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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

The Netherlands Welcomes Trump, in his own words. Thanks to Haley S. for the link:

... CW: We're the laughingstock of the world. But, like us, others have to laugh so they don't cry or scream or hunker down in a suvivalist's crouch.

Los Angeles Times: "The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were revealed this morning in Los Angeles. 'La La Land' did what 800-lb gorillas are supposed to do: dominate the Oscar nominations tally, pulling down 14, including actor, actress, director and picture. Ava Duvernay’s '13th' joins 'O.J.: Made in America' among best documentary feature nominees, continuing our ongoing conversation about race in the United States. Speaking of which, with Viola Davis, Dev Patel, Octavia Spencer, Denzel Washington, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Ruth Negga getting acting nominations, the 89th Academy Awards will definitely not be so white." This article includes a complete list of the nominees.

New York Times: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

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Monday
Dec292014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 30, 2014

Robert Costa & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the newly elected House majority whip, acknowledged Monday that he spoke at a gathering hosted by white nationalist leaders while serving as a state representative in 2002, thrusting a racial controversy into House Republican ranks days before the party assumes control of both congressional chambers.... That organization, founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In a statement, Scalise's spokesperson Moira Bagley emphasized that the then-state lawmaker was unaware at the time of the group's ideology and its association with racists and neo-Nazi activists.... Scalise's defense ... contrasts with the local press coverage generated by the Duke-coordinated conclave that spring.... 'It's hard to believe, given David Duke's reputation in Louisiana, that somebody in politics in Louisiana wasn't aware of Duke's associations with the group and what they stand for,' [Rep. Joaquin] Castro said.... Scalise's appearance at the event was first reported by blogger Lamar White Jr., who manages a Web site on Louisiana politics." ...

... Lamar White, Jr.: The Duke group, called the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO, "... espouses and promotes racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic propaganda and considers the 'white race' to be genetically, culturally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually superior to all others." One of Scalise's fellow-speakers at the "conference" was "Vincent Breeding, also known as 'Vince Edwards,' also known as Bruce Alan Breeding, is a notorious racial provocateur and hate monger who got his start working with the National Alliance, a hate group that is believed to have inspired Timothy McVeigh, the mastermind of the Oklahoma City bombing," according to a report by Front Page Magazine, which White cites. A conference attendee, whom White also cites, wrote that in his address, Scalise discussed "... concerns held are pervasive in every sovereign state and Republic alike, within an increasingly diminishing view of where America stands on individual liberty for whites." ...

... Ashley Parker & Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Speaker John A. Boehner declined to comment on the reports." ...

     ... CW: Looks like GQ will have to amend its "20 Craziest Politicians" list. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Update. Julia O'Donoghue of the Times-Picayune: "In an exclusive interview Monday ... about the growing controversy over his appearance at the Metairie [white supremacist] event, Scalise said it is ridiculous to suggest he was involved with the group, which was created by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. 'I didn't know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous,' Scalise said." Scalise points out that he also spoke before the crazy-lady Bolshevik League of Women Voters, whose radical agenda includes far-out stuff like encouraging people to vote & sponsoring candidates' debates. CW: So sure, color us all ridiculous, Steve. this is our fault, not yours. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Speaking to a Duke-sponsored conference should be enough to disqualify him from a leadership post in the U.S. House, given the context. In 2002, Duke was a tax fugitive spending a lot of time (and promoting anti-semitic politics) in Russia, soon to cut a deal with the IRS enabling him to come home and serve a relatively light prison sentence for tax evasion. More to the point Scalise could have hardly have been ignorant of Duke's activities, writings and notoriety: the globally famous ex-Klan leader and ex-Nazi was a predecessor [of Scalise's] in representing the suburban community of Metairie in the state House, before his globally famous and nearly-successful 1991 gubernatorial race." (Emphasis added.) ...

     ... CW UPDATE. Turns out the portioned I highlighted in Kilgore's post is incorrect. Ezra Klein made the same mistake, & here's his correction: "This post originally said Duke and Scalise had represented the same district. In fact, Duke represented the 81st district and Scalise the 82nd." Klein's post, which is pretty generous to Scalise, is here. ...

... Even Red State's Erik Erickson, the blogosphere's winger-in-chief, is nonplussed: "By 2002, everybody knew Duke was still the man he had claimed not to be. EVERYBODY. How the hell does somebody show up at a David Duke organized event in 2002 and claim ignorance?" ...

... Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call dredges up a 1999 report by John Mercurio, who talked to Scalise about David Duke: "... State Rep. Steve Scalise (R), said he embraces many of the same 'conservative' views as Duke, but is far more viable. 'The novelty of David Duke has worn off,' said Scalise. 'The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can't get elected, and that's the first and most important thing.'" ...

     ... CW: That's a pretty damning tell about Scalise. The major difference between Duke & him is not ideology but pragmatic politics, according to Scalise. Scalise embraces Duke's views, but says the toxic Duke can't win elections. Duke's a loser, but his white supremacy philosophy is excellent. Vote Scalise! His present-day pretense that he "abhors" Duke's views & those who suggest otherwise are "ridiculous" just went down the toilet. ...

... The argument that Duke didn't attend the conference organized by his group so Scalise was unaware of the affiliation also falls apart. Mollie Reilly, et al., of the Huffington Post: "At the time, Duke had spent two years abroad after federal agents raided his home as part of an investigation into mail fraud and tax charges. He spoke to the 2002 conference via a teleconference link from Russia.... By 2004, according to New Orleans CityBusiness, Scalise was condemning Duke, who by then was in federal prison on tax charges." Luckily for Scalise, Duke still endorses him. ...

... Annie Linskey of Bloomberg Politics: "Scalise already is being mocked on his official Facebook account. His Dec. 25 post, 'Wishing y'all a blessed and very #MerryChristmas' prompted a commenter to add after the news broke: 'And may all your Christmases be white!'" ...

... BUT. Andrew Johnson of the National Review: "After the report, Scalise, the third-ranking House Republican since earlier this year, has already been backed by some high-profile Republicans, including Peter King of New York and Steve King of Iowa, as well as former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. The support comes amid speculation about whether the news would lead Scalise to resign his leadership position, like Republican senator Trent Lott, who resigned from legislative leadership in 2002 after he praised former segregationist candidate and senator Strom Thurmond." CW: So Scalise is holding Two Kings & two Jokers (or four Jokers, if you want to get technical). Definitely a winning hand. I think he'll keep his job & chalk this little incident up to "youthful indiscretion." ...

... Ha Ha. Steve King compares Scalise to Jesus, who "dined with tax collectors and sinners." Fortunately, King is not a racist, either. He says he knows Scalise's heart. Yes, he does. (Many of the comments at King's linked tweet are pretty good.) ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: "The whole 'Republican Party as the Last Bastion Of Pure Whiteness(tm) thing' is a feature, not a bug, America. Now would be a good time to blame the problems in America with race on Obama, I guess." ...

... Dan Friedman of the New York Daily News: "Rep. Michael Grimm has decided to resign from Congress in the wake of his guilty plea on a felony tax evasion charge, sources told the Daily News Monday night. Grimm (R-S.I.) said after he entered his plea last week that he planned to continue serving in the House. But he reversed course after speaking Monday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has taken a hard line on GOPers facing ethics charges. Grimm plans to announce his resignation on Tuesday or Wednesday, sources said." ...

... Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "... three years after the fall of former Senator John E. Ensign [R] of Nevada, thousands of pages of previously undisclosed documents reveal new details about the evidence the F.B.I. gathered against Mr. Ensign, who briefly flirted with running for president in 2012. The documents, which show that Mr. Ensign's behavior was more brash than known at the time, also offer new specifics about why the Justice Department decided not to prosecute Mr. Ensign despite an aggressive F.B.I. investigation into the scandal.... 'This has crushed me,' said [Douglas] Hampton, [the aide with whose wife Ensign had an affair & for whom Ensign obtained unlawful lobbying contracts] who is jobless and living in Las Vegas. 'John Ensign orchestrated everything -- the affair, my dismissal from his Senate staff, the lobbying work, everything -- but at the end of the day, I'm the one who lost everything.'"

... But Never Mind All That. Michael Bender of Bloomberg Politics: A couple of Army captains had to move their wedding site -- to a prettier venue on the same property -- because President Obama wanted to play golf at the site they had chosen. "After Bloomberg Politics inquired about the scheduling conflict, Obama put in a personal call to the bride. 'He apologized and congratulated them,' [the bride's sister] said, adding that it was a 'wonderful talk. We were all there, it was perfect,' she said. 'Made their day.'" ...

... CW: Hmm. I wonder if the Right-Wing Outrage Machine operates during the holidays. Oh, yes -- it does. Et-cetera. ...

... Adam Weinstein of Gawker captures the spirit of the Machine: "... a tyrant's leisure-time celebration of ancient Hibernian sport and classism trumped the meager personal needs of America's lovestruck Spartan lifegivers, even after they made every attempt to pay the rascal his regal tribute.... But like the stoic troopers they are, Heimel and Mallue adapted and improvised. Their ever-vigilant wedding caterer executed a flanking maneuver, moving the captains to an emplacement with 'an elevated view near the 16th hole,' because they understood that it's no use trying to take that hill when the forces of Kenyan socialist Islamism are stacked against you." ...

... Sorry, Outrage Machine Operators. Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "Americans continue to name Hillary Clinton as the woman living anywhere in the world whom they admire most, and name Barack Obama as the man they admire most. Clinton has held the top women's spot in each of the last 13 years and 17 of the last 18, with that streak interrupted only by first lady Laura Bush in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attacks. Obama has been most admired man in each of the last seven years, beginning with 2008, the year he was elected president." ...

     ... BUT. Russell Berman of the Atlantic: Vladimir Putin is the 10th most admired man in the U.S. He shares 10th place with Benjamin Netanyahu. The two "earned more votes than Vice President Joe Biden, the last two Republican and Democratic presidential nominees (before Obama), two ex-presidents (Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush), George Clooney, and the Dalai Lama."

... MEANWHILE, in Shady Democrats. William Rashbaum, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal authorities are investigating substantial payments made to the State Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, by a small law firm that seeks real estate tax reductions for commercial and residential properties in New York City, according to people with knowledge of the matter." ...

... AND the New York Times Editors Comment on Bipartisan Sleazebaggery: "Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey have fumbled a great opportunity to reshape the notoriously secretive, patronage-ridden Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Rather than approve fundamental reforms passed by near-unanimous votes in both state legislatures, the two governors are proposing a weaker set of changes that would leave largely undisturbed their iron grip over the authority. For good measure, they have demanded the resignations of all present commissioners, which would give them even greater control going forward.... The legislative reform would have made it harder for the governors to pack the authority with their friends and political cronies." ...

... CW: So racists, numerous crooks, & an old-fashioned fornicator. Just another day in American politics. You might want a bath.

** Your Environmental Horror Story of the Day. Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "The methane that leaks from 40,000 gas wells near this desert trading post [Cuba, N.M.] may be colorless and odorless, but it's not invisible.... Satellites that sweep over energy-rich northern New Mexico can spot the gas as it escapes from drilling rigs, compressors and miles of pipeline snaking across the badlands. In the air it forms a giant plume: a permanent, Delaware-sized methane cloud.... The country's biggest methane 'hot spot,' verified by NASA and University of Michigan scientists in October, is only the most dramatic example of what scientists describe as a $2 billion leak problem: the loss of methane from energy production sites across the country.... Methane accounts for about 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and the biggest single source of it -- nearly 30 percent -- is the oil and gas industry." CW: Of course Republicans oppose doing anything about it, even though "environmentalists say relatively modest government restrictions on gas leaks could reap substantial rewards for taxpayers and the planet.... The Obama administration is reviewing a host of possible remedies...." Read the whole story.

Actually, these two are in cahoots.Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "Over the past year, Germany has secretly provided detailed information to U.S. spy services on hundreds of German citizens and legal residents suspected of having joined insurgent groups in Syria and Iraq, U.S. and German officials said. Germany has done so reluctantly to enlist U.S. help in tracking departed fighters, determining whether they have joined al-Qaeda or the Islamic State and, perhaps most importantly, whether they might seek to bring those groups' violent agendas back to Germany. The stream of information includes names, cellphone numbers, e-mail addresses and other sensitive data that German security services -- ever mindful of the abuses by the Nazi and Stasi secret police -- have been reluctant even to collect.... Nearly every country in Europe is turning over significant data on their own departed fighters to the United States."

Tal Kopan of Politico: "FBI agents investigating the Sony Pictures hack were briefed Monday by a security firm that says its research points to laid-off Sony staff, not North Korea, as the perpetrator.... Even the unprecedented decision to release details of an ongoing FBI investigation and President Barack Obama publicly blaming the hermit authoritarian regime hasn't quieted a chorus of well-qualified skeptics who say the evidence just doesn't add up.... The FBI said Monday it is standing behind its assessment, adding that evidence doesn't support any other explanations."

Ezra Klein interviews Paul Krugman. Krugman is not worried about zombies. Everything else, pretty much. Thanks to Ken W. for the link.

Is Lyndon Johnson fairly portrayed in the film "Selma"? Joseph Califano, former top aide to Johnson, says no (WashPo op-ed linked in Saturday's Commentariat). Mark Updegrove, director of the Johnson Presidential Library, has said the same. Ava DuVernay, the producer of the film, was incensed, & said so on the peer-reviewed historical site Twitter. CW: Whether or not Califano & Updegrove have gilded the lily, LBJ was a mostly-unsung hero of the civil rights movement. To portray him as a villain would do him an injustice -- even if it would make a more dramatic movie.

Beyond the Beltway

NEW. Larry Celona, et al., of the New York Post: "It's not a slowdown -- it's a virtual work stoppage. NYPD traffic tickets and summonses for minor offenses have dropped off by a staggering 94 percent following the execution of two cops -- as officers feel betrayed by the mayor and fear for their safety, The Post has learned." ...

... NEW. Digby: "...their antics in the face of criticism proves in living color what we see in so many individual incidents: they don't just want respect, they want submission. They will brook no discussion and accept no accountability, have no use for psychology or patience because the weapons in their holsters should be sufficient to gain instant compliance. We cannot call ourselves a free society as long as that is the case."

Kate Mather & Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times: "The autopsy of Ezell Ford, a mentally ill black man killed by police in South Los Angeles in August, shows he was shot three times -- once in the right side, once in the right back and once in the right arm.... The autopsy does not make any judgment about the conduct of the officers in the shooting or provide a detailed narrative of what occurred.... The Los Angeles Police Department has said Ford, 25, was shot while he struggled with two officers and attempted to remove the pistol from the holster of one of them. Other people quoted in news reports after the Aug. 11 shooting disputed the police account."

Hit-and-Run Bishop. Colin Campbell of the Balimore Sun: "The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland on Sunday identified the driver in a fatal bicycle crash Saturday in North Roland Park as its second-ranking official, Bishop Suffragan Heather Elizabeth Cook. Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton sent an email Sunday to clergy members with information about the crash. Police said 41-year-old Thomas Palermo was killed. Witnesses and a spokesman for the Police Department said the 58-year-old woman driving the car left the scene of the crash in the 5700 block of Roland Ave. shortly before returning.... Sutton said Cook has been placed on administrative leave 'because the nature of the accident could result in criminal charges.'"

Petula Dvorak of the Washington Post on those darling McDonnell offspring: "The same grown children who helped trigger the federal investigation that led to their parents' trial and convictions, the adult kids who allegedly raided the state's mansion for glasses, pots and pans, and stacks and stacks of food, crates of eggs, cases of alcohol, who had a wedding catering bill paid for, flitted across the country on a private jet, played $2,000 golf rounds and took a $10,000 party gift -- now at least one of them blames mom.... For a couple of decades now, the McDonnells apparently knew mom was losing it. But everyone was cool with riding out this wild public office thing as far as it went (White House 2016?!). Then they'd spackle Mom's psyche."

Presidential Election

Brian Beutler of the New Republic: President Obama's recent executive actions have consequences for Hillary Clinton. "If Hillary Clinton is able to leverage the enshrinement of executive actions undertaken during Obama's presidency to pass legislation that addresses climate change and U.S. immigration in comprehensive and lasting ways, her presidential legacy will exceed her husband's and rival Obama's. She would be able to accomplish, with fresh tactics, what Obama simply can't at this point. And all because he's refusing to exile himself the way a late-term president is expected to."

Paul Waldman: Despite all the talk & handwringing about it, Hillary Clinton "doesn't need to win the white vote, working-class or otherwise, in order to become president. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate won a majority of the white vote was 1964. Yet they've managed to win five elections since then."

Passover with Ted. Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a likely Republican presidential candidate and a vocal pro-Israel hawk, is being advertised as a featured attraction at a string of ritzy resort vacation getaways catering to religious Jews. Cruz, along with several rabbis, is listed as a speaker at four different vacation spots, including Aspen, over Passover, the spring holiday that honors the freeing of enslaved Jews in Egypt." CW: Sounds like loads o'fun.

News Ledes

AP: "President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years. Police allowed a few thousand protesters to gather just outside Red Square for about two hours -- a show of relative restraint for Russian authorities, who have little tolerance for dissent -- before moving in to break up the unsanctioned rally by pushing the demonstrators toward subway entrances. The rally came hours after anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny was found guilty of what activists said were trumped-up charges and given a suspended sentence of 3½ years. His younger brother was sent to prison, a move that drew comparisons to the Stalin-era practice of punishing family members of enemies of the state."

AP: "Former President George H.W. Bush was released from a Houston hospital Tuesday after a stay of about a week for treatment of shortness of breath. The 90-year-old Bush left Houston's Methodist Hospital, was resting at home...."

Guardian: "Teams searching for AirAsia flight QZ8501 have begun recovering bodies from the Java Sea, as Indonesian officials confirmed that scattered debris found nearby came from the plane. A major search and rescue effort involving at least 30 ships and 15 aircraft from nine countries has been looking for the aircraft since it vanished early on Sunday morning while carrying 162 passengers from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. The findings mark a breakthrough on the operation's third day."

Sunday
Dec282014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 29, 2014

David Cohen of Politico: "President Barack Obama on Sunday praised the official end of the 13-year U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan, offering his remarks to coincide with a handover ceremony there. 'On this day,' Obama said in a statement, 'we give thanks to our troops and intelligence personnel who have been relentless against the terrorists responsible for 9/11 -- devastating the core Al Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives. We are safer, and our nation is more secure, because of their service.'" ...

... Tim Craig & Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "After pledging for years to crack down on violent Islamists, Pakistani authorities are now taking exceptional steps to do so, with a major military operation against the militants and a vow to rein in radical propaganda. The government's campaign has intensified in the wake of a massacre at an elite army-run school in Peshawar this month, reflecting a striking change in public opinion about the danger posed by the extremist groups." ...

... CW Note: Yes, I think these stories are related. The only hope for the region is for the general public to reject extremism & for governments to control extremists. (Of course we need the same kind of movement in the U.S., even if our powerful extremists are not quite as extreme as the Taliban & similar groups.)

Josh Lederman of the AP: "Warning from President Barack Obama to congressional Republicans: I have a veto pen and, come January, I won't be afraid to use it.... 'I haven't used the veto pen very often since I've been in office,' Obama said in an NPR interview airing Monday. 'Now, I suspect, there are going to be some times where I've got to pull that pen out.' He added: 'I'm going to defend gains that we've made in health care. I'm going to defend gains that we've made on environment and clean air and clean water.'" The audio of the interview & a story by Steve Inskeep is here. The transcript is here.

I certainly don't support that action yesterday; I think it was very inappropriate at that event. To bring politics or to bring issues into that event was very inappropriate and I do not support it. He is the mayor of New York. He is there representing the citizens of New York to express their remorse and their regret at that death. It was very inappropriate. -- New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton

... David Goodman of the New York Times: "William J. Bratton, the New York City police commissioner, said on Sunday [on CBS's 'Face the Nation'] that a silent protest by scores of his officers who turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio as he spoke during a funeral service for a fellow officer killed in the line of duty was 'very inappropriate.'" ...

... Hunter Schwartz of the Washington Post: "Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called frustration in New York and across the country surrounding policing the 'tip of the iceberg' during an appearance Sunday on NBC's 'Meet the Press.' 'This is about the continuing poverty rates, the continuing growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor,' he said. 'It's about unemployment issues. There are so many national issues that have to be addressed that it isn't just policing, as I think we all well know.'... 'The issues go far beyond race relations in this city,' he said. 'They involve labor contracts. They involve a lot of history in the city that's really different from some of what's going on in the country as a whole.'" ...

... David McCabe of the Hill: "New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) should apologize to the city's police officers for comments he had made about how the police treat minorities, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) said on Sunday. 'He should have apologized for the remarks he made that gave the police the impression that he's on the other side,' he said on the CBS program 'Face the Nation.'" ...

... David McCabe: "Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) on Sunday criticized President Obama's association with the Rev. Al Sharpton, arguing it sends a signal of hostility to police. Giuliani, who has battled with Sharpton throughout his career, said Obama couldn't expect to be seen as supportive of police as long as he associates with Sharpton, an MSNBC talk-show host and longtime activist. 'If he would like to have a poster boy for hating the police, it's Al Sharpton,' he said while appearing on CBS' Face the Nation. 'You make Al Sharpton a close advisor, you're going to turn the police in America against you.' 'To have that man sitting next to you speaks volumes,' he said." ...

... Hunter Schwartz: "A Ferguson Police Department public relations officer has been put on administrative leave over his response to the destruction of a memorial to Michael Brown, the teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer.... 'I don't know that a crime has occurred,' Officer Timothy Zoll said Friday in an interview with The Washington Post. 'But a pile of trash in the middle of the street? The Washington Post is making a call over this?' The department said in a statement Saturday that Zoll misled his superiors about the contents of the interview, that he had been placed on unpaid leave, effective immediately, and that there would be disciplinary proceedings."

Not All Police Discrimination Is Racist. Dan Seufert of the Manchester, New Hampshire, Union Leader: The police chief of New London, New Hampshire, offered to drop underage alcohol-possession charges if she posed nude for him in the basement of the police station. The town awarded her a $70,000 settlement, & the chief "will never be allowed to serve as a police officer again.... State prosecutors, while calling Seastrand's actions 'abhorrent behavior and unacceptable behavior for anyone in that type of a position,' did not file criminal charges against him. They later explained that the only law applicable to the case was the abuse of power statute, under which a public official is guilty of a misdemeanor...."

Tammany Hall on the Hudson, Ctd. Jesse McKinley & Vivian Yee of the New York Times: "A day after the governors of New York and New Jersey rejected legislation aimed at upending a culture of political interference at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bill's bistate sponsors said they ... that prospects for overriding the veto seemed slim at best. Neither Legislature has accomplished that feat with Mr. Cuomo, who was elected to a second term in November, or during Mr. Christie's nearly five years in office." ...

... CW: If the bill was so good it received unanimous approval in both state legislatures, I'm having a little trouble understanding why some legislators -- like New Jersey senate leader Tom Kean, Jr., -- are suddenly against it. Are they really that tight with their governors? Neither Christie nor Cuomo is particularly popular, & this stunt isn't going to raise their favorables.

Paul Krugman on austerity in hard times -- a self-inflicted wound.

John Vidal of the Guardian: "In 2015, [Pope Francis] will issue a lengthy message on the subject [of climate change] to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world's main religions. The reason for such frenetic activity, says Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is the pope's wish to directly influence next year's crucial UN climate meeting in Paris, when countries will try to conclude 20 years of fraught negotiations with a universal commitment to reduce emissions." ...

... CW: When it comes to climate change, Roman Catholic altar boys like John Boehner, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio & Bobby Jindal all have voiced some version of the "I am not a scientist" disclaimer. Will they follow with, "The Pope is not a scientist, man"?

** "Chickenhawk Nation." Jim Fallows of the Atlantic: Americans' "reverent but disengaged attitude toward the military ... has become so familiar that we assume it is the American norm. But it is not.... [During World War II & in the decades after it,] American culture was sufficiently at ease with the military to make fun of it, a stance now hard to imagine outside the military itself.... The distance between today's stateside America and its always-at-war expeditionary troops is extraordinary.... America's distance from the military makes the country too willing to go to war, and too callous about the damage warfare inflicts."

Koch for the Defense. Roy Wenzl of the Wichita Eagle: As the result of a federal criminal case against him, Charles Koch realized that the nation's criminal justice system was askew. "The Corpus Christi case led Charles Koch and his company to give money, starting about 10 years ago, to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers." Koch also believes too many Americans are in jail for nonviolent crimes. "The nation's criminal justice system needs reform, 'especially for the disadvantaged,' Koch said, 'making it fair and making (criminal) sentences more appropriate to the crime that has been committed.' [Koch's chief counsel Michael] Holden said legislators in recent decades drifted into a habit of adding more laws every year and taking stands to show themselves as 'getting tough on crime.' ... The weight has fallen most heavily on minorities, Holden said." ...

     ... CW: If this leads you to a Remembrance of Things Rand Paul, yeah, there just might be a connection. Madeleines unnecessary.

Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Sunday called on supporters to reject one of President Obama's nominees to the Treasury Department. Franken criticized nominee Antonio Weiss in no uncertain terms, arguing Obama had nominated the wrong person for the job of Treasury undersecretary for domestic finance. He argued Weiss would not put the middle class first, and that he was too close to Wall Street. 'Join me in asking the President to withdraw Antonio Weiss's nomination,' Franken wrote in an email to supporters..., with a link to the petition." CW: I signed.

CW: Amy Davidson of the New Yorker seems to think gay marriage will become acceptable in the South. She might be right, but I expect the usual Southern suspects see court decisions striking down gay-marriage bans in the same "acceptable" light they saw the anti-slavery movement & federal civil rights legislation, court decisions & executive actions: "Northern aggressors" forcing their ways upon their genteel society.

Stephen Sherrill of GQ picks the U.S.'s "20 Craziest Politicians." All but three are Republicans. The 20th, Joe Biden, is kind of a throwaway. Sherrill cites Biden for being "crazy enough to run again for president." No match for most of the Republican picks. ...

... Sherrill's piece was very upsetting to Kyle Smith of the New York Post, who chose 16 crazy Democrats, among them Michelle Obama & Bernie Sanders. ...

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: The New York Post's "attempt at false equivalence shows just what's wrong with the Republican Party -- and with those in the supposedly objective press who play the false equivalence game. Politics is full of exaggeration and hyperbole ... but that's what constitutes most of the examples in the New York Post's list of 'crazy' -- and why their list includes well-respected Democratic politicians, while the GQ list targets the GOP's fringe.... The GQ list, by contrast, is about mostly conservative politicians saying, believing and doing truly scary and unpopular stuff.... hese things are not in the same ballpark, no matter how much conservatives and many journalists would like to pretend that they are. The modern conservative movement really is full of crazy that is unmatched on the other side."

Presidential Election

** Mark Jacobson profiles Bernie Sanders for New York. ...

... Jacobson mentions that Sanders recorded a folk album in 1987. "Asked why he did such a thing, Sanders says, 'It appealed to my ego.'" It's fair to say, Bernie didn't exactly sing:

     ... Here's a bit more from the site Seven Days. Kind of a hoot, if not a hootenanny. Ah, even more here.

Alexandra Jaffe of CNN: "Jeb Bush is the clear Republican presidential frontrunner, surging to the front of the potential GOP pack following his announcement that he's 'actively exploring' a bid, a new CNN/ORC poll found. He takes nearly one-quarter --23% -- of Republicans surveyed in the new nationwide poll, putting him 10 points ahead of his closest competitor, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie...." ...

... As Greg Sargent points out, "The new CNN poll also finds that Hillary Clinton is far ahead of Elizabeth Warren in the evolving Dem primary: Clinton leads Warren among Democrats by 66-9.... The CNN poll also finds Clinton leading Jeb Bush among Americans overall by 54-41; she leads Chris Christie by 56-39; she leads Rand Paul by 58-38; and she leads Ted Cruz by 60-35." ...

... CW: That's kinda interesting, because Bush, Christie, Paul & Cruz hardly lack for name recognition.

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "Los Angeles police are investigating whether gunfire in South Los Angeles on Sunday night was aimed at two officers responding to a call, officials said Monday."

Guardian: "A Scottish nurse is being treated in an isolation unit in Glasgow after being diagnosed with the Ebola virus hours after arriving home from west Africa via a British Airways flight from Heathrow."

Guardian: "An Indonesian official said that missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 was likely to be 'at the bottom of the sea' on Monday morning, as hopes that an elaborate international search and rescue effort would find survivors began to fade. The jet vanished from radar screens on Sunday morning with 162 people on board, as it approached violent weather over the Java Sea about 40 minutes into a two-hour flight between the Indonesian city of Surabaya and Singapore. The plane, an Airbus A320-200 operated by an Indonesian subsidiary of the Malaysian budget airline AirAsia, reportedly requested to deviate from its flight path to avoid a cloud. Moments later, it lost contact with Jakarta air traffic controllers. It did not send a distress signal."

Reuters: "Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday that four more bodies had been recovered from the car ferry that caught fire off the coast of Greece, bringing the death toll to five. Renzi said during an end-year press conference that about 60 passengers remained on board more than 24 hours after the fire started and they would be brought to safety within 'a few hours'."

Saturday
Dec272014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 28, 2014

Politics as Usual. Jesse McKinley of the New York Times: "Acting in concert with [New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie], Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced on Saturday evening that he would veto a bill that would have brought a sweeping round of reforms to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, despite unanimous support from the legislatures of both states. The legislation, known as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Transparency and Accountability Act of 2014, needed approval of both Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican...." ...

     ... This story has been updated. New Lede: "The governors of New York and New Jersey, defying the unanimous votes of both their Legislatures, on Saturday rejected a bill aimed at curbing political interference and patronage at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, more than a year after lane closings at the George Washington Bridge set off a scandal that looms over the agency to this day." ...

... CW: If you want to know why the governors vetoed the bill, the answer is buried in McKinley's report: "... commissioners and top staff members are appointed by the two governors.... its reputation for rewarding connected officials with patronage jobs and allies with lucrative contracts.... the authority has a budget of $7.8 billion for 2015." ...

It's shameful. They ripped the heart out of real reform in order to maintain their control and power.... It's really just an awful thing for them to do. Neither of them can ever stand up and say they're for effective reform. In a competition between effective reform and power, power won. Reform ends on Christmas, but scandals go on forever. -- Former NY Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D)

... Here's more from David Klepper & Michael Catalini of the AP.

Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "The Secret Service began struggling to carry out its most basic duties after Congress and the George W. Bush administration expanded the elite law enforcement agency's mission in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. According to government documents and interviews with dozens of current and former officials, the recent string of security lapses at the White House resulted from a combination of tight budgets, bureaucratic battles and rapidly growing demands on the agency that have persisted through the Bush and Obama administrations in the 13 years since the attacks. At the same time, the Secret Service was hit by a wave of early retirements that eliminated a generation of experienced staff members and left the agency in a weakened state just as its duties were growing."

It Was All Mom's Fault. Justin Jouvenal & Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky[, a daughter of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell & Maureen McDonnell,] wrote in a blunt letter to a federal judge that it was former first lady Maureen McDonnell's materialism and mental-health issues that derailed the rising political career of her husband. The letter of support for Robert McDonnell was part of a trove of 440 submitted by his attorneys, who are seeking leniency at his Jan. 6 sentencing in Richmond.... In letters to the judge, McDonnell Zubowsky and another daughter, Cailin Young, also echoed themes that emerged at Robert McDonnell's trial.... Robert McDonnell's sister also took aim at Maureen McDonnell...." The letters from the daughters are here.

Joseph Califano, a top assistant to President Johnson, in a Washington Post op-ed: "The makers of the new movie 'Selma' apparently just couldn't resist taking dramatic, trumped-up license with a true story that didn't need any embellishment to work as a big-screen historical drama. As a result, the film falsely portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson as being at odds with Martin Luther King Jr...." ...

... Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who has seen the film "Selma" twice & watched part of the filming, discusses the movie & some of his real-life experiences. ...

... The New Yorker publishes rarely-seen photos of the Selma march, with commentary by David Remnick.

Dan Balz & Scott Clement of the Washington Post: "Blacks and whites live in different worlds when it comes to perceptions of the criminal justice system and the role that police play in society. But divisions within the white community are almost as stark, with opinions heavily shaped by partisan identification and ideology, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.... While 2 in 3 white Republicans say minorities and whites are treated equally in the criminal justice system, only 3 in 10 white Democrats agree with that view." ...

... Gary Langer of ABC News: "Large majorities across racial and political groups agree on two proposals to address police-community relations in the United States: The use of an outside prosecutor when police kill an unarmed civilian, and requiring all patrol officers to wear body cameras when on duty." ...

... Lisa Leff of the AP: "A high school basketball tournament on the Northern California coast has become the latest flashpoint in the ongoing protests over police killings of unarmed black men after a school was disinvited because of concerns its players would wear T-shirts printed with the words 'I Can't Breathe' during warmups." ...

... Darryl Pinckney, in a New York Review of Books essay on Ferguson: "America has always felt the necessity of keeping its black male population under control. Behind every failure to make the police accountable in such killings is an almost gloating confidence that the majority of white Americans support the idea that the police are the thin blue line between them and social chaos."

Kimberly Yonkers in a Washington Post op-ed: "This obsession with mental health as the root cause of gun violence is not only silly; it's dangerous.... According to one distinguished study, we would see only a 4 percent reduction in gun violence if mental illnesses were eliminated.... Gun violence is 20 times more prevalent in the United States than in other highly developed countries. But our mental health system is not substantially worse."

Tim Wu of the New Yorker: Flying is a miserable experience today, & the airlines are constantly colluding to make it worse. Why? Because they want passengers to spend on "extras" -- a lucrative source of revenue. "In 2013, the major airlines combined made about $31.5 billion in income from fees, as well as other ancillaries, such as redeeming credit-card points."

Joan Lowy of the AP: "The Obama administration is on the verge of proposing long-awaited rules for commercial drone operations in U.S. skies, but key decisions on how much access to grant drones are likely to come from Congress next year."

God News

December 25 Is Nobody's Birthday But Jesus's. Hemant Mehta in Patheos: "On Christmas Day, Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted this gem: 'On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton, b. Dec. 25, 1642.' It quickly became his most retweeted message ever, and many accused him of 'riling up Christians.'"

Bob Churchill in Religion News Service: "Atheists, humanists and liberals are now the targets of hate campaigns, according to a new Freedom of Thought Report, which found that some countries find the idea of atheism as a popular movement a threat to the prevailing order.... For example: ... in January, Saudi Arabia enacted a new law equating 'atheism' in itself with 'terrorism.'" ...

... Presidential Race

Steve Benen: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is launching his presidential bid with a totally non-political rally of far-right evangelicals. In preparation for his totally non-political event, he wrote to church leaders, "The time has come for pastors to lead the way and reset the course of American governance." Benen: "... given that the separation of church and state is a bedrock principle in the American system of government, it's rather alarming that a governor and likely presidential hopeful is looking to pastors -- presumably, ministers who share his beliefs and agenda -- to establish the course for public policy. Given that so many of Jindal's allies on the extreme fringe, this is all the more problematic."

News Ledes

AP: "Italian and Greek military and coast guard rescue crews battled gale-force winds and massive waves Sunday as they struggled to rescue hundreds of people trapped on a burning ferry adrift between Italy and Albania. At least one person died and two were injured."

New York Times: "The Indonesian authorities were searching on Sunday afternoon for an AirAsia jet with 162 people on board that lost contact with air traffic controllers hours earlier, the airline and government officials said. The plane, Flight QZ8501, left the Indonesian city of Surabaya around 5:30 a.m. for the short hop to Singapore, a flight that usually takes about two hours, the airline said. Air traffic control lost contact with the Airbus A320-200 at 6:17 a.m., about 40 minutes later, Indonesian officials said." ...

     ... Guardian Update: "Hopes were fading on Sunday night for the safe return of 162 people aboard the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 after the first day of the search was called off in Indonesia owing to failing light. The government in Jakarta said it did not 'dare to presume what [had] happened' to the aircraft."

Friday
Dec262014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 27, 2014

Another Slow Gnus Day.

 

 

 

 

Getting Away with Murder. Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "... the scathing report the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered this month is unlikely to significantly change the role the C.I.A. now plays in running America's secret wars. A number of factors -- from steadfast backing by Congress and the White House to strong public support for clandestine operations -- ensure that an agency that has been ascendant since President Obama came into office is not likely to see its mission diminished...."

Just When We Don't Need Bipartisanship. David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Obama is preparing a major push on a vast free-trade zone that seeks to enlist Republicans as partners and test his premise that Washington can still find common ground on major initiatives. It also will test his willingness to buck his own party in pursuit of a legacy-burnishing achievement. Already, fellow Democrats are accusing him of abandoning past promises on trade and potentially undermining his domestic priority of reducing income inequality.

German Lopez of Vox: "Given the wave of protests and attention they received, it seems 2014 may end up a crucial turning point in discussions about race and the criminal justice system." ...

... Ryan Cooper of the Week: "Pat Lynch, the president of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association..., and Co. might try just respecting basic democratic legitimacy. It turns out that people have a First Amendment right to protest. And elected political leadership ought to have control over the exercise of state violence." ...

... Factoid via Cooper: "Being a cop is not even in the top ten most dangerous professions.... A fisherman is over six times more likely [than is a cop] to die on the job -- and a logger 7.5 times more likely."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Steve M. Politico notices -- again -- that President Obama doesn't often attend church services. Somehow they never notice that the same was true of Dubya, & according to Steve, Reaganus Maximus never went to church (and he's been sainted!). But we do want to know in this season of Christian joy that the current POTUS is a heathen. ...

... Charles Pierce remarks on the same Politico article, but you'll have to cursor down to it because the link to the post doesn't work.

The Yahoo! News team picks the weirdest political stories of 2014.

CSI, Dog Shit. Karen Heller of the Washington Post: "Among the great unresolved conflicts between neighbors is determining the provenance of unwanted, unseemly and often unwittingly trampled dog detritus.... PooPrints, a self-described 'dog poop DNA matching service,' is the most successful product of BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, which specializes in canine genetic testing. Launched in late 2010, the company has on record the DNA of more than 30,000 dogs from Canada and 45 states, including Maryland and Virginia, and recently signed a deal to launch in Great Britain.... Currently, PooPrints is used only in multi-unit properties, although municipalities including Dallas; Hoboken, N.J.; and Gaithersburg, Md., have expressed interest." CW: I told you it was a slow news day.

Presidential Election

"The Smart Brother." Jason Millman of the Washington Post: Jeb Bush was against implementing the Medicaid expansion in Florida even though he had no idea how greatly it would have benefitted he state. He now has made a bundle of dough on it, but he's running away from that deal as fast as he can to burnish his nutball creds. CW: I guess he thinks from his gut just as his brother does. Great.

News Ledes

AP: "A protester who advocated for peaceful demonstrations in Ferguson was charged Saturday with setting fire to a convenience store in a neighboring suburb. A St. Louis County jail official said Joshua Williams, 19, of St. Louis, was being held on $30,000 bond. He is charged with arson, second-degree burglary and stealing less than $500.... Court records said Williams confessed in a videotaped interview, and that his actions were captured by surveillance video and by news media."

New York Times: "The turnout [for the funeral today of NYPD Officer Rafael Ramos] was extraordinary. Though no reliable count was made, it appeared that more than 20,000 police officers came to Queens, from as far away as Wisconsin and California and England, some driving through the night to make it.... Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., dispatched by President Obama, spoke movingly of the courage of policing." Many officers turned their backs when NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke. ...

... ABC News: "Hundreds of police officers turned their backs on a screen showing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as he spoke at the funeral of one of two officers killed last week in what has been called an 'assassination.'" ...

... New York: "In the week since the murders of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, people from New York and across the United States hav[e] been working to make sure that the NYPD officers' families are taken of financially."

NBC News: "North Korea's Internet and 3G mobile networks were paralyzed again on Saturday evening, China's official Xinhua news agency reported, with the North Korean government blaming the United States for systemic instability in the country's networks."

AP: "A leader with the Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab who had a $3m bounty on his head has surrendered in Somalia, a Somali intelligence official said on Saturday. Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi surrendered to Somali police in the Gedo region, said the intelligence officer, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.