The Ledes

Sunday, August 28, 2016.

Washington Post: "James W. Cronin, who shared the Nobel prize in physics for discovering a startling breakdown in what was assumed to be the immutable symmetry of physical law, thereby helping to explain the behavior and evolution of the universe as a whole, died Aug. 25 in St. Paul, Minn. He was 84." -- CW 

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "This week, President Obama called on Republicans in Congress to take action and vote to fund the Administration’s response to the Zika virus. In February, the President asked Congress to fund emergency resources, including mosquito control, fast-tracking diagnostics tests and vaccines, tracking the spread of the virus, and monitoring women and babies with Zika. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have failed to take action on this issue. So the President continues to direct his Administration do what it can without help from Congress, with the primary focus of protecting pregnant women and families planning to have children'":

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: (August 2): "Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.” -- CW

...Washington Post: Charles Osgood, who is 83 years old, announced Sunday, August 28, that he was retiring as host of the long-running CBS show "Sunday Morning." "He will stay on through Sept. 25. Osgood has been the face of the weekly program since 1994, when he took it over from its first host, Charles Kuralt." -- CW 

... Guardian: "The search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun. Thought to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth, the planet lies within the so-called 'habitable zone' of the star Proxima Centauri, meaning that liquid water could potentially exist on the newly discovered world." -- CW 

Guardian: "A fisherman in the Philippines has kept what might be the largest natural pearl ever found hidden in his home for more than 10 years. The enormous pearl is 30cm wide (1ft), 67cm long (2.2ft) and weighs 34kg (75lb). If it is confirmed to have formed within a giant clam, as has been reported, it would likely be valued in excess of US$100m." CW: Looks like there will be a fight on this: when he moved house, the fisherman entrusted it to his aunt for safekeeping. "With his permission, she offered the pearl to the mayor, Lucilo R Bayon, to serve as new tourist attraction of city." -- CW 

"Giovanni della Robbia’s 'Resurrection of Christ,' made for an entrance gate to the villa of the Antinori family outside Florence." Brooklyn Museum photo. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "One of the most innovative art-as-advertising firms in late-15th- and early-16th-century Florence was the della Robbia workshop, a family concern that prospered for three long-lived generations. Its specialty was a brand of glazed terra-cotta sculpture that was physically durable, graphically strong and technologically inimitable. (The exact methods for producing it remain a mystery to this day.)... The Museum of Fine Arts [in Boston is mounting] “Della Robbia: Sculpting With Color in Renaissance Florence”..., a show of ideal size and scholarly weight that includes among 46 pieces one of the tenderest Renaissance sculptures in existence — 'The Visitation' by Luca della Robbia — on first-time American loan from its Tuscan church."

Michelle & Barack -- The Movie. Richard Brody of the New Yorker reviews “Southside with You,” "a drama about Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date." Brody calls the film "a fully realized, intricately imagined, warmhearted, sharp-witted, and perceptive drama, one that sticks close to its protagonists while resonating quietly but grandly with the sweep of a historical epic." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Requiring longer passwords, known as passphrases, usually 16 to 64 characters long, is increasingly seen as a potential escape route from our painful push toward logins that only a cryptographer could love."

The New York Times features photos of the exteriors of Bill & Hillary Clinton's residences over the years.

Brian Hickey of the Philly Voice: When Leroy Black died at age 55, he got two obituaries in the Press of Atlantic City: " In the first obit, his 'loving wife, Bearetta Harrison Black' gets top survivor billing. In the second, however, Bearetta is nowhere to be found, but 'his long-tome (sic) girlfriend, Princess Hall' appears in her place. A man answering the phone at Greenidge Funeral Homes told PhillyVoice that the obituaries were placed separately because 'the wife wanted it one way, and the girlfriend wanted it another way.'" ...

... CW: Kinda reminds me of the headstone a widow placed on her husband's grave in the Key West cemetery: "Harry, I Know Where You're Sleeping Tonight."

New York Times: "A surprisingly specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things has been generated by scientists who say that the likeness sheds considerable light on the mystery of how life first emerged on Earth. This venerable ancestor was a single-cell, bacterium-like organism. But it has a grand name, or at least an acronym. It is known as Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old."

Ian Crouch of the New Yorker: "For a few days, at least, [Stephen] Colbert abandoned the political equanimity that he’d adopted when he started his 'Late Night' job." BTW, here's Laura Benanti's segment:

Washington Post: "Benny" (for Ben Franklin), the mystery philanthropist of Salem, Oregon, has given away more than $55,000 in $100 bills, which s/he hides in odd places like "pockets of clothing, in diapers, in baby wipes and in candy." -- CW 

Jumping Jupiter! New York Times: "Ducking through intense belts of violent radiation as it skimmed over the clouds of Jupiter at 130,000 miles per hour, NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally clinched its spot on Monday in the orbit of the solar system’s largest planet. It took five years for Juno to travel this far on its $1.1 billion mission, and the moment was one that NASA scientists and space enthusiasts had eagerly — and anxiously — anticipated. At 11:53 p.m., Eastern time, a signal from the spacecraft announced the end of a 35-minute engine burn that left it in the grip of its desired orbit around Jupiter." -- CW ...

... Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post has more on the importance of the mission. CW: This, BTW, is another fine example of your government actually at work.

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Friday
Jun132014

The Commentariat -- June 14, 2014

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration has decided to hold any military intervention in Iraq in abeyance until it sees clear evidence that the country’s politics and governance are reforming, according to U.S. officials. After near-nonstop crisis meetings since early this week, President Obama has ordered options prepared for possible airstrikes in Iraq as well as a wide range of direct military assistance short of American boots on the ground."

This is not solely or even primarily a military challenge. The United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems. -- Barack Obama, Friday

... Loveday Morris of the Washington Post: "The stage was set Friday for a major sectarian confrontation in Iraq after the government and the country’s most powerful Shiite cleric implored civilians to take up arms against Sunni militants — a move that would partially plug the ranks of the decimated security forces with religiously motivated volunteers. Those developments appeared directly at odds with the approach urged by President Obama in Washington, who appealed to the Iraqi government to find ways to bridge the country’s sectarian divisions." ...

There is not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shias, so I think they can probably get along. -- John McCain, ca. April 2003

... Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "On Iraq, let’s ignore those who got it all wrong.... There are few people who understand Iraq less than the Republican politicians and pundits who are being sought out for their comments on the current situation.... The fact that [John McCain] has never demonstrated the slightest bit of understanding of Iraq is no bar at all to being the most quoted person on the topic.... Yet today, the media once again seek out John McCain’s wisdom and insight on Iraq, which is kind of like saying, 'Jeez, it looks like we might be lost — we really need to ask Mr. Magoo for directions.'”

Rule: where available, all 2014 Iraq punditry must be accompanied by link(s) to the author's 2002/3 Iraq punditry. -- James Poniewozik of Time

 CW: If you missed yesterday's Comments on Our Excellent Iraq Adventure (& the Tour Organizers), do yourself a favor & click on them. Some excellent reminders of how incredible arrogance, stupidity AND ignorance got us into that war. Also, new word: "feculent."

The president says his doctrine is don’t do stupid stuff. Sometimes withdrawal is the stupidest thing of all. -- David Brooks

The stupidest thing of all is invading a country that hadn't attacked us, posed no real threat to us, had no weapons capable of reaching us, or any capability to produce such weapons for the foreseeable future. -- Ian Reifowitz of Daily Kos

Manny Fernandez & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Sergeant [Bowe] Bergdahl ...28 landed around 1:40 a.m. aboard a military transport plane at an airfield adjacent to Lackland Air Force Base and was escorted to nearby Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Even as Sergeant Bergdahl arrived, the Army set in motion an investigation into the circumstances of his disappearance from his outpost in June 2009. The Army has selected a two-star general with combat experience in Afghanistan to determine whether Sergeant Bergdahl violated rules by apparently walking off his post...."

Beyond the Beltway

Recklessness in Service of Political Spite. Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "The coal-heavy state of Ohio rebelled against Barack Obama's climate change agenda on Friday, becoming the first state to roll back measures promoting wind and solar power and energy efficiency. The bill signed into law by Ohio's governor, John Kasich [R], puts a two-year freeze on measures requiring power companies to obtain some of their electricity from wind and solar power, and reduce demand for electricity. The move will make it harder for Ohio to meet new standards unrolled by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month...."

Recklessness in Service of Political Spite, Episode 2. Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: "The Virginia General Assembly adopted a long-delayed state budget late Thursday, acting after an hours-long debate among newly ascendant Senate Republicans who fought among themselves over whether the plan threw up sufficient barriers to Medicaid expansion." CW: Yep. Working overtime to make sure poor people don't get health insurance. Commendable.

Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said this week that it is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, adding to the series of inquiries that have been ordered since the lane-closing scandal at the George Washington Bridge last year."

Jason Stein, et al., of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Ending a week of uncertainty, a federal judge Friday ordered Wisconsin officials to stop enforcing the state's gay marriage ban but then immediately put that order on hold while the historic case winds through months of appeals."

Thursday
Jun122014

The Commentariat -- June 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Ledes

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

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

Wednesday
Jun112014

The Commentariat -- June 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

News Ledes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday
Jun102014

The Commentariat -- June 11, 2014

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

Congressional Races

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

God hates Mexicans. -- CW Translation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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