The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, September 30, 2014.

Guardian: "Medical officials in the United States announced on Tuesday the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed outside Africa during the latest outbreak, which has killed more than 3,000 people this year. The patient, who has not yet been identified, is being treated in Dallas, Texas. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the patient left Liberia in west Africa on 19 September, but did not develop symptoms until a few days after arriving in the US. He was admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas on Sunday."

Los Angeles Times: "The Securities and Exchange Commission accused two men of insider trading for acting on advance word that hedge fund manager Bill Ackman planned to bet against nutritional products company Herbalife Ltd. It's the latest dramatic turn for the Los Angeles company, which is under federation investigation and has been fighting allegations for nearly two years that it operates an illegal pyramid scheme."

Los Angeles Times: "Bell Gardens[, California,] Mayor Daniel Crespo died Tuesday after he was shot by his wife, Levette, during a domestic situation, Sheriff's Department officials told The Times."

New York Times: "An Oklahoma man was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the beheading of a co-worker, but federal officials said they had found no links that tie the man to terrorist organizations, including Islamic extremist groups that have beheaded several Western hostages in the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks. Alton Nolen, 30, who worked on the production line of a food processing plant in Moore, Okla., remains in the hospital after being shot by the company’s chief operating officer, who is also a reserve deputy sheriff, the authorities said."

New York Times: "Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader on Tuesday called for the pro-democracy demonstrators who have blocked major roads in the city to return home 'immediately,' and he gave no sign that he was prepared to compromise on their demands for more open elections to choose his successor." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging the protests.

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 30

1:00 pm ET: Michelle Obama hosts Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards luncheon

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

1:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at a luncheon honoring Indian PM Narendra Modi

3:30 pm ET: White House BRAIN conference

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

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

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker: "The first trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Inherent Vice dropped today and, as expected, it's a madcap psychedelic Southern California love song that may or may not feature an appearance by elusive author Thomas Pynchon.... Anderson declined to answer directly in a recent interview with the New York Times, but [actor Josh] Brolin confirmed the notoriously reclusive author will appear in the film, telling the reporter, 'I don't think anybody knew... He came on as the kind of mercurial iconoclast he is. He stayed in the corner.'"

Here's a voiceover Pynchon did in 2009 promoting the novel Inherent Vice:


Whatever Happened to Piers Morgan? Guardian: "Piers Morgan, the former CNN talkshow host, has been appointed editor-at-large of Mail Online’s US operation. The outspoken New York-based British journalist, who parted company with CNN in early September, six months after his primetime talkshow was axed, will write for the Daily Mail’s US website several times a week, according to a Mail Online story published on Tuesday."

CW: You won't likely be hearing from Piers here. I've never found a reason to cite a Daily Mail story.

Los Angeles Times: "George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin are married, having said their vows Saturday evening in Venice, Italy." ...

... OR, as the Business Women Media lede reads, "Amal Alamuddin, a 36 year old London-based dual-qualified English barrister and New York litigation attorney who has long been a high-profile figure in international refugee and human rights law has gone against the trend for professional women in her field and married… an actor."

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.

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Tuesday
Sep302014

Before There Was a Beltway

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "For much of the history of the United States, the White House grounds have been reasonably open to the public, resulting in breaches far more astonishing than the one on Sept. 19, when an Iraq war veteran, Omar J. Gonzalez, rushed past a Secret Service agent at the North Portico and ran through much of the State Floor before being tackled."


In the 1920s, my grandparents had a touring car with running boards. When they traveled with the family, they fitted wooden pens to the running boards, & the family dogs rode in the pens. 

I've seen photos of my grandparents' car, with the caged dogs. As I recall, the car & pens looked a lot like this:

(I have no idea how one exits a car with animal crates so attached.)

My grandparents' practice would be regarded as animal cruelty today, but as Gail Collins has happily reminded us, Mitt Romney was pretty certain dogs enjoyed such fresh-air adventures. 

A Colorado policeman stops a Dogs Against Romney protester who was on his way to protest Mitt Romney. The cop stopped the protester, who had a fake dog in the crate, on suspicion of animal abuse.I don't know if my grandmother thought driving great distances with dogs on the running board was cruel to the family pets, but she did think the appearance of dogs on the running board was evah-so tacky. My grandmother was always one for keeping up appearances.

There was no going around Washington, D.C., in those days, so on trips south, my grandfather drove through the city. I suppose the signage wasn't all that good back then. In any event, on one such trip, my grandfather got lost driving through Washington.

Eventually he spied a couple of policemen standing around in front of a porticoed mansion. My grandfather pulled alongside the front steps, stuck his head out the window & asked the officers just where they were. 

"You're at the White House, sir," said one of the officers.

"Oh, dear," my grandmother gasped. "Drive on quickly, Asbury. I shouldn't want Mrs. Coolidge to see us like this."


If you or someone you know has breached the White House gates, do tell.

Tuesday
Sep302014

The Commentariat -- October 1, 2014

Scarier & Scarier. Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "A security contractor with a gun and three prior convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta.... The private contractor first aroused the agents’ concerns when he acted oddly and did not comply with their orders to stop using a cellphone camera to record the president in the elevator.... The Secret Service director, Julia Pierson, asked a top agency manager to look into the matter but did not refer it to an investigative unit that was created to review violations of protocol and standards...." In hearings Tuesday, Pierson told House members that she brief President Obama 100 percent of the time when his security is breached. But she didn't tell him about the Atlanta incident. ...

... AND Scarier. Carol Leonnig: "The man who jumped over the White House fence and sprinted through the main floor of the mansion could have gotten even farther had it not been for an off-duty Secret Service agent who was coincidentally in the house and leaving for the night. The agent who finally tackled Omar Gonzalez had been serving on the security detail for President Obama’s daughters and had just seen the family depart via helicopter minutes earlier. He happened to be walking through the house when ... the intruder dashed through the main foyer.... [Julia] Pierson did not reveal during her testimony that the agent who tackled him was not actually assigned to the post where he confronted Gonzalez." ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: Democrats notice that Republicans are using "concern for the President's security" to undermine the President. No kidding.

... New York Times Editors: "... the Secret Service has revealed itself to be as bungling and dysfunctional as many other once-revered Washington institutions. It not only failed in its most fundamental task of protecting the White House premises, but it has failed to properly investigate threats after they occurred, and has not been forthcoming with the public about those lapses. The agency initially said [Omar] Gonzalez was subdued at the White House door, only admitting the truth about the extent of his intrusion after it was uncovered on Monday by Carol D. Leonnig of The Washington Post. 'I wish to God you protected the White House like you’re protecting your reputation here today,” Representative Stephen Lynch, a Democrat of Massachusetts, told the Secret Service director, Julia Pierson, at a hearing Tuesday morning. Ms. Pierson was unimpressive in her testimony at the hearing on security breaches, delivering passive, pro forma answers and failing to persuade questioners of either party that she has either the strategy or the will to right an essential but troubled agency.” ...

... Frank Bruni: "The guard dogs didn’t guard. The alarm boxes didn’t alarm. The front door couldn’t be locked automatically as he sprinted toward it, because it wasn’t rigged that way. We can fly drones over Pakistan, but we can’t summon a proper locksmith to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?... In the end, it’s people who make the difference. The Secret Service needs better ones." ...

... Dana Milbank: "... Julia Pierson "was brought in to change the frat-house culture seen in the 2012 Cartagena prostitution scandal and, earlier this year, in drunkenness episodes in Miami and Amsterdam. She claims to have improved that problem ('We’ve instituted an Office of Professional Integrity'), but she’s now allowing an equally pernicious culture to flourish — a culture of concealment and coverup." ...

... CW: Milbank doesn't mention that Pierson neglected to tell Congress that the agent who stopped Gonzalez was off-duty & just happened to be near the Green Room when he saw & tackled the intruder. It was after Pierson's testimony that the press revealed this relevant detail, which she chose not to share. Nor does Milbank note that Pierson lied to Congress when she said she informs the President "100 percent of the time" of security breaches: she didn't tell him about the Atlanta incident, according to Leonnig. So, more "concealment & coverup," including an outright lie to a Congressional committee. ...

    ... Update: Josh Voorhes of Slate: "Tuesday’s hearing ... was an example of lawmakers doing a job only they could do, not in spite of their desire for political theater but because of it." CW: Voorhees makes all the same points I do above. ...

... Charles Pierce blames the attacks on President Obama on "a dark energy on the other side."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Steve M. points out that the Washington Post editorial board thought it would be an excellent idea to publish an op-ed by a former Secret Service agent who suggests that the Allen West would be a "perfect" choice to head up he Secret Service. Steve mentions a couple of little things to suggest West might not be the best person for the job....

     ... CW: It is hard to credit a newspaper as a serious journalistic enterprise when its editors make such decisions. The media not only fail to ID the "complete fking loons" as such, as Charles Pierce complained recently, but a major outlet like the Post is actually encouraging the looniest among them. I guess this is what we can expect from the Post's new publisher & former Reagan aide Fred Ryan. ...

... digby: "But if the fellow who wrote [the] op-ed for the Washington Post is indicative of the sort of people who are protecting the president, I am now truly afraid for him.

Jonathan Cohn: "The latest legal challenge to Obamacare just won a round in court. On Tuesday, a federal district judge ruled in favor of a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s authority to provide millions of people with tax credits for buying private health insurance. The decision, in a case called Pruitt v. Burwell, came from a Republican-appointed judge in Oklahoma. His opinion was succinct, strongly worded and betrayed not a hint of self-doubt.... The judge stayed his ruling, pending the Obama Administration's likely appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The real question now is what effect (if any) Tuesday's announcement has on the justices of the Supreme Court, who are contemplating whether to hear a similar lawsuit and make a definitive ruling on the matter."

Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: On Hobby Lobby, Justice Ginsburg "was right: the decision is opening the door for the religiously observant to claim privileges that are not available to anyone else." One example: "Just days after the decision, the Court’s majority allowed Wheaton College, which is religiously oriented, to refuse to fill out a form asking for an exemption from the birth-control mandate — while retaining the exemption.... If just filling out a form can count as a 'substantial burden,' it’s hard to imagine any obligation that would not." CW: Also obvious, Sam Alito is a lying snake. If you didn't read Chermerinsky's piece, linked yesterday, on Our Crappy Supreme Court (possible not the actual title), read it soon.

CW: A couple of days ago, I said the trial of Hank Greenberg's case against the federal government should be entertaining. Here's John Cassidy of the New Yorker with the first installment: "Most news organizations are covering the trial straight, as if it were a deadly serious affair. It is, in fact, an absurdist comedy, rich in ironies, worthy of the Marx Brothers or Mel Brooks." Greenberg made in the neighborhood of $300MM on the bailout. "That's three hundred million dollars he wouldn’t have had if Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner ... and Hank Paulson ... had allowed A.I.G. to go belly up. Rather than hauling those three musketeers into ... court..., Greenberg should be taking them out to dinner."

Beyond the Beltway

Patrick McGreevey of the Los Angeles Times: "Four months after a disturbed man killed six UC Santa Barbara students and wounded 13 others, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation allowing the temporary seizure of guns from people determined by the courts to be a threat to themselves or others. The Isla Vista massacre in May occurred even though the family of Elliot Rodger had sought help because of concerns about his strange behavior before the shootings."

American "Justice," New York City Edition, Ctd. The Anonymity of a Snitch. Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "For five years, Kenneth Creighton was held in jail, suspected of involvement in the killing of a bystander outside a bodega in the Bronx. In 2012, the charges were dropped. Mr. Creighton was released from Rikers Island. He has since filed a lawsuit against New York City for false arrest and malicious prosecution, and has sought the name of his accuser.... Criminal defendants, generally, have the right to know and confront their accusers. But when the accuser happens to be a confidential witness, the calculus can be more complicated."

Nathaniel Rich, in the New Republic: "Louisiana is disappearing. Since 1932, the Gulf of Mexico has swallowed 2,300 square miles of the state’s wetlands, an area larger than Delaware.... The loss of the marshes has catastrophic implications, because they are the state’s first, and strongest, defense against hurricanes. Two culprits are responsible for most of the destruction. The first is the Army Corps of Engineers, which over the past 130 years has built many of the levees that pin the modern Mississippi River in place to prevent flooding.... The other major destructive force in the region is the fossil fuel industry."

Presidential Election 2012 (& 2016??)

Charles Pierce assesses Mitt Romney's character. This is a short read.

Monday
Sep292014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 30, 2014

NEW. Michael Shear & Michael Schmitt of the New York Times: "Lawmakers from both parties on Tuesday assailed Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, about security breaches at the White House, including an intruder who earlier this month breached multiple security measures and evaded capture as he ran around the first floor of the mansion." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Brian Murphy, is here.

Red arrows indicate Gonzalez's approximate path through the White House. An agent stopped him at the point marked with an "X." Via TPM.Secret Service Clusterfuck. Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident. An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office [because the alarm was, you know, noisy].... [Omar] Gonzalez was tackled by a counterassault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room.... Secret Service Director Julia Pierson ... is expected to face tough questions about the Gonzalez incident Tuesday at a hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee."

Eli Lake of the Daily Beast: "On 60 Minutes, the president faulted his spies for failing to predict the rise of ISIS. There’s one problem with that statement: The intelligence analysts did warn about the group." ...

... Justin Sink of the Hill: "President Obama wasn’t passing the buck by saying intelligence officials underestimated the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the White House said Monday. Press secretary Josh Earnest said officials were aware of the threat posed by ISIS, but misjudged the will of the Iraqi military to fight back and how successful the terror group would be at capturing territory. He said 'everybody' — from the intelligence community to the White House — made the same mistake, but that Obama was ultimately responsible." ...

... Peter Baker & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "A reconstruction of the past year suggests a number of pivotal moments when both the White House and the intelligence community misjudged the Islamic State. Even after the group’s fighters stormed across the border into Iraq at the start of the year to capture the city of Falluja and parts of Ramadi, the White House considered it a problem that could be contained." CW: Quite a helpful overview; beats the pointing-fingers approach so popular among pundits & politicians. ...

... CW: BTW, for you fans of alternate history -- Were our old friend (& he was an old friend) Saddam still around, either the ISIS success stories would have been confined to Syria, or there would be no ISIS -- the ISIS fighters would be members of Saddam's Ba'athist army & police force. So, once again -- thanks, George & Dick. But of course it's all Obama's fault.

The United States and Afghanistan on Tuesday signed a vital security deal that allows some American troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond this year, ensuring a continuing U.S. presence in the region. The Bilateral Security Agreement allows for 9,800 U.S. soldiers to stay in the country past 2014 to help train, equip and advise Afghan military and police forces. It arrives as the Taliban Islamist movement is increasingly attacking areas around the country in an effort to regain control as most foreign troops are scheduled to leave by the end of the year."

Your Assigned Reading for Today: Prof. Chemerinsky on the history of the Supreme Court.

** Erwin Chemerinsky in Politico: "The Supreme Court has largely failed throughout American history at its most important tasks and at the most important times.... The Supreme Court exists, above all, to enforce the Constitution against the will of the majority. The very existence of the Constitution, a document made intentionally quite difficult to change, reflects the desire to limit what political majorities can do.... The Roberts Court has continually favored the rights of business over the rights of employees and consumers and all of us." ...

... Jonathan Bernstein: "Liberals (if they have any sense) would much rather see a 55 year-old mainstream liberal on the bench than the 81 year-old [Justice Ruth Bader] Ginsburg, no matter how terrific they think she’s been.... If [Ginsburg & Justice Stephen Breyer] really cared about advancing their principles, they should have resigned soon after President Barack Obama’s re-election, giving the solid Democratic majority in the Senate plenty of time to confirm successors." ...

     ... CW: The only possibly good coming from Ginsburg's (& to a lesser extent, Breyer's) hubris is that they give liberals all the more reason to vote for whomever the hoi polloi nominate for the Democratic party. Hillary Clinton would likely nominate another Breyer-type moderate, but that's better than anybody President Gohmert will nominate. ...

... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "There are lots of open questions about the road the Supreme Court justices will take to a final decision about whether the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. But one thing seems clear: The answer will arrive next June."

Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg News: The trial began Monday in Hank Greenberg's suit against the government for stiffing AIG stockholders. David Boies is representing Greenberg, & among the witnesses he will call are former Treasury secretaries Henry Paulson & Tim Geithner & former Fed chair Ben Bernanke. CW: Could be entertaining. ...

... James Stewart & Peter Eavis of the New York Times: New information has come forward that suggests the Federal Reserve could have rescued Lehman Brothers & saved the economy considerable pain.

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic publishes seven charts "that show ObamaCare is working." CW: That means that Republicans have succeeded in ensuring that 47 percent of the nation is ignorantly opposed to a law that is working for them and/or their neighbors.

Alex Abdo of the ACLU: "Today [Monday], we're releasing several key documents  about Executive Order 12333  that we obtained from the government in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that the ACLU filed ... just before the first revelations of Edward Snowden. The documents are from the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and others agencies. They confirm that the order, although not the focus of the public debate, actually governs most of the NSA's spying.... The order, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, imposes the sole constraints on U.S. surveillance on foreign soil that targets foreigners. There's been some speculation, too, that the government relies directly on the order — as opposed to its statutory authority — to conduct surveillance inside the United States."

Marie's Sports Report

The NFL God Is a Christian God. Cindy Boren of the Washington Post: "When Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it for a touchdown Monday night, he did what so many other NFL players do to celebrate a big play: He paused to make a religious gesture of thanks. But Abdullah, a devout Muslim, found that his religious display was met with less latitude than, say, Tim Tebow when he brought Tebowing into the NFL. Abdullah was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct because he slid to the ground, then knelt in in the end zone."

Beyond the Beltway

Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "With just sixteen hours before polling stations were to open in Ohio, the Supreme Court on Monday afternoon blocked voters from beginning tomorrow to cast their ballots in this year’s general election.  By a vote of five to four, the Justices put on hold a federal judge’s order providing new opportunities for voting before election day, beyond what state leaders wanted.... Early voting during 'Golden Week,' on Sundays, and in evening hours are the opportunities that civil rights groups have said are most important to black and low-income voters and the homeless.... [Surprise, surprise!] Monday’s order had the support of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Samuel A. Alito,, Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas, although their votes were not noted in the order. Read the whole post. ...

... Rick Hasen: "Although the order is 'temporary' in the sense that it will be in place pending a ruling on a cert. petition ultimately to be filed by Ohio in the Supreme Court, that won’t happen before this election, and so for this election the new shorter voting period is in effect.... I am worried this case will make bad law, and have bad effects in cases such as challenges to Wisconsin’s voter id law, Texas’s voter id law, and North Carolina’s omnibus bill making it harder to vote."

Michael Winerip & Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times: "In the past in Rikers brutality cases, correction officers have frequently managed to escape serious punishment. But in a highly unusual legal decision, published on Monday, Tynia Richard, an administrative law judge, wrote that the six officers had lied about what happened, that [inmate Robert] Hinton had been handcuffed the whole time, and that because such 'brazen misconduct' must be put to an end, she was recommending the most severe sanction available, termination for all six. The judge’s decision is a fresh indication that pressure by federal prosecutors, as well as scrutiny by the media, may be starting to have an impact on the way such brutality cases ... are handled."

Soak the Press. Jack Gillum of the AP: "Officials in Ferguson, Missouri, are charging nearly 10 times the cost of some of their own employees' salaries before they will agree to turn over files under public records laws about the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Missouri's attorney general on Monday, after the AP first disclosed the practice, contacted Ferguson's city attorney to ask for more information regarding fees related to document requests, the attorney general's spokeswoman said."

Jessica Glenza of the Guardian: "Two high schools in Jefferson County, Colorado canceled classes Monday after dozens of teachers called in sick in protest of a conservative school board’s proposal to change the history curriculum. This is the second such teacher sick-out in two weeks and comes on the heels of student walk-outs over the issue. At the two high schools where sick-outs were staged, Golden and Jefferson high school, 73% and 81% of teachers called out, respectively. Unrest is also tied to new teacher evaluations. Negotiations for a new contract between the district and the union broke down last spring."

Senate Races

Dylan Scott of TPM: "The registered Democratic voter who sued to force his party to pick a new Senate nominee in Kansas did not appear at a Monday hearing for the case, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported, and the judges hearing it are now considering whether the lawsuit can continue without him.... David Orel, a registered Democrat in Kansas City, Kan., whose son is a campaign staffer for Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, filed the lawsuit shortly after the Kansas Supreme Court overturned Secretary of State's Kris Kobach's decision and took Democratic nominee Chad Taylor off the ballot." ...

... Molly Ball of the Atlantic profiles Greg Orman, the independent candidate who is challenging Pat Roberts. Orman says he will caucus with the majority or be the tiebreaker. If he winds up in the tiebreaker position, we are going to see a real-life "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" story. There might not be a happy ending.

Charles Pierce: The media, the Democratic party & its nominee Bruce Braley have failed to mention that GOP Iowa Senate nominee Joni Ernst is "a complete fking loon," & now that complete fking loon is likely to become Senator Loon. CW: And let me just remind you that Sen. Loon will be owning the seat now occupied by a true progressive populist, Tom Harkin. Thanks to James S. for the link.

Gubernatorial Races

James Hohmann of Politico: "As many as a dozen incumbent governors are fighting for their political lives five weeks out from Election Day — a list that includes the chief executives of states as red as Kansas and as blue as Connecticut as well as several top presidential battlegrounds. The unsettled gubernatorial landscape has drawn a fraction of the attention of the seesawing battle for the Senate. Yet the state of play is dramatic in its own right: The fate of big-name Republicans such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Florida’s Rick Scott and Michigan’s Rick Snyder are all on the line, and Democrats such as Colorado’s John Hickenlooper and Illinois’ Pat Quinn are locked in tough reelection races that could go either way."

Right Wing World

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: "National Review writer Kevin D. Williamson made the real 'pro-life' agenda very, very clear, expressing his opinion that women who have abortions should be put to death — by hanging. And not just the women; he says the doctor who performs the abortion, the nurses who assist, and the hospital staff who enable it should also be executed. This was not satire, or a 'joke.' He really believes this." Thanks, I guess, to Akhilleus for the link. ...

     ... CW: I took at peek at National Review to see if maybe they had totally disowned Williamson, apoligized with his Twitter binge & pulled all his previous stories. Nope. I guess they love this sicko. ...

... Nathalie Baptiste of the American Prospect: According to Values Voters, Williamson's plan could work. At their "summit," they tell politicians that the sure way to win elections is to alienate young people, especially women & show their support for aggrieved men. "Not only is the War on Women apparently fabricated by the godless lefties, [a panel discussion leader] even found a way to paint men as the true sufferers in the abortion debatefound a way to paint men as the true sufferers in the abortion debate."

Sunday
Sep282014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 29, 2014

Paul Krugman: "... most Americans have no idea just how unequal our society has become.... In the United States the median respondent believed that chief executives make about 30 times as much as their employees, which was roughly true in the 1960s -- but since then the gap has soared, so that today chief executives earn something like 300 times as much as ordinary workers.... Today’s political balance rests on a foundation of ignorance, in which the public has no idea what our society is really like."

Brian Knowlton of the New York Times: "President Obama acknowledges in an interview to be broadcast Sunday night that the United States underestimated the rise of the Islamic State militant group while placing too much trust in the Iraqi military, allowing the region to become 'ground zero for jihadists around the world.' In some of his most candid public remarks on the subject, Mr. Obama says in the interview with the CBS News program '60 Minutes' that it was 'absolutely true' that the United States had erred in its assessments of both the Islamic State -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and the Iraqi military." ...

... Here's a clip. I'll get full video when it becomes available:

... The full interview:

... Justin Sink of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would be willing to call the House back into session if President Obama submitted a war resolution for his fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Republican leader said Sunday. 'I'd be happy to,' Boehner told ABC News's 'This Week.' 'The president typically in a situation like this would call for an authorization vote and go sell that to the American people and send a resolution to the Hill. The president has not done that. He believes he has authority under existing resolutions.' Boehner said he agreed with the administration that the president has the authority to carry out the strikes against ISIS, but that 'Congress ought to consider' a resolution explicitly authorizing such action." ...

... Justin Sink: "The U.S. may have 'no choice' but to send in ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) warned on Sunday. The top House Republican said he did not believe the strategy outlined by President Obama, which includes the use of American air power but rules out boots on the ground, will accomplish the goal of destroying the terror network." ...

... Timothy Cama of the Hill: "President Obama still supports repealing Congress's 2002 authorization to use military force in Iraq, despite relying on it for efforts to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). But Obama wants it replaced instead with an authorization specific to ISIS to support the current fighting, said Tony Blinken, deputy White House adviser for national security. 'We still would like to repeal it. We think what would be very helpful is if ... Congress worked to give us a targeted, focused authorization,' Blinken said on 'Fox News Sunday.' 'But while we welcome that, we don't need it,' he said."

Matthew Boesler & Kathleen Hunter of Bloomberg News: "U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren called for congressional hearings into allegations that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has been too deferential to the firms it regulates. A radio program about the regional Fed bank raised 'disturbing issues' and 'it's our job to make sure our financial regulators are doing their jobs,' Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and member of the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement [Friday].... Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat who's also on the banking committee, backed Warren's call for a probe."

"Chastisement." Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker briefly reviews the history of U.S. laws on domestic violence: "It was not until the nineteen-seventies and eighties -- when feminists and the battered-women's movement brought renewed attention to the problem, introducing shelters and hot lines, and treating assault within the family as seriously as assault outside of it -- that law enforcement and legislatures responded, passing mandatory arrest laws, creating domestic-violence units in prosecutors' offices, and making it somewhat easier to obtain and enforce protection orders."

Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic interviews Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link.

Brent Kendall of the Wall Street Journal: "A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday will consider a fresh challenge to campaign-finance rules, this time a 74-year-old law prohibiting government contractors from making political contributions tied to federal elections. The case ... follows a string of Supreme Court rulings that have considerably eased federal restrictions on political donations. The ban applies to both individual and corporate contractors and is aimed at preventing corruption. The challenge comes as the government is outsourcing more work to the private sector: Spending on government contracts has grown to roughly $500 billion annually." Firewalled. If the link doesn't work, copy part of the lede sentence into a Google search box.

Vince Guerriri in Politico: "Jim Traficant was our kind of crook."

Let's Go the the Audiotape. Alice Ollstein of Think Progress: "At a town hall event in Ballantyne, North Carolina, ThinkProgress asked [North Carolina Rep. Robert] Pittenger: 'Do you think businesses should be able to fire someone because they are gay or lesbian?' He replied that businesses should have the 'autonomy' to fire workers for being LGBT, and asked rhetorically: 'Why should government be there to impose on the freedoms we enjoy?' The Charlotte Observer picked up the story, and reported that ... the congressman 'stood by his comments.' But after local and national human rights groups began ... protesting at Pittenger's office in Charlotte, he stood by them no longer. Local channel WSOC-TV reported: 'The congressman's office insists he never made the divisive statement....' The office repeated the denial to MSNBC." He blamed "the blogger" for misrepresenting his views. Post includes a surprising, sophisticated technological breakthrough: an audio tape of Pittinger's remarks. And, no, "the blogger" didn't misinterpret anything.

Another Sensitive GOP Candidate. Esther Lee of Think Progress: "During a debate for the 10th Congressional District with a Democratic challenger Wednesday, Virginia Republican congressional candidate Barbara Comstock said that the government can secure the border by tracking immigrants in a similar fashion to how the shipping company FedEx tracks packages." CW: Because immigrants are a lot like stuff you buy online: cheap & tax-free. As a bonus, no shipping charges.

David Streitfeld of the New York Times: Hundreds of writers have united to ask the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for monopolistic tactics.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. New York Post front page headline: "Another Liberal Crybaby for Dem Clintons. PARTY POOPER." In teensy, weensy print, a photo caption, which would be a normal headline: "Bill & Hillary Clinton welcome their first grandchild, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky."

Here's that Pew Research Know Your World Religions quiz that contributor Haley S. linked yesterday. CW: The test is kinda fun, especially when it makes you conjure up memories of stuff you haven't given any thought in 50 years. BTW, all you heathens who were boasting that you got perfect scores should bear in mind that atheists & agnostics know more about religion than do religious people. This makes one wonder why religious people of one faith system, denomination or sect are so willing to discriminate against those who belong to another. Answer: tribalism. I'm beginning to think tribalism accounts for 90 percent of social behavior.

Beyond the Beltway

American "Justice," New York City Edition. Jennifer Gonnerman of the New Yorker: "A boy was accused of taking a backpack. The courts took the next three years of his life."

Molly Hennessy-Fiske & Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times: "Far from finding peace after a round of summer protests and riots, Ferguson remains a city on the brink, its nearly every step troubled. The last week has been especially fraught. In separate incidents, one Brown memorial went up in flames and part of another was run over. When Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson tried to speak to demonstrators one night, clashes broke out with officers. Then there was the city's newly hired spokesman, brought in to help Ferguson repair its image. He was fired after it was revealed that he had been convicted of shooting and killing a man in 2004." ...

... Richard Fausset of the New York Times: "Disparities between the percentage of black residents and the number of black elected officials are facts of life in scores of American cities, particularly in the South. The unrest that followed the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., has emphasized how much local elections can matter, and prompted a push there for increased black voter participation. The disparities result from many factors: voter apathy, especially in low-visibility local elections; the civic disconnect of a transient population; the low financial rewards and long hours demanded of local officeholders; and voting systems, including odd-year elections, that are often structured in a way that discourages broad interest in local races. But Ferguson has become a vivid example of the way a history of political disengagement and underrepresentation can finally turn toxic."

Senate Race

John McCormick of Bloomberg analyzes the first Iowa Senate debate between Bruce Braley & Joni Ernst. McCormick thinks Ernst managed to comport herself like a normal person & Braley did her no damage. ...

... Greg Sargent has some sensible commentary on the debate & on Braley's chances of keeping the Iowa Senate seat in Democratic control. His remarks are consistent with what Victoria D. wrote in yesterday's Comments: "It seems that the Ernst campaign has successfully taken a blunder by Braley last March wherein an open mic caught him criticizing Grassley for being a farmer, not a lawyer..........and run with it, painting Braley as an elitist dick. Still, it's surprising to read about voters such as the woman described in the article as a Democrat who is voting for Ernst largely on personality /character issues, seeming to ignore the significance of policy altogether. She "likes" Ernst and Braley is an elitist. Case closed."

Presidential Election

Ryan Lizza has a long profile in the New Yorker of Rand Paul. CW: Haven't read it yet, but I plan to. "In some respects, Paul is to Republicans in 2014 what Barack Obama was to Democrats in 2006: the Party's most prized fund-raiser and its most discussed senator, willing to express opinions unpopular within his party, and capable of energizing younger voters."

Tim Alberta of the National Journal: "Ted Cruz is running for president.... According to sources close to the Texas senator, Cruz could be preparing for an end-of-year announcement and is now dedicating considerable time and effort to cultivating a foreign-policy foundation that might help his candidacy stand out in what is guaranteed to be a crowded field. 'At this point it's 90/10 he's in,' one Cruz adviser said. 'And honestly, 90 is lowballing it.'"

Crazy Person Is the Religious Right's Choice for U.S. Veep. Josh Israel of Think Progress: "Dr. Ben Carson, a popular Tea Party activist and Fox News contributor who says he will likely seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016, said on Sunday that he is seriously concerned that there will not be 2016 elections in the United States because the country could be in anarchy by that point.... Carson finished a close second Saturday in a straw poll at the 2014 Values Voters Summit for 2016 presidential preferences." [Ted Cruz was first.] ...

     ... Julian Hattem of the Hill: "As a signal of Carson's popularity at the summit, the former Johns Hopkins University neurosurgeon came in first in the polling for vice president, winning 22 percent of the votes."

News Ledes

AP: "Militants of the Islamic State group were closing in Monday on a Kurdish area of Syria on the border with Turkey -- an advance unhindered so far by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, including one that struck a grain silo, killing two civilians, according to activists. Islamic State fighters pounded the city of Kobani with mortars and artillery shells, advancing within three miles (five kilometers) of the Kurdish frontier city, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Nawaf Khalil, a Kurdish official."

New York Times: "A wave of protest in Hong Kong further engulfed the city on Monday as thousands of residents defied a government call to abandon street blockades, students boycotted classes and the city's influential bar association added its condemnation of a police crackdown on protesters."

Los Angeles Times: "Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated Monday as president of Afghanistan, succeeding President Hamid Karzai and marking the first peaceful transition of power in the nation's history."

Oklahoman: "In a bizarre coincidence, a fired Oklahoma City nursing home employee was arrested Friday after a co-worker reported he threatened to cut her head off. Jacob Mugambi Muriithi, 30, is being held in the Oklahoma County jail on a terrorism complaint. His bail is set at $1 million... She said Muriithi identified himself as a Muslim and said he 'represented ISIS and that ISIS kills Christians,' the detective told a judge in the affidavit. The two had not worked together before."