Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving, and reflected on America’s history of welcoming men and women seeking a safer, better future for themselves and their families":

The Ledes

Thursday, November 26, 2015.

Guardian: "Sex abuse allegations against priests at St John’s Abbey in Minnesota were revealed in stark detail on Tuesday with the release of confidential documents concerning five priests accused of child sex abuse."

Reuters: "A 23-year-old Indiana man has pleaded guilty to breaking into a medical museum and stealing preserved human brains that he then sold online. David Charles, of Indianapolis, pleaded guilty to six charges including receiving stolen property and burglary in a Marion county court. Magistrate Amy Barbar sentenced him to one year of home detention and two years of probation, county prosecutor spokesman Anthony Deer said."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, November 25, 2015.

Attention, Costco Shoppers. E. coli in the Salad Cooler. Washington Post: "Federal health officials are investigating an outbreak of deadly E. coli bacteria that has sickened 19 people in at least seven states, mostly in the west.... Preliminary evidence suggests that rotisserie chicken salad made and sold in Costco Wholesale stores in several states is the likely source of this outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

White House Live Video
November 25

11:15 am ET: Vice President Biden delivers a joint summit statement with President Grabar-Kitarović of Croatia, President Pahor of Slovenia and European Council President Tusk in Zagreb, Croatia (audio only)

2: 45 pm ET: President Obama pardons the national Thanksgiving turkey

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.


Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (October 26): "A research division of the World Health Organization announced on Monday that bacon, sausage and other processed meats cause cancer, and that red meat probably does, too. The report by the influential group stakes out one of the most aggressive stances against meat yet taken by a major health organization, and it is expected to face stiff criticism in the United States."

New York Times (October 20: "The American Cancer Society, which has for years taken the most aggressive approach to [breast-cancer] screening, issued new guidelines on Tuesday, recommending that women with an average risk of breast cancer start having mammograms at 45 and continue once a year until 54, then every other year for as long as they are healthy and likely to live another 10 years. The organization also said it no longer recommended clinical breast exams, in which doctors or nurses feel for lumps, for women of any age who have had no symptoms of abnormality in the breasts."

Domenico Montanaro of NPR with everything you never wanted to know about the strange tradition of presidential "pardons" of turkeys.

Frank Rich reviews "Carol," the film based on Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt, published under a pseudonym. As usual, Rich goes deep.

New York Times: "Ta-Nehisi Coates won the National Book Award for nonfiction Wednesday[, Nov. 18,] night for “Between the World and Me,” a visceral, blunt exploration of his experience of being a black man in America, which was published this summer in the middle of a national dialogue about race relations and inequality.... The fiction award went to Adam Johnson for 'Fortune Smiles.'..."

Slate: Carly Simon told People magazine that "You're So Vain" is about Warren Beatty. CW: Somehow I think I knew that a long time ago.

Guardian: "Gawker, the gossip website..., is giving up on reporting gossip in order to refocus on politics and 'to hump the [2016 presidential] campaign'. The site, founded by British journalist Nick Denton in 2003, announced on Tuesday that Gawker was steering in a new direction that would “orient its editorial scope on political news, commentary and satire'.”

Washington Post: Actor "Charlie Sheen confirmed on Tuesday that he is HIV-positive, as rumored in recent days by an onslaught of tabloid stories. Sheen told Matt Lauer on the 'Today' show that he is going public with his illness for multiple reasons, including that he’s been blackmailed for upwards of $10 million since he was diagnosed four years ago."

... For about $880,000, you can purchase Julia Child's excellent little house in Provence; her kitchen is intact, except for the stove.

New York Times: "Archaeologists have over the years cataloged the rocks [forming Stonehenge], divined meaning from their placement — lined up for midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset — and studied animal and human bones buried there. They have also long known about the other monuments — burial chambers, a 130-foot-tall mound of chalk known as Silbury Hill and many other circular structures. An aerial survey in 1925 revealed circles of timbers, now called Woodhenge, two miles from Stonehenge." With slide show.


New York Times: "In an overheated art market where anything seems possible, a painting of an outstretched nude woman by the early-20th-century artist Amedeo Modigliani sold on Monday night for $170.4 million with fees, in a packed sales room at Christie’s. It was the second-highest price paid for an artwork at auction."

Artist's rendering of the main exhibition hall of the planned wing of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "In designing its $325 million addition on Columbus Avenue, the American Museum of Natural History has opted for an architectural concept that is both cautious and audacious, according to plans approved by its board on Wednesday. The design ... evokes Frank Gehry’s museum in Bilbao, Spain, in its undulating exterior and Turkey’s underground city of Cappadocia in its cavelike interior. The design, by the architect Jeanne Gang for the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation, aims to unite the museum’s various activities, solve its notorious circulation problems and provide a multistory showcase for the institution’s expanding role as a hub for scientific research and scholarship.”

New York Times: "... Jon Stewart has signed a production deal with the premium cable channel HBO, the channel announced on Tuesday. As part of the arrangement, Mr. Stewart will work on some digital short projects that are expected to appear on HBO’s apps like HBO Now and HBO Go. Mr. Stewart could also pursue movie or television projects with the network. The contract covers four years."

Guardian: "Facebook has announced plans to water down its controversial 'real names' policy, after lobbying from civil liberties groups worldwide."

If you'd like to know whatever happened to former NYT food columnist Mark Bittman, the Washington Post has the answer.

Jennifer Senior of the New York Times reviews Notorious R.G.B., by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik: "It’s an artisanal hagiography, a frank and admiring piece of fan nonfiction."

Digital Globe photo, via NASA, republished in the New York Times. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.... New York Times: "Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old. The largest, near a Neolithic settlement, is a giant square of 101 raised mounds, its opposite corners connected by a diagonal cross, covering more terrain than the Great Pyramid of Cheops.... Described last year at an archaeology conference in Istanbul as unique and previously unstudied, the earthworks, in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan, number at least 260 — mounds, trenches and ramparts — arrayed in five basic shapes."

New York Times: "In a landmark study, scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported that they had conducted an experiment that they say proved one of the most fundamental claims of quantum theory — that objects separated by great distance can instantaneously affect each other’s behavior. The finding is another blow to one of the bedrock principles of standard physics known as 'locality,' which states that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings. The Delft study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lends further credence to an idea that Einstein famously rejected. He said quantum theory necessitated 'spooky action at a distance,' and he refused to accept the notion that the universe could behave in such a strange and apparently random fashion." CW: Everything is relative, Al.

Gizmodo: On Halloween, "a rather large asteroid — discovered less than three weeks ago — is set to to fly past the Earth at a distance not seen in nearly a decade.... NASA says that 2015 TB145 will safely pass by the Earth and continue to following along its exceptionally eccentric and high-inclination orbit — which may explain why it wasn’t discovered until only a few weeks ago. During the flyby, the asteroid will reach a magnitude luminosity of 10, so it should be observable to astronomers with telescopes."

For $299,000 you could buy the house where Bruce Springsteen wrote "Born to Run." It looks like a dump prone to flooding every time it rains, but it's a block-and-a-half from the Jersey shore beach.

New York Post: "During his time in the White House, President Richard Nixon — pug-nosed, jowly, irascible, charmless-yet-devoted husband to Pat — was known to awkwardly hit on middle-aged female staffers. In 'The Last of the President’s Men' (Simon & Schuster), veteran journalist Bob Woodward quotes Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, about the commander-in-chief’s sad seduction techniques."

The Washington Post thought it would be great journalism to feature Donald's Digs in their weekend edition.  You'll be happy to know that Trump's taste runs to the gaudy & garish. You can take the boy out of the boroughs but you can take the boroughs out of the boy. I'd call Donald's style Early Modern Lottery Winner. Here's a sampling:

... There's much more where that came from. Ugh. Here, by contrast, is the study in Michael Bloomberg's New York City pad. Bloomberg is quite a few $$BB richer than Trump.

CW: I've completely ignored the buzz about the film "Steve Jobs," so this was welcome:

... Sharon Shetty in Slate: "As the latest attempt to mine every last bit of meaning from the life of Apple’s late founder, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs will probably make lots of money and spark lots of debate. For those preemptively exhausted by that debate, there’s Conan O’Brien’s less controversial take on a tech biopic: Michael Dell":

AND contributor D. C. Clark was kind enough to remind us of Eva Cassidy:

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The Commentariat -- Nov. 23, 2015

Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "ISIL's still not the varsity team, President Barack Obama said Sunday, but if Republicans running for president and in Congress continue to respond to attacks by playing off fears, they're doing the terrorist' work for them. A Republican reaction that's tried to block refugees from entering the country -- and members of the media whom he blamed for lacking perspective in coverage over the past week -- give in to fear as the terrorists want, help them recruit and let a group of people who'd have no hope of actually defeating American forces on the battlefield win anyway." ...

... Elena Mazneva of Bloomberg: "U.S. actions in the Middle East helped Islamic State to gain influence, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, according to Interfax. The strengthening of Islamic State 'became possible partly due to irresponsible U.S. politics' that focused on fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad instead of joining efforts to root out terrorism, Medvedev was cited as saying in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. President Barack Obama earlier on Sunday said that Russia is facing a strategic choice as Assad can't stay. The Obama administration declined to comment Sunday on Medvedev's statement."

** Josh Zeitz in Politico: "... language commonly invoked in opposition to admitting Syrian refugees bears striking similarity to arguments against providing safe harbor to Jewish refugees in the late 1930s. Then as now, skepticism of religious and ethnic minorities and concerns that refugees might pose a threat to national security deeply influenced the debate over American immigration policy. For conservatives, this likeness is an inconvenient truth." Read the whole essay.

CW: If you want to know what's the matter with the U.S.A., read Alec MacGillis's essay, linked Saturday, David Dayen's post, linked yesterday & Diane's comment at the end of yesterday's thread. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." I'm sure I did not understand that saying yesterday morning as well as I do today. Thank you, Diane.

Paul Schroeder & Tim Devaney of the Hill: "The fight over blocking refugees from Syria and Iraq has emerged as one of the biggest hurdles to Congress completing work on a year-long spending bill and preventing a government shutdown. Lawmakers will return from their Thanksgiving break with just two weeks to reach a deal before a Dec. 11 deadline." CW: Nothing makes us look better in the eyes of the world than shutting down our own government because we're skeert of accepting a few refugees fleeing terrorists.

"To Protect & Serve." Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did. Martin Armstrong pointed this out at his blog, Armstrong Economics, last week. Cops can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime -- yes, really! -- through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture." With caveats.

Nasser Karimi of the AP: "Iran has sentenced detained Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian to an unspecified prison term following his conviction last month on charges that include espionage, Iranian state TV reported Sunday. Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, the spokesman for Iran's judiciary, announced the punishment in a statement on the TV station's website."

David Remnick of the New Yorker on life in Raqqa under the control of (Assad) & ISIS. "When you say 'Raqqa,' the first thing people think of is ISIS. They forget hundreds of thousands of civilians, normal people like us. I am not a terrorist. There are so many people, normal people, who want to live in a free, democratic Syria." -- a journalist from Raqqa

Paul Krugman: "... Obamacare has hit a few rough patches lately. But they're much less significant than a lot of the reporting, let alone the right-wing reaction, would have you believe. Health reform is still a huge success story. ...

... Justin McCarthy of Gallup: "U.S. adults are slightly more likely to say it is the responsibility of the federal government to ensure all Americans have health insurance coverage (51%) than to say it is not the government's responsibility (47%). The percentage who believe the government has that obligation is up six percentage points from 2014. This year marks the first time since 2008 that a majority of Americans say the government is responsible for making sure all citizens have health insurance."

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Bo-tox, Lo-tax. AP: "Pfizer and Allergan are joining in the biggest buyout of the year, a $160 billion stock deal that will create the world's largest drugmaker. It's also the largest so-called inversion, where an American corporation combines with a company headquartered in a country with a lower corporate tax rate, saving potentially millions each year in U.S. taxes. Pfizer, which makes the cholesterol fighter Lipitor, will keep its global operational headquarters in New York. But the drugmaker will combine with Botox-maker Allergan as a company that will be called Pfizer Plc. That company would have its legal domicile and principal executive offices in Ireland."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. offered reflections on one of his predecessors [-- Charles Evans Hughes --] Friday night, and in the process he illuminated his own place on a Supreme Court that he said had grown both more and less political."

Jerry Markon the the Washington Post: "... the reality [of space travel] is less glamorous [than it's presented in the movies], with journeys into deep space posing serious dangers to astronauts that include inadequate food, radiation exposure and heightened risks of developing cancer and other maladies. And NASA is not yet ready to handle those dangers as it moves ahead with plans to send the first human mission to Mars by the 2030s, according to a recent audit." CW: Not sure why Markon thinks getting stuck on Mars with no food & water is "glamorous." But Matt Damon, I guess.

Presidential Race

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "At rallies these days, [Hillary] Clinton criticizes the Republican presidential candidates for their economic policies ('Our economy does better with a Democrat in the White House'); she knocks their foreign policy approaches and says their positions on immigration and women's issues would set the country 'backwards instead of forwards.' What she does not do is mention her main Democratic primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont."

Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "For Trump, American greatness comes from defeating foes, which might mean doing some previously 'unthinkable' things to Muslim Americans. For Sanders and Clinton, America's greatness comes from its pluralism and rejection of bigotry. Which vision of America will win out is quite possibly the highest stake in the 2016 election."

Trump's Hate Campaign:

Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering. -- Donald Trump, in Birmingham, Alabama, Saturday

They Were Arabs. There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations.... It was well covered at the time, George. -- Donald Trump, to George Stephanopoulos, Sunday

Trump says that he saw this with his own eyes on television and that it was well covered. But an extensive examination of news clips from that period turns up nothing.... Now Trump has defamed the Muslim communities of New Jersey. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post

... Trump & His Magic Teevee. Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times: "'I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down,' he told a crowd in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday. 'And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.' No news reports exist of people cheering in the streets, and both police officials and the mayor of Jersey City have said that it did not happen. An Internet rumor about people cheering in the streets, which said it was in Paterson, not Jersey City, has been denied numerous times by city and police officials. But when pressed on Sunday by George Stephanopoulos in an interview, Mr. Trump emphatically stuck to his story. 'It did happen, I saw it,' Mr. Trump said. 'It was on television. I saw it.'" ...

... CW: Apparently Trump can't tell the difference between the West Bank of the Jordan River (where celebration of 9/11 did occur) & the West Bank of the Hudson River. An easy mistake to make. To Trump, Jersey City is a foreign place -- a place far, far away where "those people" live. Also, "Jordan" & "Hudson" have the same number of letters & syllables. ...

... Donald J. Thug. Nick Corasaniti: "Donald J. Trump said on Sunday he was in favor of the actions of his supporters who reportedly punched and kicked a protester from the Black Lives Matter movement who interrupted Mr. Trump's campaign rally the previous day in Birmingham, Ala." ...

... Jenna Johnson & Mary Jordan of the Washington Post: "'Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,' Trump said on the Fox News Channel on Sunday morning.... That was a change in tone from just a month ago, when Trump would regularly tell his audiences not to harm the protesters who often infiltrate his rallies." ...

... Jeet Heer: "Donald Trump embraces open racism. Going back to at least Barry Goldwater's 'constitutional' opposition to civil rights and the strident 'law and order rhetoric' of the early 1960s, the Republican Party has specialized in racist dog whistles. But Republican front-runner Donald Trump doesn't do dog whistles. He specializes in train whistles. Consider the tweet he just sent out with bogus statistics on crime. According to the tweet, 81 percent of murdered whites are killed by blacks. In fact, that's the reverse of the truth. Most people are killed by members of their own race because crime is motivated by proximity and opportunity. As the Huffington Post notes, 'According to the U.S. Department of Justice statistics, 84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites.'... The source of information cited in the tweet -- the 'Crime Statistics Bureau' of San Francisco -- doesn't seem to exist." ...

     ... Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs found the source of Trump's tweet: a neo-Nazi fan of Hitler's. "I hope you're not surprised that a guy like Donald Trump, who continually spouts fascist rhetoric, is attracted to fascist memes posted by neo-Nazis. This is where the right wing has ended up in 2015." ...

... Kevin Drum: "Having already played the hate card against Mexicans and Muslims -- and getting crackerjack results -- Donald Trump has apparently decided to move on to African-Americans." ...

... Steve M.: "If you're the kind of person who receives and retransmits this sort of undigested, unverified alarmist nonsense on a daily basis, then of course you're going to feel especially alienated by your country. Look at all those murderous, white-hating black people! Look at all those defiant Muslims dancing for joy right under our noses in our own country while real Americans suffer! Donald Trump is exactly like everyone's email-forwarding racist uncle. No wonder everyone's email-forwarding racist uncle plans to vote for him." ...

... Dara Lind of Vox on Trump's recent history of condoning racist violence. ...

... Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "Donald Trump and Ben Carson ... have both indicated they would bring back waterboarding and other forms of 'enhanced interrogation' that were dropped by the US government, having widely been denounced as a form of torture." CW: Carson equates a failure to torture with "political correctness." ...

... Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "Ben Carson laid out his plans to deal with the threat of terror and the Syrian refugee crisis in an exclusive interview with The Hill, separating himself from GOP front-runner Donald Trump on hot-button issues pertaining to surveillance and databases for Muslims. Carson said Sunday he is against that kind of blanket surveillance Trump has advocated, arguing that domestic spying should only be initiated if intelligence indicates a specific threat." ...

... Mark Hensch of the Hill: "Ben Carson said in an interview broadcast late Sunday that Donald Trump endlessly attacks his character because Carson threatens Trump's chances of winning the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination.... 'Trying to tear someone else down is not part of the character for me. I'm going to stick to my characters and my principles and talk about the things that are really important,'" [Carson said]. CW: So when he called President Obama a psychopath and a liar, that was, like, the other Ben Carson or something.

Pam Belluck & Steve Eder of the New York Times: "As a surgeon, [Ben Carson] was praised for his dedication, unassuming demeanor and attention to detail. As a candidate, he has sometimes seemed imprecise or ill-informed, as when he said China had intervened in Syria, and prone to odd assertions like his belief that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain. Some articles have questioned the accuracy of parts of 'Gifted Hands.' His comments doubting evolution and the medically recommended schedule of vaccines have baffled people in science and medicine." ...

... Doc Ben's Fractured History. Fred Barbash of the Washington Post: "Ben Carson, author of book about the Constitution, incorrectly states that Thomas Jefferson crafted it.... In a C-Span interview Sunday [Ben Carson praised Thomas Jefferson] as one of the most impressive of the Founding Fathers because he 'tried to craft our constitution in a way that it would control peoples' natural tendencies and control the natural growth of the government.'" Jefferson did not attend the Constitutional Conventional because he was serving as the minister to France. ...

... CW Note: While it's true that Jefferson did not "craft our constitution," he had considerable before- and after-the-fact input. It's also true that Jefferson believed in a limited federal government & chose to interpret the Constitution in those terms. Tenthers are fond of Jefferson for this reason. I'd give Carson a C on this, not an F. HIs history GPA is low enough already.

Evan Osnos of the New Yorker profiles Marco Rubio in an long piece titled "The Opportunist." ...

... Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "By successfully adopting a more measured, less inciting form of rhetoric, but refusing to condemn Trump's bigotry, Rubio has unintentionally outflanked Trump -- on the right.... Trump's plan, which would at least provide immigrants the means of returning to their countries of origin, and the opportunity to return legally, is sensible and humane by comparison [to Rubio's "plan" to leave undocumented people in limbo for 10 or 12 years].... [Regarding Muslims living in the U.S.,] Rubio instead simply promised to shutter more and different mainstays of Muslim communities than Trump did." ...

... "A Civilizational Struggle." Nick Corasaniti: "Marco Rubio's campaign is hitting the airwaves, releasing its first television ad on Sunday.... Mr. Rubio's first ad focuses exclusively on the Paris attacks and the issue of national security.... The context of the ad is a binary choice of 'us or them.'" Marco will save you! Ad embedded in story. ...

     ... CW: I don't like to make comments about a person's appearance, but I was just wondering, "Is the handsomest boy candidate wearing Mr. Spock ears?" I apologize to Mr. Rubio & his entire family. ...

... New York Times Editors: "Of all the abuses involving hidden political money sloshing through the presidential race, one of the most brazen is being perpetrated by campaigners for Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican candidate who has been rising lately in opinion polls. Until last month, virtually all of the senator's television ads were financed by deep-pocketed donors operating secretly through a tax-exempt 'social welfare' organization that claims independence from the senator while blatantly operating as an auxiliary of the Rubio electioneering machine.... Meanwhile, regulators at the Internal Revenue Service and the notoriously toothless Federal Election Commission are looking the other way.... Someone in the next debate should ask him who has been paying for his TV spots."

Charles Pierce goes to a Des Moines, Iowa, forum for seven GOP candidates. "... this campaign is nowhere near as ugly as it's going to get. It changed over the last two weeks, and all of the well-dressed friends of Jesus at the Thanksgiving table there on stage have declared themselves along for the whole damn ride."

Beyond the Beltway

Today in Responsible Gun Ownership. Jed Lipinski of the Times-Picayune: Sixteen people were injured Sunday night (Nov. 22) after gunfire erupted during a block party at Bunny Friend Park in the Upper 9th Ward, New Orleans Police Department officials said.... Speaking at the scene, NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said he believed multiple people had fired into the crowd of more than 300. NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble later confirmed that all victims are in stable condition."

Way Beyond

Joshua Partlow & Irene Caselli of the Washington Post: "Mauricio Macri, the wealthy Buenos Aires mayor who catapulted to prominence on a wave of discontent over government scandals, a feeble economy and combative nationalism, was elected president of Argentina on Sunday, according to preliminary results.... the stunning opposition victory marks a major shift in Latin American politics, ending a dozen years of leftist rule, first by Nestor Kirchner and then his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a tenure marked by increasingly fiery anti-American rhetoric and protectionist policies that isolated Argentina and diminished its influence in the hemisphere."

Andrew Higgins & Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura of the New York Times: "After a dramatic security sweep late Sunday marked by the deployment of soldiers in the historic center of the Belgian capital, the authorities [in Brussels] announced early Monday that 16 people had been arrested in a joint police and military operation to try to head off what the prime minister earlier described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of a Paris-style terrorist assault." ...

     ... Update. Lorne Cooke & Sylvie Corbet of the AP: "Belgian police launched more raids in Brussels and beyond early Monday, detaining five more people as they continued their hunt for a fugitive suspect in the Paris attacks. In Paris, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he will ask for parliamentary approval for the U.K. to join airstrikes against Islamic State extremists in Syria. The raids began late Sunday, capping a tense weekend that saw hundreds of troops patrolling and authorities hunting for one or more suspected extremists including Salah Abdeslam, a fugitive since being named a suspect in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks. Between Sunday night and midday Monday, 21 people were detained." ...

     ... Update. Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura of the New York Times: "The capital of Belgium entered the third day of a siegelike lockdown on Monday: Schools, shopping malls, public transit and food markets remained closed, and hotels and bars were desolate, as the total number of arrests in a sweeping counterterrorism operation rose to 21. The authorities searched five homes in the Brussels area and two in the Liège region overnight, seized 26,000 euros, or about $27,600, and arrested five people, in addition to the 16 who were detained on Sunday, according to Eric Van der Sijpt, a magistrate and a spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office."


The Commentariat -- Nov. 22, 2015

Douglas McCollam of the Washington Post: "Completing a longshot bid that ran counter to the conservative tide sweeping the Southern states, Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards was elected governor of Louisiana on Saturday, defeating his Republican rival, U.S. Sen. David Vitter. Edwards was the top vote-getter in the state's open primary, building a lead over Vitter that he never surrendered.... In meetings with small groups in rural parishes, [Edwards] touted his opposition to abortion and strong support for gun ownership." CW: Not my kind of Democrat. But not David Vitter. ...

... CW: This was a rout: "Mr. Edwards won 56 percent of the vote with virtually all of the ballots counted." ...

... Julia Donoghue of the Times-Picayune: "State Rep. John Bel Edwards, a relatively unknown Democrat from a rural Amite, will be the state's next governor after toppling Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., in one of the biggest political upsets in the state's history.... An Edwards administration is expected to be a marked shift from Gov. Bobby Jindal's approach to public policy over the past eight years. The Democrat is expected to bring Medicaid expansion to Louisiana shortly after taking office, meaning thousands of more Louisiana residents could have access to health insurance in a couple of months. Teachers unions and other organized labor groups will also have more of a voice with Edwards than they ever had with Jindal." ...

... Tim Murphy of Mother Jones: "Edwards has pledged to sign an executive order authorizing the expansion of the [Medicaid portion of the Affordable Care Act] on his first day in office. That's a really big deal. Such a move would provide coverage to about 225,000 residents in one of the poorest states in the nation." ...

... All election results updates below from the Times-Picayune:

9:31 pm CT: "Vitter concession speech bombshell: He won't run for re-election for the U.S. Senate. "I've reached my personal term limit," he tells supporters."

9:15 pm CT: "Jeff Landry [R] has unseated incumbent Buddy Caldwell [R] in the race for Louisiana Lieutenant Governor."

9:10 pm CT: "It's pretty much official now, as the Associated Press joins the chorus calling the gubernatorial election for John Bel Edwards. Read our full story here."

8:40 pm CT: "With 553 of 3,945 precincts (14%) counted, the gubernatorial gap widens a bit: Edwards 59% - Vitter 41%."

... 8:20 pm CT: WWL-TV has called the lieutenant governor race for [Republican] Billy Nungesser. Official results show Nungesser ahead 57-43% over [Democrat] Kip Holden with just 13 precincts reporting."


David Atkins in the Washington Monthly on Alec MacGillis's New York Times op-ed, linked here yesterday (CW: read it if you haven't, tho Atkins provides a good overview): "... if voters are willing to give away tax breaks to Wall Street while intentionally voting for policies that will throw their friends and neighbors into the street and deny them lifesaving medical care, there's not much you can do. These mostly suburban and rural communities are infused with a Calvinist ethic that attributes success to moral virtue and failure to moral weakness. The cultural and psychological pull of that doctrine is incredibly powerful and buoyed by hucksters preaching the prosperity gospel that God will make you rich if you are faithful enough and want it badly enough. This toxic stew creates an instinct to push down the person below them rather than up against the person above them, and transcends simple racism and cultural resentment at this point. From a communications standpoint, one approach Democrats can and should take is to strongly promote policies that not only help those who have fallen through the cracks, but also those who have middle-class jobs as well. Many of those policies already exist, but are hidden from voters in the form of tax credits rather than direct transfers."

John Parkinson & Alexander Mallin of ABC News: "'We do not succumb to fear,' [President] Obama said during a news conference closing out the final leg of his nine-day, three-nation trip overseas. 'The most powerful tool we have to fight ISIL is to say that we're not afraid. To not elevate them and to somehow buy into their fantasy that they're doing something important.' Speaking on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur, the president sought to reassure allies that the U.S. will continue as an effective leader of the global coalition to destroy ISIS." ...

Matt Apuzzo, et al., of the New York Times: "When Islamic State fighters overran a string of Iraqi cities last year, analysts at United States Central Command wrote classified assessments for military intelligence officials and policy makers that documented the humiliating retreat of the Iraqi Army. But before the assessments were final, former intelligence officials said, the analysts' superiors made significant changes. Such changes are at the heart of an expanding internal Pentagon investigation of Centcom, as Central Command is known, where analysts say that supervisors revised conclusions to mask some of the American military's failures in training Iraqi troops and beating back the Islamic State. The analysts say supervisors were particularly eager to paint a more optimistic picture of America's role in the conflict than was warranted." Now the Pentagon's inspector general is investigating claims that had previously been made anonymously to the New York Times. ...

... CW: A Reuters photo accompanying the story supposedly shows Iraqi security forces in training under U.S. direction. The men's weapons are raised as if sweeping the area for signs of ISIS insurgents. A reasonable person just might wonder if the photo was staged. The pictured trainees are dressed in uniforms that look as if they just came out of the box, clean & neatly ironed, & their boots don't look scuffed. If the Pentagon must try to "Wag the Dog," they had better get a real Hollywood director to create some verissimilitude.

AP: "William McRaven, the former US navy admiral who is credited with coordinating the 2011 special forces operation that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, has said the US and its allies should prioritize fighting Islamic extremists, or else the American people 'should not be surprised when the barbarians are at our gate'." ...

... David Gilbert of International Business Times: "Anonymous, the loose collective of online activists, said Saturday it has uncovered information about Islamic State group attacks in Paris as well as at locations in the U.S., Indonesia, Italy and Lebanon, all apparently set for Sunday." Anonymous later posted a tweet saying, "We did not spread any rumors about possible future ISIS attacks, and frankly, we do not know where the rumors come from." ...

     ... Raw Story Update: Anonymous has since posted a tweet saying "The FBI says the plot to attack the wrestling event in Atlanta is not credible."

Maria Garcia of the Washington Post: "... despite our reputation as a haven for the oppressed, those admissions have always been controversial. There is one way the Syrian refugees are different, though: They, and others who have arrived after 9/11, are among the most carefully vetted in American history.... It took three years to pass the 1948 Displaced Persons Act, which brought in more than 200,000 Europeans (mostly ethnic Germans) over the next two years. The law discriminated against Jewish and Catholic refugees, and [President Harry] Truman was tempted to veto it because it was 'wholly inconsistent with the American sense of justice.' Still, the law officially launched U.S. refugee policy.... Subsequent groups faced similar backlashes." ...

... Rachel Zoll of the AP: "In rare agreement across faith and ideological lines, leaders of major American religious groups have condemned proposed bans on Syrian refugees, contending a legitimate debate over security has been overtaken by irrational fear and prejudice. Top organizations representing evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Jews and liberal Protestants say close vetting of asylum seekers is a critical part of forming policy on refugees. But these religious leaders say such concerns, heightened after the Paris attacks a week ago, do not warrant blocking those fleeing violence in the Middle East."

Nicholas Kristof: "The vote by the House of Representatives effectively to slam the door on Syrian refugees was the crassest kind of political grandstanding, scapegoating some of the world's most vulnerable people to score political points.... Republican leaders say they simply want to tighten security to keep America safe. That's an echo of what American officials claimed in the late 1930s and early 1940s as they blocked the entry of Jewish refugees." ...

... Beenish Ahmed of Think Progress: "Michigan Governor Rick Snyder [R] was the first of more than 30 primarily Republican governors who are attempting to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees. When asked about his specific concerns regarding the two-year screening process for refugees seeking to enter the U.S., however, Snyder was unable to point to a single problem with the current system.... None of the attackers, at least in Paris, were refugees. Conversely, most of them were citizens of countries in Western Europe and could have entered the U.S. very quickly without any sort of vetting process." ...

... Scott Keys of Think Progress: "Rather than escaping a bloody civil war, a United States congressman [Mo Brooks (RTP-Alabama] suggested that Syrian refugees are coming to the U.S. for free vacations."

"The GOP-ISIS Coalition." Andrew O'Hehir of Salon: "... the Islamist militants of ISIS and the anti-Islamic Western right have reached the same conclusion. To put it more bluntly, every major Republican presidential candidate (excepting one or two of Jeb Bush's multiple personalities) largely subscribes to the political and philosophical worldview of ISIS, except when it comes to final eschatological questions about who ends up in Paradise." Read the whole essay.

He decided to pick a fight and stand up for ISIS and stand up against the side of freedom and to pick a fight with not just Republicans, but Democrats, over this refugee issue. -- Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), on President Obama

What could be more statesmanlike than claiming the POTUS is a terrorist sympathizer? But then Wagner always has been a class act. (And, yes, I know it must be true because I read it in the Daily Mail.)-- Constant Weader

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is making a bull rush at the conservatives running for president who are withholding support from an ObamaCare repeal package that they feel doesn't go far enough."

Presidential Race

Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico: "Hillary Clinton is moving aggressively to put the Democratic nomination out of reach for her rivals. From increased travel to the states voting in March to a reinvigorated push to reach $100 million in funds raised by year-end, the front-runner's team is eager to capitalize on her recent climb in the polls to knock Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley out of the race quickly." ...

Bradford Richardson of the Hill: "If elected president, Democrat Hillary Clinton says she can create enough green energy to power every home in America by the end of her second term.... The Democratic presidential front-runner said her plan to subsidize alternative sources of energy would not entail a middle-class tax hike. In fact, Clinton said she would reduce taxes for working-class families." CW: Looks as if Hillary is planning on a two-term presidency. ...

... Patrick Healy of the New York Times: Hillary "Clinton's windfalls from Wall Street banks and other financial services firms -- $3 million in paid speeches and $17 million in campaign contributions over the years -- have become a major vulnerability in states with early nomination contests. Some party officials who remain undecided in the 2016 presidential race see her as overly cozy with big banks and other special interests. At a time when liberals are ascendant in the party, many Democrats believe her merely having 'represented Wall Street as a senator from New York,' as Mrs. Clinton reminded viewers in an October debate, is bad enough."

Mark Hensch of the Hill: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Saturday called for Republicans to abandon the corrupting influence of the Koch brothers and other wealthy energy magnates. 'This is a party that rejects science and refuses to understand that climate change is real,' he said of GOP during the annual Blue Jamboree in North Charleston, S.C. 'I understand if you stand up to the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry, that you'll lose your campaign contributions,' the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate added. '[Climate change] is already causing devastating problems all over this world. To hell with the fossil fuel industry. Worry more about your children and your grandchildren than your campaign contributions.'"

Young Ross Douthat thinks what the country needs now is another Richard Nixon. But not the Hillary Clinton kind of Richard Nixon! who "might offer Nixon's weaknesses without his strengths: All the seaminess and paranoia, but none of the actual achievements." And on the anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, Ross seizes the opportunity to make a swipe at the former president. Thanks, New York Times!

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "One by one, seven Republican presidential candidates took turns bashing Obama [in Des Moines, Iowa,] Friday night, largely over foreign policy and national security, issues at the forefront of the public consciousness in the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris. Seated at the same table at a Christian conservative forum..., the GOP contenders collectively lashed out at the president instead of taking on each other."

David Mark & Jeremy Diamond of CNN: "Donald Trump is ratcheting up his rhetoric about American Muslims, saying there's precedent for monitoring some mosques amid the recent terror wave. At a Birmingham, Alabama, rally on Saturday -- which included a physical altercation between a black protester and several white Trump backers -- the 2016 Republican front-runner suggested law enforcement keep an eye on certain Islamic houses of worship which, in his view, could pose terrorist threats." Includes video. ...

... Carol Robinson of AL.com: "The Black Lives Matter protester attacked during Donald's Trump's Birmingham rally said he was punched, kicked and called "n****r" while a group of eight or nine people were on top of him. Mercutio Southall Jr., a well-known activist who said he has been tased at least 30 times and just recently marched heavily -- armed through a Birmingham neighborhood to teach people about gun rights, said he is sore after today's pummeling but doesn't think he was seriously injured.... Trump ... had Southall thrown out. Secret Service agents and Birmingham police escorted Southall from the room.... In the video posted to Twitter by CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond, Trump can be heard speaking in the background saying, 'Get him the hell out of here.'" Southall & a companion had been videotaping the rally when Trump supporters attacked him, according to Southall. ...

... Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "After two days of confusion over whether or not Donald Trump wants to set up a database of Muslims living in the United States, the candidate explained his stance during a political rally on Saturday morning. 'I will absolutely take database on the people coming in from Syria,' Trump said, adding that such a database would not be needed in a Trump administration, as he would kick all Syrian refugees out of the country, regardless of their religion, and allow no more to enter. 'If I win, they're going back. They're going back. We can't have them.' Trump called for heavy surveillance of Syrians, Muslims and anyone with possible ties to the Islamic State. He urged the audience members to be vigilant and report anything suspicious they see to the police." Emphasis added. ...

... CW: I believe this was exactly what the Nazis told the "good Germans" to do. Don't think Donald's rat-on-the-neighbors program would long be limited to Muslims. If you are not a Muslim but have Muslim guests or guests who might in a stretch pass for Middle Easterners, that nasty, nosy neighbor will see fit to call the cops & finger your as the leader of a terrorist cell. I'm not kidding here. Trump is a dangerous guy, & Constitutional restraints won't stop him any more than they stopped Dick Cheney. ...

... Stories like this are the tip of the iceberg. Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "Southwest Airlines has become the subject of criticism over reports that it singled out Muslim or Middle Eastern passengers on two flights this week, after fellow fliers said they feared for their safety if those passengers were allowed to fly.... Comments made by a number of Republican candidates for the presidency -- including poll frontrunners Donald Trump and Ben Carson -- have stoked such fears." Emphasis added. ...

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "... Marco Rubio, the leading establishment candidate? Well, after seeing Donald Trump threaten to create (wildly unconstitutional) national registries of Muslims in the United States, Rubio decided to up the ante by pushing for unconstitutional government spying measures in order to shut down any locations where muslims might gather, from mosques to diners. At a time when the anti-establishment GOP candidates are saying increasingly outlandish and terrifying things that, at the risk of fulfilling Godwin's Law, can only be described as proto-fascist, the leading establishment candidate isn't pushing back but rather doubling down on the crazy.... The GOP is Donald Trump's party now."

Bill Barrow & Julie Pace of the AP: "... Ben Carson said Saturday that he wants to expand the government's surveillance operations aimed at potential terrorist threats, even beyond tracking American Muslims as rival Donald Trump has suggested.... 'What I have said is that I would be in favor of monitoring a mosque or any church or any organization or any school or any press corps where there was a lot of radicalization and things that were anti-American,' Carson told reporters during an appearance ... forum in South Carolina. He did not expound on just how an administration would determine what constitutes 'radicalization' or 'anti-American.'"

Katie Glueck of Politico: "Across the state [of Iowa] and at a major gathering of politically active evangelicals on Friday night, foreign policy was top-of-mind for the voters and state lawmakers once considered natural constituents for [Ben] Carson. But after a week of confused comments from the former neurosurgeon and a dismissive critique by his own advisors, Iowans are now consistently voicing doubt about Carson's credentials to be commander-in-chief. Indeed, they said the terrorist attacks have reordered the candidates in their mind, lifting [Sen. Ted] Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio and, for many, making Carson an afterthought."

Senate Race

Kevin Robillard of Politico: "After a big loss in a damaging gubernatorial race, [David] Vitter's decision to step aside increases Republicans' chances of holding his Senate seat."

Beyond the Beltway

AP: "A troubled student whose disappearance prompted the weeklong closure of the Washington College campus in Maryland was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Saturday in Pennsylvania, police said. Jacob Marberger, 19, was a sophomore at the small college in Chestertown on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The school was closed Monday after his parents reported that he had a gun and they were unable to reach him."


The Commentariat -- Nov. 21, 2015

** Alec MacGillis in a New York Times op-ed: "In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process. The people in these communities who are voting Republican ... [are voting], in part, [as] a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court on Friday to overturn lower courts and declare that the president has the authority to allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain and work in the United States without fear of deportation. The administration petitioned the justices to step in only 10 days after a federal appeals court ruled against President Obama's program. Unless the Supreme Court agrees to consider the issue and overrules the lower court, Obama has little chance of carrying out the program before he leaves office in January 2017."

As long as I'm president, we will keep on stepping up and ensure American remains, as it has always been, a place where people who in other parts of the world are subject to discrimination and violence have in America a friend and a place of refuge. -- Barack Obama, in Malaysia

... Josh Lederman of the AP: "Pushing back against efforts to bar Syrian refugees from resettling in the U.S., President Barack Obama vowed Saturday that his country will be a welcoming place for millions fleeing violence ... 'as long as I'm president.' Obama commented Saturday at a learning center in the Malaysian capital that serves the poor, including some refugees." ...

     ... The New York Times report, by Michael Shear, is here. ...

... Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), in a New York Times op-ed: "... many of my fellow governors have been quick and loud in proclaiming their states off limits to Syrian refugees -- even though governors lack authority to close state borders to refugees. They spoke before knowing what the review process entailed, and in some cases punctuated their comments with divisive and misguided rhetoric that appeared to saddle all Syrians with the crimes of the Islamic State. The House bill, which President Obama has said he will veto, would essentially halt the resettlement of refugees fleeing Syria. That's a mistake driven by fear, not sound policy making." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... ** Still a Hero. Yvonne Abraham of the Boston Globe: "If you want them here so badly, why don't you take in a refugee? That was the inevitable response from some of congressman Seth Moulton's [D-Mass.] critics this week, after he called out Governor Charlie Baker [R-Mass.] for saying he didn't want Syrian refugees coming to Massachusetts until his concerns over security are assuaged. Actually, Moulton has opened his home to a refugee. In this and other ways, the representative from the Sixth District speaks from experience as he takes a blessedly unequivocal stand in favor of compassion and common sense on this issue." Via Charles Pierce. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Bradford Richardson of the Hill: "Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) says he changed his vote on Syrian refugee legislation after colleagues in the House 'surrounded' him and pressured him to support the bill. Just prior to the Thursday vote, Russell gave an impassioned speech on the floor calling the SAFE Act 'xenophobic' and a 'knee-jerk reaction' to the Paris terrorist attacks last week." ...

... Digby, in Salon: "The explanation as to why 47 Democrats would join in this immigrant bashfest is as prosaic as it is depressing. They fear being called 'soft on terrorism.' A bunch of hysterical voters who listen to demagogues on cable TV and talk radio called their offices to demand they put a stop to this foreign threat. Rather than be leaders and try to calm the waters, they just went with the flow, knowing that this legislation is unlikely to become law, but wanting to be able to tell their constituents they voted to bar refugees from our shores and keep the children safe. (Well, the good American children anyway. Syrian children will not be so lucky.) ...

... Eric Posner in Slate: "Psychologists who have studied these reactions have identified a number of factors that predict when people place excessive weight on a low risk. All of these factors point, with remarkable clarity, to the reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis. People underestimate risks that are familiar, under their personal control, voluntarily incurred, ignored by the media, and well-understood. Driving an automobile is the best example.... The opposite qualities are true for the risks that people fear the most.... People also overreact to risks that may produce especially dreaded or gruesome outcomes.... People put up with risks if they trust the institutions that manage them. [Here Posner, a confederate, pauses to blame President Obama, which is a requirement for every right-wing political essay.] Once people get it into their heads that someone or something poses a big risk to them and their families, it's hard to do anything about it."

... Seems like a waste of space to mention that Steve King (R-Iowa) is still Steve King. Andrew Kaczynski & Nathan McDermott of BuzzFeed: "Republican Rep. Steve King, while discussing on Thursday the Obama administration's plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, said President Obama is 'filling our country up with people that will continue to attack us' and cited Obama's upbringing in Indonesia as giving him an entirely different idea of what America should be like." CW: Thing is, Steve, that's exactly what the U.S. needs & has always needed: people who don't hold xenophobic, parochial views. Like yours.

Jonathan Chait: "Former Bush Speechwriter [-- that would be Michael Gerson of the Washington Post --] Attacks Obama As Vicious Peacemonger."

Hamza Hendawi, et al., of the AP: "The Islamic State group is aggressively pursuing development of chemical weapons, setting up a branch dedicated to research and experiments with the help of scientists from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region, according to Iraqi and U.S. intelligence officials. Their quest raises an alarming scenario for the West, given the determination to strike major cities that the group showed with its bloody attack last week in Paris." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The GOP "Reality Gap." Steve Benen: Republicans think unemployment has gone up while President Obama has been in office. After an initial increase brought on by the Bush recession, the unemployment rate has decreased significantly. "This is by no means limited to unemployment. President Obama increased border security, and Republicans are absolutely certain that he's done the opposite. The deficit has dropped by $1 trillion in the Obama era, and Republicans just know in their gut that the deficit has ballooned. The Affordable Care Act has lowered the uninsured rate to unprecedented depths, but Republicans are confident that 'Obamacare' hasn't improved the uninsured rate at all. The United States' international reputation has improved dramatically since the end of the Bush/Cheney era, though Republicans believe it's deteriorated."

Devin Henry of the Hill: "Republicans are taking aim at a new 'Green Climate Fund,' as they look to weaken President Obama's hand in global climate talks later this month. The pot of money, a $3 billion climate change pledge the president's administration made last year, is something officials hope to bring to the negotiating table at United Nations summit in Paris. But Republicans -- hostile to the climate talks and bent on doing whatever they can to derail a deal in Paris next month -- say they're going to deny Obama the first tranche of money he hopes to inject into the fund."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times (Nov. 19): "When the National Security Agency's bulk collection of records about Americans' emails came to light in 2013, the government conceded the program's existence but said it had shut down the effort in December 2011 for 'operational and resource reasons.' While that particular secret program stopped, newly disclosed documents show that the N.S.A. had found a way to create a functional equivalent. The shift has permitted the agency to continue analyzing social links revealed by Americans' email patterns, but without collecting the data in bulk from American telecommunications companies -- and with less oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."

Jonathan Cohn & Jeffrey Young of the Huffington Post: "The Affordable Care Act has gotten some bad news lately. It's not a sign of impending disaster, as the law's critics say, but it may be a sign of some real problems on the horizon. UnitedHealth Group announced on Thursday that it has lost $425 million on the policies it has been selling through the Obamacare exchanges. The reason is pretty simple, according to Stephen Hemsley, the company's chief executive officer: UnitedHealth hasn't attracted a sufficiently balanced mix of healthy and sick customers." CW: As Reality Chex commenters pointed out yesterday, we should not be crying for UnitedHealth's profits. Hemsley walked home with $66mm last year. So boo-fucking-hoo. ...

... Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "Federal health officials Friday proposed changes to the rules for health coverage sold through insurance exchanges, including a possible floor for how many doctors and other providers each plan must include. The rules are intended to make it easier for consumers to compare their options in the marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act. They would define standard deductibles and co-payments, and allow insurers to sell plans with that specific benefit design."

** Andrew Higgins of the New York Times: "For a man who saved the world, or at least helped ensure that Adolf Hitler never got hold of a nuclear bomb, 96-year-old Joachim Ronneberg has a surprisingly unheroic view of the forces that shape history. 'There were so many things that were just luck and chance,' he said of his 1943 sabotage mission that blew up a Norwegian plant vital to Nazi Germany's nuclear program. 'There was no plan. We were just hoping for the best,' Mr. Ronneberg, Norway's most decorated war hero, added."

Jeremy Stahl of Slate: Now that spy Jonathan Pollard has been released from prison, his lawyers are contesting the terms of his parole.

Maureen Dowd in the New York Times Magazine on women in film. There are too few of them, they don't get paid enough & they get to make too few films.

Presidential Race

Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for a new accord between America, its closest allies and Russia as well as Arab nations as a major plank on how to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 'We must create an organization like NATO to confront the security threats of the 21st century -- an organization that emphasizes cooperation and collaboration to defeat the rise of violent extremism and importantly to address the root causes underlying these brutal acts,' the Democratic presidential candidate said Thursday during a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C." ...

Charles Pierce compares the proposals of Hillary Clinton & Marco Rubio to destroy ISIS. Both candidates say they'll do what President Obama is doing, only more so. Except for the refugee thing. The major difference is in their tone. Oh, & Marco also makes up stuff.

... Ben Schreckinger of Politico: "Donald Trump went on a Twitter rampage late Thursday after Politico revealed that a GOP group was planning to spend at least $2.5 million on an ad campaign aggressively targeting the real estate mogul, whose four-month stint atop the Republican primary polls has alarmed many in the party establishment." ...

... Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "Republican operative Liz Mair is planning a 'guerrilla campaign' aimed at knocking Donald Trump out of the GOP presidential race, The Wall Street Journal is reporting. Mair, a former online communications director at the Republican National Committee who also worked on behalf of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's presidential campaign earlier this year, has formed Trump Card LLC 'to defeat and destroy' Trump's candidacy, according to the report." CW: The Walker campaign fired Mair for disparaging Iowa voters. Anyway, good luck with your guerilla campaign, Liz.

Maggie Haberman & Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "Under assault from Democrats and Republicans alike, Donald J. Trump on Friday drew back from his call for a mandatory registry of Muslims in the United States, trying to quell one of the ugliest controversies yet in a presidential campaign like few others. In a post on Twitter, Mr. Trump complained that it was a reporter, not he, who had first raised the idea of a database. And his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, insisted that Mr. Trump had been asked leading questions by the NBC reporter under 'blaring music' and that he had in mind a terrorist watch list, not a registry of Muslims. Still, nowhere, even on Friday, did Mr. Trump, who has rarely acknowledged being at fault in a campaign predicated on his strength as a leader, clearly state that he was opposed to the idea of a registry of Muslims." CW: Also, too, the reporter who asked the question about the difference between Trump's plan & registering Jews in Nazi Germany asked the same question four times. Trump appears to hear every word the reporter said, "blaring music" or not. This portion of the conversation begins at about 1 min. in. There is no music playing when Trump expounds on his "good management" of the registry data:

... CW: If Trump can't manage conversations with reporters, how is he going to manage threats of terrorism? ...

... Maggie Haberman & Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump's remarks Thursday that he would 'absolutely' institute mandatory registration of Muslims drew sharp condemnation from Democrats on Friday, and a number of other Republican rivals spoke out against the idea in more muted tones.... In a Twitter post linking to an article about the remarks, Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote, 'This is shocking rhetoric. It should be denounced by all seeking to lead this country.' The post was signed with an 'H,' signaling that the candidate, and not her staff members, had written it." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Greg Sargent: Jeb "Bush unequivocally declares Trump's intentions towards Muslims to be 'wrong,' and doesn't shy away from labeling them demagoguery. Rubio's approach suggests a reluctance to call out Trump in this fashion, which perhaps also reflects a desire to avoid alienating conservative voters. Of course Rubio is rising among GOP voters, and Bush is falling, so maybe Rubio's apparent calculation is right.... The problem with tiptoeing around Trump's various prescriptions is that he is perpetually engaging in 'demagoguery inflation,' which is to say that he's always calling for something worse than what preceded it." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Kay Steiger of Think Progress: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) seems to be going further than even Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in advocating the crackdown of U.S. Muslims. He doesn't just want to consider shutting down mosques, as Trump says, but wants to shut down 'any place where radicals are being inspired.'" ...

... digby: "Now we have the leading establishment candidate saying we have to 'shut down' not just mosques but websites, cafes, diners --- anyplace where radicals are being inspired. He left out libraries and book stores but surely that was an oversight." ...

... Nick Gass of Politico: "The United States should have a database on every immigrant who enters the country, Ben Carson said Friday, addressing comments from Donald Trump that he would not rule out creating a registry of Muslims to track for terrorist activity. At the same time, he called Trump's call for tracking and targeting Muslims specifically as something that would be 'setting a pretty dangerous precedent.' '"Well, I think we should have a database on everybody who comes into this country,' the retired neurosurgeon told reporters at a media availability in Concord, New Hampshire, after filing for the state's Feb. 1 primary election. It was unclear whether Carson was referring to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency...." CW: It was "unclear" because Carson seems to have no knowledge whatsoever of ICE & its existing "database." Listening to Carson's "ideas" is like listening to the guy at the end of the bar: he knows almost nothing, but he has an opinion on everything.

Tim Egan explains to Republicans the difference between civilization & a cult. It's a difference most of us knew intuitively; yet it is lost completely upon most of the GOP candidates & half the Congress.

Eric Bradner of CNN: CNN announces their criteria for selecting GOP candidate eligibility for the fifth set of debates.

Gubernatorial Race

Julie O'Donoghue of the Times-Picayune: "In what is anticipated to be the closest governor's race in more than a decade, Louisiana voters head to the polls Saturday (Nov. 21) to pick the next man to lead the state. State Rep. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican, are both vying to replace Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has headed up the state for the past eight years. Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The ballot also includes two other statewide races for attorney general and lieutenant governor as well as some local elections. Incumbent Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and former U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, both Republicans, are running to be the state's top lawyer. Former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, a Republican, and Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, a Democrat, are competing to be second-in-line to the governor."

Kevin Robillard of Politico: "A year after Louisiana voters booted their last Democratic statewide officeholder by double digits, the dirtiest political race in America comes down to whether a lurid but decade-old sex scandal is enough to pry Southern conservatives away from the Republican Party, even amid renewed fears of terrorism at home. After an in-the-mud, four-week runoff also full of loaded attacks on crime, race and religion, Republican Sen. David Vitter faces a potentially embarrassing rebuke in Saturday's election by voters in a GOP-dominated state."

Beyond the Beltway

Richard Fausset of the New York Times: "In Mississippi on Friday, luck smiled on a Democratic state representative, Blaine Eaton II, who had been forced, by state law, to draw straws for his seat after his race for re-election ended in a tie.... If [his Republican rival Mark] Tullos had won, his fellow Republicans would have gained a three-fifths supermajority in the State House of Representatives, the threshold required to pass revenue-related bills. At stake, potentially, was hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. The three-fifths requirement has allowed the Democratic minority to block Republican tax-cut proposals in the past on the grounds that Mississippi needs the revenue to finance schools and other services."

Katherine Krueger of TPM: David Bowers, "the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, apologized Friday for his recent remarks comparing the current threat of terrorism in the U.S. to the national mood after Pearl Harbor, invoking the internment of Japanese-Americans in his call to block Syrian refugees.... His unprompted statement came amid a wave of Republican governors saying they oppose the relocation of Syrian refugees to their states, citing the Paris attacks that left 130 dead. None of the suspects identified in those attacks have been Syrian refugees." Didn't intend to offend, blah-blah.

Dylan Matthews of Vox: "Leaving aside the broader question of whether [Woodrow] Wilson's name should be removed [from buildings & programs at Princeton University], let's be clear on one thing: Woodrow Wilson was, in fact, a racist pig. He was a racist by current standards, and he was a racist by the standards of the 1910s, a period widely acknowledged by historians as the "nadir" of post -- Civil War race relations in the United States. Easily the worst part of Wilson's record as president was his overseeing of the resegregation of multiple agencies of the federal government, which had been surprisingly integrated as a result of Reconstruction decades earlier." ...

... CW: I've changed my mind (see yesterday's Commentariat). Matthews does a good job of outlining what an "unreconstructed," vile ass Wilson was. There are racists & there are racists. Wilson was a racist. ...

... Corey Robin in Slate: "Too often in our debates about freedom of speech, we assume that it already exists and that it is campus activists, particularly over questions of race, who threaten it. But what Princeton's students have shown is that, before they came along, there was in fact precious little speech about figures like Wilson, and what speech there was, was mostly bland PR for tourists and prospective students. Even more important, Princeton's students have shown us that it is precisely the kinds of actions they have taken -- which are uncivil, frequently illegal and always unruly -- that produce speech. Not just yelling and shouting, but also informed, deliberative, reasoned speech."

Dora Scheidell of Fox "News": Students in ninth grade at Salem Junior High School [in Salem, Utah,] were given a homework assignment where they were told to draw a propaganda poster for a terrorist organization. After parents complained, the assignment was canceled."

Way Beyond

Anne Barnard & Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times: "Exactly a week before Friday's siege in Bamako, Mali, the Islamic State ... shocked the world with attacks across Paris that killed 130 people. Militants linked to Al Qaeda took credit for the hotel attack [in Bamako]. And while the group cited local grievances as the rationale, it was also clear that the hostage-taking played into the growing and violent rivalry between the two groups. Once united under the Qaeda brand, they split over differing strategies in Syria. The Islamic State has since emerged as the most dynamic, popular force among radicalized Muslims, fueling a competition for recruits, cash and bragging rights among extremists who see bloodletting as the best way to advance an Islamist agenda. That competition has led to lethal one-upmanship that will be difficult to stamp out, given innumerable soft targets, even if armies can weaken the groups in their bases in the Middle East and Africa." ...

... Kodji Siby, et al, of the Washington Post: "Security forces surrounded gunmen inside a luxury hotel in Mali&'s capital on Friday after attackers stormed past guards, killing at least 20 people and holding hostages as others among the 170 staff and guests fled for safety. Hours after the standoff began, it appeared many people had managed to reach safety outside the besieged hotel compound in a city that serves as a logistics hub for French forces helping fight Islamist insurgents. An al-Qaeda-linked group asserted responsibility." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) Story has been updated: "The State Department said a U.S. citizen was among the dead. A department spokesman had reported earlier that no Americans were killed or injured in the attack." ...

... Joe Heim & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: Anita "Datar, a 41-year-old international development worker from Takoma Park, Md., is the only American known to have died in the attack.... Datar, the mother of an elementary-school-age son, was a senior manager at Palladium, an international development firm with offices in Washington."

... Dionne Searcey & Adam Nossiter of the New York Times: "A senior United Nations official said that as many as 27 people had been killed, with bodies found in the basement and on the second floor, according to a preliminary assessment of the devastating attack. An unknown number of gunmen, perhaps four or five, took 'about 100 hostages' at the beginning of the siege, said Gen. Didier Dacko of the Malian Army. He said soldiers had sealed the perimeter and were now 'inside looking for the terrorists.' By afternoon, there were no more hostages being held, said Colonel Salif Traore, Mali's minister of interior security, but the operation to retake the hotel was still underway. Two assailants had been killed, he said, and the remaining attackers were holed up in a corner of the hotel." Also linked yesterday afternoon. The story has since been updated. ...

... Mamadou Tapily, et al., of the Guardian: "A nine-hour hostage situation at a high-end hotel in Mali's capital is over after special forces stormed the building, officials said, but an unspecified number of attackers remain on the upper floors and are continuing to resist arrest." (Also linked yesterday.)

Michael Martinez, et al., of CNN: "Belgium has placed Brussels at the highest terror alert level, citing a 'serious and imminent threat that requires taking specific security measures as well as specific recommendations for the population.' The announcement by the Crisis Centre of the Belgian Interior Ministry is advising the public to avoid places where large groups gather -- such as concerts, sporting events, airports and train stations -- and comply with security checks. The rest of the nation will maintain its current terror level."

Our Friends in the Middle East. David Batty of the Guardian: "A Palestinian poet and leading member of Saudi Arabia's nascent contemporary art scene has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam. A Saudi court on Tuesday ordered the execution of Ashraf Fayadh, who has curated art shows in Jeddah and at the Venice Biennale. The poet, who said he did not have legal representation, was given 30 days to appeal against the ruling." ...

... Kamel Daoud, in a New York Times op-ed: "The West's denial regarding Saudi Arabia is striking: It salutes the theocracy as its ally but pretends not to notice that it is the world's chief ideological sponsor of Islamist culture. The younger generations of radicals in the so-called Arab world were not born jihadists. They were suckled in the bosom of Fatwa Valley, a kind of Islamist Vatican with a vast industry that produces theologians, religious laws, books, and aggressive editorial policies and media campaigns.... All of which leaves one skeptical of Western democracies' thunderous declarations regarding the necessity of fighting terrorism. Their war can only be myopic, for it targets the effect rather than the cause." Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

News Ledes

AP: "Bangladesh executed two influential opposition leaders on charges of war crimes during the country's 1971 independence war, a senior jail official said Sunday, despite concerns that the legal proceedings against them were flawed and threats of violence by their supporters."

Washington Post: "Austin H. Kiplinger, a Washington publisher, civic leader and philanthropist who sustained the growth of his family's media empire and whose interests ranged from raising wheat to collecting memorabilia of the city's history, died Nov. 20 at a hospice in Rockville, Md. He was 97."

New York Times: "Bringing to a close a tumultuous bargaining season with American vehicle manufacturers, the United Automobile Workers ratified contracts Friday with General Motors and Ford Motor."


The Commentariat -- Nov. 20, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Kodji Siby, et al, of the Washington Post: "Security forces surrounded gunmen inside a luxury hotel in Mali's capital on Friday after attackers stormed past guards, killing at least 20 people and holding hostages as others among the 170 staff and guests fled for safety. Hours after the standoff began, it appeared many people had managed to reach safety outside the besieged hotel compound in a city that serves as a logistics hub for French forces helping fight Islamist insurgents. An al-Qaeda-linked group asserted responsibility." ...

... Dionne Searcey & Adam Nossiter of the New York Times: "A senior United Nations official said that as many as 27 people had been killed, with bodies found in the basement and on the second floor, according to a preliminary assessment of the devastating attack. An unknown number of gunmen, perhaps four or five, took 'about 100 hostages' at the beginning of the siege, said Gen. Didier Dacko of the Malian Army. He said soldiers had sealed the perimeter and were now 'inside looking for the terrorists.' By afternoon, there were no more hostages being held, said Colonel Salif Traore, Mali's minister of interior security, but the operation to retake the hotel was still underway. Two assailants had been killed, he said, and the remaining attackers were holed up in a corner of the hotel." ...

... Mamadou Tapily, et al., of the Guardian: "A nine-hour hostage situation at a high-end hotel in Mali's capital is over after special forces stormed the building, officials said, but an unspecified number of attackers remain on the upper floors and are continuing to resist arrest."

Hamza Hendawi, et al., of the AP: "The Islamic State group is aggressively pursuing development of chemical weapons, setting up a branch dedicated to research and experiments with the help of scientists from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region, according to Iraqi and U.S. intelligence officials. Their quest raises an alarming scenario for the West, given the determination to strike major cities that the group showed with its bloody attack last week in Paris."

Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), in a New York Times op-ed: "... many of my fellow governors have been quick and loud in proclaiming their states off limits to Syrian refugees -- even though governors lack authority to close state borders to refugees. They spoke before knowing what the review process entailed, and in some cases punctuated their comments with divisive and misguided rhetoric that appeared to saddle all Syrians with the crimes of the Islamic State. The House bill, which President Obama has said he will veto, would essentially halt the resettlement of refugees fleeing Syria. That's a mistake driven by fear, not sound policy making." ...

... ** Still a Hero. Yvonne Abraham of the Boston Globe: "If you want them here so badly, why don't you take in a refugee? That was the inevitable response from some of congressman Seth Moulton's [D-Mass.] critics this week, after he called out Governor Charlie Baker [R-Mass.] for saying he didn't want Syrian refugees coming to Massachusetts until his concerns over security are assuaged. Actually, Moulton has opened his home to a refugee. In this and other ways, the representative from the Sixth District speaks from experience as he takes a blessedly unequivocal stand in favor of compassion and common sense on this issue." Via Charles Pierce. ...

... Maggie Haberman & Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump's remarks Thursday that he would 'absolutely' institute mandatory registration of Muslims drew sharp condemnation from Democrats on Friday, and a number of other Republican rivals spoke out against the idea in more muted tones.... In a Twitter post linking to an article about the remarks, Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote, 'This is shocking rhetoric. It should be denounced by all seeking to lead this country.' The post was signed with an 'H,' signaling that the candidate, and not her staff members, had written it." ...

... Greg Sargent: Jeb "Bush unequivocally declares Trump's intentions towards Muslims to be 'wrong,' and doesn't shy away from labeling them demagoguery. Rubio's approach suggests a reluctance to call out Trump in this fashion, which perhaps also reflects a desire to avoid alienating conservative voters. Of course Rubio is rising among GOP voters, and Bush is falling, so maybe Rubio's apparent calculation is right.... The problem with tiptoeing around Trump's various prescriptions is that he is perpetually engaging in 'demagoguery inflation,' which is to say that he’s always calling for something worse than what preceded it."


Yesterday's Comments center on an excellent discussion of the politics of fear. Keep up the good work. I have to finish tiling the bathroom before the plumber comes. I'll be back this afternoon. -- Constant Weader

Jennifer Steinhauer & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to slap stringent -- and difficult to implement -- new screening procedures on refugees from Syria seeking resettlement, seizing on the fear stemming from the Paris attacks and threatening to cloud President Obama's Middle East policy. The bill, which passed 289 to 137, with nearly 50 Democrats supporting it, would require that the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the director of national intelligence confirm that each applicant from Syria and Iraq poses no threat, a demand the White House called 'untenable.'" ...

... Charles Pierce: "In the United States House of Representatives on Thursday, 47 Democratic politicians voted for terror. They voted for terror as a useful political emotion in their districts, and they surely voted for terror as a successful tactic abroad. There were 47 Democrats who voted for terror on Thursday. These are their names."...

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) says a House bill suspending the resettlement of Syrian refugees ... will not make it to President Obama's desk.... Reid said at a press conference that Democrats will block the legislation that requires the secretary of Homeland Security to affirm to Congress that every refugee being admitted is not a security threat. Senate Democrats are pushing alternative legislation, to be unveiled after Thanksgiving, that would tighten up security gaps in the visa waiver program.... Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, earlier in the week said a pause of the refugee resettlement program may be necessary. On Thursday he took that option off the table."

McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed: "A leading voice on the religious right sharply criticized the 'dangerous' anti-refugee sentiment that has permeated the recent political debate in the United States -- and warned that some Republican presidential candidates may turn off Christian voters with their lack of compassion. Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that he was shocked by the 'overheated' rhetoric being employed by high-profile politicians in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris."

Eric Beech of Reuters: "Islamic State militants released a video on Thursday threatening the White House with suicide bombings and car blasts and vowing to conduct more attacks on France....The latest threat comes one day after the militant group put out a video showing scenes of New York City, which suggested it was also a target."

Zachary Tracer of Bloomberg: "The biggest U.S. health insurer is considering pulling out of Obamacare as it loses hundreds of millions of dollars on the program, casting a pall over President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement. UnitedHealth Group Inc. has scaled back marketing efforts for plans sold to individuals this year and may quit the business entirely in 2017. It's an abrupt shift from October, when the health insurer said it was planning to sell coverage through the Affordable Care Act in 11 more states next year, bringing its total to 34. The company also cut its 2015 earnings forecast."

Ana Gonzalez-Barrera of the Pew Research Center: "More Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico from the U.S. than have migrated here since the end of the Great Recession, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from both countries. The same data sources also show the overall flow of Mexican immigrants between the two countries is at its smallest since the 1990s, mostly due to a drop in the number of Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S."

Digby, in Salon: Winger macho-boy Erick Erickson, who once threatened to take out any U.S. census worker who stepped onto his property, wrote that he was afraid to go to the movies to watch "Star Wars 97" or whatever it is because theaters don't have metal detectors to save him from 3-year-old Syrian refugees. But then he realized big boys pack heat at the movies, so he deleted his remark & now says "he is not afraid to go to the movies because he will be carrying a gun and assumes that others will too. If that's true, a lot of people should rethink their plans to attend Star Wars. With theaters full of armed men who are quivering in fear and ready to fire at the first loud noise, does seem wise to avoid that situation." ...

... Paul Krugman: "... at this point panic is what the right is all about, and the Republican nomination will go to whoever can most effectively channel that panic. Will the same hold true in the general election? Stay tuned."

In a straight news piece, David Fahrenthold & Jose DelReal of the Washington Post outline just how extremely anti-Muslim (mostly Republican) elected leaders & wanna-bes have become. ...

... BUT It's Obama's Fault. Greg Jaffe, in another straight WashPo news report: President "Obama's response to the attacks also raises a more political question: Why hasn't a man known for his rhetorical gifts done more to address the fear the attacks instill in ordinary Americans?"

Brian Beutler on why Republicans insist on using the term "radical Islamic terrorists," but when the shoe is on the other foot, cannot abide the term "right-wing extremists" when applied to this country's right-wing extremists.

Charles Pierce: "Six people were shot to death over the weekend in a place called Palestine. Did you read much about it? No. Because this Palestine is in Texas, and because it was just another example of the price we are expected to pay for our Second Amendment freedoms..., and that is the terrorism that supposedly is the cost of our Constitutional liberties, the terrorism that is our birthright as Americans. It was a land dispute so, naturally, this being America and all, guns had to become involved.... Not much on this from the office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, one of the 20-odd governors currently trembling with fear that the prospect of Syrian toddlers invading their states."

Andrew Pollack of the New York Times: "Federal regulators on Thursday approved a genetically engineered salmon as fit for consumption, making it the first genetically altered animal to be cleared for American supermarkets and dinner tables."

Peter Baker & Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times: "Jonathan J. Pollard, the American convicted of spying on behalf of Israel, walked out of prison early on Friday after 30 years, the Israeli prime minister said, but the Obama administration had no plans to let him leave the country and move to Israel as he requested." ...

... Eric Tucker of the AP: "'The people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard,' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "As someone who raised Jonathan's case for years with successive American presidents, I had long hoped this day would come,' he said."

Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "The D.C. government will pay $16.65 million to settle a federal lawsuit after a jury found that D.C. police framed an innocent man who served 27 years in prison for a rape and murder. The settlement Thursday in the civil rights case of Donald E. Gates, 64, is the largest in city history, District officials said. A nine-person jury on Wednesday found that two D.C. homicide detectives fabricated all or part of a confession purportedly made by Gates to a paid police informant and withheld other evidence in an attack on a 21-year-old Georgetown University student in Rock Creek Park."

Spencer Hsu: Douglas Hughes, "the Florida postal worker who landed a gyrocopter at the U.S. Capitol to protest campaign finance laws, vowed to continue speaking out against 'wealthy special interests' as he prepared to plead guilty to a felony charge of operating his aircraft without a license Friday morning."

David McCabe of the Hill: "YouTube will pay court costs to the creators of some videos accused of copyright infringement in cases that the online video giant believes represent clear cases of fair use. The company, owned by Google, said Wednesday it will keep those videos online despite copyright takedown notices. It will also cover up to a million dollars in legal costs associated with fighting the takedown." The YouTube statement is here.

The News in Tweets (must be nonpartisan):

House passes bill that could limit Syrian refugees. Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish @CNNPolitics https://t.co/5RvZwVftgD Elise Labott (@eliselabottcnn) November 19, 2015

CNN source informs me that Elise Labott has been suspended for two weeks for tweet about House vote on refugees: https://t.co/XTKTabRadeErikWemple (@ErikWemple) November 20, 2015

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Gabriel Sherman of New York: NBC News chair Andy Lack "is looking to give a show to the campaign chroniclers John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. According to four media executives, Lack is in talks with Bloomberg Television to simulcast Heilemann and Halperin's politics show With All Due Respect on MSNBC." CW: I can hardly wait. But since I still have no idea where MSNBC is on my cable line-up, I guess I'll have to.

Gabriel Arana of the Huffington Post: "The media's default of erasing distinctions between terrorists and non-terrorists, and between attackers and victims in the Muslim world is why we are currently in the midst of an insane discussion (if you can call it that) about allowing Syrian refugees into the country." And, no, it's not just Fox "News." "A recent survey from the Pew Center of 11 countries with substantial Muslim populations shows widespread negative attitudes toward the terrorist group -- in no country did support for ISIS rise above 15 percent. That's a smaller percentage than Americans who believe in UFOs (21 percent), think there's a link between vaccines and autism (20 percent) and deny climate change (37 percent). Strong majorities in most of these countries also support the recent airstrikes against ISIS."

Presidential Race

Amy Chozick & David Sanger of the New York Times: "Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Thursday for accelerating the American-led operation to defeat the Islamic State, going well beyond what President Obama has proposed by urging a no-fly zone with coalition forces to protect Syrians, more airstrikes and an expanded deployment of special operations troops to assist local ground forces.... Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Mrs. Clinton contrasted her outlook with those of the Republican presidential contenders as 'a choice between fear and resolve.'... Expanding on her previous call for a no-fly zone, Mrs. Clinton said it should be limited to northern Syria, where Turkey has proposed a buffer zone to protect civilians...."

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Senator Bernie Sanders offered a robust defense of democratic socialism on Thursday, defining his political philosophy in explicit terms and arguing that his views would bring economic fairness back to America. Anticipated as a major speech in Mr. Sanders's campaign for the Democratic nomination, the senator from Vermont described his views as being in the mainstream and rooted in the reforms introduced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression."

Gene Robinson: "The impact of the Paris attacks on the Republican presidential race may turn out to be minimal, especially since the establishment candidates aren't making any more sense than outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson."

Alan Yuhas of the Guardian: "Donald Trump would not rule out tracking Muslim Americans in a database or giving them 'a special form of identification that noted their religion', Yahoo news reports in a long interview with the Republican presidential candidate." CW: The argumentum ad Hilterum just stop being ridiculous....

     ... The interview, by Hunter Walker is interesting in a Cliff Clavin sort of way. The problem of course is that Cliff was a fictional jerk; Trump is a real one who could be president. ...

CW: I see I'm not alone in being unable to avoid making the Nazi comparison. Vaughn Hillyard of NBC News: "Ibrahim Hooper, national spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, sounded incredulous when he was asked about Trump's comments, telling NBC News: 'We're kind of at a loss for words. What else can you compare this to except to prewar Nazi Germany?' Hooper asked. 'There's no other comparison, and [Trump] seems to think that's perfectly OK.' Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the nonprofit Interfaith Alliance, drew the same comparison Thursday night.... Trump was repeatedly asked to explain how his idea was different. Four times, he responded: 'You tell me.'"

Mad Dogs? Ben Carson Has Been Too Long in the Midday Sun. Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "Ben Carson likened Syrian refugees fleeing the country;s bloody civil war and Islamic State violence to dogs on Thursday.... Speaking to reporters following a campaign stop in Mobile, Alabama, Carson ... noted there should always be a balance between safety and humanitarian concerns. 'For instance, you know, if there is a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog, and you're probably gonna put your children out of the way,' Carson said. 'Doesn't mean that you hate all dogs by any stretch of the imagination.' Continuing his analogy, the Republican presidential candidate said that screening refugees is like questioning how you protect your children, even though you love dogs and will call the Humane Society to take the dog away to reestablish a safe environment. 'By the same token, we have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly.'..."

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Carson both defended his knowledge of foreign affairs and distanced himself from adviser Duane Clarridge, a former CIA agent who publicly raised doubts about Carson's intelligence, as well as Carson's longtime political confidant and business manager, Armstrong Williams.... Carson tried to publicly separate himself from Williams, a longtime adviser who appears frequently on television on Carson's behalf. 'Armstrong is an independent agent,' Carson said. 'He happens to be a friend of mine. He has nothing to do with the campaign.' However, when a reporter asked Carson who he consulted with about his recent op-ed in The Washington Post, the candidate said he sent the column to Williams to edit." CW: It was Williams who suggested the New York Times contact Clarridge. Williams also said that Carson couldn't answer a simple question on "Fox 'News' Sunday" because he "froze."

Politico "Asked Marco Rubio to Lay Out His ISIL Strategy. Here It Is": "Whatever it takes.... Never relent.... Obama ... dithers."

Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "John Kasich has attacked Donald Trump relentlessly in debates and now his super PAC is planning to invest $2.5 million in the most aggressive takedown of the poll leader yet -- on behalf of an increasingly anxious GOP establishment." ...

... Jack Torry of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch: "One day after urging the creation of a federal agency to promote 'core Judeo-Christian, Western values,' Republican presidential candidate John Kasich said on Wednesday he instead would upgrade the existing Voice of America to 'engage in the war of ideas' against Islamic State.... Critics complained that Kasich wanted to increase the size of the federal government with a new agency and that he wanted the U.S. government to promote religious values.... 'I don't think we should be promoting Judeo-Christian values in the Arab world,' one of Kasich's GOP rivals, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, told Real Clear Politics. 'I think that was the Crusades.'" ...

... CW: I don't think Kasich has backed off the Crusades aspect at all; he is responding only to the criticism that creating a new federal agency would not be "fiscally conservative." Those lucky-ducky kiddies in the Middle East will still get to hear Bible stories on Sunday mornings.

Beyond the Beltway

Steve Annear of the Boston Globe: "Harvard University police are treating the discovery of strips of tape placed across photographs of black professors outside of a lecture hall as an act of hate, officials from the university said Thursday. In an e-mailed statement, Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School, said police are investigating who defaced portraits of black faculty members displayed at Wasserstein Hall."

Molly Redden of the Guardian: "Ohio this week became the latest state poised to defund Planned Parenthood in reaction to dubious videos accusing its employees of violating federal law. But in an apparent first, its lawmakers are not going after the family planning funds that legislators in many other states have targeted. Instead, Ohio abortion foes are taking aim at $1.3m Planned Parenthood uses to conduct STI and HIV tests, and infant mortality reduction programs to supplement the state;s troubled healthcare system.... In defense of the cuts, senators disseminated a list of alternative providers that include dentist offices, school nurses and a food bank as options for Ohio women." (Emphasis added.)

Liam Stack & Gabriel Fisher of the New York Times: "Princeton students ended a 32-hour sit-in in the university president's office on Thursday night after administrators signed a document that committed them to begin conversations about addressing racial tension on campus, including possibly removing the name of former President Woodrow Wilson from some public spaces, the university and students said. The sit-in came amid racial tension and escalating student activism on college campuses nationwide and focused in part on what students called Wilson's legacy of racism. Shortly after the document was signed, an administrator received a bomb or firearm threat by email. It was being investigated late Thursday." ...

... CW: This is fairly quixotic. Almost all of our former presidents were racists (and sexists, too) from slaveholder George Washington to civil rights leaders Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. It's okay with me if people wants to rename Washington, D.C., Washington state & Lincoln, Nebraska. If Americans want to rename all of the places honoring racists, we will forget where we are. (Writing from Lee County, Florida. At least Fort Myers was named for a Jewish man, but oops!, his claims to fame were fighting Seminole Indians & serving in the Confederate army. I rest my case.)

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The last execution currently scheduled to take place in the United States this year was carried out Thursday evening when Georgia executed a man [Marcus Jordan] convicted of raping and murdering a woman in 1994."

Sarah Larimer of the Washington Post: "Former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle was sentenced Thursday to more than 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges related to child pornography and sexual conduct involving minors."

Way Beyond

Guardian: "The Paris prosecutor has announced three people died during Wednesday night's raid on an apartment in St-Denis, where Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged ringleader of the Paris attacks, was killed. The third person's identity is not yet known." From the liveblog at 9:51 am GT. ...

     ... Update: Here's the Washington Post story, by Anthony Faiola & others, with more detail.

Steve Erlanger & Kimoko de Freytas-Tamura of the New York Times: "Shocked by the carnage of the Paris attacks, France and Belgium moved aggressively on Thursday to strengthen the hand of their security forces, pushing Europe more deeply into a debate that has raged in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001: how to balance counterterrorism efforts and civil liberties. With their populations stunned and nervous and political pressure growing on the right, the French and Belgian governments made it clear that, for now, they would put protecting their citizens ahead of other considerations."

Andrew Higgins & Kimoko de Freytas-Tamura of the New York Times: "... [Abdelhamid] Abaaoud, 27, is believed to have organized a string of attacks that made him the most talked-about -- and, in jihadist circles, feted -- terrorist since Osama bin Laden. French intelligence officials have concluded that Mr. Abaaoud was involved in at least four of six terrorist plots foiled in France since the spring.... Before his deadly ambitions culminated in the massacres in Paris on Friday that killed 129 people, they included a thwarted attack on a Sunday-morning congregation at a Paris church and an attack on a Paris-bound train this summer that was halted when passengers overpowered the gunman." ...

... Anthony Faiola, et al., of the Washington Post on how French intelligence officers located Abaaoud & his associates in Saint Denis. Also, it turns out the woman who blew herself up during the raid was not Abaaoud's cousin.

Dionne Searcy of the New York Times: "At least two gunmen stormed a Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, on Friday morning and seized 140 guests and 30 staff members as hostages, according to the company that runs the hotel. Northern Mali fell under the control of Islamist militants in 2012, but a French-led offensive ousted them in 2013, although remnants of the group have staged a number of attacks on United Nations peacekeepers and Malian forces. The hotel is known as a popular place for foreigners to stay in Bamako, a city with a population approaching two million that is the capital of Mali, and French and American citizens were among those taken hostage."

Ruth Eglash of the Washington Post: "Two separate attacks by Palestinians against Israelis on Thursday left five people dead, including one American and one Palestinian, and several injured, Israeli authorities said. The killings marked a surge in violence after several days of relative quiet following weeks of near-daily stabbings, shootings and vehicular attacks in Israeli towns and cities and violent ­clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank."