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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 only thing I’d be impartial about is what prison this guy goes to. -- Prospective Juror, Martin Shkreli trial ...

... Harper's republishes some of the jury selection proceedings in the Martin Shkreli case.

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America."

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody."

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings."

Click on the picture to see larger image.... AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress."

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco."

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers."

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends."

Constant Comments

Wednesday
Dec312014

The Commentariat -- January 1, 2015

Dave Barry's Year in Review 2014, in the Washington Post. ...

... Here's Gail Collins' year-end quiz. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. CW: I decided not to take the quiz when I figured the answer to the first question must be "all of the above," & all of the above" was not among the possible answers. ...

     ... CW Update: Okay, I relented & took the quiz & got 'em all right (I usually miss at least one.) I still bet the best answer to No. 1 is "all of the above."

Rachel Abrams of the New York Times: "By Thursday, minimum wage increases will go into effect in 20 states ... as well as in the District of Columbia. A few other states will enact a pay bump later in the year.... The federal minimum wage has not been increased since 2007. President Obama has proposed raising it to $10.10 an hour, but that effort has stalled in Congress. Despite the popularity of minimum wage increases in many states, including those dominated by Republicans, and favorable attitudes toward higher minimum pay expressed in many public opinion polls, the federal proposals are unlikely to gain much traction in 2015, especially now that Republicans control the House and the Senate." ...

     ... CW: Thanks to Abrams for placing the blame where it belongs -- on Congressional Republicans.

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced Wednesday that he would commute the sentences of Maryland's four remaining death-row inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The decision comes nearly two years after the legislature repealed capital punishment in Maryland at O'Malley's urging, and three weeks before O'Malley will complete his second and final term in office. He is considering running for president in 2016." Gov. O'Malley's statement is here.

Stephanie Grace, a Louisiana political reporter and columnist for the past 20 years, first with The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and now The Advocate of Baton Rouge, recalled her first meeting with Mr. Scalise.

He [Steve Scalise] was explaining his politics and we were in this getting-to-know-each-other stage. He told me he was like David Duke without the baggage. -- Stephanie Grace, a Louisiana political reporter and columnist for the past 20 years..., recalling her first meeting with Scalise ...

... Jeremy Alford of the New York Times: "Two decades [after white supremacist* David Duke almost won Louisiana's gubernatorial election], much of his campaign has merged with the political mainstream here, and rather than a bad memory from the past, Mr. Duke remains a window into some of the murkier currents in the state's politics where Republicans have sought and eventually won Mr Duke's voters, while turning their back on him." CW: In reading the article, one is left with the impression -- I don't think it a misimpression -- that Louisiana Republicans have dropped racist rhetoric as a political strategy but not as an ideology.

     *Now the former KKK leader claims he's not a racist, just an anti-Semite, or rather a fierce opponent of "the ultimate racists, the Jewish, Zionist tribalists." Okay, then.

Jana Winter of the Intercept: "The hackers who infiltrated Sony Pictures Entertainment's computer servers have threatened to attack an American news media organization, according to an FBI bulletin obtained by The Intercept. The threat against the unnamed news organization by the Guardians of Peace, the hacker group that has claimed credit for the Sony attack, 'may extend to other such organizations in the near future,' according to a Joint Intelligence Bulletin of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security obtained by The Intercept." CW: No nude pictures of Chuck Todd, please. ...

     ... Matthew Keys of the Desk surmises the targeted news organization is CNN, "based on copies of messages posted to Pastebin on December 20. The messages have since been removed from Pastebin." Okay, nude pix of Wolf Blitzer. But don't publish any of his dippy random thoughts shared in e-mails. That would be too much.

Andy Greenberg of Wired: "The mysterious corner of the Internet known as the Dark Web is designed to defy all attempts to identify its inhabitants. But one group of researchers has attempted to shed new light on what those users are doing under the cover of anonymity. Their findings indicate that an overwhelming majority of their traffic is driven by the Dark Web's darkest activity: the sexual abuse of children.... The researchers' disturbing statistics could raise doubts among even the staunchest defenders of the Dark Web as a haven for privacy. 'Before we did this study, it was certainly my view that the dark net is a good thing,' says [Gareth] Owen[, who conducted the study]. 'But it's hampering the rights of children and creating a place where pedophiles can act with impunity.'"

Thomas Fuller & Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: "Although in recent years there were glimmers of hope that aviation safety might be improving, the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501 into the Java Sea on Sunday has renewed concerns that Indonesia cannot keep up with the ever-growing popularity of air travel as incomes rise and low-cost carriers multiply."

Idaho, State of Denial. Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post: Veronica Rutledge, the woman whose two-year-old son shot her dead in an Idaho WalMart, had the gun zipped in a purse designed to carry a concealed weapon, a Christmas gift from her husband. The boy's paternal grandfather Terry Rudledge is "angry at the observers already using the accident as an excuse to grandstand on gun rights." ...

... Jessica Glenza of the Guardian: Rutledge was a nuclear research scientist.

New Realities/Old Biases. Benjamin Wallace-Wells of New York: "In the debates over policing that followed the tragedies of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and officers Ramos and Liu, race has assumed the central role, displacing crime. This has brought about a more direct confrontation with our remaining national sickness around race, but it has also surfaced an atavistic, tribal strain in our politics, reminiscent of the racialized fights of an earlier era.... Instead of a reasonable, technocratic decision to adjust policies of policing and punishment to a place where there is much less crime, [the usual suspects] saw the debate as a declaration of allegiances -- of whose side you were on." ...

... Al Baker & David Goodman of the New York Times: "A top [New York City police] union official flatly denied that there was a job action and pointed to the orders to double up and the need to police demonstrations as the main reasons [for a drastic reduction in arrests & ticketing since the murders of officers Rafael Ramos & Wenjian Liu].... Still, one senior police official who reviewed precinct-level data across the city said the decline had the signs of an organized effort and was continuing this week.... 'Ironically, this is the kind of thing we're calling for,' said Robert Gangi, the director of the Police Reform Organizing Project. 'It's officers deciding on their own to, in effect, scale back on the application of broken-windows policing.'"

Evan Ratliff of the New Yorker writes a devastating post mortem of Michael Grimm's "pugnacious career in government service." ...

... CW: Something I completely missed: Tim Mak of the National Post (September 2010): "Grimm told the interviewer on NY1's Inside City Hall that [his Democratic Congressional opponent Michael] Allegretti 'sleep[s] under a blanket of freedom that I helped provide.... You should just say thank you.' The original line, said by Jack Nicholson's Colonel Jessep to Tom Cruise's Lieutenant Kaffee in the film, was that Kaffee 'sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I'd prefer you just said "thank you" and went on your way.' As if for comical effect, Grimm later told the interviewer that 'what you see in my life, you've seen in the movies.'"

Jennifer Schuessler of the New York Times: "The criticism of the film ['Selma''s] depiction of the president [Lyndon Johnson] has come not just from Johnson loyalists, but from some historians who said they admired other aspects of the film.... Diane McWhorter, the author of 'Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution,' said in an interview. '... with the portrayal of L.B.J., I kept thinking, "Not only is this not true, it's the opposite of the truth.'... 'They [the filmmakers] obviously wanted to create a villain, and really miss who Lyndon Johnson was," [Prof. Julian Zelizer] said." ...

... NEW. Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: In the film, Martin Luther King, Jr. says to President Johnson, "'Mr. President, in the South, there have been thousands of racially motivated murders. We need your help!' To which he gets a pat on the shoulder. 'Dr. King, this thing's just going to have to wait,' Johnson says. In real life, that December 1964 meeting happened -- but not that way, according to one who was there. 'It was not very tense at all. We were very much welcomed by President Johnson,' recalled former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador Andrew Young, who attended the session as a young lieutenant to King. 'He and Martin never had that kind of confrontation.'... Young recalled the real-life meeting in an interview with The Post in a three-way phone conversation in which [film director Ava] DuVernay was also on the line. She declined to be interviewed on the record for this article.... Johnson's daughters, Lynda Bird Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson, are furious about how their father is portrayed in the film, according to several sources." ...

... CW: The year Martin Luther King, Jr., was born -- 1929 -- LBJ was teaching Mexican-American children in a segregated school in Texas. He later said of that experience, "I shall never forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that little Welhausen Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain of realizing and knowing then that college was closed to practically every one of those children because they were too poor. And I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American." Johnson had an affinity for the civil rights movement even before MLK was in short pants. When he was veep, Johnson pushed a reluctant President Kennedy on civil rights issues, & he used Kennedy's assassination as a vehicle to get Congress to pass "Kennedy"'s Civil Rights Act of 1964. Johnson's own remarkable "Gettysburg Address" -- May 1963 -- went considerably further than Kennedy ever did on the issue of civil rights:

Presidential Election

The New Jeb! Tom Hamburger & Lindsey Layton of the Washington Post: "Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, moving closer to a possible presidential run, has resigned all of his corporate and nonprofit board memberships, including with his own education foundation, his office said late Wednesday night. He also resigned as a paid adviser to a for-profit education company that sells online courses to public university students in exchange for a share of their tuition payments.... The effort underscores the lengths to which Bush ... appears willing to go to avoid pitfalls that hurt the party in 2012." CW: Because everybody will be convinced that Divested 2015 Jeb is totally different from Money-Grubbing 2014 Jeb.

News Ledes

New York Post: "Two top executives at the New York State Thruway Authority submitted their resignations Wednesday -- ahead of a scathing investigative report on the agency's operations, sources said. Executive Director Tom Madison and his chief of staff, John Bryan, have been forced out, sources told The Post."

New York Times: "Egypt's highest appeals court on Thursday ordered a retrial for three imprisoned journalists from Al Jazeera's English-language network, in what appeared to be a belated acknowledgment of deep flaws in a case that focused international criticism on the country's government. But the decision, after a brief hearing Thursday morning, offered no guarantees that the journalists would be freed. Lawyers for the journalists said that the judge had declined requests to suspend their clients' sentences as they awaited a new trial, as a result extending their imprisonment, which has lasted for more than a year."

New York Times: "Edward Herrmann, a stalwart American actor of patrician bearing and earnest elocutionary style who became familiar across a spectrum of popular entertainment, from movies and television shows to plays, audiobooks and advertisements, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 71."

Tuesday
Dec302014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 31, 2014

Jackie Calmes & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Speaker John A. Boehner on Tuesday expressed 'full confidence' in Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 3 Republican leader in the House, as he sought to quell a racially charged controversy shaking the party after Mr. Scalise confirmed that he had addressed a white supremacist group a dozen years ago.... At nearly the same time, Mr. Scalise released a statement disavowing the group of white supremacists he spoke to in 2002, when he was a state representative.... The spokesman for Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, [earlier in the day] wrote on Twitter that Mr. Boehner's 'silence on Scalise' was 'another example of his consistent failure to stand up to extreme GOP elements.'" ...

... Ed O'Keefe & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Some Republicans praised Boehner for his actions, expressing their eagerness to start the new Congress in a position of strength to fully exploit their gains in the midterm elections. But others worried about the potential political fallout...." ...

... Jeff Singer of Daily Kos: "There's a good reason why Boehner would want Scalise to stick around, warts and all. As Politico's Jake Sherman notes, Boehner has his own leadership election a week from now. While he is favored to stay on as speaker, conservative activists are making noise about unseating him. RedState's Erick Erickson is claiming that anti-Boehner forces in the House have close to the number of votes they need to deny him another term, or at least embarrass the speaker by sending him to a second ballot. Even if Erickson is bluffing, Boehner won't want to take any chances, especially after his surprisingly close call in the 2013 speakership race." ...

     ... Alex Pappas of the Daily Caller: "Though ousting Boehner is seen as a long shot endeavor, the hope of the [ultra-conservative] anti-Boehner bloc is for enough Republicans to deny Boehner a majority of the vote, which would cause him to drop out of the race." ...

... Brian Beutler: "There's a problem with southern Republican politics if an up-and-coming star stumbles heedless into a white supremacist convention in the course of his constituent outreach, and then doesn't notice the mistake for more than a decade." Beutler also reminds us why Scalise is in a top leadership position: "... by beating [then-Majority Leader Eric] Cantor [(R.Va.), Tea Partier David] Brat shook up the leadership hierarchy in the House, and spooked the remaining leaders into welcoming one of those hardliners into their ranks as a token. That token was Steve Scalise." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... the Republican party — and the Movement conservatism that is its only life force -- once again faces the same choice it has faced since that day in 1964, when Strom Thurmond blew the trumpet and led his supporters out of the bondage of the party of equal rights. It can look at Steve Scalise and see that its success is that of the Political Party Of Dorian Grey. Steve Scalise is the public face. But, up in the corner of the attic, there's a portrait of the rotting, decomposing corpse of Strom Thurmond, the decay deepening with every election won by the tactics he so completely pioneered." ...

... Tail Wags Dog. CW: John Boehner, dear friends, has made his choice. He's going with Strom. Never has a "leader" been so afeard of his followers. ...

... Yay! Hannity Has My Back. Cliven Bundy's former BFF Sean Hannity, told Breitbart News that John Boehner should "step aside for the good of the country and the conservative movement." Hannity prefers to see the House speakership go to the fellow to the right -- way to the right -- here. Via Mediaite. ...

... Up Jumped the Devil in a White Nightgown. Brett Logiurato of Fusion: "Duke was rather flabbergasted by the new focus on Scalise. He said he has hosted both Democratic and Republican legislators at everything from conferences to his children's birthday parties. He said he has met with Democratic legislators at least 50 times in his political life. And he delivered a warning to both Republicans and Democrats: Treat Scalise fairly, and don't try to make political hay out of the situation. Or he said he would be inclined to release a list of names of all the politicians -- both Republicans and Democrats -- with whom he has ties." Via Mediaite. ...

... Here's a new & different narrative. Betsy Woodruff of Slate: "Kenny Knight is a longtime associate of David Duke..., said on Tuesday that it's 'totally incorrect' to say Scalise spoke at that convention.... According to Knight, the EURO conference was slated to start in the early afternoon," but he rented the room beginning earlier in the day & arranged for Scalise, a parish firefighter & a Red Cross rep to address the Jefferson Heights Civic Association, which "was largely comprised of elderly people who lived in his and Scalise's neighborhood.... Though that event was in the conference's hospitality room, it wasn't at all related to the EURO event, he said." ...

... Nonetheless, Knight told the Washington Post, "Now, at the time, I was a prominent person in state politics. I was on the radio, I was doing campaigns. Steve knew who I was, but I don't think he held it against me. He knew I lived by his street and that I was active in our community." And according to David Duke, "I think Scalise would talk to Kenny because he recognized how popular I was in his own district. He knew that knowing what I was doing and saying wouldn't be the worst thing politically. Kenny would keep Scalise up to date on my issues." CW: If these guys are telling the truth, Scalise is either a flat-our liar himself, or -- to put him the best light -- he was using his association with these reprehensible men to advance his own political career. This is the person in whom John Boehner has "full confidence."

Ross Barkan of the New York Observer: (Link here.) "The balcony threat. The time spent in the bar bathroom. The guilty plea. House Speaker John Boehner, who reportedly pressured Congressman Michael Grimm to announce his resignation early this morning, said he still appreciated what Mr. Grimm, a fellow Republican, brought to the table in his brief, chaotic tenure as Staten Island's representative in Washington. 'Rep. Grimm made the honorable decision to step down from his seat in Congress,' Mr. Boehner said in a statement today. 'I know it was made with the best interests of his constituents and the institution in mind, and I appreciate his years of service in the House.'" CW: If only David Duke had showed more support for Grimm, Mikey might not have had to resign. ...

... The Continued Excellence of the Grand Old Party. Ross Barkan: "Congressman Michael Grimm's resignation is set to clear the way for a controversial Staten Island District Attorney to run for office with the Republican establishment's support, GOP sources say. Daniel Donovan, the Staten Island district attorney who most recently failed to secure an indictment in the Eric Garner case, is lining up support behind-the-scenes for a bid to replace Mr. Grimm. And Mr. Donovan, well-liked by the borough's Republican machine, is a front-runner to win the backing of the Staten Island Republican Party in a special election that will likely be held sometime next year, sources say." ...

... Patrick McGeehan & Jason Horowitz of the New York Times name some others who may run for Grimm's seat.

Luckily Republicans Still Have the Same Great Ideas They've Had for Decades. John Harwood of the New York Times runs down a number of ways various liberals & conservatives propose to reduce income inequality. "... the most popular conservative idea for boosting incomes is overhauling corporate taxation." You got that right: cutting corporate taxes is the GOP's plan for reducing income & wealth inequality. Thirty years after trickle-down economics theory proved as disastrous as its critics predicted, Republicans are still trying to sell the policy as a great equalizer. (That's partly what Paul Ryan's "dynamic scoring" is about -- pretending that cutting taxes on the rich will boost the economy so much that tax revenues will actually increase.)

New York Times Editors: "Many members of the New York Police Department are furious at Mayor Bill de Blasio and, by extension, the city that elected him. They have expressed this anger with a solidarity tantrum, repeatedly turning their backs to show their collective contempt. But now they seem to have taken their bitterness to a new and dangerous level -- by walking off the job.... This action is repugnant and inexcusable. It amounts to a public act of extortion by the police.... The Police Department ... needs to police itself. Rank-and-file officers deserve a department they can be proud of, not the insular, defiant, toxically politicized constituency that [Police Benevolent Association president Patrick] Lynch seems to want to lead." ...

... Joan Walsh of Salon: For the NYPD, & for a lot of white New Yorkers, 2014 is the 1970s all over again. "O'Reilly, Hannity and a defiant NYPD are fighting battles of 50 years ago. The chaos [of the 70s] ended but the backlash endures." ...

... If you want to see what's wrong with the NYPD, watch this video Haley S. linked in today's comments. You can watch the first 30 seconds or so to get a flavor of the gag, which is cute, then cursor to 2:25 min. in if you don't have time to watch the whole thing:

... P.S. Cops white, performer black. Pure coincidence. ...

... TMZ: "TMZ has learned NYPD has opened an investigation into the incident. What's unclear is why Alexander chose to pull this stunt four days after two NYPD officers were assassinated. Not a bright move." ...

... CW: Really? Two officers were murdered days before, & that's a justification for police brutality? I'll admit I probably wouldn't pull this around law enforcement officers on the chance I might interfere with their duties. But the video suggests these cops were doing what my husband always said NYPD cops did best: "Standing around talking about their girlfriends."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "President Barack Obama will not renominate controversial Georgia judicial nominee Michael Boggs to the federal bench in 2015, according to the state's two Republican senators. Boggs drew widespread opposition from Senate Democrats, including Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, for his record as a Georgia state legislator on gay marriage, abortion and the Confederate flag." The GOP senators still support Boggs. Of course.

Kate Zernicke & Jesse McKinley of the New York Times: "It may amount to little more than ceremony, but efforts are underway in New York and New Jersey to try to override vetoes by the governors of legislation that sought to curb patronage and political interference at the Port Authority.... While Republicans supported the legislation, they have never supported an override of Mr. Christie, who is known for enforcing strict party discipline."

Washington Post Editors: "Having convincingly made that principled case against capital punishment, it's time for [Gov. Martin] O'Malley [D-Md.] to follow through by commuting the sentences of the four men who remain on Maryland's death row before he leaves office Jan. 21.... Ever since a state court ruled in 2006 that Maryland's procedures for lethal injections were unconstitutional, the state has lacked a valid regulatory scheme to carry out executions. And, having abolished capital punishment last year, it cannot now implement regulations to carry out a punishment that no longer is authorized by law."

Today in American Greed

Heart of Darkness. Marianne Levine of Politico: Former Enron trader and Texas billionaire John Arnold is the dark money go-to guy on efforts to "reform" public pensions; i.e., turn them into decidedly less generous 401(k) plans. "Arnold's critics ... question his fitness to evangelize for pension austerity, given that he made his fortune at a company that in its 2001 collapse wiped out $2 billion of its own employee pension funds and cost public employees whose pension funds invested in Enron an additional $1.5 billion. 'We're talking about a former Enron executive who profited off a bankruptcy that destroyed the retirement savings of millions of hard-working Americans,' says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers." CW: Unfortunately, Arnold, like the billionaire Koch brothers, et al., will never have a Scrooge moment where he confronts the errors of his ways. By today's standards, "Dickensian" is a term of great expectations that will go unrealized.

Marc Tracy & Tim Rohan of the New York Times: "After taking a sociology exam, Cardale Jones, a quarterback at Ohio State, posted a message on Twitter that echoed across college sports: 'Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.' Two years after publishing that provocative statement, Jones will be the starting quarterback on Thursday against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, the second semifinal game of college football's new playoff system -- and his words have renewed relevance. Never has the sport been so awash in money, a growth industry on campuses that some observers believe increasingly resembles professional football more than higher education."

Slacktivist Nation. Dana Milbank: "I watched the Christmas Day opening of 'The Interview,' to show North Korea that I wasn't afraid of its threats to blow up theaters that screen the parody of Kim Jong Un.... My patriotic gesture was a form of Slacktivism -- a uniquely American form of engagement in which statements are made without any real sacrifice.... This can be traced back to September 2001, when President George W. Bush launched wars without calling for sacrifice from Americans -- other than to spend money." Milbank suggests expanding youth national service. "... most service programs have been frozen or cut in recent years, as Congress refuses President Obama's requests for them."

Today in Gun Violence. NBC News: "A two-year-old child fatally shot his mother at an Idaho Walmart after the toddler reached into the woman's purse and discharged a concealed weapon, police said." A somewhat more detailed Los Angeles Times story, by Lauren Raab, is here. CW: It is heartbreaking to see someone die just for being stupid, but that is what happened here.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd., Gaffe Edition. Chuck Todd explains Sunday Show "journalism" to comedians:

Lewis Black: I have watched you and everybody else where somebody comes on. I don't know how you do it. Because I would be barking at them. Because they sit there and go 'glib glib [blah blah]' and you sit there.

Chuck Todd: We all sit there because we all know the first time we bark is the last time we do the show.... All of a sudden, no one will come on your show.

... CW: That's right. If the host insults guests -- no matter how big a lie the guests tell -- the "journalist"/host lets it pass because s/he wants these lying dirtbags to appear on the show again. By design, then, the Sunday Showz eschew rudimentary journalism. Yes, we knew that. But isn't it nice to hear a Sunday Show star admit that these shows are shams? Via Egberto Willies of Daily Kos.

News Ledes

oston Globe: "The trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, accused of orchestrating the Boston Marathon bombings, will begin January 5 after a federal judge rejected the defense's request to postpone the trial. US District Judge George A. O'Toole also denied the defense's request to move the trial to another district."

CCTV: "At least 35 people are dead, and 43 are injured during a New Year's celebration on the Bund, a waterfront area in central Shanghai. Sina News has reported that masses of crowds in Chen Yi Square on the Bund led to the stampede. The Shanghai government reported that the stampede started at 11:35 pm local time. Authorities are working now to rescue and aid wounded."

New York Times: "The United States transferred five detainees from the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to Kazakhstan, the Defense Department announced late Tuesday. It was the last in a flurry of year-end moves as President Obama sought to fulfill his promise to close the American-run prison. The five former detainees -- three Yemenis and two Tunisians -- are 'free men' for all intents and purposes after the transfer, a senior official in the Obama administration said. Officials declined to disclose the security assurances reached between the United States and Kazakhstan or detail how the men would be prevented from returning to battlefields in Afghanistan or Pakistan."

Monday
Dec292014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 30, 2014

Robert Costa & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the newly elected House majority whip, acknowledged Monday that he spoke at a gathering hosted by white nationalist leaders while serving as a state representative in 2002, thrusting a racial controversy into House Republican ranks days before the party assumes control of both congressional chambers.... That organization, founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In a statement, Scalise's spokesperson Moira Bagley emphasized that the then-state lawmaker was unaware at the time of the group's ideology and its association with racists and neo-Nazi activists.... Scalise's defense ... contrasts with the local press coverage generated by the Duke-coordinated conclave that spring.... 'It's hard to believe, given David Duke's reputation in Louisiana, that somebody in politics in Louisiana wasn't aware of Duke's associations with the group and what they stand for,' [Rep. Joaquin] Castro said.... Scalise's appearance at the event was first reported by blogger Lamar White Jr., who manages a Web site on Louisiana politics." ...

... Lamar White, Jr.: The Duke group, called the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO, "... espouses and promotes racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic propaganda and considers the 'white race' to be genetically, culturally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually superior to all others." One of Scalise's fellow-speakers at the "conference" was "Vincent Breeding, also known as 'Vince Edwards,' also known as Bruce Alan Breeding, is a notorious racial provocateur and hate monger who got his start working with the National Alliance, a hate group that is believed to have inspired Timothy McVeigh, the mastermind of the Oklahoma City bombing," according to a report by Front Page Magazine, which White cites. A conference attendee, whom White also cites, wrote that in his address, Scalise discussed "... concerns held are pervasive in every sovereign state and Republic alike, within an increasingly diminishing view of where America stands on individual liberty for whites." ...

... Ashley Parker & Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Speaker John A. Boehner declined to comment on the reports." ...

     ... CW: Looks like GQ will have to amend its "20 Craziest Politicians" list. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Update. Julia O'Donoghue of the Times-Picayune: "In an exclusive interview Monday ... about the growing controversy over his appearance at the Metairie [white supremacist] event, Scalise said it is ridiculous to suggest he was involved with the group, which was created by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. 'I didn't know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous,' Scalise said." Scalise points out that he also spoke before the crazy-lady Bolshevik League of Women Voters, whose radical agenda includes far-out stuff like encouraging people to vote & sponsoring candidates' debates. CW: So sure, color us all ridiculous, Steve. this is our fault, not yours. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Speaking to a Duke-sponsored conference should be enough to disqualify him from a leadership post in the U.S. House, given the context. In 2002, Duke was a tax fugitive spending a lot of time (and promoting anti-semitic politics) in Russia, soon to cut a deal with the IRS enabling him to come home and serve a relatively light prison sentence for tax evasion. More to the point Scalise could have hardly have been ignorant of Duke's activities, writings and notoriety: the globally famous ex-Klan leader and ex-Nazi was a predecessor [of Scalise's] in representing the suburban community of Metairie in the state House, before his globally famous and nearly-successful 1991 gubernatorial race." (Emphasis added.) ...

     ... CW UPDATE. Turns out the portioned I highlighted in Kilgore's post is incorrect. Ezra Klein made the same mistake, & here's his correction: "This post originally said Duke and Scalise had represented the same district. In fact, Duke represented the 81st district and Scalise the 82nd." Klein's post, which is pretty generous to Scalise, is here. ...

... Even Red State's Erik Erickson, the blogosphere's winger-in-chief, is nonplussed: "By 2002, everybody knew Duke was still the man he had claimed not to be. EVERYBODY. How the hell does somebody show up at a David Duke organized event in 2002 and claim ignorance?" ...

... Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call dredges up a 1999 report by John Mercurio, who talked to Scalise about David Duke: "... State Rep. Steve Scalise (R), said he embraces many of the same 'conservative' views as Duke, but is far more viable. 'The novelty of David Duke has worn off,' said Scalise. 'The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can't get elected, and that's the first and most important thing.'" ...

     ... CW: That's a pretty damning tell about Scalise. The major difference between Duke & him is not ideology but pragmatic politics, according to Scalise. Scalise embraces Duke's views, but says the toxic Duke can't win elections. Duke's a loser, but his white supremacy philosophy is excellent. Vote Scalise! His present-day pretense that he "abhors" Duke's views & those who suggest otherwise are "ridiculous" just went down the toilet. ...

... The argument that Duke didn't attend the conference organized by his group so Scalise was unaware of the affiliation also falls apart. Mollie Reilly, et al., of the Huffington Post: "At the time, Duke had spent two years abroad after federal agents raided his home as part of an investigation into mail fraud and tax charges. He spoke to the 2002 conference via a teleconference link from Russia.... By 2004, according to New Orleans CityBusiness, Scalise was condemning Duke, who by then was in federal prison on tax charges." Luckily for Scalise, Duke still endorses him. ...

... Annie Linskey of Bloomberg Politics: "Scalise already is being mocked on his official Facebook account. His Dec. 25 post, 'Wishing y'all a blessed and very #MerryChristmas' prompted a commenter to add after the news broke: 'And may all your Christmases be white!'" ...

... BUT. Andrew Johnson of the National Review: "After the report, Scalise, the third-ranking House Republican since earlier this year, has already been backed by some high-profile Republicans, including Peter King of New York and Steve King of Iowa, as well as former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. The support comes amid speculation about whether the news would lead Scalise to resign his leadership position, like Republican senator Trent Lott, who resigned from legislative leadership in 2002 after he praised former segregationist candidate and senator Strom Thurmond." CW: So Scalise is holding Two Kings & two Jokers (or four Jokers, if you want to get technical). Definitely a winning hand. I think he'll keep his job & chalk this little incident up to "youthful indiscretion." ...

... Ha Ha. Steve King compares Scalise to Jesus, who "dined with tax collectors and sinners." Fortunately, King is not a racist, either. He says he knows Scalise's heart. Yes, he does. (Many of the comments at King's linked tweet are pretty good.) ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: "The whole 'Republican Party as the Last Bastion Of Pure Whiteness(tm) thing' is a feature, not a bug, America. Now would be a good time to blame the problems in America with race on Obama, I guess." ...

... Dan Friedman of the New York Daily News: "Rep. Michael Grimm has decided to resign from Congress in the wake of his guilty plea on a felony tax evasion charge, sources told the Daily News Monday night. Grimm (R-S.I.) said after he entered his plea last week that he planned to continue serving in the House. But he reversed course after speaking Monday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has taken a hard line on GOPers facing ethics charges. Grimm plans to announce his resignation on Tuesday or Wednesday, sources said." ...

... Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "... three years after the fall of former Senator John E. Ensign [R] of Nevada, thousands of pages of previously undisclosed documents reveal new details about the evidence the F.B.I. gathered against Mr. Ensign, who briefly flirted with running for president in 2012. The documents, which show that Mr. Ensign's behavior was more brash than known at the time, also offer new specifics about why the Justice Department decided not to prosecute Mr. Ensign despite an aggressive F.B.I. investigation into the scandal.... 'This has crushed me,' said [Douglas] Hampton, [the aide with whose wife Ensign had an affair & for whom Ensign obtained unlawful lobbying contracts] who is jobless and living in Las Vegas. 'John Ensign orchestrated everything -- the affair, my dismissal from his Senate staff, the lobbying work, everything -- but at the end of the day, I'm the one who lost everything.'"

... But Never Mind All That. Michael Bender of Bloomberg Politics: A couple of Army captains had to move their wedding site -- to a prettier venue on the same property -- because President Obama wanted to play golf at the site they had chosen. "After Bloomberg Politics inquired about the scheduling conflict, Obama put in a personal call to the bride. 'He apologized and congratulated them,' [the bride's sister] said, adding that it was a 'wonderful talk. We were all there, it was perfect,' she said. 'Made their day.'" ...

... CW: Hmm. I wonder if the Right-Wing Outrage Machine operates during the holidays. Oh, yes -- it does. Et-cetera. ...

... Adam Weinstein of Gawker captures the spirit of the Machine: "... a tyrant's leisure-time celebration of ancient Hibernian sport and classism trumped the meager personal needs of America's lovestruck Spartan lifegivers, even after they made every attempt to pay the rascal his regal tribute.... But like the stoic troopers they are, Heimel and Mallue adapted and improvised. Their ever-vigilant wedding caterer executed a flanking maneuver, moving the captains to an emplacement with 'an elevated view near the 16th hole,' because they understood that it's no use trying to take that hill when the forces of Kenyan socialist Islamism are stacked against you." ...

... Sorry, Outrage Machine Operators. Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "Americans continue to name Hillary Clinton as the woman living anywhere in the world whom they admire most, and name Barack Obama as the man they admire most. Clinton has held the top women's spot in each of the last 13 years and 17 of the last 18, with that streak interrupted only by first lady Laura Bush in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attacks. Obama has been most admired man in each of the last seven years, beginning with 2008, the year he was elected president." ...

     ... BUT. Russell Berman of the Atlantic: Vladimir Putin is the 10th most admired man in the U.S. He shares 10th place with Benjamin Netanyahu. The two "earned more votes than Vice President Joe Biden, the last two Republican and Democratic presidential nominees (before Obama), two ex-presidents (Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush), George Clooney, and the Dalai Lama."

... MEANWHILE, in Shady Democrats. William Rashbaum, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal authorities are investigating substantial payments made to the State Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, by a small law firm that seeks real estate tax reductions for commercial and residential properties in New York City, according to people with knowledge of the matter." ...

... AND the New York Times Editors Comment on Bipartisan Sleazebaggery: "Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey have fumbled a great opportunity to reshape the notoriously secretive, patronage-ridden Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Rather than approve fundamental reforms passed by near-unanimous votes in both state legislatures, the two governors are proposing a weaker set of changes that would leave largely undisturbed their iron grip over the authority. For good measure, they have demanded the resignations of all present commissioners, which would give them even greater control going forward.... The legislative reform would have made it harder for the governors to pack the authority with their friends and political cronies." ...

... CW: So racists, numerous crooks, & an old-fashioned fornicator. Just another day in American politics. You might want a bath.

** Your Environmental Horror Story of the Day. Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "The methane that leaks from 40,000 gas wells near this desert trading post [Cuba, N.M.] may be colorless and odorless, but it's not invisible.... Satellites that sweep over energy-rich northern New Mexico can spot the gas as it escapes from drilling rigs, compressors and miles of pipeline snaking across the badlands. In the air it forms a giant plume: a permanent, Delaware-sized methane cloud.... The country's biggest methane 'hot spot,' verified by NASA and University of Michigan scientists in October, is only the most dramatic example of what scientists describe as a $2 billion leak problem: the loss of methane from energy production sites across the country.... Methane accounts for about 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and the biggest single source of it -- nearly 30 percent -- is the oil and gas industry." CW: Of course Republicans oppose doing anything about it, even though "environmentalists say relatively modest government restrictions on gas leaks could reap substantial rewards for taxpayers and the planet.... The Obama administration is reviewing a host of possible remedies...." Read the whole story.

Actually, these two are in cahoots.Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "Over the past year, Germany has secretly provided detailed information to U.S. spy services on hundreds of German citizens and legal residents suspected of having joined insurgent groups in Syria and Iraq, U.S. and German officials said. Germany has done so reluctantly to enlist U.S. help in tracking departed fighters, determining whether they have joined al-Qaeda or the Islamic State and, perhaps most importantly, whether they might seek to bring those groups' violent agendas back to Germany. The stream of information includes names, cellphone numbers, e-mail addresses and other sensitive data that German security services -- ever mindful of the abuses by the Nazi and Stasi secret police -- have been reluctant even to collect.... Nearly every country in Europe is turning over significant data on their own departed fighters to the United States."

Tal Kopan of Politico: "FBI agents investigating the Sony Pictures hack were briefed Monday by a security firm that says its research points to laid-off Sony staff, not North Korea, as the perpetrator.... Even the unprecedented decision to release details of an ongoing FBI investigation and President Barack Obama publicly blaming the hermit authoritarian regime hasn't quieted a chorus of well-qualified skeptics who say the evidence just doesn't add up.... The FBI said Monday it is standing behind its assessment, adding that evidence doesn't support any other explanations."

Ezra Klein interviews Paul Krugman. Krugman is not worried about zombies. Everything else, pretty much. Thanks to Ken W. for the link.

Is Lyndon Johnson fairly portrayed in the film "Selma"? Joseph Califano, former top aide to Johnson, says no (WashPo op-ed linked in Saturday's Commentariat). Mark Updegrove, director of the Johnson Presidential Library, has said the same. Ava DuVernay, the producer of the film, was incensed, & said so on the peer-reviewed historical site Twitter. CW: Whether or not Califano & Updegrove have gilded the lily, LBJ was a mostly-unsung hero of the civil rights movement. To portray him as a villain would do him an injustice -- even if it would make a more dramatic movie.

Beyond the Beltway

NEW. Larry Celona, et al., of the New York Post: "It's not a slowdown -- it's a virtual work stoppage. NYPD traffic tickets and summonses for minor offenses have dropped off by a staggering 94 percent following the execution of two cops -- as officers feel betrayed by the mayor and fear for their safety, The Post has learned." ...

... NEW. Digby: "...their antics in the face of criticism proves in living color what we see in so many individual incidents: they don't just want respect, they want submission. They will brook no discussion and accept no accountability, have no use for psychology or patience because the weapons in their holsters should be sufficient to gain instant compliance. We cannot call ourselves a free society as long as that is the case."

Kate Mather & Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times: "The autopsy of Ezell Ford, a mentally ill black man killed by police in South Los Angeles in August, shows he was shot three times -- once in the right side, once in the right back and once in the right arm.... The autopsy does not make any judgment about the conduct of the officers in the shooting or provide a detailed narrative of what occurred.... The Los Angeles Police Department has said Ford, 25, was shot while he struggled with two officers and attempted to remove the pistol from the holster of one of them. Other people quoted in news reports after the Aug. 11 shooting disputed the police account."

Hit-and-Run Bishop. Colin Campbell of the Balimore Sun: "The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland on Sunday identified the driver in a fatal bicycle crash Saturday in North Roland Park as its second-ranking official, Bishop Suffragan Heather Elizabeth Cook. Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton sent an email Sunday to clergy members with information about the crash. Police said 41-year-old Thomas Palermo was killed. Witnesses and a spokesman for the Police Department said the 58-year-old woman driving the car left the scene of the crash in the 5700 block of Roland Ave. shortly before returning.... Sutton said Cook has been placed on administrative leave 'because the nature of the accident could result in criminal charges.'"

Petula Dvorak of the Washington Post on those darling McDonnell offspring: "The same grown children who helped trigger the federal investigation that led to their parents' trial and convictions, the adult kids who allegedly raided the state's mansion for glasses, pots and pans, and stacks and stacks of food, crates of eggs, cases of alcohol, who had a wedding catering bill paid for, flitted across the country on a private jet, played $2,000 golf rounds and took a $10,000 party gift -- now at least one of them blames mom.... For a couple of decades now, the McDonnells apparently knew mom was losing it. But everyone was cool with riding out this wild public office thing as far as it went (White House 2016?!). Then they'd spackle Mom's psyche."

Presidential Election

Brian Beutler of the New Republic: President Obama's recent executive actions have consequences for Hillary Clinton. "If Hillary Clinton is able to leverage the enshrinement of executive actions undertaken during Obama's presidency to pass legislation that addresses climate change and U.S. immigration in comprehensive and lasting ways, her presidential legacy will exceed her husband's and rival Obama's. She would be able to accomplish, with fresh tactics, what Obama simply can't at this point. And all because he's refusing to exile himself the way a late-term president is expected to."

Paul Waldman: Despite all the talk & handwringing about it, Hillary Clinton "doesn't need to win the white vote, working-class or otherwise, in order to become president. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate won a majority of the white vote was 1964. Yet they've managed to win five elections since then."

Passover with Ted. Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a likely Republican presidential candidate and a vocal pro-Israel hawk, is being advertised as a featured attraction at a string of ritzy resort vacation getaways catering to religious Jews. Cruz, along with several rabbis, is listed as a speaker at four different vacation spots, including Aspen, over Passover, the spring holiday that honors the freeing of enslaved Jews in Egypt." CW: Sounds like loads o'fun.

News Ledes

AP: "President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years. Police allowed a few thousand protesters to gather just outside Red Square for about two hours -- a show of relative restraint for Russian authorities, who have little tolerance for dissent -- before moving in to break up the unsanctioned rally by pushing the demonstrators toward subway entrances. The rally came hours after anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny was found guilty of what activists said were trumped-up charges and given a suspended sentence of 3½ years. His younger brother was sent to prison, a move that drew comparisons to the Stalin-era practice of punishing family members of enemies of the state."

AP: "Former President George H.W. Bush was released from a Houston hospital Tuesday after a stay of about a week for treatment of shortness of breath. The 90-year-old Bush left Houston's Methodist Hospital, was resting at home...."

Guardian: "Teams searching for AirAsia flight QZ8501 have begun recovering bodies from the Java Sea, as Indonesian officials confirmed that scattered debris found nearby came from the plane. A major search and rescue effort involving at least 30 ships and 15 aircraft from nine countries has been looking for the aircraft since it vanished early on Sunday morning while carrying 162 passengers from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. The findings mark a breakthrough on the operation's third day."

Sunday
Dec282014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 29, 2014

David Cohen of Politico: "President Barack Obama on Sunday praised the official end of the 13-year U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan, offering his remarks to coincide with a handover ceremony there. 'On this day,' Obama said in a statement, 'we give thanks to our troops and intelligence personnel who have been relentless against the terrorists responsible for 9/11 -- devastating the core Al Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives. We are safer, and our nation is more secure, because of their service.'" ...

... Tim Craig & Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "After pledging for years to crack down on violent Islamists, Pakistani authorities are now taking exceptional steps to do so, with a major military operation against the militants and a vow to rein in radical propaganda. The government's campaign has intensified in the wake of a massacre at an elite army-run school in Peshawar this month, reflecting a striking change in public opinion about the danger posed by the extremist groups." ...

... CW Note: Yes, I think these stories are related. The only hope for the region is for the general public to reject extremism & for governments to control extremists. (Of course we need the same kind of movement in the U.S., even if our powerful extremists are not quite as extreme as the Taliban & similar groups.)

Josh Lederman of the AP: "Warning from President Barack Obama to congressional Republicans: I have a veto pen and, come January, I won't be afraid to use it.... 'I haven't used the veto pen very often since I've been in office,' Obama said in an NPR interview airing Monday. 'Now, I suspect, there are going to be some times where I've got to pull that pen out.' He added: 'I'm going to defend gains that we've made in health care. I'm going to defend gains that we've made on environment and clean air and clean water.'" The audio of the interview & a story by Steve Inskeep is here. The transcript is here.

I certainly don't support that action yesterday; I think it was very inappropriate at that event. To bring politics or to bring issues into that event was very inappropriate and I do not support it. He is the mayor of New York. He is there representing the citizens of New York to express their remorse and their regret at that death. It was very inappropriate. -- New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton

... David Goodman of the New York Times: "William J. Bratton, the New York City police commissioner, said on Sunday [on CBS's 'Face the Nation'] that a silent protest by scores of his officers who turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio as he spoke during a funeral service for a fellow officer killed in the line of duty was 'very inappropriate.'" ...

... Hunter Schwartz of the Washington Post: "Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called frustration in New York and across the country surrounding policing the 'tip of the iceberg' during an appearance Sunday on NBC's 'Meet the Press.' 'This is about the continuing poverty rates, the continuing growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor,' he said. 'It's about unemployment issues. There are so many national issues that have to be addressed that it isn't just policing, as I think we all well know.'... 'The issues go far beyond race relations in this city,' he said. 'They involve labor contracts. They involve a lot of history in the city that's really different from some of what's going on in the country as a whole.'" ...

... David McCabe of the Hill: "New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) should apologize to the city's police officers for comments he had made about how the police treat minorities, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) said on Sunday. 'He should have apologized for the remarks he made that gave the police the impression that he's on the other side,' he said on the CBS program 'Face the Nation.'" ...

... David McCabe: "Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) on Sunday criticized President Obama's association with the Rev. Al Sharpton, arguing it sends a signal of hostility to police. Giuliani, who has battled with Sharpton throughout his career, said Obama couldn't expect to be seen as supportive of police as long as he associates with Sharpton, an MSNBC talk-show host and longtime activist. 'If he would like to have a poster boy for hating the police, it's Al Sharpton,' he said while appearing on CBS' Face the Nation. 'You make Al Sharpton a close advisor, you're going to turn the police in America against you.' 'To have that man sitting next to you speaks volumes,' he said." ...

... Hunter Schwartz: "A Ferguson Police Department public relations officer has been put on administrative leave over his response to the destruction of a memorial to Michael Brown, the teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer.... 'I don't know that a crime has occurred,' Officer Timothy Zoll said Friday in an interview with The Washington Post. 'But a pile of trash in the middle of the street? The Washington Post is making a call over this?' The department said in a statement Saturday that Zoll misled his superiors about the contents of the interview, that he had been placed on unpaid leave, effective immediately, and that there would be disciplinary proceedings."

Not All Police Discrimination Is Racist. Dan Seufert of the Manchester, New Hampshire, Union Leader: The police chief of New London, New Hampshire, offered to drop underage alcohol-possession charges if she posed nude for him in the basement of the police station. The town awarded her a $70,000 settlement, & the chief "will never be allowed to serve as a police officer again.... State prosecutors, while calling Seastrand's actions 'abhorrent behavior and unacceptable behavior for anyone in that type of a position,' did not file criminal charges against him. They later explained that the only law applicable to the case was the abuse of power statute, under which a public official is guilty of a misdemeanor...."

Tammany Hall on the Hudson, Ctd. Jesse McKinley & Vivian Yee of the New York Times: "A day after the governors of New York and New Jersey rejected legislation aimed at upending a culture of political interference at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bill's bistate sponsors said they ... that prospects for overriding the veto seemed slim at best. Neither Legislature has accomplished that feat with Mr. Cuomo, who was elected to a second term in November, or during Mr. Christie's nearly five years in office." ...

... CW: If the bill was so good it received unanimous approval in both state legislatures, I'm having a little trouble understanding why some legislators -- like New Jersey senate leader Tom Kean, Jr., -- are suddenly against it. Are they really that tight with their governors? Neither Christie nor Cuomo is particularly popular, & this stunt isn't going to raise their favorables.

Paul Krugman on austerity in hard times -- a self-inflicted wound.

John Vidal of the Guardian: "In 2015, [Pope Francis] will issue a lengthy message on the subject [of climate change] to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world's main religions. The reason for such frenetic activity, says Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is the pope's wish to directly influence next year's crucial UN climate meeting in Paris, when countries will try to conclude 20 years of fraught negotiations with a universal commitment to reduce emissions." ...

... CW: When it comes to climate change, Roman Catholic altar boys like John Boehner, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio & Bobby Jindal all have voiced some version of the "I am not a scientist" disclaimer. Will they follow with, "The Pope is not a scientist, man"?

** "Chickenhawk Nation." Jim Fallows of the Atlantic: Americans' "reverent but disengaged attitude toward the military ... has become so familiar that we assume it is the American norm. But it is not.... [During World War II & in the decades after it,] American culture was sufficiently at ease with the military to make fun of it, a stance now hard to imagine outside the military itself.... The distance between today's stateside America and its always-at-war expeditionary troops is extraordinary.... America's distance from the military makes the country too willing to go to war, and too callous about the damage warfare inflicts."

Koch for the Defense. Roy Wenzl of the Wichita Eagle: As the result of a federal criminal case against him, Charles Koch realized that the nation's criminal justice system was askew. "The Corpus Christi case led Charles Koch and his company to give money, starting about 10 years ago, to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers." Koch also believes too many Americans are in jail for nonviolent crimes. "The nation's criminal justice system needs reform, 'especially for the disadvantaged,' Koch said, 'making it fair and making (criminal) sentences more appropriate to the crime that has been committed.' [Koch's chief counsel Michael] Holden said legislators in recent decades drifted into a habit of adding more laws every year and taking stands to show themselves as 'getting tough on crime.' ... The weight has fallen most heavily on minorities, Holden said." ...

     ... CW: If this leads you to a Remembrance of Things Rand Paul, yeah, there just might be a connection. Madeleines unnecessary.

Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Sunday called on supporters to reject one of President Obama's nominees to the Treasury Department. Franken criticized nominee Antonio Weiss in no uncertain terms, arguing Obama had nominated the wrong person for the job of Treasury undersecretary for domestic finance. He argued Weiss would not put the middle class first, and that he was too close to Wall Street. 'Join me in asking the President to withdraw Antonio Weiss's nomination,' Franken wrote in an email to supporters..., with a link to the petition." CW: I signed.

CW: Amy Davidson of the New Yorker seems to think gay marriage will become acceptable in the South. She might be right, but I expect the usual Southern suspects see court decisions striking down gay-marriage bans in the same "acceptable" light they saw the anti-slavery movement & federal civil rights legislation, court decisions & executive actions: "Northern aggressors" forcing their ways upon their genteel society.

Stephen Sherrill of GQ picks the U.S.'s "20 Craziest Politicians." All but three are Republicans. The 20th, Joe Biden, is kind of a throwaway. Sherrill cites Biden for being "crazy enough to run again for president." No match for most of the Republican picks. ...

... Sherrill's piece was very upsetting to Kyle Smith of the New York Post, who chose 16 crazy Democrats, among them Michelle Obama & Bernie Sanders. ...

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: The New York Post's "attempt at false equivalence shows just what's wrong with the Republican Party -- and with those in the supposedly objective press who play the false equivalence game. Politics is full of exaggeration and hyperbole ... but that's what constitutes most of the examples in the New York Post's list of 'crazy' -- and why their list includes well-respected Democratic politicians, while the GQ list targets the GOP's fringe.... The GQ list, by contrast, is about mostly conservative politicians saying, believing and doing truly scary and unpopular stuff.... hese things are not in the same ballpark, no matter how much conservatives and many journalists would like to pretend that they are. The modern conservative movement really is full of crazy that is unmatched on the other side."

Presidential Election

** Mark Jacobson profiles Bernie Sanders for New York. ...

... Jacobson mentions that Sanders recorded a folk album in 1987. "Asked why he did such a thing, Sanders says, 'It appealed to my ego.'" It's fair to say, Bernie didn't exactly sing:

     ... Here's a bit more from the site Seven Days. Kind of a hoot, if not a hootenanny. Ah, even more here.

Alexandra Jaffe of CNN: "Jeb Bush is the clear Republican presidential frontrunner, surging to the front of the potential GOP pack following his announcement that he's 'actively exploring' a bid, a new CNN/ORC poll found. He takes nearly one-quarter --23% -- of Republicans surveyed in the new nationwide poll, putting him 10 points ahead of his closest competitor, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie...." ...

... As Greg Sargent points out, "The new CNN poll also finds that Hillary Clinton is far ahead of Elizabeth Warren in the evolving Dem primary: Clinton leads Warren among Democrats by 66-9.... The CNN poll also finds Clinton leading Jeb Bush among Americans overall by 54-41; she leads Chris Christie by 56-39; she leads Rand Paul by 58-38; and she leads Ted Cruz by 60-35." ...

... CW: That's kinda interesting, because Bush, Christie, Paul & Cruz hardly lack for name recognition.

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "Los Angeles police are investigating whether gunfire in South Los Angeles on Sunday night was aimed at two officers responding to a call, officials said Monday."

Guardian: "A Scottish nurse is being treated in an isolation unit in Glasgow after being diagnosed with the Ebola virus hours after arriving home from west Africa via a British Airways flight from Heathrow."

Guardian: "An Indonesian official said that missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 was likely to be 'at the bottom of the sea' on Monday morning, as hopes that an elaborate international search and rescue effort would find survivors began to fade. The jet vanished from radar screens on Sunday morning with 162 people on board, as it approached violent weather over the Java Sea about 40 minutes into a two-hour flight between the Indonesian city of Surabaya and Singapore. The plane, an Airbus A320-200 operated by an Indonesian subsidiary of the Malaysian budget airline AirAsia, reportedly requested to deviate from its flight path to avoid a cloud. Moments later, it lost contact with Jakarta air traffic controllers. It did not send a distress signal."

Reuters: "Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday that four more bodies had been recovered from the car ferry that caught fire off the coast of Greece, bringing the death toll to five. Renzi said during an end-year press conference that about 60 passengers remained on board more than 24 hours after the fire started and they would be brought to safety within 'a few hours'."