The Ledes

Wednesday, November 26, 2014.

NBC News: "A holiday storm system played havoc Wednesday with the Thanksgiving travel plans of tens of millions of people — wiping out hundreds of flights in the Northeast, dumping rain on busy roads and threatening more than a foot of snow in some places.

Washington Post: "Police cleared the remaining barricades from one of Hong Kong’s largest protest sites Wednesday and arrested two pro-democracy leaders as authorities stepped up their efforts to end the two-month-long civil disobedience campaign. Hundreds of protesters chanted for 'full democracy' as workers in red caps and 'I love Hong Kong' T-shirts began clearing the metal and wooden barricades in the shopping streets of Mong Kok, a crowded working-class neighborhood that has become a flash point between protesters and opponents during the occupation."

The Wires

CW: Looks as if the Google News & stock market widgets are kaput & the Reuters widget is intermittent. We'll see what happens over the next few days with these.

The Ledes

Tuesday, November 25, 2014.

Washington Post: "This week’s winter storm is shaping up to be a travel nightmare for Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving and the busiest travel day of the year. A coating to several inches of snow could accumulate along the I-95 corridor on Wednesday. While temperatures have been unseasonably warm early this week, snow is still likely to accumulate along coastal interstates, especially during periods of heavy snowfall."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
November 26

2:15 pm ET: President Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey (Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, not so much)

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

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

CW: For those of you who don't like hassling with DVDs, I accidentally found a cheap alternative to Netflix. Although I will continue to subscribe to Netflix's streaming videos, Netflix doesn't stream most decent movies. Instead, you have to maintain a (second) monthly subscription, then order & return the DVDs. However, YouTube now allows you to stream movies (you can watch them -- more than once -- during a 48-hour period.) There's no monthly fee, & you can play the movies on your TV via various devices. I have a Google dongle on one TV & a Blu-Ray box on another. The YouTube streaming videos work on both (you have to download on the Chrome browser). Setting up an account was very easy. Since I watch few movies, this works perfectly for me. When Ben Bradlee died, I watched "All the President's Men" for the umpteenth time, & today I watched "Good Night & Good Luck." Big advantage: instant gratification! I'm not sure if YouTube is good for more recent movies.

The Rockefellers Are Leaving the Building. New York Times: "By this time next year, they will have vacated the 56th-floor aerie [in 30 Rock] they have occupied since 1933 and moved to somewhat less rarefied headquarters across 49th Street. One of the country’s great dynastic families is downsizing."

Elaine Maine at the AFI Awards honoring Mike Nichols' lifetime achievements:

Frank Rich remembers Mike Nichols.

Erik Wemple: Bill Clinton discusses why his mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham watched Fox "News."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator." ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "In the latest fallout from the sexual assault accusations involving the comedian Bill Cosby, NBC and Netflix have set aside projects with Mr. Cosby, and a lawyer for him issued a denial of a new claim from a woman who said he raped her decades ago. NBC said on Wednesday that it had dropped plans to develop a new situation comedy starring Mr. Cosby. The decision followed a week of revelations about accusations of rape and sexual assault against him." ...

... In an interview earlier this month, Cosby tried to get the AP to "scuttle" his "no comment" out of the videotape, suggested the reporter would not be considered "serious" if the AP didn't comply:

A Man for All Women. Jessica Roy of New York: "Karl Stefanovic is a beloved anchor on Australia's version of the Today show.... Over the weekend, Stefanovic made a startling confession: He's been wearing the same exact knock-off Burberry suit on-air every single day for a year, and — shockingly — nobody noticed. Stefanovic says he pulled the stunt to make a statement about how women on TV are judged much more harshly than men, particularly for their appearances. 'No one has noticed; no one gives a shit,' he said in an interview with Fairfax Media.'Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.'"

David Carr of the New York Times offers belated kudos to John Oliver & conceded, among other things, that Oliver was responsible for bringing "attention to the debate on net neutrality.... The show’s sudden influence was felt most acutely on the arcane issue of net neutrality, which Mr. Oliver introduced this way: 'Oh my god, that is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen! That is even boring by C-Span standards.' But after a string of jokes explaining the technology, the stakes and the power dynamics, Mr. Oliver concluded with a call to the underbelly of the Internet to urge the F.C.C. not to cave to moneyed interests and demand that the web remain a level playing field." Read the whole post. ...

... "Preventing Cable Company Fuckery":

... Matt Seitz of New York: " Last Week is doing what media watchdogs (including the Peabody Awards) keep saying that The Daily Show does — practicing real journalism in comedy form — but it's doing it better, and in a simpler, yet more ambitious, ultimately more useful way. If Stewart's show is doing what might be called a reported feature, augmenting opinions with facts, Oliver's show is doing something closer to pure reporting, or what the era of web journalism calls an 'explainer,' often without a hook, or the barest wisp of a hook."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times on how Stewart, Colbert & especially Oliver put net neutrality on the radar:


Clyde Haberman of the New York Times on the story of Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian woman who was convicted of killing her baby in the midst of a media blitz, then later exonerated. "... it took nearly three more decades before a coroner, in 2012, finally issued what the now-divorced parents had long sought: full vindication in the form of a death certificate formally ascribing Azaria’s fate to a dingo attack." With video from the Retro Report.

 

Anna Silman of Salon: "As long as there have been Aaron Sorkin shows on air, there have been parodies of Aaron Sorkin shows. His signature tropes — the Sorkin sermon, the high speed walk-and-talk — have been parodied so extensively that they’ve become cultural artifacts unto themselves, recognizable even to those who never watched the shows that spawned them. [Thursday] night on 'Late Night With Seth Meyers,' the Sorkin parody machine reached its self-referential apex, not just parodying these familiar tropes but also naming the tropes as they parodied them."

... Silman has embedded a number of other Sorkin parodies in her post.

"Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" by Andy Warhol. Would you pay $82 million for this picture? BTW, you can get a swell copy of it for $29.99 on ebay.... New York Times: Christie's has its biggest auction night evah. CW: The super-rich are still super-rich.

The Guardian claims it will tell you here everything you need to know about the Rosetta comet landing. CW: Oh yeah? The data it sends back will probably just lead to a lot more of those bogus "scientific theories."

Jon [Stewart]'s problem is he has his head so far up Obama's ass he cannot see clearly, he is obviously better suited to reading his joke writers material, and making his clapping seal audience happy. -- Sean Hannity, supporting Stewart's point that Hannity is "the most loathsome dude" at Fox "News"

The New Yorker begins a metered paywall today, November 11. It will allow you to link to six free articles a month.

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-- Constant Weader

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Tuesday
Sep092014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 10, 2014

Julie Pace of the AP: "President Barack Obama will ask Congress to quickly authorize the arming and training of Syrian opposition forces but will press forward without formal sign-off from lawmakers on a broader military and political effort to combat militants in Syria and Iraq, administration officials said Tuesday. Obama was to outline his plans Wednesday in a rare prime-time address to the nation, a format that underscores the seriousness of the threat posed by the Islamic State militants. The president's broader strategy could include more wide-ranging airstrikes against targets in Iraq and possibly in Syria, and hinges on military and political commitments from allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere." ...

... Mark Landler & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "President Obama is prepared to authorize airstrikes in Syria, a senior administration official said on Tuesday, taking the military campaign against the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, into new and unpredictable terrain. But Mr. Obama is still wrestling with a series of challenges, including how to train and equip a viable ground force to fight ISIS inside Syria, how to intervene without aiding President Bashar al-Assad, and how to enlist potentially reluctant partners like Turkey and Saudi Arabia." ...

... Josh Rogin & Tim Mak of the Daily Beast: "When the president calls for Congress to approve his new counterterrorism fund in his speech Wednesday, it's unlikely he'll mention that for the last four months his administration has stifled calls from inside and outside the government for the White House to specify exactly what the money is for."

... Lara Jakes of the AP: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad Wednesday to press Iraq's Shiite leader to quickly deliver more power to wary Sunnis -- or jeopardize any hope of defeating the Islamic State group. Kerry landed in the Iraqi capital just two days after newly sworn Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi seated his top government ministers, a crucial step toward restoring stability in a nation where security has spiraled out of control since the beginning of the year." ...

... Steve Benan: "... Dick Cheney was on Capitol Hill once again today, delivering yet another round of advice to congressional Republicans on foreign policy as if he still has credibility on the subject. The failed former vice president was reportedly 'greeted with affection,' and received standing ovations from the assembled GOP lawmakers.... Even now, years later, as the world struggles with the consequences of a disastrous war, which the Bush/Cheney team handled in the most incompetent, dishonest, and corrupt ways possible, congressional Republicans look back and think, 'Yep, that was a smart move.'" ...

... Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast: "According to Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, Cheney said Obama 'has actually done things that have supported the Muslim Brotherhood.' The former vice president then went on to name the Muslim Brotherhood as 'the beginning of all the Islamist groups that we're dealing with now like Hamas and ISIS.'" CW Translation: ISIS did not arise out of the unnecessary, disastrous, poorly-planned war I started (as experts contend), but out of Obama's deep & abiding faith in & support for radical Islam.

Paul Kane & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "House Republican leaders Tuesday unveiled a temporary government funding bill that includes a short-term extension of a trade-promotion agency that has been targeted by conservative activists, eliminating a key sticking point in the effort to avoid a government shutdown. The bill would keep the government running on this year's budget levels from the start of the new fiscal year, Oct. 1, until ­mid-December, when negotiators would prefer to approve detailed spending plans for the federal agencies through 2015." See also Cruz News below.

Jeremy Herb of Politico: "The House condemned President Barack Obama on Tuesday for swapping five Taliban commanders at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl without notifying Congress. The House approved a resolution, 249-163, that condemned the president for breaking the law since he did not give Congress 30 days notice of the transfer."

Lindsay Abrams of Salon: House Republicans think curbing fake "government overreach" is way more important than ensuring Americans have clean water. "House bill, H.R. 5078, overrides a rule proposed in March by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, which sought to clarify two Supreme Court decisions that had made it difficult to determine whether waterways that are dry for part of the year are protected by the Clean Water Act -- confusion that polluters have Obama's senior advisers would recommend he veto the bill....."

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "US police forces that use military equipment earmarked for counter-terrorism to handle public order disturbances instead could be forced to repay millions of dollars in grants, under a review revealed during the first congressional hearings into this summer's riots in Ferguson, Missouri.... The Department of Homeland Security, one of three US agencies primarily responsible for providing the equipment, said it was now considering whether to demand that its grants be repaid if police are found to have broken a little-known rule prohibiting its use in riot suppression.... Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said committee investigators had found there were now more MRAPs in the hands of local police forces than the national guard and that 36% of all surplus equipment received direct from the military was brand new or unused." ...

... The Guardian liveblogged Tuesday's Congressional hearing on police use of military equipment.

Molly Ball of the Atlantic: "To understand why [immigration reform] advocates are so hurt and angry [by President Obama's decision not to take executive action until after the elections], you have to understand the meandering road immigration reform has taken over the course of the last decade -- a road littered with false starts, broken promises, and a community repeatedly left in the lurch. Latinos feel that they have been jerked around by politicians who alternately pander for their votes and shunt them aside when their priorities become inconvenient -- like now. Obama in particular has made a series of pledges on immigration, only to abandon them all."

Sorry, Wrong Number. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: A top aide to Eric Holder accidentally calls Darryl Issa's (RTP-Calif.) office -- he meant to call Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) -- & asks to have the Congressman's staff leak documents to "interested reporters" re: the IRS investigation favorable to the administration....

     ... CW: Just massively stupid. Of course, Issa -- who has a history of leaking parts of reports that misrepresent the totality of actual findings -- was in high dudgeon over the very idea that Democrats would leak favorable information, & that there would be coordination between the Democratic administration & Democrats in Congress. What I do find troubling, though not surprising, was that it was the DOJ -- which is supposed to be a impartial (though it never is), law-enforcement operation -- that is doing the "coordinating." Why not the political wing of the White House?

Katie McDonough of Salon: NFL Commissioner "Roger Goodell ... explains that he needs to see a woman get knocked out to know domestic violence is bad.... It has long been clear that the NFL is indifferent to violence against women. This incident was just too much of a media headache to ignore, so the NFL acted -- belatedly, inadequately, cynically. Rice is not the only man in the NFL who has abused women, though Goodell really wants the public to believe that's the case."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Jim Newell of Salon writes a very good analysis of Tim Russert's interview methodology, & explains why it sucked. "Had Russert lived and continued hosting the show, he could have ended up like Thomas Friedman: someone whose 'brand' kept him going, but whose style and techniques had long ago become mockable shtick. David Gregory's failure was in trying to continue the Russert shtick without ever having built up the brand." I quit watching the Sunday shows regularly because the interviewers, including Russert, seldom challenged the wildly inaccurate claims guests and panelists made. But I had forgotten that Russert enjoyed "challenging" guests with "gotcha" assaults highlighting inconsistencies on often inconsequential aspects of an issue.

Cruz News

House Speaker Holds Late-night Tea Party Strategty Session. Matt Fuller of Roll Call: "Sen. Ted Cruz again met with a small group of House Republicans late Tuesday night, this time to discuss over pizza a conservative strategy on the continuing resolution.... Earlier in the evening, the [other] House GOP leadership unveiled a bill to keep the government funded through Dec. 11. And the early review from conservatives attending Cruz's meeting in the Texas Republican's office was that Dec. 11 is too soon.... Pushing the next big spending showdown into March, members of the 'Cruz Caucus' said, would give the new 114th Congress, which could include a Republican-controlled Senate, an opportunity to tackle government funding." Via Greg Sargent.

Seung Kim Min of Politico: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called on lawmakers to use 'any and all means necessary' -- including must-pass government funding measures -- to block President Barack Obama from taking executive action on immigration. The tea party hero, who aggressively pushed the anti-Obamacare strategy that spurred last year's 16-day government shutdown, has seized on immigration executive moves from the Obama administration as the root cause of the border crisis this summer." ...

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Setting up a possible confrontation over the funding measure that would keep the federal government open beyond September, Cruz declined to rule out opposing the stopgap bill if it allows the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to continue." CW: Looking forward to some more of those Dr. Seuss readings. Maybe I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today or If I Ran the Zoo.

MEANWHILE. Jonathan Chait: Ted Cruz's ObamaCare nightmare comes true. It's working, & Republicans can't even agree to schedule any more of their "message" repeal votes.

Democrats Conspire to Take Down SNL, Jail Lorne Michaels. Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "Sen. Ted Cruz says the comedy of NBC's 'Saturday Night Live' is at risk and creator Lorne Michaels could be thrown in jail if a proposed Constitutional amendment on campaign finance is passed." Cruz has been in touch with Sen. Al Franken on this. Franken, a former SNL star & co-sponsor of the amendment is oddly untroubled by Cruz's warning. Probably the whole amendment is a Franken plot to bring down his former boss.

Congressional Races

James Hohmann of Politico: "Scott Brown won the New Hampshire Republican Senate primary Tuesday night, setting up a general election showdown with Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The former Massachusetts senator, who ... became a New Hampshire citizen last December, easily defeated two main challengers, former state Sen. Jim Rubens and former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith." ...

... Ha Ha. Scott Brown's campaign manager Colin Reed sent Larry Lessig a nasty, threatening letter on accounta Lessig described Brown as a "Washington lobbyist" is a campaign finance reform flyer. Also, Reed cc'ed Lessig's department chair, the president & the provost of Harvard. Larry Lessig: "I take it Mr. Reed's outrage is triggered by the Senate's regulations of what constitutes being a 'lobbyist' for purposes of the Senate rules. I hadn't received the memo that explained that the English language is now regulated by the rules of the United States Senate.... I submit to anyone else in the world, a former Senator joining a 'law and lobbying firm' to help with Wall St's 'business and governmental affairs' is to make him a lobbyist. Because to anyone else in the world, when you sell your influence to affect 'business and governmental affairs,' you are a lobbyist." Via Charles Pierce. CW: Probably Scottie's man should not be trying to match wits with of a Harvard law professor. ...

... CW Note to Jeanne Shaheen: Call Brown a "Washington lobbyist" every chance you get. Apparently he'll go nuts. (And, yeah, in case they missed it, I sent Lessig's post on to Shaheen's campaign.)

Steve LeBlanc of the AP: "U.S. Rep. John Tierney has conceded defeat to former Marine Seth Moulton after a hard-fought Democratic primary in Massachusetts' 6th Congressional District.... Moulton argued he would have a stronger chance of holding off [Republican Richard] Tisei, who lost to Tierney by less than 1 percent of the vote in the 2012 election. Tierney is the first incumbent Democratic congressman from Massachusetts to lose a primary since Chester Atkins in 1992."

Gubernatorial Races

Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York claimed the Democratic nomination for a second term on Tuesday, but at a considerable price: A liberal challenger with little money or name recognition, Zephyr Teachout, was on track to receive about a third of the vote, a signal of the potent dissatisfaction with Mr. Cuomo in his party's left wing. Mr. Cuomo avoided what could have been a more damaging blow to his prestige, as his choice for lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman from Buffalo, soundly defeated Ms. Teachout's running mate, Tim Wu." CW: Kudos to everybody who voted for Teachout. Too bad her good showing won't teach that Gov. Sleazy a lesson.

Roberto Scalese & Lara Salahi of the Boston Globe: "Treasurer Steve Grossman has conceded to Attorney General Martha Coakley in the [Massachusetts] Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday night. With 65 percent of precincts reporting, Coakley has 42 percent of the vote. Grossman has 37 percent of the vote, and former Medicare Administrator Don Berwick has 21 percent of the vote." CW: Let's hope Martha has developed the teensiest familiarity with the top sports teams this time around & also has overcome her aversion to dirtying her hands dirty by shaking the hands of mere voters.

Roberto Scalese: "Charlie Baker is projected to win the Republican primary for governor [of Massachusetts]. At 75 percent, Baker has a massive lead over [Mark] Fisher at 25 percent, with 60 percent of the vote counted."

Beyond the Beltway

Julie Bosman of the New York Times: "The first Ferguson City Council meeting since the police killing of Michael Brown one month ago erupted on Tuesday into an outpouring of grievances -- accusations of racism, police harassment and government incompetence -- as hundreds of residents made angry appeals for change."

Georgia State Senator Angrily Vows to Suppress Black Vote. Really. Daniel Strauss of TPM: Fran Millar, "a Republican state senator in Georgia, has vowed to end Sunday balloting in DeKalb County (includes part of Atlanta) due to the fact that the area is 'dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches.'" Thanks to safari for the link. ...

... Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reproduces Millar's full e-mail rant. It begins with a barely-coded racial slur & descends from there: "How ironic! Michele Obama comes to town and Chicago politics comes to DeKalb." ...

... Time to Bring Back Literacy Tests. (Millar later elaborated that he wanted "more educated voters" rather than a greater number of voters." Rick Hasan, a law professor & elections law specialist, offered this erudite analysis: "Holy cow!" ...

... DuBose Porter, chair of the Georgia Democratic party responds, in part, "What have Georgia Republicans come to when they are outwardly admitting to suppressing the African-American vote? Further, his comments about 'educated voters' are reprehensible. I suppose Fran would prefer a return to literacy tests or the poll tax while he's at it." The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, made a similar statement. Both statements reprinted in full at the linked page (AJC).

... Millar complains that church buses taking people to polling places is a violation of the First Amendment "accepted principle of separation of church and state." Steve Benan: I don't think this state lawmaker fully appreciates what 'the accepted principle of separation of church and state' is. If a private institution (a church) has a bus that takes people to another private institution (a shopping mall), this isn't a First Amendment violation. That really doesn't make any sense at all." CW: Also, whaddaya bet Millar would swear on his Holy Bible that this is a "Christian Nation." By which, I suppose he would mean "White Christian Nation."

Anemona Hartocollis & David Goodman of the New York Times: Performer Joan Rivers' "treatment at ... Yorkville Endoscopy, a for-profit center, has drawn attention to a flourishing model of medical treatment, outpatient surgery centers, which have been licensed by the state to replace hospital operating rooms for minor procedures. Their management structure is often explicitly designed to maximize profits for doctors, who are typically the majority owners. They are common in other states, but only now gaining traction in New York, where by law, the traditional hospital model is nonprofit." Rivers went into cardiac arrest during minor surgery at the clinic & died a week later, during which time she was kept alive on life support. Her death is being investigated by the New York State Health Department & New York City medical examiner.

CW: This story is a week old, but since Akhilleus brought it to our attention (see yesterday's Comments for his take), it seems too weird to pass up. Jessica Chasmar of the Washington Times: "Ohio police say they have 'overwhelming evidence' to prove a former Navy SEAL turned prominent TV personality lied when he claimed he was shot during a fight with three black men outside of a Bath shopping plaza. Chris Heben, a former Navy SEAL and current spokesman for Montrose Auto Group, has been charged with misdemeanor counts of falsification and obstructing official business, a local ABC affiliate reported.... In 2008, the former SEAL pleaded no contest to three counts of forgery in Ohio and had his physician's assistant license suspended for writing up fake prescriptions, the Daily Mail reported." ...

Doktor Zoom of Wonkette: "Despite Heben's previous willingness to put himself forward as an expert for TV stories about brave special operators and security and why no Navy SEAL would ever vote for Obama or for Hillary (because Benghazi), he hasn't answered a single Ohio media outlet's request for an interview since he was charged. Go figure!" ...

... CW: The police seem pretty blase about finding out who shot Heben. After all, it's highly likely that -- unless Heben shot himself (not necessarily a wild guess) -- somebody committed a felony when that somebody shot Heben. And Heben himself may have been engaging in some felonious shenanigans that earned him the shot in the gut. Also, a hat tip to those awesome-scary black gangsters who can shoot to kill even when they're imaginary.

...Akhilleus also dug up this story, featuring "Judge Jeanine (Pirro) of Fox "News" interviewing Heben for his expert opinion on threats to the national power grid. Super-hero Heben explains a big problem is that a bunch of wimpy "'desk jockeys' who are not trained in unconventional warfare" -- as he is -- run the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It is these fat-asses (who are no more expert than a WalMart employee who watches security cameras all day) have approved the crappy power-grid security system. Another problem: power company execs are not buying his sales pitch to sell them an expensive security system. The segment seems to be an infomercial for Heben's security products & services. Meanwhile, you'd better stock up on canned goods because your power will be out for months. ...

... Pirro, by the way, has had plenty of troubles of her own.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Israel’s Military Advocate General Corps has ordered criminal investigations into five incidents of possible misconduct on the part of Israeli forces in the 50-day Gaza war, a senior Israeli military official said on Wednesday. Word of the investigations, coming two weeks after a cease-fire in the conflict, appeared to be the beginning of an Israeli effort to pre-empt the impact of international inquiries into allegations of possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza."

Reuters: "Two senators asked the federal government to investigate a data breach on the payment-card processing systems of Home Depot Inc and five U.S. states launched a probe into the matter on Tuesday as fallout from the attack intensified. The retailer has yet to say what was stolen, though experts fear the attackers may have gotten away with more than 40 million payment cards, which would exceed the number taken in last year's unprecedented attack on Target Corp."

Guardian: "Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was destroyed in an instant when the cockpit and other parts of the fuselage were peppered by 'a large number of high-energy objects,' causing the plane to break apart over eastern Ukraine before anyone could raise an alarm, according to a preliminary report on the disaster which was released on Tuesday.... The findings are consistent with US and Ukrainian assertions the Boeing 777, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was brought down by an anti-aircraft missile, which they say was provided by Russia."

Monday
Sep082014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 9, 2014

Jonathan Weisman, et al., of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday will begin laying out his case for an expanded military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria when he faces congressional leaders who are averse to taking an election-year stand but are being pushed by lawmakers who want a say in matters of war. Mr. Obama's meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders on Tuesday in the Oval Office will be the first of several between White House officials and lawmakers as the administration tries to persuade Congress to embrace the president's plan to halt the momentum of the Sunni militant group known as ISIS." ...

... Justin Sink of the Hill: "President Obama is pushing congressional leaders to authorize a $5 billion counterterrorism fund that could be used to support operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Approving the fund could allow the White House and congressional leaders to escape a tougher vote on authorizing or funding military action before the midterm elections but still achieve the 'buy in' the president has said he wants from Congress." ...

... Hmm. Let's see how the GOP will decide what to do. Al Kamen & Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: "The leading architect of the Iraq war will be on Capitol Hill for a private chat with House Republicans on Tuesday, just as Congress is grappling again with how involved the United States should be in the region's snowballing unrest. Yes, ... Dick Cheney ... was invited by the GOP's campaign arm to speak at its first weekly conference meeting since Congress's five-week break...." ...

... Steve Benen: "Republicans are concerned about the threat posed by ISIS? The group's existence is largely the result of the disastrous war Cheney helped launch under false pretenses. Republicans are outraged that the White House is completing a plan for the next phase of the U.S. counter-terrorism policy? Cheney's the guy who helped invade Iraq without a plan for what would happen after the war began.... During Cheney's tenure, the U.S. policy in Iraq was incoherent -- the Republican White House couldn't figure out what to do about the terrorist threat, parts of which they inadvertently helped create, picked Maliki to run the country almost at random and struggled to understand the value of political solutions." ...

... Oh, And This. (Gaffe Alert.) It's an election year.... Republicans don't want to change anything. We like the path we're on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long. -- Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) on why Republicans don't want to vote on a use-of-force resolution ...

Now, that's putting your country before your party, Jack. Thank you for your service. -- Constant Weader

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "A spokesman for Steven Sotloff's family contends the slain American journalist was sold to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant by Syrian rebels and says the Obama administration 'could have done more' to save him. Appearing on CNN Monday evening, Barak Barfi said that his sources in the region have told him one or more of the Syrian rebels sold Sotloff to ISIL for $25,000-$50,000. He referred to them as 'so-called moderate rebels, that people want our administration to support,' a jab at lawmakers and political figures -- including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and many others -- that have suggested arming the Syrian rebels.... Barfi, a research fellow at the [nonpartisan] New America Foundation, reserved stronger criticism for the Obama administration...."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Several Senate Republicans joined Democrats on Monday to advance a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states greater power to regulate campaign finance. But the bipartisanship ends there. Many of the Republicans only voted for the bill to foul up Democrats' pre-election messaging schedule, freezing precious Senate floor time for a measure that ultimately has no chance of securing the two-thirds support necessary in both the House and Senate to amend the Constitution."

... The text of the proposed amendment (S.J. Res. 19) is here.

... Mitch McConnell in a Politico op-ed: "... Democrats who control the Senate say they're more interested in repealing the free speech protections the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans. Their goal is to shut down the voices of their critics at a moment when they fear the loss of their fragile Senate majority. And to achieve it, they're willing to devote roughly half of the remaining legislative days before November to this quixotic anti-speech gambit." ...

... CW: Not once in his little essay does Mitch mention that the Democrats "quixotic anti-speech gambit" is a constitutional amendment to allow the Congress to enact campaign finance legislation.

digby in Salon: Antonin Scalia "claims that he could not be a judge if he thought his participation in the death penalty was immoral and yet he does not believe it matters under the Constitution if the state executes innocent people. How on earth can such a depraved person be on the Supreme Court of the United States? On what basis can our country lay claim to a superior system of justice and a civilized moral order when such people hold power?" ...

... CW: digby writes that the execution of an innocent person "is as horrifying as the brutal slaying of the victim." I would say the execution is worse than the crime the condemned person did not commit. Heinous crimes are, almost by definition, committed by deranged people. Often the crimes are unplanned, often the perpetrators are drunk or drugged. By contrast, those who mete out "justice" -- police, prosecutors, expert witnesses, juries, judges, justices -- are supposed to be rational, deliberative, unbiased & working within the law. Executions are systematic, cold-blooded killings. There are no mitigating circumstances in a crime of dispassion.

Robert O'Harrow & Michael Sallah of the Washington Post write the third of a three-part series on "Search & Seize." CW: I hope many of you have been reading this series. The cases the writers cite are horrifying. Besides being stopped for "looking suspicious," many of these innocent people don't get all or even most of their lawfully-obtained money back. And most are carrying large amounts of cash because they have "lived their lives in cash economies, paying for everything from food to rent and business expenses with hard currency." When I travel long distances, as I often do, I have some of the same "indicators" that cause these cops to pull over drivers: tinted windows (in the back of my vehicle), sunglasses, food wrappers on the floor & energy drinks (well, tea & coffee). It's true I don't travel with much cash, so I don't have to worry about the police seizing my life's savings, but the main wonderful, fabulous personal traits that have saved me from being pulled over for nothing: I'm an Old White Lady. Somebody tell me how that represents "equal justice under the law."

"Twenty-Eight Pages." Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker: In 2002, the Bush administration classified a 28-page report, part of the report by the Joint Congressional inquiry into 9/11. "President Bush said then that publication of that section of the report would damage American intelligence operations, revealing isources and methods that would make it harder for us to win the war on terror.' 'There's nothing in it about national security,' [Rep.] Walter Jones [R-N.C.] ... contends. 'It's about the Bush Administration and its relationship with the Saudis.' [Rep] Stephen Lynch [D-Mass] ... told me that the document ... offers direct evidence of complicity on the part of certain Saudi individuals and entities in Al Qaeda's attack on America.... Another congressman who has read the document said that the evidence of Saudi government support for the 9/11 hijacking is 'very disturbing.'... Now, in a rare example of bipartisanship, Jones and Lynch have co-sponsored a resolution requesting that the Obama Administration declassify the pages. The Saudis have also publicly demanded that the material be released.... The effort to declassify the document comes at a time when a lawsuit, brought ten years ago on behalf of the victims of the attacks and their families, along with the insurers who paid out claims, is advancing through the American court system."

Marie's Sports Report

Ken Belson of the New York Times: "The National Football League's handling of a domestic violence case is under renewed scrutiny after a graphic video emerged Monday, leading to the termination of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's contract and his indefinite suspension from the league. The video shows Rice punching his fiancée, who is now his wife, in the face, leaving her motionless on the floor of a hotel elevator in Atlantic City in February. He then dragged her unconscious body from the elevator.... The Ravens had not previously disciplined Rice in any public way, and after the episode, the team said on Twitter: 'Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.' The post was deleted Monday afternoon." ...

... CW: Just another example of "both sides do it": Here, an athlete punched his fiancee in the face, knocking her out cold, but only after she put her face in proximity to his fist. She should deeply regret that. ...

... UPDATE. Cindy Boren of the Washington Post: "In an Instagram post, [Janay] Rice defended her husband and marriage and railed against the price she and the couple is paying for the incident in February in an Atlantic City casino elevator.... 'No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options [opinions??] from the public has caused my family.'" CW: Dr. Ben Carson (see his insights below) was right about one thing: this woman needs help. ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: "... what did people think it looked like when a football player knocked out a much smaller woman? Like a fair fight?" ...

... Greg Rosenthal of NFL media: "'We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today,' the [National Football] league said in a statement released to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport." (Emphasis added.)...

... "Someone Is Lying." Barry Petchesky of Deadspin: Several sports reporters, including Peter King of Sports Illustrated, reported earlier, as King did in July 2014, that "the NFL and some Ravens officials have seen, from the security camera inside the elevator at the time of the physical altercation between Rice and his fiancée." Petchesky: "Privately, top reporters were told in no uncertain terms that the video existed, that the NFL had seen it, that it showed Janay Palmer acting violently toward Rice, and that, if released, it would go some way toward mitigating the anger against him. One of the league's most devoted mouthpieces described the video for us on an off-the-record basis, going off what his sources had told him. The implication was clear: If you saw this video, you'd know why Rice only got two games." ...

     ... Marcy Wheeler: "... the scandal of the video -- in addition to the fact that they appear to be lying about having considered it in their discussion of Rice's punishment -- is they believed that because Janay swung at Rice he was justified in swinging back. Even assuming that was their logic, though, remember that Roger Goodell was at this same time giving long, long punishments to various people for doing the harmless thing of smoking dope." ...

... Eliot Shorr-Parks on NJ.com: "TMZ's Harvey Levin said that the website has more information about the incident, and that come Tuesday morning, they will prove that the NFL knew about the video and decided to turn a blind eye." ...

     ... Update. TMZ: "Multiple sources tell TMZ Sports ... the casino made a copy of the elevator surveillance video for police. We're also told Rice's lawyer had a copy of the video, which he got in the criminal case. An NFL source tells us they requested 'any and all information' from law enforcement in the criminal case but got nothing because it was a pending case. But the NFL had other options ... namely going to the casino or Rice's lawyer -- but the NFL never bothered to ask." ...

... Katie McDonough of Salon with a reminder: "Ray Rice [was] fired -- but every other terrible person associated with the Ravens still has a job." ...

... Yeah, and how 'bout that prosecutor. Charles Curtis on NJ.com: "The Atlantic County[, New Jersey,] Prosecutor's Office ... stood by its decision not to pursue jail time -- or even probation -- and allow Rice to enter a diversion program instead. 'Mr. Rice received the same treatment by the criminal justice system in Atlantic County that any first-time offender has, in similar circumstances,' Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office Jay McKeen said in an email.... 'The decision was correct.'" ...

Olbermann!

... Juliet Macur of the New York Times: "Of course the video made the assault seem worse, and naturally it sparked a tidal wave of revulsion from the public.... But the facts alone should be enough in any domestic violence case. ...

AND Now, the Word from the Right ...

Worse Than the NFL & Ravens Management. David Edwards of the Raw Story: "The hosts of Fox & Friends on Monday turned video of NFL player Ray Rice punching his then-girlfriend unconscious in an elevator into a joke, saying that in the future she should 'take the stairs.'" Via Charles Pierce, who has almost nothing to say about the Rice video. CW: Pierce, a former sports reporter, once again shows he's no feminist. ...

     ... Update. "Fox Show Clarifies Ray Rice Comments." Kendall Breitman of Politico: "The comments faced backlash throughout the day." So NOW "Fox & Friends" say "domestic abuse is a very serious issue to us." CW: Yeah, right. ...

     ... Update 2: Charles Pierce weighs in: "Commissioner Roger Goodell was exposed as either a liar, or as someone who should not be allowed to count his own money. (Olbermann's right. He's got to go, but he won't, because most of the NFL owners think he's handled the whole thing splendidly.) The Ravens organization was exposed as a rat's nest of soulless, profit-driven drones. (And I hope nobody in the head offices of either the NFL or the Ravens misled the local prosecutors, who now also look like idiots on the national stage, and very likely are looking for someone to blame.)" Pierce contrasts Rice's treatment with that of Federal District Judge Mark Fuller, who got similar treatment from prosecutors for beating his wife, but gets to go back to his day job, with full pay & benefits, judging other people.

Let's not all jump on the bandwagon of demonizing this guy. He obviously has some real problems, and his wife obviously knows that, because she subsequently married him. So they both need some help. So rather than just jumping on a punitive bandwagon, let's just see if we can get some help for these people. -- Ben Carson, neurosurgeon, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush & a potential GOP presidential candidate

I wanna know, where is the President on this one? .. My question is ... this is a White House that seems to bring up a 'war on women' every other week. A White House that's very concerned about the NFL, concussions, etc., prescription drugs in locker rooms. -- Fox "News" host Andrea Tantaros

... CW: Not sure if Tantaros means this is all President Obama's fault or all this sissy-talk about concussions is just pandering to domestic violence perps. Or just, you know ... Obama!!!


Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania. Matt Bonesteel
of the Washington Post: "Citing 'significant progress toward ensuring its athletics department functions with integrity,' the NCAA announced Monday that it is restoring Penn State's postseason eligibility immediately and will allow the Nittany Lions' football team to offer a full complement of scholarships beginning next season. In the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal involving former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the NCAA in 2012 levied unprecedented penalties on Penn State, banning the Nittany Lions from bowl games for four years, cutting 40 football scholarships over four years and fining the school $60 million."

Congressional (and Other) Races

Emily Cahn of Roll Call: "The final primary night of the midterms takes place Tuesday, with consequential contests across New England and Delaware." ...

... Here's more from Politico staff.

Margaret Hartmann of New York: New York statewide primaries are today (Congressional primaries were in June). "The biggest race is the Democratic gubernatorial primary, in which Andrew Cuomo faces Fordham Law School Professor Zephyr Teachout.... A recent Quinnipiac University poll found Cuomo has a 78 percent favorability rating among Democrats, while 85 percent said they hadn't heard enough about Teachout to form an opinion of her. Also, she's raised only $541,000 to the governor's $35 million." ...

... Steve Myrick of the Martha's Vineyard Times: "Massachusetts voters will decide several hotly contested statewide and district primary races when they go to the polls on Tuesday, September 9. With the departure of Governor Deval Patrick after two terms in office, three candidates hope to carry the Democratic banner into the November general election."

Stu Rotherberg of Roll Call: "While the current Rothenberg Political Report ratings don't show it, I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats. But I wouldn't be shocked by a larger gain."

Beyond the Beltway

Yes, Virginia, There Are Lots of Scrooges (Who Don't Care if You Get Sick & Die). Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "After fuming at state lawmakers and threatening unilateral action, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia took only modest steps on Monday to extend health care to the poor and disabled.... Mr. McAuliffe, who in June ordered his cabinet to devise a plan for unilateral action by Sept. 1, in the face of what he called Republican 'demagoguery' and 'cowardice,' announced that only 25,000 uninsured Virginians would be receiving coverage, far fewer than the 400,000 he has said are eligible if the state expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.... The governor reportedly consulted legal experts on how much he could accomplish by executive action. The modesty of his orders on Monday reflected the reality of a State Constitution that forbids any spending without the legislature's approval."

Frances Robles of the New York Times: "... the Ferguson City Council said Monday that it would establish a citizen review board to provide guidance for the Police Department. It also announced sweeping changes to its court system, which had been criticized as unfairly targeting low-income blacks, who had become trapped in a cycle of unpaid tickets and arrest warrants. Municipal court fines are the city's second-highest source of revenue, leading many critics to argue that the authorities had a financial incentive to issue tickets and then impose more fees on those who did not pay. Young black men in Ferguson and surrounding cities routinely find themselves passed from jail to jail as they are picked up on warrants for unpaid fines, one of the many simmering issues here that helped set off almost two weeks of civil unrest after the teenager, Michael Brown, 18, was killed by a white Ferguson officer on Aug. 9."

Sunday
Sep072014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 8, 2014

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama will use a speech to the nation on Wednesday to make his case for launching a United States-led offensive against Sunni militants gaining ground in the Middle East, seeking to rally support for a broad military mission while reassuring the public he is not plunging American forces into another Iraq war." See also video of Chuck Todd's interview of the President in yesterday's Commentariat.

David Remnick of the New Yorker: "As the Middle East disintegrates and a vengeful cynic in the Kremlin invades his neighbor, Obama has offered no full and clarifying foreign-policy vision.

His opponents and would-be successors at home have seized the chance to peashoot from the sidelines. What do they offer? Unchastened by their many past misjudgments, John McCain and Lindsey Graham go on proposing escalations, aggressions, and regime changes. Rand Paul, who will likely run for President as a stay-at-home Republican, went to Guatemala recently and performed eye surgeries as a means of displaying his foreign-policy bona fides.

Julie Davis & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "What had once looked like a clear political imperative for both parties -- action to grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants -- had morphed instead into what appeared to be a risky move that could cost Democrats their majority.... [Angus] King, a Maine independent who is a member of the Democratic caucus, warned Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff, [that] ... unilateral action by the president might undermine the prospects for bipartisan agreement on a broad immigration overhaul for years to come. It was that concern..., White House officials said, that ultimately prompted the president to break the promise he made on June 30 in the Rose Garden to act on his own before summer's end to fix the immigration system."

Lobbying Tanks. Eric Lipton, et al., of the New York Times: "More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors' priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.... Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.... The line between scholarly research and lobbying can sometimes be hard to discern.... The think tanks ... have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, an omission that appears, in some cases, to be a violation of federal law...."

The Mind of Mitt. There’s no question in my mind that I think I would have been a better president than Barack Obama has been.... I think the president is really out of touch with reality when it comes to what's happening in the world.... I don't know whether you can't see reality from a fairway, but the president has not seen the reality internationally and domestically.... No question ... in my mind [that I would make a better president than Hillary Clinton].... Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are two peas in the same pod. -- Mitt Romney on "Fox 'News' Sunday"

William Finnegan of the New Yorker: A "Berkeley-University of Illinois study, commissioned by Fast Food Forward (a workers' association), found that American fast-food workers receive almost seven billion dollars a year in public assistance.... According to the progressive think tank Demos, fast-food executives' compensation packages quadrupled, in constant dollars, between 2000 and 2013.... Their front-line workers' wages have barely risen in that time, and remain among the worst in U.S. industry. The differential between C.E.O. and worker pay in fast food is higher than in any other domestic economic sector -- twelve hundred to one.... In Denmark McDonald's workers over the age of eighteen earn more than twenty dollars an hour -- they are also unionized -- and the price of a Big Mac is only thirty-five cents more than it is in the United States."

Charles Blow: "A damning report released by the Sentencing Project last week lays bare the bias and the interconnecting systemic structures that reinforce it and disproportionately affect African-Americans.... As the Sentencing Project report makes clear, the entire government and media machinery is complicit in the distortion.... The effects of these [mis]perceptions and policies have been absolutely devastating for society in general and black people in particular.

Jonathan Chait: The worst government in the U.S. is local government. "... police militarization bore only the faintest responsibility for the tragedy in Ferguson.... Old-fashioned policing tools were all the Ferguson police needed to engage in years of discriminatory treatment, to murder Michael Brown, and to rough up journalists covering the ensuing protests. Police militarization was a largely unrelated problem that happened to be on bright display. Over the ensuing days, it grew apparent that demilitarizing the police might save the government some money but would not address the crisis's underlying cause, and the momentary consensus evaporated.... The town of Ferguson, while tiny in scale, is an Orwellian monstrosity. Its racially biased Police Department is the enforcement wing of a predatory system of government...."

Robert O'Harrow & Michael Sallah of the Washington Post continue the Post's fascinating -- and disturbing -- series on "Stop & Seize." "A cornerstone of Desert Snow's instruction rests upon two 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that bolstered aggressive highway patrolling. One decision affirmed the police practice of using minor traffic infractions as pretexts to stop drivers. The other permits officers to seek consent for searches without alerting the drivers that they can refuse and leave at any time."

David Cole, in the New York Review of Books, reviews Zephyr Teachout's Corruption in America. "Teachout's important new book reminds us that corruption -- in its more expansive sense of excessive private interest undermining public virtue -- poses very real risks to a functioning democracy, risks that were foreseen at the founding, and that have preoccupied politicians, statesmen, and jurists for the entire course of our nation's history. Today's Court has sought to deny those concerns through a definitional strategy that cannot be squared either with that history or with the actual effects of money on our politics.... Only when the Court begins to grapple with the full extent of the dangers of corruption will its campaign finance jurisprudence truly reflect the competing values at stake." Teachout is running in the Democratic primary against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a poster-boy for enabling political corruption. The primary is tomorrow; Cuomo -- who tried unsuccessfully to keep Teachout off the ballot -- is expected to win by a landslide.

Paul Krugman: "I have a message for the Scots [who will be voting on a referendum next week for independence from Great Britain]: Be afraid, be very afraid. The risks of going it alone are huge. You may think that Scotland can become another Canada, but it's all too likely that it would end up becoming Spain without the sunshine.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Driftglass writes a lovely remembrance of yesterday's morning shows. ...

Also, it's hard to top Driftglass the Artist:

... The above limited-edition reprint tops Driftglass's reflection on receding local and state government reporting, which fits in nicely with Jonathan Chait's post, linked above. (CW: Click on the link, please, to help me justify swiping Driftglass's artwork for my own living room.) As Chait writes,

Since 1910, state house elections almost perfectly track U.S. House elections. The correlation, to be precise about it, is 0.96. Which is to say virtually none of us -- even those of us who bother to vote -- form judgments of any kind regarding our state legislators.

... Support your local newspaper!

Marie's Sports Report

Andrew Keh of the New York Times: "Bruce Levenson, who has led the ownership group of the Atlanta Hawks since 2004, informed N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver on Saturday that he intended to sell the team, effectively cutting short a league investigation into an email that Mr. Levenson sent two years ago to fellow Hawks executives detailing his thoughts on how the team could attract more white fans." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York takes a cynical view of Levenson's "self-reporting." Want to spend more time with your family AND make wads of money? Just dig up one of your old racist e-mails!

Congressional Election

Elizabeth Drew of the New York Review of Books: "Whether or not the Republicans take control of the Senate, the ground there has already shifted to the right." CW: This is a long piece which provides an excellent review of "where we're at" politically. Drew is a master of the form. Her assessment of Hillary Clinton's critique of President Obama's Middle East policy is noteworthy.

A discouraging -- but not surprising -- note from Greg Sargent: "The new NBC/Marist polls released over the weekend put Mitch McConnell up over Alison Grimes by 47-39 and Tom Cotton over Dem Senator Mark Pryor by 45-40 in Arkansas, while Dem Senator Mark Udall leads GOPer Cory Gardner by 48-42 in Colorado."

Beyond the Beltway

Kimberly Kindy & Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "Instead of telling grand jury memberswhat charges they believe police officer Darren Wilson should face [in the killing of Michael Brown, St. Louis county prosecutors]

Jon Swaine of the Guardian reviews the differing accounts of the police killing of John Crawford III in a WalMart in Beavercreek, Ohio. Ronald Ritchie, the "witness" who called 911, has a credibility problem. State AG Mike DeWine (R) has refused to release surveillance video to the public, although Ritchie says he has seen it, & the Crawford family & their attorney also have viewed it. Another shopper, Angela Williams, died of heart failure after collapsing during the melee inside the WalMart that followed the shooting.

Kenneth Lovett of the New York Daily News: "In what many say is an alarming first, a private eye hired by Assembly Republicans placed a GPS device on a Long Island assemblyman's car for two months in an unsuccessful effort to prove the pol didn't live in his district. According to court transcripts, investigator Adam Rosenblatt said he was hired in March by attorney James Walsh, repping the Assembly Republican Campaign Committee, to find out where Assemblyman Edward Hennessey (D-Suffolk) actually lives. Walsh that same month was paid $3,000 by the GOP campaign committee.... State police say placing a GPS device on a vehicle is legal in mostcases...."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Under huge international and domestic pressure, Iraq swore in a new government on Monday, opening the way for an expansion of U.S. military support to fight Islamic extremists in the country. The vote to approve a new cabinet came during a fiery late-night parliamentary session. Key positions, including those of the defense and security chiefs, were left open amid controversy over who would fill them. Now confirmed as prime minister, Haider al-Abadi said he would name candidates for those positions within a week."

Washington Post: "Hospitals in Colorado, Missouri and potentially eight other states are admitting hundreds of children for treatment of an uncommon but severe respiratory virus. The virus, called Enterovirus D68, causes similar symptoms to a summer cold or asthma: a runny nose, fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. But the illness can quickly escalate and there are no vaccines or antiviral medications to prevent or treat it."

Guardian: "US warplanes have carried out five strikes on Islamist insurgents menacing Iraq's Haditha dam, witnesses and officials said, widening what President Barack Obama called a campaign to curb and ultimately defeat the militants.... The leader of a pro-Iraqi government paramilitary force in western Iraq said the air strikes wiped out an Isis patrol trying to attack the dam -- Iraq's second biggest hydroelectric facility that also provides millions with water."

Saturday
Sep062014

What About Bob?

Update below.

In trying to understand Bob McDonnell's motivations, I came upon this blogpost by Chris Graham of the Augusta Free Press.

In Graham's view, McDonnell reasoned that during his trial "he’d turn federal prosecutors into overreaching partisans, not only beating the rap against the corruption charges, but using it as the basis for a political comeback, talking openly with reporters during breaks in his trial about his plans to run for governor in 2017, if he didn’t somehow end up on the national Republican Party ticket in 2016."

I couldn't find any other references to McDonnell's chats with reporters during breaks, so I contacted Graham re: his source. Graham said he heard it from a local reporter, who mentioned it on-air when reporting the verdict. 

Graham's assertion makes sense, assuming the local reporter wasn't blowing smoke, & there's no reason to think s/he was. McConnell didn't take the plea deal because a felony conviction obviously would have put the kibosh on his future political plans. No presidential candidate is going to choose a convicted felon as his running mate, and Virginia voters might take note of his criminal record, too.

So McDonnell figured, as Graham hypothesizes, that he would "beat the rap," and that an acquittal in a failed prosecution would make him seem like an avenging hero -- the vindicated victim of government overreach. It fits right into the Reagan/GOP "government is the problem" philosophy.

The strategy might have worked, too, if McDonnell had not opted for a defense that exposed him as a cruel husband & extraordinary phony. Since the gifts themselves were legal under Virginia law, all Bob had to do was demonstrate that there was no quo for the quid in the quid pro quo -- that his acceptance of the gifts had nothing to do with the minor and ordinary efforts he made on giftor Jonnie Williams' behalf. After all, promoting Virginia businesses was part of the governor's job.

As for the appearance of impropriety, it's easy to believe that a governor working his heart out to serve his constituents would drop the ball on some personal matters -- like family finances & even adequate communication about them with his wife. "I'm sorry, I wasn't paying enough attention to this stuff," and "I didn't give Maureen enough support & guidance when she tried to take up the slack" might be a lame defense, but it's one with which we can all identify.

The truth may be that Bob saw himself as a victim of his wife's greed and carelessness. Incapable of accepting any personal blame for the debacle, Bob scapegoated the wife he already held in low esteem. Blaming Maureen wasn't entirely beyond the pale, anyway. It appears she was indeed a grasping, unhappy, unstable person who initiated & exploited the relationship with Williams.

One of the rules of life & politics is that you keep your marital problems to yourself. It's implied right there in the marriage vows. Secular law, to some extent, also recognizes this principle. In most circumstances, one cannot be forced to testify against her or his spouse in a criminal trial. Bob & Maureen were in just such a circumstance. But instead of asserting the spousal privilege, Bob did just the opposite -- he used the trial to savage his wife.

His testimony & that of the witnesses the defense called constituted a long-running demonstration of psychological spousal abuse. If this is the way he treats his wife on the public record, some jurors must have felt, then he probably treated her a lot worse in private. (The testimony of one of the McDonnell daughters suggested as much.) Intuitively, some of the jurors -- especially the women -- probably blamed Bob for being a prime cause of his wife's instability. I do.

The low regard in which he held his wife is not all that surprising, BTW. It was pretty clear to many women, even while he was maintaining his family-man pretense, that Transvaginal Bob holds all women -- except maybe the mythic Virgin Mary -- in low regard.

For years, Bob followed the marriage rules. He mugged with Mo for the cameras. He featured his family in campaign ads. He spoke and wrote about Christian family values. He appeared to be a partner in a normal, loving marriage. If the marriage was indeed a sham, it was a sham both Bob & Maureen kept secret. But all that seems to have changed when, in Bob's view, Maureen did something so egregious she got Bob in big trouble. The criminal charges seem to have pushed Bob over the edge. His long-simmering rage against his wife boiled over. He used his criminal trial as a vehicle to make public what he viewed as his personal trials.

As the AP reported, "Bob McDonnell's attorney, Henry Asbill, said his client did not receive a fair trial and will appeal. Asbill reiterated his previous statement that prosecutors sought to criminalize routine political behavior."

The appeal may be successful. His lawyers will likely argue -- as they did before the trial judge -- that the judge's jury instructions defined "criminal corruption" & conspiracy too broadly. An appellate court could agree. But in my view, it was not Bob who didn't get a fair trial. It was Maureen.

The final irony, of course, is that Bob was so blind in his hatred for his wife & so raw in his denunciation of her that his courtroom performance ended his political career. Oddly, he never saw that coming. Oblivious to the damage he caused himself, Bob McDonnell was still planning future political triumphs right up till the moment a court clerk read the first "guilty" verdict. The trouble is, more than half of voters are women voters. Women are not going to vote for Bob McDonnell again. Ever.

Update. What the Manicurist Says. Rosalind Helderman & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post go behind the scenes to reconstruct how the McDonnell prosecution came about: "Six months before the McDonnells were charged, the first lady made a stark prediction: Her husband would go to jail, she said, and it would all be her fault."