The Ledes

Friday, March 6, 2015.

New York Times: "The Labor Department reported on Friday that employers added 295,000 workers to their payrolls in February and that unemployment fell to 5.5 percent. The report was a big improvement from January’s...."

USA Today: Actor "Harrison Ford was injured Thursday afternoon when his vintage single-engine airplane crashed on a golf course shortly after taking off from Santa Monica Airport."

Detroit News: "A federal judge was shot outside his west side home Thursday night in what police believe was an attempted robbery or home invasion.U.S. District Judge Terrence G. Berg was shot in the leg about 9:10 p.m. outside his home on the west side of Detroit...."

New York Times: "Liberia’s last Ebola patient was discharged on Thursday after a ceremony in the capital, Monrovia, bringing to zero the number of known cases in the country and marking a milestone in West Africa’s battle against the disease.... The disease had flared up recently in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea, the two other countries hardest hit by it."

Guardian: " A court order from the US army court of criminal appeals instructs the military to refer to [Chelsea Manning] in all future official correspondence either using the gender neutral 'Private First Class Manning' or employing the feminine pronoun."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, March 5, 2015.

New York Times: "Cardinal Edward M. Egan, a stern defender of Roman Catholic orthodoxy who presided over the Archdiocese of New York for nine years in an era of troubled finances, changing demographics and a priesthood of dwindling, aging ranks shaken by sexual-abuse scandals, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 82."

NBC News: "The Supreme Court has set April 28 as the date for historic arguments on gay marriage."

AP: "On the first day of testimony Wednesday in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whose lawyer admitted he committed the crime, three women who suffered severe injuries described their memories of the blasts, their wounds and the terror they felt."

NBC News: "'We are very close [to reaching a nuclear agreement] if the political decision can be made to get to yes, as President Obama said,' [Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif] said. The minister spoke a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared before the U.S. Congress, warning against a deal, which he said 'paves Iran's path to the bomb.'"

Public Service Announcement

The Hill: "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden on Sunday [Feb. 1] warned that the U.S. could see a 'large outbreak' of measles.... There are at least 102 reported cases in 14 states, according to the CDC. Frieden said that the U.S. is 'likely to see more cases.'... The said the best way to prevent the spread of measles was vaccination.Frieden said despite the U.S.'s 92 percent vaccination rate, there is growing evidence more parents are not vaccinating their children."

Get Off Your Ass! Los Angeles Times (Jan. 19): "New research that distills the findings of 47 studies concludes that those of us who sit for long hours raise our average risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death."

White House Live Video
March 6

12:45 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks to the Human Rights Campaign convention (audio only)

1:30 pm ET: Swearing-in of Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy

2:15 pm ET: President Obama participates in a town hall event at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C.

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

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

Way Cheaper Wi-Fi? Will Oremus of Slate: "Google isn’t talking details yet, but ...what it has in mind, according to industry rumors and sources, is something like what FreedomPop and Republic Wireless are already offering: a 'Wi-Fi first' service that could deliver adequate, if slightly spotty, coverage at a fraction of the prevailing cost. And that coverage is likely to get much better over time."

Woodwording Plagiarism?? Washington Post: "There’s no doubt that the first season finale of Ellen DeGeneres’s reality competition show was bizarre. But the questions it raises are even stranger, along with the weird and frustrating way the network chose to handle a controversial situation."

Adam Goodheart of the Atlantic reviews a book by historian Eric Foner that sheds new light on the Underground Railway that helped Southern black Americans escapes slavery, even though the participants were violating federal law -- openly, too: "It is a little-known historical irony that right up until the eve of Southern secession in 1860, states’ rights were invoked as often by Northern abolitionists as by Southern slaveholders."

CW: How I'll Spend My Weekend. Season 3 of "House of Cards" is up on Netflix now:

Deadline: ESPN suspends Keith Olbermann for engaging in an "inappropriate" "Twitter War" with some Penn State students. ...

... CW: Hard to believe something like this hasn't happened sooner.

Buzz Aldrin during a spacewalk, November 1966. Last year Aldrin described the photo as the "BEST SELFIE EVER." CW: I'd say he's right.

New York Times: "Hundreds of photographs from the early years of the space age are for sale. That includes the first image taken from space — from an altitude of 65 miles by a camera on a V-2 rocket launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on Oct. 24, 1946. (The boundary to outer space is generally placed at 100 kilometers, or 62.1 miles.) The prints are vintage — dating from that era, not modern reproductions — and come from the collection of a single European collector, said Sarah Wheeler, head of photographs at Bloomsbury Auctions in London."

** Charles Pierce comments on wingers' Twitter reactions to the Oscars.

Actor Patricia Arquette accepts her Academy Award & calls for women's wage equality:

... Which sparked outrage on the right. And dismay on the left.

#OscarsSoWhite. Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Sunday was a study in contradictions; there was overwhelming emphasis on the visibility of black people in Hollywood, yet their peers hadn’t deemed their work fit for nomination in any of the major individual categories."

Common & John Legend accept the award for the song "Glory" from the film "Selma":

The Los Angeles Times' Academy Awards page is here. The main story is here. The list of winners is here.

Los Angeles Times: "A Palm Springs home built using Joseph Eichler’s original blueprints is under contract to sell for $1.29 million. The newly built Modernist design, considered the first true Eichler home developed in 40 years, came to market on Tuesday. According to real estate brokers and developers Troy Kudlac and Ross Stout of KUD Properties Inc., which handled the listing side, it sold that day for the asking price." With slideshow.

If you just can't get enough of the Academy Awards, the L. A. Times has a guide to Oscar-related TV shows. If you want to watch the Oscars online, here's where & how.

D. R. Tucker in the Washington Monthly: "... give [Jon] Stewart his props for the positive things he has done over the years. He has inspired a new generation of commentators who will continue to call out political perversity and media mendacity. However, the man was not without his flaws — and the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was a gigantic one. As Olbermann, Maher and Maddow have long argued, sanity has to defeat fear, not figure out some way to get along with it."

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Monday
Dec152014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 16, 2014

Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "The Senate on Monday confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy as the next surgeon general of the United States over the objections of gun rights advocates. Murthy, a 36-year old physician, was approved 51-43 as the nation's top doctor despite opposition from the GOP for his support of gun control and ObamaCare. Three Democrats voted against him, while Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.) was the only Republican to vote in favor." The Democrats who voted against Murthy's confirmation were gun-totin' Joe Manchin (W.V.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) & Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) ...

... Sarah Ferris: "Gun control and public health groups were quick to cheer the Senate's decision Monday to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy as the next surgeon general."

Helen Ubiñas of the Philadelphia Daily News: "WHATEVER REASON we eventually settle on for the latest deadly shooting spree, this time in Montgomery County yesterday - mental illness, easy access to guns, a world gone mad - we know one thing for sure: A gun shattered families, a community and our sense of safety. A gun. Again."


James Risen & Matt Apuzzo
of the New York Times: "The C.I.A. has said it hired [psychologists James] Mitchell and [Bruce] Jessen because their experience with 'nonstandard' interrogation was 'unparalleled.' But the government's own experts favored the traditional approach to questioning prisoners. And the Senate report makes clear that the speed with which Mr. Mitchell was brought into the program -- less than 24 hours elapsed between the time his name was floated and that first cable -- meant there was no time to analyze whether his approach was best. Former officials involved in the program attribute the speed to one thing: desperation. With the C.I.A. under pressure to obtain information from its prisoners, Mr. Mitchell seemed to have the answer to how to do it." Read the whole article. ...

Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "... the two questions before us now are whether the Obama administration's approach to the old torture regime -- eschewing prosecutions, resisting disclosure, prohibiting CIA torture via executive order -- maximizes accountability and assures that, in Obama's words, we 'leave these techniques where they belong -- in the past.' The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's beleaguered torture report tested these propositions, and the Obama approach failed both.... The most troubling thing about Obama's approach isn't that it let everyone get away with torture, but that partial disclosure alone hasn't created deterrence of any kind.... He can't ... argue that his look-only-forward approach to the torture program has relegated institutional torture to the past. His own CIA director won't even argue that."

... Jonathan Chait on "Dick Cheney's 6-Step Torture Denial." Thanks to MAG for the link. Bottom line: it's never torture if Americans do it. ...

... You may be surprised to learn that PolitiFact rated some of Dick Cheney's claims as "false" & "mostly false." ...

... King Dick. Jamelle Bouie of Slate: "... if the immigration action is Caesarism -- if, as Sen. [Ted] Cruz has said, it's the action of an 'unaccountable monarch' -- then the same is surely true of the torture program. In reality, it's not even a comparison. On one hand, you have discretion for some unauthorized immigrants, rooted in congressional statutes. On the other, you have a secret and illegal program of kidnapping and torture, justified by wild claims of executive authority and defended in the name of 'security.' Barack Obama used his office to help illegal immigrants, and for this, Republicans have attacked him as a Caesar. That's fine. But Dick Cheney used his office to claim dominion over the bodies and persons of alleged enemies, some of whom were innocent. If that isn't Caesarism, if that isn't despotism, then it's something scarily close. But here, with few exceptions, Republicans are silent."

... Charles Pierce: "There is nothing exceptional about American torture. There is nothing exceptional about its stated motivation. There is nothing exceptional about the physicians and psychologists who took part in the program, and who ought to have their licenses lifted yesterday. There is nothing exceptional about the politicians who ordered it, the officials who conducted it, the officials who covered it up, and the officials who are out there now defending it. There is nothing exceptional about it, not even the pale and puny excuses for it. There is nothing exceptional about America. It is a country that tortures." ...

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. -- U.S. Constitution, Eighth Amendment (Emphasis added.)

... Charles Pierce: "The simple historical fact is that the United States committed itself early on to being a nation that did not torture. It is part of the country's fundamental nature." ...

... Somebody had better tell Nino about the Eighth Amendment. ...

Steve M.: "I don't know if the gloves are going to come off again on the first day of the next GOP presidency, but if we have a Sidney siege with a Republican in the White House and any of the perpetrators are captured alive, it seems likely to me that the waterboarding equipment is coming out of mothballs." ...

     ... CW: Actually, no, Steve. There going to have to get them some brand-new waterboards. "The Senate report describes a photograph of a 'well worn' waterboard, surrounded by buckets of water, at a detention site where the CIA has claimed it never subjected a detainee to this procedure."

... Driftglass: "... with the perfect totalitarian logic, we arrive now at that place where, in order to protect the Big Lie by which they live, Conservatives must now actively celebrate sadism and torture.... We give our monsters the run of the place. We let them have their own teevee networks, their own publishing houses and newspapers, their own churches, their own political party and to them is ceded around 70% of the on-camera real estate during ... our national Sunday Morning Gasbag cavalcade."

... Akhilleus wrote an excellent comment yesterday on the use of euphemisms to avoid describing torture as torture. As Akhilleus points out, torture advocates are now shortening those euphemisms, like "enhanced interrogation techniques" to acronyms. Why, "EIT" sounds about as benign as "MIT" or "CIT," doesn't it? LOL. BTW, it took the New York Times a mere decade to call torture "torture." Maybe Karl Rove can get the paper-of-record to start calling torture "the 'T' word." ...

... Matt Wilstein of Mediate: "Fox & Friends made a smooth transition from breaking news coverage of the Sydney hostage crisis this morning to Vice President Dick Cheney's defense of the CIA torture program on Meet the Press. Within the span of a few minutes, host Elisabeth Hasselbeck was using the still-unfolding situation in Australia as justification for the CIA's use of so-called 'enhanced interrogation techniques.'" ...

     ... Hunter of Daily Kos: "If only we had more state-sponsored torture in the world. No doubt that would put a stop to all of this." ...

     ... Here's a Reality Chek for Hasselbeck (not that reality ever creeps into her pretty little head). Steve M.: "... the attacks we've been facing in the West these days simply aren't hatched in melodramatic meetings of international terrorists who then send the operatives off on transcontinental jets so they can execute elaborate plans for mayhem. What we're seeing instead are mostly solo attacks ... that don't involve terrorist cells or centralized brain trusts. Inspiration comes from terror groups..., but there aren't conspirators per se -- angry locals just seem to answer the online call, working on their own. In the case of Man Haron Monis, the hostage-taker in Sydney..., [it appears] this was just the latest in a series of sociopathic acts on his part, some of them of a jihadist nature, others allegedly just garden-variety violent criminality, and all of them none of them part of a bigger conspiracy, as far as we can tell." ...

... Steve M.: Dubya just happened to show up at the 9/11 Memorial Museum Sunday evening -- for the first time. It's been open since May, & the grounds have been open since 2011. "... he wanted to wait until now because of the torture report. Oh, and because he hopes it will occur to some people that his new book about his father would make an excellent Christmas gift. Oh, and Jeb's clearly running for president -- gotta polish up the Bush brand on his behalf."

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "Democrats would like some credit for the run of good economic news. Yet the better those reports are, the more divided the party has become over how -- even whether -- to take any. In one camp are Democrats who argue that if they do not take some credit, they will continue to receive little. Others counter that boasting would backfire, infuriating millions of Americans who do not see the economy improving for them or their children."

Manu Raju & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Republican senators pounded Ted Cruz over the weekend, lashing him for his procedural tactics and ultimately voting in large numbers against his immigration gambit. Now, Cruz's allies off Capitol Hill are looking for revenge. Conservative outside groups view Saturday's vote as the first salvo in the GOP v. GOP purity wars that they hope to reignite in the beginning of the new Congress and in the run-up to the 2016 Senate races, when 24 Republican senators will be on the primary ballots."...

     ... CW: Of course, because it's Politico, the reporters compare the GOP revolt to Elizabeth Warren's recent high-profile moves: "What's happening on the GOP side is not unlike the deep divide among Democrats...." See links to related commentary/rebuttals in today's "Presidential Election" section. BTW, I doubt there will be any liberal groups thinking about mounting a primary challenge to, say, Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who voted for the Cromnibus."

Nick Anderson of the Washington Post: "Federal data on college discipline obtained by The Washington Post suggest that students found responsible for sexual assault are as likely to be ordered to have counseling or given a reprimand as they are to be kicked out. They are much more likely to be suspended and then allowed to finish their studies. The University of Virginia has expelled no students for sexual misconduct in the past decade, a record that has intensified scrutiny of the public flagship university now at the center of debate on campus sexual assault."

Paul Kendrick in TPM: "Stop blaming Obama for failing to cure America of racism."

Annals of "Justice," Ctd.

I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look - wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. -- Tom Joad, protagonist of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath ...

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), in an Atlantic essay: Men of color "are offered no lenience, even for petty offenses, in a system that seems hell-bent on warehousing them by the millions of people, while others escape the consequences of pervasive malfeasance scot-free. Some people rationalize that it was unfortunate, but not altogether disturbing, that Michael Brown was put to death without due process because, after all, he allegedly took some cigarillos from a corner store. But who went to jail for the mortgage fraud that robbed his community and other black communities around the country of 50 percent of their wealth?"

Katrina Vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post: "At a time when there is political momentum to address mass incarceration and the war on drugs, it is crucial that our efforts to fix the broken criminal justice system include police reform. And while removing local district attorneys from the process of investigating police officers is a start, more can be done to repair relations between police and communities of color and protect people from bad policing, such as requiring officers to wear body cameras, defunding police departments that use excessive force or racial profiling, and ending the 'broken windows' enforcement strategy that encourages aggressive interactions with low-level offenders."

Adam Ferrise of Northeast Ohio Media Group: "Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins defended his wearing a 'Justice for Tamir Rice' shirt during warm-ups before Sunday's game against the Bengals.... Hawkins made the statement the day after Cleveland police union president Jeff Follmer called Hawkins' shirt 'pathetic' and said Hawkins should stick to playing football." CW: Hawkins has nothing to "defend," especially in light of the Justice Department's report on rampant malfeasance in Cleveland's police department. Follmer should be working to improve the department, not criticizing wholly justifiable criticisms of the cops.

** William Bastone, et al., of the Smoking Gun: "The grand jury witness who testified that she saw Michael Brown pummel a cop before charging at him 'like a football player, head down,' is a troubled, bipolar Missouri woman with a criminal past who has a history of making racist remarks and once insinuated herself into another high-profile St. Louis criminal case with claims that police eventually dismissed as a 'complete fabrication.' In interviews with police, FBI agents, and federal and state prosecutors -- as well as during two separate appearances before the grand jury that ultimately declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson -- the purported eyewitness delivered a preposterous and perjurious account.... Referred to only as 'Witness 40' in grand jury material, the woman concocted a story that is now baked into the narrative of the Ferguson grand jury, a panel before which she had no business appearing." CW: If you didn't think Bob McCullough's grand jury presentation was a Soviet-like travesty, maybe you will now.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

The Week, to which I occasionally link, is closing its comments section because some commenters are assholes. CW: Sorry, but I don't think that's the best way to deal with assholes.

Peter Beinart of the Atlantic thinks the media are about to fall in love with President Obama again. "Journalists like to build up, tear down and then build up again. This year, Obama's media coverage has been horrendous. According to The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, Obama had the worst year of any major figure in Washington. But it's precisely because so many journalists share Cillizza's views that our easily bored tribe will now try to push the pendulum back. Which won't be very hard at all." Yeah, that's journalism, folks.

... Ken Kurson of the New York Observer: "It's been a tough month for factchecking. After the Rolling Stone campus rape story unraveled, readers of all publications can be forgiven for questioning the process by which Americans get our news. And now it turns out that another blockbuster story is -- to quote its subject in an exclusive Observer interview -- 'not true.' Monday's edition of New York magazine includes an irresistible story about a Stuyvesant High senior named Mohammed Islam who had made a fortune investing in the stock market. Reporter Jessica Pressler wrote regarding the precise number, "Though he is shy about the $72 million number, he confirmed his net worth is in the "'high eight figures.'" The New York Post followed up with a story of its own, with the fat figure playing a key role in the headline: 'High school student scores $72M playing the stock market.' And now it turns out, the real number is ... zero."

Jacob Weisberg of Slate re: the Sony hacks: "... when it comes to exploiting the fruits of the digital break-in, journalists should voluntarily withhold publication. They shouldn't hold back because they're legally obligated to -- I don't believe they are -- but because there's no ethical justification for publishing this damaging, stolen material.... In the case of the Sony hack, it's hard to see any public interest at all."

CW: Jim Tankersley of the Washington Post continues with Part 3 of his series which might be titled, "There's nothing we can do to help working people." In Part 3, he notes that poor people can't afford a college education, which is what they need to lift themselves out of poverty. Jim sees this as "ironic." The connundrum, apparently, has NOTHING TO DO WITH PUBLIC POLICY. Jim suggests maybe Catholic Charities can help a very, very few people (but even then the new grads probably won't be able to get jobs). Swell solution. Why, oh, why is it, Jim, that Elizabeth Warren, who is in her mid-60s & grew up poor, was able to become a university professor? Or a high school -- and still -- friend of mine, who grew up in the same financial straits I did, went on to become a university president? And yet, and yet, today's poor people cannot afford even an undergraduate degree.

     NOT RELATED AT ALL. Zoe Carpenter of the Nation: "The [CRomnibus] bill slices $300 million from Pell Grants, which help cover college tuition for some of America's poorest students, including two-thirds of all black and half of Latino undergraduates.... There's just about nothing in the bill to spur job growth or halt and reverse free-falling wages -- no funds for major infrastructure investments, for example. In fact, it explicitly blocks a high-speed rail proposal. The bill leaves the tax code untouched, meaning it will still be tipped in favor of corporations."


Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
of the AP: "Trying to head off a new round of consumer headaches with President Barack Obama's health care law, the insurance industry said Tuesday it will give customers more time to pay their premiums for January. America's Health Insurance Plans, the main industry trade group, says the voluntary steps include a commitment to promptly refund any overpayments by consumers who switched plans and may have gotten double-billed by mistake." CW: Aah, why not just scrap the whole thing. ...

... CW: I remain confused as to why this is "Barack Obama's health care law," or ObamaCare. Members of Congress wrote (and rewrote) the bill, &, as I recall, Nancy Pelosi had to talk Obama into going for it after the 2010 election "shellacking." I'm not saying President Obama didn't have input -- he laid out broad goals for what he wanted the act to do &, for instance, he made with Big Pharma that smoothed the path to passage.

Sarah Ferris: "Tennessee has struck a tentative deal with the federal government to become the latest red state to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare, Gov. Bill Haslam (R) announced Monday. Haslam said he has received 'verbal approval' from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to move forward with a new pilot plan to help about 200,000 low-income Tennesseans gain coverage. The state's plan veers from the traditional route of expanding Medicaid.... The expansion plan will likely face a tough test in Tennessee's GOP-controlled state legislature, where the Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris has complained that Haslam is leaving lawmakers out of talks."

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Alison Griswold of Slate: "Uber, no stranger to outrage, has stirred up more of it for hiking fares in Sydney as a hostage crisis played out on Monday. As people sought to flee Sydney's business district, Uber reportedly quadrupled its fares until a single ride cost a minimum of $100 Australian, or $80 U.S. While it at first seemed possible the increase was a mistake -- Uber's pricing algorithm responding to a spike in demand -- the company soon made clear that the increases were intentional." ...

... Tony Romm of Politico: "Uber on Monday strongly defended its privacy practices, telling Sen. Al Franken in a letter that the company 'prohibits employees from accessing rider personal information except for business purposes' -- but the Democratic senator said he still isn't convinced."

John Hooper of the Guardian: "A three-year papal investigation into America's 50,000 nuns, which inspired comparisons with the Inquisition, produced an unexpectedly benign report on Tuesday, containing somewhat tepid reprimands and calling for a careful review of their spiritual practices. The Vatican ordered the investigation -- technically an 'apostolic visitation' -- in 2008, during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. It affected almost 400 institutes. The change in tone in Tuesday's report may reflect a new and more conciliatory policy under Pope Francis." ...

... Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "The relatively warm tone in the report, and at the Vatican news conference that released it, was a far cry from six years ago when the investigation was announced, creating fear, anger and mistrust among women in religious communities and convents across the United States."

Alan Cowell of the New York Times: "... last year, a United Nations panel concluded that there was 'persuasive evidence that the aircraft [which crashed in what is now Zambia, killing U.N. Secretary Dag Hammarskjold, a Swedish diplomat] was subjected to some form of attack or threat as it circled to land at Ndola.' On Monday, Sweden formally asked the United Nations General Assembly to reopen the investigation. Significantly, the request included an appeal for all member states to release any hitherto unpublished records -- a reference aimed largely at securing the declassification of American and British files...."

Gene Robinson: "It seems there is something to offend everyone in the upcoming Hollywood comedy 'The Interview.' At this point, I'm guessing, most wounded of all may be the Sony Pictures Entertainment executives who greenlighted the film." Robinson explains why. ...

     ... Gawker has video of the Kim-Jong-un exploding-head death scene here. Now, that's comedy! (But it's not torture; in the plotline, the assassination was CIA-instigated.)

Presidential Election

Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times: "Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, announced on Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday that he had 'decided to actively explore the possibility of running for president of the United States.'"...

... Gary Fineout of the AP: "Bush's announcement is sure to reverberate throughout Republican politics and begin to help sort out a field that includes more than a dozen potential candidates, none of whom have formally announced plans to mount a campaign."

Kevin Cirilli of the Hill: "MoveOn.org officials announced Monday that they have garnered 110,000 signatures on a petition urging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to run for president in 2016.The announcement comes just one week after the progressive grassroots group launched a 'Run Warren Run' campaign that included a $1 million investment." The petition sign-in is here. ...

... Warren Refuses to Make a Shermanesque Statement. Danny Vinik of the New Republic: "In an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep that aired Monday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren repeatedly dodged whether she intends to run for president, saying that she 'is not running for president.' That's been her line for months, but it only makes clear that she's not running for president at this moment; it says nothing about her future plans.' ...

... Steve Inskeep of NPR: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren failed to stop a change in bank regulations last weekend, but she raised her profile yet again. The Massachusetts Democrat tells NPR that her fight over a provision in a spending bill was a 'warning shot.' She intends to continue her fight against what she describes as the power of Wall Street, even though that fight brought her to oppose leaders of her own party." Includes audio. ...

... Here Warren, speaking from the Senate floor, took on CitiGroup -- and the Obama administration. It was quite a speech:

There's a lot of talk coming from CitiGroup about how Dodd-Frank isn't perfect.... To anyone who is listening at Citi, I agree with you. Dodd-Frank isn't perfect. It should have broken you into pieces.

... Ed Kilgore: "What's most interesting about her speech is that she placed as great an emphasis on Wall Street influence in the Obama administration Treasury Department as she did on the legislative provisions in the Cromnibus. She's pulling no punches.... [BUT] I'm afraid we need to call B.S. on this idea of Elizabeth Warren (or any other 'populist) becoming a pied piper to the Tea Folk, pulling them across the barricades to support The Good Fight against 'crony capitalism.'' ...

... Oh Yeah? "Warren Can Win." David Brooks: "... there is something in the air. The fundamental truth is that every structural and historical advantage favors Clinton, but every day more Democrats embrace the emotion and view defined by Warren." ...

     ... CW: This impressionistic "something in the air" was just the kind of rationale Peggy Noonan used immediately before the 2012 election to predict Mitt Romney would win the presidency: "In Florida a few weeks ago I saw Romney signs, not Obama ones. From Ohio I hear the same. From tony Northwest Washington, D.C., I hear the same." I'd say Brooks & Noonan are breathing the same air.

... "The False Equivalence Parlor Game." Driftglass: "In this week's episode [of the Sunday Showz], the Citibank Reacharound Act of 2014 was used as a vehicle to demonstrate that Elizabeth Warren is really pretty much just the Left's version of Ted Cruz." (Also linked above.) CW: Here's the great thing about immigration reform: all those undocumented, soon-to-be-legal workers will help bail out the banks. Lucky duckies. I don't think Ted has thought through this. But he never does. ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Warren isn't exactly on the verge of reading Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor for no real reason, but the media's fawning response to her maneuvering angered Republicans, and they probably won't let her forget the comparison [to Ted Cruz]. 'Extremism comes in all sizes, colors and sexes," Republican senator Lindsey Graham told Newsmax. 'The double standard by which the media views the actions of a Democrat versus a Republican is still astonishing to me.'"

Jonathan Chait: "Fresh off his latest failed stunt, Ted Cruz is gearing up his presidential campaign. National Review's Eliana Johnson has a fascinating account of Cruz's pitch for how nominating him would not backfire in the same terrible way everything else associated with Cruz has, but would instead lead the Republican Party to glorious triumph. Cruz has plans to appeal to millennials ('on social media, Cruz is the most talked-about presidential candidate on the right') and women (advisers 'cite his speeches about the influence of the important women in his life, his support for Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand's bill that would have removed sexual-assault cases from the military chain of command, and his attempts when he was a college student to confront the problem of date rape'). The most hopeful element of Cruz's 2016 coalition is his plan to win over the Jews."

Catherine Lucey of the AP: "Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad [R] is pushing to end the state's Republican straw poll, but the state party chairman says the event may still go on next year. Branstad said Monday that the poll -- traditionally held in Ames the summer before a contested presidential caucus -- is a turnoff for many candidates and could diminish the power of the state's caucuses.... But State Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said he thinks there's interest in continuing the tradition, provided it's permissible under Republican National Committee rules.... The Republican Party of Iowa runs the poll. Kaufmann said the State Central Committee, which governs the party, will meet next month and he expects a vote on whether to hold a straw poll. Kaufmann has sought a written opinion from the RNC in response to concerns that Iowa could jeopardize early voting status by holding a voting event before the caucuses."

News Ledes

New York Times: "In one of Pakistan's bloodiest attacks in recent years, scores of people were killed after a group of Taliban gunmen stormed a school in northern Pakistan, officials and rescue workers said on Tuesday. Hundreds of students remained trapped inside the compound as security forces exchanged fire with the gunmen, officials said. The toll of dead and injured remained uncertain, but the local news media, citing government officials and hospitals, reported 126 dead, more than 100 of them children. The army press office announced that five attackers had been killed."

New York Times: "President Obama has decided to sign legislation imposing further sanctions on Russia and authorizing additional aid to Ukraine, despite concerns that it will complicate his efforts to maintain a unified front with European allies, the White House said on Tuesday. The legislation calls for a raft of new measures penalizing Russia's military and energy sectors and authorizes $350 million in military assistance to Ukraine, including antitank weapons, tactical surveillance drones and counter-artillery radar. The bill was approved unanimously by Congress, but Mr. Obama hedged for days on whether he would sign it." ...

... Washington Post: "Russia appeared headed Tuesday into a full-fledged currency crisis after the central bank imposed a massive, middle-of-the-night interest rate hike but failed to halt the plummet of the ruble."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "In one of the region's deadliest shooting rampages, an Iraq war veteran shot and killed his ex-wife and five of her relatives early Monday, terrorizing four upper Montgomery County communities and sparking a manhunt that continued deep into the night, officials said. The suspect, Bradley W. Stone, 35, of Pennsburg, had a 'familial relationship' with all of the victims, officials said. Besides his ex-wife, he allegedly killed her mother, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law, and niece. The couple's two daughters were unharmed....A 17-year-old boy, Stone's former nephew, was shot and wounded."

Monday
Dec152014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 15, 2014

Peter Baker & Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times attempt to explain why CIA Director John Brennan gets away with murder & torture: "... in the 67 years since the C.I.A. was founded, few presidents have had as close a bond with their intelligence chiefs as Mr. Obama has forged with Mr. Brennan. It is a relationship that has shaped the policy and politics of the debate over the nation's war with terrorist organizations, as well as the agency's own struggle to balance security and liberty. And the result is a president who denounces torture but not the people accused of inflicting it." CW: Seems that even though Obama got a dog, he still believes he has friends in Washington. And he's picked some pretty dicey "friends." ...

... Noah Schactman of the Daily Beast: "The Obama administration is withholding hundreds, perhaps even thousands of photographs showing the U.S. government's brutal treatment of detainees.... Some photos show American troops posing with corpses; others depict U.S. forces holding guns to people's heads or simulating forced sodomization. All of them could be released to the public, depending on how a federal judge in New York rules...." ...

[Chuck] Todd continued to press Cheney, pointing out that '25 percent' of the CIA's 'turned out to be innocent.' 'Is that too high?' Todd asked. 'Are you okay with that margin —' 'I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective,' Cheney said. 'I'd do it again in a minute.'

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senior Bush administration officials are making a coordinated push to discredit a damning Senate report on CIA interrogation tactics authorized during President George W. Bush's first term.... [Dick] Cheney, along with other Bush administration officials, blasted the Senate report as one-sided and misleading. Michael Mukasey, who served as attorney general under Bush, slammed the report as a 'disaster.'... Karl Rove, a longtime senior political adviser to Bush, said on "Fox News Sunday" that interrogation techniques were carefully designed to fall short of torture, a point Cheney made as well on NBC." ...

... Andy Borowitz (satire): "In an appearance on NBC's 'Meet the Press,' on Sunday, former Vice-President Dick Cheney told host Chuck Todd that he was 'sick and tired of Americans being ashamed of our beautiful legacy of torture' and that he was organizing the first 'National Torture-Pride March' to take place in Washington in January." CW: The march would probably get a good turnout. ...

     ... Jessica Schulberg of the New Republic: "Only 11 percent of self-identified GOP-ers were willing to rule out the use of torture entirely, and over half approved of tactics like sleep deprivation, physical violence, forced nudity, waterboarding, and the threat of sexual violence.... Today, 24 percent of Americans say the use of torture against suspected terrorists is never justified...." ...

... Here's Rove explaining to Chris Wallace that torture isn't torture if it's "'designed' to let the victims live." ...

... The Triumph of Dick Cheney. Digby in Salon: "The brother of the unrepentant president who ordered torture is today considered the most serious Republican candidate for the White House and there can be no doubt that he would continue those practices. The opposition will do little more than make tepid complaints and, if history is any guide, even Democratic presidents of the future who object to such tactics will feel compelled to protect them after the fact. He accomplished exactly what he set out to do all those decades ago. If a White House can get away with ordering torture and bragging about it, it can get away with anything. His cruel legacy is complete." Thanks to safari for the link. ...

What I'm especially troubled by is John Brennan on Thursday really opened the door to the possibility of torture being used again.... I intend to introduce legislation to make it clear, for example, that if torture is used in the future there would be a basis to prosecute. -- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)

... Brian Lowry of Variety: "While the [Senate] report called into question the efficacy of torture, as the Washington Post's Terrence McCoy put it, 'That's not how it looks on TV. Harsh interrogation, as an effective means of eliciting crucial information, has become firmly entrenched in popular culture.'... Not only has torture become more frequent since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, but the acceptance of those depictions in entertainment has been cited as a point of reference -- and even an endorsement of the tactics.... It seems reasonable to ask whether pop culture -- along with news operations whose 'News Alert' headlines stoked post-Sept. 11 fears -- has been partially complicit in cultivating the conditions that allowed torture to be deemed a viable option."...

... CW: Hmmm. It does seem Hollywood director Kathryn Bigelow is more disturbed by elephant poaching -- which is truly awful -- than she is with torturing humans, which she describes as "complicated." She certainly bought into the "torture work" theory in an interview last year with Stephen Colbert. regarding her film "Zero Dark Thirty," which portrays torture as producing "actionable intelligence." As Scott Shane of the New York Times reported two years ago, "In a message sent Friday to agency employees about the film, 'Zero Dark Thirty,' [then-Acting CIA Director Michael] Morell said it 'creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding Bin Laden. That impression is false.'" Too bad President Obama passed over Morell for the top job. He surely has a better idea about the effectiveness of torture than does Obama's choice John Brennan, who defended torture last week & suggested the U.S. could use it again:

I defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to make sure this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis.... Our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attacks, capture terrorists, and save lives. But let me be clear. We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. -- John Brennan, last week

Does that even make sense? -- Constant Weader

... ** One Definition of "American Exceptionism." Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: Basically, in Cheney’s world, nothing Americans do can be called torture, because we are not Al Qaeda and we are not the Japanese in the Second World War (whom we prosecuted for waterboarding) and we are not ISIS. 'The way we did it,' as he said of waterboarding, was not torture. In other words, it was not really the Justice Department that 'blessed,' or rather transubstantiated, torture; it was our American-ness.... Neither [Dick Cheney nor John Brennan ]would call what the C.I.A. did torture. Each, in his own way, suggested that American torturers have not faced a reckoning so much as a lull in their business.... This President has told his agents not to torture, and Brennan says he can work with that, while the C.I.A. waits for instructions from the next one."

Harry's Last Hurrah. Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "After [Harry] Reid (D-Nev.) exploited a weekend rebellion on immigration by rogue Republican senators as a $1.1 trillion spending bill was up against the clock, the Senate will move ahead this week on key executive branch nominations submitted by President Obama that appeared to be stalled not long ago.... Beginning Monday, Reid plans to set in motion votes for Vivek Murthy to serve as surgeon general, Daniel Santos to take a seat on the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and Frank Rose to serve as an assistant secretary of state. Then, Reid will set up votes for Antony Blinken to serve as a deputy secretary of state and Sarah Saldaña to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. It is unclear whether Republicans will allow Reid to accelerate the process."

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: Elizabeth Warren hasn't taken Larry Summers' advice to keep her head down, & her decision has paid off. "She's remained outspoken, but has become even more influential.... For the 300 former Obama campaign officials who last week urged her to run in 2016 -- she is the one they've been waiting for."

Paul Krugman: "The Masters of the Universe, it turns out, are a bunch of whiners. But they're whiners with war chests, and now they've bought themselves a Congress.... The people who brought the economy to its knees are seeking the chance to do it all over again. And they have powerful allies, who are doing all they can to make Wall Street's dream come true." Read the whole column.

Jim Tankersley of the Washington Post: "The American economy has stopped delivering the broadly shared prosperity that the nation grew accustomed to after World War II. The explanation for why that is begins with the millions of middle-class jobs that vanished over the past 25 years, and with what happened to the men and women who once held those jobs. Millions of Americans are working harder than ever just to keep from falling behind.... Those workers have been devalued in the eyes of the economy, pushed into jobs that pay them much less than the ones they once had. Today, a shrinking share of Americans are working middle-class jobs, and collectively, they earn less of the nation's income than they used to." ...

... CW: Weirdly, Tankersley puts the blame for this phenomenon on various economic factors & never once even mentions the political factors that have grossly exacerbated middle-class economic woes. Thus, the story, which could have been an important one, ends up being nothing more than an excellent example of how the media give Republicans a pass for their stupid, cruel "free-market" philosophy & policy prescriptions. If you wonder why Republicans get away with destroying the economy, here's a big part of the answer. Fortunately, a few of the commenters get it. (Others crazily blame "the national debt." They have been carefully taught -- in this case, by the WashPo/Pete Peterson cooperative.)

Don't Count on the Kids. Sean McElwee of Salon with a sobering reality chek: "... while social liberalism will continue to be a political winner, economic liberalism may be tougher to sell to white millenials. Additionally, while white millenials say they want to live in a racially equitable society, they are no more likely than their parents to support policies to make that society come about."

Annals of "Justice," Ctd.

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "Police aggressively questioned the tearful girlfriend of a young black man they had just shot dead as he held a BB gun in an Ohio supermarket -- accusing her of lying, threatening her with jail, and suggesting that she was high on drugs. Tasha Thomas was reduced to swearing on the lives of her relatives that John Crawford III had not been carrying a firearm when they entered the Walmart in Beavercreek, near Dayton, to buy crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars on the evening of 5 August.... After the case was handed to a special prosecutor, a grand jury decided in September that [the shooter, Officer Sean] Williams, and another officer involved should not face criminal charges. Williams was in 2010 responsible for the only other fatal police shooting in Beavercreek's recent history." CW: So if you're a friend of a victim of a white-police-on-black shooting, expect the cops to abuse you, too.

David of Crooks & Liars: "A Texas police officer was placed on administrative leave on Friday after he reportedly used a Taser on a 76-year-old man after the suspect had already been forced to the ground. The Victoria Advocate reported that 76-year-old Pete Vasquez was driving a work-owned vehicle back to his place of business on Thursday when 23-year-old Officer Nathanial Robinson pulled him over for an expired inspection. Vasquez said that he explained that the car belonged to a car lot, and that the dealer tags made it exempt from having an inspection." CW: The elderly person's name is Vasquez; the copy's name is Robinson & he's whitey-white-white. What do you expect? ...

... Heather Alexander of the Houston Chronicle: "Two police officers opened fire on an apparently unarmed man during a traffic stop in southwest Houston Friday night, allegedly shooting him three times for not following commands. HPD officers pulled over the car the man was a riding in for an illegal lane change around 9:30 p.m.... As standard procedure, both officers have been put on three-day administrative leave and will receive psychological support...." The passenger, identified as Michael Paul Walker, is black.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker writes a long autopsy of the New Republic.

Terrence McCoy & Fred Barbash of the Washington Post: "After days of silence, Sony Pictures Entertainment acknowledged a voluminous, embarrassing leak of internal e-mails and other materials on Sunday, warning numerous media outlets in a strongly worded letter against publishing or using the 'stolen' corporate data exposed by unidentified hackers." ...

... Aaron Sorkin, in a New York Times op-ed: "I understand that news outlets routinely use stolen information. That's how we got the Pentagon Papers, to use an oft-used argument. But there is nothing in these [Sony] documents remotely rising to the level of public interest of the information found in the Pentagon Papers.... So much for our national outrage over the National Security Agency reading our stuff. It turns out some of us have no problem with it at all. We just vacated that argument.... As demented and criminal as it is, at least the hackers are doing it for a cause. The press is doing it for a nickel."

News Ledes

AP: "Five people escaped from a Sydney cafe where a gunman took an unknown number of hostages during Monday morning rush hour. Two people inside the cafe were earlier seen holding up a flag with an Islamic declaration of faith that has often been used by extremists, raising fears that a terrorist incident was playing out in the heart of Australia's biggest city." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging the hostage crisis. So is the Sydney Morning Herald. ...

     ... Guardian Update: "Two hostages and a gunman are dead after a 17-hour armed siege in Sydney's Martin Place ended with police storming the cafe. Four people were also injured as the siege ended in a chaotic shootout in the early hours of Tuesday." ...

... New York Times: "The gunman who seized hostages in a downtown Sydney cafe and was killed in a police raid early Tuesday was known to both the police and leaders of the Muslim community as a deeply troubled man with a long history of legal trouble, including a pending case involving the murder of his former wife."

Saturday
Dec132014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 14, 2014

Ed O'Keefe & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "The Senate approved a sweeping $1.1 trillion spending bill Saturday night to fund most of the federal government through the next fiscal year." CW: You might want to read the whole report, as it's mostly about how pissed senators are at Ted Cruz (and Mike Lee). It's a straight report, but amusing nonetheless, especially as it reiterates how the Cruz move played into Democrats' hands & embarrassed Mitch McConnell. ...

... Democratic Senators voting against the CR: Blumenthal, Booker, Boxer, Brown, Cantwell, Franken, Gillibrand, Harkin, Hirono, Klobuchar, Levin, Manchin, Markey, McCaskill, Menendez, Merkley, Reed, Sanders (I), Tester, Warren, Whitehouse & Wyden. ...

... Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "A vast majority of the Senate disagreed with Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) assertion that President Obama's executive order on immigration is unconstitutional.... Only 22 senators voted with Cruz and 74 voted against his point of order." ...

... "Does Not Play Well with Others." Manu Raju, et al., of Politico: "The fiasco has turned many of Cruz's colleagues openly against him, a dynamic that might bolster his cred with the tea party wing of the party if he makes a run for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2016, but could also leave him vulnerable to attacks that he's more troublemaker than leader -- able to shut down the government or stall votes but unable to advance a proactive agenda." ...

... Ramsey Cox: "The Senate spent nine hours on procedural votes that will allow Senate Democrats to confirm 24 more of President Obama's nominations before adjourning for the year. The rare Saturday session was prompted by objections from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) over the government funding bill. 'Because of Sen. Cruz's actions and Republicans' inability to stop him, Democrats will end up confirming more nominees by the end of this Congress than we would have been able to otherwise -- including several key executive branch nominees and up to 12 of President Obama's judicial nominees," said Adam Jentleson, [Harry ]Reid's spokesperson." ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Senate convened for a rare Saturday session after a bloc of conservative senators upended plans to quickly pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill. But a backstop measure to extend current government funding until Wednesday was approved Saturday afternoon, averting a potential government shutdown that would have started at midnight.... 'I think it is critical for the Senate to have an opportunity to have a clear up or down vote on funding President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty. I am using every tool available to help bring about that vote,' said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)." ...

... David Espo & Donna Cassata of the AP: "Their power ebbing, Senate Democrats launched a last-minute drive Saturday to confirm roughly 20 of President Barack Obama's nominees, and several Republicans blamed tea party-backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for creating an opening for the outgoing majority party to exploit." ...

... Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The secret negotiations that led to one of the most significant expansions of campaign contributions in recent years began with what Republican leaders regarded as an urgent problem: How would they pay for their presidential nominating convention in Cleveland in two years? The talks ended with a bipartisan agreement between Senate Democrats, led by the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and House Republicans, led by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, that would allow wealthy donors to begin giving more than $1 million every election cycle to each party's national committees. The agreement drew intense criticism from both liberal Democrats and Tea Party-aligned Republicans.... It is now headed for likely passage as a rider in a $1.1 trillion spending bill loaded with provisions sought by banks, food industry lobbyists and other special interests. It continued to draw fierce attacks as lawmakers prepared to vote on a final spending bill, even as Democratic leaders privately defended the addition as a necessary compromise to forestall more aggressive efforts by Republicans next year to whittle away at other campaign funding restrictions."

Darryl Fears of the Washington Post: "Thousands of demonstrators streamed down Pennsylvania Avenue on Saturday, shouting 'Black lives matter,' 'Hands up, don't shoot' and 'I can&'t breathe' to call attention to the recent deaths of unarmed African American men at the hands of police. The peaceful civil rights march led by families of the slain and organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network drew a wide range of Americans -- black, white, Latino, Asian, young and elderly." ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer & Elena Schneider of the New York Times: "Thousands of people marched along the National Mall on Saturday to protest the deaths [of black men & youths by white policemen], mirroring protests planned around the nation Saturday, ranging from hikes in canyons in the West to marches down the streets of the nation's urban centers.... Around the nation, from California to Kentucky to Manhattan, activists came together on Saturday for a National Day of Resistance. In New York, protesters gathered at Washington Square Park and walked north on Fifth Avenue while chanting, 'Hands up, don't shoot,' and 'Justice now.'" ...

... AP: "Three cardboard cutouts of black men were found hanging by nooses on Saturday on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. A school spokeswoman, Amy Hamaoui, said ... the effigies appeared to be connected to a noontime demonstration nearby planned to coincide with a national protest against police brutality dubbed '#blacklivesmatters'. The effigies appeared to be life-size photos of lynching victims. The effigies had names of lynching victims and the dates of their death." ...

"An undercover police officer, who had been marching with anti-police demonstrators, aims his gun at protesters after some in the crowd attacked him and his partner." AP photo.

... CW: Can't imagine how protesters guessed the guy with a gun was a cop. ...

... Nikki Woolf & Jessica Glenza of the Guardian: "An undercover California highway patrol officer who infiltrated protests against police violence in Oakland pulled a gun on demonstrators after his and his partner's cover was blown." ...

... Us v. Them. Brendan O'Connor of Gawker: "New York City's largest police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) is encouraging its members to sign a form letter asking Mayor Bill De Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito not to attend their funerals if they are killed while on active duty."

Scott Shane of the New York Times: "... the Senate report ... represents the fullest public account by any branch of government of the C.I.A.'s secret prison program. It exposes some of the mistakes made in the agency's rush to grab people with possible links to Al Qaeda.... Until 9/11, the United States had officially condemned secret imprisonment as a violation of the basic international standards of human rights. But like the prohibition on torture, it was set aside in the frantic effort to stop another attack. The Senate Democratic staff members ... counted 119 prisoners who had been in C.I.A. custody. Of those, the report found that 26 were either described in the agency's own documents as mistakenly detained, or released and given money, evidence of the same thing. The C.I.A. told the Senate in its formal response that the real number of wrongful detentions was 'far fewer' than 26 but did not offer a number." ...

... Jane Mayer of the New Yorker: "It didn't have to be this way. There have been a number of true 'torture patriots,' many of them at the C.I.A., who Obama and Brennan could have praised while sending a very clear message to the Agency and to the public. They are the officers who blew the whistle on the program internally and externally, some of whom have paid a very high price for their actions.... As David Luban, a professor of law at Georgetown University and the author of 'Torture, Power, and Law,' suggested in the Times, there are many forms of accountability for torture, and one of the most meaningful would be to honor the real torture patriots -- those who tried to stop it. What a better week it would have been if Obama had." ...

... Charles Pierce: "I think it's possible that the barbarians in the White House tortured people in order to produce statements they could use to validate further their bullshit case for their bullshit war. Even I don't want to believe that we were ruled for eight years by that species of monster. If that is the case, however, somewhere at the CIA there's a memo, and somewhere there's somebody in a cubicle that knows where the memo is, and who knows the phone number of a reporter." ...

... Steve M.: "What's revealing about [an exchange between Dick Cheney & Bret Baier of Fox "News"] is that Cheney is asked about brutality and asserts that the only alternative is indulgence. Right-wingers can't imagine any possible middle ground.... In the same way that they believe every liberal or moderate alternative to their economic ideas constitutes hardcore socialism, right-wingers think you can either treat prisoners their way or turn their prisons into spas. If you disagree with them, pampering is what you're advocating, according to the right."

Steve also has a very good post on why Democrats have lost white men. It's about the economy, stupid.

Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "For decades, officials at Bob Jones University told sexual assault victims that they were to blame for their abuse, and to not report it to the police because doing so would damage their families, churches and the university, according to a long-awaited independent report released Thursday. Bob Jones, an evangelical Christian institution in Greenville, S.C., displayed a 'blaming and disparaging' attitude toward abuse victims, according to 56 percent of the 381 current and former students and employees who replied to a confidential survey and said they had knowledge of how the university handled abuse cases."

God News

Kimberly Winston of Relgion News Service finds some swell Christmas cards for the cynical.

"The Christmas Resolution." Scott Kaufman of the Raw Story: "For the third time in four years, Colorado Representative Doug Lamborn (R) introduced a resolution intended to defend Christians against the so-called 'War on Christmas.'" Via Steve Benen.

Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times: "The U.S. Senate passed a defense policy bill Friday that would allow a 43-foot cross to remain atop Mt. Soledad in San Diego, possibly ending a 25-year legal battle. A provision in the $577-billion measure calls for the federal government to sell the land beneath the cross to the Mt. Soledad Memorial Assn., which has pledged to retain the cross as part of a war memorial." Also via Benen.

Josephine McKenna of Religion News Service: "The Roman Catholic Church in Australia acknowledged that 'obligatory celibacy' may have contributed to decades of clerical sexual abuse of children in what may be the first such admission by church officials around the world. A church advisory group called the Truth, Justice and Healing Council made the startling admission Friday (Dec. 12) in a report to the government's Royal Commission, which is examining thousands of cases of abuse in Australia. The 44-page report by the council attacked church culture and the impact of what it called 'obedience and closed environments' in some religious orders and institutions."

Jon Shirek of WXIA-TV Atlanta: "Wednesday night, in a stunning reversal, the Kennesaw[, Georgia,] City Council said they plan to approve the new mosque that they rejected last week.... Council members did not say why they were changing their votes to Yes. But they knew that the city was facing a certain, and expensive, lawsuit by the Muslims claiming that the city was violating their Constitutional rights." Via Benen. ...

... MEANWHILE, in a nearby community, Gideons is intent upon distributing Christian Bibles to children at public schools even though it is aware the practice is illegal. In fact, as Hemant Mehta reports, according to an attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, "The Gideons operate by deliberately avoiding superintendents and school boards. They advise their members to seek permission at the lowest level of authority. Usually, they target teachers and principals."

"Sorry, Fido." No, Pope Francis didn't say dogs would go to heaven. ...

     ... David Gibson of Religion News Service: "When The New York Times went with the story [that Pope Francis told a little boy he would see his dog in heaven], along with input from ethicists and theologians, it became gospel truth.... There's only one problem: none of it ever happened." The Times story is here, now with a lo-o-ong correction.

But Maybe Horses. Danielle Avitable of WJTV, Jackson, Mississippi: "Reverend Edward James of Bertha Chapel Missionary Baptist Church dressed his horse, Charlotte, in a makeshift wedding dress to protest same-sex marriage. 'The horse is to show the ridiculous idea of two men getting married,' says James." CW: If this guy has enough imagination to dress up a horse, why can't he imagine that "two men" would want to marry for the same reasons a man & a woman do?

News Lede

Guardian: "International negotiators at the Lima climate change talks have agreed on a plan to fight global warming that would for the first time commit all countries to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, agreed at United Nations talks on Sunday, was hailed as an important first step towards a climate change deal due to be finalised in Paris next year."

Saturday
Dec132014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 13, 2014

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Sen. Ted Cruz [RTP-Texas] ... has blown up the Senate leadership's plans to have a peaceful weekend by forcing round-the-clock votes on President Obama's nominees and the $1.1 trillion omnibus.... Because of objections from Cruz and his ally Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the Senate will begin slogging through procedural votes on nominees starting at noon Saturday and vote to end a filibuster of the omnibus spending package at 1 a.m. Sunday morning." ...

... Ashley Parker & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Senate on Friday struggled to pass a $1.1 trillion spending package notable for its expansive spending on military and disease fighting abroad, as well as its scaling back of financial and environmental regulations at home. In a late-night twist that is emblematic of the dysfunction plaguing the 113th Congress, partisan maneuvering in the Senate disrupted what leaders on both sides had expected to be a relatively smooth path toward final passage.... Lawmakers plan to reconvene on Saturday and work through the weekend if necessary." ...

... Dave Clarke, et al., of Politico: "Wall Street's success in using the year-end spending bill to weaken a provision of the 2010 financial reform law shows how it plans to wield its clout in the months ahead -- slowly and methodically, piece by piece, leveraging the legislative process. But the sudden uprising by liberals led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also showed that Wall Street's toxic reputation will continue to dog its efforts in Congress.... 'This is an absolute outrage,' former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the law's namesake, said of the deal. 'This is a road map for stealth unwinding of financial reform.'" ...

... Brian Beutler summarizes what "we learned from the raucous debate over the omnibus. Elizabeth Warren is a bigger powerhouse than we thought.... Democrats are divided tactically ... [and] substantively.... Republicans mostly agree ... that they shouldn't shut the government down again.... Obama's priorities are clearer.... Democrats will thus have a hard time playing populist." ...

... Gail Collins offers up an "opinion primer" so you can speak intelligently about the CRomnibus at holiday gatherings. ...

... CW: Collins doesn't mention the "pension reform" in the CRomnibus. As KPCC (NPR) reports, "If you're one of the million or so Americans who work for supermarkets, drive trucks, or build homes, your pension could shrink. Some private pensions are in trouble - they're underfunded and not enough new workers are contributing to the pool. The federal agency that bails out pension funds is also running out of money. A deal that allows these pensions to cut pensions for already retired workers was crafted by retiring Northern California Congressman George Miller, the top Democrat on the Education and Workforce Committee. Critics say it opens the door to slashing pensions in other industries as well." Roll Call: "A statement from Teamsters President Jim Hoffa ... said [pension changes in the bill] would result 'in an untold number of retirees losing a substantial percentage of their fixed income should reductions be required.'" ...

... OR This. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Democrats who voted for the giant spending bill on Thursday night received, on average, twice the campaign contributions from the finance/insurance/real estate industry as their colleagues who voted against it." CW: If you think this is a coincidence, I have some swell derivatives I'll sell you. ...

... For a comprehensive review of the bad policies crammed into the CRomnibus, I'd go with David Dayen's summary for the Fiscal Times. His conclusion: "The precedent for making changes on signature issues by tucking rollbacks into must-pass legislation has been set, without much presidential objection, or indeed, with the White House's active cooperation. 'It shows that conservatives can use must-pass legislation to repeal the regulatory state,' said one GOP aide this week. And while big theatrical fights may get waged over single provisions, dozens of others can get pushed through under cover of darkness. In other words, elections have consequences." Dayen also notes that "Obama marginalized the Democratic party" & that almost all of the "policy riders ... benefiting one donor or another [which], offers a window into how Washington will operate in 2015 and beyond." ...

... AND this, from Dylan Scott of TPM: "The CRomnibus ... prohibits the Health and Human Services Department from transferring funds from other sources to fund the [risk corridor] program. The practical impact, one policy expert told TPM, is that HHS can therefore only use money brought into the program to make payouts, effectively making it revenue neutral.... Any negative effects on insurance companies -- and then, by extension, Obamacare -- are a policy win for Republicans, who have derided risk corridors as a taxpayer-funded bailouts." Thanks to Victoria D. for the link. ...

     ... CW: I don't think this is a very big deal. The risk-corridor program was designed to be self-sustaining, except perhaps in the first year or two of the program, when, with no experience history, there was a "risk" that it would have to get a public assist. If it isn't paying for itself in future years, HHS should be able to tweak the numbers to make it revenue-neutral anyway.

** Ali Soufan in the Guardian: "The Senate report exposed an orchestrated campaign of deception and lies while I was an FBI agent. But here's the worst part: the lies haven't stopped.... One of the hardest things we struggled to make sense of, back then, was why US officials were authorizing harsh techniques when our interrogations were working and their harsh techniques weren't. The answer, as the long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report now makes clear, is that the architects of the program were taking credit for [the FBI's] success [in using normal interrogation techniques to gain useful intelligence]." ...

... Steven Reisner in Slate: According to "recent revelations in James Risen's new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War..., it appears that senior staff members of the American Psychological Association ... colluded with national security psychologists from the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House to adapt APA ethics policy to suit the needs of the psychologist-interrogators. Now, the APA, under enormous pressure because of the allegations reported by Risen, has agreed to an independent investigation to be conducted by David Hoffman, a former inspector general and federal prosecutor.... Other major national organizations of physicians, psychiatrists, and nurses all determined that their ethical obligations prohibited their members from participating in these interrogations." ...

... "I Am Not a Doctor." Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "Former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden on Thursday defended revelations from Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats that the agency used rectal rehydration on detainees. 'These were medical procedures,' Hayden said during a tense interview on CNN's 'The Lead with Jake Tapper.' He added that the method was used because detainees were dehydrated, and that giving them intravenous fluids with needles would be dangerous. 'I'm not a doctor,' he said. 'What I am told is that this is one of the ways that the body is rehydrated.'" The interview is here. Tapper was astounded: "You're really defending rectal dehydration?" ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "For the record, Physicians for Human Rights says that using the procedure 'without evidence of medical necessity' is in fact 'torture.' And, for the record, they are doctors." ...

Contrary to the CIA's assertions, there is no clinical indication to use rectal rehydration and feeding over oral or intravenous administration of fluids and nutrients. This is a form of sexual assault masquerading as medical treatment. -- Dr. Vincent Iacopino of Physicians for Human Rights

... CW: Both Tapper & Hayden make a big deal of the fact that the Senate staff did not talk to CIA witnesses. On that point, Daphne Eviatar of the Huffington Post: "One of the biggest criticisms of the Senate report is that it didn't interview witnesses, but the Senate committee has explained that was because many would not have been able to speak about their role while under investigation by the Justice Department." ...

... AND Nino Weighs In: Torture Is Totally Constitutional! AP: In an interview with Radio Television Suisse, conducted Wednesday after the Senate report was released, & aired Friday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said "nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists." CW: Scalia uses the right's "ticking timebomb" defense of torture, which intelligent people know is an absurdist argument. Funny he didn't say anything about torture's being immoral & a violation of our international treaties (at least as reported by the AP). Worth bearing in mind: this brilliant jurist (and moral cipher) also says that the Court is okay with putting an innocent person to death. So naturally, torture is cool. ...

     ... As Paul Waldman notes, "So: torture? No problem. A mandate to buy health insurance? A horrifying affront to liberty."

Bob's Bad Day. Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The federal agency that will play a pivotal role in guiding the sentence of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell has recommended that the onetime Republican rising star spend at least 10 years and a month in prison, according to several people familiar with the matter. The guidelines recommended by the U.S. probation office are preliminary, and even if finalized, U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer is not required to follow them. But experts said that Spencer typically heeds the probation office's advice, and judges in his district have imposed sentences within the recommendations more than 70 percent of the time in recent years."

Pete Williams of NBC News: "Attorney General Eric Holder has decided against forcing a reporter for the New York Times to reveal the identity of a confidential source, according to a senior Justice Department official. The reporter, James Risen, has been battling for years to stop prosecutors from forcing him to name his source for a book that revealed a CIA effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear weapons program.... But now, according to the Justice Department official, Holder has directed that Risen must not be required to reveal "information about the identity of his source.... The federal judge overseeing the case, Leonie Brinkema of Alexandria, Virginia, gave the government until next Tuesday to declare how much [Risen] would be required to reveal in court."

Here's Jeff Johnson's full interview of President Obama (video & transcript). David Hudson of the White House provides a transcript of excerpts regarding race relations.

Here's Colbert's interview of President Obama. Part 2 is here. A brief extended portion is here:

Danny Vinik of the New Republic on Elizabeth Warren's big week. He holds out hope she will decide to run for president.

Issa's Last Stand. Natalie Villacorta of Politico: "House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has subpoenaed MIT economist Jonathan Gruber for all documents related to his government work on the Affordable Care Act. At a committee hearing this week, which was prompted in part by his controversial comments about the passage of the ACA, Gruber refused to provide details about how much he was paid by federal and state governments for his consulting services on the health care law." CW: Issa's chairmanship of the Oversight Committee ends with this Congressional session. ...

... Barbara Morrill of Daily Kos explains why: "Saddened that his recent hearing into the Kenyan plot to destroy America by providing health care to millions was largely overlooked because of a pesky report about torture, or maybe because this is his last chance to put on a show, Republican jackass Darrell Issa is at it again." ...

... OR, as Dave Weigel of Bloomberg Politics, reports, Issa's motivation is more sinister: "It's one final pearl dive, albeit one that incoming Chairman and Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz will happily strap on the SCUBA gear for. The goal, as before, is to find Gruber gabbing about something that could bolster the legislative arguments for states to undo the ACA, and bolster the legal arguments for the Supreme Court to rule against the government and argue that state exchanges were never meant to have subsidies."

Darryl Fears of the Washington Post: "With the families of slain black men and children walking with him, the Rev. Al Sharpton will guide a traditional civil rights march from downtown Washington to the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, but it won't be the weekend's only demonstration. In other parts of the nation, a number of younger activists say they will gather in areas as part of a broad National Day of Resistance to protest recent grand jury decisions to not indict officers in the deaths of Eric Garner of Staten Island and Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo." ...

... Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post: "Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer last month, died from a 'gunshot wound of torso with injuries of major vessel, intestines and pelvis,' according to an autopsy released on Friday. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's report ruled Rice's the death a homicide." ...

... Mary Kilpatrick of Northeast Ohio Media Group: "Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice, is expected to join the Rev. Al Sharpton and the families of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin Saturday in Washington D.C. to lead a march against police brutality and excessive force."

In yesterday's commentary thread, Akhilleus pointed to a piece that's a good demonstration of all that's wrong about the right. Eric Hananoki of Media Matters: "Allen West heavily plagiarized from a viral Internet story in a piece attacking the Obama administration for purportedly ignoring the deaths of law enforcement officers. West lifted at least six paragraphs (including typos) from the story, which was previously posted on sites like Yahoo! Answers, Free Republic, Facebook, and the comments section of various websites." The fabulous coda: "West concluded the column by claiming, "I write this missive because I despise hypocrisy." He previously decried plagiarism by Sen. John Walsh (D-MT) in an October 14 post." ...

... Hananoki has updated his piece, & this too is hilarious: "The following sentence has been added to the piece, just before the series of paragraphs Media Matters highlighted as originating with the viral story: 'Then I came across a widely circulated email and viral internet post about a number of stories that seem to have dropped off the radar of the mainstream media, and conveniently ignored by the Department of Justice.' That sentence replaces one from the original version in which West had credited the research in the article to himself, writing: 'I decided to do a little checking and scouring for some information. And it didn't take long to find proof of hypocrisy that reaches the highest levels -- the White House.' The post now includes italicized paragraphs where West had previously committed mass plagiarism. He has also fixed the three plagiarized typos that were originally identified by Media Matters. There is no indication in the post that it has been changed." A staff member fell on her sword for West, claiming she "inadvertently failed to transcribe the quotation marks. As Hananoki notes, her "explanation doesn't pass the smell test." ...

... CW: Not only is the entire post based on a lie (see Hananoki's piece), right-wing "ideas" are so crass & strident & fact-free they lack any originality past making up shit. West, a one-term Congressman, is now head of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), (Oxymoron Alert!) a conservative think tank, which described him as a "visionary leader." His "vision," alas, is entirely plagiarized. There is no vision on the right, unless dystopia passes for vision these days.