The Ledes

Sunday, September 21, 2014.

New York Times: "Afghanistan’s election commission on Sunday pronounced Ashraf Ghani the winner of the country’s presidential election, but it withheld an announcement of the total votes won, despite an exhaustive and costly audit process overseen by the United Nations and financed by the American government. The suppression of the vote totals was apparently the final step necessary for the two presidential candidates to sign an American-brokered agreement to form a power-sharing government, giving the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah, substantial powers in what is, in effect, the post of prime minister."

New York Times: "NASA’s latest Mars spacecraft, Maven, arrives Sunday evening to study the mystery of what happened to the planet’s air. A 33-minute engine firing, beginning at 9:37 p.m. Eastern time, will put Maven in orbit around the planet. Acknowledgment will reach mission controllers 12 1/2 minutes later, the time it takes for a radio signal to travel to Earth from Mars. NASA’s website will provide a live broadcast beginning at 9:30 p.m."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President thanked Congress for its strong bipartisan support for efforts to train and equip Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIL":

The Ledes

Saturday, September 20, 2014.

Guardian: "The United States has quietly released 14 Pakistani citizens from military detention in Afghanistan, where the US holds its most secret cohort of detainees in its war on terrorism. The US military transferred the 14 to Pakistani government custody on Saturday. It did not publicize the release, as is typical with releases from the detention center on the outskirts of Bagram Airfield which is known formally as the Detention Facility in Parwan. A Pakistani human rights group instead announced the transfer and said it was the largest number of Pakistanis the US has thus far released."

New York Times: "Polly Bergen, an actress, singer and businesswoman who won an Emmy in 1957 for her portrayal of the alcoholic torch singer Helen Morgan and was nominated for another 50 years later for her role on the television show 'Desperate Housewives,' died on Saturday at her home in Southbury, Conn. She was 84."

New York Times: "The two candidates for president of Afghanistan have agreed on a power-sharing deal that will give the losing candidate substantial influence in the next government, initialing the American-brokered deal Saturday night and promising to sign it at a formal ceremony on Sunday. The deal promised an end at last to the tumultuous, five-month-long aftermath of the Afghan presidential elections, although previous settlements have repeatedly collapsed at the last minute despite the candidates’ promises."

New York Times: "A Texas man who scaled the White House fence made it through the North Portico doors on Friday night before being apprehended, the Secret Service said. The intruder, Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, was arrested just inside the doors and taken to George Washington University Hospital after complaining of chest pains, said Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman. None of the Obamas were home when the security breach occurred about 7:20 p.m., but White House staff members were evacuated as a precaution, officials said. President Obama and his daughters had left for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., just minutes before the incident." ...

     ... New Lede: "The Secret Service will conduct an internal review of its security procedures around the White House after a man who jumped the fence Friday night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue managed to make his way through the front door of President Obama’s home before being stopped, officials said Saturday." ...

     ... ** Washington Post UPDATE: "Within seconds, the man who relatives said served as a sniper in the Iraq War got to the front double doors of the North Portico, turned the brass knob and stepped inside the vestibule. There he was grabbed and subdued by an officer standing post inside the door. He was carrying a folding knife with a 2-1/2 inch serrated blade." ...

... Fox "News": "A New Jersey man was arrested Saturday outside the White House after driving up to a gate and refusing to leave, less than 24 hours after another man jumped the fence and got inside the presidential mansion before being arrested, which has resulted in increased security and a “comprehensive internal review,” according to the Secret Service."

New York Times: "Forty-nine Turkish hostages who had been held for months in Iraq by Islamic State militants were returned to Turkey on Saturday after what Turkey said was a covert operation led by its intelligence agency. The hostages, including diplomats and their families, had been seized in June from the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul." ...

     ... Too Good to Be True? AP UPDATE: "Turkish authorities say they have freed 49 hostages from one of the world's most ruthless militant groups without firing a shot, paying a ransom or offering a quid pro quo. But as the well-dressed men and women captured by the Islamic State group more than three months ago clasped their families Saturday on the tarmac of the Turkish capital's airport, experts had doubts about the government's story."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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."

White House Live Video
September 19

10:00 am ET: Annoucement of Department of Defense awards on biofuel production

10:15 am ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden host a White House event to launch the "It's on Us" campaign

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** 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 Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Sunday
Sep212014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 22, 2014

Demonstrators (on Sixth Avenue, I think) in New York City. New York Times photo.Lisa Foderaro of the New York Times: "Climates marches were held across the globe on Sunday, from Paris to Papua New Guinea, and with world leaders gathering at the United Nations on Tuesday for a climate summit meeting, marchers said the timing was right for the populist message in support of limits on carbon emissions." ...

... Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "Global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 to record levels, scientists reported Sunday, in the latest indication that the world remains far off track in its efforts to control global warming. The emissions growth last year was a bit slower than the average growth rate of 2.5 percent over the past decade, and much of the dip was caused by an economic slowdown in China, which is the world’s single largest source of emissions."

Eric Schmitt & Somini Sengupta of the New York Times: "President Obama will preside this week over an unusual meeting of the United Nations Security Council poised to adopt a binding resolution that would compel all countries to put in place domestic laws to prosecute those who travel abroad to join terrorist organizations and those who help them, including by raising funds. The resolution, proposed by the United States, would for the first time establish international standards for nations to prevent and suppress the recruiting of their citizens by terrorist organizations, and to bar the entry and transit across their territory of suspected foreign terrorists."

Scott Wong of the Hill: "The U.S. is not teaming up with Iran in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said Sunday. 'Well, let me stress that we are not coordinating military operations or sharing intelligence with Iran,' Power said on CBS’s 'Face the Nation,' pointing out that Iran’s backing of Hezbollah and Syrian President Basar al-Assad’s regime has been 'very destructive.'” ...

... Jaime Fuller of the Washington Post has a very good overview of who-all said what-all on the Sunday shows. With video clips.

Here's a clip from Scott Pelley's interview of Leon Panetta where Panetta says, "President Obama should have done what I said." (Paraphrase.) I'll link the full video when it becomes available:

Jerry Markon, et al., of the Washington Post: "An exodus of top-level officials from the Department of Homeland Security is undercutting its ability to stay ahead of a range of emerging threats, including potential terrorist and cyber attacks, according to interviews with current and former officials. Over the past four years, employees have left DHS at a rate nearly twice as fast as the federal government overall, and the trend is accelerating, according to a review of a federal database. The departures are a result of what employees widely describe as a dysfunctional work environment, abysmal morale and the lure of private security companies...."

Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The Secret Service is considering screening tourists and other visitors at checkpoints before they enter the public areas in front of the White House in response to the episode Friday in which a man with a knife managed to get through the front door of the president’s home after jumping over the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue.... As part of the screening, the Secret Service would establish several checkpoints a few blocks from the White House...."

In his column today, Paul Krugman expands on a blogpost on jobs linked here Saturday. "... the blame-the-victim crowd has gotten everything it wanted: Benefits, especially for the long-term unemployed, have been slashed or eliminated. So now we have rants against the bums on welfare when they aren’t bums — they never were — and there’s no welfare.... Strange to say, this outbreak of anti-compassionate conservatism hasn’t produced a job surge.... The right lives in its own intellectual universe, aware of neither the reality of unemployment nor what life is like for the jobless."

Tami Abdollah & Eric Tucker of the AP: "A Pentagon program that distributes military surplus gear to local law enforcement allows even departments that the Justice Department has censured for civil rights violations to apply for and get lethal weaponry.... The Pentagon, which provides the free surplus military equipment, says its consultation with the Justice Department will be looked at as the government reviews how to prevent high-powered weaponry from flowing to the untrustworthy."

CW: Apparently St. Louis-area police think the problem in Ferguson was just a little public relations problem. Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! News: "The St. Louis Police Academy [is] ... offering a new fall course that teaches 'tactics, skills and techniques that will help you WIN WITH THE MEDIA!' According to the Oct. 24 program's description, the 'highly entertaining' class will cover lessons learned from both Ferguson and Newtown."

Andrew Gelman of the Washington Post responds to Matt Bai's NYT Magazine assertion that before the Donna Rice expose', Gary Hart "was close to a lock for the nomination — and likely the presidency — as any challenger of the modern era." Gelman writes, "This is just wrong. Whoever won the Democratic nomination was highly unlikely to win the presidency." Gelman goes on to explain that the "fundamentals" were not there for Democrats in 1988, no matter who the nominee. So everybody can quit being all sad about what-might-have-been. Because it wasn't gonna be.

     ... CW Note: Bai is an excellent prose writer. But his work tends to be "impressionistic," & he loves the "large narrative." I've caught him in some wild, unsupported assertions before. (Can't remember what.) In this case, by making the Hart episode into The Downfall of a President-in-Waiting, Bai aggrandizes what was a National Inquirer-type story. (In fact, it was the Inquirer that published the "Monkey Business" photo -- after Hart had left the race.) In his book on the same topic, out last week, Bai turns the Hart incident into a "grand narrative" about the "tragedy" of "the politics of personal destruction." The best writers are not necessarily the most reliable. ...

     ... CW: What most surprised me about Bai's story (also linked in yesterday's Commentariat) was that -- contrary to what most of us who were around then remember -- Miami Herald reporters did not go after Hart because he had challenged the media to "Follow me around." The paper's reporters had been on the Donna Rice story for weeks before E. J. Dionne's story with the famous quote appeared in the WashPo. The first Herald story on Hart's personal life appeared the same day the Post published Dionne's story.

Saturday
Sep202014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 21, 2014

On "60 Minutes" this evening, Leon Panetta will severely criticize President Obama's past decisions re: Iraq & Syria.

CW: I wasn't going to read Matt Bai's piece in the New York Times Magazine on Gary Hart. But I did. It's pretty good. See MAG's related comment in yesterday's Comments section. Also James S.'s follow-up comment. Bill Clinton, whose tawdry escapades probably made Hart look like a comparative paragon of probity, knew exactly how to handle the issue -- with an overt hypocrisy that would satisfy any Church Lady. He learned from Hart's mistakes. ...

... AND, since we're traveling down Memory Lane, Philip Shenon, in the Washington Post: "... when it comes to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the list of important, seemingly credible public figures who count themselves as conspiracy theorists is long and impressive." CW: I'm a half-hearted conspiracy theorist myself, but to those who more-or-less buy the Warren Commission findings, it is certainly reasonable to believe that Oswald acted alone. One need look no further than Friday's breach of the White House to see than one resolute person can get pretty far.

David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "Steve Koonin has an obfuscatory piece in the Wall Street Journal today claiming that the science of climate change isn’t settled. But it’s not the usual radically ignorant posturing. As with much of the evolution of the conservative 'debate' over climate, it represents another move in the shifting ground of conservative chicanery intended to paralyze action to solve the problem.... His position is that because we don’t fully understand all of the complex reverberating effects of climate change, we can’t make good climate policy yet.... Of all the cynical arguments against action on climate change, Koonin’s ranks among the most disturbing because it’s so obviously calculated by a very smart person to make a radically irresponsible conclusion just to protect a few entrenched economic elites." The Koonin piece is here.

Dear Mister Presidint, Thank you for sending my teacher the tanks, grinaid launchers and cool army rifles. Recess used to be boring. Now its not. Joey S. 5fh grade.

CW: Re: the WashPo story I linked yesterday on "The Daily Show"'s Redskins segment, Zara Golden of Gawker: "The segment was bumped for Bill Clinton but will air this week."

Justin Huggler of the Telegraph: "President Vladimir Putin privately threatened to invade Poland, Romania and the Baltic states, according to a record of a conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart. 'If I wanted, in two days I could have Russian troops not only in Kiev, but also in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest,' Mr Putin allegedly told President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, reported Süddeustche Zeitung, a German newspaper. If true, this would be the first time that Mr Putin has threatened to invade Nato or EU members." CW: Doesn't sound like a threat to me. Just a bully boasting his is bigger than yours.

... CW: I do love it when scientists talk to the nitwits. Here Emily Atkin of Think Progress provides some outtakes of "White House Science Advisor Dr. John P. Holdren..., a lauded theoretical physicist, appear[ing] before the Republican-led House Committee on Science, Space and Technology on Wednesday to testify about the Obama administration’s plan to fight climate change." ...

     ... The problem is that these representatives operate under a belief system -- bolstered by their biggest contributors -- which always trumps facts. The members are not only ignorant, some say they believe that ignorance is superior to knowledge: climate scientists cannot be trusted because they are, you know, paid for studying climate change. Worth noting: those House members are paid for being dumb as dirt. Next time any of them need some surgery, I'd be happy to do it for free. I am completely ignorant of how to perform any medical procedures. But I'm sure a knife will come in handy.

God News

Here's your Sunday Bible story. Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post (September 12): Steve Green -- the son of the founder of Hobby Lobby -- is building a massive Bible museum two blocks from the Washington Mall. He also amassed a huge collection of valuable Biblical artifacts after the global financial crisis left owners in need of cash. The question now is whether the museum is going to be a Noah's Ark-type joke or a center for scholarly research. Via Steve Benen.

Rachel Zoll of the AP: "On Saturday, Pope Francis named [moderate Bishop Blase] Cupich as the next archbishop of Chicago, sending a strong signal about the direction that the pontiff is taking the church. Cupich will succeed Cardinal Francis George, 77, an aggressive defender of orthodoxy who once said he expected his successors in Chicago to be martyred in the face of hostility toward Christianity." ...

... The Chicago Sun-Times story, by Francine Knowles, is here.

Gubernatorial Races

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times assesses the Florida gubernatorial race, which polls show as nearly tied up up between Democrat (& former Republican governor) Charlie Crist & the current govenor, Rick Scott. ...

... Jonathan Chait takes another look at "What's the Matter with Kansas?" Answer: Gov. Sam Brownback.

Beyond the Beltway

Playing in Peoria. Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "... can a citizen be prosecuted for dope possession when the police were raiding his home looking for a fake Twitter account?" CW: Answer so far: Yup. This story sounds like an outtake from some half-assed 1980s comedy. Peoria definitely needs a new mayor.

Friday
Sep192014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 20, 2014

New York Times Editors: "A recent report on job markets globally showed that too few jobs are being created worldwide, and even fewer good jobs are. Wages are flat or falling in all major economies as corporate profits claim an increasing share of productivity gains. The report, prepared by the World Bank, the United Nations’ labor agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, notes that poor job creation and stagnant wages, if unchanged, will result in permanently lower living standards for most people amid widening inequality. It also states that the situation will not repair itself — and, actually, is self-reinforcing.... Governments in the grip of poisoned politics and misguided ideology have largely abdicated their role." The report abstract & links to content are here.

... CW: All of this, of course, is what Krugman has been saying since 2008....

     ... As Nisky Guy points out in today's Comments, Krugman is still at it:

This idea that has been born, maybe out of the economy over the last couple years, that you know, I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this. I think I’d rather just sit around. This is a very sick idea for our country. -- John Boehner ...

... Paul Krugman: "I could point to the overwhelming economic evidence that nothing like this is happening.... [AND he does.] But what really gets me here is the fact that people like Boehner are so obviously disconnected from the lived experience of ordinary workers. I mean, I live a pretty rarefied existence, with job security and a nice income and a generally upscale social set — but even so I know a fair number of people who have spent months or years in desperate search of jobs that still aren’t there. How cut off (or oblivious) can someone be who thinks that it’s just because they don’t want to work?"

Amanda Marcotte, in Salon: "Miseducation isn't only a red-state problem. Right-wing Christians are effectively writing our country's textbooks." An excellent review of how wingers are rewriting kids' schoolbooks as part of "a massive media campaign against reality." Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Crime without Consequence. Joe Pinsker of the Atlantic: Financial criminal Jordan Belfort, the real "Wolf of Wall Street," has not paid most of the millions the court ordered him to repay his victims, & he served only a portion of his sentence. "Belfort’s relatively consequence-free story is only one of the more prominent ones in a parade of aggravating numbers reported on earlier this week by The Wall Street Journal. There’s still $97 billion out there in penalties that the Justice Department has failed to recover, and between September 2012 and September 2013, the department collected only 22 percent of penalties doled out."

Jim Gaines of Reuters: One in four Americans wants his state to secede. Reuters called secessionist respondants at random & found random complaints; "against a recovery that has yet to produce jobs, against jobs that don’t pay, against mistreatment of veterans, against war, against deficits, against hyper-partisanship, against political corruption, against illegal immigration, against the assault on marriage, against the assault on same-sex marriage, against government in the bedroom, against government in general — the president, Congress, the courts and both political parties."

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "Barack Obama will not be pledging any cash to a near-empty fund for poor countries at a United Nations summit on climate change next week, the UN special climate change envoy said on Friday. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has challenged the 125 world leaders attending the 23 September summit to make 'bold pledges' to the fund, intended to help poor countries cope with climate change. The UN has been pressing rich countries to come up with pledges of between $10bn and $15bn."

Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "House leaders announced Thursday that they were cutting their already abbreviated fall session short and sending lawmakers back home – and onto the campaign trail – more than a week early." ...

... Gail Collins: "Before decamping to go home and run for re-election, our elected representatives voted to fund the government and go to war. Pretty much ran the table on their constitutional responsibilities." Collins' take on the House's efforts to effect tax reform is a classic. Here's the topper: "... the House ... Ways and Means Committee, which is run by Boehner’s very own party, did come up with a sweeping plan for tax reform this year. The speaker promptly made fun of it. ('Blah, blah, blah, blah.') Having completely and thoroughly slammed the door on any discussion of the bill, he told reporters this week that he was 'shocked at how little I have heard about it.'” ...

... But Some Housework Is Important. Lauren French of Politico: "House Republicans have replaced the firm managing their lawsuit against President Barack Obama for alleged abuses of executive authority after the first attorney backed out of the contract under political pressure, according to GOP aides. A House staffer said the change of firms came after multiple clients of Baker & Hostetler expressed concern that the firm was engaged in what the companies saw as an overtly partisan lawsuit."

Philip Ewing of Politico: "Gen. Ray Odierno has gotten letters from some 40 members of Congress asking why they’re losing troops from their home districts. His answer: Look in the mirror. 'I wrote back and I said, "The reason I’m taking soldiers out of the installation in your state is because of sequestration. Not that I want to do it...."' The Army’s chief of staff told reporters Friday morning that he warned Congress even before today’s vortex of crises that major troop cuts would bring 'significant risk.' ... 'That was before we had [the Islamic State] and before the Ukrainian incursion,' Odierno said."

Julie Creswell & Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times: "... despite alarms as far back as 2008, Home Depot was slow to raise its defenses [against hacking], according to former employees. On Thursday, the company confirmed what many had feared: The biggest data breach in retailing history had compromised 56 million of its customers’ credit cards. The data has popped up on black markets and, by one estimate, could be used to make $3 billion in illegal purchases.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Two civil liberties groups are edging in on conservative gadfly Larry Klayman's legal challenge to National Security Agency surveillance. On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation asked to join in arguments set to be held in November on the government's appeal of the first and only judicial ruling disputing the constitutionality of the NSA's program sweeping up information on billions of telephone calls to, from, and within the United States. The groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to allow them 10 minutes of argument time."

Senate Race

Dylan Scott of TPM: "In an apparent reversal, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office is instructing election officials in the state to send out overseas military ballots without Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor or any other Democratic Senate candidate listed." ...


Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article2168744.html#storylink=cpy

... Update. Bryan Lowry of the Wichita Eagle: "But Secretary of State Kris Kobach has not given up his position that Democrats must appoint a replacement for Chad Taylor. He says overseas voters may have to cast a second ballot later. The 526 ballots to be mailed by Saturday to overseas civilians and military personnel include a disclaimer that new ballots will be printed if a court forces Democrats to name a replacement candidate. Some ballots from Johnson County went out Thursday with Taylor’s name. They were amended Friday." CW: What a mess.

... CW: Since Korbach wants to create as much confusion as possible, couldn't Democrats just nominate Greg Orman? Whether voters selected him on the Independent line or on the Democratic line shouldn't matter -- all votes would accrue to him. Of course there's no guarantee Orman would caucus with Democrats.


Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article2168744.html#storylink=cpy

Marie's Sports Report

Barbara Starr of CNN: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has asked his staff for detailed information about the U.S. military's relationships with the National Football League in the wake of the scandal over how the league is handling domestic-abuse allegations against players, CNN has learned.... The military has a zero-tolerance policy in the ranks for domestic abuse, but it also has a high-profile relationship with the NFL that goes back decades.... The Army alone spends some $10 million a year buying advertising from television networks broadcasting NFL games. Games are also broadcast by the Armed Forces Network to troops deployed overseas."

Blah, Blah, Blah. Lynn Zinser of the New York Times: "As calls increased for the N.F.L. to adequately address its recent rash of off-field violence, Commissioner Roger Goodell finally spoke publicly about the issue Friday, apologizing for his role in poor decision-making and promising a revamped personal conduct policy to address future cases.... Goodell had not spoken publicly since the video of [Ray] Rice punching Janay Palmer became public.... Goodell offered very little in the way of specifics in the news conference." ...

... Joe Nocera: "When he arrived at the podium, Goodell made a short statement in which he said ... nothing.... You would have thought that if Goodell were going to hold a news conference he would have something more to say than that he was sorry and that he was going to consult experts — things he has said before. Stunningly, he didn’t, which became even clearer when reporters started asking questions."

... Jon Stewart reviews some of NFL's & NFL teams' decisive reactions to news their players were accused/guilty of domestic abuse:

... Bill Pennington & Steve Eder of the New York Times: "... in his role as the N.F.L.’s hard-bitten sheriff, Mr. Goodell appears to have had a major blind spot: domestic violence cases. Players charged with domestic violence routinely received considerably lighter punishments than players accused of other offenses, like drug use or drunken driving. Often, they were not punished at all." ...

... ** Don Van Natta & Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN lay out the Ravens' "purposeful misdirection" & the NFL's "scant investigation" of Ray Rice's knockout punch of his then-fiancee Janay Palmer. CW: The ESPN piece further puts the lie to some of the NFL's claims following TMZ's publication of the elevator-cam video. ...

... Ian Shapira of the Washington Post: Some fans who love the Redskins' name are upset when, for a segment of the "Daily Show," actual Native Americans confront them. One fan called the police. CW: As far as I can tell, the segment, which was shot last week, hasn't aired.


Vice President Joe Gaffe
. At a Democratic women's conference, Biden evokes fond memories of serial sexual harasser Bob Packwood. Really. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "The Oregon Republican resigned from the Senate in 1995 amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assaulting women. The Senate ethics committee had voted unanimously to recommend his expulsion." But Packwood was bipartisan! CW: MEANWHILE, a former runner-up for Biden's job is promoting physical violence. Go to the bottom of the page to link on the details.

Annals of "Journalism," Mob Edition. Joseph Berger of the New York Times: "A federal grand jury [in White Plains, New York] indicted [Selem] Zherka, 46, of Somers, the owner of two strip clubs in Manhattan and a modest real estate empire and the publisher of The Westchester Guardian, on fraud charges in connection with applications seeking $146 million in property loans. He was also charged with income-tax fraud and witness tampering. Moreover, in papers submitted for a bail hearing on Friday, two assistant United States attorneys ... accused Mr. Zherka, the Bronx-bred son of an Albanian-immigrant janitor, of essentially being a dangerous thug.... Mr. Zherka, a litigious man who has filed multiple lawsuits against his antagonists, has called himself the state Tea Party’s 'loudest voice' and has said he had been unfairly pursued by the Internal Revenue Service as part of a government 'witch hunt.' But some local Tea Party leaders have distanced themselves from him." Read the whole story.

AP: "Al Jazeera America is suing former Vice President Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, the former owners of the TV network that became Al Jazeera America. The parties are fighting over money that is being held in escrow."

Beyond the Beltway

Grassroots Voter Suppression. AnnieJo of Daily Kos: "A Facebook group calling themselves the 'Wisconsin Poll Watcher Militia' (update: page has since disappeared and now it's back!) is threatening armed intimidation of voters who signed the Scott Walker recall in 2012 who also have any outstanding warrants or tax defaults.  The page claims  'Our militia will watch polling places and report known felons and other people wanted by law enforcement. The police are looking for you, so are we.'" From the group's Facebook page:

Wisconsin Poll Watcher Militia is a force that is armed. Do not approach our members by engaging in a physical hostile act because you are going to get put down like a rabid dog. We are going to be around neighborhoods that may be crime-filled. These areas are heavy democrat-voting areas because it is a result of a poor education. We will be there to get criminal scum off the streets.

CW: I don't know Wisconsin law, but I seriously doubt having outstanding warrants or owing taxes disenfranchises a qualified voter. This group is planning unlawful -- & unjustifiable -- harassment. Also obviously racist. Thanks to safari for the link. Also, see safari's commentary in today's Comments section.

Edmund Mahony of the Hartford Courant: "Former Gov. John G. Rowland, a political rising star who crashed a decade ago in a corruption scandal, fell again Friday when a jury in federal court found him guilty in a low-rent scheme to collect secret paychecks from rich Republican congressional candidates."

Tom Hart of the Guardian: "A court has upheld the constitutional right of Texans to photograph strangers as an essential component of freedom of speech -- even if those images should happen to be surreptitious 'upskirt' pictures of women taken for the purposes of sexual gratification. Criticising an anti-'creepshot' law as a 'paternalistic' intrusion on a person’s right to be aroused, the Texas court of criminal appeals struck down part of the state’s 'improper photography or visual recording' statute which banned photographing, broadcasting or transmitting a visual image of another person without the other’s consent and with the intention to 'arouse or gratify … sexual desire'."

Toast? Or Artisan Sourdough Round? Jonathan Dienst, et al., of WNBC: "The U.S. Justice Department investigation into Gov. Chris Christie’s role in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal has thus far uncovered no evidence indicating that he either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the span, federal officials tell NBC 4 New York.... Federal officials caution that the investigation that began nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made.... [New Jersey] Assemblyman John Wisniewski said the state legislative committee's investigation into the bridge lane closures is continuing." ...

... Melissa Hayes of the Bergen Record: "Governor Christie called on the lawmakers investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures to wrap up their investigation during a State House news conference Thursday morning.... Christie spent more than 3 minutes chastising the Democratic-led committee during a State House news conference where he made unrelated staff announcements." ...

 

... Star-Ledger Editors: "Gov. Chris Christie wants the committee investigating Bridgegate to close up shop, saying it is a partisan witch hunt that has run out of gas.... Before he finishes this victory lap, a few reminders: No one on the investigative committee has accused him of personally ordering these lane closures.... But what about the cover-up? What about the bogus claim that this was all part of a traffic study?" The editors compare the investigations to Watergate & Christie to Richard Nixon. ...

... Update. Bob Jordan of the Asbury Park Press: "NBC says a report by Brian Williams on the network's Nightly News that federal charges have been ruled out for Gov. Chris Christie in the George Washington Bridge scandal was incorrect. Federal prosecutors say the investigation is ongoing and haven't made any announcement on Christie's status."

Former Half-Governor & Second Runner-up in the 2008 Veeps Beauty Pageant Sarah Palin obliquely defends her daughter Bristol for repeatedly punching up on a friend of the family. Something about her being a "strong young woman" promoting "family values."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Chris Johnson & Ben Quinn of the Guardian: "Gordon Brown has called on Scotland to unite behind a common future for the country after voters' rejection of independence in Thursday's referendum. In a passionate speech in Dunfermline, Fife, on Saturday, the former [British] prime minister - whose late intervention in the referendum campaign has been credited with helping to secure the no vote - said: 'Let us think of ourselves not as yes and no Scots but simply as Scots and let us be a nation, united again.'" ...

... Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "The decisive rejection of Scotland’s independence referendum set off an instant scramble Friday to fundamentally reorganize constitutional power in the United Kingdom, with Prime Minister David Cameron citing a chance 'to change the way the British people are governed.' With Thursday’s 'no' vote, Cameron avoided the eternal stigma that would have come from allowing Britain to break up on his watch. But with parliamentary elections due next spring, the prime minister still faces a raging anti-establishment tide that helped to fuel the Scottish independence bid and has penetrated all corners of the United Kingdom."

Thursday
Sep182014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 19, 2014

Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama on Thursday thanked members of Congress from both parties for coming together and acting quickly to approve funding that will aid in the international campaign against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant":

... Jonathan Weisman & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The Senate gave overwhelming approval on Thursday to a measure on the training and arming of Syrian rebels, then fled the Capitol for the fall campaign, sidestepping the debate over the extent of American military action until the lame-duck session of Congress later this year. The training measure, pushed hard by President Obama, was tucked into a larger Senate bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, a maneuver that leaders of both parties favored to ensure as few defections as possible. The Senate's 78-to-22 vote, a day after the House passed the measure, masked the serious doubts that many senators had." ...

... Justin Sink of the Hill: "The White House on Friday strongly disputed suggestions of friction between President Obama and the Pentagon over the strategy for confronting fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). White House press secretary Josh Earnest unloaded on a front-page headline in The Washington Post pointing to skepticism in the military of Obama's plan, calling its conclusions 'wrong.' 'All they do is they misinterpret Chairman Dempsey's testimony, and the rest of the time, they essentially quote either people who are frequent critics or people who supported the previous Iraq conflict,' Earnest said on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe.' 'So the more accurate headline would be, "Supporters of the Bush war in Iraq criticize President Obama's strategy." And that's been true since 2002,' Earnest said." ...

... CW: I saw the piece yesterday & got as far as the first "expert" reporter Craig Whitlock cited: an ex-general. So I didn't link it. I think Earnest's assertion is correct. As I indicated in the Dempsey sensation of a few days ago, it turned out that the headlines & ledes touting Dempsey's supposed concession on American "boots on the ground" was a far-out hypothetical forced by Lindsey Graham's repeated questioning/badgering the witness during Senate testimony. ...

... Ben Hubbard of the New York Times: "In President Obama's strategy of building an international coalition to fight the Islamic State without American troops..., moderate [Syrian] rebels loom large as the best force to fight the extremists in Syria.... At present the rebels are a beleaguered lot, far from becoming a force that can take on the fanatical and seasoned fighters of the Islamic State.... [A] scaled-up training program would be overseen by the Defense Department, unlike the current covert program here and a similar program in Jordan, both overseen by the C.I.A." ...

... we underestimated ISIL and overestimated the fighting capability of the Iraqi army. .... I didn't see the collapse of the Iraqi security force in the north coming. I didn't see that. It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable. -- James Clapper, National Intelligence Director ...

... David Ignatius of the Washington Post: "The United States has made the same mistake in evaluating fighters from the Islamic State that it did in Vietnam -- underestimating the enemy's will, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence."

We are supposed to keep the country safe, predict anticipatory intelligence, with no risk, and no embarrassment if revealed, and without a scintilla of jeopardy to privacy of any domestic person or foreign person. We call that 'immaculate collection.' --James Clapper, on the mission of the agencies he oversees

This is what the average voter thinks President Obama should be able to do. If, by some miracle he could perfectly secure the nation, millions of Americans would still oppose him because the weather sucks or their neighbors are jerks. If it turned out Obama was the second coming of Jesus, these people would choose to be "left behind." -- Constant Weader

... Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "Departing from its serial beheading videos of Western hostages that have outraged the world, the Islamic State released a new video on Thursday featuring a captive British journalist seated behind a desk, explaining the group's message and warning that America and its allies are foolishly heading into another unwinnable war. The Internet video,..., subtitled in Arabic, shows the journalist, John Cantlie, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and apparently reading from a script, recalling how he was captured by the militant group also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL after he arrived in Syria in November 2012." ...

... Andy Greenberg of Wired with an update on those iPhones for Criminals: "A reminder to iPhone owners cheering Apple's latest privacy win: Just because Apple will no longer help police to turn your smartphone inside out doesn't mean it can prevent the cops from vivisecting the device on their own." ...

... Coming Soon! Androids for Criminals! Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "The next generation of Google's Android operating system, due for release next month, will encrypt data by default for the first time, the company said Thursday, raising yet another barrier to police gaining access to the troves of personal data typically kept on smartphones.... The move, which Google officials said has been in the works for many months, is part of a broad shift by American technology companies to make their products more resistant to government snooping in the aftermath of revelations of National Security Agency spying by former contractor Edward Snowden." Currently, Androids have such encryption available, but the user has to install it. ...

... CW: Timberg maintains that both Apple & Google "in most cases will make it impossible for law enforcement officials to collect evidence from smartphones -- even when authorities get legally binding search warrants." This is contrary to what the Wired experts are claiming. My personal theory: this marketing ploy is also a ruse. The NSA will bypass the encryption when they want to, so these big tech announcements may give terrorism suspects a false sense of security. (Probably not true for local police forces, which don't possess NSA-type skillsets, tho I suppose the FBI could occasionally come to their rescue.) Timberg, BTW, can read Wired as well as I can, so one is inclined to suspect that the Post is a knowledgeable co-conspirator. Fine.

Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) signed on to legislation Thursday that would remove the nonprofit status of the NFL for promoting the Washington Redskins. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) announced the legislation earlier this week.... Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced a broader bill on Tuesday that would strip the nonprofit status of most professional sports teams, and would use the extra revenue to fund domestic violence outreach." CW: I'm with Booker.

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid paid compliments on Thursday to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz 00 but deferred to President Barack Obama on her future as the head of the party. Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida, is under increasing scrutiny by top Democrats in Washington for her stewardship of the party since 2011. Reid called her a 'friend' but skirted answering a reporter's question on whether she's became a liability for Democrats as they head into a pitched battle to keep the Senate this November."

Alan Blinder & Campbell Robertson of the New York Times: "... a federal judge[, Mark Fuller,] in Alabama on Thursday faced abrupt and potent pressure to resign after he was charged with striking his wife last month at a luxury hotel here.... Judge Fuller, an appointee of President George W. Bush and a frequent target of Democratic ire, has also received harsh criticism from Republican members of Alabama's congressional delegation, including the state's two senators, who both called for him to resign.... The reaction was a remarkable display of how accusations of domestic violence are suddenly being viewed with new urgency far beyond the N.F.L."

Linda Greenhouse: On gay marriage, Judge Posner evolves. Greenhouse does not think the Supremes will take up the issue this year.

"Errors & Emissions." Paul Krugman: "Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free.... If we ever get past the special interests and ideology that have blocked action to save the planet, we'll find that it's cheaper and easier than almost anyone imagines." CW: Also, kudos to the headline-writer. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "If this research breaks though the wall of false choices, then the second line of defense against action on climate change -- the first is denial, the second is 'we can't afford to do anything about it' -- could begin to crumble, and we can begin to debate 'how' more than 'whether' to act."

Capitalism Is Awesome. WalMart Finds Another Way to Profit off Its Employees. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: WalMart has instituted a new employee "dress code." "Federal law says that employers have to provide workers with required uniforms." But the new WalMart "dress code" -- a white shirt & black pants -- does not include a company logo, so the employees -- not WalMart -- have to pay for the clothing. It's not a uniform! "Walmart has helpfully marked the tags on items that pass muster in case workers want to buy those clothes from Walmart.... Worker group OUR Walmart estimates that the company stands to make $51 million or more in sales to workers buying the new not-quite-uniforms. Walmart will also be supplying workers with a vest they're required to wear -- a vest that, for all the company's big talk about American-made products, is currently being made in Jordan."

Senate Races

** Wichita Eagle: "Democrat Chad Taylor is off the ballot for the U.S. Senate in Kansas. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled late Thursday afternoon that Taylor's letter to the Secretary of State's Office met the requirements for him to withdraw. Secretary of State Kris Kobach had said Taylor had failed to declare that he was incapable of serving as required by Kansas statute and had ruled that his name would remain on the ballot. Taylor took the unprecedented step of suing to have his name removed....[Sen. Pat] Roberts campaign issued a statement decrying the ruling. 'Today, the Kansas Supreme Court deliberately, and for political purposes, disenfranchised over 65,000 voters,'" ...

... Rick Hasen: "This is a unanimous, per curiam (unsigned) opinion from the Court holding that Democrat Chad Taylor's name will not be on the ballot in the Kansas Senate race. This has political implications, as it will likely cause more Democrats to vote for independent Greg Orman instead of incumbent Republican Pat Roberts. It puts the seat, and perhaps the Senate, up for grabs. But there's a wrinkle. There is still possible Court action now to force Democrats to name a new candidate to replace Taylor on the ballot." ...

... NEW. Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "... without a Democrat on the ballot, Mr. Orman will have a real chance to defeat Mr. Roberts. The balance of recent polling suggests that Mr. Orman is probably fairly close to 50 percent without Mr. Taylor or another Democrat on the ballot."

Simon Maloy of Slate: "Earlier this week, Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported out the fairly bizarre story [linked in yesterday's Commentariat] of Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby and the health plan that she plagiarized from Crossroads GPS. Her candidacy has long been a favorite of conservative pundits who convinced themselves that Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon running in a state that had an especially rough experience with the Affordable Care Act rollout, was ideally positioned to campaign hard on health policy and take down Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley.... In May, the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel called Wehby the 'Democrats' worst nightmare,' citing her alleged health policy chops. 'She's a policy wonk, able to run rings around Oregon's junior senator, especially on health-care reform,' Strassel wrote. The fact that Wehby's health policy was pinched from a poll conducted by Karl Rove is, therefore, hilarious."

Alec MacGillis of the New Republic: Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate "Alison Grimes is trailing [Mitch McConnell] in the polls -- but she might not be if she had used Obamacare to her advantage.... If [the Grimes campaign is] unable to get more voters whose health care McConnell wants to take away to turn out against him in November, the fault belongs to the campaign, not the voters." CW: I agree with MacGillis; Grimes' attempts to hide from ObamaCare make her seem dishonest.

Worse Than Republicans. Alison Montoya of WLWT Cincinnati. "... write-in [U.S Senate] candidate Robert Ransdell said he knows he cannot win against Republican Mitch McConnell or Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes but wants to use the campaign to spread his slogan, 'With Jews We Lose.'... As of Wednesday the signs were gone. Apparently Ransdell did not ask the property owner for permission."

Congressional Race

Hunter of Daily Kos: "The latest candidate to sign up for the hard-fought America's Dumbest Congressman competition is Republican Mark Walker, who's running for North Carolina's deep-red 6th Congressional district.... Walker's answer to undocumented immigrants is to 'go laser or blitz somebody' in Mexico." If attacking Mexico happened to start a war, "Well," Walker says, "we did it before, if we need to do it again, I don't have a qualm about it."

Gubernatorial Race

Well, well. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Large portions of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke's jobs plan for Wisconsin appear to be copied directly from the plans of three Democratic candidates who ran for governor in previous election cycles.... A spokesman for the Burke campaign told BuzzFeed News an 'expert' named Eric Schnurer who also worked on the other campaigns as responsible for the similar text, a case of self-plagiarism. Schnur[er] is not listed as an advisor to the campaign nor or his ideas attributed to previous campaigns in Burke’s plan." Here's Schnurer's bio-promo. ...

... CW: I wonder if Burke even read "her" jobs "plan." If you are of the impression that candidates in both parties are colossal phonies, yeah, you're right. On the other hand, Mary Burke is Eric Schnurer, not Scott Walker.

... Update. Oh. Good, She's Read It Now. Donovan Slack of USA Today: "... Mary Burke said she is 'disappointed' that a consultant on her campaign, Eric Schnurer, copied text he had used in other campaigns and incorporated it into her jobs plan, but she maintained that the ideas are sound.... She fired Schnurer on Thursday, when Buzzfeed reported Thursday that sections of her plan had been taken verbatim from other Democratic gubernatorial campaigns in Tennessee, Indiana and Delaware."

Presidential Election

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Thursday voted against legislation authorizing President Obama to arm and train Syrian rebels, taking a stand that could distinguish her from Hillary Clinton in 2016.... Warren has a thin foreign policy résumé but by voting against the authority Obama requested, she will earn points with members of the Democratic base who are skeptical about another military campaign in the Middle East. 'I do not want America to be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, and it is time for those nations in the region that are most immediately affected by the rise of ISIS to step up and play a leading role in this fight,' she said in a statement."

Beyond the Beltway

Charles Pierce: "Everything done by the local police chief, and the local police forces, from the moment [Michael] Brown's body hit the pavement, seemed oriented around a desire to provoke the maximum outrage so as to justify the maximum police response. And now, it appears, the grand jury investigating the case of Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Brown, is headed down the same strange road." ...

... CW: Pierce's post is titled "The Latest from Ferguson," but in fact, the latest -- of which Pierce was unaware -- is that Wilson already has testified before the grand jury. In a Post-Dispatch story I linked yesterday, Robert Patrick wrote that Wilson testified for nearly four hours -- although he was not required by law to appear -- & that his "source said Wilson was 'cooperative.'" IMO, the update supports Pierce's contention. Wilson "cooperated" because he knows damned well the fix is in. If his attorney thought DA Bob McCulloch had any intention to challenge Wilson on "inconvenient facts," the lawyer would not have allowed Wilson to testify.

Will Weissert of the AP: "Amid uproar in conservative circles about perceived anti-American bias in the new [national] Advanced Placement U.S. History course and exam, Texas on Wednesday moved to require its high school students to learn only state-mandated curriculum -- not be taught to the national test.... Conservative activists, though, have decried the new course, the teachers' framework and even the exam itself as rife with liberal themes and focusing on the negative aspects of U.S. history. Some have even likened it to 'mind control' engineered by the federal government."...

... Charles Pierce: "... in a very important state of the union, a state governed by a man who is running around the country pretending he's smart enough to be president, high school students are going to learn American history in a strange, sanitized version unlike that taught anywhere else. Because the Texas Board of Education is opposed to mind control. Good for them." ...

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: By the few reliable measures available, it appears U.S. public schools have actually gotten better over the decades. Yet Americans "hate the public school system but like the school they actually interact with." Rampell cites a number of theories -- Diane Ravitch has a good one -- to explain this widening gap between perceptions of the local schools & public education....

     ... CW: I'd add one more theory: increasing tribalism. Parents are part of the rah-rah apparatus -- sports & other extracurricular activities -- that fosters school loyalty. The parents have an actual investment (taxes) as well as an emotional investment in schools that are important community-oriented institutions. At the Friday night football game -- and all through the week -- my school is better than your school.

News Ledes

Guardian: "Alex Salmond declared he will stand down as Scotland's first minister and the lead of the Scottish National party after failing to secure a majority for independence, as the country's vote to remain in the United Kingdom foreshadowed months of constitutional turmoil. After 55% of Scottish voters rejected independence, a higher margin than suggested by the final opinion polls of the campaign, Salmond, who has dominated Scottish politics for the past decade, said he would quit in November."

CBS/AP: "France said Friday it had conducted its first airstrike in Iraq, destroying a logistics depot held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The office of President Francois Hollande's office said Rafale fighter jets struck the depot in northeastern Iraq on Friday morning and the target was 'entirely destroyed.'"

Guardian: "David Cameron has declared a 'clear result' in the Scottish independence referendum after Scotland voted by a 10.6-point margin against ending the 307-year-old union with England and Wales. Earlier, Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, struck a defiant note at a downbeat Scottish National party rally in Edinburgh, saying he accepted Scotland had not 'at this stage' decided to vote for independence. He paid tribute to what he called a 'triumph for democratic politics' and said he would work with Westminster in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK -- warning the leaders of the three main parties to make good on their promises of enhanced devolution for Scotland." ...

... The Scotsman's main story is here.