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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

The Netherlands Welcomes Trump, in his own words. Thanks to Haley S. for the link:

... CW: We're the laughingstock of the world. But, like us, others have to laugh so they don't cry or scream or hunker down in a suvivalist's crouch.

Los Angeles Times: "The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were revealed this morning in Los Angeles. 'La La Land' did what 800-lb gorillas are supposed to do: dominate the Oscar nominations tally, pulling down 14, including actor, actress, director and picture. Ava Duvernay’s '13th' joins 'O.J.: Made in America' among best documentary feature nominees, continuing our ongoing conversation about race in the United States. Speaking of which, with Viola Davis, Dev Patel, Octavia Spencer, Denzel Washington, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Ruth Negga getting acting nominations, the 89th Academy Awards will definitely not be so white." This article includes a complete list of the nominees.

New York Times: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

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Wednesday
Dec102014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 11, 2014

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Even as [President] Obama repeated his belief that the techniques constituted torture and betrayed American values, he declined to address the fundamental question raised by the report, which the committee released on Tuesday: Did they produce meaningful intelligence to stop terrorist attacks, or did the C.I.A. mislead the White House and the public about their effectiveness? That debate, after all, has left Mr. Obama facing an uncomfortable choice between two allies: the close adviser and former aide he installed as director of the C.I.A. versus his fellow Democrats who control the Senate committee and the liberal base that backs their findings." ...

... Matt Apuzzo & Jim Risen of the New York Times: "Initially, agency officials considered a path very different from the one they ultimately followed, according to the newly released Senate Intelligence Committee report.... They envisioned a system in which detainees would be offered the same rights and protections as inmates held in federal or American military prisons. Conditions at these new overseas prisons would be comparable to those at maximum-security facilities in the United States. Interrogations were to be conducted in accordance with the United States Army Field Manual, which prohibits coerced, painful questioning. Everything at the prisons would 'be tailored to meet the requirements of U.S. law and the federal rules of criminal procedure,' C.I.A. lawyers wrote in November 2001." Read the whole report. ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The Obama administration has urged a court to reject a request to disclose thousands of pages of documents from a Justice Department investigation into the torture of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency, including summaries of interviews with about 100 witnesses and documents explaining why in the end no charges were filed. The administration made the filing late Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The New York Times, hours after the Senate Intelligence Committee made public a 524-page executive summary of its own investigation into C.I.A. torture...." ...

... John Heilprin of the AP: "All senior U.S. officials and CIA agents who authorized and carried out torture like waterboarding as part of former President George W. Bush's national security policy must be prosecuted, top U.N. human rights officials said Wednesday.The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, said it is 'crystal clear' under international law that the United States, which ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994, now has an obligation to ensure accountability." ...

... Mark Udall Makes Good on His Threat. Lauren Fox & Dustin Volz of the National Journal: "In a career-defining speech, Sen. Mark Udall took to the Senate floor Wednesday to discuss a largely classified internal CIA investigation into the agency's Bush-era 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' and to call for the current CIA director's resignation. Udall, an outbound Democrat from Colorado, began highlighting key conclusions from the CIA's so-called Panetta Review, written in 2011 and named after then-agency Director Leon Panetta. Its critical findings, in addition to the agency's attempts to prevent the Senate from seeing it, Udall said, demonstrates that the CIA is still lying about the scope of enhanced-interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration." ...

... Richard Norton-Taylor & Ian Cobain of the Guardian: "MPs and human rights groups have demanded a judge-led inquiry into Britain’s involvement in CIA abductions of terror suspects, following the devastating US Senate intelligence committee's report. Under pressure from Britain and other allies, their role in the CIA renditions were redacted from the report." ...

... What Did the President Know & When Did He Know it? Fred Kaplan of Slate examines the question, concluding -- contra some implications in the Senate report -- that George W. Bush knew & approved the broad outlines of the torture program early on, but made an effort to retain "plausible deniability" as to the specifics. CW: And, hey, it looks as if the Most Heartless Man in America backs up Kaplan: "Contrary to the report's conclusion that Bush didn't know the extent of the CIA's efforts, [in a Fox "News" interview] Cheney said the President was involved in discussions about the interrogation techniques, and that Bush even pointed out some of those conversations in a book he wrote after leaving office." Cheney added, "I think we were perfectly justified in doing it. And I'd do it again in a minute." Notice he doesn't say "in a heartbeat." Because he doesn't have a heart. ...

... Peter Sullivan of the Hill has more: "The report says that Bush did not know the details of the techniques until 2006, years after they began, and that he 'expressed discomfort' when he learned of an incident involving a detainee chained to a ceiling and wearing a diaper. 'I think he knew certainly the techniques, we did discuss the techniques, there was no effort on our part to keep him from that,' Cheney said on Fox News. 'That the president wasn't being told is just a flat out lie.'" CW: Dick Cheney wants you to know that the buck didn't stop with him. "No effort on our part"? Who is this "we"? Cheney is acknowledging/boasting that he & unspecified others ran the whole 9/11 response -- including the torture program -- but they would occasionally report to the President on what-all they were up to & allow him to nod his approval. Now the bastards are not going to let the "Decider" off the hook. ...

... Gail Collins on James Mitchell & Bruce Jessen, the psychologists/contractors to whom the CIA outsourced our immoral, useless torture program, to the tune of $81MM, & counting. ...

... Benedict Carey of the New York Times has much more on Mitchell & Jessen's role. "'My impression is that they misread the theory,' said Dr. Charles A. Morgan III, a psychiatrist at the University of New Haven who met Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen.... 'They're not really scientists.'"...

The report's full of crap. -- Dick Cheney ...

... Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "In his aggressive efforts to salvage his reputation in the wake of a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's use of torture, former director Michael Hayden has offered a number of defenses for the agency's conduct.... 'I mean what are they doing — trying to score my public speeches? What's that about?' he said in an interview with Politico magazine. 'You want me to go out and score [Sen.] Ron Wyden's [D-Oregon] speeches?' ... Wyden's former top spokeswoman, Jennifer Hoelzer, emailed over the following:'1. That's really fucking offensive given that all of Ron's statements are directed towards informing the American people and exposing the [intelligence community's] attempts to mislead, while Hayden's all about the lying/misleading. 2 - While I'm no longer Ron's official spokesperson, I think I speak for everyone on team Wyden, when I say 'Go the fuck ahead.'" ...

I don't believe these are torture at all.... We're not talking about anyone being burned or stabbed or cut or anything like that. We're talking about people being made to stand in awkward in positions, have water put into their nose and into their mouth. Nobody suffered any lasting injuries from this.... -- Rep. Peter King (R-NY), former IRA bagman, explaining "enhanced interrogation" ...

Okay, Petey, let's test that. We'll let the CIA stand you "in an awkward position," the way they do, preferably with one of their professional rectal-feeding implements up your ass. -- Constant Weader

... James Downie of the Washington Post: "... if the program was successful, then why hide it and lie about it? The CIA repeatedly 'impeded' oversight from Congress, the White House and even the agency's own inspector general." ...

The Feinstein report ... risks undermining the ability of our intelligence agencies to protect the nation at a time when threats abroad are rising, not falling. -- John Yoo, author of the torture memoranda, in a New York Daily News op-ed ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Bob Kerrey hasn't read the Senate Intelligence Committee's summary of the 'Torture Report.' But he's taken to the op-ed page of USAToday to condemn it. Why? '... The Republicans checked out early when they determined that their counterparts started out with the premise that the CIA was guilty and then worked to prove it.... This committee departed from that high road and slipped into the same partisan mode that marks most of what happens on Capitol Hill these days.' When Republicans 'check out' of a bipartisan process because they cannot control it, it is by definition the fault of the Democrats for not finding a way to prevent it."

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post on the "CRomnibus" bill. "So, what's in the bill? We've sifted through the legislation, consulted supporting documents from Democratic and Republican aides, and called out some of the more notable and controversial elements below. (If you want to review detailed reports on all 12 parts of the spending bill, click here.) Please note: This is a fluid report that will be updated to add more detail or correct errors." ...

... Good News for Oligarchs. Ashley Parker & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The $1.1 trillion spending agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators on Tuesday night would vastly expand the amount of money that donors can give political parties, bolstering party leaders' ability to tap into the wallets of their largest contributors and reclaiming some clout from the outside groups that can accept unlimited dollars.Depending on how the new law is interpreted by election officials, the provision could expand the amount that any one person can give to national party committees to more than $777,000 each year from what is now a maximum of $97,200.... Neither party's leaders in Congress would claim responsibility for inserting the new provision, which was tucked into the final pages of the more than 1,600-page spending bill on Tuesday evening." ...

     ... Matea Gold & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "A massive expansion of party fundraising slipped into a congressional budget deal this week would fundamentally alter how money flows into political campaigns, providing parties with new muscle to try to wrest power back from independent groups. The provision -- one of the most significant changes to the campaign finance system since the landmark McCain-Feingold measure -- was written behind closed doors with no public debate." ...

... Screw You, Working People. Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post: "A measure that would for the first time allow the benefits of current retirees to be severely cut is set to be attached to a massive spending bill, part of an effort to save some of the nation's most distressed pension plans. The rule would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets." ...

Jake Sherman & John Bresnahan of Politico: "Nancy Pelosi and progressives aren't ready to support a carefully crafted government funding compromise, throwing the $1.1 trillion bill into doubt one day before a potential shutdown. In question are a provision that would weaken Wall Street regulation and a measure that would loosen campaign finance laws."

... Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Democrats in the House to use their leverage and reject a bipartisan spending bill to keep the government open until a measure tucked inside rolling back a piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law is removed. 'Who does Congress work for?' Warren said in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon. 'Does it work for the millionaires, the billionaires, the giant companies with their armies of lobbyists and lawyers, or does it work for all the people?'" ...

     ... The Washington Post story, by Lori Montgomery & Sean Sullivan, is here. "Meanwhile, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that 'it is certainly possible that the president could sign this piece of legislation,' even though it would undo a pillar of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul by freeing banks to more readily trade the exotic investments known as derivatives. The legislation ranks among the administration's biggest domestic achievements." ...

... Erika Eichelberger of Mother Jones: "Citigroup Wrote the Wall Street Giveaway Congress Just Snuck Into a Must-Pass Spending Bill. The bill, drafted almost entirely by Citigroup, would allow banks to do more high-risk trading with taxpayer-backed money." ...

... Dana Milbank argues that Ted Cruz has lost his ability to create havoc in the House & Senate.

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times: "A federal judge has told the Obama administration to decide by next week whether it intends to force a reporter for The New York Times to testify at the trial of a whistle-blower, bringing to a head the most serious confrontation between the government and the news media in many years. The reporter, James Risen, has been fighting government subpoenas in the case since 2008, but the Justice Department has refused to abandon its effort to force him to discuss his confidential sources. In June, the Supreme Court declined to review the matter, letting stand a federal appeals court ruling that allowed the government to compel his testimony."

Timothy Phelps of the Los Angeles Times: "Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice."

Americans Getting More Gun-Happy. Pew Research Center: "For the first time in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, there is more support for gun rights than gun control. Currently, 52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership. Support for gun rights has edged up from earlier this year...."

CW: Help Me! I think I agree with George Will: "The scandal of mass incarceration is partly produced by the frivolity of the political class, which uses the multiplication of criminal offenses as a form of moral exhibitionism. This, like Eric Garner's death, is a pebble in the mountain of evidence that American government is increasingly characterized by an ugly and sometimes lethal irresponsibility."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Rees Shapiro of the Washington Post: "In their first interviews about the events of that September 2012 night, [Jackie's] three friends separately told The Post that their recollections of the encounter diverge from how Rolling Stone portrayed the incident in a story about Jackie's alleged gang rape at a U-Va. fraternity.... The friends said they were never contacted or interviewed by the pop culture magazine's reporters or editors." ...

... Hanna Rosin of Slate: "The Post story doesn't connect all the dots, but it's not hard to do. Jackie has now given her friends two different names for the man she was with that night. Neither of them was in fact with her, ever dated her, or even knew her all that well. She appears to have invented a suitor, complete with fake text messages and a fake photo, which suggests a capacity for somewhat elaborate deception.... When confronted with what appear to be so many orchestrated lies, it's getting harder to see Jackie as a person whose memory may have been shaken by trauma." CW: Again, I have to ask, WTF was the supposed fact-checker doing? It is beginning to sound as if Jackie fabricated the whole gang-rape story, perhaps to attract a young man who wasn't interested in a romantic relationship with her. Her semester-long depression, then, could have been a result of that failure, not of trauma caused by a grotesque sexual assault.

Oh Lord, no. -- Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), on whether she would run for public office again, after having lost her Senate seat in a run-off election last week ...

... What a Surprise. Anna Palmer & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Mary Landrieu may have lost her Senate seat, but the Louisiana Democrat is a hot commodity on K Street. Several headhunters, veteran lobbyists and consultants said Landrieu's status as a moderate Democrat and senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee make her a top recruit from Capitol Hill."

Nobody Loves You When You're Out. Marin Cogan of New York on Michele Bachmann's lonely good-bye. CW: I'd advise Bachmann to get a dog, but she's got Marcus.

Nicole Egan of People: "Tamara Green, a retired California attorney who says Bill Cosby drugged and groped her in 1969 or 1970, filed a defamation lawsuit against the entertainer Wednesday. In the suit, filed in Springfield, Massachusetts, not far from where Cosby has a home, Green says comments made by Cosby's representatives to The Washington Post and Newsweek this year 'impugned' her reputation and exposed her to 'public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace.'" Via New York.

Presidential Election

We don't grapple with that here. -- Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), on how he mitigates income inequality in his state (Texas "ranks fifth or sixth among states on income inequality")

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont & former chair of the Democratic National Committee, in Politico Magazine: "Hillary Clinton is by far the most qualified person in the United States to serve as President. If she runs, I will support her."

Beyond the Beltway

Nathan Bomey & Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press: "With Detroit officially out of bankruptcy, now-former emergency manager Kevyn Orr said it's not the next couple of years he's worried about for the city, or even five years out.... Crediting [Mayor Mike] Duggan's administration as being top-tier, Orr said he worried that, if Detroit does well, starts to turn around and even reflect some of the remarkable recoveries that parts of cities like Miami and New York have seen in recent decades, Detroit leaders and residents won't remember the lessons learned." Via New York.

Dillon Thomas & Zuzanna Sitek of 5 News Fayetteville, Arkansas. "Fayetteville voters have repealed the city's Civil Rights Ordinance following a special election Tuesday.... Those in favor of repeal got 52% of the vote.... The ordinance would have prohibited local businesses and entities from discriminating against employees and customers based on gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and other factors. The Fayetteville City Council passed the ordinance in August...." CW: Fayetteville, BTW, is a university town. One might have hoped the voters would be a little more enlightened.

News Lede

Time: "The [U.S.] Department of Defense said Thursday that it had shuttered the last American detention facility in Afghanistan, bringing to an end a controversial practice of holding prisoners in the country without trial. The U.S. said it no longer had custody of detainees in Afghanistan following the transfer on Wednesday of remaining detainees from Bagram Airfield north of Kabul, which once held hundreds of detainees, Reuters reports."

Tuesday
Dec092014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 10, 2014

The Torture Presidency

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "A scathing report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday found that the Central Intelligence Agency routinely misled the White House and Congress about the information it obtained from the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects, and that its methods were more brutal than the C.I.A. acknowledged either to Bush administration officials or to the public." ...

... Greg Miller, et al., of the Washington Post: "An exhaustive, five-year Senate investigation of the CIA's secret interrogations of terrorism suspects renders a strikingly bleak verdict of a program launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, describing levels of brutality, dishonesty and seemingly arbitrary violence that at times brought even agency employees to moments of anguish." ...

... Scott Shane of the New York Times: "The bitter infighting in the C.I.A. interrogation program was only one symptom of the dysfunction, disorganization, incompetence, greed and deception described in a summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report. In more than 500 pages, the summary, released on Tuesday, paints a devastating picture of an agency that was ill equipped to take on the task of questioning Al Qaeda suspects, bungled the job and then misrepresented the results." ...

... The Los Angeles Times is liveblogging reactions to the report. The Guardian is liveblogging reactions. ...

... The summary report is here. ...

... Katie Zavadski of New York: "Five appalling takeaways...: 1. The "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" went beyond what the agency ever admitted.... 2. The interrogators were poorly screened and basically untrained.... 3. Torture didn't really provide great intelligence.... 4. The CIA did everything it could to avoid critical oversight.... 5. The CIA tortured innocent people -- including, accidentally, its own informants -- and killed at least one detainee." ...

... Here's the New York Times' summary of seven key points. ...

... ** The Biggest Liar. The Washington Post publishes a side-by-side comparison of (1) then-CIA Director Michael V. Hayden's testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on April 12, 2007, & the findings in the Senate's summary report. The report entries begin with something like, "This testimony is incongruent with CIA interrogation records" or "This testimony is inaccurate." These aren't "misstatements"; they're active, purposeful making-stuff-up lies. Hayden is currently running around denouncing the Senate report on Fox "News" & many major media outlets. ...

... Shane Harris of the Daily Beast: "Interrogations that lasted for days on end. Detainees forced to stand on broken legs, or go 180 hours in a row without sleep. A prison so cold, one suspect essentially froze to death. The Senate Intelligence Committee is finally releasing its review of the CIA's detention and interrogation programs. And it is brutal. [Harris recounts] some of the most gruesome moments of detainee abuse from a summary of the report." ...

... Charlie Savage & James Risen of the New York Times: "Months before the operation that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, the Central Intelligence Agency secretly prepared a public relations plan that would stress that information gathered from its disputed interrogation program had played a critical role in the hunt. Starting the day after the raid, agency officials in classified briefings made the same point to Congress. But in page after page of previously classified evidence, the Senate Intelligence Committee report on C.I.A. torture, released on Tuesday, rejects the notion that the agency would not have found Bin Laden if it had not tortured detainees."

... Jesse Singal of New York: The Senate report "highlights and adds some details about the important role two psychologists had in both developing the 'enhanced interrogation' program and carrying it out.... "Both the New York Times and NBC News have identified them as Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two psychologists who have been previously singled out for their roles in developing and legitimizing the torture program." According to the report, the contractors "received $81 million prior to the contract's termination in 2009. In 2007, the CIA provided a multi-year indemnification agreement to protect the company and its employees.... The CIA has since paid out more than $1 million pursuant to the agreement." ...

... Taylor Berman of Gawker: George W. Bush realized he was too scatterbrained to keep a secret & "asked not to be told the locations of CIA detention facilities because he was worried he'd 'accidentally disclose' the secret intel.... This man was president for eight years." ...

... Scott Shane: "Senator Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, and five other Republicans released a 100-page dissent attempting to refute the 6,000-page main report, which was written solely by Democratic committee staff members. Those Republicans denounced it as a sloppy, partisan effort that got the facts wrong.... The program's outspoken defenders say the C.I.A. was advised that its methods were not torture, that the program played a critical role in dismantling Al Qaeda and that the interrogators deserve praise, not vilification." ...

... Statement from President Obama: "Today's report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation's response to 9/11 -- the CIA's detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office. The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America's standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again." The full statement is linked. ...

... Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) issued a "summary of the summary" upon releasing the report. ...

... Statement by John Brennan, now CIA director: "... despite common ground with some of the findings of the Committee's Study, we part ways with the Committee on some key points. Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives. The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qa’ida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day." The full statement is linked. ...

     ... Ed Kilgore: "... does the current leadership of the CIA get to have its own position on the basics that contradicts the president's?" CW: Yes, apparently so. This does seem like the perfect time to fire John Brennan. ...

... ** When your right-wing friends tell you the report is a partisan screed against an agency dedicated to "keeping us safe," blah-blah, tell them this. David Cole of the New Yorker: "The committee, which reviewed over six million C.I.A. records, based its report entirely on the agency's own documentation of what transpired. The records depict a program founded on false premises, maintained for five years despite the absence of any evidence that it worked, and covered up by repeated falsehoods to the White House, Congress, and the American public. The report's central lesson is that when government officials abandon the obligation to treat human beings with dignity, that decision will corrode all that follows." Emphasis added. Read the whole post. ...

... The Onion (satire): "Warning that it would be reckless to release the full findings to the general public, critics in Washington condemned the Senate's 480-page report detailing the CIA's interrogation tactics Tuesday, saying it puts the country at considerable risk of transparency. 'Publishing the results of this five-year investigation is an extremely hazardous move, as it gravely jeopardizes our country's ability to obscure and cover up human rights abuses that may or may not have occurred following 9/11,' said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)...." ...

... Even the Onion could dream up this one:

... You can read the CIA's redacted response to the report, dated June 2013, beginning here. ...

The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome. But we've had this discussion. We've closed the book on it, and we've stopped doing it. And the reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we're not awesome.... They apologized for this country, they don't like this country, they want us to look bad. And all this does is have our enemies laughing at us, that we are having this debate again. -- Andrea Tantaros, Fox "News" host of "Out Numbered," explaining why Senate Democrats released the report

I have deep sympathy & compassion for the developmentally diabled and I love 10-year-olds. I just don't think they should get their own teevee opinion shows. Yoo Ess Ay! Yoo Ess Ay! -- Constant Weader

... K. T. McFarland of Fox "News": "Democrats in the Senate are behaving like tenants who got evicted and decide to trash the house on their way out the door.... Yes, it's another chance it's to blame Bush! This is the apology tour on steroids." ...

... Torture Report Released to Axe "Gruber Day." Jason Easley of Politics USA: "Like clockwork, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are in full paranoid conspiracy mode and claiming that the release of the Senate's report on torture is a conspiracy to distract from Obamacare.... Rush Limbaugh ... [said], 'The Democrats, the main story, the lead story today, by design, is the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, dumping on the Bush administration on 'Jonathan Gruber Day.'"

... Paul Waldman: "... prior to 9/11 the CIA had virtually no experience in interrogation, and they had no idea what would be effective and what wouldn't. But they were being told by the White House that they needed to be 'tough,' and torture is tough. The people who actually had experience in interrogation tried to tell the CIA that it wouldn't be effective, but they were shut out because their methods weren't tough enough.... The people who created, executed, and defend the torture program don't want history to declare them the villains of this story. But that's what they are. And one day -- even if it takes some time -- there will be a consensus on that." ...

... Charles Pierce: "As was the case with the Church commission [1975], I believe, this Senate investigation shrank from demonstrating to the American people the kind of monsters they freely elected. I believe this investigation shrank from the obvious conclusion that the legislative branch fell down on its oversight responsibility and, therefore, to its responsibility to the country.... George W. Bush, and Richard Cheney, and a whole host of others ... are now acting out of spectacular ingratitude and excoriating the report that allowed them largely to walk away from their crimes in office ... because they know, by defending the CIA and the criminals within its ranks, they are defending themselves as well ... against the CIA itself." Read the whole post. ...

... New York Times Editors: "The litany of brutality, lawlessness and lack of accountability serves as a reminder of what a horrible decision President Obama made at the outset of his administration to close the books on this chapter in our history, even as he repudiated the use of torture.... Republicans, who will soon control the Senate and have the majority on the intelligence panel, denounced the report, acting as though it is the reporting of the torture and not the torture itself that is bad for the country." ...

... Pardon the Bastids, Ctd. Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg View: "As generously as possible (and whether he believes it or not), the president should say that the Bush administration was motivated by only the best intentions in dealing with an unprecedented scary situation and that the mistakes they made by authorizing and using torture should be forgiven. This step is critical to keep the issue from becoming partisan, with Democrats being against torture and Republicans allowing it. If torture is to remain banned, it's going to take reviving the consensus of the elite against it that was broken in the Bush administration. Pardons take care of the legal jeopardy part for the officials; generous pardons might lessen their reputations as bad guys."


Jake Sherman, et al., of Politico: "Government funding, which expires Dec. 11, is not in peril, and a shutdown is still very unlikely. House leaders are set to offer a short, one-to-two-day funding bill in order to allow the Senate time to complete work on the broader 'cromnibus'; funding package and avoid any chance that federal agencies would be forced to close, House GOP aides said Tuesday." But negotiators are still squabbling over aspects of the bill, and Republicans are blaming Elizabeth Warren "for dragging the negotiations to the left." ...

     ... Update. Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Congressional leaders unveiled a massive $1.01 trillion spending bill Tuesday night that will keep most of the federal government funded through September. The legislation is expected to pass in the coming days and will allow the incoming Republican-controlled Congress to clear the decks of lingering spending issues while setting the stage for a prolonged fight with President Obama over immigration policy."

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made clear on Tuesday that she is not swayed by supporters of Obama administration nominee for Treasury undersecretary for domestic policy Antonio Weiss. Warren upped the ante in the unusually heated nomination fight, even mocking his defenders who point out that he supports 'poetry.'"

"Jonathan Gruber Day." (All Is Not Lost, Rush.) Dylan Scott of TPM recounts the big moments in the House Oversight Committee's interrogations of Jonathan Gruber & Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Marilyn Tavenner. ...

... Dana Milbank has more on the "zany coda to Darrell Issa's tumultuous tenure.... It was the last scheduled hearing under Issa's chairmanship.... Issa, who hit his term limit as chairman of the high-profile panel, has been assigned to legislative Siberia: chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee's intellectual property subcommittee."

People Who Don't Have to Wait in Line Don't See Waiting in Line as a Big Deal. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled unanimously that a temp agency was not required to pay workers at Amazon warehouses for the time they spent waiting to go through a security screening at the end of the day. The workers say the process, meant to prevent theft, can take as long as 25 minutes." CW: Let me just say this is an incredibly stupid ruling. These people waiting in line are at work, for pete's sake, & like the young women who died in the Manhattan shirt factory, they can't get out till they get frisked, an insulting, humiliating, invasive routine. So, thanks, each & every one of you Supremes, for adding injury to insult.

American "Justice," Ctd. Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post: Overnight, Missouri & Georgia each executed a man with a low IQ.

Ken Kurson of the New York Observer: "... in the wake of Rolling Stone's blockbuster story about campus rape at the University of Virginia and the subsequent fire that that story's reporting has come under, the magazine's deputy managing editor [Will Dana] offered to resign.... Sean Woods[, who edited the story, also] presented a letter of resignation to founder and publisher Jann S. Wenner.... Mr Wenner ... declined to accept the resignation." Wenner said the story is "not true." "According to the source, Rolling Stone is right now planning to assemble a 're-reporting project' akin to the one the New York Times put together in the wake of the Jayson Blair fabulism scandal...."

Presidential Election

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post interviews the "new" Rick Perry. "Perry comes across as studious, contemplative and humble.... After Republican Greg Abbott is sworn in as governor Jan. 20, Perry's immediate priority will be to make serious money, something he has never done." ...

... OR, as Ed Kilgore puts it, "First step for Perry is getting filthy rich.... Unsurprisingly, Perry's proto-message for 2016 will focus on his 'economic miracle' claim, based on the exciting new idea of growing the economy by whorishly giving 'investors' any damn thing they want. But ... the trouble with encouraging governors to hang out with extremely rich people in the guise of 'economic development' is that they start wondering Why ain't I as rich as my new friends? ... Something tells me Ted Cruz is going to eat Perry's lunch as the candidate of feral Texas conservatives while Perry's trying to 'make serious money' and convince people he's not as stupid as he sometimes sounded four years ago."

News Ledes

New York Times: "A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned two of the government's signature insider trading convictions, a stunning blow to prosecutors and their campaign to root out illegal activity on Wall Street. In a 28-page decision that could rewrite the course of insider trading law, sharply curtailing its boundaries, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan tossed out the case against two former hedge fund traders, Todd Newman and Anthony Chiasson. Citing the trial judge's 'erroneous' instruction to jurors, the court not only overturned the convictions but threw out the cases altogether."

Washington Post: "A senior member of Palestinian administration in the West Bank died Wednesday after a confrontation with Israeli forces at a protest march over land seizures, Palestinian officials and witnesses said. The death of Zaid Abu Ein, a longtime member of the Palestinian Authority cabinet, could further sharpen tensions after a recent wave of protests and clashes over a contested holy site in Jerusalem."

Monday
Dec082014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 9, 2014

CW: My power may go out again for an extended period beginning some time today; ergo, I won't post any updates to Reality Chex till (1) it's safe to travel & (2) I can find an operating public wifi source.

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Negotiators were racing the clock Monday to release a more than $1 trillion spending package to keep the federal government open through the end of the fiscal year, capping the least productive congressional session in modern American history. House and Senate leaders were reviewing the final details of the massive bill on Monday afternoon with the goal of posting the text by midnight so that the Republican-controlled House can vote as early as Wednesday morning. Failure to do so might delay plans to approve the legislation by Thursday night when current funds expire." ...

     ... Oops! New Lede: "Plans to quickly approve a $1.1 trillion spending package to keep most of the federal government open through the end of the fiscal year fell apart late Monday, increasing the chance lawmakers will miss a Thursday deadline. Just in case, top appropriators said Monday that they were ready to pass a short-term extension of a few days in order to give the House and Senate more time to pass the final bill and end the least productive congressional session in modern history.... Both sides had reached agreement on continuing the program by Monday evening, but differences remained regarding proposed changes to 2010 financial regulatory reforms that were sought as part of the deal...." CW: Not surprisingly, Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Secessions is also causing problems: he considers it an "abdication of congressional responsibility" not to use the bill to halt President Obama's immigration reforms.

Mark Landler & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "On the eve of a long-awaited Senate report on the use of torture by the United States government -- a detailed account that will shed an unsparing light on the Central Intelligence Agency's darkest practices after the September 2001 terrorist attacks -- the Obama administration and its Republican critics clashed on Monday over the wisdom of making it public.... While the United States has put diplomatic facilities and military bases on alert for heightened security risks, administration officials said they do not expect the report ... to ignite the kind of violence that killed four Americans at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. Such violent reprisals, they said, tend to be fueled more by perceived attacks against Islam as a religion than by violence against individual Muslims. But some leading Republican lawmakers have warned against releasing the report...." ...

... Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The Senate intelligence committee is poised to release a landmark inquiry into torture as early as Tuesday, after the Obama administration made a last-ditch effort to suppress a report that has plunged relations between the CIA and its Senate overseer to a historic low point.. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday the administration welcomed the release of the report, but warned US interests overseas were at risk of potentially violent reactions to its contents." ...

... AP: "The chairman of the House intelligence committee..., Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican..., told CNN [Sunday] that the US intelligence community had assessed that the release of the report would be used by extremists to incite violence." ...

... Mark Hosenball & Jeff Mason of Reuters: "Graphic details about sexual threats and other harsh interrogation techniques the CIA meted out to captured militants will be detailed by a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the spy agency's anti-terror tactics, sources familiar with the document said." ...

... ** Pardon the Bastids! Anthony Romero, head of the ACLU, in a New York Times op-ed: "That officials at the highest levels of government authorized and ordered torture is not in dispute. Mr. Bush issued a secret order authorizing the C.I.A. to build secret prisons overseas. The C.I.A. requested authority to torture prisoners in those 'black sites.' The National Security Council approved the request. And the Justice Department drafted memos providing the brutal program with a veneer of legality.... My organization and others have spent 13 years arguing for accountability for these crimes.... Prosecutions would be preferable, but pardons may be the only viable and lasting way to close the Pandora's box of torture once and for all.... Pardons would make clear that crimes were committed.... Mr. Obama could pardon George J. Tenet for authorizing torture at the C.I.A.'s black sites overseas, Donald H. Rumsfeld for authorizing the use of torture at the Guantánamo Bay prison, David S. Addington, John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee for crafting the legal cover for torture, and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for overseeing it all." ...

The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.... They deserve a lot of praise.... As far as I'm concerned, they ought to be decorated, not criticized. -- Dick Cheney, to the New York Times, yesterday

We're authorized. -- "Law & Order" Det. Joe Fontana (Dennis Farina), to people from whom he wanted to get something without bothering to obtain a court order

... "Dick Cheney Was Lying About Torture." Mark Fallon, a former interrogator, in Politico Magazine: " It's official: torture doesn't work. Waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, did not in fact 'produce the intelligence that allowed us to get Osama bin Laden,' as former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted in 2011. Those are among the central findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention after 9/11... As those of us on the inside knew.... The ostensible purpose of torture was to save lives, but it has had the exact opposite effect. Torture was a PR bonanza for enemies of the United States. It enabled -- and, in fact, is still enabling — al Qaeda and its allies to attract more fighters, more sympathizers, and more money."

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "The US government suspected that a mole inside the FBI was passing secrets to Irish republican militants who repeatedly plotted to assassinate Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and 90s, files released to the Guardian showed on Monday."

Charles Babington of the AP: "Appearing before a House Oversight panel Tuesday, [MIT professor Jonathan Gruber] expanded on earlier apologies [for remarks he made while discussing the healthcare law]. Gruber said his comments were uninformed, 'glib, thoughtless and sometimes downright insulting.' He said passage of the health law was transparent and heavily debated in public, despite his earlier comments. Gruber said he was not the 'architect' of the law, and apologized for 'inexcusable arrogance.'" ...

     ... CW: Hats off to Gruber. Admitting stupid mistakes & apologizing for them is hard enough, but it takes real guts to make those apologies in front of Darrell Issa. ...

... This Is Sick. Jennifer Haberkorn & Manu Raju of Politico: "In high-level strategy sessions on Capitol Hill, Republicans are going through reams of historical information and sitting through marathon slide show presentations, trying to figure out how to gut Obamacare through a complicated budget process that requires only a simple majority -- a sign of how seriously they're taking their best shot yet at dealing a long-term blow to the health care law." ...

... CW: Republicans decided to oppose ObamaCare in 2009 as a political strategy. They made up a long list of phony arguments against it, but since it was a Republican-inspired idea, they must have favored it (in what passes for their hearts) in principle. But somewhere along the way, these calculating bastards morphed their strategic plots into an ideological belief system. Now they really think depriving millions of people of health insurance is a good thing. They must be crazy. ...

... Greg Sargent: "A new Bloomberg poll finds that by a large margin of 55-34, Americans believe Republicans are acting 'more out of antagonism towards Obama' than out of a 'deep belief in their vision for the country.' By contrast, Americans believe by 54-36 that Obama is more driven by his vision than by antagonism towards Republicans. Perhaps the American people ought to have a word with our both-sides-to-blame pundits. On the other hand, the poll also finds the GOP's approval rating at a five year high while Obama has hit bottom. So maybe there's no downside in being perceived as driven by antagonism towards Obama!" The poll is here.

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Vivek Murthy, who has drawn opposition for remarks drawing a link between gun violence and health, is likely to get a [confirmation] vote [for surgeon general] before Democrats hand control of the chamber to Republicans in January, a senior Senate Democratic aide said Monday evening. But winning confirmation is another matter."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Monday rejected BP's challenge to a multibillion-dollar settlement arising from the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, declining to hear the company's case that it is being forced to compensate businesses with losses unrelated to the disaster.... But the Supreme Court without comment declined to review lower-court rulings that rejected BP's claims . Those courts said the company must abide by an agreement that did not require the kind of proof BP now insists upon."

Independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption. -- Anthony Kennedy, who is probably not the dumbest Supreme ...

... Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Charles Pierce applauds the New York Times piece (linked here Sunday, I think) that takes an "incredibly deep dive into the reeking, murky waters of legalized corruption and influence-peddling that our Nine Wise Souls in Washington have enabled so blithely.... This is smooth and edgeless corporate fascism in its classic sense -- a marriage of government and industry that is so tightly consummated that the former is entirely indistinguishable from the latter.... The real work of converting a self-governing republic into a seamless corporate oligarchy -- is being done in the states, where politicians can be purchased more cheaply, and where the infrastructure of the corruption on the national level is developed." ...

... CW: As David Byler of Roll Call pointed out early last month, "The GOP now controls 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers -- the highest number in the history of the party. Republicans currently hold the governorship and both houses of the legislature in 23 states (24 if Sean Parnell wins re-election in Alaska [he didn't, but the governorship went to Bill Walker, a former Republican who ran as an independent]), while Democrats have that level of control in only seven." No word of what percentage of these neanderthals (apologies to Neanderthals!) are corporate puppets, but I'd bet it's most of 'em. There is a reason fatcats & their Tea Party minions are pushing for repeal of the 17th Amendment, which provides for the direct election of U.S. senators. If repealed, state legislators could once again choose U.S. senators. This process would save fatcats a lot of money -- Senate races are expensive; legislators come cheap. That is, the oligarchs would change the Constitution -- not just the interpretation of the Constitution -- in the interest of maximizing their profits.

David Leonhardt of the New York Times on the GOP debate about whether or not to reappoint Doug Elmendorf as head of the CBO. CW: The value of CBO reports is in their apolitical nature. As Leonhardt points out, Elmendorf's CBO has not always been right. But its judgments have been based on actual calculations, not on political calculations. Surely, surely Republicans will go for a charlatan, making CBO reports meaningless political craptrap.

Charles Pierce comments on Michael Tomasky's post, linked yesterday, urging Democrats to abandon the South: "To me, the key to the problem is to break the stranglehold of the Washington-based consultant class over what candidates will be run in what places.... Forging an actual alliance of working people, black and white, in the places that need it the most, is a worthwhile effort whether it fails initially or not." CW: Pierce's view is interesting, especially in light of Nicholas Confessore's article about the GOP establishment picking that party's presidential candidate (linked under "Presidential Election" below).

Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times: "A correction officer who was on duty when a homeless veteran died in an overheated cell at Rikers Island was charged on Monday with lying on jail records, falsely claiming she had checked on the inmate that night, according to prosecutors. The charges against the officer, Carol Lackner, come 10 months after the death of Jerome Murdough, who was arrested on trespassing charges in February after seeking shelter from the cold in the stairwell of a Harlem public housing project. Officer Lackner, 35, so far is the only person to face criminal charges in the 56-year-old man's death, which provoked condemnation from city leaders and drew attention to deep-seated problems at Rikers that have become the focus of federal and city investigators."

Seth Masket in Pacific Standard with a history lesson on the civil rights movement: "... if the [current] movement fails to achieve much, it won't be because it got push-back from white moderates. Pretty much every important movement faces that."

Jesse McKinley & David Goodman of the New York Times: "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York asked Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday to immediately grant his office the power to investigate and prosecute killings of unarmed civilians by law enforcement officials. Mr. Schneiderman also challenged state legislators to pass new laws to repair public confidence in the criminal justice system, which he said was badly damaged after grand juries in Missouri and on Staten Island declined to bring criminal charges against officers in fatal encounters with unarmed black men." ...

... New York Times Editors: "In 2010 alone, federal prosecutors sought indictments in 162,000 cases. All but 11 times, they succeeded.Yet the results are entirely different when police officers kill unarmed civilians. In those cases, the officers are almost never prosecuted.... Whether or not bias can be proved in a given case, the public perception of it is real and must be addressed. The best solution would be a law that automatically transfers to an independent prosecutor all cases in which a civilian is dead at the hands of the police."

... Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge meet (or rather avoid) "I Can't Breath" protesters at a New York Nets/Cleveland Cavaliers game in New York. "Those protesting the death of Eric Garner rallied abound the hashtag #RoyalShutdown, determined to make the event more than just a lighthearted photo-op for the NBA and William and Kate.... LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack and Alan Anderson all warmed up in 'I Can't Breathe' shirts to pay tribute to Garner and protest the lack of charges against officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death." Kate & William didn't show up till the third quarter. CW: The royals did meet Beyonce & Jay Z at the game, a meeting which this Post decided to treat to a slo-mo video, because it's such an historic event, I guess. ...

... Charlotte Alter of Time: "Prince William visited the White House for the first time Monday during the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first official trip to the USA." ...

... Andy Borowitz: "President Barack Obama spent several hours on Monday in a closed-door Oval Office meeting seeking advice on how to establish a monarchy, Fox News reports.... According to the Fox report, the President came away 'intrigued' by the meeting and said he would explore the idea further next week when Congress is on vacation."

Speaking of titled (and entitled) people, James Kirchick of the Daily Beast does quite a number on "America's Worst Gay Power Couple," Chris Hughes of the New Republic & Sean Eldridge of nothing. He also does a nice job knocking down their (former) fans: "They are little more than entitled brats who, like most fabulously wealthy arrivistes who attain their fortunes through sheer luck rather than hard work, are used to getting everything they want, when they want it, and throw temper tantrums when they don't." ...

... Ha Ha. Brad DeLong, "Jamie Kirchick, who benefitted mightily in launching his career from being part of a corrupt and compliant media establishment that grasped at Martin Peretz's filthy lucre, complains about Chris Hughes.... No, there is not a hint of self-consciousness, self-reflection, or irony in there." DeLong has a good roundup of commentary on the fiasco that is/was the New Republic. CW: Maybe journalists shouldn't write about journalists. They're not very good at it.

Presidential Election

Oh, Who Will Be the Billionaires' Man? Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Dozens of the Republican Party’s leading presidential donors and fund-raisers have begun privately discussing how to clear the field for a single establishment candidate to carry the party's banner in 2016, fearing that a prolonged primary would bolster Hillary Rodham Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate. The conversations, described in interviews with a variety of the Republican Party's most sought-after donors, are centered on the three potential candidates who have the largest existing base of major contributors and overlapping ties to the top tier of those who are uncommitted: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mitt Romney.... With the midterms over, Mr. Christie and Mr. Bush have begun pushing top bundlers to commit to them in advance should they announce a White House bid...." ...

If I were Mitt Romney, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, I would be really irritated by that article. The last thing they need to become is the pet candidate of billionaires. It's a disastrously bad idea and it won't happen. -- Newt Gingrich

... Ed KIlgore: "... the Daddy Warbucks wing of the GOP does not seem especially aware of the hate-rage that will break out among 'movement conservatives' if the Establishment culls the field before 'the base' weighs in." ...

... digby: "This is democracy?... The Democratic elites would be no better if the rank and file were clamoring for a left wing fire-brand they assumed would lose them the election. In fact, they took the reins under very similar circumstance back in 1976. It worked out really well for them. They ended up with a one term presidency followed by 12 years of Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Let's just say that this "move to the middle" is no panacea." ...

... CW: digby doesn't say so, but that what the Democrats' "super-delegates" are all about: restraining the liberal wing. ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "This isn't to say others won't run, of course. There will be the usual half-dozen batshit insane candidates hailing from the various regions of teapartyism and theocracy-lite.... But the 'real' candidate, the 'establishment' candidate, need only putter and try to dodge blows until it is time to flood the market with the necessary ads, and we'll have our winner. Don't think of it as damaging to democracy -- think of it as a streamlining of the process. The megadonors will pick the best candidate for you, then you will get to vote for that person. It certainly sounds more efficient, doesn't it?"

November Elections

Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star: "Campaign reports filed late last week revealed that key Democrats funneled money to Greg Orman's campaign for the U.S. Senate in Kansas. A political committee known as the Senate Majority PAC run by former advisers to Majority Leader Harry Reid sent about $1.5 million to two other campaign committees that were backing Orman's campaign.... Meanwhile, HuffPost reported that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, gave $1 million to pro-Orman groups." CW P.S.: Orman lost big anyway.

News Ledes

AP: "U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday to consult with Iraqi government officials and confer with U.S. commanders about the campaign to defeat Islamic State fighters."

NBC News: "An Ohio man who spent 27 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit was brought to tears Tuesday when a judge dropped all charges against him. Kwame Ajamu, 56, was the last of three men exonerated in the 1975 robbery and murder of a Cleveland-area money order salesman.... Ajamu was originally sentenced to death, but it was vacated because of a paperwork error. He later earned parole in 2003."

Sunday
Dec072014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 8, 2014

David Rogers of Politico: "House-Senate negotiators neared agreement Sunday on the last pieces of a $1.1 trillion spending bill designed to avert any shutdown this week and put most government agencies on firm footing through next September. Building on a long weekend of talks, the goal was to file the giant measure by late Monday and then push for quick floor action before the current funding runs out Thursday night." ...

... Greg Sargent opines that since Boehner needs Democrats to pass the bill in the House, "That should mean House GOP leaders will not be able to attach anything to the funding bill that would undermine Obama's action."

The Bush Pre-buttal. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "A long-awaited Senate report condemning torture by the Central Intelligence Agency has not even been made public yet, but former President George W. Bush's team has decided to link arms with former intelligence officials and challenge its conclusions.... Mr. Bush and his closest advisers decided that 'we're going to want to stand behind these guys,' as one former official put it.... The former officials said that neither Mr. Bush nor his advisers had been interviewed by the committee."

Rachel Huggins of the Hill: "President Obama will sit down with BET Networks to discuss calls for criminal justice reform after two controversial grand jury decisions cleared white officers in the death of black men.... The interview, hosted by BET host and TV journalist Jeff Johnson, marks the president's first network discussion outlining his strategy to investigate the incidents and ways the country can unify during this time." There's a clip here. ...

     ... Jonathan Chait: White conservatives are outraged that President Obama said racism is "deeply rooted" in our culture. Hell, they're not racist. They don't even know any black people. CW: It's extremely unfortunately that this branch of De Nial runs right under the Supreme Court building. ...

... Allen McDuffee of the Atlantic: "New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday admonished former mayor Rudy Giuliani for his repeated recent comments that 'responsibility is on the black community' for reducing the necessity of police officers in their communities. 'I think he fundamentally misunderstands the reality,' said de Blasio on ABC's This Week. 'There is a problem here. There is a rift here that has to be overcome. You cannot look at the incident in Missouri; another incident in Cleveland, Ohio; and another incident in New York City all happening in the space of weeks and act like there's not a problem.'" ...

     ... Vanessa Williams of the Washington Post on de Blasio's blunt remarks on racism & policing & why the mayor is able to speak more forcefully than is President Obama. ...

... Timothy Cama of the Hill: "The New York Police Department (NYPD) has launched its investigation into the killing of Eric Garner, but it could take up to four months to complete, the department's head said. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the decision last week by a grand jury not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing Garner meant that the internal investigation could kick off.... He promised a transparent investigation into possible violations of department policy, including a public trial if necessary. Bratton will then have the final say on any potential punishments for Pantaleo, he said." With video. ...

... Mike Carter of the Seattle Times: "Federal prosecutors say they will review an incident in which a Seattle police officer punched and seriously injured a handcuffed, intoxicated woman, after King County prosecutors said Friday they won't charge the officer." The policeman asserted the woman kicked him though a hospital exam showed no indication of physical injury.

... Connie Schultz in Politico Magazine: "A boy's death and a damning Justice report put Cleveland at the center of a national police crisis." Schultz, a syndicated columnist, is married to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). ...

... You will want to know what Rush Limbaugh thinks about the killing of Eric Garner in a Fox Sunday show segment that had Chris Wallace -- who is accustomed to interviewing the wing-nut contingent -- asking, "What are you talking about?" ...

... AND, over at the winger screed Power Line, Paul Mirengoff seems to think it's ridiculous that young people would be upset by the grand jury's decision to free Eric Garner's killer. I don't know if Mirengoff is smart enough to know that Columbia University is essentially in Harlem.

John Harwood of the New York Times: President "Obama has long since concluded that pursuing dreams of reconciliation in his final two years in office is a fool's chase. So he is offering an alternative model for 21st-century presidential success.... It turns ... on advancing the major policy goals that Mr. Obama embraced as a candidate. Through that prism, he continues to make progress."

Donna Cassata of the AP: "Republicans will hold at least 246 House seats come January, according to election results Saturday, giving the GOP a commanding majority that matches the party's post-World War II high during Democratic President Harry S. Truman's administration. The GOP retained control of two seats in runoffs in Louisiana, expanding the advantage for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who can afford defections from his increasingly conservative caucus and still get legislation passed." ...

... Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "Trying to win Southern seats is not worth the ideological cost for Democrats.... The Democratic Party cannot (and I'd say should not) try to calibrate its positions to placate Southern mores.... It's lost.... If they get no votes from the region, they will in turn owe it nothing, and in time the South, which is the biggest welfare moocher in the world in terms of the largesse it gets from the more advanced and innovative states, will be on its own, which is what Southerners always say they want anyway.... Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise...." Read the whole post.

E. J. Dionne: "Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). They have co-sponsored a bill that ... would create a 15-member commission to study ... [on] 'how best to expand the use of data to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs and tax expenditures.' The commission would also look into 'how best to protect the privacy rights of people who interact with federal agencies and ensure confidentiality.' ... They're saying, you should want government programs to achieve what they set out to do. And in this age of Big Data, there are more metrics than ever to allow you to have a clear sense of how well they are working." ...

... CW: I would take this bill a little more seriously if Ryan were not the co-sponsor. For instance ... Matt Yglesias of Vox: "Conservatives in Congress led by Paul Ryan are thinking of bringing back an accounting gimmick from the 1970s called dynamic scoring [which was] used by Ronald Reagan to help sell the country on gigantic income tax cuts...." Unless Murray has tricked Ryan into co-sponsoring a bill that will prove he's a charlatan, their data-analysis bill is a joke. Even if it ain't funny.

"Recovery at Last?" Paul Krugman: "At this point we have enough data points to compare the job recovery under President Obama with the job recovery under former President George W. Bush, who also presided over a postmodern recession but certainly never insulted fat cats. And by any measure you might choose -- but especially if you compare rates of job creation in the private sector -- the Obama recovery has been stronger and faster. Oh, and its pace has picked up over the past year, as health reform has gone fully into effect.... We can now say with confidence that the recovery's weakness had nothing to do with Mr. Obama's (falsely) alleged anti-business slant. What it reflected, instead, was the damage done by government paralysis -- paralysis that has, alas, richly rewarded the very politicians who caused it."

Oh, the "Death Panel" Again. Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "The GOP is refocusing its attention on the courts as it searches for any way to weaken President Obama's signature healthcare law while he continues to wield a veto pen. Twenty-five Republicans asked the Supreme Court to take on another lawsuit against ObamaCare on Thursday, this time against a controversial Medicare advisory board that the party has assailed as a 'death panel.' Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), who is leading the charge in Congress against the Independent Payment Advisory Board, said legal challenges against ObamaCare 'make a lot more sense' than writing repeal bills that are guaranteed a veto." ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Liberals on and off Capitol Hill are defending President Obama's healthcare law from the friendly fire of fellow Democrats. The liberals say the criticisms from Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) are not only flat wrong, but also pointless coming four years after the law's passage. 'I disagree with both of them,' said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who helped usher the bill into law as then-chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. 'I disagree with what they said, and I can't quite see a lot of value in it.'... Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, delivered a similar message, arguing that, while there are plenty of improvements that could be made to the law, the critics should focus their attention on getting those things done instead of questioning the value of the law as it stands."

ALEC Attack -- Bought & Paid For. Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "Oil, gas and coal interests that spent millions to help elect Republicans this year are moving to take advantage of expanded GOP power in Washington and state capitals to thwart Obama administration environmental rules. Industry lobbyists made their pitch in private meetings last week with dozens of state legislators at a summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an industry-financed conservative state policy group." ...

... Marcus Stern & Sebastian Jones for the Weather Channel (yes, the Weather Channel!): "InsideClimate News, The Weather Channel, and The Investigative Fund have monitored the regulatory response to oil train explosions this year, focusing on whether the agency that oversees the railroads -- the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) -- is able to ensure that the nation's aging railroad infrastructure can safely handle its latest task: serving as a massive, rickety network of pipelines on wheels. We found that regulators don't have the resources to catch up with -- let alone, get ahead of -- the risks posed by exploding oil trains. That has left the FRA politically outgunned by the railroad industry, leaving it largely to police itself." CW: I thought maybe this article was going to end up being an advocacy piece for Keystone XL since two of its major owners are the Blackstone Group (founded by Pete Peterson) & Bain Capital (Mitt!), but it doesn't seem to be.

Brian Murphy & Daniela Deale of the Washington Post: "The Pentagon was putting final touches on a rescue mission in hopes of freeing American Luke Somers. At a South African-based charity, negotiators believed they were within hours of reaching a deal for the release of South African teacher Pierre Korkie. Neither side was apparently aware of the other -- or even that the two men were held together -- in the days before an unsuccessful raid by U.S. Special Forces on Saturday that left both captives dead."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: The Rolling Stone story of the alleged gang rape of UVA student Jackie keeps looking worse: "Fire the Rolling Stone editors who worked on this story." ...

... Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker: "One of the article’s strongest points was that ... the campus administrators who heard about [Jackie's] claims chose not to investigate them. Rather than force her to confront the alleged perpetrators, they allowed her to choose whether to press charges, request a campus hearing, or just go on with her life. Yet by not seeking the men out, Erdely and Rolling Stone made the same mistake. By arguably violating journalistic ethics to respect Jackie's wishes and her fears of the accused, they let the allegedly evil bros remain as hidden and unaccountable as they would want to be." ...

... Jessica Roy of New York: "The past few weeks cannot have been particularly uplifting for sexual-assault survivors, who have been forced to watch as Jackie, the woman at the heart of Rolling Stone's controversial campus-rape story, has had her character picked apart, been thrown under the bus by the magazine she agreed to open up to, and even had men's-rights activists publish what they claim are her full name, phone number, and address to the internet. But now Emily Clark, Jackie's freshman-year suite mate, has penned a moving letter in UVA's student newspaper reemphasizing her belief in Jackie's story.... Here's hoping the Twitter wackos won't use this gesture of support as an excuse to drag Clark through the mud, too." ...

... Hanna Rosin in Slate: "In the story, reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely called her subject by the name 'Jackie,' which I think many reading the story assumed was a pseudonym (many of the other characters in the piece go by pseudonyms).... Erderly then told a Washington Post reporter that the young woman's real first name is Jackie.... From there, it's a short distance to some vicious trolls, including the singularly vile Charles C. Johnson, threatening to doxx her. Johnson tweeted Jackie's full name on Sunday and wrote that he would give Jackie until midnight 'to tell the truth' or else he will 'start revealing everything about her past.'... Others are already a few steps ahead of him, posting pictures from Jackie's Facebook feed -- and even her mother's Facebook feed -- and adding nasty captions."

Chris Hughes, owner & publisher of the New Republic, defends himself in a Washington Post op-ed. He also suggests TNR journalists who walked out (a dozen, according to him) are a bunch of backward-looking whiney-babies. ...

... Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times: "The New Republic magazine said on Saturday that it would not publish its next issue, but would return to newsstands in February next year, after dozens of its top editors and contributors resigned in the face of a leadership change.... Some of the journalists who left had requested that their articles be removed from the coming issue, according to former staff members...."


White House: "On December 7, 2014, President Obama delivered remarks at the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors reception":

... In case you forgot, here's Obama, two years ago, at a fundraiser at the Apollo Theater in New York:

News Lede

Oakland Tribune: "On Sunday, the morning after protests resulted in six arrests and injuries to three police officers, witnesses to the unruliness insisted the number of police present escalated the tension after a person vandalizing with a skateboard touched it off. They also took exception to any characterization that the protests were violent.... A Sunday evening protest began much less aggressively, with just one bottle being thrown at officers from the otherwise peaceful crowd. However, demonstrators broke off into two groups about 8 p.m., with one continuing peacefully into neighborhoods and a more aggressive group heading full steam toward Highway 24. Those protesters tried to light patrol cars on fire and threw bottles, Molotov cocktails and rocks at officers, California Highway Patrol officials said." The San Francisco Chronicle story of the Saturday protests is here.