The Ledes

Friday, October 9, 2015.

New York Times: "The National Dialogue Quartet in Tunisia won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday 'for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011'.... The quartet comprises four organizations: the Tunisian General Labour Union; the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. But the Norwegian Nobel Committee emphasized that the prize 'is awarded to this quartet, not to the four individual organizations as such.'”

AP: "Officials say one person is dead and three others are wounded following an early morning shooting at Northern Arizona University. School public relations director Cindy Brown says the suspected shooter is in custody."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, October 8, 2015.

New York Times: "Paul Prudhomme, the chef who put the cooking of Louisiana — especially the Cajun gumbos, jambalayas and dirty rice he grew up with — on the American culinary map, died on Thursday in New Orleans. He was 75.

Air Force Times: "Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, who helped take down a gunman on a train in Belgium, was stabbed four times in the chest in Sacramento early Thursday morning, Air Force Times has learned.... Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Karns said in an email in Air Force Times, "... He is currently in stable condition." Sacramento police tweeted: 'The assault incident is not related to a terrorist act.  Assault occurred near a bar, alcohol is believed to be a factor.'”

Motherboard: "On Wednesday, a jury in Sacramento, California, found Matthew Keys, former social media editor at Reuters and an ex-employee of KTXL Fox 40, guilty of computer hacking under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act. In 2010, Keys posted login credentials to the Tribune Company content management system (CMS) to a chatroom run by Anonymous, resulting in the defacement of an LA Times article online. The defacement was reversed in 40 minutes, but the government argued the attack caused nearly a million dollars in damage."

New York Times: "The leadership of world soccer’s governing body plunged into chaos on Thursday, as three of the game’s most powerful figures, including Sepp Blatter, the longtime president of FIFA, were suspended amid an investigation by the Swiss authorities into suspected corruption. In addition to Mr. Blatter, Michel Platini, who is a FIFA vice president and the head of European soccer’s governing body, and Jérôme Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general who was already on disciplinary leave, were “provisionally banned” from the sport. The suspensions took effect immediately."

Reuters: "The number of Americans filing new applications for jobless benefits fell more than expected to near a 42-year low last week, pointing to ongoing tightening in the labor market despite the recent slowdown in hiring."

New York Times: "Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarussian journalist and prose writer, won the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday 'for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time,' the Swedish Academy announced."

Washington Post: "The United Auto Workers union narrowly avoided a strike against Fiat Chrysler of America early Thursday morning, announcing an agreement less than two days after threatening to pull as many as 40,000 workers off the job while contract negotiations soured."

The Week: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his wife, Landra Gould, filed a product liability lawsuit Tuesday in Clark County, Nevada, against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid said was behind an accident in January that injured his eye."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post [Sept. 11]: "Aggressive treatment of high blood pressure can sharply cut the risk of heart attacks, strokes and deaths in people 50 and older, according to a landmark federal study released Friday that urges doctors to bring their patients’ blood pressure well below the commonly recommended target. The new research advises people with high blood pressure to keep their “systolic” pressure — the top number in the reading that health-care providers routinely tell patients — at 120 or below.

New York Times [Aug. 20]: "As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well. Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes."

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

White House Live Video
October 9

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

AND contributor D. C. Clark was kind enough to remind us of Eva Cassidy:

Here's a break from the parade of horribles in the left column:

A friend sent me this version. You'll want to supersize it:

MoviePilot: Quite a few people think the film "The Martian" -- which depicts an Earthly astronaut stuck on Mars -- is "based on a true story." ...

... CW: Reminds of Orson Welles' 1938 radio production of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds. History Channel: "Perhaps as many as a million radio listeners believed that a real Martian invasion was underway. Panic broke out across the country. In New Jersey, terrified civilians jammed highways seeking to escape the alien marauders. People begged police for gas masks to save them from the toxic gas and asked electric companies to turn off the power so that the Martians wouldn’t see their lights. One woman ran into an Indianapolis church where evening services were being held and yelled, 'New York has been destroyed! It’s the end of the world! Go home and prepare to die!'”

New York Times: "Europe’s highest court ruled on Tuesday that a widely used international agreement for moving people’s digital data between the European Union and the United States was invalid. The decision, by the European Court of Justice, throws into doubt how seamlessly global technology giants — the likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google — can continue to collect, manage and analyze online information from their millions of users in the 28-member bloc. The court decreed that the data-transfer agreement was invalid as of Tuesday’s ruling."

One More Reason Not to Let Jeff Bezos into Your House. Bloomberg: " Inc. will stop selling media-streaming devices from Google Inc. and Apple Inc. that aren’t easily compatible with its video service, the latest example of the company using its clout to promote products that fit with its own retailing strategy.The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast since those devices don’t 'interact well' with Prime Video." ...

... Karl Bode of Tech Dirt: "Amusingly, Amazon unloads what has to be one of the larger piles of ambiguous bullshit in defense of an anti-competitive position seen in some time: "Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime,' Amazon said in [an] e-mail [to sellers]. 'It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.'" Hilarious. Except it's up to developers to embed Chromecast support into their services and apps, and both Google and Apple publish open software development kits that allows any application to be utilized on both devices. In other words, it's Amazon's choice that Chromecast and Apple TV won't play nicely with Amazon Prime Instant Streaming. It has nothing to do with the devices not 'interacting well' with Amazon's services." ...

... Alison Griswold of Slate: "It will be interesting to see whether Amazon’s move with regard to streaming content raises any antitrust flags. Generally speaking, a company has breached antitrust laws when it has a monopoly and uses that monopoly to stifle competition."

Congratulations, Aliens! You are no longer in violation of U.S. copyright law:

... Our Long National Nightmare Is Over. Los Angeles Times: "In a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims, [a federal] judge ruled that Warner/Chappell never had the right to charge for the use of the 'Happy Birthday To You' song. Warner had been enforcing a copyright since 1988, when it bought Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which claimed the original disputed copyright.... Judge George H. King ruled that a copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only the rights to specific piano arrangements of the music, not the actual song."

When the posh British PM David Cameron was a lad, he fucked a dead pig. The antics of our own Aqua Buddha Boy pale by comparison.

New York Times: "It was a night of firsts, and a night for establishment cable at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday. Viola Davis became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for best lead actress on a drama series, for her role as a defense lawyer on ABC’s 'How to Get Away With Murder'; Jon Hamm won his first Emmy after seven previous nominations for his role as the tortured Don Draper on 'Mad Men'; and HBO, led by victories for the comedy 'Veep,' the drama 'Game of Thrones' and a four-part limited series, 'Olive Kitteridge,' had a triumphant showing, with 14 victories, including best drama and outstanding comedy series."


Washington Post: "When Pope Francis arrives in Washington this week for the start of a six-day visit to the United States, he might find at least one local spot that reminds him of home. That’s Brookland, a neighborhood in Northeast Washington so chockablock with Catholic institutions that it has been called 'Little Rome.'”

New York Times: "When the comedian Steve Rannazzisi has explained his success, which includes seven seasons starring on a popular TV show, 'The League,' and a one-hour special this Saturday on Comedy Central, he has frequently attributed it to decisions he made after narrowly escaping the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.... Confronted this week, though, with evidence that undermined his account, Mr. Rannazzisi, after a day of deliberation, acknowledged on Tuesday that his account was fiction."

Washington Post (Sept. 15): "King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain ... arrive in Washington this week for their first official visit.... The couple will meet with President Obama and Senate leaders on Tuesday (which happens to be the queen’s 43rd birthday), open an American-Spanish scientific conference at Georgetown University [where Felipe attended grad school], meet with American chief executives who do business in Spain, and head to Florida to celebrate the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine."

Perfect! Guardian: "Arnold Schwarzenegger is to replace Donald Trump as the host of the NBC reality show Celebrity Apprentice, the network has announced."

New York Times: "For the first time in more than a quarter-century, a new subway stop [in Manhattan] is open for business.... The extended subway line is a descendant of the train lines that ran along 11th Avenue from the mid-1800s until 1941." The stop is an extension of the No. 7 line. Exits are at 34th St. & 11th Ave.:



MoDo goes to Paris to check out Google's Google's Cultural Institute, which is on a mission to "digitally replicate and curate all art and culture on earth." CW: The Times should stop giving Dowd these difficult war-correspondenty assignments. Why isn't she in New York, checking out the runways during Fashion Week?

The President Awards the National Medals of the Arts and Humanities:

Washington Post: "New images of Pluto show the amazing diversity of" the planet's landscape. "Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team, added that the surface was 'every bit as complex as that of Mars,' with jumbled mountains, nitrogen ice flows, and possible dunes." Includes slideshow.

Wowza! New York Times: "Acting on a tip from spelunkers two years ago, scientists in South Africa discovered what the cavers had only dimly glimpsed through a crack in a limestone wall deep in the Rising Star cave: lots and lots of old bones. The remains covered the earthen floor beyond the narrow opening. This was, the scientists concluded, a large, dark chamber for the dead of a previously unidentified species of the early human lineage — Homo naledi. The new hominin species was announced on Thursday by an international team of more than 60 scientists led by Lee R. Berger, an American paleoanthropologist who is a professor of human evolution studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The species name, H. naledi, refers to the cave where the bones lay undisturbed for so long; 'naledi' means 'star' in the local Sesotho language." ...

... Here's the Life Sciences report. ...

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The Commentariat -- Aug. 11, 2013

In a New York Times op-ed, crime novelist John Grisham writes of the horrible mistreatment of Gitmo/Bagram prisoner Nabil Hadjarab, an Algerian who grew up in France & who does not seem to have ever had any connection to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

Not Our Fault. Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration points to checks and balances from Congress as a key rationale for supporting bulk collection of Americans' telephone communications data, but several lawmakers responsible for overseeing the program in recent years say that they felt limited in their ability to challenge its scope and legality. The administration argued Friday that lawmakers were fully informed of the surveillance program and voted to keep it in place as recently as 2011.... Yet some ... members of the intelligence and judiciary committees ... describe regular classified briefings in which intelligence officials would not volunteer details if questions were not asked with absolute precision.... Additional obstacles stemmed from the classified nature of documents, which lawmakers may read only in specific, secure offices; rules require them to leave their notes behind and restrict their ability to discuss the issues with colleagues, outside experts or their own staff." ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: "Perhaps what Snowden did was to remind Obama that invisible checks and balances are not quite what the Founders had in mind." Thanks to contributor cowichan for the link. ...

... Julian Assange of WikiLeaks: "Today [Friday] was a victory of sorts for Edward Snowden and his many supporters. As Snowden has stated, his biggest concern was if he blew the whistle and change did not occur. Well reforms are taking shape, and for that, the President and people of the United States and around the world owe Edward Snowden a debt of gratitude."

** Larry Cashes In. Louise & Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "Among the top contenders for the position [or Fed chair, Lawrence] Summers has by far the most Wall Street experience and the most personal wealth. In addition to rejoining the Harvard faculty in 2011, he jumped into a moneymaking spree.... Mr. Summers, 58, has been employed by the megabank Citigroup and the sprawling hedge fund D. E. Shaw. He works for a firm that advises small banks as well as the exchange company Nasdaq OMX. And he serves on the board of two Silicon Valley start-ups: both financial firms that may pursue initial public offerings in the next year. One of them, Lending Club..., [operates on] a new business model that ... consumer advocates say may lead to risky borrowing.... Some senators ... are raising questions about potential conflicts of interest and noting his role in the repeal of the Glass-Steagall law ... and his opposition to regulating derivatives in the 1990s -- decisions that many critics say contributed to the financial crisis."

Burgess Everett of Politico: The failure in the Senate of a transportation bill, one in which all but one GOP senator -- Susan Collins -- voted "nay," is a sign that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is clamping down on caucus members on fiscal votes. The plan is to push for spending cuts, spending cuts, spending cuts to highlight the party's 2014 campaign message. CW: very original.

"Death Panels!" Paul Krugman: the Wall Street Journal editorial board is "fanatically opposed to Medicaid expansion -- that is, it's eager to make sure that millions have no health coverage at all. On the other side, it claims to be outraged at the notion of setting priorities in spending on those who do manage to qualify for Medicaid. It's OK for people to die for lack of coverage; it's an utter horror if taxpayers decline to pay for marginal care." Krugman wants to know if the board is cynical or nuts. CW: if they're not nuts, Harry Reid is likely to push them over the edge ...

... Karoud DeMirjian of the Las Vegas Sun: Senate Majority Leader Harry "Reid said he thinks the country has to 'work our way past' insurance-based health care during a Friday night appearance on Vegas PBS' program 'Nevada Week in Review.' 'What we've done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we're far from having something that's going to work forever,' Reid said. When then asked by panelist Steve Sebelius whether he meant ultimately the country would have to have a health care system that abandoned insurance as the means of accessing it, Reid said: 'Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes'"; i.e., single-payer. CW: in case you've forgotten what a creep Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Insurance State) is, Reid recalled that Lieberman's opposition to the public option was what killed that plan in 2009. Lieberman also said he favored allowing people 55+ to buy into Medicare until it turned out that would pass with his vote.

Elections Matter. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama's environmental policies are likely to play a prominent role in defining his second term.... Cutting carbon emissions and preparing for the impacts of climate change are the biggest environmental policies the president is pursuing, but they are not the only ones. His deputies are laying the groundwork to manage public lands across broad regions, drawing on high-tech mapping to balance energy interests against conservation needs. They also are preparing to weigh in on a controversial mining proposal in Alaska.... The shift has alarmed some industry officials, as well as coal allies."

How Democracy Works -- for a Constituency of Fat Cats. Eric Lipton of the New York Times: freshman congressmembers who score seats on the House Financial Services Committee cash in -- by doing big favors for their financial industry benefactors. It's not entirely their fault as the leadership of both parties stress fundraising & gauge the status of freshmen on how much cash they haul in.

"Fatal Mercies." Frank Bruni is quite good in a column on assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

Maureen Dowd manages to turn an Obama press conference, which had absolutely nothing to do with Hillary Clinton, into a column about Hillary Clinton. Weird. ...

... CW: What I don't get is why Dowd didn't devote her column today to "Hillary the Mini-Series," which is a perfect fit for Dowd's superficial metier. Bill Carter of the New York Times: "While NBC has come under heavy fire, especially from Republican critics, for agreeing to broadcast the series, the project may wind up being produced by another company: Fox Television Studios, the sister company of the conservative favorite, Fox News.... A spokesman for FTVS, as the studio is known, confirmed that NBC is in 'the early stages' of discussions to bring the Fox unit in as the production company on the as yet unnamed mini-series, which will star Diane Lane as Mrs. Clinton." ...

... Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog: "If this happens, it might be in part because [Rupert] Murdoch thinks Hillary would be more of a traditionalist on defense than Rand Paul in particular.... And it's just possible that, by not putting the kibosh on this possible NBC-Fox alliance, Murdoch is subtly tipping his hand right now."

Gubernatorial Race

Hunter Walker of TPM: "Ken Cuccinelli, the attorney general and Republican nominee for governor in Virginia, told supporters recently they should have no question about his support for E.W. Jackson, the GOP's polarizing nominee for lieutenant governor in that state.... Cuccinelli previously made attempts to distance himself from Jackson, including during a radio interview in June where he said he "absolutely" wants to be judged separately from Jackson and added, "E.W.'s going to have to introduce himself individually to the rest of Virginia.' ... Jackson has made negative, national headlines for past statements criticizing gays, accusing President Barack Obama of harboring 'Muslim sensibilities,' comparing Planned Parenthood to the KKK, praising the Constitution's original clause to count blacks as three-fifths of a person, and for his efforts in the late 1980's to fight desegregation in Boston." (Jackson is black.)

Local News

Eric Russell of the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald: Maine "Gov. Paul LePage made his dislike of the Portland Press Herald abundantly clear Friday while sitting in a fighter jet simulator: He said from the cockpit that he would like to blow up the newspaper's building. The Republican governor made the offhand remark while participating in a fighter jet simulation at Pratt & Whitney, a defense contractor in North Berwick. In video footage from the event, LePage is asked, 'What would you like to do?' He replies: 'I want to find the Portland Press Herald building and blow it up.'" CW: in related news, Florida Gov. Rick Scott relinquished his title as America's Worst Governor."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Eydie Gorme, a popular nightclub and television singer as a solo act and as a team with her husband, Steve Lawrence, has died. She was 84." Her Los Angeles Times obituary is here.

AP: "A harrowing weeklong search for a missing California teenager ended Saturday when FBI agents rescued the girl and shot and killed her apparent kidnapper at a campsite deep in the Idaho wilderness. Hannah Anderson, 16, appeared to be uninjured and will be reunited soon with her father at a hospital, authorities said. Her suspected abductor, James Lee DiMaggio, 40, was killed after his campsite was found in Idaho's rugged Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, roughly 40 miles from the tiny town of Cascade."


The Commentariat -- Aug. 10, 2013

The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don't have health care. -- President Obama, during a press conference yesterday

Charlie Savage & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama on Friday sought to take control of the roiling debate over the National Security Agency's surveillance practices, releasing a more detailed legal justification for domestic spying and calling for more openness and scrutiny of the N.S.A.'s programs to reassure a skeptical public that its privacy is not being violated." The Justice Department document is here. The NSA doc starts on page 24. So these would be the Friday docudumps. ...

... Ellen Nakashima & Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration on Friday asserted a bold and broad power to collect the phone records of millions of Americans in order to search for a nugget of information that might thwart a terrorist attack.... The release of the white paper appeared to do little to allay the concerns of critics in Congress and the civil liberties community who say the surveillance program violates Americans' right to privacy.... ' The administration's definitions defy 'any previous interpretation of the law,' said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. 'The way the government is interpreting relevance, anything and everything they say is relevant becomes relevant.'" ...

... Scott Wilson & Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "President Obama said Friday he would pursue reforms to open the legal proceedings surrounding government surveillance programs to greater scrutiny, the administration's most concerted response yet to a series of disclosures about secret monitoring efforts. At his first full news conference in more than three months, Obama said he intends to work with Congress on proposals that would add an adversarial voice ... to the secret proceedings before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Several Democratic senators have proposed such changes to the court.... In addition, Obama said he intends to work on ways to tighten one provision of the Patriot Act -- known as Section 215 -- that has permitted the government to obtain the phone records of millions of Americans. He announced the creation of a panel of outsiders ... to assess the programs and suggest changes by the end of the year." ...

... Sen. Ron Wyden: "Many of the reforms proposed by the President stem from suggestions made by myself and my colleagues to deal with the severe threat to civil liberties posed by current surveillance authorities and programs.... Notably absent from President Obama's speech was any mention of closing the backdoor searches loophole that potentially allows for the warrantless searches of Americans' phone calls and emails under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act." CW: see Guardian story, by Ball & Ackerman, linked below. ...

... New York Times Editors: "Fundamentally, Mr. Obama does not seem to understand that the nation needs to hear more than soothing words about the government's spying enterprise.... If the president is truly concerned about public anxiety, he can vocally support legislation to make meaningful changes, rather than urging people to trust him that the dishes are clean." ...

Here's the full presser:

... Here's the full transcript of the press conference. ...

... Digby: President Obama "seemed to have been saying today that Snowden's revelations ruined his plan to have an orderly investigation of the NSA programs even though there is no evidence that he was doing any such thing. Certainly, there is no evidence that there was any "plan" to inform the American people since the senators who were running around with their hair on fire were lied to right to their face in open testimony by the intelligence community. The president also claimed that he had signed an executive order that would have allowed Snowden to come forward without any fear of retaliation." Digby handily disposes if that claim.

... James Ball & Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases under a legal authority enabling it to search for US citizens' email and phone calls without a warrant, according to a top-secret document passed to the Guardian by Edward Snowden. The previously undisclosed rule change allows NSA operatives to hunt for individual Americans' communications using their name or other identifying information. Senator Ron Wyden told the Guardian that the law provides the NSA with a loophole potentially allowing 'warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans'." ...

... Ezra Klein: "If this conversation, and these reforms, are as positive for the country as Obama says they are, then it's hard to escape the conclusion that Snowden did the country a real service -- even if the White House can't abide crediting him with it."

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "The State Department said that on Sunday it will reopen 18 of the 19 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa that were closed last week because of terrorist threats. It said Friday that the embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, would remain closed 'because of ongoing concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.'" ...

... Adam Baron of the Guardian: "The US has stepped up the intensity of its drone strikes on suspected al-Qaida targets in Yemen, carrying out eight strikes in two weeks in response to fears of a terror attack in the capital, Sana'a."

President Obama signed H.R. 1911, the 'Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013,' Friday:

In order to avoid a government shutdown, we need 60 votes in the Senate and 218 votes in the House to pass a continuing resolution. To get 60 votes in the Senate, you need at least 14 Democrats to join Republicans and pass a CR that defunds Obamacare. Right now, I am not aware of a single Democrat in the Senate who would join us. If and when defunding has 60 votes in the Senate, we will absolutely deliver more than 218 votes in the House. -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

As far as I know, that is the most definitive thumbs-down any GOP leader has given to the defund-Obamacare push thus far. -- Greg Sargent of the Washington Post

This could be the best of all possible worlds for Cruz, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio et al. They get the credit with conservatives for being willing to shut down the government to defund Obamacare but it never actually happens, and so they never have to take the blame for the consequences. -- Ezra Klein of the Washington Post

Paul Krugman thinks Rand Paul & Eric Cantor really don't know the deficit has fallen dramatically. And the American people, of course, don't know either, he guesses. CW: If Paul & Cantor don't know, it's wilful ignorance. They're supposed to know. They can't budget & legislate if they don't know. If they don't know, they should shaddupaboudit.

"Massive Resistance." Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg News: "Southern states and their cultural emulators are not fully competing in national politics anymore. Instead, they are a retreating army, leaving behind Washington where their representatives work not to pass legislation and shape the national destiny but to sabotage the oppressor, throwing wrenches in the Obamacare works and otherwise trying to hobble the federal leviathan. Meanwhile, back home, the resisters are pulling away from national political culture and hunkering down against the winds of demographic change." Via Greg Sargent.

Gail Collins tries to solve the Post Office's budget problems, which are in great part the fault of Congress. Who'd have guessed?

Ben Protess & Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "Government authorities are planning to arrest two former JPMorgan Chase employees suspected of masking the size of a multibillion-dollar trading loss, a dramatic turn in a case that tarnished the reputation of the nation's biggest bank and spotlighted the perils of Wall Street risk-taking. The former employees, who worked in London, could be arrested in the coming days, according to people briefed on the matter. The action, the people said, would involve criminal fraud charges."

Democrats Make Lousy Businessmen

Gubernatorial Race

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Polls show the candidates [for Virginia governor] are neck-and-neck in the increasingly nasty race. Analysts predict the next occupant of the Executive Mansion in Richmond will be whichever candidate is getting less negative press on Election Day, Nov. 5." The article concentrates of Terry McAuliffe's business practices & his efforts to pull political strings to advance his interests. Things did not work out well. ...

... Senate Race

David Halbfinger & Claire Miller of the New York Times: "Even as Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark continued to promote his year-old Internet start-up, Waywire, the company was racing to find a buyer because it had effectively stalled out, according to people aware of the efforts, and because it feared that his election to the United States Senate this fall would strip the moribund venture of its main asset: Mr. Booker himself."

Local News

In an effective, no-nonsense letter, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) tells San Diego Mayor & serial sex offender Bob Filner to resign:

As we fight in the Senate to stand up for the men and women in our military who are survivors of sexual assault, I have heard their stories, seen the anguish in their faces, listened to them talk about the pain that will always be with them. Let me be clear: The latest revelations regarding your behavior toward women recovering from sexual assault -- women who desperately need our help -- have shaken me to my core.


The Commentariat -- Aug. 9, 2013

Friday Afternoon News Dump. AP: "President Barack Obama says he'll hold a news conference Friday afternoon at the White House."

Mike Lillis of the Hill: "House Democrats hoping to restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA) have an unlikely ally in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).... Cantor is already talking to prominent Democrats about doing just that. 'We've had a one-on-one; it went very well,' Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) told The Hill last Friday.... Asked if Cantor is eying a legislative fix that would satisfy Democrats, Lewis didn't hesitate. 'Yes, yes, by all means,' he said.... A March trip with Lewis to Selma, Ala. -- site of a watershed civil rights march in 1965 -- left an impression on the Virginia Republican, who described it as "a profound experience" illustrating 'the fortitude it took to advance civil rights and ensure equal protection for all.'" CW: the extension of the Voting Rights Act passed with near-unanimous approval in 2006. If today there are more than a handful of Congressional Republicans who aren't completely cynical about ensuring the right to vote, it will partially restore my faith in human nature.

Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "Across a dozen years of records collection, critics say, the government has offered few instances in which the massive storehouse of Americans' records contained the first crucial lead that cracked a case -- and even those, they say, could have been obtained through a less intrusive method."

New York Times Editors: "Time and again, the N.S.A. has pushed past the limits that lawmakers thought they had imposed to prevent it from invading basic privacy, as guaranteed by the Constitution.... It [is] more urgent than ever that Congress clamp down on what is unquestionably the bulk collection of American communications and restrict it to clear targets of an investigation. Despite President Obama's claim this week that 'there is no spying on Americans,' the evidence shows that such spying is greater than the public ever knew."

David Nather of Politico: "Al Qaeda’s back, and its timing couldn't be worse for the Republicans who are taking on the national security wing of their party. Edward Snowden reignited a debate over privacy and civil liberties that had fizzled in recent years. Just last week, civil libertarians were even picking up momentum on proposals to restrict the NSA's mass collection of Americans' phone records thanks to renewed attention in the media. But that was before the serious new Al Qaeda threats that have forced the shuttering of 19 American embassies and consulates overseas." CW: so if you're looking for reasons some Republicans got on the teevee & praised Obama's closing the embassies, I think you've found one.

Jonathan Allen of Reuters: "The National Security Agency, hit by disclosures of classified data by former contractor Edward Snowden, said Thursday it intends to eliminate about 90 percent of its system administrators to reduce the number of people with access to secret information. Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, the U.S. spy agency charged with monitoring foreign electronic communications, told a cybersecurity conference in New York City that automating much of the work would improve security."

Salman Masood & Declan Walsh of the New York Times: "The United States ordered staff pulled from its consulate in Lahore, [Pakistan,] on Friday, citing terrorist threats that also led the State Department to advise Americans against traveling to Pakistan as violence continued to rattle the country for another day."

Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The email service reportedly used by surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden abruptly shut down on Thursday after its owner cryptically announced his refusal to become "complicit in crimes against the American people." Lavabit, an email service that boasted of its security features and claimed 350,000 customers, is no more, apparently after rejecting a court order for cooperation with the US government to participate in surveillance on its customers. It is the first such company known to have shuttered rather than comply with government surveillance.... Silent Circle, another provider of secure online services, announced on Thursday night that it would scrap its own encrypted email offering, Silent Mail. In a blogpost the company said that although it had not received any government orders to hand over information, 'the writing is on the wall'." ...

... Wherein Glenn Greenwald describes the U.S. as a "rogue and lawless nation" -- as compared to Russia, Bolivia, Equador, Venezuela, Cuba, etc., & the U.S. media as U.S. government lapdogs. ...

... CW: Yesterday, I ran a link to a Guardian interview of Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), which suggested that he likened Ed Snowden to Gandhi & other civil rights heroes. On his blog, Lewis responded to the published piece:

News reports about my interview with The Guardian are misleading, and they do not reflect my complete opinion. Let me be clear. I do not agree with what Mr. Snowden did. He has damaged American international relations and compromised our national security. He leaked classified information and may have jeopardized human lives. That must be condemned. I never praised Mr. Snowden or said his actions rise to those of Mohandas Gandhi or other civil rights leaders. In fact, The Guardian itself agreed to retract the word 'praise' from its headline." ...

... Via Driftglass, who has something to say about all that.

Deb Reichmann of the AP: "The scuttled summit means that talks scheduled Friday at the State Department between Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will be awkward at best. U.S.-Russia discord had been simmering since Putin regained the Russian presidency more than a year ago."

Paul Krugman on why the "captains of industry" lobby against federal deficit spending to create jobs -- basically, because they think it undermines their influence. But they can't admit that, so they have to make up other excuses -- such as government spending "undermines confidence" -- to pretend to justify their opposition to job creation via federal stimulus. ...

... THEN there are the politicians whose careers depend upon fearmongering the federal deficit. A few days ago it was Eric Cantor; now it's Rand Son-of-Ron Paul, who is genetically engineered to abhor paper money. To defend his radical, government-slashing budget proposal, Paul sez:

You know, the thing is, people want to say it's extreme. But what I would say is extreme is a trillion-dollar deficit every year. I mean, that's an extremely bad situation. ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Some good news for Senator Paul -- we're not running a trillion-dollar deficit anymore. The deficit this year is forecast at $642 billion, per the Congressional Budget Office, which also forecasts the deficit to fall to $560 billion next year and $378 billion the following year." CW: actually, a falling deficit is bad news for Li'l Randy's career plans, such bad news he has to pretend it isn't happening.

Catching the London Whale. Ben Protess & Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "Federal regulators are seeking to level civil charges against JPMorgan Chase and extract a rare admission of wrongdoing from the nation's biggest bank as an investigation into a multibillion-dollar trading loss enters its final stage. If JPMorgan concedes to some wrongdoing in a settlement, such an admission would set an important precedent for the Securities and Exchange Commission, coming after decades of allowing defendants to 'neither admit nor deny wrongdoing.'"

New York Times Editors: "Last month the Justice Department won an antitrust suit against Apple, convincing Judge Denise Cote of United States District Court that the company had colluded with five major publishers to fix e-book prices. At a hearing on Friday, the department will argue that its plan to remedy Apple's misconduct will 'restore lost competition.' ... But the problem with this case all along was that the department ignored the potentially bigger anticompetitive force in the e-book market -- Amazon -- while focusing on Apple." CW: I guess we won't see an editorial like this in the Washington Post.

Right Wing World

Between you an me, I'm sorta holdin' my nose for two years. What we're doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand [Paul] in '16. -- Mitch McConnell's campaign manager Jesse Benton, talking to conservative activist Dennis Fusaro about working for McConnell ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "The backstory here is that Benton, who in addition to being Rand Paul's political guru is also Ron Paul's grandson-in-law and managed Paul's 2012 presidential campaign, now faces questions about whether he played a role in a payola scheme to boost support for Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign. On the call, he denied knowledge of the scheme.... When Benton signed up to manage McConnell's reelection campaign, it was widely seen as an effort to insulate McConnell from a tea party challenge as well as a move by Rand Paul to suck up to the GOP establishment ahead of his 2016 presidential campaign." ...

... Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed: Dennis Fusaro, "the former Ron Paul aide who secretly recorded a conversation with Mitch McConnell campaign manager and former colleague Jesse Benton, told BuzzFeed on Thursday that he recorded the phone call to protect himself and that he released it because Benton didn't meet a six-month deadline to take care of an alleged bribery incident. The McConnell campaign released a statement attributed to Benton which disparages the "truly sick" person who released the recording & says it's a great honor to work for McConnell. ...

... Alec MacGillis of the New Republic: McConnell can't fire Benton because Benton -- with his ties to the Pauls & Tea Partiers -- is McConnell's get-out-of-a-primary-challenge card. ...

... Finally, a Bachmann Conspiracy Theory Proves True. As for that bribe that Benton denies knowing about, " has obtained [from Dennis Fusaro] a recording of a phone conversation between State Senator Kent Sorenson and Dennis Fusaro. The call was recorded just days after Sorenson abruptly abandoned Michele Bachmann's campaign and publicly endorsed Ron Paul. Along with confirming the payment a representative of the Paul campaign [Dimitri Kesari] made to Sorenson, the recorded conversation also appears to indicate that Sorenson was considering withdrawing from the Paul campaign almost immediately after announcing his support for Paul.... Sorenson also confirms that Paul's National Campaign Chairman, Jesse Benton, was aware of Kesari's actions." After Bachmann accused the Paul campaign of paying Sorenson to switch to Paul, Sorenson publcly denied the allegation. ...

... Matea Gold of the Washington Post: Fusaro also gave e-mails to the Iowa Republican which further incriminate Sorenson in the bribe scheme & suggest Benton was involved. ...

... CW: the FBI is investigation Michelle Bachmann's campaign, specifically in regard to irregular payments to Sorenson, who -- as an Iowa state legislator -- is barred by law from working for campaigns. Here's hoping in the course of the investigation, they asked Sorenson about that bribe thingee. And here's betting that if they did, he lied about it, just as he has done on the teevee. Sure would hate to see him go to jail for lying to federal officials.

Local News

Rosalind McDonald of the Washington Post, who is Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's worst nightmare: "A Virginia Beach radiologist lent $50,000 to a real estate corporation owned by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his sister in 2010 — the same year the doctor was offered an appointment to a state medical board.... The loan offers a new example of how McDonnell's personal finances became entangled with his public role as the governor struggled to keep up with payments on property investments he and his family made during the height of the real estate boom."

News Ledes

Reuters: "Firefighters gained ground against a wind-whipped California wildfire that has destroyed 15 buildings, injured at least five people and forced the evacuation of 500 homes in several small communities east of Los Angeles. The fire erupted on Wednesday near a back-country road south of the town of Banning, and by nightfall on Thursday had blackened an estimated 14,000 acres, the Riverside County Fire Department said...."

New York Times: "A prosecution witness in the sentencing phase of the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning told a military judge on Thursday that Al Qaeda could have used WikiLeaks disclosures, including classified United States government materials provided by Private Manning, to encourage attacks in the West, in testimony meant to show the harm done by his actions."

New York Times: "The judge overseeing the military trial of the Army psychiatrist charged in a deadly shooting rampage at the Fort Hood base denied on Thursday his former lawyers' request to limit their role in the case. The ruling came a day after the lawyers said they could no longer assist him because he was seeking the same goal as prosecutors -- to be sentenced to death." ...

... The AP recounts some of yesterday's testimony & proceedings.

Los Angeles Times: "Gunmen early Friday waylaid a minibus carrying a Turkish Airlines crew on a road leading from Lebanon's major international airport, kidnapping the pilot and co-pilot and taking them to an unknown destination, authorities said. The brazen abduction was widely viewed here as the latest fallout from the war in neighboring Syria."


The Commentariat -- Aug. 8, 2013

David Henry of Reuters: "JPMorgan Chase & Co, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, said on Wednesday that it faces a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice over sales of mortgage-backed securities and that civil investigators have already concluded it violated securities laws. In a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, JPMorgan said it is responding to 'parallel investigations' being conducted by the civil and criminal divisions of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California over mortgage-backed securities."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official. While it has long been known that the agency conducts extensive computer searches of data it vacuums up overseas, that it is systematically searching -- without warrants -- through the contents of Americans' communications that cross the border reveals more about the scale of its secret operations." ...

... ** Linda Greenhouse strongly suggests the Chief Justice (any chief justice) has too much power. "While Republicans in Congress accuse President Obama of trying to 'pack' the federal appeals court in Washington simply by filling its vacant seats, they have expressed no such concern over the fact that the chief justice has over-weighted the [FISA] surveillance court with Republican judges to a considerably greater degree than either of the two other Republican-appointed chief justices who have served since the court's creation in 1978." ...

... Paul Lewis of the Guardian: "John Lewis, one of America's most revered civil rights leaders, says the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was continuing the tradition of civil disobedience by revealing details of classified US surveillance programs. Lewis, a 73-year-old congressman and one of the last surviving lieutenants of Martin Luther King, said Snowden could claim he was appealing to 'a higher law' when he disclosed top secret documents showing the extent of NSA surveillance of both Americans and foreigners.... Lewis was among the majority of Democratic congressmen who voted for an amendment in the House of Representatives last month that sought to effectively end the NSA's bulk collection of millions of phone records." ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden extended his 15 minutes of fame Wednesday, as headlines tied his saga to President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel a planned summit meeting in Moscow next month with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But analysts said the talk of Snowden's role in the cancellation obscured a more basic reality: The U.S.-Russia relationship is now so frosty that it didn't appear the two presidents would actually accomplish enough to merit such a high-profile meeting."

Kevin Liptak of CNN: "During his address at Camp Pendleton between Los Angeles and San Diego, [President] Obama said [extremist] threats shouldn't cause Americans to 'retreat from the world.' It was the second time Obama spoke publicly about the recent threats, which prompted the United States to issue a worldwide travel alert and close embassies and diplomatic posts across the Middle East and North Africa":

Did Somebody Punk the Beast? J. K. Trotter of Gawker: "Within hours of publication [of the Daily Beast's story on the Al Qaeda conference call -- linked in yesterday's News Ledes]..., a bevy of national security journalists began casting doubts on the leaked information contained within the Beast's report. Two theories were quickly born. Adam Goldman of the Associated Press wondered if the leak was manufactured to protect human intelligence (that is, a leaker within al Qaeda), while Ken Delanian of the Los Angeles Times suggested that it was intended to glorify the NSA's signals intelligence capabilities at a politically vulnerable moment. Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, meanwhile, failed to see how the entire story -- the leak, the method of intercept, and the contents of the call -- added up." ...

... Hannah Allam of McClatchy News: "... how, then, does it make sense for the State Department to close embassies as far afield as Mauritius or Madagascar, where there's been no visible jihadist activity? And why is it that countries that weathered numerous terrorist attacks -- Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, for example -- were excluded or allowed to reopen quickly? ... Analysts who've devoted their careers to studying al Qaida and U.S. counterterrorism strategy can't really make sense of it, either. There's general agreement that the diffuse list of potential targets has to do with either specific connections authorities are tracking, or places that might lack the defenses to ward off an attack." ...

... Democracy in America: "It is also not yet apparent why the White House opted to make such a dramatic public statement of its concerns rather than use the information to disrupt the plot. Not only is there a significant economic cost from the consequent delays to travel, but according to intelligence sources there are potentially major security drawbacks as well."

New York Times Editors: "The fast-food workers who have been walking off their jobs illustrate a central fact of contemporary work life in America: As lower-wage occupations have proliferated in the past several years, Americans are increasingly unable to make a living at their jobs. They work harder and are paid less than workers in other advanced countries. And their wages have stagnated even as executive pay has soared.... If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation or average wages over the past nearly 50 years, it would be about $10 an hour; if it had kept pace with the growth in average labor productivity, it would be about $17 an hour." (CW: these strikes represent the kind of "suffering" I meant in my remark in today's Comments.)

Lydia DePillis of the Washington Post outlines President Obama's plans to reform the housing & mortgage markets. As she points out, you can get more detail at this White House page. ...

... On Wednesday, President Obama answered housing questions from citizens during an interview with Zillow CEO Spencer Raskoff:

... Hadas Gold of Politico: Zillow esimates the valuation of the White House at $319.6 million. ...

... Earlier That Same Tour of Post-Racial America. Laurie Merrill, et al., of the Arizona Republic: "Hundreds of protesters wielded signs, chanted slogans and argued with each other Tuesday outside Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, while President Barack Obama spoke about housing and the economy inside.... Obama foes at one point sang, 'Bye Bye Black Sheep,' a derogatory reference to the president's skin color, while protesters like Deanne Bartram raised a sign saying, 'Impeach the Half-White Muslim!' ... Bartram, a 17-year-old University of Arizona student from Black Canyon City, lashed out at people who call her racist.... She believes Obama supporters use the 'race card' against her because they disagree with her political message. 'He's 47 percent Negro,' shouted Ron Enderle, a 77-year-old Chandler resident...." CW: I can't think of any other reason people might call Bartram a racist. ...

... Think it's just stupid, crazy "average Americans" who act this way? Exotic is the New Black. Jason Noble of the Des Moines Register: according to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), "During [a] July 15 meeting -- which concerned filibuster rules and included no press and no staff -- one senator suggested his constituents still couldn't identify with Obama. 'I'm not naming any names, but one senator got up from a southern state and said, "Well, you've got to understand that to my people down here, Obama seems like" -- he thought for a second and he said -- "like he's exotic."'"

Ken Vogel & Jake Sherman of Politico: "Rep. Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez secretly spoke to wealthy donors at the Koch brothers' recently concluded summer gathering on the outskirts of Albuquerque. The 2012 vice presidential candidate and No. 2 House Republican are return participants to the twice-annual seminar, which also drew wealthy donors and conservative nonprofit leaders...."

Ben Goad of the Hill: "The National Rifle Association is asking the Supreme Court to strike down decades-old regulations prohibiting the sales of handguns to those under the age of 21. The powerful gun lobby is challenging a lower federal court's October ruling that upheld the ban. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that the current regulations are consistent with a long-held view that young adults between the ages of 18 and 20 'tend to be relatively immature and that denying them easy access to handguns would deter violent crime.'"

** Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "Airline seating may be the best concrete expression of what's happened to the economy in recent decades. Airlines are sparing no expense these days to enlarge, upgrade and increase the price of their first-class and business-class seating. As the space and dollars devoted to the front of the planes increase, something else has to be diminished, and, as multitudes of travelers can attest, it's the experience of flying coach. The joys of air travel -- once common to all who flew -- have been redistributed upward and are now reserved for the well-heeled few."

Senatorial Race

CW: For those of you who think Tea Party populism can't be all bad -- Betsy Woodruff of the National Review: "Louie Gohmert for Senate? That's what a number of Texas tea-party activists are hoping for. They're not happy with Senator John Cornyn.... Gohmert told the Washington Examiner that he won't be running for Senate." ...

... Jonathan Bernstein: "Cornyn is a mainstream extremely conservative Republican, while Gohmert appears to be a raving lunatic. Given the choice, it's not immediately clear which way most Texas Republican primary voters would go." ...

... AND, in more Louie News:

The Louie Gohmert Weekly Reader

Doktor Zoom of Wonkette: "Congresstool Louie Gohmert (R-Arkham) told Sean Hannity on Tuesday that when he was a judge, he figured that a mouthy defendant had to be dealt with, so he 'duct taped his head' in keeping with Article Umpty-Leven of the Constitution."

Presidential Race 2016

Gail Collins: Note to Chris Christie: women won't vote for a guy who yells. Here's the related video (hard to find because there are so many youtube videos titled "Chris Christie blows up at heckler," each reporting a different incident):

Local News

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times: " Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, newly empowered by the United States Supreme Court's ruling in June that struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, has ordered state officials to resume a fiercely contested effort to remove noncitizens from voting rolls." In the 2012 effort, the state targeted 182,000 Floridians. "Of those, fewer than 40 had voted illegally." CW: So, thanks, Rick Scott, for wasting my taxpayer dollars harassing Hispanics.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Karen Black, an actress whose roles in several signature films of the late 1960s and '70s included a prostitute who shared an LSD trip with the bikers played by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in 'Easy Rider' and a waitress unhappily devoted to the alienated musician played by Jack Nicholson in 'Five Easy Pieces,' died on Thursday in Los Angeles. She was 74."

Boston Globe: "Two former UMass-Dartmouth students with ties to Boston Marathon terror bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were indicted today on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly trying to impede the Boston Marathon terror bombing investigation. Kazakhstan nationals Dias Kadyrbayev, 19, and Azamat Tazhayakov, 19, are accused of helping to get rid of incriminating evidence that Tsarnaev left behind in his college dorm room on April 18, three days after the terror bombing killed three and wounded 260 in Boston."

AP: "A wildfire that broke out in the inland mountains of Southern California has expanded exponentially, burning homes, forcing the evacuation of several small mountain communities and leaving three people injured.About 1,500 people had evacuated as the wildfire of more than 9 square miles raged out of control Thursday in the San Jacinto Mountains near Banning...."

Los Angeles Times: "At least one child has been killed and major roads in parts of Missouri have been closed by floods caused by days of fierce rains, officials said on Wednesday."

Dallas Morning News: Former First Lady "Laura Bush said [her husband George W. Bush] was 'doing great' after having a stent implanted in his heart Tuesday to clear blockage in an artery. He returned home early Wednesday from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas...."

Al Jazeera: "President Barack Obama has phoned Uhuru Kenyatta, his Kenyan counterpart, to offer Washington's support following a devastating fire at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), east Africa's largest. The US embassy in Kenya said Obama made the call on Thurdsday a day after his country marked the 15th anniversary of the twin bombing of US embassies in the Kenyan capital Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania."