The Ledes

Wednesday, September 17, 2014.

AP: "Islamic State fighters shot down a Syrian war plane using anti-aircraft guns on Tuesday, the first time the group has downed a military jet since declaring its cross-border caliphate in June, a group monitoring the civil war said."

The Wires

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 17

11:50 m ET: President Obama speaks at MacDill AFP in Tampa, Fla.

12:00 noon ET: Vice President Biden speaks at a Nuns on the Bus rally in Des Moines, Iowa; will make effort not to insult Roman Catholics

2:00 pm ET: Recovery at the White House: celebrating 25 years (of something)

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


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

New Yorker illustration.

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


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.


The Commentariat -- Sept. 18, 2014

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "A House divided along unusual and unpredictable lines voted Wednesday to authorize the training and arming of Syrian rebels to confront the militant group Islamic State, backing President Obama after he personally pleaded for support. The 273-to-156 vote was over a narrow military measure with no money attached, but it took on outsize importance and was infused with drama. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, actively and strongly backed the legislation, and both sought to portray it as a modest measure.... Republican and Democratic vote-counting operations said they would not press for 'yes' on what they termed a 'vote of conscience.'” The Senate hopes to pass it as soon as Thursday....

     ... "'The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,' President Obama said Wednesday in addressing troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. 'I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq'”:

... Bob Gates Is Still Sounding Off. Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday said the U.S. will need troops on the ground to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and spoke out against President Barack Obama’s contention that the U.S. aims to degrade and destroy the group."

... AND, It Should Go without Saying, So Is Ted Cruz. Adam Weinstein of Gawker: "Ted Cruz, Princeton '92 and creepy bathrobe enthusiast, is really tired of all these nancyboys who run the military, insisting that there must be political reconciliation and trustbuilding to forge stability in Iraq. Is he gonna have to go over there and bloody up some jihadi ass himself? Whilst comparing hair-care notes with Sean Hannity last night, the grandstanding GOP senator said today's military is not so much an elite fighting force as a bunch of bleeding heart social workers...." Read the whole post. Weinstein gets serious & emphasizes how dangerous Cruz's loose language is.

Dana Milbank: Trey "Gowdy, a former prosecutor, was known for theatrical outbursts in hearings, rank partisanship and a fascination with Benghazi conspiracy theories.... But when the South Carolina Republican chaired his [Benghazi select committee']s first public hearing Wednesday, Gowdy did something completely unexpected: He played it straight.... Gowdy adopted as the theme of his first hearing an idea suggested by one of the committee’s Democrats, Adam Schiff of California: How well the State Department has been implementing recommendations to prevent future attacks on U.S. diplomats like the one in Libya two years ago that killed four Americans.... Over three hours, there were so many thank-yous it could have been the Oscars." CW: Stay tuned.

Edward-Issac Dovere of Politico: "Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most. Long-simmering doubts about her have reached a peak after two recent public flubs: criticizing the White House’s handling of the border crisis and comparing the tea party to wife beaters." CW: I don't think this is more of the usual Politico breathless speculation. I think Wasserman Schultz is screwing up.

Kendall Breitman of Politico: "Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that it was a 'poor choice of words' for him to use the term 'Shylocks' in a recent speech. On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, had said the word 'Shylocks' promoted an anti-Semitic stereotype.... 'There is no truer friend of the Jewish people than Joe Biden,' Foxman said in a news release.... He added, 'Clearly there was no ill-intent here, but Joe and I agreed that perhaps he needs to bone up on his Shakespeare.'”

Suicide (Or Murder) by Rented Gun. Adam Weinstein reports: "A new video report by Fusion's Kimberly Brooks highlights the difficulties in preventing gun deaths at rental ranges, where shooters don't need criminal or mental health background checks to take a variety of loaded weapons to the firing line."

Dahlia Lithwick explains why Constitution Day -- which was yesterday, in case you missed it, as I did -- "might just be the most American holiday of all." Also, Constitution Day is more than likely unconstitutional. God bless America.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. CW: A few weeks ago, a site called Our Bad Media claimed it had found more incidences in which Fareed Zakaria plagiarized the work of others. However, the Washington Post & CNN did reviews & made a pretty good case that the cited passages did not constitute plagiarism. The other day, Our Bad Media brought new charges. Dylan Byers of Politico: "This week, I conducted a review of the reports to determine whether the instances they cited truly qualified as plagiarism. I also asked two jourrnalism ethics experts — Robert Drechsel..., director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Kelly McBride, the vice president for academic programs of The Poynter Institute — to review the reports. They came to the same conclusion I did: Fareed Zakaria plagiarized.... There are different degrees of plagiarism, to be sure. Case by case, the examples here qualify more as violations or misdemeanors than serious crimes.... But taken together, they show an undeniable pattern of behavior." ...

... Senate Race

Plagiarism, Senate Candidate-Style. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Large portions of an economic plan released by Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby appear to be heavily plagiarized from multiple sources, including one section that copies word-for-word from a plan put out by Republican Sen. Rob Portman a month earlier. Likewise, portions of Wehby’s plan also copy sections nearly-verbatim from the economic growth plan of a 2012 congressional candidate named Gary DeLong and a survey from Karl Rove’s group, Crossroads.... At no point in Wehby’s plan is attribution given." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "What makes this striking is that Wehby is a practicing physician.... In her defense, though, the stuff in both Crossroads’ poll and in Wehby’s plan is so incredibly hackneyed, such a tired assortment of conservative health policy pet rocks ... that use of the very same words isn’t that surprising. It’s not like any original thinking is going into this, so why use any original writing to describe it?"

Presidential Election

The Funniest Presidential Candidate. Rand Paul Is at It Again. David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: Sen. Rand Paul (RTP-Ky.) charged that a recent Post story which highlighted his flip-flops, was "full of inaccuracies." He called it a "hit job," in an interview with the winger publication The Federalist. However, neither Paul nor any of his staff members will reveal what the inaccuracies in the hit job might be. The Post tried several times to get the Paul camp to identify the "inaccuracies," but they refused to do so & would not schedule Paul himself for an interview with the post. "In his interview with The Federalist, Paul also criticized The Post for not providing a response from him or his political team." CW: The link to Fahrenthold's piece is messed up. I'll check again later to see if the Post has straightened it out.

Congressional Race

Gail Collins: Mark Sanford is running for re-election to his House seat unopposed! CW: I'm thinking Sanford would make a great running mate for Li'l Randy. It would be the funniest ticket ever.

More in the morning.


The Commentariat -- Sept. 17, 2014

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

Megan Thee-Brenan of the New York Times: "A New York Times/CBS News poll shows that President Obama’s approval ratings are similar to those of President George W. Bush in 2006 when Democrats swept both houses of Congress in the midterm elections. A deeply unpopular Republican Party is nonetheless gaining strength heading into the midterm elections, as the American public’s frustration with Mr. Obama has manifested itself in low ratings for his handling of foreign policy and terrorism." CW: All the evidence you need that the U.S. public, in the aggregate, is deeply stupid and/or ignorant. For anecdotal evidence, look below for the views of a Kentucky ObamaCare beneficiary.

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

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

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

... AND, as you read the details -- via Dana Milbank -- of how Dempsey's answer came about (hint: Lindsey "Be Afraid" Graham was his interrogator), the headlines look rather hyperbolic. ...

... ** Dana Milbank: "The sudden desire [among Republicans] for a ground war is a bit suspect, both because many Republicans adopted this view only after Obama came around to their previous view and because many Republicans oppose even the modest funding Obama has requested to train Syrian fighters." ...

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

... AND. Guns for Hire. Lee Fang of the Nation reminds us that many of the former generals & other "experts " who get on the teevee & directly or indirectly promote war against ISIS -- or whoever, what the hell -- "... have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world." Moreover, the listening public wouldn't know that because the media, both print & electronic, who invite & publish the opinions of these paid agitators, seldom reveal the opinionators' conflicts-of-interest. Thanks to safari for the link. ...

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

... ** Here's Juan Cole with rational, informed suggestions about what could work to degrade & contain ISIS & what would not -- the latter being the course the U.S. seems to be following. ...

... CW: Contrast the measured actions many experts suggest -- with actual explanations as to why a somewhat cautious makes sense -- with those of the war hawks, who fear-monger the public to gin up support for all-out war (see Michael Schmidt story & Dana Milbank's column linked above). John McCain, Lindsey Graham & other boosters aren't just stupid or dangerous or craven munitions-industry whores; they're anti-American.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

... Charles Pierce on Bobby Jay's Keystone XL Kops Energy Plan: "Most of the energy in the plan is to get people talking about what a serious person Jindal is, and not to notice that his state is falling apart, his education plan there is a whopping side dish of theocratic corruption, and that his constituents would be bitterly divided should Jindal be eaten by alligators."

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

The Twisted Ways of Tribalists. Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think [Obama]’s got a lot to do with that.... [I was] born and raised Republican. I ain’t planning on changing now. -- a Kentucky woman who is "tickled to death" with her new healthcare coverage. She's voting for Mitch McConnell, who did everything in his power to keep her from getting the coverage.

CW: This woman would be more "dead" than "tickled" if her buddy Mitch had his way. Since she can't come up with a logical criticism of someone who made her life immeasurably easier & safer, she grasps for the "Everything Is Obama's Fault" formula: People "don't care for nobody no more" (even though "caring for people" is the explicit purpose of ObamaCare) ... because Obama. ...

PLUS This. William Finnegan of the New Yorker: "Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the Minority Leader, has voted seventeen times against raising the minimum wage; in April, he led a successful filibuster of the $10.10 bill." ...

... CW: The cradle-to-grave Republican woman cited above, who is voting for McConnell, earns $9 an hour. ...

... William Finnegan: The arguments against a fair minimum wage haven't changed much in a century, even though they have "a dismal record as a description of reality."

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

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

"Undue Burden." Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: How the courts -- & Republican-led state legislatures -- are undoing former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's "most important triumph during her long and consequential tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court. Almost single-handedly, O’Connor rewrote abortion law."

Charles Pierce: Judges of the Seventh Circuit laugh Rand Paul's doctor friends right out of court. Pierce summarizes the doctors' legal argument: "'Your Honor, this law unfairly prejudices my clients because of actions they freely took in opposition to it.' It's like seeing the residents of Galt's Gulch appeal to the zoning board."

Vice President Joe Gaffe. Oliver Knox of Yahoo News: "Vice President Joe Biden drew fire from a prominent Jewish group on Tuesday after he described unscrupulous bankers who prey on servicemen and servicewomen deployed overseas as 'Shylocks' a term frequently condemned as an anti-Semitic caricature.... The vice president's office did not return a request for comment."

Jon Krawczynski of the AP: "After a day of public pressure from angry fans and concerned sponsors, the Minnesota Vikings have reversed course and placed star running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt-commissioner's permission list, a move that will require him to stay away from the team while he addresses child abuse charges in Texas....Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton [DFL], who spearheaded an effort to secure $477 million in public money to help build the team a new stadium, and Sen. Al Franken were among the many who called for the Vikings to reconsider their position." ...

... Michael Powell of the New York Times details the hypocrisy of pro football sponsors. Also, of NFL fans. ...

... Here's yesterday's Times story, by Ken Belson, on how sponsors & politicians are suddenly all upset about a specific instance of child abuse by an NFL player. ...

... CW: I'm sure the interested parties are calculating correctly that the whole NFL-players-are-abusive scandal is a momentary media phenomenon -- a TMZ story, after all -- & it will get lost in the fog of the next hoohah. Today's big news on TMZ: some actor who cried racism when the LAPD showed up was having sex in her car in the daylight in a public parking lot. Graphic grainy photos! And so it goes. In the meantime ...

... If you're a football fan who foregoes the viewing of violent sporting events for a whole week, tell us your story. I'll pay you in signed back issues of Reality Chex.

Susan Candiotti & Alan Duke of CNN: "The cardiac arrest leading to Joan Rivers' death happened as the comedian's personal doctor began performing a biopsy on her vocal cords, a source close to the death investigation told CNN." Rivers had not authorized the doctor to perform the biopsy, & the doctor was not certified to perform surgery at the clinic. The doctor took a selfie while Rivers was anesthetized. He has not been publicly IDed. "Investigators believe that Rivers' vocal chords began to swell during the allegedly unauthorized biopsy, cutting off the flow of oxygen to her lungs, which led to cardiac arrest on the morning of August 29, the source said."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Steve Benen on Fox "News"'s coverage of Benghaaaazi! In 20 months, the network aired 1,110 segments on the story. Benen notes that obsession with a particular topic isn't necessarily a bad thing -- that's often how dogged reporters break important news. BUT. "... Fox produced no scoops. It aired no new revelations of import. It didn’t increase the public’s understanding of the Benghazi attack in any meaningful or substantive way. On the contrary, many of the segments arguably did the exact opposite: the network aired 100 segments – including 43 just from Sean Hannity – 'promoting the lie that the administration issued a "stand-down order.’”

Senate Race

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

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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


The Commentariat -- Sept. 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

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

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

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

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

Senate Races

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

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


The Commentariat -- Sept. 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

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

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

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

Congressional Elections, Etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presidential Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Way Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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

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

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

... Key & Dotcom have a history.

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

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