The Ledes

Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

AP: "At least 34 sailors are being kicked out of the Navy for their roles in a cheating ring that operated undetected for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site, and 10 others are under criminal investigation, the admiral in charge of the Navy's nuclear reactors program told The Associated Press."

New York Times: "Israeli airstrikes killed a wife and baby son of the top military commander of Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip, hours after rocket fire from Gaza broke a temporary cease-fire Tuesday and halted talks aimed at ending the six-week conflict collapsed in Cairo. The fate of the commander, Mohammed Deif, the target of several previous Israeli assassination attempts, remained unclear, though Palestinian officials and witnesses said his was not one of three bodies pulled Wednesday from the rubble of the bombed Gaza City home." ...

... AFP: "An Israeli cabinet minister on Wednesday justified an air strike on Gaza that killed the wife and child of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif, saying he was a legitimate target. 'Mohammed Deif deserves to die just like (the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden. He is an arch murderer and as long as we have an opportunity we will try to kill him'" Interior Minister Gideon Saar told army radio."

New York Times: "After nearly a week of inaction, a Russian aid convoy destined for the besieged, rebel-controlled Ukrainian city of Luhansk rumbled to life on Wednesday, with 16 of its trucks passing through a Russian border checkpoint. Before heading to Luhansk, though, the trucks still have to be checked by the Russian border service, Ukrainian border guards and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sergei Karavaytsev, an officer in Russia’s Emergencies Ministry, said in a telephone interview."

Guardian: "Russia has shut down four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow for alleged sanitary violations in a move critics said was the latest blow in its tit-for-tat sanctions tussle with the west." CW: Now that could make Putin unpopular.

AP: "Germany says it is prepared to arm the Kurdish fighters battling Sunni insurgents in northern Iraq. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Germany would closely coordinate its efforts with France, Britain and other European countries who are already delivering weapons to the Kurds."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014.

Washington Post: "The Islamic State militant group claimed Tuesday to have beheaded an American photojournalist in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. A video released online purported to show the execution of James Foley after he recited a statement in which he called the U.S. government 'my real killers. A second prisoner, said to be Steven Joel Sotloff, like Foley an American journalist who disappeared while covering Syria’s civil war, then appears in the video. The masked executioner, speaking with what sounds like a British accent, identifies Sotloff and says that 'the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.'”

New York Times: "Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed late Monday to extend a five-day cease-fire for Gaza that expired at midnight for 24 hours, reflecting the difficulty of reaching more durable agreements after two weeks of Egyptian-brokered talks but also an apparent lack of appetite on either side to resume the conflict." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Another Gaza cease-fire collapsed on Tuesday when Palestinian militants fired rockets into southern Israel, drawing retaliatory airstrikes from Israel and prompting the Israeli government to withdraw its delegation from Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo for an agreement to end the latest conflict."

Guardian: "Armed groups in Syria have several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that could easily be diverted to extremists and used to destroy commercial planes, according to a new report by an international arms research group that cites the risk of the missiles being smuggled out of Syria by terrorists. The report was released a few hours after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice to US airlines banning all flights in Syrian airspace."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 20

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

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.

Wednesday
Aug202014

The Commentariat -- August 21, 2014

Lara Jakes & Ryan Lucas of the AP: "The United States launched a new barrage of airstrikes Wednesday against the Islamic State extremist group that beheaded American journalist James Foley and that has seized a swath of territory across Iraq and Syria. President Barack Obama vowed relentless pursuit of the terrorists.... Looking forward, the State Department refused to rule out future U.S. military operations in Syria, where Obama has long resisted intervening in a three-year civil war." ...

... Adam Goldman & Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "U.S. Special Operations forces staged an unsuccessful operation this summer to rescue photojournalist James Foley and other Americans being held in Syria by Islamic State militants, according to senior Obama administration officials. The attempt, in which at least one U.S. serviceman was injured, came after at least six Western hostages freed by the militants had been debriefed by U.S. intelligence.... 'Unfortunately,' [one] official said, 'it was not ultimately successful because the hostages were not present ... at the site of the operation.'” ...

... The New York Times story, by Michael Shear, is here.

Laura Wildes-Munoz & Josh Lederman of the AP: "President Barack Obama is considering key changes in the nation's immigration system requested by tech, industry and powerful interest groups, in a move that could blunt Republicans' election-year criticism of the president's go-it-alone approach to immigration.Administration officials and advocates said the steps would go beyond the expected relief from deportations for some immigrants in the U.S. illegally that Obama signaled he'd adopt after immigration efforts in Congress collapsed. Following a bevy of recent White House meetings, top officials have compiled specific recommendations from business groups and other advocates whose support could undercut GOP claims that Obama is exceeding his authority to help people who have already violated immigration laws."

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a last-minute order putting a hold on same-sex marriages in Virginia less than a day before officials there were to begin providing marriage licenses to gay couples. The move comes a month after the federal appeals court that struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage refused to delay the effects of its ruling. Legal experts have predicted that the Supreme Court will take up the issue of same-sex marriage in its next term, which begins in October."

Beyond the Beltway

St. Louis Post-Dispatch at 6:20 pm ET Wednesday: "U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is meeting with the parents of Michael Brown downtown at the federal courthouse in St. Louis. Afterward he will meet with elected officials, including Gov. Nixon, U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and U.S. Reps. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City. All the meetings are closed to the press." ...

... Alan Zagier of the AP: "Attorney General Eric Holder sought Wednesday to reassure the people of Ferguson about the investigation into Michael Brown's death and said he understands why many black Americans do not trust police, recalling how he was repeatedly stopped by officers who seemed to target him because of his race. Holder made the remarks during a visit to [Ferguson, Missouri]." ...

... Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "A police officer who pointed an assault rifle at people in Ferguson on Tuesday night and threatened to kill them has been relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely, authorities said. The officer, who was not identified, has been removed from the field after he pointed his semiautomatic weapon at a peaceful protester, according to Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department. A video documenting the encounter ... made the rounds Wednesday.... A county police sergeant forced the officer, who works for the Saint Ann police, to lower his weapon and leave the area, Schellman said":

... A commenter on the site The Concourse, which published the videos, wrote, "The cop was later asked to write an essay on exemplary policing for the Washington Post." See WashPo op-ed by LAPD officer Dutta, linked in yesterday's Commentariat, for context. ...

... Jason Sickles of Yahoo! News: "The Ferguson, Missouri, police officer facing possible charges for recently killing an unarmed young man was commended earlier this year for wrestling and restraining another suspect. Officer Darren Wilson received the commendation for his 'extraordinary effort in the line of duty' at a Feb. 11 City Council meeting. New video turned over by the city under Missouri's open records law shows Wilson being presented his award and shaking hands with Police Chief Thomas Jackson." With video of the commendation ceremony. CW: I'd like to see video of the "wrestling & restraining" incident.

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "In a moment that sent electric currents through a crowded courtroom, Robert F. McDonnell, the former Virginia governor and once rising Republican star, was called to the witness stand Wednesday afternoon, testifying that he did next to nothing for the businessman who showered his family with cash and gifts.The appearance, three days into his legal defense, came sooner than expected. But Mr. McDonnell, once considered a contender for his party’s presidential nomination, was as smooth as ever as he began the political sales job of his life.... And almost immediately, a politician who always campaigned as a devoted family man and conservative Catholic turned the spotlight on his embattled wife, Maureen." ...

... Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, taking the stand in his own defense Wednesday against federal corruption charges, said his wife, Maureen, seemed uneasy about their new life from his very first day as governor-elect."

Tuesday
Aug192014

The Commentariat -- August 20, 2014

NEW. Greg Miller, et al., of the Washington Post: In public remarks, "President Obama denounced the killing of American journalist James Foley and pledged that the U.S. will 'do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.'” ...

... NEW. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "American intelligence agencies on Wednesday verified the authenticity of a video showing the beheading of an American journalist by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria amid angry outrage in the United States and Europe. President Obama was planning to make a statement from Martha’s Vineyard at 12:45 p.m. to address the issue. The video posted by ISIS shows a masked man decapitating James Foley, an American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago. It also shows another American captive, the journalist Steven Sotloff, and warns that he would be the next to die."

NEW. The Washington Post is liveblogging the McDonnell corruption trial. Here's one entry: "In February 2012, then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell discussed with management consultants the possibility of his own wife moving out of the Executive Mansion as a possible solution to tension the first lady had with her staff, one of the consultants testified Wednesday." CW: This is the second day of Bob McDonnell's "defense," which so far has consisted of bringing forward witnesses to trash Maureen McDonnell. It's really unseemly. But I suppose one should not be surprised that Transvaginal Bob shows no respect for his own wife when he has no respect for other women.

Manu Raju of Politico: "Mitch McConnell has a game plan to confront President Barack Obama with a stark choice next year: Accept bills reining in the administration’s policies or veto them and risk a government shutdown. In an extensive interview here, the typically reserved McConnell laid out his clearest thinking yet of how he would lead the Senate if Republicans gain control of the chamber. The emerging strategy: Attach riders to spending bills that would limit Obama policies on everything from the environment to health care, consider using an arcane budget tactic to circumvent Democratic filibusters and force the president to 'move to the center' if he wants to get any new legislation through Congress. In short, it’s a recipe for a confrontational end to the Obama presidency."

CW: You knew there were lots of catches to Paul Ryan's newfound interest in "helping" the poor. Here's a big one. Benjamin Goad of the Hill: "Paul Ryan is moving to reframe the debate on regulations, arguing that the nation's poor are the real victims of the red tape spewing from Washington.... 'The regulatory component trades on the fallacy that deregulation creates job growth and can alleviate poverty,' said Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen. 'The empirical evidence simply doesn’t back this up, and the 2008 financial crash is a strong reminder that deregulation can be disastrous for our economy.' ... 'It’s really a wolf in sheep’s clothing,' said Ron White, director of regulatory policy at the Center for Effective Government.” No kidding. ...

... Don't give up. Ryan has more excellent ideas. See below.

Maureen Dowd devotes her 800 words to dissing President Obama. Again. Her column seems to be based on this: "The Constitution was premised on a system full of factions and polarization." ...

     ... CW: But Dowd is wrong. The Founders didn't even envision political parties. They didn't envision anyone's voting except themselves & their fancy friends. (They were so convinced the government would be so full of righteous men of good will, they didn't even mention the rights of the governed till they discovered the damned thing would not be ratified unless they tacked those rights on as an afterthought.) Like future Senator/President Obama, the Founders did not see "red states & blue states." What they did see, of course, were slave states & free states, which more than two centuries later turned out to be pretty much the same thing as red states & blue states. Still, just like the newly-minted President Obama, the Founders -- who actually had experience reaching compromise -- believed the governing gentlemen would work out their differences. They did not envision Mitch McConnell & Ted Cruz.

Beyond the Beltway

Frances Robles & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "As a county grand jury prepared to hear evidence on Wednesday in the shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer that touched off 10 days of unrest here, witnesses have given investigators sharply conflicting accounts of the killing." CW: Robles & Schmidt have done some serious reporting here; this is a good first pass at trying to reconstruct what actually happened in the confrontation between Brown & Darren Wilson. ...

... Nigel Duara of the AP: "Police and protesters in Ferguson were finally able to share the streets again at night, putting aside for at least a few hours some of the hostility that had filled those hours with tear gas and smoke. The St. Louis suburb still had plenty of lively protest Tuesday over the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown. And tensions rose briefly when someone hurled a bottle at officers. But the overall scene was more subdued than the past five nights, with smaller crowds, fewer confrontations and no tear gas." ...

... St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said 47 people were arrested and three loaded handguns were seized during the protests Tuesday night and early today. In a news conference that began at about 2:15 this morning, Johnson said officers interrupted criminal activities and prevented violence." ...

... CW: Missouri has an open-carry law (with municipalities being able to pass some restrictions), so it's unclear to me if the people carrying loaded handguns were violating the law. If you're going to write open-carry laws, expect people to be carrying. As for interrupting criminal activities, I expect that's true; at the same time, the authorities apparently criminalized the most benign of activities, including non-activity: Carol Leonnig, et al., of the Washington Post: "... only some officers seemed to be enforcing a rule that protesters could walk, but not stand still or congregate. 'I saw the police arrest a lady because she had stopped walking,' said Bryan Maynard, 35, who had come to see the protests.... 'It’s more than heavy-handed.'” If Maynard is correct, one of those 47 was a woman detained for standing still. ...

... Attorney General Eric Holder in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch op-ed: "At a time when so much may seem uncertain, the people of Ferguson can have confidence that the Justice Department intends to learn — in a fair and thorough manner — exactly what happened." ...

Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Evidence in the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer will be presented to a grand jury beginning Wednesday. 'We are going to attempt to start giving evidence to the grand jury (Wednesday), depending upon the ability to get the witnesses in and the witnesses showing up,' said Ed Magee, spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch. 'It will be handled by the attorney regularly assigned to the grand jury. It will not be by Mr. McCulloch.' The standing St. Louis County Circuit Court grand jury, not a special assembly, will hear the evidence." ...

... WJLA-TV-St. Louis: "Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol ... said bottles and Molotov cocktails were thrown from the crowd and that some officers had come under heavy gunfire [Monday night & Tuesday morning]. At least two people were shot and 78 were arrested, he said. He did not have condition updates on those who were shot. Johnson said four officers were injured by rocks or bottles. According to arrest records obtained by ABC News, only four of the 78 arrested are from Ferguson while 18 people arrested are from locations across the country...." ...

** Read this account by Ryan Devereaux of the Intercept. Police arrested Devereaux in Ferguson early Tuesday morning & held him overnight in jail. ...

... Chris McGreal of the Guardian: "Racial tensions in Missouri were stoked again on Tuesday when police killed another African American man as authorities struggled to quell the nightly confrontations over the shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson last week. Angry residents of a black neighbourhood in St Louis, not far from Ferguson, accused the police of excessive force after two officers fired several bullets into a 23-year-old man described as carrying a knife and behaving erratically. The man has not yet been named but he was well known in the area and was said to have learning difficulties." ...

... The St. Louis Post-Dispatch account, by Joe Holleman & Lisa Brown, is here. ...

... Emma Roller of the National Journal: "... since he was shot to death on Aug. 9, Brown has been the subject of character assassination by the police and by the media." ...

...John Oliver comments on events in Ferguson, on the militarization of U.S. police force & on racism in the U.S. Thanks to James S. for the link:

The real looting is legal looting. People don’t have their fair share of police jobs, fire jobs, accounting work, legal work. That’s looting. The looting by night – should not take place, but neither should the accepted level of legal looting. And that must stop. -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson

... ** Jeannette Cooperman of Al Jazeera on the history of apartheid policies in the St. Louis area: "In reaction, St. Louis 'has spent enormous sums of public money to spatially reinforce human segregation patterns,' [Michael] Allen[, director of the Preservation Research Office,] said. 'We tore out the core of the city around downtown, just north and south and west, and fortified downtown as an island, by removing so-called slum neighborhoods. Then we demolished vacant housing in the Ville [where rocker Chuck Berry and opera singer Grace Bumbry grew up] and other historic black neighborhoods. These were not accidents. These were inflicted wounds.' 'Black communities in urban areas don’t have Whole Foods. They don’t have Starbucks. They don’t have work,' said Gerald Early, director of African-American studies at Washington University. 'And that goes back to legalized segregation. They were basically set up to not be able to compete with white communities, to remind people every day that they were inferior to whites.'” ...

     ... CW: This is precisely why Republicans keep making fun of Michelle Obama & her efforts to improve nutritional standards & habits; one of her initiatives is to eliminate "food deserts." These opinionators want "to remind people every day that they [are] inferior to whites." And you can bet these asswipes believe in their hearts they're not racists. Some probably even have a black friend. ...

... Tom Edsall of the New York Times compares & contrasts socioeconomic & political developments surrounding the Watts riots of 1965 & the Ferguson protests. "The urban riots of the second half of the 1960s prompted Washington to pump out money, legislation, judicial decisions and regulatory change to outlaw de jure discrimination, to bring African-Americans to the ballot box, to create jobs and to vastly expand the scope of anti-poverty programs. Civil unrest also drew attention to the necessity of addressing police brutality. Today, however, political and policy-making stasis driven by gridlock — despite a momentary concordance between left and right on this particular shooting — insures that we will undertake no comparable initiatives to reverse or even stem the trends that have put black Americans at an increasing disadvantage in relation to whites."...

... Radley Balko of the Washington Post: "There’s no question that, had the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department mandated that its officers wear body cameras, use dashboard cameras or both, there would be far fewer mysteries about the events leading up to the shooting of Michael Brown. The department apparently had these cameras; it just hadn’t gotten around to using them. But simply mandating that the cameras be used isn’t enough." Oftentimes the police refuse to release videotapes of controversial confrontations; many times the cops accidentally forget to turn on their cameras or, um, inexplicably turn them off just before a confrontation. At other times, they accidentally forget where they put the tape. "One policy that would go a long way toward achieving those three objectives is what defense attorney Scott Greenfield calls the missing video presumption.... Under the missing video presumption..., the courts will assume that the video corroborates the party opposing the police...." ...

... AND Now, for a Different POV. Sunil Dutta, an LAPD officer & professor, in a Washington Post op-ed: "We are still learning what transpired between Officer Darren Wilson and [Michael] Brown, but in most cases it’s less ambiguous — and officers are rarely at fault. When they use force, they are defending their, or the public’s, safety. Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you." ...

     ... Charles Pierce recommends this video to accompany your reading of Dutta's opinion piece:

Time to Look at the Politics. Let's Hear First from a Limited-Government Tenther: There is no problem with the federal government having a role [in the investigation into Michael Brown's shooting]. But in all of these things, local control, local government, local authorities who have the jurisdiction, who have the expertise, who are actually there are the people who should be in the lead. -- Rep. Paul Ryan

Yeah, the Ferguson police have the "expertise" to lead, all right. -- Constant Weader

Think I'm wrong? Hah! Paul Waldman is totally on my side. He's made a list of "The Ferguson Police Department's Top 10 Tips For Protester Relations." ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: Partly because local elections are held in April in odd-numbered years when no statewide or national races are in play, "In 2013..., just 11.7 percent of eligible voters actually cast a ballot. Turnout is especially low among Ferguson’s African American residents, however. In 2013, for example, just 6 percent of eligible black voters cast a ballot in Ferguson’s municipal elections, as compared to 17 percent of white voters.... So the solution to the fact that Ferguson’s black majority is nearly unrepresented in its government could be as simple as rescheduling its municipal elections so that they are held in November of even-numbered years — the same time that federal elections are held." ...

... Jeff Smith of the in a New York Times op-ed (August 17): "... because blacks have reached the suburbs in significant numbers only over the past 15 years or so, fewer suburban black communities have deeply ingrained civic organizations.... Many North County towns — and inner-ring suburbs nationally — resemble Ferguson. Longtime white residents have consolidated power, continuing to dominate the City Councils and school boards despite sweeping demographic change. They have retained control of patronage jobs and municipal contracts awarded to allies. The North County Labor Club, whose overwhelmingly white constituent unions (plumbers, pipe fitters, electrical workers, sprinkler fitters) have benefited from these arrangements, operates a potent voter-turnout operation that backs white candidates over black upstarts." ...

... AND This. Charlie Spiering of Breitbart "News": Missouri GOP chairman Matt Wills thinks it's "disgusting" & "fanning the political flames" that "liberal organizers" have set up voter registration tabless near the site of Michael Brown's killing & at the QT convenience store. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Registering people to vote is 'fanning the political flames,' because you know how Those People are when you get them all hopped up on voting, that's probably why Matt Wills and the state party that he directs executively worked so hard to minimize the 'disgusting' spectacle of black people at the polls." ...

... Alan Grayson Saw This Coming. His Colleagues Didn't Care. Jennifer Bendery, et al., of the Huffington Post: "The militarized police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, is forcing members of Congress to explain their ongoing support for a Pentagon program that provides local law enforcement with weapons used in war zones.... House lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in June to block legislation by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) that would have ... banned funding for a specific set of heavy-duty gear, including grenade launchers, toxicological agents and drones, all of which may legally be transferred to police departments under current law." Democrats voted 3-1 against the Grayson amendment. ...

... CW: I suspect this is one of the bad outcomes of ending earmarks (a practice which Not-President-Thank-God John McCain decried for years). Since MOCs can no longer promise their constituents a bridge or a community center or a museum, they're dolling out tanks & grenades. Absent earmarks, the U.S. is becoming a vast militarized zone with substandard infrastructure. That is, Congressional policy, in the name of "reform," is turning the U.S. toward a third-world-country model.

MEANWHILE in New York City. Jake Pearson of the AP: The fatal beating of Rikers Island inmate Angel Ramirez in "July 2011 ... is among three deaths in New York City's jails over the past five years in which inmates were alleged to have been fatally beaten by guards. Yet in none of those cases was anyone ever charged with a crime.... The lack of accountability in the city's jail system was singled out time and again in a scathing federal review issued this month.... The government lawyers focused on juvenile facilities at the huge jail complex called Rikers Island but said their conclusions probably extend to all Rikers jails. They found that beatings often occurred out of view of security cameras, internal investigations took months to complete, and guards falsified or otherwise failed to properly fill out use-of-force forms documenting incidents."

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "The sister of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell took the witness stand Tuesday at her brother’s corruption trial to make the case that the former Virginia governor’s marriage was far more strained than his finances.... Maureen C. McDonnell, who shares a name with her brother’s wife, testified that her sister-in-law was erratic and mentally unstable, a reluctant first lady who did not like living in 'that prison mansion.'” CW: Thanks, Sis.

Stephanie Simon of Politico: "A Louisiana judge on Tuesday swatted down Gov. Bobby Jindal’s attempt to use his executive authority to repeal the Common Core in his state. Jindal is trying to unilaterally scrap the new academic standards and a related series of exams — a move that’s put him at odds with business leaders, the state superintendent, members of the board of education and many Republican legislators in Louisiana. In a blistering five-page ruling, District Judge Todd W. Hernandez of Baton Rouge ruled that Jindal’s plan would cause 'irreparable harm' to students, teachers and parents who have been preparing for the new standards for years." ...

... AP: "Jindal once supported the standards as improving student preparation for college and careers. But Jindal, who is considering a 2016 presidential campaign, now opposes them as a federal intrusion in state education policy." CW: Because Obama.

Cindy Carcamo of the Los Angeles Times: "At least five, perhaps as many as 10, of the 42 children slain [in San Pedro Sua, Honduras,] since February had been recently deported from the U.S.... Immigrant aid groups and human rights organizers say the Honduran government is ill-equipped to assist children at high risk after they have been returned." ...

... "Intended Consequences." Charles Pierce: "It is now the stated position of most of the Republican party in this country, and of Republican politicians like Steve King and most of the prospective 2016 presidential field, that more children must be sent home to die this way. People should remember that."

Senate Race

Dermot Cole & Nathaniel Herz of the Alaska Dispatch News: "Dan Sullivan, the former Alaska attorney general and natural resources commissioner, declared victory early Wednesday in one of the most divisive Alaska Republican primaries in decades, while Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller ran 8 points behind in second place. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell trailed third in the fight to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in the fall."

Presidential Race

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) will turn himself into authorities on Tuesday evening, following his indictment by a grand jury on charges relating to abuse of power last week.... The governor’s arraignment has been set for Friday, but Perry reportedly has no plans to attend and will go forward with a weekend trip to New Hampshire to rally Republicans there." ...

What, no glasses?? Still, wins prize for Best Hair in a Mugshot.     ... Update. Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) was booked at a courthouse in Austin on Tuesday, getting his fingerprints taken and a mug shot, following his indictment by a grand jury on abuse of power charges. 'I'm here today because I believe in the rule of law, and I'm here today because I did the right thing,' a defiant Perry said to mostly cheers from those gathered outside the Travis County Courthouse."

... David Montgomery of the New York Times: "A prominent legal team has taken shape to assist Gov. Rick Perry in fighting a felony indictment, with the lead lawyer denouncing the abuse of power charges as 'nothing more than banana republic politics.'”

Tuesday
Aug192014

Jaywalking as a Capital Offense

I have been under the misimpression that Michael Brown & his friend Dorian Johnson were ambling down the middle of a busy street, blocking traffic. However, this New York Times map shows that this was not the case:

The site of the shooting was Canfield Court. Canfield Court is a short stretch of the through street Canfield Drive, which in this section is a residential street of two- & three-story apartment buildings & townhouses surrounded by greenspace. About a block west, the residences appear to be single-family homes, & just to the east are single-story apartment buildings, again surrounded by ample greenspace. Here's what Canfield Court looks like on Google's street view:

Not exactly a busy street. Moreover, the sidewalks are fairly narrow -- too narrow for two people to walk abreast. So it seems quite natural & sensible for two friends to be walking together in the street rather than on the sidewalk. 

When I'm driving on local roads like this one, I often come upon people walking along them. When there are pedestrians, I just wait for them to move to the side or I drive around them, taking extra care if there are small children in the group. Sometimes I wave & smile. Whatever. I have never considered these events noteworthy or unusual. Walking in the street is the way people who don't have cars -- you know, poor people -- use public streets. I'd be surprised if the situation was much different in Ferguson.

Knowing this, it appears to me that Officer Darren Wilson purposely & without cause provoked Brown & Johnson by telling them to move to the sidewalk. (According to Johnson, Wilson shouted to them, "Get the fuck on the sidewalk.") The fact that Wilson was cruising a residential street suggests that he was a neighborhood patrolman, someone who is supposed to establish rapport with residents & create a sense of public trust in the police. ("Get the fuck on the sidewalk" is not the best outreach initiative.)

According to Johnson, he & Brown complied with Wilson's order. After that, Wilson "began to drive away, but then threw his car into reverse and came back alongside the teens, nearly hitting them." A scuffle between Wilson & Brown ensued. Wilson will dispute Johnson's account.

What actually happened to escalate a perfectly normal stroll down the street into a death-by-shooting is critical, of course, but not to the point of "who started it." Officer Wilson did.

Monday
Aug182014

The Commentariat -- August 19, 2014

CW: Gee, I forgot about Bob. Here are the Washington Post updates on the McDonnell corruption trial. "On Monday, jurors heard testimony from Brenda Chamberlain, who served as a bookkeeper for the MoBo partnership. Now, they heard more about Chamberlain from the perspective of the Mo in MoBo — Maureen McDonnell, the former governor’s sister. She testified that in early 2013, she, her brother and another sister realized that the books for MoBo were 'a complete disaster.' She had gone through a final separation from her then-husband Michael Uncapher and discovered that he had not been updating financial documents properly. What’s more, she found that he had engaged in 'mystery transfers,' including what looked like writing checks to himself from the entity’s account." ...

... Here's Monday evening's WashPo story, by Matt Zapotosky, et al.: "A longtime aide to former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell drew a stark contrast between her boss and her boss’s wife at the couple’s trial Monday, describing the onetime Republican rising star as 'Mr. Honest' and the former first lady as a manager so ­'diva-ish' that her staff once threatened to quit en masse. The testimony from former secretary of the commonwealth Janet Vestal Kelly came on the first day of the McDonnells’ defense. It could help both Robert and Maureen McDonnell as they fight corruption charges."

Emily Wax, et al., of the Washington Post: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder. Jr. will travel to [Ferguson, Missouri,] Wednesday to meet with FBI agents and prosecutors investigating the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager.... President Obama announced Holder’s trip in remarks Monday afternoon at the White House, during which he said the attorney general and other Justice Department officials would also sit down with community leaders 'whose support is so critical to bringing about peace and calm in Ferguson.'’’ ...

... Mark Landler & Azam Ahmed of the New York Times: "President Obama said Monday [in the same remarks to the press] that Iraqi special forces, backed by American war planes, had retaken a strategically critical dam near Mosul, the latest in what he described as a string of positive steps in halting the march of Islamic extremists across the country":

... Washington Post liveblog: "At least two people were shot, numerous fires were set and more than 30 people were arrested in Ferguson, Mo., early Tuesday, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald Johnson told reporters early Tuesday." ...

... St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Two men were shot during the chaos of demonstrations late Monday and early today near West Florissant and Canfield, police confirmed. Officers weren't involved in the shootings. There was no immediate information on the identities or conditions of the victims. Police also confirmed that 31 people were arrested, including some who had come from as far as New York and California. In an emotional news conference around 2:30 a.m. in the area of the protests, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson said the shootings demonstrate 'a dangerous dynamic in the night' in which a few people determined to cause trouble can pull a whole crowd into it." ...

... Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "With armed Missouri National Guard troops posted to area streets for the first time in modern history, violence erupted anew Monday night as protesters hurled bottles at police and fired shots, and officers responded with sound cannons.... Later, police fired tear gas at protesters who defied orders to disperse." ...

... St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "The Ferguson-Florissant School District announced Monday night that schools would stay closed for the rest of the week....  The district said it would hold the first day of classes on Monday, Aug. 25." ...

... Washington Post brief: "Scott Olson, a photographer for Getty Images, was arrested Monday evening while covering protests in the St. Louis area, according to reports on Twitter." ...

     ... Here are some of the photos Olson took over the past week in Ferguson. CW: Makes you think the cops might have had it in for him. ...

     ... Update. Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "Police were preventing people from gathering in the area, and Olson is thought to have declined a request to move on. He was later released."

... John Eligon & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "Gov. Jay Nixon lifted a curfew in this embattled city on Monday, hours after deploying the Missouri National Guard, as officials struggle to control unrest that has paralyzed the community since an unarmed black teenager was killed by a white police officer. The role of the National Guard will be limited, Mr. Nixon said in a statement. Troops will protect the police command center here, which the authorities said came under a coordinated attack on Sunday night." ...

... Evan McMorris-Santoro of BuzzFeed: "Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called the National Guard to Ferguson late Sunday without letting the White House know first." CW Note: Nixon complained on the teevee Sunday that the Ferguson police didn't tell his office they were going to release the convenience store surveillance tape. There are apparently a lot of lonesome cowboys in Missouri, each one just doing his own thing. ...

... Another Bad Idea. AP: "Authorities are setting up a designated protest zone for nightly demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri. The plan was announced Monday by St. Louis County police." ...

... Emily Wax, et al.: Michael Brown "had marijuana in his system when he was fatally shot six times by a white police officer, two people familiar with the official county autopsy ... said Monday. ...

... CW: Something I Missed. Mike Kosnar of NBC News (August 16): "The Department of Justice urged Ferguson police not to release surveillance video purporting to show Michael Brown robbing a store shortly before he was shot and killed by police, arguing the footage would further inflame tensions in the St. Louis suburb that saw rioting and civil unrest in the wake of the teenager’s death." The DOJ persuaded the policy not to release the video Thursday, but the police did so Friday, claiming they were acting in response to media FOIA requests. CW: Because, really, they like reporters. ...

... Michael Wines & Erica Goode of the New York Times: "Large mobilizations of police or National Guard forces have played a role in calming many riots. But by studying unrest in Cincinnati, Oakland, Los Angeles and elsewhere, big-city police officials have learned that the speedy release of information and close ties to religious and civic leaders are perhaps even more crucial to stopping violence once it starts, said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington.... Critics say officials in Ferguson have added to tensions by making contradictory statements, declining to release details about the shooting and dispatching police units bearing military-style equipment into the streets.... Experts said that Ferguson appears to have little of the social infrastructure that helps other cities restore calm in times of crisis.

... Angela Davis in the New Republic: "... accountability for the killing of Michel Brown rests in the hands of one personthe prosecutor.... Prosecutors are not required to justify their charging decisions to anyone, and there is much potential for abuse.... Bob McCulloch is the prosecutor for St. Louis County and has held the position for 23 years.... Bob McCulloch’s father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty when McCulloch was a child. And McCulloch was very critical of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s decision to place the Missouri State Troopers in charge of security.... St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and others have asked Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to remove McCulloch from the case and have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor, claiming that McCullough is too biased to be fair." ...

... Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "In Ferguson and many towns like it, majority African-American communities most grapple with mostly white county governments.... This leads to dysfunction, racial tension, and a skewed justice system." CW: So, jurisdictional apartheid. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Maybe we should admit it to ourselves, we of the dwindling white majority, that the racial divide is something essential to holding our idea of the country together. The American idea, the American dream, and the American experiment -- all of these things had limits, and the people who set those limits, as well as the people penned in by them, have always been fully aware of them." ...

There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons. -- Gov. Ronald Reagan, 1967

Pierce recalls the days when the NRA liked gun control because ... black people. ...

... Here's more on the history of the NRA vis-a-vis gun control, by Steven Rosenfeld of AlterNet, published in Salon in January 2013.

Ed Kilgore: When modern Republican Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) crossed the aisle to caucus with Democrats (& give them control of the Senate) in 2001, it signaled "the end of one era but just ahead of an ideological whirlwind." Jeffords died Monday; See Monday's Ledes. ...

     ... Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "It was one of those rare singular moments when one lawmaker, with one vote, truly bent the arc of politics in a different direction. It also served to highlight the feud between the still-dominant conservative wing and the increasingly marginalized moderate faction of the Republican Party."

Elsewhere Beyond the Beltway

You're on Your Own, People. Rose Hackman of the Guardian: "Detroit police chief James Craig – nicknamed 'Hollywood' for his years spent in the LAPD and his seeming love of being in front of the camera – has repeatedly called on 'good' and 'law-abiding' Detroiters to arm themselves against criminals in the city.... The city, strapped for cash, has only 2,300 police officers – unchanged from a year ago, before the bankruptcy, but still not enough.... In a city where houses sometimes sell for $500, buying and maintaining a gun is a significant expense. For those who choose to earn concealed pistol licenses..., the application fee is $105 and courses might set you back anywhere between $100 and $250. Purchased guns cost interviewees of this story between $450 and $700, with accessories; including ammunition, add another possible $200-$300.... Michigan passed a self-defense act in 2006, referred to nationally as a 'stand-your-ground-law'. The law removes an individual’s duty, when acting in self-defense, to retreat."

Senate Races

Chad Livengood of the Detroit News: "Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Gary Peters and his wife paid an effective federal income tax rate of 18 percent in the last three years, a contrast to the less than 3 percent tax Republican opponent Terri Lynn Land paid on her income after sizable deductions.... Land’s separate tax return disclosures have sparked questions about why [her husband Daniel] Hibma [-- a wealthy land developer --] doesn’t disclose his earnings, since Land has drawn on a joint marital bank account to pour $3 million into her Senate campaign." Norm Ornstein, whom Livengood cites extensively, accuses Land of being shady. CW: Livengood IDs Ornstein -- correctly -- as "a congressional scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute." Never mind that Ornstein himself is not particularly conservative. This straight news piece is a win for Peters.

Heidi Przybyla of Bloomberg News: "Republicans seeking to unseat the U.S. Senate incumbent in North Carolina have cut in half the portion of their top issue ads citing Obamacare, a sign that the party’s favorite attack against Democrats is losing its punch. The shift -- also taking place in competitive states such as Arkansas and Louisiana -- shows Republicans are easing off their strategy of criticizing Democrats over the Affordable Care Act now that many Americans are benefiting from the law and the measure is unlikely to be repealed.

Rose Duke, a 44-year-old from Raleigh who cast her ballot for Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, is one of Obamacare’s new beneficiaries. Duke, who lost her flooring business after her husband died last year, says she now has a favorable view of the law and is angry at her state’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, for refusing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Worse, Worser, Worstest. Today is primary day for Alaska Republicans. Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "The contest is a three-way race between [among!] Dan Sullivan, a former state attorney general and natural resource commissioner; Mead Treadwell, the well-known lieutenant governor; and Joe Miller, a Tea Party-backed candidate who defeated Lisa Murkowski in the 2010 Republican primary but eventually lost to her write-in candidacy in the general election. Mr. Sullivan is generally regarded as the favorite."

Presidential Election

Conservative Michael Gerson of the Washington Post: Rand "Paul has risen to prominence by employing a political trick, which is already growing old. He emphasizes the sliver of his libertarianism that gets nods of agreement (say, rolling back police excesses) while ignoring the immense, discrediting baggage of his ideology (say, discomfort with federal civil rights law or belief in a minimal state incapable of addressing poverty and stalled mobility). As a senator, this tactic has worked. But were Paul to become the GOP presidential nominee, the media infatuation would end, and any Democratic opponent would have a field day with Paul’s disturbing history and cramped ideology. On racial issues, the GOP needs a successor to [former GOP Congressman & Housing Secretary Jack] Kemp — and an alternative to Paul." ...

... CW: He doesn't mean to, but Paul Waldman makes a very good argument that Rand Paul will be our next president. Waldman's point is that Paul is not a "real libertarian," because a true libertarian ideology is antithetical to most Republicans' political beliefs. So Li'l Randy just sheds his old libertarian positions (to the point of pretending he never had them). I do believe he can keep on doing that right up to November 8, 2016. Rand Paul is weasly enough to make former Governor Etch-a-Sketch look like a piker. I'd add that political neophytes, as Paul was when he made some of his more controversial remarks, actually do change their opinions on key issues when they develop more of an understanding of the real-world ramifications of their views. When he was a U.S. senator, for instance, Barack Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling. He later admitted (instead of pretending it had never happened a la Randy) that he made a novice's mistake.

Alec MacGillis of the New Republic: "... regardless of how strong the charges against [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry are, it is worth noting how fitting they are. Put simply, the case against Perry points to an aspect of his political persona that is well known in Texas but has too often been overlooked in the national portrayal of Perry." ...

... Michael Lind of Salon: "When I heard that Texas Governor Rick Perry had been indicted, I thought, 'This had better be good, or it will backfire on the Democrats.'  It turns out it isn’t good and it may well backfire on the Democrats." ...

... James Moore in the Huffington Post on "why Rick Perry will be convicted.... Perry is accused of using his veto authority to coerce a publicly elected official into leaving office. And when the veto threat, and later the actual exercise of the veto didn't work, he may have tried a bit of bribery, which is why he is facing criminal charges. Not because he exercised his constitutional veto authority." ...

... Sahil Kapur presents three problems in the prosecution's case which suggest Perry will not be convicted.

Jonathan Bernstein in Bloomberg View: "The real reason wealth-related blunders won’t hurt [Hillary] Clinton is that she apparently isn't going to be seriously challenged in the primaries and caucuses, where this sort of thing could matter. Personal characteristics, gaffes and clever rejoinders just aren’t all that important for the general election, when partisanship and partisan trends kick in and swamp almost everything else." Also, in the general election, she's likely to have a wealthy opponent.

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "A rash of relatively convoluted, thoroughly unsexy political scandals involving governors is moving through the country. So many of them involve Republican presidential hopefuls that conspiracy theorists could argue they must be manufactured, or at least overhyped, by wily Democratic strategists."