The Ledes

Wednesday, November 30, 2016.

Washington Post: "The deadly wildfires that engulfed two Tennessee tourist towns leading into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park left at least seven dead and hundreds of buildings damaged or destroyed, officials said late Wednesday as the terrible toll of the fires began to take focus. At least 53 people were treated for injuries at hospitals, though their conditions were not known. Massive walls of flames spread down the mountains into Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge on Monday with shocking speed, said those who fled with little more than the clothes on their backs. The fires are estimated to have damaged or destroyed more than 700 homes and businesses — nearly half of them in the city of Gatlinburg. Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said late Wednesday afternoon that the fire was 'likely to be human-caused.'” -- CW

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Guardian: (Nov. 3): "An Alzheimer’s drug has been shown to successfully target the most visible sign of the disease in the brain, raising hopes that an effective treatment could be finally within reach. A small trial of the drug was primarily aimed at assessing safety, but the findings suggest it effectively “switched off” the production of toxic amyloid proteins that lead to the sticky plaques seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.” -- CW

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

A Night at the Opera. Los Angeles Times: "The curtain rose on Act 2 of 'The Daughter of the Regiment,' revealing the figure of a tiny woman barely visible in a large dome chair with her back to the audience. Suddenly, she swiveled around — and there was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Cheers and prolonged applause rang out from the crowd at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night even before Ginsburg, a life-long opera lover who was making her official operatic debut, opened her mouth to speak as the imperious Duchess of Krakenthorp.... Her biggest laugh came when — in apparent reference to the bogus 'birther' campaign against President Obama — she asked whether [the character] Marie could produce a birth certificate and added: 'We must take precautions against fraudulent pretenders.' Ginsburg herself wrote her dialogue, in collaboration with ... [the] dramaturge for the Washington National Opera...." -- CW 

Bruce Springsteen performs at Hillary Clinton's rally in Philadelphia, November 7:

Washington Post: "Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday evening in London, becoming the first American ever to take home the prestigious award. His satirical novel 'The Sellout' beat five other finalists for the $60,000 prize, which also essentially guarantees substantial new sales and interest around the world. Amanda Foreman, chair of the Booker judges, called 'The Sellout' 'a novel for our times. . . . Its humor disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.' Originally published last year in the United States, 'The Sellout' is an outrageously funny satire of American race relations. The protagonist, a black man whose father was killed by police, wants to reinstitute segregation in his California town. He eventually lands before the Supreme Court in a bizarre case involving slavery. 'The Sellout' also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in March." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Comic actor, movie star and America’s best friend Bill Murray tried to sum up the emotions of being honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night [Oct. 23] at the Kennedy Center. 'My theme tonight is what is it like to be beloved,' a straight-faced Murray told the crowd at the end of the two-hour salute. 'It’s hard to listen to all those people be nice to you. You just get so suspicious.'”

Hill: Actor Bill Murray "spoke with President Obama, who congratulated him for winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a White House official said. Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if he met with Murray, Obama said 'absolutely,' but didn’t reveal what else they discussed."

New York Times: "The veteran television personality Jane Pauley will replace Charles Osgood as the anchor of the highly rated CBS show 'Sunday Morning.' Mr. Osgood, who is retiring, announced the news on his last show on Sunday. Ms. Pauley’s first day in the role will be Oct. 9, and she will become only the third anchor of the show, which started in 1979." -- CW 

New York Times: "Modern humans evolved in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago. But how did our species go on to populate the rest of the globe?.... In a series of extraordinary genetic analyses published on Wednesday, researchers believe they have found an answer. In the journal Nature, three separate teams of geneticists survey DNA collected from cultures around the globe, many for the first time, and conclude that all non-Africans today trace their ancestry to a single population emerging from Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago.... All non-Africans are closely related to one another, geneticists found, and they all branch from a family tree rooted in Africa.... There are also clues that at least some modern humans may have departed Africa well before 50,000 years ago, perhaps part of an earlier wave of migration." -- CW ...

... CW Note to White Racists: You, too, are black. It's way past time to give up your quest for "racial purity"; it's genetically impossible. This, BTW, is something non-ignoramuses have known for a couple of decades. No wonder you hate science.


The Los Angeles Times has extensive coverage of the Emmy Awards here.

The video below will most likely be taken down for copyright infringement, so watch it while you can. It's pretty funny. Here's a WashPo report on Jeb!'s cameo on the opening bit for the Emmy Awards. Also, ABC may put up a video of it here, but they have nothing at all up on the awards ceremony as of 8:30 am ET, Monday, Sept. 19.

Chris Welch of the Verge: "Twitter is about to make a big change to the way that tweets work.... Beginning September 19th, the company will cut down on exactly which types of content count toward the platform's 140-character limit. Media attachments (images, GIFs, videos, polls, etc.) and quoted tweets will no longer reduce the count. The extra room for text will give users more flexibility in composing their messages."

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-- Constant Weader

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The Commentariat -- Sept. 19, 2014

Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama on Thursday thanked members of Congress from both parties for coming together and acting quickly to approve funding that will aid in the international campaign against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant":

... Jonathan Weisman & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The Senate gave overwhelming approval on Thursday to a measure on the training and arming of Syrian rebels, then fled the Capitol for the fall campaign, sidestepping the debate over the extent of American military action until the lame-duck session of Congress later this year. The training measure, pushed hard by President Obama, was tucked into a larger Senate bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, a maneuver that leaders of both parties favored to ensure as few defections as possible. The Senate's 78-to-22 vote, a day after the House passed the measure, masked the serious doubts that many senators had." ...

... Justin Sink of the Hill: "The White House on Friday strongly disputed suggestions of friction between President Obama and the Pentagon over the strategy for confronting fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). White House press secretary Josh Earnest unloaded on a front-page headline in The Washington Post pointing to skepticism in the military of Obama's plan, calling its conclusions 'wrong.' 'All they do is they misinterpret Chairman Dempsey's testimony, and the rest of the time, they essentially quote either people who are frequent critics or people who supported the previous Iraq conflict,' Earnest said on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe.' 'So the more accurate headline would be, "Supporters of the Bush war in Iraq criticize President Obama's strategy." And that's been true since 2002,' Earnest said." ...

... CW: I saw the piece yesterday & got as far as the first "expert" reporter Craig Whitlock cited: an ex-general. So I didn't link it. I think Earnest's assertion is correct. As I indicated in the Dempsey sensation of a few days ago, it turned out that the headlines & ledes touting Dempsey's supposed concession on American "boots on the ground" was a far-out hypothetical forced by Lindsey Graham's repeated questioning/badgering the witness during Senate testimony. ...

... Ben Hubbard of the New York Times: "In President Obama's strategy of building an international coalition to fight the Islamic State without American troops..., moderate [Syrian] rebels loom large as the best force to fight the extremists in Syria.... At present the rebels are a beleaguered lot, far from becoming a force that can take on the fanatical and seasoned fighters of the Islamic State.... [A] scaled-up training program would be overseen by the Defense Department, unlike the current covert program here and a similar program in Jordan, both overseen by the C.I.A." ...

... we underestimated ISIL and overestimated the fighting capability of the Iraqi army. .... I didn't see the collapse of the Iraqi security force in the north coming. I didn't see that. It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable. -- James Clapper, National Intelligence Director ...

... David Ignatius of the Washington Post: "The United States has made the same mistake in evaluating fighters from the Islamic State that it did in Vietnam -- underestimating the enemy's will, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence."

We are supposed to keep the country safe, predict anticipatory intelligence, with no risk, and no embarrassment if revealed, and without a scintilla of jeopardy to privacy of any domestic person or foreign person. We call that 'immaculate collection.' --James Clapper, on the mission of the agencies he oversees

This is what the average voter thinks President Obama should be able to do. If, by some miracle he could perfectly secure the nation, millions of Americans would still oppose him because the weather sucks or their neighbors are jerks. If it turned out Obama was the second coming of Jesus, these people would choose to be "left behind." -- Constant Weader

... Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "Departing from its serial beheading videos of Western hostages that have outraged the world, the Islamic State released a new video on Thursday featuring a captive British journalist seated behind a desk, explaining the group's message and warning that America and its allies are foolishly heading into another unwinnable war. The Internet video,..., subtitled in Arabic, shows the journalist, John Cantlie, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and apparently reading from a script, recalling how he was captured by the militant group also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL after he arrived in Syria in November 2012." ...

... Andy Greenberg of Wired with an update on those iPhones for Criminals: "A reminder to iPhone owners cheering Apple's latest privacy win: Just because Apple will no longer help police to turn your smartphone inside out doesn't mean it can prevent the cops from vivisecting the device on their own." ...

... Coming Soon! Androids for Criminals! Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "The next generation of Google's Android operating system, due for release next month, will encrypt data by default for the first time, the company said Thursday, raising yet another barrier to police gaining access to the troves of personal data typically kept on smartphones.... The move, which Google officials said has been in the works for many months, is part of a broad shift by American technology companies to make their products more resistant to government snooping in the aftermath of revelations of National Security Agency spying by former contractor Edward Snowden." Currently, Androids have such encryption available, but the user has to install it. ...

... CW: Timberg maintains that both Apple & Google "in most cases will make it impossible for law enforcement officials to collect evidence from smartphones -- even when authorities get legally binding search warrants." This is contrary to what the Wired experts are claiming. My personal theory: this marketing ploy is also a ruse. The NSA will bypass the encryption when they want to, so these big tech announcements may give terrorism suspects a false sense of security. (Probably not true for local police forces, which don't possess NSA-type skillsets, tho I suppose the FBI could occasionally come to their rescue.) Timberg, BTW, can read Wired as well as I can, so one is inclined to suspect that the Post is a knowledgeable co-conspirator. Fine.

Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) signed on to legislation Thursday that would remove the nonprofit status of the NFL for promoting the Washington Redskins. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) announced the legislation earlier this week.... Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced a broader bill on Tuesday that would strip the nonprofit status of most professional sports teams, and would use the extra revenue to fund domestic violence outreach." CW: I'm with Booker.

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid paid compliments on Thursday to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz 00 but deferred to President Barack Obama on her future as the head of the party. Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida, is under increasing scrutiny by top Democrats in Washington for her stewardship of the party since 2011. Reid called her a 'friend' but skirted answering a reporter's question on whether she's became a liability for Democrats as they head into a pitched battle to keep the Senate this November."

Alan Blinder & Campbell Robertson of the New York Times: "... a federal judge[, Mark Fuller,] in Alabama on Thursday faced abrupt and potent pressure to resign after he was charged with striking his wife last month at a luxury hotel here.... Judge Fuller, an appointee of President George W. Bush and a frequent target of Democratic ire, has also received harsh criticism from Republican members of Alabama's congressional delegation, including the state's two senators, who both called for him to resign.... The reaction was a remarkable display of how accusations of domestic violence are suddenly being viewed with new urgency far beyond the N.F.L."

Linda Greenhouse: On gay marriage, Judge Posner evolves. Greenhouse does not think the Supremes will take up the issue this year.

"Errors & Emissions." Paul Krugman: "Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free.... If we ever get past the special interests and ideology that have blocked action to save the planet, we'll find that it's cheaper and easier than almost anyone imagines." CW: Also, kudos to the headline-writer. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "If this research breaks though the wall of false choices, then the second line of defense against action on climate change -- the first is denial, the second is 'we can't afford to do anything about it' -- could begin to crumble, and we can begin to debate 'how' more than 'whether' to act."

Capitalism Is Awesome. WalMart Finds Another Way to Profit off Its Employees. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: WalMart has instituted a new employee "dress code." "Federal law says that employers have to provide workers with required uniforms." But the new WalMart "dress code" -- a white shirt & black pants -- does not include a company logo, so the employees -- not WalMart -- have to pay for the clothing. It's not a uniform! "Walmart has helpfully marked the tags on items that pass muster in case workers want to buy those clothes from Walmart.... Worker group OUR Walmart estimates that the company stands to make $51 million or more in sales to workers buying the new not-quite-uniforms. Walmart will also be supplying workers with a vest they're required to wear -- a vest that, for all the company's big talk about American-made products, is currently being made in Jordan."

Senate Races

** Wichita Eagle: "Democrat Chad Taylor is off the ballot for the U.S. Senate in Kansas. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled late Thursday afternoon that Taylor's letter to the Secretary of State's Office met the requirements for him to withdraw. Secretary of State Kris Kobach had said Taylor had failed to declare that he was incapable of serving as required by Kansas statute and had ruled that his name would remain on the ballot. Taylor took the unprecedented step of suing to have his name removed....[Sen. Pat] Roberts campaign issued a statement decrying the ruling. 'Today, the Kansas Supreme Court deliberately, and for political purposes, disenfranchised over 65,000 voters,'" ...

... Rick Hasen: "This is a unanimous, per curiam (unsigned) opinion from the Court holding that Democrat Chad Taylor's name will not be on the ballot in the Kansas Senate race. This has political implications, as it will likely cause more Democrats to vote for independent Greg Orman instead of incumbent Republican Pat Roberts. It puts the seat, and perhaps the Senate, up for grabs. But there's a wrinkle. There is still possible Court action now to force Democrats to name a new candidate to replace Taylor on the ballot." ...

... NEW. Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "... without a Democrat on the ballot, Mr. Orman will have a real chance to defeat Mr. Roberts. The balance of recent polling suggests that Mr. Orman is probably fairly close to 50 percent without Mr. Taylor or another Democrat on the ballot."

Simon Maloy of Slate: "Earlier this week, Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported out the fairly bizarre story [linked in yesterday's Commentariat] of Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby and the health plan that she plagiarized from Crossroads GPS. Her candidacy has long been a favorite of conservative pundits who convinced themselves that Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon running in a state that had an especially rough experience with the Affordable Care Act rollout, was ideally positioned to campaign hard on health policy and take down Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley.... In May, the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel called Wehby the 'Democrats' worst nightmare,' citing her alleged health policy chops. 'She's a policy wonk, able to run rings around Oregon's junior senator, especially on health-care reform,' Strassel wrote. The fact that Wehby's health policy was pinched from a poll conducted by Karl Rove is, therefore, hilarious."

Alec MacGillis of the New Republic: Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate "Alison Grimes is trailing [Mitch McConnell] in the polls -- but she might not be if she had used Obamacare to her advantage.... If [the Grimes campaign is] unable to get more voters whose health care McConnell wants to take away to turn out against him in November, the fault belongs to the campaign, not the voters." CW: I agree with MacGillis; Grimes' attempts to hide from ObamaCare make her seem dishonest.

Worse Than Republicans. Alison Montoya of WLWT Cincinnati. "... write-in [U.S Senate] candidate Robert Ransdell said he knows he cannot win against Republican Mitch McConnell or Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes but wants to use the campaign to spread his slogan, 'With Jews We Lose.'... As of Wednesday the signs were gone. Apparently Ransdell did not ask the property owner for permission."

Congressional Race

Hunter of Daily Kos: "The latest candidate to sign up for the hard-fought America's Dumbest Congressman competition is Republican Mark Walker, who's running for North Carolina's deep-red 6th Congressional district.... Walker's answer to undocumented immigrants is to 'go laser or blitz somebody' in Mexico." If attacking Mexico happened to start a war, "Well," Walker says, "we did it before, if we need to do it again, I don't have a qualm about it."

Gubernatorial Race

Well, well. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Large portions of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke's jobs plan for Wisconsin appear to be copied directly from the plans of three Democratic candidates who ran for governor in previous election cycles.... A spokesman for the Burke campaign told BuzzFeed News an 'expert' named Eric Schnurer who also worked on the other campaigns as responsible for the similar text, a case of self-plagiarism. Schnur[er] is not listed as an advisor to the campaign nor or his ideas attributed to previous campaigns in Burke’s plan." Here's Schnurer's bio-promo. ...

... CW: I wonder if Burke even read "her" jobs "plan." If you are of the impression that candidates in both parties are colossal phonies, yeah, you're right. On the other hand, Mary Burke is Eric Schnurer, not Scott Walker.

... Update. Oh. Good, She's Read It Now. Donovan Slack of USA Today: "... Mary Burke said she is 'disappointed' that a consultant on her campaign, Eric Schnurer, copied text he had used in other campaigns and incorporated it into her jobs plan, but she maintained that the ideas are sound.... She fired Schnurer on Thursday, when Buzzfeed reported Thursday that sections of her plan had been taken verbatim from other Democratic gubernatorial campaigns in Tennessee, Indiana and Delaware."

Presidential Election

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Thursday voted against legislation authorizing President Obama to arm and train Syrian rebels, taking a stand that could distinguish her from Hillary Clinton in 2016.... Warren has a thin foreign policy résumé but by voting against the authority Obama requested, she will earn points with members of the Democratic base who are skeptical about another military campaign in the Middle East. 'I do not want America to be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, and it is time for those nations in the region that are most immediately affected by the rise of ISIS to step up and play a leading role in this fight,' she said in a statement."

Beyond the Beltway

Charles Pierce: "Everything done by the local police chief, and the local police forces, from the moment [Michael] Brown's body hit the pavement, seemed oriented around a desire to provoke the maximum outrage so as to justify the maximum police response. And now, it appears, the grand jury investigating the case of Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Brown, is headed down the same strange road." ...

... CW: Pierce's post is titled "The Latest from Ferguson," but in fact, the latest -- of which Pierce was unaware -- is that Wilson already has testified before the grand jury. In a Post-Dispatch story I linked yesterday, Robert Patrick wrote that Wilson testified for nearly four hours -- although he was not required by law to appear -- & that his "source said Wilson was 'cooperative.'" IMO, the update supports Pierce's contention. Wilson "cooperated" because he knows damned well the fix is in. If his attorney thought DA Bob McCulloch had any intention to challenge Wilson on "inconvenient facts," the lawyer would not have allowed Wilson to testify.

Will Weissert of the AP: "Amid uproar in conservative circles about perceived anti-American bias in the new [national] Advanced Placement U.S. History course and exam, Texas on Wednesday moved to require its high school students to learn only state-mandated curriculum -- not be taught to the national test.... Conservative activists, though, have decried the new course, the teachers' framework and even the exam itself as rife with liberal themes and focusing on the negative aspects of U.S. history. Some have even likened it to 'mind control' engineered by the federal government."...

... Charles Pierce: "... in a very important state of the union, a state governed by a man who is running around the country pretending he's smart enough to be president, high school students are going to learn American history in a strange, sanitized version unlike that taught anywhere else. Because the Texas Board of Education is opposed to mind control. Good for them." ...

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: By the few reliable measures available, it appears U.S. public schools have actually gotten better over the decades. Yet Americans "hate the public school system but like the school they actually interact with." Rampell cites a number of theories -- Diane Ravitch has a good one -- to explain this widening gap between perceptions of the local schools & public education....

     ... CW: I'd add one more theory: increasing tribalism. Parents are part of the rah-rah apparatus -- sports & other extracurricular activities -- that fosters school loyalty. The parents have an actual investment (taxes) as well as an emotional investment in schools that are important community-oriented institutions. At the Friday night football game -- and all through the week -- my school is better than your school.

News Ledes

Guardian: "Alex Salmond declared he will stand down as Scotland's first minister and the lead of the Scottish National party after failing to secure a majority for independence, as the country's vote to remain in the United Kingdom foreshadowed months of constitutional turmoil. After 55% of Scottish voters rejected independence, a higher margin than suggested by the final opinion polls of the campaign, Salmond, who has dominated Scottish politics for the past decade, said he would quit in November."

CBS/AP: "France said Friday it had conducted its first airstrike in Iraq, destroying a logistics depot held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The office of President Francois Hollande's office said Rafale fighter jets struck the depot in northeastern Iraq on Friday morning and the target was 'entirely destroyed.'"

Guardian: "David Cameron has declared a 'clear result' in the Scottish independence referendum after Scotland voted by a 10.6-point margin against ending the 307-year-old union with England and Wales. Earlier, Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, struck a defiant note at a downbeat Scottish National party rally in Edinburgh, saying he accepted Scotland had not 'at this stage' decided to vote for independence. He paid tribute to what he called a 'triumph for democratic politics' and said he would work with Westminster in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK -- warning the leaders of the three main parties to make good on their promises of enhanced devolution for Scotland." ...

... The Scotsman's main story is here.


The Commentariat -- Sept. 18, 2014

David Jackson of USA Today: "During his remarks at the congressional picnic [last night, President] Obama thanked lawmakers for backing his new counterterrorism plan against the Islamic State, and asked for cooperation on other issues":

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "A House divided along unusual and unpredictable lines voted Wednesday to authorize the training and arming of Syrian rebels to confront the militant group Islamic State, backing President Obama after he personally pleaded for support. The 273-to-156 vote was over a narrow military measure with no money attached, but it took on outsize importance and was infused with drama. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, actively and strongly backed the legislation, and both sought to portray it as a modest measure.... Republican and Democratic vote-counting operations said they would not press for 'yes' on what they termed a 'vote of conscience.'" The Senate hopes to pass it as soon as Thursday....

     ... "'The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,' President Obama said Wednesday in addressing troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. 'I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq'":

... NBC News: "Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in an exclusive interview with NBC News' Ann Curry, denounced ISIS for its savagery but also branded the U.S.-led coalition against the terror group as 'ridiculous.' Speaking from the presidential palace in Tehran ahead of his visit to the United Nations, Rouhani questioned President Obama's decision to go after ISIS with airstrikes." With video. ...

... Bob Gates Is Still Sounding Off. Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday said the U.S. will need troops on the ground to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and spoke out against President Barack Obama's contention that the U.S. aims to degrade and destroy the group."

... AND, It Should Go without Saying, So Is Ted Cruz. Adam Weinstein of Gawker: "Ted Cruz, Princeton '92 and creepy bathrobe enthusiast, is really tired of all these nancyboys who run the military, insisting that there must be political reconciliation and trustbuilding to forge stability in Iraq. Is he gonna have to go over there and bloody up some jihadi ass himself? Whilst comparing hair-care notes with Sean Hannity last night, the grandstanding GOP senator said today's military is not so much an elite fighting force as a bunch of bleeding heart social workers...." Read the whole post. Weinstein gets serious & emphasizes how dangerous Cruz's loose language is.

Dana Milbank: Trey "Gowdy, a former prosecutor, was known for theatrical outbursts in hearings, rank partisanship and a fascination with Benghazi conspiracy theories.... But when the South Carolina Republican chaired his [Benghazi select committee']s first public hearing Wednesday, Gowdy did something completely unexpected: He played it straight.... Gowdy adopted as the theme of his first hearing an idea suggested by one of the committee's Democrats, Adam Schiff of California: How well the State Department has been implementing recommendations to prevent future attacks on U.S. diplomats like the one in Libya two years ago that killed four Americans.... Over three hours, there were so many thank-yous it could have been the Oscars." CW: Stay tuned.

Edward-Issac Dovere of Politico: "Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most. Long-simmering doubts about her have reached a peak after two recent public flubs: criticizing the White House's handling of the border crisis and comparing the tea party to wife beaters." CW: I don't think this is more of the usual Politico breathless speculation. I think Wasserman Schultz is screwing up.

Kendall Breitman of Politico: "Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that it was a 'poor choice of words' for him to use the term 'Shylocks' in a recent speech. On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League's national director,Abraham Foxman, had said the word 'Shylocks' promoted an anti-Semitic stereotype.... 'There is no truer friend of the Jewish people than Joe Biden,' Foxman said in a news release.... He added, 'Clearly there was no ill-intent here, but Joe and I agreed that perhaps he needs to bone up on his Shakespeare.'"

iPhones for Criminals. Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police -- even when they have a search warrant -- taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information. The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal quandary...."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic: "On Wednesday, Arizona Cardinals backup running back Jonathan Dwyer became the latest NFL player to be arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Phoenix police arrested Dwyer, 25, on suspicion of aggravated assault on his 27-year-old wife and on suspicion of aggravated assault involving his 1-year-old son, a police spokesman said. The woman suffered a broken bone." Via Margaret Hartmann.

Suicide (Or Murder) by Rented Gun. Adam Weinstein reports: "A new video report by Fusion's Kimberly Brooks highlights the difficulties in preventing gun deaths at rental ranges, where shooters don't need criminal or mental health background checks to take a variety of loaded weapons to the firing line."

So Help Me God. U. S. Air Force: "The Air Force has instructed force support offices across the service to allow both enlisted members and officers to omit the words 'So help me God' from enlistment and officer appointment oaths if an Airman chooses." ...

... Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post: "After an airman was unable to complete his reenlistment because he omitted the part of a required oath that states 'so help me God,' the Air Force changed its instructions for the oath. Following a review of the policy by the Department of Defense General Counsel, the Air Force will now permit airmen to omit the phrase, should they so choose. That change is effective immediately, according to an Air Force statement." See also "God News" in Sunday's Commentariat for more context. Among other things, requiring the oath appears to be unconstitutional. But that doesn't always seem to matter ...

... Dahlia Lithwick explains why Constitution Day -- which was yesterday, in case you missed it, as I did -- "might just be the most American holiday of all." Also, Constitution Day is more than likely unconstitutional. God bless America.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. CW: A few weeks ago, a site called Our Bad Media claimed it had found more incidences in which Fareed Zakaria plagiarized the work of others. However, the Washington Post & CNN did reviews & made a pretty good case that the cited passages did not constitute plagiarism. The other day, Our Bad Media brought new charges. Dylan Byers of Politico: "This week, I conducted a review of the reports to determine whether the instances they cited truly qualified as plagiarism. I also asked two journalism ethics experts -- Robert Drechsel..., director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Kelly McBride, the vice president for academic programs of The Poynter Institute -- to review the reports. They came to the same conclusion I did: Fareed Zakaria plagiarized.... There are different degrees of plagiarism, to be sure. Case by case, the examples here qualify more as violations or misdemeanors than serious crimes.... But taken together, they show an undeniable pattern of behavior." ...

... Senate Race

Plagiarism, Senate Candidate-Style. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Large portions of an economic plan released by Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby appear to be heavily plagiarized from multiple sources, including one section that copies word-for-word from a plan put out by Republican Sen. Rob Portman a month earlier. Likewise, portions of Wehby's plan also copy sections nearly-verbatim from the economic growth plan of a 2012 congressional candidate named Gary DeLong and a survey from Karl Rove's group, Crossroads.... At no point in Wehby's plan is attribution given." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "What makes this striking is that Wehby is a practicing physician.... In her defense, though, the stuff in both Crossroads' poll and in Wehby’s plan is so incredibly hackneyed, such a tired assortment of conservative health policy pet rocks ... that use of the very same words isn't that surprising. It's not like any original thinking is going into this, so why use any original writing to describe it?"

Congressional Races

Gail Collins: Mark Sanford is running for re-election to his House seat unopposed! CW: I'm thinking Sanford would make a great running mate for Li'l Randy. It would be the funniest ticket ever.

Peter Beinart of the Atlantic: "... the security moms are back. And as a result, the levee Democrats were counting on to protect against a GOP hurricane is starting to crumble.... According to a CNN poll last week, women are 18 points more likely [than men] to say they are 'very' or 'somewhat' worried that someone in their family will be the victim of terrorism.... As in 2002, this anxiety about foreign threats is hurting Democrats.... In August, white women favored a Democratic Congress by four points. Now they favor a Republican Congress by eight." ...

... Steve M. "I guess it's 1972 all over again and Barack Obama is George McGovern, and it seems he can't even fight his way out of it. He was just supposed to keep us all safe. Two nasty deaths and it's all over. (How many were hanged on that bridge in Fallujah eight months before Bush's 2004 election victory? How may died in the embassy annex bombing in Lebanon six weeks before Ronald Reagan's [1984] landslide victory?)"

Presidential Election

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "Emails sent by liberal activists and obtained by The Hill reveal significant dissatisfaction with Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.... The Hill reviewed hundreds of emails from a progressive members only Google group called the 'Gamechanger Salon,' a forum where nearly 1,500 activists, strategists and journalists debate issues and craft messaging campaigns. The group includes prominent Democrats, Sierra Club officials, journalists who work for The Huffington Post and The Nation magazine, senior union representatives, leaders at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the president of NARAL."

Mario Trujillo: "Vice President Biden touched on a number of Democratic campaign themes during a speech in Iowa on Wednesday to help kick off a nationwide tour for a group of Catholic nuns traveling the country to register voters."

The Funniest Presidential Candidate. Rand Paul Is at It Again. David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: Sen. Rand Paul (RTP-Ky.) charged that a recent Post story which highlighted his flip-flops, was "full of inaccuracies." He called it a "hit job," in an interview with the winger publication The Federalist. However, neither Paul nor any of his staff members will reveal what the inaccuracies in the hit job might be. The Post tried several times to get the Paul camp to identify the "inaccuracies," but they refused to do so & would not schedule Paul himself for an interview with the post. "In his interview with The Federalist, Paul also criticized The Post for not providing a response from him or his political team." CW: The link to Fahrenthold's piece is messed up. I'll check again later to see if the Post has straightened it out. Update: Still messed up, but if you give it time, it will load, albeit with an "inappropriate descriptor." ...

Here's the problem. He [Sen. John McCain] did meet with ISIS, and had his picture taken, and didn't know it was happening at the time. -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in an interview with The Daily Beast, Sept. 16

I can't believe Rand is still repeating this stuff, which came from a Hezbollah newspaper in Lebanon! He's getting his information from Hezbollah. It's outrageous.... I don't know if Rand is dishonest or misinformed. -- Sen. John McCain, in response to Paul's charge, to the Daily Beast

Olivia Nuzzi of the Daily Beast: "In an interview with The Daily Beast on Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul discussed the war against ISIS -- and in doing so, repeated a thoroughly debunked rumor about John McCain palling around with the Islamic extremist group. Needless to say, a certain famously hot-tempered five-term senator and former presidential candidate was not at all amused.... Pictures of McCain meeting with members of the Free Syrian Army -- who have historically opposed ISIS -- have been seized upon by conspiracy theorists and McCain skeptics...."

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "There are days when we regret we are limited to just Four Pinocchios. This is one of those days. There is zero evidence that any of the men that McCain met with in Syria are linked to the Islamic State. One can have a legitimate debate about whether it is worth arming the Syrian rebels without resorting to innuendo, fake news reports and invented facts."

Constant Weader: On September 3, a reader sent me these pictures. It took me about a half-hour to debunk them because at that time, no legitimate news organization would even address them. On September 12, Rick Gladstone of the New York Times addressed the false stories & related photos of McCain supposedly palling around with terrorists. McCain should challenge Paul (no, no, John, not to a duel!) on the Senate floor to apologize for spreading the story. BTW, under appropriate circumstances, there's nothing wrong with meeting with terrorists or potential terrorists.

Beyond the Beltway

Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson testified ... for almost four hours Tuesday in front of the St. Louis County grand jury investigating his shooting Aug. 9 of Michael Brown, a source with knowledge of the investigation said Wednesday. Wilson was not obligated to appear, and also has spoken with St. Louis County investigators twice and federal investigators once, the source said. The source said Wilson was 'cooperative.'"

Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "A Wisconsin Republican dropped out of the race for a seat on the state assembly on Tuesday after he admitted that he made offensive comments about gay and black people on social media, according to The Gazette. Jacob Dorsey, a 19-year-old candidate challenging Democratic state Rep. Deb Kolste, apologized last week for referring to gay people as 'fags' in a tweet.... In comments on YouTube videos, he used the words 'fags' and 'niggers.'... Dorsey withdrew from the race and will return to school at Brigham Young University-Idaho, from which he took a semester off to campaign for state assembly."

The New Yorker Website main page has pieces by (1) Adam Gopnik & (2) John Cassidy on the Scottish independence vote.

Grant Duncan on the New Zealand parliamentary elections: "We're in the final few days of an election campaign that has had it all -- comedy, conspiracy and claims of dirty politics -- though none of it has dented New Zealand National Prime Minister John Key's chances of winning a third term in power. The predictions market puts 80% odds on a National prime minister after this Saturday's election."

Charles Pierce: "... can we please put a sock in the encomiums to [Ian] Paisley's late-in-life discovery that being a bigot and an enabler of terrorists was no longer a viable political position? ... The Paisleys were very strongly tied to Bob Jones University, the Christianist diploma mill in Greenville, South Carolina. Paisley was friends with Bob Jones himself.... His daughter, Rhonda, is a BJU grad.... Paisley was a terrorist by the very same standards that we applied to Anwar al Awlaki before we droned his ass."

News Ledes

Reuters: "Eight bodies, including those of three journalists, were found after an attack on a team trying to educate locals on the risks of the Ebola virus in a remote area of southeastern Guinea, a government spokesman said on Thursday."

New York Times: "The people of Scotland decide Thursday whether national pride outweighs economic risk.... Economists normally as ideologically disparate and disputatious as Alan Greenspan, Paul Krugman, Adam S. Posen and Niall Ferguson all have predicted a negative economic outlook for an independent Scotland, while expressing anxiety, too, about the impact of such uncertainty on the larger European and global economies."

... The front page of the Edinburgh Scotsman is here. The Guardian has a Scottish independence page here, with lots o'links.

     ... Update: The Guardian is now liveblogging the vote & results. The final poll before voting put the yes votes at 47 percent & the no at 53. ...

     ... Update 2: The Guardian has a new liveblog here. Still no final results (as of 7:45 pm ET).

Guardian: "Toronto mayor Rob Ford has a 'rare and difficult' form of cancer called malignant pleomorphic liposarcoma, doctors treating him at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto announced on Wednesday." ...

     ... New York Update: Ford has endorsed his brother Doug for mayor.


The Commentariat -- Sept. 17, 2014

Megan Thee-Brenan of the New York Times: "A New York Times/CBS News poll shows that President Obama's approval ratings are similar to those of President George W. Bush in 2006 when Democrats swept both houses of Congress in the midterm elections. A deeply unpopular Republican Party is nonetheless gaining strength heading into the midterm elections, as the American public's frustration with Mr. Obama has manifested itself in low ratings for his handling of foreign policy and terrorism." CW: All the evidence you need that the U.S. public, in the aggregate, is deeply stupid and/or ignorant. For anecdotal evidence, look below for the views of a Kentucky ObamaCare beneficiary.

Slip 'n Slide. Jeremy Peters & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States combat forces against Islamic extremists in specific operations if the current strategy of airstrikes was not successful, offering a more expansive view of the American role in the ground war than that of President Obama. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he said that while he was confident in the ability of the coalition of American, European and Middle Eastern governments to stop the Islamic State, he could not completely close the door to eventually asking Mr. Obama to commit ground troops to fight the group, known as ISIS or ISIL." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Craig Whitlock, is here. ...

... BUT. Justin Sink & Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "The White House and congressional Democrats on Tuesday pushed back against speculation that President Obama could order ground troops into Iraq, after the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said combat forces could fight Islamic militants. Gen. Martin Dempsey was 'referring to a hypothetical scenario in which there might be a future situation in which he might make a tactical recommendation to the president as it relates to ... the use of ground troops,' White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday." ...

... AND, as you read the details -- via Dana Milbank -- of how Dempsey's answer came about (hint: Lindsey "Be Afraid" Graham was his interrogator), the headlines look rather hyperbolic. ...

... ** Dana Milbank: "The sudden desire [among Republicans] for a ground war is a bit suspect, both because many Republicans adopted this view only after Obama came around to their previous view and because many Republicans oppose even the modest funding Obama has requested to train Syrian fighters." ...

... Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "As the Obama administration and the American public have focused their attention on ISIS in recent weeks, conservative groups and leading Republicans have issued stark warnings ... that ISIS and other extremists from Syria are planning to enter the country illegally from Mexico. But the Homeland Security Department, the F.B.I. and lawmakers who represent areas near the border say there is no truth to the warnings. 'There is no credible intelligence to suggest that there is an active plot by ISIL to attempt to cross the southern border,' Homeland Security officials said in a written statement, using an alternative acronym for the group." ...

... AND. Guns for Hire. Lee Fang of the Nation reminds us that many of the former generals & other "experts" who get on the teevee & directly or indirectly promote war against ISIS -- or whoever, what the hell -- "... have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world." Moreover, the listening public wouldn't know that because the media, both print & electronic, who invite & publish the opinions of these paid agitators, seldom reveal the opinionators' conflicts-of-interest. Thanks to safari for the link. ...

... Burgess Everett of Politico: "With the House expected to attach a Syria amendment to the government funding bill and pass the package on Wednesday, the Senate appears on track to vote on the legislation by Thursday and send senators home until November -- a recess key to the reelection chances of [Mitch] McConnell and a number of [Harry] Reid's vulnerable incumbent Democrats." ...

... ** Here's Juan Cole with rational, informed suggestions about what could work to degrade & contain ISIS & what would not -- the latter being the course the U.S. seems to be following. ...

... CW: Contrast the measured actions many experts suggest -- with actual explanations as to why a somewhat cautious makes sense -- with those of the war hawks, who fear-monger the public to gin up support for all-out war (see Michael Schmidt story & Dana Milbank's column linked above). John McCain, Lindsey Graham & other boosters aren't just stupid or dangerous or craven munitions-industry whores; they're anti-American.

Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday challenged world powers to ramp up the global response to the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging three West African countries, warning that unless health care workers, medical equipment and treatment centers are deployed quickly, the disease could take hundreds of thousands of lives":

... ** Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday said he has 'a few knuckleheads' in his conference. As a result, Boehner described his House majority as being a 'paper majority.' 'On any given day, 16 of my members decide they're going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing,' he said. 'You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.'" Boehner was making a pitch for a bigger majority to neutralize the knuckleheads.

Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "Sen. Maria Cantwell said Tuesday that she will introduce legislation that will aim to strip the National Football League of its tax-exempt status.... The league is organized as a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization, and this status, as well as the other leagues who share it, has been the focus of Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn." CW: I'll be damned if I can see why there even is a 501(c)(6); which exempts from taxes "business leagues," including the NFL & chambers of commerce.

Mike Lillis of the Hill: "A pair of House lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday designed to de-militarize the nation's local police departments. Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said the Pentagon's 1033 program, which arms local law enforcers with surplus military equipment, goes too far to put the tools of war onto America's streets." CW: I hate to say it, but this bill & Cantwell's will probably go nowhere.

The Word from the Snake Crude Oil Salesman: The reality is right now we've got an administration in the Obama administration that are science deniers when it comes to harnessing America's energy resources and potential to create good-paying jobs for our economy and for our future. Right now we've got an administration whose policies are holding our economy hostage. -- Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)

... CW: I think maybe Republicans have a new I-Know-You-Are-But-What-Am-I strategy. Yesterday Flip-Flopper Rand Paul called President Obama a flip-flopper, & today evolution-dissembler Jindal is calling Obama a science denier (Jindal does not dispute man-made climate change; he says he just doesn't give a damn. [Jindal is "a Rhodes scholar who studied biology and public policy at Brown University). ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Betcha the authorities at New College, Oxford, are daily regretting the degree they bestowed upon this dude, who daily applies his intellectual gifts to the worst kind of yahooism." ...

... Charles Pierce on Bobby Jay's Keystone XL Kops Energy Plan: "Most of the energy in the plan is to get people talking about what a serious person Jindal is, and not to notice that his state is falling apart, his education plan there is a whopping side dish of theocratic corruption, and that his constituents would be bitterly divided should Jindal be eaten by alligators."

"You Can't Feed a Family with GDP." Neil Irwin of the New York Times: "There are a few sunnier points in [a new U.S. Census] report [on American income]. The poverty rate fell to 14.5 percent, from 15 percent. And as the White House Council of Economic Advisers points out, incomes rose a good bit more in 2013 for the median family -- that is households where people who are related live together -- than they did for the more widely cited measure of households, which includes singles and roommates.... But the new evidence that pay is stagnant for middle-income families strikes us as the most important thing contained in this report.... You can't eat G.D.P. You can't live in a rising stock market. You can't give your kids a better life because your company's C.E.O. was able to give himself a big raise."

The Twisted Ways of Tribalists. Nobody don't care for nobody no more, and I think [Obama]'s got a lot to do with that.... [I was] born and raised Republican. I ain't planning on changing now. -- a Kentucky woman who is "tickled to death" with her new healthcare coverage. She's voting for Mitch McConnell, who did everything in his power to keep her from getting the coverage.

CW: This woman would be more "dead" than "tickled" if her buddy Mitch had his way. Since she can't come up with a logical criticism of someone who made her life immeasurably easier & safer, she grasps for the "Everything Is Obama's Fault" formula: People "don't care for nobody no more" (even though "caring for people" is the explicit purpose of ObamaCare) ... because Obama. ...

PLUS This. William Finnegan of the New Yorker: "Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the Minority Leader, has voted seventeen times against raising the minimum wage; in April, he led a successful filibuster of the $10.10 bill." ...

... CW: The cradle-to-grave Republican woman cited above, who is voting for McConnell, earns $9 an hour. ...

... William Finnegan: The arguments against a fair minimum wage haven't changed much in a century, even though they have "a dismal record as a description of reality."

Unintended Consequence? Hobby Lobby Hobbles FBI. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Citing Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court's decision last June holding that the religious objections of a business' owners could trump federal rules requiring that business to include birth control coverage in its health plan, a federal judge in Utah held last week that a member of a polygamist religious sect could refuse to testify in a federal investigation into alleged violations of child labor laws because he objects to testifying on religious grounds." Judge David Sam, a Reagan appointee, "concludes based on a single paragraph of analysis that the federal government's efforts to obtain [the sect member]'s testimony is a 'substantial' burden on his faith." ...

... Scott Lemieux: "The Supreme Court just created a huge mess."

"Undue Burden." Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: How the courts -- & Republican-led state legislatures -- are undoing former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's "most important triumph during her long and consequential tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court. Almost single-handedly, O'Connor rewrote abortion law."

Charles Pierce: Judges of the Seventh Circuit laugh Rand Paul's doctor friends right out of court. Pierce summarizes the doctors' legal argument: "'Your Honor, this law unfairly prejudices my clients because of actions they freely took in opposition to it.' It's like seeing the residents of Galt's Gulch appeal to the zoning board."

Vice President Joe Gaffe. Oliver Knox of Yahoo News: "Vice President Joe Biden drew fire from a prominent Jewish group on Tuesday after he described unscrupulous bankers who prey on servicemen and servicewomen deployed overseas as 'Shylocks' -- a term frequently condemned as an anti-Semitic caricature.... The vice president's office did not return a request for comment."

Jon Krawczynski of the AP: "After a day of public pressure from angry fans and concerned sponsors, the Minnesota Vikings have reversed course and placed star running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt-commissioner's permission list, a move that will require him to stay away from the team while he addresses child abuse charges in Texas....Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton [DFL], who spearheaded an effort to secure $477 million in public money to help build the team a new stadium, and Sen. Al Franken were among the many who called for the Vikings to reconsider their position." ...

... Michael Powell of the New York Times details the hypocrisy of pro football sponsors. Also, of NFL fans. ...

... Here's yesterday's Times story, by Ken Belson, on how sponsors & politicians are suddenly all upset about a specific instance of child abuse by an NFL player. ...

... CW: I'm sure the interested parties are calculating correctly that the whole NFL-players-are-abusive scandal is a momentary media phenomenon -- a TMZ story, after all -- & it will get lost in the fog of the next hoohah. Today's big news on TMZ: some actor who cried racism when the LAPD showed up was having sex in her car in the daylight in a public parking lot. Graphic grainy photos! And so it goes. In the meantime ...

... If you're a football fan who foregoes the viewing of violent sporting events for a whole week, tell us your story. I'll pay you in signed back issues of Reality Chex.

Susan Candiotti & Alan Duke of CNN: "The cardiac arrest leading to Joan Rivers' death happened as the comedian's personal doctor began performing a biopsy on her vocal cords, a source close to the death investigation told CNN." Rivers had not authorized the doctor to perform the biopsy, & the doctor was not certified to perform surgery at the clinic. The doctor took a selfie while Rivers was anesthetized. He has not been publicly IDed. "Investigators believe that Rivers' vocal chords began to swell during the allegedly unauthorized biopsy, cutting off the flow of oxygen to her lungs, which led to cardiac arrest on the morning of August 29, the source said."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Steve Benen on Fox "News"'s coverage of Benghaaaazi! In 20 months, the network aired 1,110 segments on the story. Benen notes that obsession with a particular topic isn't necessarily a bad thing -- that's often how dogged reporters break important news. BUT. "... Fox produced no scoops. It aired no new revelations of import. It didn't increase the public's understanding of the Benghazi attack in any meaningful or substantive way. On the contrary, many of the segments arguably did the exact opposite: the network aired 100 segments -- including 43 just from Sean Hannity -- 'promoting the lie that the administration issued a "stand-down order."'"

Senate Race

John Hanna of the AP: "Several Kansas Supreme Court justices expressed skepticism Tuesday about a Republican official's decision to keep the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate on the ballot against his wishes as they reviewed a legal dispute that could affect the national fight for control of the Senate. During arguments before the court, justices focused on whether a formal letter from Democrat Chad Taylor to withdraw from the race required Secretary of State Kris Kobach to remove Taylor's name from the Nov. 4 ballot. Some Democrats nudged Taylor out of the race because they see independent candidate Greg Orman as the stronger rival to three-term Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts.... Four justices -- a majority for the seven member court -- were appointed by former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.... Two others were appointed by Sebelius' predecessor, former moderate GOP Gov. Bill Graves." (A 7th seat is open.) ...

... Here's Bryan Lowry's report for the Wichita Eagle. ...

... OR, if you've got an hour, you can watch the oral arguments yourself:

Beyond the Beltway

Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Most voters who have already returned absentee ballots will have to provide their local clerks with copies of photo identification -- as will thousands of others who have received absentee ballots but not yet submitted them. Kevin Kennedy, the head of the agency that runs state elections, said new steps are being put in place to contact such voters after a Friday ruling by an appeals court that reinstated Wisconsin's long-stalled voter ID law." CW: I'm not too sure this clusterfuck is actually going to help Republicans. Plus, let's see what happens here:

... Also Tuesday, the groups challenging the voter ID law said they would ask the full, 10-member 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse Friday's decision. Friday's order came from a three-judge panel.

     ... CW: I understand en banc re-hearings are unusual, but changing the rules within weeks of an election is mighty unusual -- Rick Hasen wrote the other day that the U.S. Supremes had declared last minutes "new rules" unconstitutional.

News Lede

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


The Commentariat -- Sept. 16, 2014

Martin Matishak & Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "House Republicans expect to unveil legislation Monday evening that would give President Obama the authority to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels, but with some limits on that authority. The House Armed Services Committee is drafting the bill in consultation with the administration. It is expected to take the form of an amendment to a stopgap-spending bill that would keep the government funded through Dec. 11, according to a senior committee aide. Votes on the spending bill and the Syrian aid could come as soon as Wednesday."

Maggie Severns of Politico: "The House passed a bill to overhaul child care for low-income families Monday, and it will likely become law before the end of the year. Lobbyists and advocates say they didn’t expect the House and Senate, which passed its version of the bill earlier this year, to successfully broker the child care deal during this Congress. But with legislators on both sides of the aisle eager to score points during an election and high-profile education lawmakers retiring at the end of this Congress, legislators managed to strike a deal they announced Friday."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Republicans rejected a measure written by Senate Democrats aimed at bridging differences in pay between men and women. The Paycheck Fairness Act fell short 52-40, failing to clear a 60-vote procedural vote hurdle on Monday evening, the third time the measure has failed since spring of 2012."

Jacob Fischler of BuzzFeed: "Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff will introduce a bill Tuesday that provides direct authorization to fight ISIS while also sunsetting the two laws the administration has used to justify current efforts against the militants.... Regardless of whether a new AUMF is passed, President Obama has said he has all the authority needed to fight ISIS right now from the 2001 and 2002 AUMF laws. It’s a justification that’s drawn some criticism — from those who question whether ISIS is covered under the 2001 AUMF at all, to others who note that Obama once vowed to repeal the 2001 AUMF and is now using it to justify this new campaign." Via Paul Waldman.

Helene Cooper, et al., of the New York Times: "Under pressure to do more to confront the Ebola outbreak sweeping across West Africa, President Obama on Tuesday is to announce an expansion of military and medical resources to combat the spread of the deadly virus, administration officials said.... Mr. Obama will offer help to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia in the construction of as many as 17 Ebola treatment centers in the region, with about 1,700 treatment beds.... Officials said the military expected to send as many as 3,000 people to Africa to take charge of responding to the Ebola outbreak."

Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration is preparing to introduce major steps to phase out production of a popular chemical coolant used in refrigerators and air conditioners, citing growing evidence that the substance is contributing to the warming of the planet. The White House will announce on Tuesday a series of voluntary commitments by some of the country’s largest chemical firms and retailers to move rapidly away from R-134a and similar compounds used in nearly every office, home and automobile in the country...."

David Siegel in a Hill opinion piece: "The planned response to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as presented by the president on Sept. 10, places too much emphasis on military force.... There is a substantial constituency in both countries that views ISIS as preferable to its alternatives and offers the group either tacit or material support. Without this support, ISIS is a collection of terrorists with arms inferior to those of local militaries which has nowhere to hide and no promise of significant expansion. With this support it is a de facto state. The distinction between a nongovernmental actor and one that holds territory like a state is crucial." Siegel suggests a path forward, using "concrete incentives [CW: cash!] to turn [popular support] support away from" ISIS.

Sen. Flip-Flop Flip-Flops on His Flip-flops. Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Sen. Rand Paul on Monday pushed back against heightened criticism (link fixed) that he has flip-flopped on foreign policy issues, saying he has stood firmly against the Obama administration’s policies in Syria. Appearing on CBS 'This Morning,' the Kentucky Republican conceded that he has shifted his views in some areas, including on what is an appropriate U.S. response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. 'As world events change, obviously you change your analysis. Five years ago, ISIS wasn’t a threat,' he said, using an alternate name for the terrorist group that has mobilized across much of northern and central Iraq.... The Washington Post on Sunday documented Paul’s evolution on several issues, including airstrikes against ISIL targets. The report came a month after a similar Politico report noted some of Paul’s policy shifts on several issues, from immigration to Guantánamo Bay prison." CW: I guess Li'l Randy found out about videotape. Up till now his tack has been to deny having taken positions he had taken in the not-so-distant past.

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Former President Bill Clinton says he agrees that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is 'not the guy' for a peace deal. A C-SPAN video — first reported by Israeli newspaper Haaretz — shows the 42nd president at Sen. Tom Harkin’s Iowa steak fry on Sunday speaking with an individual along a rope line. 'If we don’t force him to make peace, we will not have peace,' the man told Clinton in the video. 'First of all, I agree with that,' Clinton responded, before discussing the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts he brokered during his administration. 'But Netanyahu is not the guy,' the unnamed person told Clinton, cutting in. 'I agree with that,' Clinton responded." ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York doesn't think Bill Clinton is a political genius. CW: I think Chait is being a little unfair: he's citing as evidence some offhand remarks Clinton made at a steak fry, remarks that it is true don't demonstrate genius, but weren't wrong, either. Clinton's "genius" is more visceral than intellectual (though he really does have a tremendous command of policy). Clinton wants you to like him & agree with him, & he knows how to get you to like & agree, at least momentarily. I have repeatedly found myself in his thrall, only to rethink an issue later & realize (a) he had masterfully manipulated me, & (b) I felt a little dirty.

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "After a generation of campaigns in which Republicans exploited wedge issues to win close elections, Democrats are now on the offensive in the culture wars. Democrats see social issues as potent for the same reasons Republicans once did, using them as a tool to both stoke concerns among moderate voters, especially women, and motivate their base." Relevant factoid: "When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, white voters without a college degree made up 65 percent of the electorate; by 2012, that number had dropped to 36 percent."

Jennifer Haberkorn & Burgess Everett of Politico: "There are widespread instances of Obamacare insurance plans violating the rigid rules surrounding whether customers can use federal health care subsidies on insurance policies that cover abortion procedures, according to a Government Accountability Office investigation. The report, commissioned by House Republican leadership and obtained by Politico on Monday night, found that 15 insurers in a sample of 18 are selling Obamacare plans that do not segregate funds to cover abortion (except in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s life) from their Obamacare subsidies.... The report’s release is likely to elicit new election-year attacks on congressional Democrats from anti-abortion groups and Republicans who warned that Obamacare would allow for taxpayer subsidized abortions." ...

     ... CW: Somebody might tell those shocked anti-abortion fanatics that this is capitalism at work. No doubt the insurance companies find it cheaper to pay for a few abortions than to process hundreds of thousands of duplicate payments. The cheapest way to handle this is probably for insurance companies to increase the co-pay for the abortion procedure to match what the individual's contribution would have been under the law.

Nick Anderson of the Washington Post: "Ohio State University has agreed to several steps to strengthen its policies on sexual assault and harassment, the federal government said, concluding a four-year civil rights investigation at one of the nation’s largest public universities.... The resolution will remove Ohio State from a list of 79 colleges and universities under federal investigations related to their handling of sexual violence reports." ...

... Allie Jones of Gawker: "On his show [Monday], Rush Limbaugh decried Ohio State's new policy instructing students to get explicit, verbal consent before having sex, because 'no means yes if you know how to spot it.'"

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Charles Pierce, in the context of Ken Burns' "The Roosevelts," highlights a speech from the last Gilded Age by early-20th-century progressive Sen. Bob LaFollette (Wisc.) to magazine & newspaper publishers. "Now, as we are in the second gilded age, one that camouflages effectively all it has in common with the first one, we should all be wary of that spirit as consumers of the political news brought to us mainly by even larger and more powerful -- and more heavily concentrated -- corporate enterprises. In related news: Hillary Clinton has all but wrapped up the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Everybody says so."

Beyonce. This is an exhibitionist, not a feminist.The New Republic decides to highlight feminist issues by pitting two feminists & TNR senior editors -- Judith Shulevitz & Rebecca Traister -- against each other. CW: Traister & Shulevitz should not have been foolish enough to fall for the "bitches bickering" format. 

"We're just being a little more honest than you guys." Harvey Levin of TMZ explains to Howie Kurtz of Fox "News" how Fox "News" -- & all other major media outlets -- work. Via Driftglass, who finds Kurtz's question/assertion & Levin's putdown hilarious:

Tom Raum of the AP: "The National Labor Relations Board ruled against the CNN cable television network on Monday in an 11-year-old labor dispute, ordering the network to rehire or compensate about 300 former workers. The NLRB agreed with a November 2008 ruling by one of its administrative judges that CNN improperly replaced a unionized subcontractor, Team Video Services (TVS), with in-house non-union staffers, claiming 'anti-union' bias."

Senate Races

Nate Silver: "When we officially launched our forecast model two weeks ago, it had Republicans with a 64 percent chance of taking over the Senate after this fall’s elections. Now Republican chances are about 55 percent instead.... Whatever the reason, the GOP’s path to a Senate majority is less robust than before.

The Kansas Supreme Court will live-video oral arguments in the case re: the state's U.S. Senate ballot beginning at 9:45 am ET today. The case, styled Taylor v. Kobach, pits Chad Taylor, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, against Kris Kobach, the righty-right Secretary of State & a co-chair of incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) re-election campaign. Taylor asked to be removed from the ballot within the legally-specified time-frame, but did not state in his request that he was "incapable" of filling the position. Taylor's removal would help the independent candidate Greg Orman. Kobach, whose deputy of elections guided Taylor in the writing of the withdrawal request, according to Taylor, has refused to remove Taylor from the ballot. Each side will be allotted 20 minutes to present arguments, according to Rick Hasen.

Beyond the Beltway

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Local clerks and state elections officials are putting their absentee ballot mailings on hold as they hustle to reinstate Wisconsin's photo ID requirement for voters in the wake of Friday's federal appeals court decision. University of Wisconsin-Madison officials are also analyzing the decision and considering whether to begin issuing ID cards that could be used for voting. While some student IDs can be used for voting, the ones issued at UW-Madison and some other schools cannot."

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "Texas has proposed re-writing school text books to incorporate passages denying the existence of climate change and promoting the discredited views of an ultra-conservative think tank [CW: propaganda mill]. The proposed text books – which come up for public hearing at the Texas state board of education on Tuesday – were already attracting criticism when it emerged that the science section had been altered to reflect the doctrine of the Heartland Institute, which has been funded by the Koch oil billionaires."