The Ledes

Thursday, October 30, 2014.

Washington Post: "The U.S. economy grew at a 3.5 percent annualized rate between July and September, the government said Thursday morning, providing fresh hope that a wobbly recovery could be gaining some stability. The latest gross domestic product figure, released by the Commerce Department, slightly exceeded analyst predictions and caps America’s strongest six-month period of expansion since 2003."

Boston Globe: "Thomas Michael Menino, who insisted a mayor doesn’t need a grand vision to lead, then went on to shepherd Boston’s economy and shape the skyline and the very identity of the city he loved through an unprecedented five consecutive terms in City Hall, died Thursday. He was 71 and was diagnosed with advanced cancer not long after leaving office at the beginning of this year."

New York Times: "The Israeli authorities closed off all access to a contested holy site in the Old City here on Thursday for the first time in years, a step that a Palestinian spokesman denounced as amounting to 'a declaration of war.' The action came after Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man who was suspected of involvement in an attempt on Wednesday to assassinate a leading agitator for more Jewish access to the site, which Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary. The closure prevented Muslims from worshiping at Al Aksa mosque, one of the three holiest sites in Islam." ...

     ... UPDATE. New Lede: "Under heavy pressure and the threat of new Israeli-Palestinian strife, Israel announced on Thursday that it would reopen a contested holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday morning, a day after closing it for the first time in years."

Guardian: "Nato aircraft have been scrambled to shadow Russian strategic bombers over the Atlantic and Black Sea and fighter planes over the Baltic in what the western alliance called an unusual burst of activity as tensions remain elevated because of the situation in Ukraine. In all, Nato said, its jets intercepted four groups of Russian aircraft in about 24 hours since Tuesday and some were still on manoeuvres late on Wednesday afternoon. 'These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European air space,' the alliance said."

Sports Illustrated: The San Francisco Giants are once again the champions of baseball. On Wednesday night, the Giants downed the Royals, 3-2, in Game 7 of the World Series in Kansas City to capture the team's third title since 2010."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, October 29, 2014.

TMZ: "Joan Rivers' daughter Melissa has retained a law firm that will file a major lawsuit over her mom's death ... TMZ has confirmed.... The firm -- Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman, Mackauf, Bloom & Rubinowitz will file a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the clinic where Joan stopped breathing and the doctors who were involved."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
October 30

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

He Took the Money & Ran. New York Times: When Credit Suisse erroneously dropped $1.5MM in the business account of hedge-fund manager Joseph Galbraith, Galbraith kept the money & has moved to parts unknown. He has not completely disappeared as he's had contact with the New York Times (directly or indirectly): in an e-mail he called Credit Suisse's suit against him “ridiculous, bordering on laughable.”

Andrew Rice of New York: "Matt Taibbi, the star magazine writer hired earlier this year to start a satirical website for billionaire Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media, is on a leave of absence from the company after disagreements with higher-ups inside Omidyar's organization, a source close to First Look confirmed today. Taibbi's abrupt disappearance from the company's Fifth Avenue headquarters has cast doubt on the fate of his highly anticipated digital publication, reportedly to be called Racket, which First Look executives had previously said would launch sometime this autumn." CW: Ah, "creative differences." ...

     ... "UPDATE: Taibbi has left the company."

Ancient Grains! Jeez, people will buy anything. CW PS: Unless you're a scientist with specific knowledge about the benefits of ancient grains as opposed to say, oats, don't write in & bitch about my ignorance. We all have our pet peeves, rational & irrational. Fad foods -- in fact, fads in general -- are one of mine.

Washington Post: A "virtual autopsy" of King Tut suggests the boy king had "buck teeth, club foot and a pronounced overbite."

Stephen Colbert describes his workday:

No Surprise Here. Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... online search traffic from behind closed doors in Jesusland suggests that the bad, nasty, sexual impulses righteous believers are trying so hard to shut down may be their own. And if Google search patterns mean anything, they’re not succeeding too well: studies consistently demonstrate that people in conservative religious states search for adult materials online far more often than people in blue states."

Jeffrey Frank reviews, for the New Yorker, a new biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. The review is fairly entertaining & informative.

Michael Cieply of the New York Times: "... several of the companies behind 'Citizenfour' — which takes issue with Mr. Obama’s expansion of Bush-era surveillance, and his administration’s attempt to prosecute [Edward] Snowden for espionage — are led by some of the president’s close political allies. They include Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company’s co-chairman, as well as Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant Media, and Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, who all have been major contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns."

Washington Post: "President Obama's credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York. 'I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was -- during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,' Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. 'It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were -- they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.'"

"Who's Gonna Stand Up & Save the Earth?" Not Stephen Colbert:

Novelist John Grisham recants his apologia for child porn. Good to know.

New York Times: "CBS announced a new subscription Internet streaming service on Thursday that allows people to watch its live television programming and thousands of its current and past shows on demand without paying for a traditional TV subscription. The new 'CBS All Access' service, costing $5.99 a month, is the first time that a traditional broadcaster will make a near-continuous live feed of its local stations available over the web to non-pay-TV subscribers. At its start, the live stream will be available in 14 markets in the United States." ...

... New York Times: "HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix. Just hours after HBO unveiled plans for its new service, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slower than expected...."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Following its initial mercy killing at the hands of Jon Stewart, Crossfire was rebooted last year with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones to dismal returns..., CNN ... scrapped it for good today [October 15] so that Newt can spend more time with his animals — and hopefully run for president again."

Joe Concha of Mediaite: "A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily." CW: I've caught a few minutes of Farrow's show a couple of times, & it was clear the guy was in way over his head. His performance was as embarrassing as the Russert kid's, though he isn't an obnoxious bro in the Russert-kid mold. I'm not sure if the suits will ever figure out that legacies & children-of-famous-people are usually not the best & brightest, perhaps because a lot of the suits themselves are legacies.

Philip Shenon in Politico Magazine: "If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows."

Snowden, The Movie:

... AND, Snowden's girlfriend is living with him in a Moscow apartment. David Harding of the New York Daily News: "His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, moved into his apartment in the Russian capital in July, a detail that was revealed in the new documentary, 'Citizenfour.'” ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Laura Poitras & making the film "Citizenfour." ...

... Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times discusses the film. He attended the premiere at the New York Film Festival, where the documentary got a rare standing O. CW: I'm kinda sensing that "Citizenfour" can best be described as "documentary as hagiography." And, yes, I'm definitely seeing an Oscar here. Call me an oracle.



A video for Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist-Man Rubio & Bobby I'm-Not-an-Evolutionary-Biologist Jindal, & all their non-scientist Republican friends:

"An FBI wanted poster shows William Bradford Bishop Jr. The image on the left shows how Bishop would look now. (Getty)"Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "For nearly 40 years, the legend of Bethesda fugitive William Bradford Bishop Jr. carried an air of not just evil brutality but refined sophistication. This was a man suspected of killing his family with a small sledgehammer in 1976 and setting their corpses on fire. Then he vanished, taking with him fluency in five languages, the experience of a world traveler for the State Department, and a fondness for playing tennis, flying airplanes and drinking Scotch. There were alleged sightings: a public park in Stockholm, a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, a train station in Basel, Switzerland. Now, in a potentiality stunning development in the case — centered in a municipally owned cemetery in the northeastern corner of Alabama — remains that were exhumed Thursday may tell a different story. Bishop could be the heretofore unidentified man called John Doe, who was struck by a car while walking down a highway in 1981, a person who appeared to be homeless, who’d worn several layers of heavy, dirty clothes and weighed just 155 pounds." ...

... CW: If you like mysteries & enjoy reading about how they're unravelled, you should find this a compelling story. ...

... UPDATE. Unsolved Mystery. Washington Post: "Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list." Original story further down this column. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead.

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The Commentariat -- August 13, 2014

Fred Kaplan of Slate: What President Obama is doing to protect the Kurds "has nothing to do with getting drawn back into the Iraq war.... The main reason for Kurdistan's stability is that in 1970 the U.S. and Iraqi governments decreed it an autonomous area. More relevant still, after the 1991 Gulf War, the U.N. Security Council, in, Resolution 688, declared the area a 'safe haven' to protect Kurds from Saddam Hussein's wrath. (He had killed thousands of Kurds with chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.) And the United States agreed to enforce the resolution with a 'no-fly zone.'" ...

... Martin Matishak of the Hill: "Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Tuesday that open-ended military actions, like President Obama's airstrikes in Iraq, should require congressional approval, and that a bill he's proposed would ensure that is the case. Kaine said that while he supports the U.S. humanitarian mission underway in Iraq, 'it is now up to the administration to receive Congressional authorization for the current air campaign against' the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)."

Bryce Covert of Think Progress: "The jobs that have been added to the economy during the recovery pay 23 percent less, on average, than those that were lost in the recession, according to a report from The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM).... The report is the latest to confirm that while job growth has been strong lately, the types of jobs being added may not support working families.... The USCM report also highlights growing income inequality, as the richest bracket saw a $490 billion gain in total income in 2012 while all of the lower groups saw a decline.... Things are only forecast to be worse, though. One in four workers are projected to be in low-wage jobs over the next decade."

Amy Goodnough of the New York Times: "More than 300,000 people who bought subsidized health insurance under the Affordable Care Act could lose it next month if they do not provide proof that they are living in the United States legally, the Obama administration said Tuesday."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "A legislative year in which Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio set out to publicly marginalize the more vocal right-wing members of his conference ended with them emboldened, and with new leaders ready to bring the right back into the fold.... On Capitol Hill, the Tea Party wing continues to drive the party's agenda." ...

... White-White-Whitey-White. Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "According to U.S. Census data, only 13 out of 234 Republican-held districts are majority-minority (that is, districts where white non-Hispanics make up less than 50 percent of the population). That's about 5 percent of all Republican districts. In contrast, fully 49 percent of Democrat-held districts are majority-minority." Thanks to Nisky Guy for link.

Immigration attorney David Leopold in the Hill: "As long as the administrative decision to defer the removal of a group of undocumented immigrants is legitimately aimed at more efficient use of law enforcement resources, it arguably falls well within the president's discretion.... In fact, presidents of both parties have used categorical grants of deferred action to postpone the deportation of large groups of undocumented immigrants, including abused women, hurricane victims and refugees. Therefore, to violate the constitution, the president's action must be a dramatic, extraordinary departure from universally accepted exercises of executive discretion. DACA or its expansion don't even come close." ...

... Elise Foley & Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "In a newly released memo, the Democratic opposition research firm American Bridge highlights 10 instances in which past presidents have used their authority to apply selective prosecution of immigration laws. More often than not, those instances targeted specific populations caught up in complex and dangerous foreign policy crises. But immigration lawyers sympathetic to the White House say that these actions still provide sound principle on which the current administration can act." The American Bridge memo is here. ...

... ** Alberto Gonzales! in a USA Today op-ed: "In spite of this humanitarian crisis and the economic burdens it creates for state and local governments, recently members of Congress failed to pass legislation to address these issues before heading home for the August recess. In response, the President announced that he will take executive action even though he previously professed publicly his power to deal with the influx of young immigrants was limited. I support the President's commitment to address this issue provided his actions are consistent with his duty under the Constitution to faithfully execute our laws." Via Paul Waldman. ...

... Oh, and This: AP: "Looking to make inroads with the rising number of Hispanic voters, conservative activists are offering English classes, health checkups and courses to help Spanish-speakers earn high school diplomas. Picking up part of the tab: Charles and David Koch.... Enter the Libre Initiative, an organization that has collected millions from the Kochs' political network. Libre, which means 'free,' pushes a message of limited government and economic freedom between lessons on how to build family-run businesses and prayer breakfasts with Hispanic pastors.... In effect, it is a shadow GOP -- one with a gentle emphasis on social services and assimilation over a central party often seen as hostile to immigrants and minorities."

James Bamford of Wired has a long piece on an interview with Ed Snowden, which begins with a lot of stuff on how the author arranged the meeting, etc. CW: That's as far as I got. Also, artsy photos of Ed, including a ridiculous cover wherein Ed fondles a bunched-up American flag while staring blankly into the abyss through crooked Russian-issue glasses. Aah, it's so bad, I'll share. ...

... Apparently somewhere in the profile those who bother to read it learn that, according to Snowden, NSA hackers are monumental fuck-ups. Dustin Volz of the National Journal: "The National Security Agency inadvertently brought Syria's Internet to a screeching halt nationwide in 2012 after a failed attempt to hack into the war-torn country's communications data, according to a new claim by Edward Snowden.... It is unclear which blackout Snowden is referencing, but any blackout would have the potential to disrupt communications among fractured rebel groups and aid the Assad regime." ...

... AND the Fuck-ups Are Dangerous. Kim Tummarello of the Hill: "The United States has a secret cybersecurity program dubbed 'MonsterMind' that is designed to detect and automatically respond to threats, according to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The program -- which had never before been revealed -- is capable of intercepting all foreign communications to people in the U.S., detecting and disarming cyberattacks and can 'automatically fire back, with no human involvement,' Wired reported in a lengthy profile of Snowden published Wednesday. The program was the 'last straw' for Snowden, who remains a wanted man in the United States for leaking reams of information about secret intelligence programs. Snowden warned an automatic program like MonsterMind could harm innocent countries, as cyberattacks are often routed through computers in other places. 'You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia,' Snowden said. 'And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?'"

Congressional Races

Shane Goldmacher of the National Journal: "The National Republican Congressional Committee, which came under fire earlier this year for a deceptive series of fake Democratic candidate websites that it later changed after public outcry, has launched a new set of deceptive websites, this time designed to look like local news sources. The NRCC has created about two dozen of these new faux news sites targeting Democrats, both challengers and incumbents, and is promoting them across the country with localized Google search ads." CW: Just another iteration of traditional GOP phony.

AP: "Businessman Mike McFadden has won Minnesota's Republican Senate primary and will take on Sen. Al Franken in November. McFadden defeated retiring state Rep. Jim Abeler and several lesser-known candidates in Tuesday's primary." ...

... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: McFadden "will begin the general-election campaign as an underdog against Sen. Al Franken (D). Franken easily defeated his primary challenger."

Greg Sargent: The Iraq War becomes an issue in the Iowa Senate race, with Republican Joni Ernst arguing that the U.S. should not have withdrawn troops from Iraq, & Demo Bruce Brayley characterizing her as a Dick Cheney Republican.

Rebecca Berg of the Washington Examiner: The Koch brothers-funded "Freedom Partners, this week canceled its reserved television air time in Michigan for the remainder of the summer and the fall, according to one Democrat who monitors ad buys -- effectively conceding the [Senate] fight [between Democrat Gary Peters & Republican Terri Lynn Land] in a state some Republicans are cautiously optimistic could turn in their favor.... The ad time the group had reserved in Michigan totaled roughly $1 million." Peters has been ahead in most polls by only 4 points. Via Greg Sargent.

Thanks, Wingnuts! Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Republicans are in a hurry to stop talking about impeachment ... because it's killing the GOP among swing voters.... The House GOP's lawsuit against Obama's use of executive orders is turning out to be a political loser too. In fact, it's not much more popular than impeachment.... What's even worse for Republicans when it comes to both impeachment and the lawsuit is that they don't even have the effect you might think on the GOP base. They do, however, motivate liberals."

Mark Sommerhauser of the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times: "Republican Tom Emmer coasted to victory Tuesday night in the primary election for the GOP nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.... Emmer advances to the November general election with DFL candidate Joe Perske and the Independence Party's John Denney. Perske and Denney were unopposed in the primary.... Emmer now becomes the general-election favorite in the solidly Republican 6th District."

Gubernatorial Races

Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Mary Burke cruised to victory Tuesday in the Democratic primary race for governor, setting up one of the most closely watched midterm races in the country between the former bicycle executive and Gov. Scott Walker. Burke, a Madison School Board member and former state commerce secretary, never faced a threat in her primary race against state Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison)." ...

... Sean Sullivan: "Polls show Walker has a real race on his hands against Burke. A recent Marquette Law School survey showed Walker (46 percent) and Burke (47 percent) in a dead heat."

Patrick Condon of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "Republicans chose Jeff Johnson on Tuesday to be their candidate for governor, betting that the mild-mannered political veteran is the party's best chance to unseat Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in November. Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner from Plymouth, led a four-man field throughout the night and, with 99 percent of the counted, emerged victorious with 30 percent of the vote." According to Sean Sullivan (story linked above), Dayton "is favored to win."

Karyn Bruggeman of the National Journal: "Less than two years after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School..., the package of gun laws passed posthaste by the Connecticut Legislature in April 2013 is poised to play a significant role in the race between Gov. Dan Malloy and his Republican opponent, Tom Foley.... Connecticut's gun laws played almost no role in the state's gubernatorial contest four years ago, when Malloy narrowly beat Foley by 6,404 votes, but that's bound to change this year now that the governor is focusing on his leadership in the aftermath of the shooting and using the issue as a wedge in an otherwise deadlocked race. The most recent public opinion poll, conducted in May by Quinnipiac University, had the candidates tied at 43 percent apiece.... Malloy's embrace of the issue could vex Foley, who has yet to articulate a clear stance on the state's bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, in the fall campaign. Indeed, the May Quinnipiac survey found that 56 percent of Connecticut voters support the state's new, stricter gun laws, while just 38 percent stand opposed." ...

     ... Update. Christopher Keating, et al., of the Hartford Courant: "Greenwich business executive Tom Foley roared to victory Tuesday night in a low-turnout Republican gubernatorial primary, setting up a potentially contentious rematch with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this fall that polls show will start off as a dead heat."

Presidential Election

Frank Rich compares & contrasts Hillary Clinton's boring book Hard Choices to Edward Klein's "complete crap" book Blood Feud: the Clintons vs. the Obamas. "You can't fault a reader for wanting to spend time with Klein's two-fisted Hillary rather than the often robotic self-­censoring bureaucrat of Hard Choices. Both these Hillarys are in essence fictional creations crafted for the marketplace -- one embellished with camp to sell books, the other embalmed with civic virtue to win votes -- so in the end, it all comes down to which kind of fiction you prefer. The real Hillary, whomever [sic!] she may be, is scantly visible in either book." Thanks to MAG for the link. ...

... CW: The only Hillary we wil ever see is the one reacting to her most recent bad press. After we made fun of her for a foreign policy platform that consisted of "telling America's story," which she proffered on the "Daily Show," her response was (a 100 percent scripted Colbert performance &) a tough-broad foreign policy interview. When people criticized her for dissing the President in the Goldberg interview, Clinton let it be known that she planned to "hug it out" with Obama at a posh Vineyard party. And so it goes. It is unreasonable to expect a presidential candidate to be candid, but Hillary's canned persona is not the usual product of campaign ops, like the fake Michelle Nunn her campaign proposed to present; rather, the fake Hillary is a reactive -- and therefore inconsistent (nearly amorphous) -- charade.

Paul Waldman in the American Prospect: Hillary "Clinton says that a [foreign policy] doctrine is necessary (though she doesn't use that word). The trouble is, she won't actually say what hers would be, other than to say she'd have one.... The appeal and the danger of doctrines is that they simplify decision-making, assuring you that there's only one reasonable choice in complex situations and unintended consequences aren't something to worry your head over." ...

... Maureen Dowd: "Hillary Clinton was one of the 29 Democratic senators who voted to authorize that baloney war.... It's not that she's too old.... It's that she's too old-think, thrusting herself forward as a hawk at a time when hawks -- in the season of Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul -- aren't so cool. Americans are sick of the idea that we should plunge in and plant our flag in the ground and work out the details later.... Besides, a Times article by Tim Arango and Eric Schmitt [also linked here yesterday] demonstrated that 'at every turn' the rise of ISIS's self-styled caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been shaped by the United States’ involvement in Iraq -- putting the ball of blame back in Hillary's court.... David Axelrod tartly tweeted: 'Just to clarify: "Don't do stupid stuff" means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision.'" ...

... Sam Stein: "... several Democrats insisted the rift [between Hillary Clinton & President Obama] may underwhelm.... On the issue of Syria, Obama and Clinton ended up largely in the same place. While Obama clearly moved slower than Clinton wanted, he did end up sending arms to the rebels -- even if he thought it was futile. In June, he asked for $500 million more.... And while Clinton may have expressed regret that the administration moved slowly to put its imprint on Syria's civil war, she peppered her position with skepticism ('I totally understand the cautions that we had to contend with') and drew limits to U.S. involvement."

Beyond the Beltway

Trymaine Lee of msnbc reports the account of Dorian Johnson, the closest eyewitness to the police shooting death of Michael Brown. The Ferguson, Missouri, police are still withholding the identity of the shooter. ...

... Marina Koren of the National Journal: "President Obama released a statement late Tuesday afternoon, calling the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer on Saturday 'heartbreaking.' ... Also on Tuesday afternoon, the Federal Aviation Administration announced flight restrictions over Ferguson, banning pilots from flying less than 3,000 feet above the St. Louis suburb until Monday. The reason given for the no-fly was 'to provide a safe environment for law enforcement activities.'"

The Brownback "Miracle," Ctd. Reid Wilson of the Washington Post: "The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday said it would file charges against the state of Kansas, alleging that bond documents failed to disclose just how much of the state's pension system was underfunded.... It's the latest blow to Kansas's bond ratings, which have already been downgraded this year by Moody's and Standard & Poor's. Those downgrades had to do with projected budget deficits after a [Gov. Sam] Brownback-supported tax cut left a projected $330 million hole in the state budget."

Andrew Cain of the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Bob McDonnell and his sister were desperate to unload costly Virginia Beach rental properties as the economy tanked in 2009, according to newly released emails today." ...

... Rosalind Helderman & Matt Zapotosky have the Washington Post story. CW: I have not been able to access the WashPo all day. I was finally able to call up this story using a trick (Control+F5), but I can't copy & paste text. The link may not work for you, either. ...

... I'm not the only one having trouble. Commenters at this site complain, too. One of them has diagnosed the problem: "Dana Milbank wrote a column that is unfavorable to the Obama Administration today. Maybe that's why we can't access the site." Yeah, that's probably it. ...

... Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "Today on 'The 700 Club,' Pat Robertson and Jay Sekulow did their best to paint the former Republican governor of Virginia as the victim of a 'political prosecution,' decrying his corruption trial as a 'political witch hunt' spearheaded by Attorney General Eric Holder. Robertson alleged, without any evidence, that Holder wanted to stop Mitt Romney from tapping McDonnell as his running mate in 2012 and is 'behind all of this stuff.'" ...

... More from Right Wing World

Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday tied Robin Williams' death, which sheriffs believe was a suicide, to the 'leftist worldview.'" CW: Curiously, Rush claims that leftists are never happy; we're "always angry about something." Um, doesn't Rush spend most of his show yelling & haranguing about stuff? Doesn't he seem -- angry? All the time? Maybe he's a leftist in disguise. Excellent disguise. He has me fooled.

News Ledes

Guardian: "Hamas and Israel have agreed five more days of truce to allow further talks after a tense final countdown to the end of the current 72-hour ceasefire on Wednesday night. The current truce, which is the eighth bid to stop the five-week long war, had been due to expire at midnight, and rocket fire on Israel two hours before its end prompted fears of a new outbreak of violence." ...

... AFP: "Israeli aircraft carried out air strikes across Gaza early Thursday in response to Palestinian rocket fire and shortly after a new ceasefire brokered by Egypt came into effect, officials said."

Los Angeles Times: "Militants with the Islamic State group seized several towns in northern Syria's Aleppo province early Wednesday, dealing a blow to rival rebel factions who were forced to withdraw from areas they took this year, according to fighters reached near the front line. With the capture of the strategic town of Akhtarin and a few surrounding villages, fighters with the breakaway Al Qaeda group have moved farther west and now threaten to cut off the rebels' main access highway to neighboring Turkey."

Guardian: "The death toll from conflict in eastern Ukraine has doubled in the past fortnight, the UN's human rights office said on Wednesday, as international wrangling continued over a controversial Russian aid convoy to the region. The UN office said its 'very conservative estimates' suggested the death toll has risen to 2,086 by the beginning of this week, up from 1129 on 26 July. About 5,000 people had been injured, it said, in figures that represented 'a clear escalating trend' of violence in the east." ...

... AFP: "After earlier vowing to block a massive Russian convoy headed for its borders, Kiev said it could allow the aid to enter the country after it was inspected by Ukrainian border guards and foreign monitors."

AP: "An Associated Press video journalist and a freelance Palestinian translator were killed Wednesday when ordnance left over from the Israeli-Hamas war exploded as they were reporting on the conflict's aftermath. Simone Camilli and Ali Shehda Abu Afash died when an unexploded missile believed to have been dropped in an Israeli airstrike blew up as Gaza police engineers were working to neutralize it in the northern town of Beit Lahiya."


Consent of the Governed

Jonathan Chait, in New York:

Obama's immigration plan should scare liberals, too.... The extremism of the Republican Party may have precipitated Obama’s confidence in unilateralism. To think that the cycle will end here, and that a future president won’t claim more expansive and disturbing powers to selectively enforce the law, requires an optimism not borne out by history. In the short run, we will rejoice in the sudden deliverance of massive humanitarian relief to people who have done nothing more than try to create a better life for their families. In the long run, we may look back on it with regret.

Chait is partially right. Any of the three branches of government can easily run amok. Right now we are seeing two branches -- the Congress & the Supreme Court -- do just that. House Republican leadership refuses to bring bills to the floor that would pass with bipartisan support. Many Senate Republicans refuse to cooperate in the writing of legislation. The Supreme Court is dismantling decades of Constitutional law. The only person who has any Constitutional authority to push back on conservative dysfunction, obstructionism, and yes, lawlessness is the President of the United States.

Strikingly, Chait leaves the most important party to governance out of his deliberations. He is forgetting the people: implicit in our Constitution (and explicit in the Declaration of Independence) is the Enlightened principle that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Currently, Congress will not put forward popular legislation. A good example is Congress's refusal to write gun control legislation last year, despite poll after poll that suggested the vast majority of the public -- including gun owners -- favored certain restrictions. Another good example: the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United & McCutcheon cases, each of which drastically cut back campaign finance regulation. Here again, the vast majority of citizens want campaign finance restrictions.

This is not to suggest that popular opinion is always just or wise. It isn't. But in our Constitutional system of government, the governed have little say in what the governors do. We can throw the bums out only at certain prescribed intervals, not -- as with parliamentary government -- in unscheduled votes of no-confidence. In addition, because of the structure of the nation, of the Constitution & of voting districts, we don't throw the bums out even when the majority agrees they're bums.

As a result, the governed actually oppose a good deal of what the governors are doing (or not doing). Today, they disapprove of the Congress by historically huge margins, & the majority also now disapproves of President Obama. The Supreme Court, historically well-respected, now can't muster a majority approval rating. These poll numbers point to the obvious: the governed are highly-dissatisfied with the performance of the governors.

I also do not suggest that governing-by-polling is just or wise. At times in our history (or perhaps even now), the majority of Americans favored an anti-flag-burning Constitutional amendment -- which would be so peripheral as to offend but a tiny aspect of our Constitutional values -- & a balanced-budget amendment -- which would wreak havoc upon our economy during downturns.

Still, it is not "dangerous," as Chait argues, for one branch of government -- in this case, the executive -- to unilaterally enact the will of the people when that will is inherently reasonable & fair. I cannot, for instance, think of any law-abiding Americans who would suffer under an assault-weapons ban. Similarly, the Supreme Court was merely playing catch-up with public opinion when it struck down part of DOMA in U.S v. Windsor

Our form of representative democracy assumes that legislators will legislate, presidents will preside & judges will rule impartially. The Constitutional structure, as it has developed under the two-party system, breaks down, however, if one of the two parties becomes essentially nihilistic, as the Republican party is now.

If the government is to function as the Founders intended, & as the people expect, somebody has to do something. That is the argument President Obama has been making for the past few months. He is suggesting, in a way, a limited form of parliamentary government, the structure of which permits the ruling or dominant party to enact pretty much what it wants, while the opposition has little recourse but to (a) try to sway public opinion against the government, & (b) shout at the prime minister.

In fact, most Americans seem to think we have a pariliamentary form of government. Presidential elections always get the highest voter turnout: that's when the unwashed masses rouse themselves to do their Constitutional duty to vote for the person whom they believe will do the best job of solving problems & moving the country forward. Voting for members of Congress & state representatives, etc., are usually afterthoughts except among highly-engaged voters.

Indeed, as numerous liberal pundits have pointed out recently, Americans think that if there is a problem, it is up to the president to fix it. If the problem persists because of Congressional inaction, the president still bears the blame. In regard to the surge of children crossing the border from Central America, for instance, polls have showed that the public blames President Obama, even though the Congress has refused to fund Obama administration proposals to alleviate the influx.

It is important to stipulate that we have no idea what sort of executive action President Obama will take in regard to immigration reform. But my guess is that whatever he does will fall within the range of the popular consensus. That is, he will use "the will of the people" as his guide, taking into account the limits of his Constitutional authority. This does not mean of course that all Americans will be happy with Obama's edict or that Republicans won't squeal. We have a substantial continent of xenophobes. isolationists & mean-spirited ignoramuses among us, the vast majority of whom vote Republican.

Chait's argument that liberals won't like it when a Republican president goes all-in for executive actions is correct. But I would counter that if we elect a Republican president, the voters will expect him (and it will be "he/him") to "fix things" in a conservative/antediluvian manner. Further, they will squawk if he fails, no matter how complicit the other branches of government. George W. Bush, after all, blew foreign policy big time, and he did it with plenty of help from Congress. But Americans are not blaming Hillary Clinton, et al., for greenlighting the Iraq War (as most Democrats did); the public still blames Bush. (Further weakening Chait's position, Steve M. argues that "a Republican president will do whatever the hell he wants no matter what.")

President Obama has received two huge mandates (2008 and 2012) to run the country. He seems ready, at last, to do so, and to do so by the only means possible when the Congress will not perform its Constitutional functions. Even if I may disagree with the substance of whatever executive actions he takes, I applaud Obama's newly-founded determination to take them.


The Commentariat -- August 12, 2014

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama said Monday that Iraq had taken a 'promising step forward' in forming a more inclusive government even as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki appeared to resist efforts to replace him as the country's leader. Speaking briefly to reporters from his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard, Mr. Obama did not mention Mr. Maliki but pledged his support for Haider al-Abadi, the man chosen to succeed him. And Mr. Obama vowed to step up his support for a new government in its intensifying fight against Sunni militants":

... Loveday Morris & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Iraq’s president chose a veteran Shiite politician to lead the government on Monday, setting the stage for a vicious political showdown in a country already struggling to contain an extremist Islamist insurgency. Even with the odds stacked irreconcilably against him, the incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, dug in for a fight. He used legal channels to argue that the appointment of 62-year-old Haider al-Abadi, who has been called on to form a government, is invalid." ...

... AFP: "Iran, a key ally of Iraq's sidelined Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said Tuesday it backed the legal process which led to him being replaced, following the nomination of Haidar al-Abadi as premier. The statement was the first official signal that Maliki no longer enjoys the support of his fellow Shiite leaders and politicians in Tehran to stay on as head of government in Baghdad." ...

... Katharine Murphy of the Guardian: "US combat forces will not re-enter Iraq, John Kerry insists, but the US says it will explore more 'political, economic and security options' as the country transitions out of political deadlock with a new prime minister. During a visit to Australia for the annual Ausmin talks, the secretary of state told reporters the US government congratulated Haider al-Abadi on his nomination, and he urged the incoming prime minister to form a new, inclusive and functional cabinet 'as swiftly as possible'." ...

... Anne Gearan: "The United States is ready to offer significant additional economic and military aid to Iraq under a new, less sectarian, government, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Tuesday. The Obama administration is offering the prospect of more money and military backing short of combat forces as an inducement toward the rapid formation of a new government to replace Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki." ...

... Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast: "President Obama got angry at lawmakers who suggested in a private meeting that he should have armed the Syrian rebels, calling the criticism 'horseshit.' CW: While it's impossible to know what would have happened had the U.S. armed the Syrian moderates, Obama's reasoning seems sound. ...

... NEW. ** John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "... what really stands from the [Clinton & Obama] interviews is the strident tone that Clinton adopted in her comments on Gaza and radical Islam. In defending the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's deadly response to Hamas's rocket attacks, she sounded almost like a spokesperson for [AIPAC]. In talking about the threat of militant Islam more generally, her words echoed those of Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, who has called for a generation-long campaign against Islamic extremism -- a proposal that one of his former cabinet ministers dubbed 'back to the Crusades.'" Read the whole post. Thanks to Diane for the lead. ...

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "For the 19 months since Hillary Rodham Clinton departed as President Obama's secretary of state, she and Mr. Obama, and their staffs, have labored to preserve a veneer of unity over how they worked together and how they view the world. On Sunday, the veneer shattered -- the victim of Mrs. Clinton's remarkably blunt interview with Jeffrey Goldberg..., [also linked here yesterday] in which she criticized not just Mr. Obama's refusal to aid the rebels in Syria, but his shorthand description of his entire foreign policy.... Mrs. Clinton is suggesting that she and the president hold different views on how best to project American power: His view is cautious, inward-looking, suffused with a sense of limits, while hers is muscular, optimistic, unabashedly old-fashioned." ...

... CW: Precisely why I don't think Clinton is in any way a shoo-in for the presidency. The majority of Americans now, as usual, are forward-looking. Going back to the good ole days when use of force was the U.S.'s way of solidifying its world leadership is not just immoral, it's "unabashedly old-fashioned." Clinton is the Been-There-Done-That candidate. Nostalgia could have worked in 2008 when the country was traumatized by the economic collapse, but it is far less likely to work now. ...

... CNN gossip reporter Jim Acosta: "Only days after offering a stinging rebuke of President Barack Obama's foreign policy, Hillary Clinton plans to attend a party in Martha's Vineyard alongside the President on Wednesday." ...

... "The Obama Paradox." Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect: Barack Obama "is one of the best-informed and most thoughtful foreign policy presidents we have had in a long time, but his very appreciation of complexity often comes across as indecision. No president ever wins points for being Hamlet. In today's foreign policy crises, there are few good choices. Somehow, this president needs to hold on to his prudence while finding more decisiveness." CW: I disagree with Kuttner on his analysis of the Middle East/U.S. analogy. I think Obama's analogy is apt. I probably disagree with Kuttner's larger point, too, but I'm not well-enough informed to be certain.

Zeke Miller of Time: "President Barack Obama hinted at the possibility of an upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court Monday during a fundraiser for Senate Democrats. Speaking to a group of donors to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on a break from his vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Obama said he needs Democrats to hold a majority this year to fill vacancies to the high court.... A White House spokesperson said Obama did not have a specific vacancy in mind Monday."

Dana Milbank says President Obama should not have gone on vacation: "The highly visible wartime vacation (Obama allowed himself to be photographed on a putting green Saturday with NBA star Ray Allen and retired pro-football player Ahmad Rashad) was not looking any better Monday as Iraq's political crisis worsened, NATO's chief declared a 'high probability' of Russian military intervention in Ukraine and Gaza remained on a knife edge."

Tim Mak of the Daily Beast: "On both sides of the aisle, there is a racial pay gap in campaign politics. Asian, Black and Latino staffers are paid less than their white counterparts, according to an analysis by the New Organizing Institute. For example, African-American staffers on Democratic campaigns were paid 70 cents for each dollar their white counterparts made. For Hispanic staffers in Democratic campaigns, the figure was 68 cents on the dollar.... Jamal Simmons, a Democratic political operative[, said,] 'The problem is: they don't hire African Americans, Latinos in the parts of the campaigns where they spend the most money. The most money in campaigns is spent in communications, polling and data. In those parts of the campaign, it's very much mostly white.... There's a presumption that minorities can't manage "white" issues. There's a presumption that white voters won't like to see a black press secretary, or that white voters won't want to see an African-American or Latino political director."

Alexandra Alter of the New York Times (August 4): Rick "Perlstein's new 856-page book, 'The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,' which comes out Tuesday[, August 5], is proving to be almost as divisive as Reagan himself. It has drawn both strong reviews from prominent book critics, and sharp criticism from some scholars and commentators who accuse Mr. Perlstein of sloppy scholarship, improper attribution and plagiarism." ...

... Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times public editor: "My take: There's a problem here. An article about polarized reaction to a high-profile book is, of course, fair game. But the attention given to the plagiarism accusation is not.... This one comes from the author of a book on the same subject with an opposing political orientation. By taking it seriously, The Times conferred a legitimacy on the accusation it would not otherwise have had. And while it is true that Mr. Perlstein and his publisher were given plenty of opportunity to respond, that doesn't help much. It's as if The Times is saying: Here's an accusation; here's a denial; and, heck, we don't really know. We're staying out of it.... So I'm with the critics. The Times article amplified a damaging accusation of plagiarism without establishing its validity and doing so in a way that is transparent to the reader."

Senate Races

Meredith Shiner of Yahoo! News: "... the path to victory in a state where both [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell and President Obama have approval ratings below 40 percent appears to involve taking a startlingly negative, partisan tone. Tough-talking television and radio ads have begun to flood the airwaves, an assault that will only grow more intense as summer turns to fall in a race whose costs are expected to top $100 million. McConnell and his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, speak as if Kentucky is in the middle of a cultural Civil War."

Mark Leibovich of the New York Times Magazine assesses the Michelle Nunn campaign strategy book that the National Review got hold of last month. Leibovich shows, point by point, how "this document confirms every worst suspicion that people tend to have about campaigns." CW: I don't think most of us needed written confirmation of most of these points. But kind of funny, especially where Leibovich goes into lit-crit mode.

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Zapotosky & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "With his Virginia Beach rental properties hemorrhaging tens of thousands of dollars each year, former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell turned repeatedly to family and wealthy benefactors for large loans, a man who helped manage the properties' finances testified Monday."

Wesley Lowery & Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The FBI on Monday launched a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer, an incident that has set off days of unrest in this St. Louis suburb and pushed the question of racial fairness again to the forefront of national discussion. Michael Brown, a college-bound 18-year-old, was shot and killed Saturday in this small, predominantly African American city after an apparent confrontation with police. His death immediately inspired both solemn vigils and angry protests, which in recent days have left some stores looted, buildings burned and shattered glass in the streets. At least 32 people have been arrested on suspicion of looting." ...

... Alan Zagier of the AP: "Police in riot gear fired tear gas to try to disperse a crowd in a St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black teenager had been fatally shot by a police officer over the weekend. Between two nights of unrest, a community forum hosted by the local NAACP chapter Monday drew hundreds to a sweltering church in Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot multiple times. Witnesses have said that Brown had his hands raised when the unnamed officer approached with his weapon drawn and fired repeatedly."

Mark Stern of Slate: "For the first time since the Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June of 2013, a court has ruled that the constitution does not protect gay couples’ right to get married. The decision, issued by Roane County Circuit Judge Russell E. Simmons Jr., of Kingston, Tennessee, holds that Tennessee's gay marriage ban is rationally related to state interests and thus does not violate the Constitution's equal protection clause.... His ruling, however, may signal the beginning of some rough sledding for gay marriage advocates. Last week, a panel on the 6th Circuit, which covers Tennessee, seemed poised to rule against gay marriage. If they do so, their decision would all but force the Supreme Court to confront the issue head-on."

News Ledes

New York Times: "After two days of defiant speeches and special security units deployed in the Iraqi capital, raising the specter of a coup, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki appeared to back away on Tuesday from his implied threat to use force to stay in power, issuing a statement saying that the army should stay out of politics."

Sky News: "The UN says up to 35,000 refugees have escaped Iraq's Mount Sinjar and are 'exhausted' and 'dehydrated'. The refugees, mostly from the minority Yazidi sect, managed to reach northern Iraq's Kurdistan region through Syria over the past three days."

Hollywood Reporter: "Lauren Bacall, the willowy actress whose husky voice, sultry beauty and all-too-short May-December romance with Humphrey Bogart made her an everlasting icon of Hollywood, has died, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. She was 89." ...

     ... Update: The New York Times obituary is here.

Los Angeles Times: "Actor and comedian Robin Williams committed suicide by hanging himself after first apparently trying to to slash one of his wrists, authorities said Tuesday. Marin County sheriff's Lt. Keith Boyd said Williams hanged himself with a belt in his bedroom, where he was found by his personal assistant shortly before noon on Monday."

Hill: "The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said it has endorsed the use of experimental drugs to help treat victims of the Ebola virus, which more than 1,800 people have contracted in several countries in Africa."

Los Angeles Times: "The NBA announced that Steve Ballmer’s $2-billion purchase of the Clippers had closed on Tuesday, making the former Microsoft CEO the undisputed owner of the team."

New York Times: "An enormous Russian convoy of about 280 trucks carrying humanitarian aid has left Moscow for southeastern Ukraine, Russian television and news agencies reported Tuesday.... President Vladimir V. Putin and other senior Russian officials all insisted on Monday that it was a peaceful convoy coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross."

AP: "A temporary Israel-Hamas truce was holding for a second day Tuesday as marathon, indirect negotiations on a lasting cease-fire and a long-term solution for the battered Gaza Strip were set to resume in Cairo." ...

... Guardian: "Local officials and humanitarian workers began to inspect the latest damage the war had caused in the overcrowded enclave, with assessments indicating earlier estimates may have been optimistic. In Gaza City, which has a population of half a million, 20%-25% of the housing stock had been damaged, said Nihad al-Mughni of the engineering department. Mohammed al-Kafarna, the mayor of Beit Hanoun, a northern town which saw fierce fighting and heavy bombardment, said 70% of homes were uninhabitable. 'Basically the town is unliveable. There is no power, water or communications. There are not the basics for life,' he said."

AP: "Police in riot gear fired tear gas to try to disperse a crowd in a St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black teenager had been fatally shot by a police officer over the weekend. Between two nights of unrest, a community forum hosted by the local NAACP chapter Monday drew hundreds to a sweltering church in Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot multiple times. Witnesses have said that Brown had his hands raised when the unnamed officer approached with his weapon drawn and fired repeatedly."

The New York Times' obituary of Robin Williams is here. David Edelstein's appreciation, in New York, is here. ...

... Hollywood Reporter: "Robin Williams's unexpected death Monday brings to an end the comedian's long battle with cocaine and alcohol addiction."


The Commentariat -- August 11, 2014

Lolita Baldor & Julie Pace of the AP: "The Obama administration has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces who have started to make gains against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, senior U.S. officials said Monday. Previously, the U.S. had insisted on only selling arms to the Iraqi government in Baghdad, but the Kurdish peshmerga fighters had been losing ground to Islamic State militants in recent weeks. The officials wouldn't say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn't the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations.... The administration is also very close to approving plans for the Pentagon to arm the Kurds, a senior official said." ...

... Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The weaponry is said to be light arms and ammunition, brokered not through the department of defense -- which supplies Baghdad and its security forces with heavy weaponry -- but the Central Intelligence Agency, which is better positioned to supply the Kurdish peshmerga with Russian-made guns like AK-47s that the US military does not use." CW: It's unclear to me whether Ackerman has done additional reporting to confirm the CIA's role or whether he is interpreting the AP story. ...

... President Obama, Saturday, on the U.S. effort in Iraq:

... Terrence Mccoy of the Washington Post: Nuri al-"Maliki, critic& after critic says, has ... shown himself to be a bullish and sectarian political player, one who has alienated or ousted many Kurds and Sunnis from his Shiite-dominated government -- a move that contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. And even after Mosul's fall earlier this year, when such criticism intensified, Maliki didn't temper such unrest with Sunni appointments, soothing words or conciliation.... On Sunday night, the U.S. government announced it was done with Maliki, throwing its support behind President Fuad Masum." ...

Juan Cole, on al-Maliki's move, which looks suspiciously like the beginnings of an attempted coup. ....

We used to restrain Maliki all the time. U.S. Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, deputy commander in Iraq until January 2011

... In this fascinating piece, Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker (April 2014) illuminates how an unnamed C.I.A. agent, with backing from Dubya's Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, chose al-Maliki as Iraq's PM, & how the U.S., under both the Bush & Obama administrations, "created a dictator." ...

... Tim Arango & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times on "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the architect of its violent campaign to redraw the map of the Middle East.... At every turn, Mr. Baghdadi's rise has been shaped by the United States' involvement in Iraq -- most of the political changes that fueled his fight, or led to his promotion, were born directly from some American action. And now he has forced a new chapter of that intervention, after ISIS' military successes and brutal massacres of minorities in its advance prompted President Obama to order airstrikes in Iraq." ...

... Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic: Hillary Clinton "outlines her foreign-policy doctrine. She says this about President Obama's: 'Great nations need organizing principles, and "Don't do stupid stuff" is not an organizing principle.... She used her sharpest language yet to describe the 'failure' that resulted from the [Obama administration] decision to keep the U.S. on the sidelines during the first phase of the Syrian uprising." ...

... CW: What Clinton, & millions of other people, BTW, fail to understand is that in 99 cases out of 100, there is not a "right answer," (though Clinton does admit she's not sure arming the rebels would have stopped ISIS, so she's not an imbecile of the McCain variety). One rare, obvious "right answer" is aiding the Yazidi. But helping Syrian moderates -- as Clinton wuld have done -- would not make ISIS extremists less extreme. You can of course suppress such extremism by various forceful means, as Saddam did for years (and as Clinton suggests doing here), but you have to win hearts & minds to effect lasting change. Force is seldom, if ever, the way to change opinion; rather, it solidifies the views of the opposition, giving them more weapons in their ideological arsenal & making them more extreme. Obama gets this. On the other hand, accommodating extremists doesn't help, either. Obama learned the hard way -- as he tried again & again to accommodate U.S. right-wing extremism. "Don't do stupid shit" is in fact both a strategy as well as a philosophy; it's a crude expression of political realism. ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "... no Clinton interview would be complete without a vague admission that she's running in 2016.... When asked about her own 'organizing principle,' she unveiled a potential campaign slogan: 'Peace, progress, and prosperity.' ... That's definitely an old-fashioned idea. MSNBC notes that 'Peace, prosperity, and progress' was the slogan for Dwight Eisenhower's 1956 campaign, and 'prosperity and progress' was Al Gore's campaign slogan in 2000." CW: Hey, it nearly worked for Al. If only he had added "peace," those Nader voters in Florida probably would have gone for Gore.

Paul Krugman: "Often -- not always, of course, but far more often than the free-market faithful would have you believe -- there is, in fact, a good reason for the government to get involved. Pollution controls are the simplest example, but not unique.... Commonly, self-proclaimed libertarians deal with the problem of market failure both by pretending that it doesn't happen and by imagining government as much worse than it really is.... You shouldn't believe talk of a rising libertarian tide; despite America's growing social liberalism, real power on the right still rests with the traditional alliance between plutocrats and preachers. But libertarian visions of an unregulated economy do play a significant role in political debate...." Krugman also provides reminders, as if we need them, that Almost-Veep Paul Ryan & Red State's Erik Erickson are always colossally wrong. ...

... Also, there are excellent comments in the August 9 Comments section -- too many to pull forward -- re: Krugman's thesis.

Adam Nagourney of the New York Times: "Republicans, who had appeared to hit a high-water mark in control of statehouses in recent years, are seeking to pick off another half-dozen chambers this year, taking advantage of President Obama's persistent unpopularity, anxiety about the economy, and a history of anemic turnout among Democrats in nonpresidential election years. In addition, the party that controls the White House almost always loses seats in statehouses in those years.... This looming battle is a reminder of the enduring political import of the 2010 midterm elections, in which Republicans, powered by the Tea Party and anger over Mr. Obama's health care program, picked up control of 23 state legislatures. These were the legislatures that oversaw redrawing legislative and congressional district lines in most states, typically in favor of the party in power, which has only enhanced their electoral prospects this year." ...

... ** Jason Zengerle of the New Republic writes a compelling, report that puts the GOP's Southern resurgence & ownership of state legislatures in its historical context.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Lame-Stream Media Rising. CW: For those of you holding out hope that any of the major teevee networks could restore some heft & credibility to the Sunday morning news desert, I have come to dash your dreams. Mike Allen (not exactly the pride of journalism himself, as he demonstrates once again in his "conventional wisdom" hat-tip to Russert) of Politico: "Chuck Todd, a political obsessive and rabid sports fan, is the likely successor to David Gregory as moderator of 'Meet the Press,' with the change expected to be announced in coming weeks, according to top political sources. The move is an effort by NBC News President Deborah Turness to restore passion and insider cred to a network treasure that has been adrift since the death in 2008 of the irreplaceable Tim Russert." ...

... AND, as reminder of what Todd thinks of journalism -- Tom Kludt of TPM (September 2013): "MSNBC host Chuck Todd said ... that when it comes to misinformation about the new federal health care law, don't expect members of the media to correct the record.... He disagrees with those who argue that the media should educate the public on the law. According to Todd, that's President Barack Obama's job." ... CW: Todd not only practices he-said/she-said "journalism," he embraces it. Letting "both sides" spin their spin is part of his credo. It's step-aside "journalism." In Todd's view, the Fourth Estate should act as mute observer-recorder, not as a vital check-and-balance to government actors. There has never been a time, of course, when supposed journalists didn't serve as lapdogs or mouthpieces for politicians, but for a major network news organization -- according to Allen -- to imply that such a practice would "restore passion and insider cred" to its news operation is pretty discouraging. And, no, I wasn't expecting them to tap Rachel Maddow. ...

... Update. Driftglass on the Ascension of Todd: "And so [NBC's] decision to stroll 90 feet past David Gregory's office to find another NBC Village-sanctioned 'Both Sides' delivery system for their weekly 'newsmakers and political junkies' Centrist porn makes perfect sense... The problem is that somewhere people with wealth and power -- the people who are footing the bill for all of this -- remain enthralled by the same, monstrous production of the same grotesque lie over and over and over again. The problem is that somewhere those people are still standing and applauding, and will go right on standing and applauding whether their 'Both Sides' fairy tales are reflected back to them through the lens of David Gregory or Chuck Todd or Joe Scarborough or a Pekingese riding a pachyderm." CW: Read the whole post for a fabulous demo of the "both sides" NBC "News" philosophy, as rendered by Poor Greggers in a "Press the Meat" dialog with Chuck hisself (Turness apparently likes to twist the knife. Poor Greggers).

Danielle Rhoades-Ha of the New York Times. Press Release: "The New York Times announced today that Maureen Dowd is joining The Times Magazine as a staff writer. The move will mark Ms. Dowd's return to her roots as a narrative journalist and is the first in a series of expected announcements regarding the magazine's major redesign, set for early 2015. Ms. Dowd will also continue to write her weekly Sunday opinion column." ...

... Joe Coscarelli of New York runs down "Maureen Dowd's greatest hits (as a reporter).

Beyond the Beltway

AP: "A federal judge has extended a months-long moratorium on executions in Ohio into next year as questions mount about the effectiveness of a new, two-drug combination being used to carry out the death penalty."

The Washington Post liveblogs Day 11 of the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell & his wife Maureen.

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "Robin Williams, a comic and sitcom star in the 1970s who became an Oscar-winning dramatic actor, died Monday at 63 in Marin County. The Marin County Sheriff's Office said he appears to have committed suicide. The news of the beloved actor's death rocked the nation. Channels broke into their usual programming to make the announcement, and within minutes, he dominated online trending topics. Williams was hailed as a comic genius was a star of both movies and television for more than three decades. But he also suffered from substance abuse problems."

Wall Street Journal: "Islamist extremists who have overrun swaths of Iraq made a rare retreat in an area hit by U.S. airstrikes and gave up some territory they had won from Kurdish forces, in an early sign of impact from the three-day-old American campaign."

New York Times: "Iraq's president on Monday formally nominated a candidate to replace Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a political breakthrough that also seemed to take Iraq into uncharted territory, as Mr. Maliki gave no signal that he was willing to relinquish power. The nomination of Haider al-Abadi, who is a member of Mr. Maliki's Shiite Islamist Dawa Party, came hours after a dramatic late-night television appearance in which a defiant Mr. Maliki challenged the Iraqi president, Fuad Masum, and threatened legal action for not choosing him as the nominee."