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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Saturday
Sep062014

What About Bob?

Update below.

In trying to understand Bob McDonnell's motivations, I came upon this blogpost by Chris Graham of the Augusta Free Press.

In Graham's view, McDonnell reasoned that during his trial "he’d turn federal prosecutors into overreaching partisans, not only beating the rap against the corruption charges, but using it as the basis for a political comeback, talking openly with reporters during breaks in his trial about his plans to run for governor in 2017, if he didn’t somehow end up on the national Republican Party ticket in 2016."

I couldn't find any other references to McDonnell's chats with reporters during breaks, so I contacted Graham re: his source. Graham said he heard it from a local reporter, who mentioned it on-air when reporting the verdict. 

Graham's assertion makes sense, assuming the local reporter wasn't blowing smoke, & there's no reason to think s/he was. McConnell didn't take the plea deal because a felony conviction obviously would have put the kibosh on his future political plans. No presidential candidate is going to choose a convicted felon as his running mate, and Virginia voters might take note of his criminal record, too.

So McDonnell figured, as Graham hypothesizes, that he would "beat the rap," and that an acquittal in a failed prosecution would make him seem like an avenging hero -- the vindicated victim of government overreach. It fits right into the Reagan/GOP "government is the problem" philosophy.

The strategy might have worked, too, if McDonnell had not opted for a defense that exposed him as a cruel husband & extraordinary phony. Since the gifts themselves were legal under Virginia law, all Bob had to do was demonstrate that there was no quo for the quid in the quid pro quo -- that his acceptance of the gifts had nothing to do with the minor and ordinary efforts he made on giftor Jonnie Williams' behalf. After all, promoting Virginia businesses was part of the governor's job.

As for the appearance of impropriety, it's easy to believe that a governor working his heart out to serve his constituents would drop the ball on some personal matters -- like family finances & even adequate communication about them with his wife. "I'm sorry, I wasn't paying enough attention to this stuff," and "I didn't give Maureen enough support & guidance when she tried to take up the slack" might be a lame defense, but it's one with which we can all identify.

The truth may be that Bob saw himself as a victim of his wife's greed and carelessness. Incapable of accepting any personal blame for the debacle, Bob scapegoated the wife he already held in low esteem. Blaming Maureen wasn't entirely beyond the pale, anyway. It appears she was indeed a grasping, unhappy, unstable person who initiated & exploited the relationship with Williams.

One of the rules of life & politics is that you keep your marital problems to yourself. It's implied right there in the marriage vows. Secular law, to some extent, also recognizes this principle. In most circumstances, one cannot be forced to testify against her or his spouse in a criminal trial. Bob & Maureen were in just such a circumstance. But instead of asserting the spousal privilege, Bob did just the opposite -- he used the trial to savage his wife.

His testimony & that of the witnesses the defense called constituted a long-running demonstration of psychological spousal abuse. If this is the way he treats his wife on the public record, some jurors must have felt, then he probably treated her a lot worse in private. (The testimony of one of the McDonnell daughters suggested as much.) Intuitively, some of the jurors -- especially the women -- probably blamed Bob for being a prime cause of his wife's instability. I do.

The low regard in which he held his wife is not all that surprising, BTW. It was pretty clear to many women, even while he was maintaining his family-man pretense, that Transvaginal Bob holds all women -- except maybe the mythic Virgin Mary -- in low regard.

For years, Bob followed the marriage rules. He mugged with Mo for the cameras. He featured his family in campaign ads. He spoke and wrote about Christian family values. He appeared to be a partner in a normal, loving marriage. If the marriage was indeed a sham, it was a sham both Bob & Maureen kept secret. But all that seems to have changed when, in Bob's view, Maureen did something so egregious she got Bob in big trouble. The criminal charges seem to have pushed Bob over the edge. His long-simmering rage against his wife boiled over. He used his criminal trial as a vehicle to make public what he viewed as his personal trials.

As the AP reported, "Bob McDonnell's attorney, Henry Asbill, said his client did not receive a fair trial and will appeal. Asbill reiterated his previous statement that prosecutors sought to criminalize routine political behavior."

The appeal may be successful. His lawyers will likely argue -- as they did before the trial judge -- that the judge's jury instructions defined "criminal corruption" & conspiracy too broadly. An appellate court could agree. But in my view, it was not Bob who didn't get a fair trial. It was Maureen.

The final irony, of course, is that Bob was so blind in his hatred for his wife & so raw in his denunciation of her that his courtroom performance ended his political career. Oddly, he never saw that coming. Oblivious to the damage he caused himself, Bob McDonnell was still planning future political triumphs right up till the moment a court clerk read the first "guilty" verdict. The trouble is, more than half of voters are women voters. Women are not going to vote for Bob McDonnell again. Ever.

Update. What the Manicurist Says. Rosalind Helderman & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post go behind the scenes to reconstruct how the McDonnell prosecution came about: "Six months before the McDonnells were charged, the first lady made a stark prediction: Her husband would go to jail, she said, and it would all be her fault."

Saturday
Sep062014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 7, 2014

Chuck Todd interviews President Obama:

"Stop & Seize." Michael Sallah, et al., of the Washington Post: "After the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the government called on police to become the eyes and ears of homeland security on America's highways.... The effort succeeded, but it had an impact that has been largely hidden from public view: the spread of an aggressive brand of policing that has spurred the seizure of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from motorists and others not charged with crimes, a Washington Post investigation found.... Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of 'highway interdiction' to departments across the country.... A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network's chat rooms and sharing 'trophy shots' of money and drugs. Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities." ...

     ... CW: Of course there couldn't possibly be any racial profiling here.

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Among undocumented immigrants and activists working on their behalf, President Obama's decision to wait until after November's elections to make promised changes to immigration policy provoked raw anger. One group called the president's decision 'an affront' to migrant families. Another said Obama had 'prioritized politics over reform.'"

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "As the US military returned to combat in Iraq this summer, a group of jurors in Washington DC were hearing arguments over a dark chapter of the last war. Though some elements of the 2007 killing of 17 Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad road junction by Blackwater private security guards remain shrouded in mystery even after a trial that lasted 10 weeks, prosecutors provided overwhelming evidence that the tragedy was one of the most one-sided encounters of the US occupation."

Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department released two decade-old memos Friday night, offering the fullest public airing to date of the Bush administration's legal justification for the warrantless wiretapping of Americans' phone calls and e-mails -- a program that began in secret after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The broad outlines of the argument -- that the president has inherent constitutional power to monitor Americans' communications without a warrant in a time of war -- were known, but the sweep of the reasoning becomes even clearer in the memos written by then-Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, who was head of President George W. Bush's Office of Legal Counsel." ...

... The memos are here & here.

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: Texas state senator Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor, "has revealed her own deeply personal abortion story, writing in a memoir that in addition to the ectopic pregnancy in 1994, she ended a second pregnancy for medical reasons in 1997. Ms. Davis's descriptions of the abortions -- she and her then husband named the second unborn child Tate Elise Davis, who had a severe brain abnormality and to whom Ms. Davis dedicates the book in part -- have rallied Texas Democrats to her campaign."

It Takes a Village Idiot to find something to complain about in President Obama's brief side trip to Stonehenge. (As I recall, you can drive there from Newport, Wales, the site of the NATO meeting, in less than two hours.) I give you ...

... Maureen Dowd goes to a screening of the first episode of the upcoming season of Showtime's "Homeland." The first thing she thinks of: "The murderous melee that ensues [in the "Homeland" story] is redolent of President Obama's provocative remark at a Democratic Party fund-raiser in New York, talking about the alarming aggressions flaring up around the world and alluding to the sulfurous videos of the social-media savvy ISIS fiends beheading American journalists." It's a shame she has such a whiney voice. Otherwise, she would have been perfect for Chuck Todd's new panel of petty pundits.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Whatever Happened to Jason Blair? Edition. Caroline Bankoff. of New York: "Just a little over a month after being fired for at least 41 instances of plagiarism, former BuzzFeed viral politics editor Benny Johnson has been hired as the National Review's first-ever social media director. He'll begin his new job on Monday.... The National Review also just happens to be one of the many publications Johnson plagiarized from while he was at BuzzFeed. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!"

News Ledes

AP: "The U.S. military said Sunday it launched airstrikes around Haditha Dam in western Iraq, targeting Islamic State insurgents there for the first time in a move to prevent the group from capturing the vital dam. The strikes represented a broadening of the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State militants, moving the military operations closer to the border of Syria, where the group also has been operating."

New York Times: Serena Williams won her 18th Grand Slam singles tennis title today. "The top-ranked Williams defeated Caroline Wozniacki, 6-3, 6-3, to capture her third United States Open final in a row and sixth over all."

New York Times: "The United States launched a fresh series of airstrikes against Sunni fighters in Iraq late Saturday in what Defense Department officials described as a mission to stop militants from seizing an important dam on the Euphrates River and prevent the possibility of floodwaters being unleashed toward the capital, Baghdad."

Guardian: "Ukraine's ceasefire was breached repeatedly on Sunday as shelling was audible in the port city of Mariupol, and loud booms were also heard in the regional centre Donetsk. The ceasefire, agreed on Friday, held for much of Saturday, but shelling started overnight."

Guardian: "A doctor who became infected with Ebola while working in Liberia is sick, but in stable condition at the Nebraska Medical Center, officials said Friday. Dr Rick Sacra, 51, is being treated at the largest of the United States' four special isolation units. It was built to handle patients with highly infectious and deadly diseases, according to Dr Mark Rupp, chief of the infectious diseases division at the center."

Saturday
Sep062014

Chuck Todd Dooms "MTP"

UPDATE: You can watch a portion of Chuck's interview of President Obama here. Obama discusses immigration reform. Chuck repeatedly interrupts him. Edgy. NBC News will livestream the interview at 9:00 am ET Sunday. Maybe here. Update Update: Actually, here. Here's a clip of the clip:

Everything that’s been published about the incipient Chuck Todd Era of 'Meet the Press' indicates that the goal is to amplify the insufferable, backslappy culture that already pervades the Sunday shows. -- Simon Miloy of Salon

The big news yesterday came not via our usual, relatively reliable sources but from the consistently scummy "Page Six" gossip at the New York Post, via contributor Akhilleus. Emily Smith reports,

NBC is bringing in Luke Russert, son of the late beloved 'Meet the Press' host Tim Russert, as a regular panelist on the Sunday morning show in a bid to turn around its catastrophic ratings slide, Page Six has exclusively learned.

Also joining new moderator Chuck Todd’s team will be former Republican congressman and 'Morning Joe' host Joe Scarborough, who sources say 'is taking on a larger role within NBC News as a senior political analyst and would be one of the regular Sunday panelists.'

We’re told the move is part of a plan to bring a right-leaning voice to the program....

Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post and a few others, including NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, are also said to be in the mix for a new panel.

I'm no admirer of former Clinton prosecutor Joe Scarborough. But I admit it does make sense to have him on "Meet the Press" to represent a right-wing point of view. If you don't listen to the actual words that come out of Joe's mouth, you'll find a personable, affable guy who is not nearly as caustic as the regular Sunday roundtable winger guests -- Mary Matalin, George Will, Peggy Noonan, Newt Gingrich. That Scarborough is obstreperously, proudly, serially, ignorant comes with the territory; it's a must for people of his political persuasion and depth.

Nia-Malika Henderson -- whom Chuck has apparently designated to be his minority BFF -- is fine, though sometimes her roots at Politico show. Chuck's choice, however, leads me to suspect that he was afraid to pick the smartest, quickest wit among NBC's on-air black personalities -- Joy-Ann Reid. Another good choice, whom Chuck rejected: Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry. I reckon Chuck didn't want a black lady sidekick who was way sharper than he is.

AND, if you must have an old person with whom the codgers who are your primary (only??) audience can relate, I suppose Mrs. Alan Greenspan isn't the worst choice. She isn't quite as insipid as, say Cokie Roberts, and she does have deep creds, having been the first credentialed woman reporter to cover the Grover Cleveland administration. (That's the second Grover Cleveland administration.)

It's also a swell idea to counter Mitchell with a youngish pundit, a news junkie whose interests give her a wide understanding of politics & public policy but who at the same time can connect with people who usually get their news from "The Daily Show." Because of msnbc, it so happens that the network has quite a few young, highly-qualified on-air personalities: Steve Kornacki, Chris Hodges Hayes,* Alex Wagner, Ari Melber, to name a few. msnbc also often has young guest commentators or stand-in hosts like Ezra Klein.

So, with all these excellent choices -- and of course with hundreds of other choices currently outside NBC -- Chuck opts for Luke Russert. To be fair, legacies aren't necessarily dopes. To be fair, the Boy Russert is a dope. OR, as Hamilton Nolan of Gawker put it in a piece titled "'Meet the Press' to be Reimagined as Garbage Dump,' perhaps in the context Chuck himself had in mind, Luke "is himself basically just a dim 29-year-old dude, a valuable new demographic for MTP." 

Alex Pareene nailed the Trouble with Luke a couple of years ago:

... plenty of nepotism beneficiaries are wonderful writers and talented people. If you’re raised by interesting people and get a good education at home and at the finest schools, you really ought to turn out pretty smart. But Russert is emblematic of the sort of nepotism that gives nepotism a bad name. He’s not a wonderful writer or a particularly talented person. And unlike Chelsea Clinton and her very silly 'reporting good news about people who do charity or something' beat, he’s actually got a real journalism job that someone else without the name Russert could be doing much more effectively. He’s not even particularly good on TV.

Here's Russert the Younger, just this week, showing his sports acumen: "So, let’s call a spade a spade. The reason Michael Sam isn't on any active rosters isn't because he can’t play and isn’t because of the media circus, the reason why there is a slowness to signing him to a practice squad is probably because he's gay." I have no idea why Michael Sam isn't playing pro ball, but I know you don't lead into a comment about a black person by "calling a spade a spade." Idiot. ...

... Being a young guy, Luke has an abiding interest in sports. Here, while filling in for Andrea Mitchell, he cuts off an interview with Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) to "take a phoner" with a Cleveland sports reporter who broke the news that Le Bron James had joined the Cleveland Cavaliers. (More on this from Matt Wilstein of Mediaite here.) ...

... AND in more basketball news, Luke hoped again hope that boxer Floyd Mayweather would buy the L.A. Clippers team after racist owner Donald Sterling was drummed from the league. Outside the ring, Mayweather likes to box, too. He "has dodged significant jail time several times in domestic violence cases in Las Vegas and Michigan," a string of "wins" that came to an end in Las Vegas, when a judge sentenced him to 90 days for beating up his then-girlfriend. Also, Mayweather has made racist remarks about at least one opponent. Perhaps in Luke's mind, that makes Mayweather a perfect replacement for Sterling.

Sports reporting aside, Luke's pragmatic intellectualism should be a great asset on "MTP." Here he is in an on-air discussion this past summer "about the drug war and the immigration crisis at the American border. The money quote: You know what's one way to fix all this, Alex? If people in America would stop doing drugs when they go out at nightclubs every frickin' weekend.' 'Wow,' host Alex Wagner replied. 'Luke Russert conducting his own war on drugs.'" C'mon, Alex. Luke Russert just solved two problems in one sentence. AND totally dropped the dudeness.

Well, Luke isn't an expert on everything. Marcy Wheeler reproduces the transcript of that time Dylan Ratigan took Luke to the woodshed for his support of free trade agreements -- "it's a jobs creator!" Luke was completely flummoxed that anyone would question the rectitude of free trade agreements, much less claim they fostered the slave trade, murders & bank fraud. "You threw me off my game there a little bit," he says to Ratigan. Ratigan is long-gone from msnbc. And Luke is moving up the ladder. I guess we know who was right!

If he doesn't know much about policy, Luke does know politics. In 2012, he tweeted that the Democrats' giving Elizabeth Warren a prime-time slot at there convention had no "benefit" since Warren was "such a lightning rod for criticism." Also, too, maybe Republicans shouldn't have allowed Mitt Romney to speak at their convention after that 47 percent remark resulted in so much sparkly criticism. Charlies Pierce remarked at the time,

Elizabeth Warren was a janitor's daughter, the first member of her family who graduated from college, who worked her way up to become a tenured professor at the finest law school in the country. And Luke Russert, who's passing idiotic class-based judgments against her, is ... incredibly not any of that.

As it turned out, the very popular Sen. Warren gave a helluva a convention speech. For a mere $10,000-$15,000, you can have Luke come speak to you personally. The chance of his coming close to delivering the likes of Warren's stemwinder: somewhere around Fed interest rates.

Luke does know from airline travel, & he is ready to advise the flying public. He doesn't think much of people who bitch & moan about TSA regulations. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: "MSNBC resident dudebro reporter Luke Russert has a simple message for those complaining about new TSA rules that will require U.S.-bound passengers to turn on their cellular devices before boarding: 'Sack up!'” That's what he said on msnbc. I doubt if Chuck will allow Luke to use expressions like on the Real Network. Also, Luke really, really likes TSA-Pre -- he compares it to Moses' parting the Red Sea -- & thinks travellers should suck up (as opposed to sack up) and pay for it.

But even if he doesn't know much about a subject, Luke can always find an NRA handout or a Scott Walker press release to crib. From Daily Kos: Speaking to his guest Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, on the subject of gun control & school safety, Luke opined that "we need armed guards in the schools because, well, he has seen them at college football games. And increasing mental health services is a swell idea that should be paid for by gutting teachers’ pensions."

AND Luke has perfected the Beltway standard "both sides do it." When funnyman Louis Gohmert (RTP-Texas) "proposed an amendment to ban the president from playing golf until he resumed tours at the White House that had been canceled to prevent Secret Service furloughs due to automatic budget cuts," Russert told msnbc's Martin Bashir the move "looks bad on both sides." Bashir, amazed, challenged Russert, who stuck to his guns, insisting that cancelling White House tours was "petty." Of course, Bashir, like Ratigan, is gone from msnbc. And Luke is moving up the ladder. Lesson: do not fuck with the Scion of Tim!

"His Twitter feed," Alex Pareene wrote back in 2012, "presents a perfectly dull person with perfectly banal thoughts." It hasn't improved. After the Thad Cochran-Chris McDaniel primary, Luke tweeted that "only in America" could African-Americans do stuff in Mississippi. Probably true.

So just maybe Luke Russert is "dull" and "banal." But, people, it's the demographics. NBC may be stooping low, but they are stooping to conquer the kids. They have retained Luke to bring that youthful perspective to the stodgy Sunday mornings coming down. Herein is an awfully cute example of Russert's youthful perspective: he repeatedly asks Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi if having such an old lady as leader "prohibits the party from having a younger leadership & (stammer) hurts the party in the long term": 

(... Whoa, Nancy, don't get upset. At least Luke didn't kill you off before you died, as he did old Congressman Bill Young of Florida.) ...

... Russert, who understandably took flak for asking such an insulting question of Pelosi, fielded the shrapnel as a reflection of his super-dudeness: “I think honestly if someone else had asked that question it wouldn’t have been as big as it was. I think there’s a desire by people to sort of frame it as 'Nancy Pelosi goes after Luke Russert ... DUN DUN DUN.'”

Here he is asking a similar question, with equal grace, to veteran Congressman Charlie Rangel, then mired in a serious ethics scandal. Covering for Luke-Boy -- none other than Chuck Todd:

     ... Luke himself puts down Rangel's reaction to his question as a "blame-the-media" response.

Should you think Luke-Boy is full of himself, he begs to differ:

Now, should you want to be on? Yes. Everyone’s competitive; everyone wants to be on TV, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if I’m on 100 times instead of 106 times, it’s not the end of the world for me.... I’m more than content doing the things that are doled out.

AND He's Got Talent. Just ask him:

The news media is a results-oriented business. I don’t think a company like NBC would pay me if I wasn’t qualified and wasn’t able to produce on this level.... There will always be people who will say, ‘Oh, he’s only gotten where he is because of his father,’ and that certainly helped. But I’ve been able to stay here because of me.

Given Luke's documented lameness, you may be asking, "Why are they doing this?" My own theory is that NBC News is a self-perpetuating mediocrity, the suits -- including those who wear skirts -- aren't very bright, don't give a flying fuck about journalism & think goals like "excellence" & "integrity" are for wusses. But I wouldn't discount Driftglass's theory either:

Meanwhile, unless this is some eleven-dimensional chess, Inception shit and someone has gotten into Luke Russert's dreams and convinced him to get in there and deliberately tear down his Daddy's empire, none of this makes a lick of sense.

* Thanks, Barbarossa.

Friday
Sep052014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 6, 2014

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama has delayed action to reshape the nation's immigration system without congressional approval until after the November elections, bowing to the concerns of Senate Democrats on the ballots, White House officials said on Saturday. The decision is a striking reversal of Mr. Obama's vow to take action on immigration soon after summer's end. The president made that promise on June 30, standing in the Rose Garden, where he angrily denounced Republican obstruction and said he would use the power of his office to protect immigrant families from the threat of deportation."

Alix Bryan of CBS Richmond: Bob "McDonnell will have his license to practice law removed once the Virginia State Bar receives notice of his felony convictions. There is also chance that he could lose his pension, due to a law he signed into effect in 2011. The legislation states that retirement benefits are forfeited upon certain felony convictions. This means that McDonnell could lose the pensions he earned while serving as an Army Reserves lieutenant colonel, Virginia Attorney General, and as a lawmaker in the House of Delegates." CW: Now that would be ironic. The value of his pensions is far more than the value of the gifts he & Maureen took from Williams. ...

... Dahlia Lithwick: "Whatever shame [the McDonnells] brought on the office of governor by their dealings with Williams was overshadowed by the shame of their legal strategy. The jurors must have felt unimaginably filthy listening to gruesome tales of a 'nutbag' first lady, rebuffed letters from the governor trying to resolve marital spats, and tween-grade text messages to a man Maureen McDonnell was allegedly 'obsessed with.' As the jurors begin to talk, we may begin to get some insight into why they came down so hard on the former first couple. But one possibility is that you just can't explain lies with lies. And the McDonnell strategy always seemed to be just that: 'We couldn't have been lying to you about our finances, Virginia, because we were too busy lying to you about everything else." ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: "As the jury seems to have recognized..., the stories about Maureen's fascination with Williams and Bob's emotional absence were never more than a distraction. The defense didn't make legal or emotional sense, and it didn't fit the facts of the case. There is no requirement, in the law or anywhere else, that we love our co-conspirators, or even that we find them tolerable. A couple can be spiteful and venal all at once." ...

I would love to spend about a month on a beach. Just reading books. I've got 25 books on my night stand.... I got a bunch of them there I'd like to read. But that, honestly, a little R and R and a lot of pleasure reading is what I'd like to do. -- Bob McDonnell, August 15, 2013, in answer to a question about how he'd like to spend his post-gubernatorial days

Things always work out for the best. Bob will now have plenty of time to read those books. Too bad about the beach thing. -- Constant Weader

... Tim Noah of msnbc: "To whatever extent the 2009 [Virginia] governor's race turned on family values, Virginia voters couldn't, in retrospect, have been more wrong in finding [Bob] McDonnell superior to his Democratic opponent, Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds. McDonnell wouldn't accept a plea bargain to spare his family. Deeds, by contrast, nearly died for his this past November. A judge had ordered Deeds's 24-year-old son Gus, who suffered from severe mental illness, to be committed involuntarily. But a hospital bed couldn't be found, and so Deeds took him home, where Gus stabbed his father multiple times in the head and chest before shooting himself dead. In a speech in March, Deeds called the son who very nearly killed him 'my hero.' It's hard to resist comparing that statement with some of the things McDonnell said on the stand about a wife who merely yelled at him." ...

It's like House of Cards without the cunning. -- Joe Coscarelli of New York

... Josh Gerstein of Politico speculates on why the prosecution -- same lead prosecutor, BTW -- won the McDonnells corruption case but lost the John Edwards corruption case, even though the Edwards case involved a lot more money & centered around Edwards' extremely sleazy behavior.

Annie Gowen, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine agreed Friday to a temporary cease-fire, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said, raising the prospect of at least a brief respite in an increasingly bloody conflict. At a NATO summit in Wales, President Obama welcomed the announcement while expressing skepticism that the separatists and their Russian backers would adhere to the truce and other commitments." ...

... Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times: "As the truce went into effect, fighting that had raged throughout the day around the strategic port city of Mariupol tapered off, and Ukrainian soldiers could be seen pulling back to their bases. But in interviews, the troops said they had not yet received orders to stand down."

Phil Stewart & Julien Ponthus of Reuters: "The United States said it had created a 'core coalition' on Friday to battle Islamic State militants in Iraq, calling for broad support from allies and partners around the world but ruling out committing ground forces. [U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck] Hagel told ministers from Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark that they, with the United States, formed the core group for tackling the Sunni militant group." ...

... Hayes Brown of Think Progress compares President Obama's 'core coalition' against ISIS with President Bush II's 2003 "coalition of the willing." ...

... Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast: "There's widespread frustration in both chambers and both parties about President Obama's admission that 'we don't have a strategy yet' to deal with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But now the lack of strategy is actually protecting Obama from oversight because Congress can't authorize or reject what it can't understand. In fact, the White House has been totally mum on how it plans to legally justify the air war in Iraq after the temporary authority granted to it in the War Powers Resolution expires.... With only two weeks in September to legislate, there's little to no chance Congress will act before its next recess, which means the issue will be punted to the post-election lame duck session."

Mitt Romney, first-runner up in the 2012 presidential beauty contest, in a Washington Post op-ed: "Russia invades, China bullies, Iran spins centrifuges, the Islamic State (a terrorist threat 'beyond anything that we've seen,' according to the defense secretary) threatens -- and Washington slashes the military." ...

... Paul Waldman: "In a comically ridiculous op-ed, the failed presidential candidate explains why the largest military on earth is actually a scrawny loser getting sand kicked in its face." CW: I'd say the vast Not-President Romney financial empire includes some flagging munitions stocks.

CW: This is obvious, but it's worth highlighting. The Republican party is never, ever going to reconstitute itself as "the Party of Lincoln" because it now owns the Confederacy. Jonathan Chait: "Given that the alliance between the white South and the Republican Party has grown more firm than ever, it is hard to imagine how the party can refashion itself along Lincolnian or Rooseveltian lines."

Steve Benen explains the hacking of Healthcare.gov to shoot-first-and-never-ask-questions GOP critics: "Was healthcare.gov hacked? Not really. A test server was uploaded with 'denial of service' malware -- a practice 'so common that it's attempted 28 different times every hour.' The healthcare.gov site itself was unharmed. Was healthcare.gov specifically targeted? No. Was any consumer information compromised? No. Was any data transmitted? No. Was there an attempt to steal data? No. Was the website knocked offline? No."

Steven Pinker in the New Republic on "the trouble with Harvard." "... it's common knowledge that Harvard selects at most 10 percent (some say 5 percent) of its students on the basis of academic merit.... Elite universities are nothing close to being meritocracies. We know that because they don't admit most of their students on the basis of academic aptitude. And perhaps that's what we should try next."

Beyond the Beltway

... Michael Keys of the Blot: "The chief of police for the Ferguson Police Department misled members of the media and the public when he asserted that his hand was forced in releasing surveillance footage that purported to show 18-year-old resident Michael Brown engaged in a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store.... When questioned by members of the press about the tape -- which apparently had nothing to do with the fatal shooting of the unarmed teenager -- [Ferguson Police Chief Tom] Jackson told reporters that he was legally obligated to release the tape because members of the media had submitted an open records requests for it.... 'We got a lot of Freedom of Information requests for this tape, and at some point it was just determined we had to release it. We didn't have good cause, any other reason not to release it under FOI.' ... A review of open records requests sent to the Ferguson Police Department found that no news organization, reporter or individual specifically sought the release of the surveillance tape before police distributed it on Aug. 15." (Emphasis added.) Read Keys' whole report, or at least click on his site, please. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the lead. ...

... CW Note: A few weeks ago, a couple of readers sent me this image of Michael Brown, who is pointing a gun at the camera & holding a wad of cash in his teeth. I think the readers got the images from their right-wing friends or relatives. The images have appeared all over the winger blogosphere & have showed up in the comments sections of legitimate news outlets. I figured the picture was of a kid being a jerk. And it is. But Michael Brown isn't the jerk. KCTV of Kansas reports that the man in the photo is Joda Cain, an accused killer from Oregon.

Senate Races

John Judis & Brian Beutler of the New Republic: Kansas Senate Democratic nominee Chad "Taylor dropped out [of the race], he claims, under assurances from the Kansas Secretary of State's office that his official withdrawal would remove his name from the ballot. But the Kansas Secretary of State is Kris Kobach -- a veteran GOP vote suppressor and one of the intellectual forces behind 'self-deportation.' He serves on [Sen. Pat] Roberts' honorary campaign committee. And on Thursday, he pulled an apparent bait and switch. Taylor's name, he concluded, will remain on the ballot. Election law guru Rick Hasen writes that though Taylor has a case, the question of what the courts will do is a tossup.... Normally [Republicans make] it hard for Democrats to vote in the first place. This time around it means trying to trick low-information Democrats into voting for a candidate who isn't running. But it's still voter suppression." ...

... The Disappearance of Pat Roberts. Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report: "Roberts' long-time campaign manager LeRoy Towns told The Wichita Eagle after the [primary] race was over. 'He went back home for two days or three to rest. I think he's going to come back here the first of next week,' said Towns, referencing Roberts' home in Virginia. Towns' comments seemed tone deaf considering Roberts was dogged by residency questions throughout the race.... 'He does intend to spend every moment between now and the election in Kansas, I think, that he can,' Towns also told the Eagle. But, according to Republicans familiar with the race, that just hasn't happened.... Roberts has not been actively campaigning for about a month now." Via David Nir of Daily Kos.

Thom Tillis, Throwback. Michael LaRosa of msnbc: North Carolina GOP nominee Thom"Tillis, who referred to [Sen. Kay] Hagan [D-N.C.] simply as 'Kay' during the hour-long debate and came under fire by some for taking a condescending tone toward Hagan, questioned the Senator's ability to comprehend budgets, math and policy.... 'I'm actually insulted by his comments, [Hagan] said. 'I was a Vice President of a bank. I wrote billion dollar state budgets in North Carolina. I understand math.'" CW: She's also on the Senate Banking Committee. ...

... Here's Tillis during Tuesday's debate whacking Hagan again & again for, you know, being a silly little woman who just can't understand big-boy subjects like math:

Gail Collins: "Republicans in close elections suddenly turn into cheerleaders for over-the-counter birth control pills. A negative and suspicious mind might almost suspect they were following a script." ...

... CW: Also, of course, this could force women to pay for this own contraception instead of getting it "free" under their insurance policies. ...

... Cathleen Decker of the Los Angeles Times in a straight news report: "Under the healthcare law, contraceptives are to be available without a co-pay. If the medication becomes available over the counter, most will not be covered by health insurance, meaning that drugs that have become more affordable would suddenly be less so."