The Ledes

Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

New York Times: "With NATO leaders expected to endorse a rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops for Eastern Europe this week, a senior Russian military official said on Tuesday that Moscow would revise its military doctrine to account for 'changing military dangers and military threats.'”

Guardian: "Syrian rebels have issued three demands for the release of 45 Fijian peacekeepers they've held captive for five days, Fiji's military commander has said. Brig Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front wants to be taken off the United Nations terrorist list, humanitarian aid delivered to the capital Damascus, and compensation for three of its fighters it says were killed in a shootout with UN officers."

AP: "U.S. military forces attacked the extremist al-Shabab network in Somalia Monday, the Pentagon said, and a witness described ground-shaking explosions in a strike that reportedly targeted the group's leader. Al-Shabab had attacked the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 67 people a year ago this month and the U.S. had targeted planners of the bloody assault."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, September 1, 2014.

Guardian: "The UK and US governments have criticised, in unusually strong language, Israel's decision to approve one of the largest appropriations of Palestinian land for settlement in recent decades. The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said he deplored the move as 'particularly ill-judged'."

Al Jazeera: "Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shia armed volunteers have retaken more northern towns from the Islamic State group, killing at least two of its senior fighters, sources have told Al Jazeera. A day after breaking the siege in the town of Amerli north of Baghdad, government forces retook the town of Sulaiman Bek on Monday, removing another key stronghold of the Islamic State group." ...

... Guardian: "Barack Obama on Monday formally notified Congress that he had authorised targeted air strikes in Iraq to help deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged Shia town of Amerli, the White House said in a statement."

Washington Post: Pakistan's "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was clinging to power Monday as protesters stepped up their assault on government buildings while the capital was gripped with fear and confusion about whether the country’s powerful military will step in to defuse the tension. As the demonstrations calling for the prime minister’s resignation enter their third week, Sharif is trying to navigate Pakistan’s worst political crisis in more than a decade."

Guardian: "The American government on Monday asked North Korea to release three Americans currently held in the communist country, after foreign media outlets were allowed to interview detainees. 'Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] release them so they may return home,” said Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the State Department, in a statement. 'We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.'”

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
September 1

9:30 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at Detroit's Labor Day parade

2:55 pm ET: President Obama speaks a LaborFest 2014

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New York Times: "The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out. AMC’s 'Breaking Bad' scored big on Monday night, winning a total of five awards, including its second consecutive prize for outstanding drama series. The crime drama, about a high school teacher who receives a diagnosis of lung cancer and starts selling crystal meth with a former student, concluded its final season." Here's the L.A. Times' coverage.

... Via Slate.

Looking for a bucolic retreat where the townspeople will protect you from curious outsiders? Got about $700K to burn? Then you might be interested in purchasing the former home of fiction writer J. D. Salinger. the property is located in Cornish, New Hamphire:

... Many more pix & a virtual tour here.

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

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

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

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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Thursday
Jun122014

The Commentariat -- June 13, 2014

Mark Landler & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "The White House, confronted by an unexpected crisis on a battlefield it thought it had left behind, scrambled Thursday to reassure Iraq that it would help its beleaguered army fend off militants who have overrun much of the country and now threaten Baghdad.... President Obama and his aides moved on multiple fronts. A senior official said the president was actively considering American airstrikes against the militant groups. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. telephoned Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to express American support. And Pentagon officials briefed lawmakers about what one senator later described as a 'grave situation.'" ...

... Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "Iraq is splintering, and with it both the original neo-conservative belief that a sectarian dictatorship could be made quickly into a stable democracy and Obama's hands-off approach to the wider region." ...

Fareed Zakaria, in a Washington Post op-ed, blames al-Malaki & the Bush administration -- who placed al-Malaki in power -- for the current situation in Iraq. He explains why. ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate: "The collapse of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has little to do with the withdrawal of American troops and everything to do with the political failure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. As the U.S. pullout began under the terms of a treaty signed in 2008 by then-President George W. Bush, Maliki, the leader of a Shiite political party, promised to run a more inclusive government -- to bring more Sunnis into the ministries, to bring more Sunnis from the Sons of Iraq militia into the national army, to settle property disputes in Kirkuk, to negotiate a formula on sharing oil revenue with Sunni districts, and much more. Maliki has since backpedaled on all of these commitments and has pursued policies designed to strengthen Shiites and marginalize Sunnis." ...

... David Ignatius of the Washington Post: "Maliki's failure has been increasingly obvious since the elections of 2010, when the Iraqi people in their wisdom elected a broader, less-sectarian coalition. But the Obama administration, bizarrely working in tandem with Iran, brokered a deal that allowed Maliki to continue and has worked with him as an ally against al-Qaeda. Maliki's coalition triumphed in April's elections, but the balloting was boycotted by Sunnis. Given Maliki's sectarian and authoritarian style, a growing number of Iraq experts are questioning why the Obama administration continues to provide him billions in military aid -- and is said to be weighing his plea for lethal Predator drones." ...

... Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker: "Time and again, American commanders have told me, they stepped in front of Maliki to stop him from acting brutally and arbitrarily toward Iraq's Sunni minority. Then the Americans left, removing the last restraints on Maliki's sectarian and authoritarian tendencies.... Maliki's march to authoritarian rule has fueled the reëmergence of the Sunni insurgency directly. With nowhere else to go, Iraq's Sunnis are turning, once again, to the extremists to protect them.... What the Americans left behind was an Iraqi state that was not able to stand on its own. What we built is now coming apart. This is the real legacy of America's war in Iraq." ...

... Right about now, we need the expert advice of Sen. John McCain. Jeremy Herb & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama's entire national security team should resign over the resurgence of Islamic militants in Iraq. 'Everybody in his national security team, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ought to be replaced,' the Arizona Republican told reporters ahead of a classified Senate Armed Services Committee briefing on the deteriorating situation in Iraq. 'It's a colossal failure of American security policy.'" ...

... digby: "Listening to McCain babble on about Obama firing his entire staff and replacing them with his True North, the Man Called Petraeus while Huckleberry Graham shrieks 'we've got another Benghazi! in the making' is enough to make me start drinking. And it's not even noon yet here on the west coast. And that's nothing to the legions of morons who are condemning the Obama administration for puling out of Iraq." ...

... Sarah Smith of Politico: Not-President "Mitt Romney slammed President Barack Obama's foreign policy, as well as his former secretary of state, saying the recent turmoil in Iraq was emblematic of the president's 'missteps' across the region." ...

... In a comment made late Thursday, James S. wrote, "[Obama] ought to send Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld over there just to remind those ungrateful wretches about the candy and flowers we are due."

Julie Davis & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl ... left Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Thursday afternoon and will arrive in the United States early Friday to begin treatment at a Texas military medical facility, the Pentagon said." ...

... Kimberly Dozier of the Daily Beast: "Writing from a Taliban 'prison,' Bowe Bergdahl urged his family and his government to wait until they had all the facts before judging him for leaving his base. Then Bergdahl explained, at least in part, why he left his fellow troops in 2009. 'Leadership was lacking, if not non-existent. The conditions were bad and looked to be getting worse for the men that where actuly (sic) the ones risking thier (sic) lives from attack, he writes in a letter dated March 23, 2013 and obtained by The Daily Beast."

Paul Krugman: "... what I and others mean by 'movement conservatism' ... is ... an interlocking set of institutions and alliances that won elections by stoking cultural and racial anxiety but used these victories mainly to push an elitist economic agenda, meanwhile providing a support network for political and ideological loyalists. By rejecting Mr. Cantor, the Republican base showed that it has gotten wise to the electoral bait and switch, and, by his fall, Mr. Cantor showed that the support network can no longer guarantee job security. For around three decades, the conservative fix was in; but no more."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) has dropped out of the race for House majority leader, leaving current Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as the only candidate in the race.... Earlier Thursday, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) also dropped out of the running for majority leader." CW: In other words, business as usual. What a disappointment for the Tea Party caucus. ...

... Jake Sherman, et al., of Politico: "The race for the third most powerful position in the House -- majority whip -- is wide open. With less than a week until Republicans vote on the most significant changes to their leadership in nearly a decade, Peter Roskam of Illinois, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana are circling the 233-member House Republican Conference in a furious search for support."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "It’s not nice to fool Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The justice said during oral arguments in April that he found the labeling of a Coca-Cola product called Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of Five Juices misleading, and Thursday he wrote for a unanimous Supreme Court that the company can be sued for it."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Lots of tense, awkward laughter on NPR today! Hillary Clinton's book tour took her to 'Fresh Air' with Terry Gross this afternoon, where the two got into it a bit over if and when Clinton 'evolved,' as they say, on the issue of gay marriage, or whether she held her personal opinions in favor of equality until they were politically viable. The answer is: Clinton is not telling. But it wasn't for Gross's lack of trying. "

Michael Paulson of the New York Times: "Fifteen months into the pontificate of Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States find themselves unsettled in ways large and small, revisiting both how they live and what they talk about in light of the new pope's emphasis on personal humility and economic justice."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The State Department said Friday that Russia had sent tanks and other heavy weapons to separatists in Ukraine, supporting accusations Thursday by the Ukrainian government."

Guardian: "An independent autopsy conducted on the Oklahoma prisoner [Clayton Locket] whose execution lasted 43 minutes while he writhed and groaned appears to show the intravenous needles that were supposed to deliver lethal fluids were never correctly inserted."

Wednesday
Jun112014

The Commentariat -- June 12, 2014

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, will resign as majority leader within weeks, according to leadership aides, setting off a scramble to remake the party's upper ranks. The move follows a stunning defeat in a primary election on Tuesday in which voters rejected him in favor of a more conservative candidate, and culminates a precipitous fall for Mr. Cantor, who was thought to be a likely successor to Speaker John A. Boehner."

Former U.S. Representative for Virginia's 7th congressional district, serving since 2001, served as Minority Whip from 2009-2011 and Majority Leader from 2011 - June 10, 2014 when I was handed one of the most embarrassing losses in modern political history. Really regret opposing the extension of unemployment benefits now and calling the Tea Party 'a tremendous positive influence' in 2010. Will count votes (badly) for food. -- Craigslist ad

Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "Democratic spoilers probably did not contribute enough votes to account for Mr. Cantor's margin of defeat.... Mr. Brat fared best in heavily Republican Hanover County, while Mr. Cantor kept the race closer in the more competitive Richmond inner suburbs.... Turnout was still far, far higher in Republican precincts. Democratic areas did not contribute a large number of votes.... Mr. Brat's wide margin of victory sets a high bar for arguing that Democratic voters made the difference. And since Mr. Brat ran so strongly in Republican territory, it's hard to see that he needed Democratic votes to push him over the top." ...

... David Fahrenthold, et al., of the Washington Post: "... a look back at Cantor’s defeat shows that it was a real rejection by a broad swath of his district’s Republican voters. And there were warning signs that it was coming: the heckling of Cantor in that convention speech and defeats of his acolytes in low-level party elections this year.... When Virginia's districts were redrawn in 2010, the state's legislature altered Cantor's district and removed some heavily Democratic precincts in the Richmond area. They swapped in heavily Republican New Kent County, east of the state capital. Cantor supported the move, which was supposed to make his safe seat even safer from Democrats. But that was a miscalculation: Cantor had misjudged who his real enemy was." ...

... Shane Goldmacher of the National Journal: Eric Cantor's pollster tries to explain why his poll showed Cantor with a 34-point lead.

... Steve M.: GOP voters fired Cantor because he failed to do his real job: providing "the essential constituent service of declaring that Obama, other Democrats, and liberalism are destroying civilization as we know it every time they can possibly get within range of a microphone or camera." ...

... "All Politics Is Local." Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "At a time of deep cynicism about government, [voters in Cantor's district] described Mr. Cantor as a man who had succumbed to Washington and forgotten where he came from.... At a time when voters say they crave authenticity, they did not believe he displayed it. And amid the widespread rage of Republican voters at the Obama administration, the line between a leadership position and being sufficiently antagonistic to the White House proved to be impossible for Mr. Cantor to navigate." ...

I do think that this outcome does provide some evidence to indicate that the strategy of opposing nearly everything and supporting hardly anything is not just a bad governing strategy, it is not a very good political strategy either. -- Josh Earnest, Deputy White House Press Secretary

     ... Evan McMorris Santoro of BuzzFeed: "Earnest pointed out that a sponsor and advocate for the Senate [immigration reform] bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, won his Republican primary on the same night Cantor lost his." ...

... David Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle: Gov. Rick Perry "attributed this week's stunning defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia's Republican primary to not spending enough time with constituents." CW: ... proving that even a numbskull isn't wrong all of the time. Now see Perry's remark highlighted below. ...

... Gail Collins ruminates on Cantor's loss. ...

... See also today's comment by James S., who speaks with authority. CW: I think he's got something there. Also, there's this: for any number of reasons, people just don't like or trust Eric Cantor. ...

... Here's Ezra Klein's take on "lessons learned." ...

... Also from Klein: "'Truly, what divides Republicans pales in comparison to what divides us as conservatives from the Left and their Democratic Party,' Eric Cantor said in his speech announcing his intention to step down as House Majority Leader. Cantor's right about that. And it's why his surprising defeat won't change Washington much at all." ...

... Oh, Why Can't Our Leaders Be More Like Ted Cruz? Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "... the two Republican leaders most responsible for the party's insurgent-like opposition to the Obama agenda -- Cantor, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- are the base's most reviled.... In the end the right's beef with him -- as with McConnell -- was about more than just affect. It was about his willingness to use power politics and procedural hijinks to cut conservatives out of the tangle when expedient. The lesson of his defeat isn't that immigration reform is particularly poisonous, but that the right expects its leaders to understand they can't subsume the movement's energy for tactical purposes, then grant it only selective influence over big decisions. ...

... Eric Cantor isn't the only person who misled voters with a claim that David Brat was "a liberal professor." Brat himself claims on his Website "that he tested his rural values against the intellectual elite while at Princeton." But Brat never attended Princeton University; instead, he got a master of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary which has no association with Princeton U., except that the two institutions are in the same town. ...

     ... CW Update. Come to think of it, I too was "at Princeton." Since I once lived not far from there, I went to Princeton numerous times for shopping, dining, etc. Prepositions matter: "at Princeton" v. "in Princeton." I also have been at (and to) Harvard, Yale, Vassar, Berkeley, etc. -- that is, I visited the campuses for one reason or another. Here, "at" is the proper preposition, but it has two meanings. So maybe Brat hung out on the Princeton campus, picking "intellectual" fights with passing "elites." I guess in that scenario, he was at Princeton. ...

... Charles Pierce: "In brief, Brat's job, and the support he got from the Raving-Loon Industrial Complex, all was financed in some way or another by the same vast lagoon of plutocratic payola with which we've all become sadly familiar." ...

... Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "David Brat ... tried to avoid answering specific policy questions in one of his first national television interviews.... Pressed for his position about raising the minimum wage, the economic professor demurred, saying 'I don't have a well-crafted response on that one.' ... The conversation grew even more strained when [Chuck] Todd asked Brat if he supports arming the Syrian rebels. The GOP nominee immediately tried to dismiss the issue, saying, 'hey Chuck, I thought we were just going to chat today about the celebratory aspects.'" With video. ...

... Garance Franke-Ruta of Yahoo! News: "The campaign manager for the tea party-backed Republican who ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor ... is a 23-year-old class of 2013 Haverford College graduate who posted a slew of provocative opinions on a public Facebook page that was removed from view overnight following David Brat's victory. From comparing George Zimmerman's shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin to abortion to calling for the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration and encouraging the adoption of the silver monetary standard, Zachary Werrell -- one of just two paid staffers for the upstart campaign of ... David Brat -- sought in 2012 and 2013 to build a public profile as a socially conservative libertarian voice." ...

... CW: Brat is no Christine I-Am-Not-a-Witch O'Donnell, but he isn't exactly coming across as a polished candidate. Maybe he's beatable, even in a Republican district. ...

... Eric, We Hardly Knew Ye. Dana Milbank: "The ouster of the only non-Christian Republican in Congress by a primary challenger running as an immigration hard-liner is a crucial moment for the GOP because it risks cementing the party’s demographic troubles.... In the Jewish tradition, burial generally occurs within a day of death. Cantor's GOP colleagues took that further, dumping him instantaneously -- and unceremoniously -- after his unexpected political demise." ...

... CW: Cementing? Seems to me the cement hardened long ago, albeit the party faithful saved a block to tie to Cantor's feet before dumping him in the James River.

AP: "The FBI has opened a criminal investigation into the Department of Veterans Affairs after a scathing watchdog report that found systemic problems in the medical system for military veterans, FBI director James Comey said Wednesday."

Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "US defense secretary Chuck Hagel forcefully rejected criticism for trading five Taliban leaders for army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in a combative appearance before a congressional committee on Wednesday. Hagel aggressively and at times angrily defended the trade, saying he took its risks damn seriously' and making conspicuous reference to his Vietnam combat experience." ...

... Stephanie McCrummen of the Washington Post: "... before he joined the Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was discharged from the Coast Guard for psychological reasons, said close friends who were worried about his emotional health at the time. The 2006 discharge and a trove of Bergdahl's writing -- his handwritten journal along with essays, stories and e-mails provided to The Washington Post -- paint a portrait of a deeply complicated and fragile young man who was by his own account struggling to maintain his mental stability from the start of basic training until the moment he walked off his post in eastern Afghanistan in 2009.... Typically, a discharge for psychological reasons would disqualify a potential recruit.... In 2008, the Army was meeting recruitment goals by issuing waivers that allowed people with criminal records, health conditions and other problems to enlist." ...

     ... CW: This new information, which is consistent with bits & pieces previously reported, suggests to me that the Army bears a good deal of responsibility for Bergdahl's situation. They accepted into service & sent to an isolated war zone in an undisciplined unit a young man known to have psychological problems. ...

     ... CW P.S. This past Sunday, Dr./Sen. Tom Coburn said he'd viewed the "proof of life" video of Bergdahl released by the Taliban & diagnosed his mental condition as having "been drugged ... either with an anti-psychotic or hypnotic drug." Well, Dr. Coburn, OB-GYN, you're a lousy senator, too. As Steve Benen noted in the linked post, "... the right needs to believe that Bergdahl's health wasn't failing -- and here's Coburn 'speaking as a doctor' to give his party a new talking point."

** Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that. I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way. -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in San Francisco of all places, in response to a question about the Texas GOP's platform embracing "reparative therapy" for gays ...

... Then again, "reparative therapy" sounds downright humane & considerate compared to this:

Catherine Thompson of TPM: Scott Esk, "a Republican candidate for the Oklahoma state House who boasts that he's looking forward to 'applying Biblical principles to Oklahoma law,' is okay with gay people being stoned to death -- even if he won't legislate the practice himself:

'So just to be clear, you think we should execute homosexuals (presumably by stoning)?' [a] commenter asked. 'I think we would be totally in the right to do it,' Esk replied. 'That goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I'm largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.'

Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "Conservatives and liberals don't just differ in their political views. They like to live in different places, associate with like-minded people and have opposing views on the value of ethnic and religious diversity in their neighborhoods, according to a major new study by the Pew Research Center." CW: Also, liberals can hardly believe anyone would compare a normal sexual pattern to a debilitating disease. Update: Or stoning! (See Perry & Esk remarks above.) ...

     ... Here's (Page 1 of) the Pew Report which Balz cites.

Aw Shucks. The Misfortunes of Eric have knocked reviews of Hillary's Magical Book Tour off the front pages. Here's Philip Bump of the Washington Post on Hillary's (true) assertion that she & Bill were "dead broke" when they left the White House in 2001.

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "It has been five years since the official end of that severe economic downturn. The nation's total annual output has moved substantially above the prerecession peak, but economic growth has averaged only about 2 percent a year, well below its historical average. Household incomes continue to stagnate, and millions of Americans still can't find jobs. And a growing number of experts see evidence that the economy will never rebound completely."

The Fox "News" Standard of Newsworthiness. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters: "For Fox News, the story about right-wing gun violence [-- the politically motivated killings by Jerad & Amanda Miller --] and the seeds of a bloody political revolution present all kinds of problems for the channel and its outspoken hosts, some of whom have previously championed limitless gun rights, insurrectionism, the Tea Party, and racist rancher [Cliven] Bundy. In the 36 hours after the shooting, Fox News tread lightly around the Las Vegas story, producing regular news updates about the crime spree. But Fox provided almost no commentary, no context, and certainly no collective blame for the executions." Akhilleus linked a Daily Kos post on this same subject in yesterday's Comments.

Beyond the Beltway

AP: "A federal judge ordered Ohio’s elections chief Wednesday to set early voting hours on the three days before elections in a ruling that gives Democrats a victory going into the fall election.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Ruby Dee, one of the most enduring actresses of theater and film, whose public profile and activist passions made her, along with her husband, Ossie Davis, a leading advocate for civil rights both in show business and in the wider world, died on Wednesday at her home in New Rochelle, N.Y. She was 91."

Guardian: "Fighting between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian militia is fuelling a worsening humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine. Tens of thousands of people are fleeing combat, most of them from the rebel capital of Slavyansk, where almost daily shelling has claimed numerous civilian casualties since late May."

New York Times: " The body of a 19-year-old woman was found hanging by her scarf from a eucalyptus tree in a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday morning, the police said. It was the third similar gruesome discovery in the state in two weeks. Relatives of the dead woman, who was last seen alive Wednesday, have filed a report alleging that she was raped and murdered by two men who they say had been bothering her...."

Washington Post: "Iraq was on the brink of disintegration Thursday as al-Qaeda-inspired fighters swept through northern Iraq toward Baghdad and Kurdish soldiers seized the city of Kirkuk without a fight."

New York Times: "An American drone struck a militant compound in Pakistan's tribal belt for the second time in 24 hours on Thursday, killing at least 10 suspected members of the feared Haqqani network, which held the American soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl hostage for five years."

ABC News: "The sun has had three major solar flares on its surface in the past two days that have affected communications on Earth and could send a shockwave through Earth this Friday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.... The disturbance to Earth's atmosphere can disrupt GPS and communications signals, according to NASA."

     ... CW: Oh, crap. As luck would have it, on Friday I'll be traveling across mountain roads to a place I don't know how to reach without my GPS. Huh, maybe I should buy a map. Wonder if anybody still sells those.

Tuesday
Jun102014

The Commentariat -- June 11, 2014

CW: Sorry, lost my Internet connection (I'm sitting in the parking lot of a local resort), so I probably won't be doing any more till this evening.

Congressional Races

God acted through people on my behalf. -- David Brat, to Fox "News," after defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

God hates Mexicans. -- CW Translation

Holy Shit! Robert Costa of the Washington Post: " In a stunning upset propelled by tea party activists, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was defeated in Tuesday’s congressional primary, with insurgent David Brat delivering an unpredicted and devastating loss to the second most powerful Republican in the House who has widely been touted as a future speaker." The New York Times story, by Jonathan Martin, is here. ...

... Ha Ha. Here's a WashPo story, posted by Sean Sullivan at 5:09 pm ET Tuesday: "A poll conducted late last month for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) shows him with a wide lead over challenger David Brat heading toward next Tuesday's Republican primary election. The poll, shared with Post Politics, shows Cantor with a 62 percent to 28 percent lead over Brat, an economics professor running to Cantor's right. Eleven percent say they are undecided." ...

... Nate Cohn, the New York Times' political statistician, can't explain how Cantor lost. "Mr. Cantor’s loss is not likely to endanger the Republican hold on his district. Mitt Romney won the district by 15 points last November, and it is not at all apparent that Mr. Brat is the sort of fatally flawed candidate who could lose such a Republican district. After all, he defeated Mr. Cantor." ...

... Jonathan Chait: Brat teaches economics at Randolph-Macon college, and won a $500,000 fellowship funded by libertarian banking millionaire John Allison to spread the word of Ayn Rand to impressionable college students.... Brat was outraised by Cantor twenty-five to one.... The biggest issue by far was immigration reform. Cantor was no reformer, really. He rejected the bipartisan immigration reform deal that Marco Rubio and other Republicans had negotiated in the Senate. But he did hope to salvage some partial compromise.... Brat rejected even that. Any token of conciliation was too much.... Cantor went out the way he carried himself throughout his career: making comically disingenuous attacks.... Cantor was, finally, Cantor'd. He will not be missed." ...

... Joan Walsh of Salon: Cantor "is the first majority leader in history to lose in a primary in his own party since 1899. This is a huge victory for anti-immigration extremists, including Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Laura Ingraham and Mickey Kaus.... I it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. Cantor is another conscience-free Republican leader who courted the Tea Party when it seemed politically advantageous and then tried to run from it when it was clear it was going to bite him in the ass.... [Cantor's defeat] of course means there will be no immigration reform at any time in the foreseeable future." ...

... John Judis of the New Republic: "Dave Brat’s victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been widely attributed to Bart’s [sic.] opposition to immigration reform. But in his campaign, Brat and his Tea Party backers gave equal weight to denouncing Cantor as a tool of Wall Street, the big banks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. Brat’s campaign reflected an old strain of rightwing populism that continues to be an important part of our politics." Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link. ...

... CW: Either way you look at it, I think what you see in Southern Republicans -- and these voters from Richmond & the D.C. exurbs are not backwoods bozos -- is out-and-out racism &/or religious bigotry. They voted for Brat because they don't want those Mexican/Catholic (tho many Central American immigrants are evangelicals) "illegals" in this country, AND/OR they have stereotyped Cantor -- the only Jewish Republican in Congress -- as a "Wall Street Jew." I don't deny that Cantor is thick with the moneylenders, but he is no more a tool of Wall Street & the big banks than are many (a majority??) of his fellow MOCs. Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, a Virginia Democratic strategist, said Cantor was unpopular partly because “He was never in the district.... He was out gallivanting all over the country being a big deal and this is a lesson.” One of the places Cantor "went out gallivanting" -- twice -- was on the annual Civil Rights Pilgrimmage organized by John Lewis, part of the purpose of which is to restore the Voting Rights Act. Cantor's participation -- and his promise to work with Lewis on the VRA -- received a lot of press. To recast a Tea Party "joke" Judis reports, "A politician, a Jew, and a civil rights activist walk into a bar, and you now what the bartender said? Good evening, Mr. Majority Leader.”

... If You Think Cantor Is Bad ... Jim Dalrymple & Gideon Resnick of BuzzFeed: "... Meet the guy who beat" him. ...

... Al Hunt of Bloomberg: "... the remaining four months of this session will be dominated by internal jockeying for leadership posts among the majority House Republicans.... Emboldened by the shocking Cantor upset, the Tea Party caucus almost certainly will demand one of the top three leadership posts for one of their own."

Lindsey Graham has won the South Carolina Senate primary. One of seven candidates, Graham has a lead of 59.5 percent, with about half the precincts reporting. If his lead holds at above 50 percent, he will have avoided a runoff.

Ben Giles of the Arizona Capitol Times: "Cesar Chavez, formerly GOP candidate Scott Fistler, is making a blatant attempt to confuse and mislead voters in Arizona’s 7th Congressional District and should be tossed off the Democratic primary ballot, according to a challenge to Chavez’s candidacy filed Tuesday. The challenge alleges that Chavez, who changed his name in December and his party affiliation in April following two unsuccessful bids for elected office as a Republican, did so in an effort to interfere with the CD7 election by confusing voters.... Attorney Jim Barton ... filed the challenge on behalf of Alejandro Chavez, the grandson of the Hispanic labor icon Cesar Chavez." Via Catherine Thompson of TPM.


Bradley Clapper
of the AP: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will face angry lawmakers as he becomes the first Obama administration official to testify publicly about the controversial prisoner swap with the Taliban. Hagel was scheduled to appear Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee, which is investigating the deal that secured the end of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's five-year captivity. In exchange, the U.S. transferred five high-level detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Gulf emirate of Qatar."

Jessica Pressler of New York: Robert Benmosche, the colorful, self-described 'in-your-face' CEO that brought insurance company AIG back from the brink of collapse (with a heavy assist from the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and of course the American taxpayer), has announced his retirement.... The CEO threatened to resign multiple times after the government, in their parsimony, gave him a hard time for vacationing at his Croatian villa two weeks after taking the high-profile job, the size of his salary and his insistence on taking a private flight to a family affair on the taxpayers' dime. 'I’m going to go and see my granddaughter, and I’m going to take that plane and shove it up your fucking ass,' Benmosche recalled he told the Treasury when interviewed by New York in 2012.” CW: What a lovely, civic-minded person.

Beyond the Beltway

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: Virginia "Gov. Terry McAuliffe has lost his battle with the legislature over Medicaid expansion, an enormous retreat from the high expectations he set for a liberal agenda. However, he is thought to be studying how to press the issue by executive action — a legally and politically uncertain course.

Monday
Jun092014

The Commentariat -- June 10, 2014

Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday shed light on the depth of the VA scheduling scandal and substantiated claims that rank-and-file employees were directed to manipulate records. The agency said more than 57,000 new patients have waited at least 90 days for their first appointments and that about 13 percent of VA schedulers indicated they were told to falsify appointment-request dates to give the impression that wait times were shorter than they really were. The information comes from the agency' s internal audit of 731 VA medical centers, which the VA released Monday." ...

... Thomas Burton of the Wall Street Journal: "The Department of Veterans Affairs stopped sending teams of turnaround experts to underperforming hospitals at the same time a growing number of VA facilities showed consistently high death and complication rates, internal agency records and interviews reveal.... Current and former VA doctors say the lag in scrutiny came at a time of turmoil when top managers of the agency, some of whom since have been ousted, played down the utility of measuring specific medical outcomes." CW: The article is firewalled. To access it, if you're not a WSJ subscriber, copy & paste a portion of the lede sentence into Google or another search engine. ...

... Stacy Kaper of the National Journal: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed Monday to take action imminently on expected reforms to the Veterans Affairs Department. The legislation, which was agreed to in principle last week, is still being drafted by Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Arizona Republican John McCain. But Reid promised Monday to bring the bill to the floor as soon as it's ready." ...

     ... CW Note: Alex Rogers of Time: Sanders & McCain introduced the bill yesterday. I can't find any other stories on the status of the bill.

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama signed an executive order on Monday intended to lessen the college loan burden on nearly five million younger Americans by capping repayments at 10 percent of the borrowers' monthly income. Joined by indebted graduates in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama said the spiraling cost of higher education had put 'too big a debt load on too many people'":

Ian Lovett of the New York Times profiles the Las Vegas killers, who were antigovernment extremists "along the lines of militia and white supremacists." Here's a key sentence: When the two began shooting up the WalMart, "One man at the checkout area who was carrying a handgun tried to stop Mr. Miller, but did not notice that Ms. Miller was working in concert with her husband; she shot the man dead." CW: This entire episode is about what is wrong with the right wing. ...

... Charles Pierce: "... these two jamokes allegedly marinated themselves in the stew of guns and paranoia that bubbles daily in the conservative media from fringe radio hosts and chain e-mails all the way up to the polite precincts of the National Review Online and the Fox News Channel. That shouldn't surprise us any more. The enabling of dangerous loons and the empowerment by firearms thereof is simply a staple of conservative politics in this country, yet another fetish object, yet another set of conjuring words for the conservative priesthood, which (always) deplores the activity of a few while realizing in its heart of hearts that it has no political future at the moment, no real substantial constituency, without people like this...." Read the whole post. ...

... Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "... there are some particular features of conservative political rhetoric today that help create an atmosphere in which violence and terrorism can germinate. The most obvious component is the fetishization of firearms and the constant warnings that government will soon be coming to take your guns. But that's only part of it. Just as meaningful is the conspiracy theorizing that became utterly mainstream once Barack Obama took office.... In our recent history, every election of a Democratic president is followed by a rise in conspiracy-obsessed right-wing populism." ...

     ... CW: The difference here is that in the past, few federal officeholders have fully embraced the insanity. Now, there's a large contingent in the House & some in the Senate who are -- or claim to be -- true believers.

... Adam Weinstein of Gawker features some of the Millers' right-wing Facebook remarks & "likes." A commenter notes that Jerad Miller wrote he would rather die than go to a "fema re-education camp." Thank you, Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck, et al. ...

... BUT if you are a regular reader of Right Wing News, you will already know that these crazed killers were socialists. (They get this insane rationale from the fact that the original Nazi party was officially the Socialist Democratic party [Sozialdemokratische Partei].) So now every super-crazed winger who does bodily harm is a socialist. Just like Obama. This, then, is the way the "respectable people" of Winger World will try to duck responsibility for their anti-government, anti-Obama, gun-worshipping fascism. The capacity for self-delusion is a bottomless pit. Via Rebecca Schoenkopf of Wonkette, via Charles Pierce. ...

     ... UPDATE: ALSO, they were leftists. "... someone waving around a gun yelling 'this is a revolution' is the very definition of a leftist." CW: This claim is equally absurd. See, for instance, J. J. MacNab's May2014 report on the right-wing Sovereign Movement, which she wrote to help explain the Cliven Bundy standoff with the Bureau of Land Management.

Gregory Korte of USA Today: "Public opposition to the exchange of five Taliban prisoners for captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has less to do with Bergdahl himself and more with how President Obama handled the transfer, according to a new USA TODAY/Pew Research Center poll. The poll shows 43% of Americans say it was wrong for Obama to make the deal, compared with 34% who say it was the right thing to do." Those "Republican strategists" (see Helene Cooper remark below) are doing their jobs, & the "liberal media" have dutifully obliged. ...

... Lauren French & John Bresnahan of Politico: "House Republicans came out of a more than hour-long classified briefing by top national security officials on Monday complaining they'd learned nothing new about the incident that has't already been disclosed in the news media. GOP lawmakers, in particular, were upset that an estimated 80 to 90 executive branch officials in the Pentagon, White House and the intelligence agencies, but no members of Congress were informed beforehand, including the chairs of the House and Senate intelligence panels." CW: For why that might be, see Sen. Saxby Chambliss's comments, highlighted in yesterday's Commentariat.

Stupid Congressman of the Week (So Far). Emily Atkin of Think Progress: Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) argues that humans can't cause climate change because dinosaurs became extinct before people were driving around in cars. CW: As Skeptical Science wrote some while back this argument is, "equivalent to seeing a dead body with a knife sticking out the back, then arguing the death must be natural because people died naturally in the past." Also, Miller in the past has blamed God for climate change. Atkin notes, "Miller's home state of Florida also happens to be one of the places in the United States that is most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change."

Simon Shuster of Time: "Ukraine's new President Petro Poroshenko wants to see Russia punished for what he calls the 'tragedy' that befell his country this year. But even as Russia has annexed one region of Ukraine and encouraged a violent rebellion in two others, Ukraine does not have the option of breaking off ties with the Kremlin, Poroshenko told Time in his first interview since taking office. His government has no choice but to seek 'an understanding' with Russia, he says, even if for no other reason than the hard reality of Ukraine’s geography."

Ron Fournier of the National Journal claims: "In the 18 months since I began writing columns focused on the presidency, virtually every post critical of Obama has originated from conversations with Democrats. Members of Congress, consultants, pollsters, lobbyists, and executives at think tanks, these Democrats are my Obama-whispers. They respect and admire Obama but believe that his presidency has been damaged by his shortcomings as a leader; his inattention to details of governing; his disengagement from the political process and from the public; his unwillingness to learn on the job; and his failure to surround himself with top-shelf advisers who are willing to challenge their boss as well as their own preconceived notions." ...

     ... CW: I'd be surprised if Fournier had any real Democratic contacts. This just sounds like some nobodies griping & Fournier loving it. The "charges" are pretty vague. As for this being some sort of "news," progressives -- myself included -- & some Democratic officials have been criticizing Obama since the transition.

Helene Cooper, who reported last week on the men in Bowe Bergdahl's unit who came to the Times via "a Republican strategist" to accuse Bergdahl of deserting said the men "had clearly been coached." The original report, by Cooper & others, is here. CW: Nice use of the passive voice there, Helene. Whoevah do you supposed coached the men? Let's see. As Rosie Gray & Kate Nocera of BuzzFeed reported last week, the guy hooking up the soldiers with the media was Richard Grenell, a Crazy John Bolton protoge' & former Romney campaign aide.

CW: It's true that the Washington Post editorial pages serve as a retirement home for ex-Bush aides & other riffraff. Still, isn't it time to retire George Will? In a column last week he complained that "... capacious definitions of sexual assault that can include not only forcible sexual penetration but also nonconsensual touching," and that universities are encouraging women to make false claims of sexual assault by "mak[ing] victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges."

All Hillary All the Time, Ctd.

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aggressively defended her handling of the 2012 Benghazi attack and declined to offer any evaluation of what, if anything, she would've done differently. 'No,' Clinton said, when asked by ABC's Diane Sawyer if she 'missed the moment' to prevent the attacks."

Alexandra Jaffe: "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is pushing back on former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' assertion that her opposition to the 2007 Iraq troop surge was politically motivated. 'I think he perhaps either missed the context or the meaning because I did oppose the surge,' Clinton told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an interview that will air Monday night. 'The public had given up,' she added. 'This is not politics in electoral, political terms. This is politics in the sense of the American public has to support commitments like this. I opposed the surge.'" ...

... Chris Good of ABC News runs down "21 revealing quotes from the Sawyer interview.

Noam Scheiber of the New Republic describes Hillary & Barack's "marriage of convenience." CW: This is politics as usual, even "normal human relations" as usual, & is the way most reasonable officials negotiate disagreements with members of their own party. (Do you publicly rebuke your spouse or your good friend when s/he says something you disagree with? Probably not.)

Joni Ernst's Husband Is Just as Classy as She Is. Evan McMorris-Santoro of BuzzFeed: "Last year, the husband of Iowa Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst, her party’s nominee for Senate made his opinion known about Hillary Clinton on Facebook. 'Truly more of a hag now than when she was 1st Lady!” Gail Ernst wrote, sharing a Benghazi-related image." The Ernst campaign has criticized her Democratic opponent for "using imagery that ... 'degrades and insults Iowa women.'"

Congressional Races

Cameron Joseph & Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "Voters go to the polls on Tuesday in Arkansas, Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina and Virginia. Tea Party challenges to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are the marquee contests, and no federal races are on the ballot in North Dakota or the Arkansas runoffs."

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was once thought to be among the Republican incumbents most vulnerable this year to a Tea Party challenge. But the most pressing question on Tuesday is not whether he will finish first in the party primary, but whether he can avoid a runoff by capturing more than 50 percent of the vote in a seven-person field."

Beyond the Beltway

Laura Vozella & Michael Laris of the Washington Post: "Virginia Republicans snatched control of the state Senate on Monday, immediately ending a budget stalemate by pushing Democrats to agree to pass a spending plan without Medicaid expansion, Gov. Terry McAuliffe's top priority. The power shift forced Senate Democrats to yield after a protracted standoff that had threatened to shut down state government in less than a month, according to several lawmakers with direct knowledge of the deal. Democratic negotiators agreed in a closed-door meeting Monday to pass a budget without expanding health coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians." ...

... CW: David Firestone of the New York Times is as pissed at the Virginia state senator who quit the senate so Republicans would have the majority they need to stop Medicaid expansion in the state: "Phillip Puckett, resigned today, paving the way for his daughter, Martha Puckett Ketron, to win an appointment as a domestic court judge..., proving yet again that personal ambition and venality often outweigh political principle.... Until earlier this afternoon, it looked as though Mr. Puckett would take a job as deputy director of the state's tobacco commission, which is led by a Republican legislator. But he ultimately walked away from the offer after furious Democrats accused him of accepting a bribe." ...

... Jamelle Bouie in Slate: "Puckett didn't just sell out his Democratic colleagues, he sold out thousands of his constituents -- indifferent to their health and well-being -- for little more than some cheap nepotism. No, the Republicans he helped aren't much better; they would rather wage an ideological crusade against Obama than aid the voters who support them. Still, say what you will about right-wing extremism, at least it's an ethos. And given the choice, I would rather have an opponent with conviction than an ally who couldn't be bothered to care."

AP: "U.S. Sen. Harry Reid has sold his home in Searchlight and several mining claims to a gold mining company."

News Ledes

AP: "Israel's parliament on Tuesday chose Reuven Rivlin, a veteran nationalist politician and supporter of the Jewish settlement movement, as the country's next president, putting a man opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state into the ceremonial but influential post."

New York Times: "Martha Hyer, an Oscar-nominated movie actress who starred alongside Humphrey Bogart, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine in the 1950s and 1960s, died on May 31 at her home in Santa Fe, N.M. She was 89."

Washington Post: "Five American troops were killed in southern Afghanistan in a rare friendly fire airstrike that struck a team of Afghan and U.S. troops conducting a security operation ahead of Saturday's presidential runoff vote, U.S. and Afghan officials familiar with the incident said Tuesday."