.

Gubernatorial Race

CW: Yikes! I was asleep at the wheel on this. The primary was August 9! AP: "Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he lost his bid for re-election in a Democratic primary because of his decision to call a special session to legalize gay marriage. Republicans are allowed to vote for Democrats in Hawaii's open primary, and Abercrombie said they chose to vote against him because of his support for gay marriage and because they think his party rival, state Sen. David Ige, is an easier target to beat in the general election.... Abercrombie, who spoke to reporters in his office, lost to Ige by a stunning 2-1 margin, the first time a Democratic governor has been unseated in a Hawaii primary."

Presidential Race

Ken Vogel of Politico: "Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Pence, Rick Perry and Ben Carson all sounded like presidential candidates in weekend speeches to conservative activists here for a conference organized by an influential Koch-backed group. The would-be candidates touted their small-government bona fides and hammered prospective Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama on issues ranging from the Middle East to health care to Obama’s golfing. Cruz and Perry got among the lustiest responses from the nearly 3,000 grass-roots activists at Americans for Prosperity’s annual Defending the American Dream summit. But Paul and Pence, who on Thursday night dined privately with a more exclusive group of major donors and VIPs including AFP foundation chairman David Koch and columnist George Will, appear to have made the best impressions on the elite and moneyed class." ...

... Erin Durkin of the New York Daily News: New York"City pols blasted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) Sunday for taking a swipe at the Bronx in a speech to a conservative group. Cruz invoked the borough’s bad old days high-crime image, saying he was tired of hearing northern pols like Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) 'lecture' about immigration. 'Now, I understand that Manhattan is very concerned with their security with the Bronx, but it's a little bit different on 2,000 miles of the Rio Grande,' he said in a speech Saturday to the group Americans for Prosperity. That got a rise out of city Democrats who represent the borough."


The Commentariat -- August 31, 2014

Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times: "Just when it seemed the right wing couldn't get any more divorced from reality around here, a local conservative group has launched a protest against what it sees as a pernicious cultural touchstone. Labor Day.... To the Freedom Foundation, a business-backed Olympia think tank, the day is evidence of the power of unions, which to members equals the decline of America. Rather than stoop to taking a union-backed day off, they plan to fight the power by ... working all day Monday instead!"

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "If the world seems troubled by all manner of calamities these days, President Obama does not want Americans to worry too much. After all, he said Friday, 'The world has always been messy'; it is just more apparent because of social media. And, he added, today's geopolitical threats are far less perilous than those of the Cold War." ...

... Yeah, well, stories like this kinda grab the reader, Mr. President ...

... Mitchell Protero of McClatchy News: "Nearly half of Syria's population has been displaced either internally or externally as refugees in the worst humanitarian crisis to strike the Middle East in at least a century, according to new data released by the International Rescue Committee." (Emphasis added.) ...

... Secretary of State John Kerry, in a New York Times op-ed: "In a polarized region and a complicated world, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria presents a unifying threat to a broad array of countries, including the United States. What's needed to confront its nihilistic vision and genocidal agenda is a global coalition using political, humanitarian, economic, law enforcement and intelligence tools to support military force."

Pam Belluck of the New York Times: "Five years after it exploded into a political conflagration over 'death panels,' the issue of paying doctors to talk to patients about end-of-life care is making a comeback, and such sessions may be covered for the 50 million Americans on Medicare as early as next year.Bypassing the political process, private insurers have begun reimbursing doctors for these 'advance care planning' conversations as interest in them rises along with the number of aging Americans." ...

... CW: My experience is that Medicare is already covering end-of-life consultations. I had several long meetings with hospital staff, including doctors, plus extensive assistance from hospice providers during my husband's final days. Medicare covered his entire bill except for a small co-pay.

Nicholas Kristof: "... those of us in white America [should] wipe away any self-satisfaction about racial progress. Yes, the progress is real, but so are the challenges. The gaps demand a wrenching, soul-searching excavation of our national soul, and the first step is to acknowledge that the central race challenge in America today is not the suffering of whites."

Pinch Gets Hitched. Flash Presides. New York Times: "Gabrielle Elise Greene, a partner in an investment firm, and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the chairman and publisher of The New York Times, were married Saturday on Martha's Vineyard. The ceremony, at the Outermost Inn in Aquinnah, Mass., was led by Flash Wiley, a friend of the couple...."

Senate Races

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "In black churches and on black talk radio, African-American civic leaders have begun invoking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, along with conservative calls to impeach Mr. Obama, as they urge black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, in which minority turnout is typically lower.... [Rep. John] Lewis is headlining efforts to mobilize black voters in several states with competitive Senate races, including Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina. The drive is being organized by the Congressional Black Caucus, in coordination with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Other steps, such as recruiting N.B.A. players to help register more African-Americans, are also underway."

Thursday, before Mitch McConnell's campaign chair Jesse Benton resigned his post (in a classic late-Friday-night-before-a-holiday-weekend announcement), Rachel Maddow aired this segment on the developing scandal:

... CW: This will be entertaining. I'm so sorry Benton didn't stick with Mitch a while longer. McConnell isn't talking, & apparently neither are Ron & Randy Paul. ...

... Joseph Gerth of the Louisville Courier-Journal: "... there has been no allegation of improprieties in the McConnell campaign. That and the fact that Benton quit quickly ought to help insulate McConnell from too much fallout.... The impact on Rand Paul, however, could be greater than any trouble McConnell might see." ...

... Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly reminds us: "Benton's motivation for joining up with McConnell was pretty transparently to help Rand Paul's career, and particularly his presidential ambitions. This became clear when a former aide to Ron Paul named Dennis Fusaro released a recorded phone conversation in which Benton said he was 'sort of holding my nose for two years' while he worked for McConnell 'because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit for Rand in 2016.' ... McConnell's effort to cozy up to the Paul family has backfired. Benton's effort to 'hold his nose for two years' has failed."

... BUT. Joseph Gerth: "Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has put a little more distance between him and his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, but the race remains within the margin of error, according to the atest Bluegrass Poll. The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for The Courier-Journal and three other news outlets, found that McConnell holds a 46 percent to 42 percent lead among likely voters over Grimes. Libertarian David Patterson gets 5 percent of the vote, and 8 percent remain undecided. It's the third consecutive Bluegrass Poll that has found McConnell improving his chances for re-election in November." ...

Beyond the Beltway

Florida's Alternative to ObamaCare: Pet Insurance. Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: "Six months after the launch of a $900,000 alternative to the Affordable Care Act, Florida's Health Choices program has only signed up 30 subscribers and administrators say they are considering offering pet insurance if it will help draw more customers.... During that same period, nearly 984,000 Floridians have enrolled in private coverage under Obamacare, leaving nearly 764,000 Floridians who are too poor to afford subsidized plans and unable to qualify for Medicaid...." The state legislature has refused to adopt the ACA's Medicaid expansion. ...

... The Tampa Bay Times story, by Tia Mitchell, is here.

God News

Frank Bruni: "Mightn't religion be piggybacking on the pre-existing condition of spirituality, a lexicon grafted onto it, a narrative constructed to explain states of consciousness that have nothing to do with any covenant or creed?"

Valerie Tarico of AlterNet: "Did the historical Jesus exist? A growing number of scholars don't think so."

Kim Archer of the Tulsa World: "Oklahoma County District Court Judge Bernard Jones has ruled unconstitutional a portion of a law that allows the use of public funds to send special-needs students to private religious schools. State Attorney General Scott Pruitt said he would appeal the ruling.... The judge's order has been stayed pending appeal.... Jones is the second district court judge to strike down the law as unconstitutional." Oklahoma's constitution prohibits "the use of public funds for private religious institutions." Via Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist.

Coming This November. Charles Pierce: Former child teevee star & current "godbothering nuisance" Kirk Cameron has made a movie about the War on Christmas "aimed at Bible-banging shut-ins and fringe Christianists loop-de-loops...." According to the Blaze (Glenn Beck's journoblog),

'Saving Christmas' [is] ... a comedic narrative that weaves together educational elements that, through a character-driven storyline, address these common complaints and critiques.

... CW: Oh, I'll bet it's "comedic." Here's the trailer:

News Ledes

New York Times: "Israel laid claim on Sunday to nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land in a Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem -- a step that could herald significant Israeli construction in the area -- defying Palestinian demands for a halt in settlement expansion."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia called on Ukraine on Sunday to begin talks on 'the statehood' of that country's rebellious southeast, a vague and provocative turn of phrase he used while demanding that the Ukrainian government negotiate directly with pro-Russian separatists."


Tan and the Man

Because of the international impact of this controversy, it deserves its very own blogpost.

Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "A Republican Congressman Is Actually Upset About Obama’s Tan Suit. Republican Rep. Peter King of New York ... blasted President Obama for wearing 'a light suit, light tan suit' to talk about the threat of ISIS on Thursday.

There’s no way any of us can excuse what the president did yesterday. When you have the world watching… a week, two weeks of anticipation of what the United States is gonna do. For him to walk out — I’m not trying to be trivial here — in a light suit, light tan suit, saying that first he wants to talk about what most Americans care about the revision of second quarter numbers on the economy....'" -- Peter King, on right-wing NewsMaxTV

... Later, Rep. King clarified his angry remarks about Obama's suit by appearing on CNN to say he was still angry about Obama's suit. With the whole world watching Pete on the international network, Pete chose not to wear a tie. Hey, it's summer. AND casual Friday. But he surely looks angry.

The suit was a metaphor for his lack of seriousness. -- Peter King, on President Obama's tan suit, on CNN

... CW: You're right, Peter King. That's why when I saw this snap of you wearing a tan summer suit in a season that appears to be summer, I was flabbergasted. Maybe the world isn't watching you at this particular moment, but -- my lord -- is this how you dress to represent a city that has a whole week! -- twice a year! -- dedicated to fashion???? Have you no shame, Sir?

... AND here you are, discussing the Troubles no less, in a tan sports jacket. And sweater. It must be winter. Are you even wearing a tie? As Scott Shane of the New York Times reported a few years ago, "Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army." And here you are with Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, dressed like a bum or a college professor. Look at Gerry there, all decked out for a wake in a proper dark suit & tie. The look of dispproval on his face tells you just what he thinks of your outfit. All of Ireland is watching. There's no excuse....

... Both photos via Joe Coscarelli of New York, who has a point: "Peter King has never discussed much of substance, so his point may still stand."

President Obama, Thursday. President Reagan, way back when, with Pope John-Paul II. John-Paul would go on to become a saint. Reagan would go on to rot in hell for insulting God, the Pope & the whole of Christiandom by wearing a tan suit to meet with God's representative on earth.

Oh, P.S. Those effete artistes of the fashion industry loved the suit.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Akhilleus for inserting the appropriate musical accompaniment:

... AND thanks to MAG for suggesting the appropriate comedic accompaniment: