The Ledes

Monday, March 30, 2015.

New York Times: "On Monday, the [U.S.] government charged that in the shadows of an undercover investigation of Silk Road, a notorious black-market site, two federal agents sought to enrich themselves by exploiting the very secrecy that made the site so difficult for law enforcement officials to penetrate. The agents, Carl Mark Force IV, who worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Shaun W. Bridges, who worked for the Secret Service, had resigned amid growing scrutiny, and on Monday they were charged with money laundering and wire fraud. Mr. Force was also charged with theft of government property and conflict of interest."

Guardian: "The personal details of world leaders at the last G20 summit were accidentally disclosed by the Australian immigration department, which did not consider it necessary to inform those world leaders of the privacy breach.... An employee of the agency inadvertently sent the passport numbers, visa details and other personal identifiers of all world leaders attending the summit to the organisers of the Asian Cup football tournament."

Washington Post: "One person was killed and another was injured Monday morning when police with the National Security Agency opened fire on a vehicle whose driver refused commands to stop at a security gate, according to a statement from the agency. The vehicle slammed into a police cruiser after shots were fired." ...

... ABC News: "Sources say the two inside [the vehicle] were men dressed as women. Preliminary information indicated the two men were partying at an area hotel with a third individual when they took that individual's car without permission. However, it's still unclear how or why they ended up at the NSA gate."

New York Times: "Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister who was forced from office under a cloud of corruption, was convicted on Monday of fraud and breach of trust in a retrial of a case involving an American businessman, whose sensational testimony in a Jerusalem court in 2008 was instrumental in Mr. Olmert’s downfall. The American businessman, Morris Talansky, said at the time that he had provided Mr. Olmert with about $150,000 over 13 years, mostly in cash stuffed into envelopes, an assertion Mr. Olmert vehemently denied. Mr. Talansky, known as Moshe, had said that much of the money was earmarked for election campaigns but that some was for Mr. Olmert’s personal expenses."

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, March 29, 2015.

New York Times: "Rescue workers recovered two bodies on Sunday in the wreckage of the explosion and fire that happened last week in the East Village, the police said. One of two bodies was identified by family members as Nicholas Figueroa, 23. The second body was not yet identified.... Officials said the fire was most likely set off by a gas explosion. The explosion blew off the facade of the building, before spreading to four neighboring ones. Three of the buildings — 119, 121 and 123 Second Avenue — were reduced to rubble."

AP: "Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen will continue until Shiite rebels there 'withdraw and surrender their weapons,' a summit of Arab leaders decided Sunday, as they also agreed in principle to forming a joint military force. The decision by the Arab League puts it on a path to potentially more aggressively challenge Shiite power Iran, which is backing the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis."

Baltimore Sun: Protesters show up outside Bill Cosby's Baltimore performance, and one interrupts his show.

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
March 30

9:00 am ET: President's Management Advisory Board meeting

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Andrew Sullivan says he quit his blog because blogging is difficult, time-consuming & dehumanizing. CW a/k/a the Blog Nazi: No kidding.

David Graham of the Atlantic: "Trevor Noah's ascent on The Daily Show has been steep — hired on as senior international correspondent four months ago, he'll take over the anchor's desk from Jon Stewart after just three appearances on the show, Comedy Central announced Monday."

If you thought a meerkat was something like a mongoose ... Global News: "Meet Meerkat, the live streaming video service that allows users to host a live broadcast from their smartphones. If you haven’t heard of this new app don’t feel too bad – it’s only been around for about two weeks. But that hasn’t stopped it from garnering an estimated 300,000 active users, US$12 million in funding and even a few controversies."

In Case You Were Wondering... Megan Garber of the Atlantic examines multiple theories on why "men’s dress shirts have their buttons on the right, while women’s have them on the left (to the wearer)."

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "Inside the elaborate, surprisingly unglamorous world of presidential hotel stays." Or Why President Trump Would Resign Shortly after His Inauguration.

New York Times: "After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — 'Richard III, 1452-1485' — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times. With the solemn ceremony laid down for monarchs through the ages, the coffin was borne to a marble tomb adjacent to the cathedral’s altar by a party of 10 British Army pallbearers...." ...

... The Guardian has a full page of stories about Richard III.

Twenty percent more people trust Bill O'Reilly now than trusted O'Reilly before the press reported he was a serial liar:

East Wing Mystery. Washington Post: "There’s still no official comment on why [White House head florist Laura] Dowling is no longer at the White House, but according to a source with close ties to current residence staffers, she was escorted from the building on Friday Feb. 13." ...

     ... UPDATE. Thoroughly Modern Michelle. "Dowling ... left because her 'fussy style' was not in line with the first lady’s emerging modern and clean aesthetics, several sources said.... Recently the first lady has debuted a different aesthetic at the executive mansion. Last month, the White House revealed the newly refurbished and now decidedly modern Old Family dining room.... Mrs. Obama unveiled her 'thoroughly modernized' mark on the White House, featuring a custom-made 1950s-inspired rug and bold artwork, to surprised tourists on Feb. 10. Dowling is said to have been escorted from the White House three days later." ...

Reuters: "Whether it's the earnest Josiah Bartlet from 'The West Wing' or the manipulative Frank Underwood in 'House of Cards,' Americans prefer television presidents to their real-life POTUS, President Barack 'No Drama' Obama.'"

Washington Post: Scientists believe they've found the world's largest asteroid impact zone in Australia.

Washington Post: "King Richard III may have been buried quickly and without pomp the first time, but 530 years later, England is reveling in a final farewell to its long-lost monarch. On a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon on the battlefield where Richard III fell in 1485 — he was the last English king to die in battle — throngs of well-wishers, some dressed in medieval costume and blowing trumpets, gathered to honor England’s last Plantagenet king."

Out of the Parking Lot & into the Cathedral. Guardian: England is preparing to (re)inter a king today (Sunday, March 22). "... the coffin will be transferred to a horse-drawn hearse, to lead the way to a service of compline, with a sermon from a Roman Catholic archbishop, Vincent Nicholls. It will then lie in the cathedral, guarded night and day, until the reburial service on Thursday."

Politico: "The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it has granted Amazon Logistics, a subsidiary of the Internet retail giant, approval for a drone design that the company plans to use for research, development and training."

David Rackoff: "Things people say that irritate Republicans." Click thru. CW: I'll have to try to remember these. So I can say them. To Republicans. I hope I drive them all Rumpelstiltskin. Then I will ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster to forgive me for being so mean.

Prince Charles & the Duchess of Cornwall are in Washington, D.C., & environs.

President Obama hosts a St. Patrick's Day reception:

... CW: Somebody explain to me why apparently-intelligent people don't actually participate in events they attend but instead spend their time taking crappy cellphone videos, even when they know said events will be recorded by professionals & posted online. I get why a person would want to record some side-conversation with, say, the President, but the main event? It baffles me.

Patrick LaForge of the New York Times: "Welcome to a parallel universe. It is a world of tired news language where the verb 'stir' is bound to be followed by 'debate,' where those debates are always 'heated' or 'bitter.' In this world, anything newsworthy is automatically 'controversial,' and a 'hike' involves taxes, not a trail up a mountain. It is often a 'hardscrabble' place, sometimes 'densely wooded,' sometimes graced with 'manicured' lawns and 'leafy' streets. 'Landmark' agreements are 'hammered out' there, while adversaries are 'lambasted' and 'assailed.'” Meet journalese: a strained and artificial voice more common to news reports than to natural conversation." LaForge cites numerous examples of NYT reporters' use of these cliches.

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Saturday
Jan102015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 11, 2015

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Thomas Frank is here to annoy us one last time. ...

... CW: What's the Matter with Thomas Frank? For one thing, he relies on the "great man" theory -- that American politics is all about Obama, as if Max Baucus (now exiled to Siberia China) & Ted Cruz didn't exist. For another: Frank makes up stuff: "... enforcing party discipline is a job for the punditry...," as if columnists never criticized President Obama or his factotums Tim Geithner & Larry Summers. For a third, he dismisses certain inconvenient factors as immaterial or rationalizations even as he acknowledges them: "the reactionary white working class," "the incorrigible South": this is a good rhetorical trick, but it's a trick. Fourth, he generalizes what's wrong with the punditry by, ferinstance, citing as an example Lanny Davis. Lanny Davis? Puh-leze. All of this hoo-hah undermines any valid points that Frank may make: about Obama's & the Democrats' coziness with Wall Street, about their failure to propose solutions to inequality, etc.

Darlene Superville of the AP: "Continuing the break with State of the Union tradition, President Barack Obama will spend most of the coming week previewing more of the proposals he will outline in the address, including on identity theft, electronic privacy and cybersecurity, the White House announced Saturday."

Scott Lemieux has an excellent post on the history of "Republican health-care plans." Lemieux argues, case by case, that there is no such thing. CW: I think he's right, and I had not figured this out before.

Orange Squish. Charles Babington of the AP: "Die-hard House conservatives bungled a coup against House Speaker John Boehner but now look like winners, pushing Republicans farther right. Rather than punish and isolate those who opposed him as leader, Boehner surprised many on Friday by embracing an immigration plan that's tougher than lawmakers had expected." ...

Sherwin-Williams color swatch "Husky Orange."... New York Times: Speaker John Boehner returned to Washington last week "showcasing a very deep winter-recess tan burnished at his new condominium in Marco Island, Fla." The Sherwin-Williams Color Visualizer "found us the closest matches: 'Spicy Hue' and 'Husky Orange,' the latter of which fits nicely with Mr. Boehner's recent description of himself: 'I am not a squish.'"

In other Florida news, Gal Lotan of the Orlando Sun-Sentinel: "George Zimmerman faces charges of aggravated assault with a weapon after allegedly throwing a bottle of wine at his girlfriend earlier this week, according to his lawyer. Zimmerman, 31, was arrested Friday night in Lake Mary where he is currently living, but his attorney Don West said the fight involving his girlfriend happened four or five days ago.... Zimmerman stood before Judge John Galluzzo Saturday morning when a $5,000 bond was set. Zimmerman, who is currently unemployed, bonded out of jail at 12:25 p.m.... Galluzzo told Zimmerman that he had until Tuesday to surrender any firearms in his possession to a family member or a third party. The judge also ordered Zimmerman to stay out of Volusia County and to have no contact with the victim." Thanks to James S. for the lead. ...

... Hudson Hongo of Gawker reminds us of Zimmerman's recent brushes with the law. ...

... CW: It's worth remembering that Zimmerman, who has had numerous brushes for the law for violent offenses, long wanted to be a policeman. In 2009, he applied to be a police officer in Prince Williams County, Virginia. The county rejected him because of his bad credit history. Later, he attended a Seminole County, Florida, Sheriff's course on citizen's law enforcement. Pedro Oliveira of the New York Post: "George Zimmerman has placed at least 46 calls to 911 in the last eight years. In the last year, his calls focused on blacks in his gated community." Zimmerman never attained his career goal, but I suspect he is a "type" of police academy applicant. Some police forces probably recognize this type & cull them because of their attitudes. But many people with views similar to Zimmerman's probably have become police officers in forces throughout the country.

Brooks Hays of UPI: "On New Year's Eve, officers with the New York City Police Department failed to issue a single citation in Times Square -- one million partygoers, zero tickets.... Zero isn't just the total of minor offenses ticketed on New Years Eve, it's the total for the entirety of the holiday week, from December 28 through January 3." ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "WELCOME visitors to New York City! This has been the best time ever to urinate on a street, sneak onto the subway or run a red light, for the police force has been on a virtual strike."

General BetrayUs. David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "It wasn't quite so long ago that Congress saw the need to censure MoveOn.org's childish 'Betray Us' ad in order to 'strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus.' It turns out that the honor and integrity quotient wasn't that high after all, not just in his personal life but also as matter of national security.... [Its' a mistake] to put a human being on a pedestal and insist that anyone is above attacks on their honor and integrity. General Petraeus clearly wasn't, and it's more than a little ironic that he's now in danger of felony charges for actually betraying national security secrets." ...

... It's Obama's Fault. Michael Walsh of the right-wing PJ Tattler: "There has got to be a lot more to this story of David Petraeus.... How likely is it that the man who at one point posed a possibly potent challenge to President Obama's re-election changes had he chosen to return from the Middle East and run for the GOP nomination, and then was stashed in Langley by that same Obama administration in order to get him out of the way, and then was suddenly felled by a sex scandal, could be in such trouble? Somebody in the White House plays very. very rough."

David Sirota in Salon provides an excellent examples of how Republicans redistribute wealth from the middle class to the rich -- starring Govs. Sam Brownback & Chris Christie. "The tepid response to this kind of wealth transfer suggests that for all the angry rhetoric about redistribution you might hear on talk radio, cable TV and in the halls of Congress, the political and media class is perfectly fine with redistribution -- as long as the cash flows from the 99 percent to the 1 percent, and not the other way around."

God News

Fredrick Nzwili of Religion News Service: "International rights groups, churches and activists are escalating campaigns against female genital mutilation now that a new practice has emerged in which girls are checking into hospitals to have the procedure. In what being referred to as the medicalization of FGM, doctors, nurses and other health practitioners are secretly performing the procedures at the request of families." ...

... David Gibson of Religion News Service: "Cardinal Raymond Burke, a senior American churchman in Rome who has been one of the most outspoken critics of Pope Francis' push for reform, is ... arguing that the Catholic Church has become too 'feminized.' Burke, who was recently demoted from the Vatican's highest court to a ceremonial philanthropic post, also pointed to the introduction of altar girls for why fewer men are joining the priesthood. 'Young boys don't want to do things with girls. It's just natural,' Burke said in an interview published on Monday (Jan. 5). 'I think that this has contributed to a loss of priestly vocations.'" CW: It's unnatural for young men to do things with girls. That's what I thought.

Josephine McKenna of Religion News Service: "Archbishop Oscar Romero, the hero of the Catholic left who was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass in El Salvador, is inching one step closer to sainthood after his case languished in bureaucratic limbo for decades.... Romero's cause was started nearly two decades ago when St. John Paul II gave him the title of Servant of God in 1997. But his case never advanced amid lingering Vatican suspicion of Liberation Theology, an economically progressive approach to Catholicism that flourished under Romero and was suppressed by both John Paul and Benedict XVI." ...

... ** Charles Pierce on Saint Oscar Romero.

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "The Grand Synagogue of Paris did not host Shabbat services and closed Friday for security reasons, the first time that's happened since World War II. The Synagogue, the largest place of worship for those of the Jewish faith in Paris, was closed Friday amid the ongoing efforts by French authorities to hunt down the suspects involved in terrorist attacks around the city. The attacks started with shootings of staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo." Via Steve Benen.

David Gibson: "As Florida became the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage this week, Miami [Roman Catholic] Archbishop Thomas Wenski sent a memo to all church employees reiterating that any expressions of support for gay marriage -- even if it's only a tweet or Facebook post -- could cost them their jobs." ...

... BUT. David Gibson: "A Belgian bishop [Johan Bonny of Antwerp] who has been touted as a future leader of that country's Catholic hierarchy is making waves by urging the church to find ways to recognize gay relationships in which 'exclusivity, loyalty, and care are central to each other.'"

Michelle Boorstein & Annys Shin of the Washington Post: "A top Episcopal bishop turned herself in to Baltimore police Friday after being charged in the death of a bicyclist with manslaughter, leaving the scene, driving under the influence of alcohol and texting while driving. Heather Elizabeth Cook, 58, was driving her 2001 Subaru on Roland Avenue in Baltimore on the afternoon of Dec. 27 when she veered into the bike lane where Thomas Palermo, a father of two, was riding, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement Friday." Read the whole article. This was not Cook's first DUI.

Special Congressional Election

Rachel Shapiro of Staten Island Live: "District Attorney Daniel Donovan has been selected as the Republican Party candidate on Staten Island for the empty congressional seat. Party Chairman John Antoniello selected Donovan after interviewing him, as well as Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, on Saturday morning with executive committee members. Party bylaws allow the chairman to be the sole determiner of the party candidate in this case." It's not quite a done deal, as the Congressional district covers part of Brooklyn, too, & the party chair there has a say. But Donovan will almost certainly be the nominee. ...

... CW: It appears that on Staten Island there's a big payoff for letting a killer-copy walk. ...

... Tom Wrobleski of SI Live comments on Donovan's "sotto voce announcement," which I mentioned in yesterday's Commentariat.

Congressional Race 2016

** Welfare Queens, Revived! Jud Lounsbury of Uppity Wisconsin: "U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, you know -- the guy who got rich by finding someone to support him, has a pearl of wisdom for all the working single moms out there: If she wants to 'increase her take-home pay' instead of having yet 'another child out of wedlock' to increase her welfare windfall, she should instead 'find someone to support her.' Johnson is quick to admit that he stole this incredibly sexist riff comes from his uber-misogynist pal, U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman. But some things are so awesome, that you just have to use them yourself!.... Johnson and Grothman's modern redux of the 'welfare queen' has been rated 'Mostly False' by Politifact and was given 'Two Pinocchios' by the Washington Post's fact checker." With video. Read the whole post. Via capper of Crooks & Liars, who has more to say on Johnson. CW: I would take Johnson's phony welfare-queen schtick as both sexist and racist.

Presidential Election

"Awk-ward!" Philip Rucker & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: The battle between Jeb & Mitt (not their real names) is on. "Bush has been trying to consolidate support among establishment donors, leaders and operatives since announcing in December that he would begin laying the groundwork for a likely campaign.... But on Friday, Romney sought to slam the brakes on Bush, telling about 30 powerful donors that he, too, was seriously considering a 2016 bid. 'I want to be president,' he said, adding that his wife, Ann, was supportive. Romney has begun methodically calling donors, staff members and endorsers from his two prior campaigns to measure how deep his reservoir of support would be if he runs for a third time, his advisers said. He also has scheduled a series of public speeches...."

Dan Balz attends a focus group (of voters from across the political spectrum) in Aurora, Colorado. Jeb? Nope. Hillary? Not so much. Rand Paul? Maybe. Elizabeth Warren? Yes!

Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "The Iowa straw poll has survived. Despite calls for the Republican Party of Iowa to abandon this quirky tradition -- which, opponents say, unfairly hurts some candidates and detracts from the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses a few months later -- the group's central committee voted 16 to 0 on Saturday to begin planning a straw poll." CW: Sure hope Michele Bachmann wins again.

News Ledes

Reuters photo.... New York Times: "More than a million people joined over 40 presidents and prime ministers on the streets of Paris on Sunday in the most striking show of solidarity in the West against the threat of Islamic extremism since the Sept. 11 attacks. Responding to terrorist strikes that killed 17 people in France and riveted worldwide attention, Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists and people of all races, ages and political stripes swarmed central Paris beneath a bright blue sky, calling for peace and an end to violent extremism." ...

... AFP: "A German tabloid that paid tribute to those killed at Charlie Hebdo by reprinting cartoons from the French satirical paper mocking the Prophet Mohammed was firebombed Sunday, police said."

AP: "Two members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen have died in Los Angeles. Relatives say Clarence E. Huntley Jr. and Joseph Shambrey, both 91, died last Monday in their Los Angeles homes. Huntley and Shambrey were friends who enlisted together in 1942. They served as mechanics in Italy during World War II and kept the planes of the all-black squadron in the air."

New York Times: "Anita Ekberg, who became an international symbol of lush beauty and unbridled sensuality in the 1960 Federico Fellini film 'La Dolce Vita,' died on Sunday in Rocca di Papa, southeast of Rome. She was 83."

New York Times: "Robert Stone, who wrote ambitious award-winning novels about errant Americans in dangerous circumstances or on existential quests -- or both -- as a commentary on an unruly, wayward nation in the Vietnam era and beyond, died on Saturday at his winter home in Key West, Fla."

Friday
Jan092015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 10, 2015

So much for the G.O.P. not being the scary party. -- Lawrence Downes of the New York Times ...

... Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "House Republicans introduced legislation Friday that would drastically roll back President Obama's executive actions on immigration, including undoing a provision that will allow five million undocumented immigrants to remain in the country and one that protects young people brought to the United States illegally by a parent. The Republican plan, an effort to appease their more conservative members, would still finance most of the Department of Homeland Security.... The plan Republicans ultimately supported, after a week of private meetings and behind-the-scenes discussions, is far more expansive than what the House leadership team had originally anticipated." ...

It is outrageous and it is noteworthy that the House leadership has embraced the most extreme proposals from the most extreme members of their caucus. It is nothing short of breathtaking that this is their first move coming out of the box in 2015 when they get the reins of power. -- Frank Sharry of America's Voice, an immigration advocacy group ...

Aw, c'mon, Frank. I'll wait for the details, but news stories say nothing about alligator-filled moats. Why, this cruel, vindictive bill proposal is downright liberal by GOP standards. Besides, there's a CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLE at stake here. -- Constant Weader ...

... I don’t believe that the funding of the Department [of Homeland Security] is, in fact, at risk. What is at risk is the rule of law, and the sanctity of America's Constitution. The President has taken actions that are beyond the scope of his ability, and Congress cannot just sit here and look the other way. We have to take action. This isn't about funding the Department of Homeland Security. Members of Congress support funding the Department, but we cannot continue to allow the President to go around the Congress and go around the law and take unilateral action like he has. -- Speaker of the House John Boehner, this week ...

Spoilsport 1. Just picking on the children that came here at no fault of their own, I think, is a wrong way to start. -- Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.)

Spointsport 2. Only three words describe the Republican approach to immigrants: deportation, deportation, deportation. The 'deport them all' contingent in the Republican Party has the pen and the gavel in the House. I know the Republicans will stop at nothing, but I didn't think they would start with everything. -- Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.)

... David Rogers of Politico: "House Republicans filed a long-delayed $39.67 billion Homeland Security bill on Friday, promising new resources and flexibility for a sprawling department that has been hobbled for months by a rigid funding resolution set at last year's spending levels.... But the same bill still faces a knock-down fight over President Barack Obama's November executive order protecting millions of undocumented workers from deportation.... The GOP is determined to use this measure and Congress' 'power of the purse' to block Obama from proceeding. That task is complicated by the fact that USCIS is largely self-financed from the fees it collects, not appropriations from Congress. So lawmakers can't simply cut dollars in the bill." ...

... Lawrence Downes of the New York Times: "What's striking about this early Republican move is that it is not just stray artillery fire from the party's wingnut brigade, led by Representative Steve King of Iowa, but a product of the House leadership."

White House: "In this week's address, President Obama discussed the economic gains we made in 2014, which was the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s":

Lori Montgomery & Steve Mufson of the Washington Post: President "Obama has threatened to veto the Keystone bill, along with two others. Nonetheless, the House voted 266 to 153 to approve the measure, with 28 Democrats joining all but one Republican voting yes. The bill goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to stage a lengthy, high-profile debate that is likely to stretch through Obama's State of the Union address Jan. 20."

Perry Bacon of NBC News: "President Obama on Friday called for making at least two years of college education free and universal, a bold idea that reflects his desire to offer far-reaching proposals in his last two years in office, even if Congress is unlikely to adopt them":

... Andy Borowitz: "President Obama's plan to offer Americans two years of college for free has come under fire from congressional Republicans, who are calling it a blatant plot to make Americans smarter. The G.O.P., which has benefited from the support of so-called 'low-information voters' in recent years, accused Obama of cynically trying to make people smarter as a way of chipping away at the Republican base."

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, in a Washington Post op-ed: "Given how far we have come, and the scars that still linger, it is hard to understand the efforts of some to undermine our ability to protect consumers and taxpayers from excessive risks taken by financial institutions. Taxpayers should never again have to step in to prevent business failures; that is why the Wall Street Reform Act ended 'too big to fail' as a matter of law.... Opponents who are fighting to repeal these reforms, or impede implementation, make no secret that they are gearing up for a multifront assault to weaken effective oversight of Wall Street and protections for Main Street. Their focus ... amounts to an agenda that would take us back to the dangerous conditions that existed before the financial crisis."

Michael Schmidt & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors have recommended bringing felony charges against retired Gen. David H. Petraeus for providing classified information to his former mistress while he was director of the C.I.A., officials said, leaving Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to decide whether to seek an indictment that could send the pre-eminent military officer of his generation to prison. The Justice Department investigation stems from an affair Mr. Petraeus had with Paula Broadwell, an Army Reserve officer who was writing his biography, and focuses on whether he gave her access to his C.I.A. email account and other highly classified information. F.B.I. agents discovered classified documents on her computer after Mr. Petraeus resigned from the C.I.A. in 2012 when the affair became public.... [Federal investigators] recommended that Mr. Petraeus face charges, saying lower-ranking officials had been prosecuted for far less.... [Petraeus] has indicated to the Justice Department that he has no interest in a plea deal that would spare him an embarrassing trial." ...

... Thanks to James S. for the link. James writes, "Maybe for the wrong reasons, like getting Chaney for tax evasion... but Yea!" ...

     ... CW: Maybe this, uncovered by Guardian reporters (March 2013): "General David Petraeus and 'dirty wars' veteran behind commando units implicated in detainee abuse." But no. Wouldn't want to open that can of worms, would we?

Steve Erlanger & Jim Yardley of the New York Times: "The bloody denouement on Friday of two hostage crises at different ends of a traumatized Paris means attention will now shift to the gaping question facing the French government: How did several jihadists -- and possibly a larger cell of co-conspirators -- manage to evade surveillance and execute a bold attack despite being well known to the country's police and intelligence services? On its own, the Wednesday morning slaughter that left 12 people dead at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo represented a major breakdown for French security and intelligence forces, especially after the authorities confirmed that the two suspects, the brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, had known links to the militant group Al Qaeda in Yemen. Then on Friday, even as the police had cornered the Kouachi brothers inside a printing factory in the northeast suburbs, another militant, Amedy Coulibaly -- who has since been linked to the Kouachis -- stormed a kosher supermarket in Paris and threatened to kill hostages if the police captured the Kouachis." ...

... Greg Miller & Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: "French security services are likely to face intense pressure to explain how known militants -- including one trained by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen -- faced no apparent scrutiny before they launched this week's terrorist attacks in Paris.... The search for answers is likely to focus on a three-year period preceding this week's shooting during which two of the alleged gunmen, Said and Chérif Kouachi, seemingly dropped out of the view of French intelligence services as well as their U.S. counterparts." ...

... Juan Cole provides some biographical information about Sharif & Said Kouashi, the two men (now dead) identified as the Charlie Hebdo assassins. Cole blames Bush & Cheney for the young men's radicalization. This may be fair, but I would caution susceptible readers not to charge Bush & Cheney with these mass murders, as Cole's rhetoric comes close to doing. ...

... Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times: "The French authorities on Saturday were searching for the girlfriend of the man who targeted a kosher supermarket on Friday in eastern Paris, where four hostages died before he was killed by counterterrorism forces.... Law enforcement officials appealed to the public to help find Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, the girlfriend of Amedy Coulibaly, who seized hostages at the supermarket, Hyper Cacher, near Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris."

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. -- Evelyn Beatrice Hall, often attributed to Voltaire

Jonathan Chait explains freedom of expression to Glenn Greenwald, David Brooks, et al. CW: This really is not a difficult concept, people, and should not be so hard for Greenwald & Brooks to grasp. Both let (different) ideological precepts get in the way of their understanding of a fundamental, foundational principle of "free" society. ...

... Guardian: "Rupert Murdoch has been strongly criticised after tweeting that 'most Muslims' -- even if peaceful -- must be held responsible for the religion's 'growing jihadist cancer' in the wake of the terror attacks in France." ...

... Marlow Stern of the Daily Beast: Bill Maher "hosted the 13th season premiere of his HBO talk show Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night and doubled (and tripled, and quadrupled) down on the comments he made on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live Wednesday night where, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre that saw 9 fellow satirists, two policemen, and a maintenance worker be murdered by gun and RPG-wielding jihadists, the comedian ... didn't pull any punches, saying, 'hundreds of millions of [Muslims] support an attack like [Charlie Hebdo]'":

... Nabih Bulos of the Los Angeles Times: "Although the attack in Paris on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has been widely condemned online, some people have praised the violence."

FBI "person of interest."Jesse Paul of the Denver Post: "Officials released a composite sketch Friday of a person of interest in the bombing of a [Colorado Springs] building that houses a chapter of the NAACP, saying their investigation is still in its early stages and very much ongoing. The FBI would not speculate about a motive in Tuesday's bombing.... The sketch is of a balding white man about 40 seen dropping something off and leaving the scene just before the device went off, officials said. Federal law enforcement is offering a $10,000 reward for anyone with information leading to an arrest (call: 303-425-7787).... Officials say the person of interest, seen leaving after the explosion by neighbors, may be driving a 2000 or older model, dirty, white pickup truck with paneling, a dark-colored bed liner, open tailgate and a missing or covered license plate...." ...

... CW: Luckily, our American terrorists are often pretty incompetent: "No one was injured in the 10 a.m. blast Tuesday on the 600 block of South El Paso Street in a quiet neighborhood south of downtown Colorado Springs.... A gas can placed next to the device did not ignite...." ...

... CW: Hey, Rupert. I'm sure you agree that most Christians "must be held responsible" here.

 

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday that his eye injuries remain so severe that doctors can't yet determine whether his full vision will be restored. Reid suffered at least three broken ribs and broke several bones around his right eye last week while exercising at his suburban Las Vegas home. The injuries kept him from coming to Capitol Hill this week for the start of the 114th Session of Congress."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Federal prosecutors won't call New York Times reporter James Risen as a witness at a leak trial set to get underway next week for one of his alleged confidential sources, several people close to the situation said. The decision appears to bring to an end a six-year battle to get him to provide testimony against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who is facing ten felony charges in connection with alleged disclosures to Risen about an operation aimed at undermining Iran's nuclear program."

Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "Edward Snowden would like everyone -- especially his critics -- to know that he is happy with life in Russia. Happy, and also sober.... During [an] interview [for the PBS program 'NOVA'], Snowden focused on a speech that former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden had given in which he predicted that Snowden would be depressed and drunk." The transcript of the Snowden interview is here.

Congressional Election

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "The New York City prosecutor who oversaw the grand jury investigation into the death of Eric Garner officially announced his bid for Congress Friday. Dan Donovan, the Republican district attorney for Richmond County, is seeking support from party leaders to replace former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who resigned after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion. The district covers all of Staten Island and part of Brooklyn." ...

... CW: Normally, a candidate for public office will want to make as big a splash as possible in the announcement of his candidacy. As Donovan is surely aware, Friday afternoon, the time at which he made his announcement, is not a news-splash moment. Friday pm is best known as the timeframe in which public figures release bad or embarrassing news in hopes the public & the media won't pay attention over the weekend & by Monday, the bad news will be old news. One suspects that Donovan is trying to avoid media attention. For some reason.

A good example of why I Love Joe:

Presidential Election

Philip Rucker & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney ... told Republican donors in New York on Friday that he is seriously considering a third presidential campaign in 2016, according to a source present at the meeting. Spencer Zwick, Romney's former national finance co-chairman who was at the New York meeting, confirmed that Romney is weighing a 2016 run." ...

... Matt Viser of the Boston Globe: "Romney told people in the room that his decision did not have anything to do with current candidates being good or bad, although other sources close to Romney have said that he is not satisfied with the current Republican primary field, even with the addition of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Josh Margolin of ABC News: "Gov. Chris Christie, a potential presidential contender, was interrogated recently by federal investigators probing the 2013 lane-closure scandal.... Christie met with federal prosecutors and FBI agents last month during a secret session at the New Jersey governor's mansion in Princeton. He agreed to sit down with investigators voluntarily after they offered him a chance to provide his side of the story. Interviewing Christie was one of the final steps in the investigation, which appears to be wrapping up, according to those briefed on it." ...

... Claude Brodesser-Akner of NJ Advance Media (Jan. 6): "The owner of the Dallas Cowboys [Jerry Jones] is a part-owner of a hospitality company recently awarded a lucrative Port Authority hospitality services contract, raising additional concerns about Gov. Christie's Sunday trip by private jet to Texas to see his favorite NFL team play...." Thanks to Marvin S. for the lead. ...

... Brodesser-Akner: "Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said today [Friday] he 'didn't know' Gov. Chris Christie during the time that a company partly owned by his team was bidding for a lucrative Port Authority hospitality services contract, according to a published report.... A Christie spokesman recently said that the governor's friendship with Jones began in the summer of 2013, although in a public television interview last month, Christie told an interviewer that the two men became friends 'over the past five years.'" ...

... CW: I can't cite the best part of Gail Collins' column on Chris the Football Mascot & Faux Populist, because it's all very fine....

... Earlier, I thought all the hoo-hah over Christie's characteristic display of pathetic immaturity was a bit overblown. Now that we find out there's a quo for the quid, & that Chistie has already been reduced to sending his minions to "correct the record," making cutting personal remarks about detractors & paying his own way to Green Bay, I think the whole incident has legs. In & of itself, like Bridgegate, it seems sorta small potatoes -- at least at this point -- but the cumulative effect of these scandalettes -- which are of a nature people understand -- is to reveal Christie as a sleazy, two-bit crook & clownish thug. Not what most people want in a POTUS. ...

... AND, as Bill Kristol predicted, Christie presidential rival Scott Walker is using the controversy over Christie's relationship with Jones to his own advantage:

News Ledes

Reuters: "Two protesters were arrested at the McLean, Virginia, home of former Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday after 20 demonstrators, some in orange prison jumpsuits, walked onto his property to mark the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison."

Washington Post: "French authorities on Saturday were hunting for a woman said to be 'armed and dangerous,' who they believe is connected to three days of violence that reached a bloody denouement in twin sieges Friday. Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, may have fled France ahead of the attacks and may now be in Syria, French media reports said Saturday." ...

... AP: "A Turkish intelligence official says authorities believe the common law wife of one of the gunmen behind the attacks in France came through Turkey days before and may have crossed into Syria." ...

... Yahoo News: "Hundreds of thousands continued to rally in the streets of France on Saturday to support free speech and honor the victims of this week's terrorist attacks. The rallies across the country were marked by relative quiet, out of respect for the fallen, despite the massive size of the crowds."

AP: "A tail section from the AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea late last month, killing all 162 people on board, became the first major wreckage lifted off the ocean floor Saturday, but the all-important black boxes were not found inside. The red metal chunk, with the words 'AirAsia' clearly visible across it, was brought to the surface using inflatable balloons."

KMBC News: "The owner of a Shawnee, Kan. gun shop was killed and several suspects were shot during a robbery at his business on Friday afternoon."

Thursday
Jan082015

The Commentariat -- January 9, 2015

Obama Pushes Socialist Plan to Grant Hoi Polloi Two Free Years of College. Christi Parsons of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama rolled out a new plan Thursday to make two years of community college free, or nearly so, for millions of students across the country, a major investment that the White House cast as changing the face of higher education. The program, inspired by new initiatives in Tennessee and Chicago, could benefit up to 9 million students, advisors said. At its heart is dedicated federal funding to cover 75% of tuition, with the states picking up the rest of the tab":

... As contributor James S. wrote in yesterday's thread, " I think he wants to drive the repugs nuts." CW: More easily done than said. ...

... In addition, as Akhilleus suggested in the same thread (by extension), the Obama proposal, if implemented, would just lead to more college date rape since it gives more women the option to attend college. Phyllis Schlafly: "The imbalance of far more women than men at colleges has been a factor in the various sex scandals that have made news in the last couple of years." One of her solutions: quit granting college loans altogether. Seems to me that by Schlafly's standard, President Obama favors campus rape.

Neil Irwin of the New York Times: "The latest jobs numbers, released Friday,show that this basic story of a strengthening economy remains very much intact..... This is all excellent news for the people holding one of the 2.95 million jobs that did not exist at the beginning of 2014 (the strongest year of job growth since 1999)..... The big disappointment was on wages.... In Friday's revisions, November wages rose only 0.2 percent. And even worse, in December they fell 0.2 percent.... One mild curiosity in the report is that the size of the labor force actually fell.... When employers are so reluctant to raise pay, it shouldn't be shocking that more Americans choose to sit at home and remain out of the labor force."

The Party of Voodoo. Paul Krugman: "... we’re looking at a political subculture in which ideological tenets are simply not to be questioned, no matter what. Supply-side economics is valid no matter what actually happens to the economy, guaranteed health insurance must be a failure even if it's working, and anyone who points out the troubling facts is ipso facto an enemy. And we're not talking about marginal figures. You sometimes hear claims that the old-fashioned Republican establishment is making a comeback, that Tea Party extremists are on the run and we can get back to bipartisan cooperation. But that is a fantasy. We can't have meaningful cooperation when we can't agree on reality, when even establishment figures in the Republican Party essentially believe that facts have a liberal bias."

Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact: "In remarks from the Senate floor, newly elevated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested that his party's takeover of Senate control 'appears to coincide' with recent good economic news.... McConnell stopped short of saying the Republican Senate takeover actually caused an economic improvement, though many observers assumed that was what he was trying to imply.... Even leaving aside the question of causation, key statistics show that the economic recovery was under way well before September, which is our best estimate for when the "expectation" of a GOP Senate solidified. We rate the statement False." ....

... Happily, James Carroll of the Louisville Courier-Journal (Mitch's homestate paper) picked up the PolitiFact analysis & even threw in the Democratic National Committee's response to Mitch's claim, which began, "Hahahahahahahahahahaha." ...

... Greg Sargent: "... the humor value of this aside, the serious point is that McConnell is actually talking about what's to come, and previewing how Republicans will justify their coming policy agenda.... The idea is that the increased confidence generated by the impending GOP takeover of Congress is responsible for the recovery -- which is exactly why we should now go forward with implementing a Republican economic agenda." ...

... ** Whenever you get confused about "dynamic scoring" or forget why the Congressional Budget Office has heretofore been important, read or re-read this piece by Jonathan Chait, published January 7.

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The House on Thursday easily passed legislation that would redefine a full-time worker under the Affordable Care Act, brushing aside qualms from conservatives and liberals who fear the bill would prompt employers to cut worker hours to avoid being forced to offer them health insurance. The Save American Workers Act, which passed the House by 252 to 172..., would change the definition of a full-time worker under the health law from one who works 30 hours a week to one who works 40 hours. A dozen Democrats joined all Republicans in support of the bill.... The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it has some Democratic support, possibly even enough to muster 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster.... An official at the White House said this week that President Obama would veto it if it reached him. Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, vowed to sustain the president's veto.... This week, the Congressional Budget Office said the legislation would prompt 1 million people to be dropped from employer coverage, pushing from 500,000 to 1 million people onto government insurance and increasing the number with no insurance by hundreds of thousands. That would raise federal spending by $53.2 billion over the next decade."

Washington Post Editors: "The gas tax operates on a straightforward principle: Those who use the roads should pay for them. But over the past two decades, the value of the revenue the tax produces has dropped by about a third -- partly because of inflation and partly because cars have become more fuel-efficient.... Now, with lower oil prices, the politics of raising the gas tax should be easier...." ...

... Greg Sargent: "House Speaker John Boehner, speaking to reporters today, dumped a few gallons of cold water on the idea of a gas tax hike: 'I've never voted to raise the gas tax. Funding a highway bill is critically important, it's a priority for this year, how we'll fund it we're going to have to work our way through this. It's doubtful that the votes are here to raise the gas tax.' Asked for further clarification, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel emailed: 'The Speaker doesn't support a gas tax hike. Period.'... If we can't reach a deal to fund the HTF through higher gas taxes at this particular political moment, what possible deal can we reach that would involve new revenue for spending on infrastructure? It's hard to imagine that there is one." ...

... Steve Benen: "American investment in infrastructure has fallen to its lowest point since 1947. Making matters slightly worse, the Highway Trust Fund is on track to run out of money in May.... The United States used to be the world leader on infrastructure, and as Reagan's support for higher gas taxes makes clear, this used to be a bipartisan issue. Those days are over.... Boehner told reporters today, 'We've got to find a way to deal with America's crumbling infrastructure,' but the GOP leader simply hasn't the foggiest idea what that 'way' might be, and he's ruling out the one obvious solution that would fix the problem." ...

... CW: Likely GOP solution: cut programs for lazy poor people & use that money to repave roads & mend bridges, etc. It is only fitting for people who can't afford cars to pay for nicer roads for people who have cars. In the meantime, every time I hit a pothole, I will curse a poor person. Seems fair.

Orange Peal. Susan Cornwell of Reuters: John Boehner complains about his press & right-wing critics. Also, is comfortable in his own skin.

** Tim Egan: "The State Department has estimated that the total number of permanent new jobs created by the [Keystone XL] pipeline would be 35.... This, at a time when the world is awash in cheap oil.... The Keystone pipeline, though largely symbolic in the global scheme of things, does nothing for the American economy except set up the United States as a pass-through colony for foreign industrialists. Well, not all foreign: The Koch brothers are one of the largest outside leaseholders of acres in Canadian oil sands...."

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: Gov. Scott Walker accidentally tells the Supreme Court he plans to allow the ACA to fail if the boys rule in favor of the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell. Millhiser believes some conservative Supremes (John Roberts??) may be less likely to rule for the plaintiffs if they think their ruling would have a significant effect on Americans' access to health care. CW: I'm afraid Millhiser is romanticizing the Supremes & attributing to them levels of emphathy & pragmatism that the men in black do not possess. I hope I'm wrong.

Kate Sheppard of the Huffington Post: "In a victory for proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the pipeline's proposed route through the state can go forward." ...

... Charles Pierce: "The only thing left is the State Department review, which can now resume after having been suspended pending a ruling by the Nebraska court. If the State Department recommends the project, which I think it will, the president then will have the final decision on the pipeline, one way or the other." Also "Joe Manchin (D-Bituminous)" is unaware that the POTUS has Constitutional rights & duties. AND Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's "fact"-checker, is totally dedicated to both-sides-do-it "journalism."

Bill Cosby continues to think drugging & raping women is a good topic for jokes. As I recall (and I may be wrong) some Reality Chex readers still think the original, extended joke -- Cosby's 1968 Spanish fly story -- is pretty funny anyway.

American "Justice," Ctd. Cory Shaffer of Northeast Ohio Media Group: "Cleveland police officers forced Tamir Rice's 14-year-old sister to the ground, handcuffed her and placed in the back of a Cleveland police car steps away from her wounded 12-year-old brother. The scene plays out within the first two minutes of the 30 minute video taken from the Cudell Recreation Center surveillance camera that captured the shooting. The additional video was obtained by Northeast Ohio Media Group after protracted talks with city officials, who initially refused to release it.... The video confirmed earlier claims made by Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice, and her legal team at a Dec. 8 press conference that an officer cuffed her daughter as she ran to check on her brother and that officers waited several minutes before administering first aid....

Officers then stood around Tamir as he lay wounded. One officer had his hands on his hips when a man, identified by police as an FBI agent who was in the neighborhood, entered the frame and administered first aid. It was the first medical care the boy received in the four minutes that followed the shooting.

... (Emphasis added.) Report includes surveillance video. CW: The way police behave after these killings often speak more to their racial bias than do the actual killings. In some cases (but certainly not in all), the killings/murders might be attributed to "involuntary" bias -- the killers are more fearful of young black men than they are of other groups of people -- but their callous treatment of the victims of police shootings & others in the area demonstrate a deep-seated, institutional bias: leaving Michael Brown's body exposed for four hours, chatting as Eric Garner lay dying, milling about as child victim Tamir Rice was dying while brutalizing his young sister. These are not heat-of-the-moment lapses; they are in-your-face, purposeful, public shows of racist hatred. They are warnings to the black community: do anything to cross us, & we'll make you and yours very, very sorry.

L'Hotel du Grinch. Robin Brown of the Delaware New Journal: "Sparked in part by a social media frenzy, two local hotels are allowing some homeless people to stay for free during the intense cold weather. The episode began with the revelation, first reported by WDEL, that on Christmas night a group of six or seven homeless people had been refused a room at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington. The $639 room had been reserved and was to be paid for by a local couple hoping to help the less fortunate." CW: If you live sous le pont, you can't stay in the Du Pont. ...

... CW: Here's a thought. I've read numerous analyses -- like the one reported here -- that indicate it's cheaper to house the homeless (no, not in luxury hotels) than to care for them while they're in the streets. AND thanks to Victoria D. & Janice for their links to this "Daily Show" segment about housing the homeless in Salt Lake City. 

Alexandrea Boguhn, et al., of Media Matters: "Right-wing media rushed to exploit the deadly terrorist attack on a French satirical newspaper in Paris, placing blame on Democrats and citing the tragedy to push for renewed surveillance of U.S. Muslims, discriminatory profiling, looser gun regulations, and stricter immigration laws." The reporters run down some of the exploitative remarks voiced. ...

     ... For instance, Fox "News"'s "Outnumbered hosts agreed that Americans 'are being hunted' by terrorists, and network host Kennedy added that 'I think the best thing that Americans can do is arm themselves.'" ...

     ... CW: I agree. I'm sure there would be less carnage in the U.S. if most "responsible gun owners" were armed at all times with "Kalashnikov assault rifles [AK-47s] and a rocket launcher." ...

... Helene Fouquet of Bloomberg News: "Semi-automatic and automatic firearms are banned, but that hasn't stopped drug dealers and terrorists from acquiring them in increasing numbers.... Semi-automatic military-style rifles, including the AK-47, are widely and legally available in the U.S. Equipped with large-capacity magazines, such rifles can fire scores of rounds in a minute or two. AK-47s have been used in American mass killings in Omaha, Nebraska, and Wakefield, Massachusetts, in recent years." ...

     ... CW: Read a few of the comments. Obviously, gun-lobby puppets are trolling Bloomberg. The comments re: the Newtown, Connecticut, grade-school shootings are surreal in their stupidity. Of course the really scary part is that certain gunowners are adept at tricking themselves into believing absurdities. In this country, it isn't just avowed terrorists & other criminals who are armed and dangerous. ...

... Annals of Journalism, Ctd. A British headline writer shows American journalists how to get around false both-sides-do-it journalism. Here's the headline, published in the Telegraph & highlighted by contributor safari: "'Moron' Donald Trump sparks anger with Charlie Hebdo Twitter rant on gun laws." No, the Telegraph didn't call Trump a moron; the headline writer let Trump's critics do it. But the reader gets the idea. ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "The New York Times has premised its refusal to republish the most controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons on the sensibilities of its readers:. 'Under Times standards, we do not normally publish images or other material deliberately intended to offend religious sensibilities....' Echoes of the 'deliberately' offensive rationale ring out from top managers at the Associated Press and The Post.... How does the [NYT] know what's 'deliberately' offensive? Would it publish 'accidentally' offensive drawings? Yet the deliberately-offensive rationale is more defensible than the one offered this morning by CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker..., which amounts to an admission that fear of terrorism is driving CNN's editorial decisions.... Yet his capitulation to fear doesn't withstand scrutiny on any level." ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Steve M.: David Brooks doesn't seem to understand the difference between (1) refusing to provide a platform for disagreeable speakers & (2) mowing down objectionable writers & artists with AK-47s. ...

... Re: our discussion of yesterday, here the evidence that Secretary of State John Kerry spoke in French of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. (Kerry made more extended remarks about the attack in English during the same press appearance with the Polish secretary of state.) I don't have a very good ear, but if I can understand someone's speaking French, his accent probably sucks. I can pretty much understand Kerry here:

... Nonetheless, Rushbo is disgusted: "Anyway, there he is, Jean-Francois Kerry, and that is, by the way, one of his prime qualifications to be secretary of state. He can speak French and Europeans really love this bilingual stuff. That's how you really prove you're educated." CW: Rush's French-to-English translation, BTW, is excellent.

Dana Milbank on House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.): "... it's worth celebrating that the overt racism tolerated by public officials just a decade ago has been banished from civilized discourse." ...

... CW: Milbank is right about that, of course; the problem, as I see it, is that it isn't racism that has been banished but "overtly racist discourse." Meanwhile, & perhaps not particularly sub rosa in some parts, wink-wink racism continues apace & maintains a huge effect on conservative policy.

Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post on "Boko Haram's 'most horrific act of terrorism yet.'" CW: I understand that the military in the countries Boko Haram is targeting are not up to the task of defeating the killing group, but Boko Haram is an international offender. It calls for an international military response.

Congressional Races 2016

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announced on Thursday that she will not seek reelection in 2016, the first retirement announcement from a Democratic senator ahead of the 2016 political cycle that will spark a major political contest in California. Boxer made the announcement in a video co-starring her grandson, who played the role of reporter":

... Boxer's grandson there, Zach Rodman, is the son of Hillary Clinton's serially sleazy brother Tony Rodman. Tony is no longer married to Boxer's daughter Nicole. ...

... Presidential Election 2016 ...

... From a 2001 New York Daily News story: "Tony Rodham ... said he couldn't remember whether he shared a few illicit puffs with Daniel Coyne, who later caught Rodham having sex with his girlfriend. 'I might have, but I don't recall,' Rodham said." CW: For the good of the nation, I must actively encourage & abet another Relative of Hillary's to roam the White House halls schmoozing the interns.

Michael Bender & Jonathan Allen of Bloomberg Politics: "Jeb Bush's allies are setting a fundraising goal of $100 million in the first three months of this year-- including a whopping $25 million haul in Florida -- in an effort to winnow the potential Republican presidential primary field with an audacious display of financial strength."

News Ledes

AFP: "A top sharia official from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) threatened France with fresh attacks following those at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and at a Jewish supermarket, SITE monitoring group said Friday." ...

... New York Times: "French security services confronted two dangerous hostage situations on Friday, one outside Paris involving the two suspects in Wednesday's rampage at a satirical newspaper, and another that suddenly erupted Friday afternoon at a kosher supermarket on the eastern edge of the capital. Christophe Tirante, a senior police official, said that two people had been killed in the supermarket siege and that at least five hostages had been taken. The Interior Ministry denied the report of deaths." ...

     ... The Times' liveblog is here. The Guardian's liveblog is here. ...

     ... NYT UPDATED Lede: "French police on Friday killed the two brothers suspected of massacring 12 people at a Paris newspaper on Wednesday and freed a hostage they had been holding unharmed, the authorities said. The police launched a simultaneous raid on a kosher supermarket in Paris where an alleged associate of the brothers was holding an unnamed number of hostages. That hostage taker was also killed, according to a senior French police official, and at least five hostages were freed." ...

     ... The NYT has UPDATED the story again.

... The New York Daily News publishes "A dramatic video [which] captured the chaotic last stand of the cop-killing terror suspect gunned down Friday as police stormed a Paris kosher deli."

New York Times: "Capping the best year for the job market since the recession began eight years ago, employers added 252,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department reported Friday, and unemployment fell to 5.6 percent. The unemployment rate was last that low in June 2008. The number of new people put on payrolls last month was above what economists had forecast, consistent with the view that recovery is finally gaining traction after years of only modest growth. In addition, the number of jobs created in November was revised upward to 353,000, from 321,000. That month, the unemployment rate was 5.8 percent."

Thursday
Jan082015

The Commentariat -- January 8, 2015

Did I miss anything? -- Constant Weader

McConnell Takes Credit for Improved Economy. Daniel Strauss: "The way Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sees it, recent good news on the American economy is directly linked to the fact that there's a new Republican majority in Congress.... [In response,] the Democratic National Committee emailed out a statement with the subject line 'DNC to McConnell: Hahahahahahahahahahaha.'" ...

... Dana Milbank: "McConnell, when he wasn't taking credit for things that preceded his ascent, gave a remarkably angry and ungracious first speech to the body he now leads. It was an 18-minute snarl, dripping with contempt and packed with campaign-style barbs for the president.... It's apparently McConnell's job to chide and to taunt -- and to make the next two years as bitter and unproductive as the last four." ...

... After running through a few of the new Congress's wrong-headed legislative goals, E. J. Dionne writes, "How far have the goal posts been moved in the GOP? Just because [Speaker John] Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) say they want to avoid government shutdowns and debt-ceiling hostage-taking, they are to be regarded as heroes of sane policymaking. But if we've sunk so low that this is now the test of 'governance,' we are still a long way from the real thing." ...

... Among the new Congress's plans which Dionne mentions, is of course the schemes to reject ObamaCare. Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times takes on Paul Ryan's newly-repeated misstatements about the ACA, including a GOP proposal that likely would have the effect of cutting back work hours of millions of now-fulltime employees: "Obviously, when Ryan and his GOP colleagues talk about 'fixing' the ACA, they're using the term in the same sense one talks about 'fixing' a cat. They're plotting a handout to employers, at their employees' expense."

... CW: Broadly speaking there are three types of conservatives: (1) Decent but uninformed: (2) Greedy, nasty & uninformed; (3) Greedy, nasty & well-informed. We can put Ryan in Box 3.

From Tuesday's & Wednesday's news:

The Short-Lived Dreams of Speaker Gohmert: Jake Sherman & John Bresnahan of Politico: "John Boehner was elected Tuesday to serve another two years as speaker of the House, beating back opposition from a surprisingly large group of conservatives who wanted a fresh face atop the Republican Conference. The Ohio Republican got 216 votes out of 408 cast, while 25 dissenting Republicans voted for candidates as varied as Reps. Daniel Webster of Florida, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jeff Sessions of Alabama." ...

... Scott Wong of the Hill: "A day after winning his third term as Speaker, John Boehner (R-Ohio) said his conference had begun a 'family conversation' about how to respond to the 25 conservatives who revolted and voted against him on the floor. Boehner confirmed that the Rules Committee agreed hours after the Tuesday vote to boot two of the defectors off the committee: Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), who challenged Boehner for Speaker, and Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.), who voted for his fellow Florida Republican. But the Speaker said no final decisions had been made, suggesting Webster and Nugent could rejoin the committee, even as some rank-and-file members complained bitterly about leadership's retribution in a closed-door GOP conference meeting on Wednesday.... Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), who also broke from Boehner, said late Tuesday that Webster and Nugent's removal is something that would happen in a 'communist country.'" ...

... CW: So everyone who doesn't belong to or support the Krazy Kaukus is or behaves like a "communist." At the same time, wingers admire Vladimir Putin, once a prominent communist, for his "leadership." Would Putin have been a great Speaker? This is so confusing. ...

... AND, oddly enough, it seems to be A-Okay right-wing groups plan or take retributive actions.

Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "A federal judge sentenced former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell to two years in prison Tuesday -- an unexpectedly lenient punishment for a man who was convicted of selling the influence of his office to a wealthy benefactor for sweetheart loans, luxury vacations and even a Rolex watch. Unless his case is overturned on appeal, McDonnell (R), who once was mentioned as a presidential contender, will become the first Virginia governor to go to prison." ...

... Evan Osnos of the New Yorker: "American sentencing today rests on a mix of improvisation, unthinking bureaucracy, power, and cruelty. To see it in the round, you need not leave Virginia."

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times on today's Republican party, which, among other things, has create a new Mike Huckabee, crazier & meaner than the old Mike Huckabee. (Martin doesn't use the pejorative terms, of course.)

You have other cases. You had Bob Byrd, who was the majority leader, who was a Klan leader. You had Hugo Black, who was a justice who was a Klan leader, but they were Democrats. So being in the Klan was OK. -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), on CBS's "Face the Nation," Jan. 4, 2015

... Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "Gingrich errs in suggesting that Byrd's and Black's connection to the KKK was somehow okay and shrugged off at the time. Both men faced tremendous criticism and pressure to resign, but hung tough and eventually survived -- much as Scalise appears to be doing. Moreover, Gingrich suggests they received special treatment because they were Democrats, which is certainly a partisan way of looking at it. After all, at the time, there were virtually only Democrats in the South, as Gingrich well knows.

Everybody Is Somebody's Hero. Linda Greenhouse: "It sounds discordant to suggest that a Supreme Court justice has a base, but Sam Alito has one. One of several recent hagiographic articles in the right-wing press was one in the American Spectator back in May, describing Samuel Alito as 'one of the noblest men in American public life today.'"

CW: Of all of the discussion surrounding the Charlie Hebdo attack, the most important one I heard came from some talk-radio guy (seemed to be the host, not a listener) I heard for a few seconds while my radio was running through scan: the person-with-his-own-radio-show was upset that John Kerry had said something about the attack -- in French. Pass the freedom fries, please.

News Ledes

New York Times: "One of the two brothers suspected of killing 12 people at a satirical newspaper in Paris traveled to Yemen in 2011 and received terrorist training from Al Qaeda's affiliate there before returning to France, a senior American official said Thursday. The suspect, Saïd Kouachi, 34, spent 'a few months' training in small arms combat, marksmanship and other skills that appeared to be on display in videos of the military-style attack on Wednesday carried out by at least two gunmen on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper."

Washington Post: "The massive hunt after France's worst terrorist attack in generations broadened on two fronts Thursday: Chasing reports the heavily armed suspects were spotted on the move, and arresting others for questioning others amid fears more attacks could be planned. A day after massacre of a dozen people at a satirical newspaper, France's capital was a mix of mourning, anger and hair-trigger tensions -- raised even further after the slaying of a policewoman in a Paris suburb. Authorities said there was no immediate information to link the police shooting with Wednesday's attack at the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, whose well-known editor was among those slain in apparent retribution for the weekly's provocative cartoons and content on Islam." ...

... The New York Times story is here. The Times' liveblog is here. The Guardian is liveblogging developments here.