The Ledes

Wednesday, September 17, 2014.

AP: "Islamic State fighters shot down a Syrian war plane using anti-aircraft guns on Tuesday, the first time the group has downed a military jet since declaring its cross-border caliphate in June, a group monitoring the civil war said."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

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

White House Live Video
September 17

11:50 m ET: President Obama speaks at MacDill AFP in Tampa, Fla.

12:00 noon ET: Vice President Biden speaks at a Nuns on the Bus rally in Des Moines, Iowa; will make effort not to insult Roman Catholics

2:00 pm ET: Recovery at the White House: celebrating 25 years (of something)

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

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CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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Saturday
Sep132014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 14, 2014

The World According to Chicken Little. Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blasted President Barack Obama's plan to defeat ISIS during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, calling the commander-in-chief 'disingenuous and delusional' and warning that Americans will be 'killed here at home' unless he sends ground troops into Iraq and Syria to defeat the terrorist threat."

Peter Baker of the New York Times on President Obama's private remarks re: the steps leading up to his speech to the nation on his plans to "destroy" ISIS. ...

... Rebecca Kaplan of CBS News: "Secretary of State John Kerry backtracked on the language he had used to describe the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL), saying in an interview on CBS' 'Face the Nation' Sunday that, 'we are at war' with the group." See yesterday's Commentariat for context. Seems "war" is the new White House buzzword.

Raya Jalabi of the Guardian: "Islamic State (Isis) militants have released a video showing the apparent beheading of a British hostage, David Haines. Site, an intelligence group, which was the first to report US journalist Steven Sotloff's beheading last month, confirmed the video's release. In the video, entitled A Message to the Allies of America, a masked man is shown carrying out the beheading of Haines, whose life had earlier been threatened in a video showing the murder of ... Sotloff." ...

... Rowena Mason of the Guardian: "Britain stands ready to take 'whatever steps are necessary' to help an international push to destroy the 'evil' extremist group that murdered British aid worker David Haines, [British PM] David Cameron has said. In an emotional statement in Downing Street after chairing a meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee to discuss the killing, the prime minister hailed Haines as a 'British hero' and vowed to 'hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice no matter how long it takes'." ...

... The New York Times story, by Rukmini Callimachi &Kimiko de Freytax-Tamura, is here. It has been updated. ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The White House believes that Congress's 2002 authorization of the Iraq war -- and not just the 2001 authorization to fight Al Qaeda -- provides a legal justification for President Obama's air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration said Friday. The White House has not issued a formal analysis of its legal thinking, but the disclosure adds to an evolving public understanding of its theory about the basis for the strikes against ISIS." ...

... Michael Gordon & David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry received broad assurances but no public commitments from Egypt on Saturday as he continued his tour of the Middle East to try to assemble a coalition behind an American campaign against [ISIS].... In Baghdad, meanwhile, the new prime minister ... said Saturday that he had ordered the Iraqi security forces to stop 'the indiscriminate shelling' of civilian communities under the control of the militants. Together, the professions of good intentions in Baghdad and Cairo underscored the long road ahead for the Obama administration...." ...

... David Sanger & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The Obama administration is struggling to cut off the millions of dollars in oil revenue that has made the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria one of the wealthiest terror groups in history, but so far has been unable to persuade Turkey, the NATO ally where much of the oil is traded on the black market, to crack down on an extensive sales network." ...

... Ken Dilanian of the AP: "Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.
Rise of the Know-It-Alls

NEW. Ezra Klein, Chief Know-It-All: "Perhaps the single best thing that's happened to political journalism in the time I've been doing it is the rise of political science." CW Note: Any article that contains the phrase "the late, great David Broder," unless appearing in an ironical context, is probably bollocks. ...

... NEW. Thomas Frank, Chief Rebuttal Witness, in Salon: "Not only does Washington routinely fill the No. 1 spot on those 'most educated cities' articles, but the town positively seethes with academic experts. Indeed, it is the only city I know of that actually boasts a sizable population of fake experts, handing out free-market wisdom to passers-by from their subsidized seats at Cato and Heritage. The characteristic failing of D.C. isn't that it ignores these herds of experts, it's that it attends to them with a gaping credulity that they do not deserve." Thanks to James S. for the link.

Marie's Sports Report

NEW. CW: TMZ -- and nobody else -- reports that the Carolina Panthers have "deactivated" defensive end Greg Hardy, who is appealing his misdemeanor conviction for physically assaulting & threatening to kill a woman. See links in yesterday's Commentariat .

** Kent Babb & Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: The NFL, "America’s most popular sports league..., generat[es] about $10 billion in annual revenue, and behind the scenes is an intricate and largely secretive three-layered security force -- mainly comprised of former federal agents -- in charge of staying in front of the league's problems. Its emphases are swiftness and thoroughness, its tentacles reaching into states even without an NFL team, its code mostly one of silence. And while its agents can help keep bad actors from ever getting to the league by vetting them beforehand, they are equally if not more valuable in funnelling information back to the league office once problems occur to help make sure NFL leaders are not caught off guard." ...

... CW: AND TMZ, a celebrity-watcher outfit, breached this wall. This report further illuminates how farcical is the NFL's "internal investigation" -- many in the NFL security team are ex-FBI agents, some of them high-ranking. The NFL chose former FBI director Robert Mueller -- who would have worked directly with these top FBI grads -- to "investigate" them. (Mueller already was known to have deep ties to the NFL & Ravens management. This just adds another layer to the cover-up.) ...

... A War Game for a Warring Nation. Mark Edmundson in the Los Angeles Times: "Football is a warlike game and we are now a warlike nation. Our love for football is a love, however self-aware, of ourselves as a fighting and (we hope) victorious people.... The rise of football over baseball is about a change in America's self-image.... Plato fears that we become what we behold." ...

... Jonathan Zimmerman in a Los Angeles Times op-ed: "For the last century, schools and colleges have tried to modify the [football] game so fewer people get hurt. And it hasn't worked." ...

... CW: There are, obviously, direct connections among (1) playing a war game from the time you're 11; (2) regularly getting your brains bashed, (3) the trappings of celebrity that come with the game (even at the high-school level), (4) the remuneration -- or potential remuneration for playing the game well; (5) the value of a player to his team's bottom line, & (6) domestic violence. Every "institution of learning" that has a football team is molding young sociopaths, some percentage of whom -- because of football-related brain damage -- really cannot control themselves. Most Americans, myself included, contribute or have contributed to perpetuating this ring of violence. ...

... Maureen Dowd: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had a model in his father Charles of a profile in courage. He has no excuse for his own slimy behavior.

God News

Sharon Otterman of the New York Times: "Since [Roman Catholic Archbishop Fulton Sheen's] death in 1979, his remains have been sealed in a white marble crypt at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, the city where he spent much of his life. And though the Peoria diocese says it was promised the remains, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who considers Archbishop Sheen something of a personal hero, has refused to part with them, citing the wishes of the archbishop and his family. Now the dispute over Archbishop Sheen's corpse has brought a halt to his rise to sainthood, just as he appeared close to beatification, the final stage before canonization. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, Peoria's leader, announced this month that the process had been suspended because New York would not release the body."

Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God. -- Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the fully armed; because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. -- Pat Robertson 9:2014

"So Help Me, God." Stephen Losey of the Air Force Times: "An atheist airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada has until November to change his mind and swear a reenlistment oath to God, the Air Force said. The unnamed airman was denied reenlistment Aug. 25 for refusing to take an oath that concludes with the phrase 'so help me God,' the American Humanist Association said in a Sept. 2 letter to the inspectors general for the Air Force and Creech." ...

... Air Force Finds Constitution Irrelevant. Steve Benen: "In the Army and Navy, Americans have the discretion to omit [the words "so help me God." The Air Force, however, has a different 'interpretation' of Pentagon regulations.... It's worth noting that the U.S. Constitution -- the one the military supports and defends, and which trumps Defense Department regulations and forms -- says quite explicitly that 'no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.' To date, the Air Force has found this unpersuasive." ...

... Brad Knickerbocker of the Christian Science Monitor: "The US Air Force has gotten itself into a bureaucratic, legal, and public relations snarl over what would seem to be a simple thing: Four words included in its reenlistment oath."

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.... -- Leviticus 19:33-34

... Strangers in the Land of the South: David Wren of the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Sun News: "Reginald Wayne Miller, the president of Cathedral Bible College, was arrested Thursday on accusations that he forces foreign students at his school to work long hours for low wages and then threatens to revoke their student visas if they complain or fail to comply with his demands. Via Steve Benen.

Congressional Races

NEW. Rick Hasen: "A three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit has just issued this order denying Ohio's request to put on hold a district court order requiring Ohio to restore early voting days (including 'Golden Week') which the Republican legislature tried to cut.... All the judges in the Sixth Circuit today were Democrat-appointed."

Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly on Bill Maher's choice of targeting John Kline (RTP-Minn.) in his "Let's Flip a District" gag: "John Kline has a reputation as a moderate but he votes with the teabaggers all the time. All the Democrats need is for his constituents to become aware of how radical his recent voting record really is and they toss him out in favor of Some Dude." See yesterday's Commentariat for context.

Southern Gothic, Ctd.
A Week in Paris

Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: Rep. Mark Sanford's (R-S.C.) former fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur said she had asked him to make their break public, but that Mr. Sanford did not warn her before announcing it on Facebook on Friday, catching her off guard. 'I learned it from the press today,' she said Saturday."

News Ledes

AP: "North Korea's Supreme Court on Sunday sentenced a 24-year-old American man to six years of hard labor for entering the country illegally and trying to commit espionage. At a trial that lasted about 90 minutes, the court said Matthew Miller, of Bakersfield, California, tore up his tourist visa at Pyongyang's airport upon arrival on April 10 and admitted to having the "wild ambition" of experiencing prison life so that he could secretly investigate North Korea's human rights situation."

Friday
Sep122014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 13, 2014

White House: "In this week’s address, President Obama reiterated his comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group ISIL":

Justin Sink of the Hill: "The United States is at war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), the White House and Pentagon said Friday, a day after Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly declined to use that phrase. 'In the same way that we are at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, we are at war with ISIL,' White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the White House. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that while the effort was 'not the Iraq war,' they should 'make no mistake, we know we are at war with ISIL.'" ...

... Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News: "The parents of murdered journalist Steven Sotloff were told by a White House counterterrorism official at a meeting last May that they could face criminal prosecution if they paid ransom to try to free their son, a spokesman for the family told Yahoo News Friday night.... The Sotloff family issued their statement after Diane Foley, the mother of murdered journalist James Foley, told ABC News that her family took statements by the White House counterterrorism official about legal bars to paying ransom as a 'threat, and it was appalling. ... We were horrified he would say that. He just told us we would be prosecuted.'" ...

... Brian Ross, et al., of ABC News: "The mother of slain American journalist James Foley said she wasn't necessarily surprised that the U.S. government threatened her family with prosecution should they raise money to pay her son's ransom, but she was astounded by how such a devastating message was delivered. 'I was surprised there was so little compassion,' Diane Foley told ABC News today of the three separate warnings she said U.S. officials gave the family about the illegality of paying ransom to the terror group ISIS.... Earlier this week five current and former officials with direct knowledge of the Foley case confirmed the alleged threats were made.... Diane Foley told ABC News earlier this week that warnings over the summer came primarily from a highly decorated military officer serving on the White House's National Security Council staff." ...

... digby: "Threatening the family of an abducted journalist with criminal charges for terrorism is indeed appalling. But the fact that everyone, including the president, is using the execution of these prisoners as a rationale for military action  means that this policy has major ramifications we have not fully examined." ...

... Bruce Ackerman, in a New York Times op-ed: "PRESIDENT OBAMA's declaration of war against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition. Nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris.... The 2001 authorization for the use of military force does not apply here. That resolution -- scaled back from what Mr. Bush initially wanted -- extended only to nations and organizations that 'planned, authorized, committed or aided' the 9/11 attacks.... Not only was ISIS created long after 2001, but Al Qaeda publicly disavowed it earlier this year. It is Al Qaeda's competitor, not its affiliate." ...

     ... CW Note: Ackerman is a highly-respected Constitutional scholar. He has been writing about executive overreach for a long time. Here he is in the American Prospect in March 2009, urging the new President to take steps to force future presidents to follow "the rule of law." At that time, barely two months into the Obama presidency, Ackerman asserted that, "Barack Obama is no George W. Bush -- he will indeed cut back substantially on unilateral assertions of power. The big question is whether he will take effective steps to prevent the next president from reversing course yet again...." CW: So that hasn't worked out. ...

     ... CW Update: OR, it's worth throwing into the mix that following President Obama's address to the nation, both Boehner & Reid vowed to bring up authorization bills. So perhaps (she said, being generous to the President), Obama has used hubris to bully the Congress into doing something.

... New York Times Editors: "By avoiding responsibility, [members of Congress] allow President Obama free rein to set a dangerous precedent that will last well past this particular military campaign. Mr. Obama, who has spent much of his presidency seeking to wean the United States off a perpetual state of war, is now putting forward unjustifiable interpretations of the executive branch's authority to use military force without explicit approval from Congress." ...

... Steve M.: "I understand that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force drawn up right after the 9/11 attacks doesn't really apply to a group that didn't exist in 2001, and that's in conflict with Al Qaeda. I understand that what the president plans to do will take ongoing military action past the deadline imposed by the 1973 War Powers Act. But America is a failed state now, so I have to confess that I'm struggling to care.... If Republicans in Congress resist voting (see that Jack Kingston quote) and resist working with president, then we have a non-functioning government, and that's the real constitutional crisis." ...

... CW: Both Ackerman & Steve M. are right. Never before in my lifetime have we had a Congress whose explicit goal was to keep the government from functioning. That effort began in a secret meeting led by Eric Cantor in December 2008 and at a dinner on January 20, 2009, the night of President Obama's inauguration. Once a conspiracy of top Republican elected officials, including Mitch McConnell was prime participant, the cat has been out of the bag so long that McConnell & other Republican MoCs are now touting it as legitimate strategy. ...

... Kevin Drum poses a question it would be nice to see one of those crack Sunday show hosts ask John McCain/Lindsay Graham/Generic Republican Hawk the next time one appears on the teevee (which would be tomorrow): "Republicans seem to universally hold the following two opinions about Iraq and ISIS:1. President Obama is to blame for the military success of ISIS because he declined to keep a residual force in Iraq after 2011. 2. In the fight against ISIS, we certainly don't want to send in combat troops. No no no.... But if we don't want boots on the ground in the fight against ISIS, what exactly would [a "residual force"] have done? Hang around Baghdad to buck up the morale of the Iraqi forces that came fleeing back after encountering ISIS forces? Conduct ever more 'training'? Or what? Can someone tell me just what everyone thinks this magical residual force would have accomplished?"

Ali Watkins of McClatchy News: "Tensions between the CIA and its congressional overseers erupted anew this week when CIA Director John Brennan refused to tell lawmakers who authorized intrusions into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a damning report on the spy agency's interrogation program. The confrontation, which took place during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, came as the sides continue to spar over the report's public release.... After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation's top spy of defying Congress." Read the whole story. Brennan is defying Democratic senators, & they're willing to go on the record, closed-door meeting notwithstanding. CW: This is something President Obama can mitigate. He should do so. Today.

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Republicans unanimously rejected a constitutional amendment sought by Democrats that would allow Congress to regulate campaign finance reform. The measure failed to clear a 60-vote threshold on Thursday afternoon, 54-42.... 'Senate Democrats want a government that works for all Americans -- not just the richest few. Today, Senate Republicans clearly showed that they would rather sideline hardworking families in order to protect the Koch brothers and other radical interests that are working to fix our elections and buy our democracy,' [Majority Leader Harry] Reid said after the vote."

Mark Stern of Slate: "On Wednesday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs voted 13-12 to continue to deny equal benefits to gay veterans who live in states without gay marriage. Currently, all active servicemembers and their same-sex spouses receive equal benefits -- no matter where they live -- under an order from the Department of Defense. But a statutory quirk instructs the Department of Veterans Affairs to look to veterans' state of residency to determine their marital status." ....

     ... Because ... States' Rights! Stern, Ctd.: "Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Florida, explained that 'deference to the state is not motivated by hostility, it is motivated by adherence to the Constitution.' ... Miller's notion of 'deference to the state' is ... so utterly inane, so completely and totally wrong about the structure of the U.S. government, that it reads more like a giveaway question on a seventh-grade true/false civics quiz than a statement by an ostensibly educated congressman." CW: Just makes me want to sing "Dixie" & the version of "Swanee River" -- Florida's state song -- we used to sing as children. (The Negro-dialect version was retired in 2008, tho I think it was commonly bowdlerized long before that.) ...

... BUT. Federal Judge Understands Federalism. Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "A federal judge has ordered Arizona to recognize one same-sex marriage, determining Friday that the state must formally acknowledge that Fred McQuire and George Martinez were married.... [Judge John Sedwick's] ruling is very limited, focusing only on this one couple, but it also touches on the larger issues involving same-sex marriage, noting that arguments suggesting Arizona's ban does not discriminate 'lacks merit.'" (You can read the complete ruling here.)" CW: Sedwick is Bush I appointee.

CW: Forgot to link this yesterday. of Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Sen. Ted Cruz walked off the stage and left an event hosted by a Christian organization mid-speech after being booed on Wednesday night following comments praising Israel. The Texas Republican senator and tea party icon was a keynote speaker at a Washington summit hosted by In Defense of Christians, a group that focuses on persecuted Christian and minority communities in the Middle East." ...

... Jonathan Topaz: "The president of the Christian organization who hosted Sen. Ted Cruz at its summit has partially blamed the senator for walking off the stage after being heckled and booed by some in the crowd during his speech. In Defense of Christians President Toufic Baaklini, in a statement released Thursday evening, said that while the hecklers were out of line, Cruz's actions were 'unfortunate.' ... [Baaklini] contested the characterization used by some outlets that the Texas Republican was 'booed off stage,' suggesting the group of hecklers was 'small' and that there were more audience members shouting them down.... Republican Rep. Charlie Dent struck a harsher tone in criticizing Cruz on Thursday. '... what Senator Cruz did was outrageous and incendiary," the Pennsylvania congressman told The Washington Post. 'He showed a true lack of sensitivity for the people he was speaking to, especially the religious leaders who were there. It was a political speech, inappropriate and, overall, an uncomfortable moment.'" ...

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post has more on Dent's comments....

... CW: In the reporting, I haven't seen any evidence that the hecklers "hate Jews," as Cruz claimed before walking off the stage. While it isn't polite to boo a speaker (I might not be able to contain myself either if Cruz was the speaker), it's pretty damned easy to deplore Israel's actions against Gazans & other Palestinians without in any way, shape or form "hating Jews." Cruz's assumptions, as far as I can tell, are unsupported conjecture. I suppose Cruz is just posturing, but if he really can't tell the difference between opposing a government's policy & hating its citizens, then he's remarkably stupid. Does Ted Cruz, who opposes practically every U.S. policy, hate Americans? Maybe so. On the other hand, he may just be a thin-skinned crybaby. Good luck, President Cruz.

Beyond the Beltway

** Dana Milbank Indicts the Prosecutor: "It's a good bet the grand jurors won't charge [Darren Wilson for shooting dead Michael Brown], because all signs indicate that the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, doesn't want them to.... McCulloch's office has declined so far to recommend any charges to the grand jury.... A grand jury is less likely to deliver an indictment -- even a much deserved one -- if a prosecutor doesn't ask for it.... [In response to a request by the Post's Wesley Lowery,] McCulloch's office ultimately came up with only one case over 23 years that The Post could verify of the prosecution of a white officer for using inappropriate force against a black victim, and it wasn't a shooting." Read the whole post. On an empty stomach.

Federal Appellate Panel Okays Wisconsin Voter Suppression Law. Patrick Marley & Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A federal appeals panel reinstated Wisconsin's voter ID law Friday, acting with unusual speed eight weeks before the Nov. 4 election and just hours after hearing arguments on the subject. The move by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals clears the way for the state to immediately implement the law, though it does not stop the ongoing appeal over whether the measure is constitutional. State officials responded by saying they planned to have the requirement in place this fall. 'The state of Wisconsin may, if it wishes (and if it is appropriate under rules of state law), enforce the photo ID requirement in this November's elections,' the judges wrote in an unsigned two-page order. The appellate court indicated it was satisfied by changes imposed on the law by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a separate decision this summer.... Some 300,000 people in Wisconsin do not have IDs...." All three judges on the panel -- the ruling was unanimous -- are Republican appointees. Thanks to Nadd2 for the lead. ...

... Even though the (U.S.) Supreme Court could well agree that Wisconsin's voter ID law is legal, there's a real chance that the (U.S. Supreme) Court could reverse today's 7th Circuit order. The Supreme Court has said that courts should not make changes in the run-up to elections, which can cause voter and election official confusion. The 7th Circuit did not even mention this rule in its order today. -- Rick Hasen, election law expert

... Journal Sentinel Editors: "This has always been a law in search of a problem. The kind of fraud that voter ID can catch has been rare, and the chilling effect the law will have on the votes of some groups -- minorities, older people and students -- far outweighs any benefits. Beyond that, the timing issue is critical. Coming less than two months before the November election, the ruling threatens to make balloting difficult for voters and election officials." Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

Marie's Sports Report

Ken Belson of the New York Times: "The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at 'notably younger ages' than in the general population. The findings are a result of data prepared by actuaries hired by the league and provided to the United States District Court judge presiding over the settlement between the N.F.L. and 5,000 former players who sued the league, alleging that it had hidden the dangers of concussions from them."

WCCO Minneapolis: "A warrant was issued Friday for the arrest of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson after a grand jury in Texas indicted him for reckless or negligent injury to a child. Peterson will not play in Sunday's game at TCF Bank Stadium against the New England Patriots. On Friday afternoon, the Vikings said Peterson had been deactivated. That's different from a suspension, as Peterson will be still be paid as officials investigate." ...

... Here are some details from TMZ. ...

... Update. The New York Times story, by Steve Eder & Pat Borzi, is here. ...

... Paul Campos in Lawyers, Guns & Money: "For those who don’t follow the sport, Peterson is the best running back in the league, and a much bigger star than Ray Rice." ...

... Sean Gregory of Time details the harrowing, life-threatening experience of the victim of another pro-player's domestic abuse. A female judge convicted Greg Hardy, who plays for the Carolina Panthers, of a misdemeanor. She "sentenced him to 18 months probation; a 60-day jail sentence was suspended." Hardy is appealing. "The world hasn't seen this incident on tape. Hardy played in Carolina's first game. He didn't practice on Wednesday for what the team said were 'personal reasons' -- he met with his attorney. But Hardy returned to practice Thursday and as of right now, he is slated to play on Sunday, as the Panthers host the Detroit Lions.... On Wednesday night..., Panthers owner Jerry Richardson received a humanitarian honor in Charlotte: The Echo Award Against Indifference." ...

... CW: You read what that woman endured & tell me if you think Hardy is guilty of a minor infraction & should have got off with a suspended sentence. There is one judge who thinks severe domestic violence is not such a terrible thing. Oh, & after reading the Charlotte Observer report linked below, we find she also doesn't care too much if the defendant commits perjury. ...

... Joseph Person & Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer have more. "Hardy ... has not been disciplined by the NFL or the team."

Lifestyles of the Ludicrous

Oh, My Stars. Our Lady of the North Is Actually a Cat-fighting, Foul-mouthed Harridan. Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post relates the details of the Palin brawl, via Amanda Coyne, who "recounts what happened through the eyewitness account of Eric Thompson." Thompson, who was the designated driver for a group, was not drinking, so his account is not colored by the substances which apparently encouraged the Palin clan. Money quote from Coyne's account: "... Sarah got involved and began to scream profanities at everyone. One source, who didn't want to be named, said that she was 'nearly crawling on top of people,' trying to get into the scrum." CW: Yes, millions of Americans decided that this model of probity should be one aged heartbeat away from the presidency. And yes, thanks again, John McCain, for another demonstration of your excellent judgment. ...

... Coyne's full account is here. ...

... Here's Thompson discussing the story on "Good Morning, America! Know Your Former Vice-Presidential Candidate":

... Tina Nguyen of Mediaite: "Thompson ... was fired [Friday] for talking to the media." CW: Thompson's employer was McKenna Brothers Paving. Korey Klingenmeyer, the owner of the house where the party was held, also works for McKenna Brothers. In fact, according to Coyne, the party was to celebrate the birthdays of "twins Matt and Marc McKenna," who own McKenna Brothers. Apparently omerta is part of the Alaskan chivalric code. ...

... At the end of her report on the "Palin Fight Club," Ahiza Garcia of TPM demonstrates how Sarah Palin has avoided all mention of the melee. ...

... CW: Former Half- Gov. Palin also appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox "News" show Thursday night to bash President Obama. Hannity, of course, did not ask her about the Saturday night brawl, even though it was all over the "liberal media." When Martha Stewart was involved in a stock scandal -- for which she was later jailed -- she appeared on her regular CBS morning show homemaking segment only to be confronted by host Jane Clayson about the stock deal. Martha, who mumbled something about the "ridiculousness" of the charges against her, famously replied, "I'd rather focus on my salad," and kept on chopping cabbage. But then CBS "News" occasionally covers news, whereas Fox "News" focuses on their shredded Obama salad & keeps on chopping. ...

... Update. The New York Times has a story on the brawl, in muted Grey Lady-style. On the byline are Amanda Coyne & Lizette Alvarez (Alvarez often reports Florida news for the Times).

The Trials of Mark. Sahil Kapur of TPM: "South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford took the liberty of airing his legal troubles with his ex-wife in excruciating detail on Friday afternoon. In a 2,343 word Facebook post, the Republican congressman wrote about several lawsuits and child custody disputes with his ex-wife Jenny Sanford, whom he left for an Argentinian woman he was cheating with while he was governor. He revealed in the post that the woman, Maria Belen Chapur, is no longer his fiancé[e]."

... CW: No one knows the troubles Mark's seen. (Well, okay, some of the troubles, which he blubbered out in an extraordinary presser after his "Appalachian Trails" scam flopped.) So he's going to tell you. In excruciating detail. Here's how Mark begins his Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me post, and truth be told, this is where I quit reading, but I'm pretty sure there's going to be some more Jesus & God stuff further along, wherein I'm pretty sure we're going to find out Jesus & God are on Mark's side, & Jezebel Jenny, his mean former wife, will have to answer to them:

More than anything, I am struck by two truths. One, it seems that history well documents that those who work to avoid conflict at all costs wind up being those destined in many instances to find much conflict. Peace at all costs rarely brings it. On the other hand, Jesus was incredibly clear in the book of Luke that we are to turn the other cheek at offenses and that if someone took our shirt, we were to offer our coat as well.

... Ed O'Keefe & Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "Shortly before posting his message online, Sanford also filed a motion requesting a gag order against his ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, that will be heard by a judge on Monday." CW: Here again, I suspect we'll find that Jesus gave Mark the idea he should muzzle the missus. And thou shalt go before the judge of thy land & pray that he shall silence thy former wife for her wickedness. ...

... Also, do read A. O. Scott's piece in this week's NYT Magazine, linked under Infotainment.

Rene Stutzman of the Orlando Sentinel: "A driver called Lake Mary[, Florida,] police earlier this week, accusing former Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman of threatening to shoot him during a road-rage incident. Zimmerman, 30, was not arrested. Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell said the man, 35-year-old Matthew Apperson of Winter Springs, did not want to press charges, so there would be no arrest." Read the whole story.

Congressional Races

Gail Collins: Today's Senate candidates are often reluctant debaters. Indeed, political debates these days are not going to be of the calibre of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. After all, the most famous debate in New York gubernatorial history in one in which candidates included "a woman whose claim to fame was running a prostitution ring and the nominee of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party."

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "A group helmed by a major donor and policy adviser to Democratic Senate candidate Michel[l]e Nunn is under investigation by the Georgia secretary of State for alleged voter fraud. Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) said in a memo ... that his office has 'received numerous complaints about voter applications submitted by the New Georgia Project,' an organization launched to register and turn out voters to the polls. 'Preliminary investigation has revealed significant illegal activities, including forged voter registration applications, forged signatures on releases, and applications with false or inaccurate information,' Kemp wrote in the memo." CW: Might be true; might be voter suppression as usual. ...

... Jamelle Bouie has an excellent post on this. Here's a key factor: Stacey Abrams, the Democratic leader of the Georgia house, "notes, Georgia law 'requires that we turn in all application forms we collect, regardless of concerns over validity.' It's the job of the secretary of state, she says, to determine the status of the applications. 'We do not get to make the decisions about whether or not a form is valid or not.' ... But there is an aggressive subpoena that, Abrams says, 'essentially demands every document we have ever produced.' She calls it a 'fishing expedition' meant to 'suppress our efforts.' A spokesperson for the New Georgia Project, the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church, was a little more explicit. 'I see this move by the secretary of state as the latest effort in voter suppression in the state of Georgia,' he said." CW: So, voter suppression as usual.

Where's Terri? Laura Berman of the Detroit News: Michigan's GOP U.S. Senate candidate "Terri Lynn Land [is] ... gambling you won't notice her near total disappearance from the campaign trail. While both Land and her opponent, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, are bombarding the airwaves with commercials, it's Land who's trying to stay out of sight.... [A] Mackinac Island policy conference last May -- included both Senate candidates, who appeared separately.... That was also Land's last media confrontation, when she was visibly overwhelmed by a crush of microphones, and lambasted by the media for failing to understand 'net neutrality.'... In November, voters will decide whether such cynicism can also be a clever way for an insecure, under-prepared candidate to win."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Comedian Bill Maher announced Friday night that he will personally target Republican Rep. John Kline (Minn.) for defeat in the November election -- the culmination of his longstanding 'Flip a District' contest in which the HBO host allowed his viewers to pick which Republican he would attempt to unseat." Blake explains why Maher "picked the wrong guy.... If Maher somehow pulled ... off [an upset], it would be a true testament to the ability of one man to 'flip a district.' But don't hold your breath."

Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "Maher will be traveling to Kline's district to do stand-up, and he explained why this congressman -- whom you probably never heard of -- is his big target: because he's 'the living embodiment of legislation for hire.' He called Kline a 'silent threat' who doesn't say 'kooky things' but votes with the people who do:

News Ledes

New York Times: "The president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has implored President Obama for help in managing her country's rapidly expanding Ebola crisis and has warned that without American assistance the disease could send Liberia into the civil chaos that enveloped the country for two decades."

Guardian: "The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, wants to destroy Ukraine as an independent country and resurrect the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk has said. Yatseniuk told a conference of European politicians his country was 'in a stage of war' with Russia, as renewed clashes broke out between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian rebels in the east and Moscow sent a second convoy of trucks into Ukraine without Kiev's consent. Continuous rocketfire could be heard overnight in the eastern city of Donetsk."

New York Times: "The doctor who performed an endoscopy on Joan Rivers before she went into cardiac arrest has stepped down as medical director of the Manhattan clinic where she was treated and he is no longer doing procedures there, the clinic announced on Friday.... The doctor who performed the endoscopy, Lawrence B. Cohen, a prominent gastroenterologist, had brought an ear, nose and throat specialist into the operating room to examine Ms. Rivers, even though that doctor was not authorized to practice medicine there, according to people briefed on the matter."

Thursday
Sep112014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 12, 2014

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "In a rare show of unity with President Obama, House Republican leaders will summon their fractious members back to the Capitol a day early next week to push through legislation to authorize the military to train Syrian rebels for the fight against Islamist militants.The decision to bring lawmakers back on Monday, costing them a campaign day seven weeks before the midterm elections, showed how quickly the politics of Mr. Obama's foreign policy shifted after he vowed in a speech to the nation on Wednesday night to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, and Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, the majority leader..., promised a quick vote to begin training rebels in the Free Syrian Army to take the ISIS fight into Syria." ...

... Geir Moulton & Sylvia Hui of the AP: "Hours after Britain's foreign minister [Philip Hammond] said the country wouldn't participate in any airstrikes on Syria, Prime Minister David Cameron's office overruled the comment Thursday and stressed that the government hadn't discarded the use of air power.... 'Let me be clear: Britain will not be taking part in any airstrikes in Syria,'" Hammond said. ...

... Anne Barnard & David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times: "Many Arab governments grumbled quietly in 2011 as the United States left Iraq, fearful it might fall deeper into chaos or Iranian influence. Now, the United States is back and getting a less than enthusiastic welcome, with leading allies like Egypt, Jordan and Turkey all finding ways on Thursday to avoid specific commitments to President Obama's expanded military campaign against Sunni extremists.... The tepid support could further complicate the already complex task Mr. Obama has laid out for himself...."

... Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post fact-checks assertions by John McCain & Jay Carney made during their CNN squabble Wednesday night. ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "President Obama, long a reluctant warrior, has committed the United States to a risky and open-ended military campaign, the ultimate consequences of which are difficult to predict. Confronted with popular outrage at the beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and political opponents keen to exploit any hint of weakness or indecision, the realist has relented.... The President, who only last year, at West Point, talked about winding down the 'war on terrorism,' has come a long way in a short time." ...

... Kerry-Anne in Addicting Information: "ISIS kills two journalists & the West goes mad; Israel kills 2,000 civilians ... YAWN." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. See Tim Egan's column, linked next, for part of the reason. ...

... ** "Video Nation." Tim Egan: "'All you need to do is see the videos of the beheadings and we're not worried about mission creep,' said Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, this week, in making an argument for military engagement. That's it in a nutshell: public policy driven by visceral reaction to videos.... 'The world has always been messy,' said Obama, a smart man, making a smart observation to a public that doesn't reward that trait. 'In part we're just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through.'" ...

... Frank Rich on the national circus (published Wednesday).

Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications -- a request the company believed was unconstitutional -- according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the National Security Agency's controversial PRISM program. [A] ruling [against Yahoo] by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review became a key moment in the development of PRISM, helping government officials to convince other Silicon Valley companies that unprecedented data demands had been ... found constitutionally sound.... Yahoo, which endured heavy criticism after The Washington Post and Britain's Guardian newspaper used [Edward] Snowden's documents to reveal the existence of PRISM last year, was legally bound from revealing its efforts in attempting to resist government pressure."

Paul Krugman: "... the persistence of the inflation cult is an example of the 'affinity fraud' crucial to many swindles, in which investors trust a con man because he seems to be part of their tribe. In this case, the con men may be conning themselves as well as their followers, but that hardly matters.... This tribal interpretation ... helps explain the sheer rage you encounter when pointing out that the promised hyperinflation is nowhere to be seen. It's comparable to the reaction you get when pointing out that Obamacare seems to be working, and probably has the same roots.... Everything is political, even among those who are supposed to rise above such things. And that reality, unlike the supposed risk of runaway inflation, is something that should scare you."

Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times: "Today, more than 14 million vehicles have been recalled by 11 automakers over rupture risks involving air bags manufactured by the supplier, Takata. That is about five times the number of vehicles recalled this year by General Motors for its deadly ignition switch defect. Two deaths and more than 30 injuries have been linked to ruptures in Honda vehicles, and complaints received by regulators about various automakers blame Takata air bags for at least 139 injuries.... The danger of exploding air bags was not disclosed for years after the first reported incident in 2004, despite red flags...."

Beyond the Beltway

Randi Kaye of CNN: "Two men ... describe an unarmed teenager with his hands up in the air as he's gunned down by a police officer. They were contractors doing construction work in Ferguson, Missouri, on the day Michael Brown was killed.... And the men ... said they were about 50 feet away from Officer Darren Wilson when he opened fire. 'He had his f**n hands up,' one of the men says in the video.... CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin says the video could play an important role in the case. 'You have practically in real time someone discussing what they saw, and that's just good evidence.' ... Sunny Hostin, a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, says it's important to note that several witnesses are telling the same story":

     ... Update. Contributor P. D. Pepe found a more expansive CNN analysis of the video above, by Catherine Shoichet & Randi Kaye, which confirms that the constructions workers are white. "The race of the witnesses shouldn't matter, but it could for the grand jury that's investigating the case, said Mark Geragos, a CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney. There are nine whites and three African-Americans on the 12-member panel tasked with deciding whether Wilson, who is white, should be charged. 'You now have some witnesses who the majority of this grand jury are going to better relate to. I hate to say it, but that's the reality of it, and that's why it's a game changer to me,' Geragos said."

Liar, Liar, Ctd. Don Van Natta of ESPN: "Ray Rice told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on June 16 that he punched his then-fiancee in a casino elevator, four sources have told 'Outside the Lines,' an assertion that contradicts Goodell's statement this week that 'when we met with Ray Rice and his representatives, it was ambiguous about what actually happened.' Goodell made the statement Tuesday during an interview with CBS News, saying the latest video released by TMZ Sports about the incident was 'inconsistent' with what the former Baltimore Ravens running back had told him. But four sources close to Rice say that during the disciplinary meeting in the commissioner's office on June 16, Rice told Goodell he had hit Janay Rice, then his fiancee, in the face inside a Revel Casino Hotel elevator in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and had knocked her unconscious. 'Ray didn't lie to the commissioner,' a source with knowledge of the meeting [said]." ...

... Karen Crouse of the New York Times: "Across professional sports, it is hardly unusual for athletes to be involved in domestic abuse cases, but seldom have they faced meaningful punishment from their employers. Teams and leagues have generally demurred, noting that there is a presumption of innocence and that it is not their role to supersede the criminal justice system.... In the N.B.A. alone, a starting lineup could be made of former first-round draft picks who since 2012 have faced legal troubles connected to domestic abuse: guards Ty Lawson and Terrence Williams; forwards James Johnson and Jared Sullinger and center Jordan Hill. Jason Kidd, formerly the coach of the Nets and now with the Milwaukee Bucks, could coach them." ...

... I Was Wrong to Fall Down & Hit My Head after He Punched Me. Margaret Hartmann of New York: "The NFL is still scrambling to save face in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal, but somehow it managed to find a story that makes commissioner Roger Goodell sound even worse.... On Thursday, an anonymous NFL owner explained to The Wall Street Journal that Goodell was quick to drop the incident because Janay told him (during a meeting with six male NFL executives and the man who hit her, as Deadspin notes) that she felt she was partly to blame.... So don't blame Goodell for the NFL's awful response, blame ... ugh." ...

... Hartman goes on to review how CBS Sports tried to respond to the domestic violence issue. Here's James Brown in part of the pregame show last night, aired before CBS's inaugural NFL game featuring, as their bad luck would have it, the Ravens & the Steelers:

     ... Hartmann: Immediately after Brown's commentary "the camera cut to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was suspended for six games in 2010 for allegedly sexually assaulting a female college student. Goodell later reduced his suspension to four games." ...

... How to Cover Up the Cover-up. Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News: "Roger Goodell declined to appear on CBS' 'Thursday Night Football' pregame show.... CBS left a gaping hole when it came to discussing the independent investigation the NFL is conducting under the direction of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III. Not once was it mentioned that Ravens team president Dick Cass worked at WilmerHale, the D.C. -- based law firm where Mueller is a partner. And there was no attempt to define the relationship between the two suits overseeing the investigation -- John Mara and Art Rooney -- and Goodell, which has been characterized as extremely close." ...

... George Jones of WJHL, Johnson City, Tennessee: "One of the most high-profile victims of domestic violence will no longer be the musical voice for a Thursday Night Football game featuring an NFL team beset by the Ray Rice scandal. Rihanna, the singer Chris Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting in 2009, is featured on Jay-Z's hit song Run This Town. Her vocals on the song were scheduled to open all Thursday night games, but an official from CBS Sports told Sports Illustrated the network was pulling the song from its Sept. 11 broadcast."

In his regular feature, "Today in Responsible Gun Ownership," Charles Pierce highlights an incident in which a grade-school teacher accidentally shot herself in the leg while in a school bathroom. In the AP story, which Pierce cites, Michelle Price writes, "Utah is among the few states that allow people with concealed-weapons permits to carry guns in public schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Teachers are not required to disclose that they are carrying a weapon, and administrators are prohibited from asking." ...

... CW: Sorry, Charlie. This is the wave of the future in red-state America. Summer Ballentine of the AP: "Missouri lawmakers expanded the potential for teachers to bring guns to schools and for residents to openly carry firearms, in a vote Thursday that capped a two-year effort by the Republican-led Legislature to expand gun rights over the objection of the Democratic governor.... The new regulations, which this time garnered the two-thirds majority needed to override [Gov. Jay] Nixon's veto, take effect in about a month. Missouri school boards already have the power to allow employees with concealed gun permits to carry weapons on their campuses." Do I think that some day in the not-to-distant future a teacher will accidentally shoot a student in the leg or chest or head? Yes, I do.

Trouble in Right Wing World

Jonathan Stempel of Reuters: "The U.S. government wants conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza to be sentenced to as much as 16 months in prison, following his guilty plea to a campaign finance law violation. In a Wednesday court filing, federal prosecutors rejected defense arguments that D'Souza was 'ashamed and contrite' about his crime, had 'unequivocally accepted responsibility,' and deserved a sentence of probation with community service.... The government ... also said D'Souza waited to 'the last possible moment' prior to trial before admitting guilt, and then went on TV shows and the Internet to complain about being 'selectively' targeted for prosecution, and having little choice but to plead guilty."

Saturday Night in "Sarah Palin's Alaska." Amanda Coyne: Last Saturday night, "There's some sort of unofficial birthday/Iron Dog-type/snowmachine party in Anchorage. A nice, mellow party, until the Palins show up. There's beer, of course, and maybe other things.... Just about the time when some people might have had one too many, a Track Palin stumbles out of a stretch Hummer, and immediately spots an ex-boyfriend of Willow's.... There's words, and more. The owner of the house gets involved.... At this point, he's up against nearly the whole Palin tribe: Palin women screaming. Palin men thumping their chests. Word is that Bristol has a particularly strong right hook, which she employed repeatedly..., Sarah screams, 'Don't you know who I am!' ... Someone in the crowd screamed back, 'This isn't some damned Hillbilly reality show!' ... As people were leaving in a cab, Track was seen on the street, shirtless, flipping people off, with Sarah right behind him, and Todd somewhere in the foreground, tending to his bloody nose." ...

... CW: I hate doing anything to raise Sarah Palin's profile, but this is just too hilarious. And apparently true. Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post verifies this much of it: there was a fight, the Palins were there, & the Anchorage police showed up. Besides, Amanda Coyne is a credible reporter.

Tara Palmeri of the New York Post: "Arnold Schwarzenegger was so hot to erase any memory of his marriage to Maria Shriver that he had her face scrubbed from his official portrait as governor of California -- and he didn't even care that the hastily done job was a sloppy mess, The Post has learned.... Shriver's face originally had appeared on a small lapel pin that Schwarzenegger wore as he sat for the painting in 2003.... Many in Shriver's and Schwarzenegger's orbit had been holding their breath ... after The Post broke the news last week that she'd had an affair with her husband's campaign strategist Matthew Dowd."

Senate Race

Dylan Scott of TPM: "The Kansas Supreme Court has decided to hear the lawsuit Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor has brought against Secretary of State Kris Kobach, after Kobach argued [in a court filing] that the case should be transferred to a lower court. Taylor is suing Kobach over his ruling that Taylor must remain on the Senate ballot in November, despite Taylor's announcement that he would withdraw from the race." ...

... Election law expert Rick Hasen comments.

Gubernatorial Races

Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "Democrats running in five highly competitive governors races ... -- Florida, Maine, Kansas, Wisconsin and Georgia -- ... this year have vowed to expand Medicaid coverage through ObamaCare if they are elected, something that could result in 1.7 million new people getting covered.... Most congressional Democrats are retreating from ObamaCare on the campaign trail. The law remains a tough political litmus test at a time when the president's approval rating has sunk to record lows. But Democrats in some of the closest gubernatorial contests are running on a platform to expand a key piece of the law."

News Ledes

AP: "Toronto Mayor Rob Ford withdrew his re-election bid Friday as he seeks treatment for a tumor in his abdomen, ending a campaign he had pursued despite persistent calls for him to quit amid drug and alcohol scandals."

New York Times: "The Rev. Ian Paisley, Northern Ireland's firebrand Protestant leader who vowed never to compromise with Irish Catholic nationalists, then, in his twilight, accepted a power-sharing agreement that envisioned a new era of peace in Ulster after decades of sectarian violence, died Friday in Northern Ireland. He was 88."

Guardian: "The Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide for the fatal shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The guilty verdict on the manslaughter charge, a day after the judge Thokozile Masipa cleared him of murder, means Pistorius could receive anything from 15 years in prison to a suspended sentence, which would potentially allow the double amputee a chance to resurrect his sporting career. The court will resume for sentencing on 13 October."

Wednesday
Sep102014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 11, 2014

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama said Wednesday night that he was ordering a significantly expanded military campaign against Sunni militants in the Middle East that includes American airstrikes in Syria and the deployment of nearly 500 more military advisers to Iraq. But he sought to dispel fears that the United States was embarking on a repeat of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.":

... Michael Gordon & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Saudi Arabia has agreed to an American request to provide a base to train moderate Syrian opposition fighters, American officials said on Wednesday." ...

... Jonathan Weisman & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Senate Democratic leaders on Wednesday prepared legislation to expressly authorize the United States military to train Syrian rebels to help battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and House Republicans appeared ready to follow their lead. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, abruptly called off a vote on a stopgap spending bill that was planned for Thursday to reconsider President Obama’s request that training language be included." ...

... Metaphorically Speaking. Juan Cole: "Don’t listen to [President Obama's] expansive four-stage program or his retooled, stage-managed John Wayne rhetoric. Look at his metaphors. He is telling those who have ears to hear that he is pulling a Yemen in Iraq and Syria. He knows very well what that implies. It is a sort of desultory, staccato containment from the air with a variety of grassroots and governmental forces joining in. Yemen is widely regarded as a failure, but perhaps it is only not a success. And perhaps that is all Obama can realistically hope for." ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate: "... the cause is just, and Obama’s plan sounds reasonable, even nuanced. What could go wrong? Well..., everything." ...

... Gail Collins assesses the President's speech, the threat ISIS poses to the U.S., & Republican opinions on both. John Cornyn (R-Texas) spoke with authority from the floor of the Senate, roundly criticizing the President's character & policies while confusing Iran with Iraq. A word from Michelle Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee!: "Hitler." At least "it’s comforting to have Dick Cheney around, so we can at least know what we definitely want to avoid." ...

... NYT: Obama Is Just Like Bush. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "In ordering a sustained military campaign against Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq, President Obama on Wednesday night effectively set a new course for the remainder of his presidency and may have ensured that he would pass his successor a volatile and incomplete war, much as his predecessor left one for him.... He also advanced an argument that in some ways mirrored Mr. Bush’s much-debated strategy of pre-emption — that is, acting to forestall a potential threat rather than waiting for it to gather." CW: A low point in New York Times "news analysis." ...

... There Is This (which Baker doesn't mention). Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "In the space of a single primetime address on Wednesday night, Barack Obama dealt a crippling blow to a creaking, 40-year old effort to restore legislative primacy to American warmaking. Obama’s legal arguments for unilaterally expanding a war expected to last years have shocked even his supporters.... Yet one of the main authorities Obama is relying on for avoiding Congress is the 2001 wellspring of the war on terrorism he advocated repealing only last year, a document known as the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) that few think actually applies to Isis. Taken together with the congressional leadership’s shrug, Obama has stripped the veneer off a contemporary fact of American national security: presidents make war on their own, and congresses acquiesce." ...

... Ditto Eli Lake of the Daily Beast: "Legal experts were shocked to learn Wednesday that the Obama administration wants to rely on that 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force against al Qaeda for the new ISIS war.

Sometimes looks are not deceiving.Emma Roller of the National Journal: "Speaking on Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, [Dick] Cheney denounced [President] Obama's milquetoast approach, saying his administration has 'failed utterly' to maintain the post-9/11 security apparatus that Cheney and President George W. Bush put in place." ...

... Dana Milbank: Dick "Cheney’s 20-minute speech, carefully read from his prepared text, had an I-told-you-so tone.... Cheney is a singularly flawed critic, because the alternative he offers is war everywhere and always — and though there is support for taking on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, there is no appetite in the country, or even in the GOP, for Cheney’s alternative extreme.... Cheney, so expert on Obama’s failings, remains blind to his own." ...

... Carol Giacomo of the New York Times: "Whatever [President] Obama’s shortcomings may be, [Dick] Cheney is an absurdly flawed critic on national security. He was a primary architect of the Iraq war, propelling the United States into a bogus and costly conflict that may represent the most disastrous foreign policy blunder in recent memory. It was that war, in its early days, which gave rise to the Sunni militant group that would become ISIS. Like President George W. Bush, Mr. Cheney has shown no willingness to acknowledge the impact of these ruinous policies. Instead, he’s tried to spin an irredeemable legacy. It wasn’t just the content of Mr. Cheney’s admonitions but also the timing that was jarring." ...

... Steve M. John McCain, in a Senate hearing, cites fake James O'Keefe video as evidence ISIS (maybe masquerading as Osama bin Laden) operatives are (past, present, future tenses, I guess), crossing into the U.S. via the U.S.-Mexican border. A piece of cake, because there are "miles and miles" of unprotected border. ...

... CW: In this entertaining post, published last month, Adam Weinstein of Gawker pretty much debunked O'Keefe's claims. Via Steve M. But no matter. Sen. McCain still finds O'Keefe's Excellent Adventure good enough evidence to counter testimony from a Homeland Security witness. When you wonder what informs McCain's hawkish view of everything, remind yourself he's relying on sources like James O'Keefe. ...

... Up Next: John McCain Calls for Hearing on Interplanetary Security. Cites "War of the Worlds." Notes Obama is "in denial" about Martian threat.

GOP Senators Oppose Equal Pay, but Voted to Debate It to Stall Other Legislation. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Republicans have a new strategy: Vote to advance bills they oppose. On Wednesday, more than a dozen Republicans joined with Senate Democrats to overcome a filibuster of legislation aimed at ensuring pay equity for men and women. That vote was 73-25, an overwhelming margin by Senate standards. On Monday, 25 Republicans voted with Democrats to advance a constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform. The GOP broadly opposes both of these proposals — but they are voting to extend debate on them to chew up the remaining few days on the legislative calendar and prevent Democrats from holding even more campaign-themed votes on raising the minimum wage, reforming the student loan system and striking back at the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision."

David Dunlap of the New York Times: "This week, 150 miles north of ground zero, the Family Room — and a thousand stories of love and loss — has opened to the public for the first time, in an exhibition at the New York State Museum in Albany. The display speaks of the personal communion between the victims’ relatives and those who were killed 13 years ago, when terrorists took down the twin towers."

Henry Aaron (no, not the Henry Aaron), David Cutler & Peter Orszag, in a New York Times op-ed, on the cynical lawsuits designed to gut the ACA: "... now the opponents of Obamacare are asking the Supreme Court to immediately hear an appeal of the Richmond decision [which unanimously rejected the plaintiffs' specious claims], and to pre-empt the full District of Columbia court from hearing the case.... The Supreme Court should wait to see what the lower courts do before deciding whether to intervene. Whatever one thinks of the Affordable Care Act, it is absurd to argue that its drafters intended to make insurance unaffordable." ...

(CW: Here's how I know who this particular Henry Aaron is. Charles Pierce: "Let it never be said that the Republicans in the Upper Chamber of our national legislature aren't tuned in with the feral children in the House of Representatives. The president nominated a guy named Henry Aaron for a post on the Social Security Advisory Board, a job that ends on September fking 30th of this year. Every Republican voted against him. Every damn one. They wouldn't vote to let this president's appointee to an obscure executive branch position have a job for the next two-and-a-half weeks.") ...

... CW Two-Word Note to Chuck Todd, who, in his interview of President Obama, expressed the opinion that it doesn't make much difference if Republicans take control of the Senate since the House will reject Democratic proposals out-of-hand: "Henry Aaron." We cannot expect ordinary Americans -- the majority of whom pay scant attention to Washington shenanigans & can't even name the three branches of government -- to understand anything about the political process when Sunday morning "experts" like Chuck Todd, who is often referred to as a "political junkie," mislead them to such an egregious extent. 

Ken Belson of the New York Times: "Late Wednesday night, [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell said that he asked Robert S. Mueller III, the former F.B.I. director, to conduct an independent investigation into the league’s 'pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.' John Mara, the co-owner of the Giants, and Art Rooney II of the Steelers, who are both lawyers, will oversee the investigation, the final results of which will be made public. Goodell said Mueller, who was director of the F.B.I. for 12 years, will have access to all N.F.L. records."

AP: "A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL executive five months ago, while league executives have insisted they didn’t see the violent images until this week.The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: 'You’re right. It’s terrible.' The law enforcement official ... says hehad no further communication with any NFL employee and can’t confirm anyone watched the video. The person said he was unauthorized to release the video but shared it unsolicited, because he wanted the NFL to have it before deciding on Rice’s punishment. The NFL has repeatedly said it asked for but could not obtain the video of Rice hitting Janay Palmer — who is now his wife — at an Atlantic City casino in February." ...

... John Barr & Greg Amante of ESPN: "Revel [hotel & casino] security workers watched the incident from the operations room through a security camera of the elevator.One former staffer said Rice ... spat in his then-fiancée's face twice, 'once outside the elevator and once inside,' prompting her to retaliate with movements that were ultimately countered with a knockout punch. According to the men, as Rice punched Palmer, the elevator the couple rode was rapidly approaching the hotel lobby just two floors above the casino floor. A security staffer, dispatched from his lobby post, saw Rice starting to drag his fiancée, who appeared to still be unconscious, out of the elevator.... All of the staffers ... say they were not contacted by anyone from NFL security or the Ravens and they are not aware of any current or former co-workers who have been." ...

... TMZ: NFL Commissioner Roger "Goodell said Tuesday he did not contact the Revel Casino because it was his understanding 'the casino is prohibited from turning over material to a third party during a law enforcement proceeding' -- namely the criminal case against Rice. But Paul Loriquet, the Director of Communications for the New Jersey Attorney General, tells TMZ bluntly, 'No, it's not illegal.'" ...

... Jodi Kantor of the New York Times: "... after [Ray] Rice’s contract was terminated by his team on Monday, [Janay Palmer Rice] became the most famous battered wife in the country, a fierce defender of her husband and, to domestic violence experts and survivors, an extraordinarily public example of the complex psychology of women abused by men."

Charles Pierce: "The triumph of the campaign for voter-suppression out in the states is not going to be limited to measures like curtailing early voting and requiring state ID cards. Once established in law, these measures will lead to a 'debate' on whether or not we should reinstate property-based suffrage, or some other form of restrictions on the franchise that we all thought we were done with a century or so ago. (There's already serious talk about a property requirement bubbling up in the usual precincts -- because, of course, that's what the Founders wanted.)"

Dominic Rushe of the Guardian: "After a day of protest against Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposals for regulating the internet that was coordinated by some of the world’s largest tech companies, the agency announced on Wednesday it had received a record 1,477,301 public comments about the proposals since July. The previous record of 1.4 million was set in 2004 when an alleged 'wardrobe malfunction' during the halftime show at the Super Bowl led to [Janet] Jackson’s breast (plus nipple shield) being flashed to an audience of 111 million."

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Hadas Gold of Politico: "Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney will join CNN as a political commentator, the network announced Wednesday. He will start Wednesday night as President Barack Obama makes a prime-time statement about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Sam Feist, CNN's Washington bureau chief said in a statement." ...

     ... Update. Hadas Gold: Carney wrangled with John McCain in a CNN segment. Sounds kinda like CNN's failed, exceedingly annoying "Crossfire" show, minus the charming hyenas Paul Begala & Tucker Carlson.