The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, September 26, 2016.

New York Times: "Arnold Palmer, the champion golfer whose full-bore style of play, thrilling tournament victories and magnetic personality inspired an American golf boom, attracted a following known as Arnie’s Army and made him one of the most popular athletes in the world, died on Sunday, according to a spokesman for his business enterprises. Palmer was 87." -- CW 

Miami Herald: "Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández, who fled Cuba on a speedboat eight years ago to become one of baseball’s dominant players and a hometown hero to fans well beyond the stadium walls, died early Sunday in a violent boat crash off South Beach. He was 24. Two friends were also killed in the accident, which remains under investigation and led Major League Baseball to promptly cancel Sunday’s home game against the Atlanta Braves." -- CW 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/mlb/miami-marlins/article104073926.html#storylink=cpy

Public Service Announcement

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

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."

You'll want to supersize this one:

 

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, unsuccessful in his bid to become Donald Trump's running mate, has reimagined himself as a celebrity, instead. He'll appear this season on "Dancing with the 'Stars,'" competing against other fabulous celebrities like Ryan Lochte, unless Lochte is unavoidably detained in a Brazilian jail. (Here's a link to Perry's veepstakes proffer. Of course Trump ultimately rejected Perry, but promised to make him head of some agency or department Perry probably can't remember.) CW: As always, we concentrate on the serious, important news because politics ain't funny.

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

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

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

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Tuesday
Jun172014

The Commentariat -- June 18, 2014

NEW. Ha! Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "The Washington Redskins' logo is disparaging and its trademark must be cancelled, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office wrote in a ruling Wednesday. The Redskins will continue to be able to use the name, but the team will not have all the legal benefits afforded to it when it is registered with the federal government.... The team can appeal the decision in court as it did in the past, and the trademarks will remain registered until after the review. The office made a similar ruling in 1992, but the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia reversed the board's decision after a lengthy litigation process in 2003. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) cheered the decision, going to the Senate floor to call for the team and its owner, Daniel Snyder, to end its use of the 'racist' name." Thanks to James S. for the link.

Mark Landler & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "President Obama is considering a targeted, highly selective campaign of airstrikes against Sunni militants in Iraq similar to counterterrorism operations in Yemen, rather than the widespread bombardment of an air war, a senior administration official said on Tuesday." ...

... The Worst People in the World -- Who Should Know to STFU -- Critique the "Obama Doctrine." Dick Cheney & Liz Cheney, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed: "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many." If the Cheneys have no shame, you still would think even the editors of the WSJ opinion pages would know better.

... Katrina Vanden Heuvel, in the Washington Post: "Obama, himself 'right' on Iraq during the war's run-up, is also right today to resist calls for direct U.S. military action -- including airstrikes -- in Iraq.... Experience and history have (clearly) taught us that there is no military solution in Iraq. Only a political reconciliation can quell the unrest, and this requires more than bellicose calls for violence from 5,000 miles away." Vanden Heuvel is still knocking David Brooks. (See video & comments in the June 16 Commentariat.) Also, the major media for inviting neocons & other war hawks (McCain, Graham) to speak about the current crisis. ...

... Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "Joe Biden’s old suggestion about making three countries out of Iraq may or may not be the best solution here, but it sure doesn't look crazy now, even though he was sneeringly pooh-poohed by the people who swore that the war would lead to a garden of multiplying democracies." (Column also linked below.) ...

... Zeke Miller of Time: "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step aside from his country as it gallops furiously toward civil war."

David Kirkpatrick & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "United States commandos have captured the suspected leader of the 2012 attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, White House and Pentagon officials said Tuesday. Apprehension of the suspect, Ahmed Abu Khattala, is a major breakthrough in the nearly two-year-old investigation into the attack, which also killed three other Americans, just two months before the presidential election in the United States." CW: Obviously, this is an Obama-led conspiracy to influence the midterm elections, which are coming up in a mere 4-1/2 months. Those commandos are Democratic stooges. * ...

... The Washington Post story, by Karen DeYoung & others, is here. (The Post broke the story.) ...

... David Kirkpatrick: Abu Khattala's "apprehension by United States military commandos and law enforcement agents may finally begin to address some of the persistent questions about who carried out the attack and why. Those questions have spawned a small industry of conspiracy theories, political scandals, talk radio broadcasts, and a continuing congressional investigation. Despite extensive speculation about the role of Al Qaeda in directing the attack in Libya, Mr. Abu Khattala is a local Islamist militant, with no known connections to international terrorist groups, according to American officials briefed on the criminal investigation and intelligence reporting, as well as other Benghazi Islamists who know him." CW: Oh. A broader conspiracy than I realized: it appears criminal investigators & intelligence officers are in the bag for Obama, too. ...

... Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "The weekend capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, one of the suspected ringleaders of the Sept. 11, 2012, assaults on a U.S. diplomatic compound and a CIA-run annex, gives Obama another I-told-you-so moment in Washington's scorekeeping culture. But the achievement is likely to do little to tamp down the partisan fervor surrounding the administration's public management of the deadly Benghazi attacks.... Within hours of the news that Abu Khattala had been captured, congressional Republicans congratulated the U.S. military, if not the White House. But the partisan concern shifted quickly to the questions of where Abu Khattala would be held, at a time when Obama is seeking to shutter the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and whether the president would extend legal protections given to civilians charged with crimes. The answers from the administration -- no to Guantanamo, yes to due process -- disappointed some prominent conservatives":

Obviously, he should be put on trial. I'd bring him to Guantanamo. Where else can you take him to? -- Sen. John McCain (R-Az.)

Holding Khattala on a ship shows the haphazard approach which comes from not having rational detention & interrogation policies. Naval vessels were never meant to be detention and interrogation sites. -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Nor was Cuba. -- Tommy Vietor, former Obama aide & current Hillary Clinton advisor

You know who else kept detainees on ships? George W. Bush. -- Steve M.

Oh for God's sake. With all of these terrorists, we've had four or five convictions in military courts. We've had several hundred convictions in federal courts. Do the math. -- Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

* Update: Glad we nabbed a #Benghazi suspect, but the timing is questionable. Did they let him wander, waiting for the perfect political opportunity? -- Former Rep. Joe Walsh (RTP-Ill.) ...

... BECAUSE ... it's important to remember, he wasn't really hiding. -- Rory Cooper, aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

... Jonathan Chait: "Khattala, reports the New York Times,'"told both fellow Islamist fighters and others that the attack in Benghazi was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.' He's part of the cover-up." CW: So it's a pretty vast conspiracy. ...

... OF COURSE Hillary is part of the vast left-wing conspiracy. Evan McMurry of Mediaite: "A couple co-hosts from Fox's Outnumbered Tuesday reacted to the apprehension of Ahmed Abu Khattala ... by wondering about the timing of the capture given former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's book tour and interview with Fox's Bret Baier later this evening." See? She's even sabotaging Fox "News" AND/OR boosting her book tour. ...

     ... CW: I'm pretty sure that using U.S. commandos & the FBI to help Hillary sell more books is an impeachable offense.

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos does a nice job of taking down the unbridled hypocrisy of the Three Amigos (the group has gone radically gender-neutral by replacing Joe Lieberman with Kelly Ayotte [R-N.H.]). ...

... Michael Tomasky: "What a disappointment! The Republicans are all set to unveil their new select committee to keep the [Benghazi] attack in the news, and Obama has to go and bring the alleged ringleader to justice."

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "Federal Reserve officials, who have persistently overestimated the strength of the economic recovery, predicted last June that the economy in 2014 would finally grow more than 3 percent for the first time since the recession. The updated forecasts the Fed will publish on Wednesday are likely to reflect more modest expectations. The economy, after all, actually shrank during a wintry first quarter. High hopes are being replaced once again by disappointing data.... The continuing wait for faster growth has reinforced the concern of some critics that the Fed is retreating too quickly from its stimulus campaign." ...

... New York Times Editors: "The Fed has extracted about all the juice it can from low rates and continues to squeeze.... The basic problem -- spurring demand on the part of consumers and borrowers -- is outside its purview. Only Congress can provide the extra dollars for that, but lawmakers have been unwilling or unable to take action, even just to provide basics like federal unemployment benefits or highway and bridge repair. Given that failure to act, it is a wonder the economy has managed to grow at 2 percent."

Zeke Miller: "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lashed out at opponents of gun control regulations Tuesday, saying they hold a viewpoint that 'terrorizes' the majority of Americans.'"

One of the most important I think that can happen today, Lynn Jenkins's bill, an idea of fairness, the idea that when you look across the street from the Capitol, you see the Supreme Court, you see the statue sitting there, blinded in the process with the weights in- between. -- House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, talking about something

Dana Milbank: Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.), who is likely to become the next House majority leader, can't speak in public in full, comprehensible sentences: "... he is a native English speaker and he speaks fluently in private or in small groups. But put him in front of a crowd and his words come out as if they have been translated by Google from a foreign language.... It occurs when he is working from notes or making a prepared statement. What will happen when he takes questions as majority leader, which he seldom does now? ... He has had some high-profile failures as the party's top vote counter (on a couple of occasions, leaders lost or had to cancel votes they expected to win)...." ...

     ... CW: Seems to me McCarthy's double-speak (or half-speak) creates plausible deniability, a plus for any GOP leader, since the facts are seldom kind to Republicans.

Gregory Korte of USA Today: "It wasn't just a hard drive crash that led the Internal Revenue Service to lose Lois Lerner's e-mails from the time Lerner was in charge of holding up tax exemption applications from conservative groups. It was seven hard drive crashes, the lack of a centralized archive, a practice of erasing and reusing backup tapes every six months, and an IRS policy of allowing employees to decide for themselves which e-mails constitute an official agency record."

** Jeff Shesol, in the New Yorker, on Justice Scalia's narrow, rigid reinterpretations of the English language, a "skill" he has used for decades to twist interpretations of laws to his liking. When does "creation science" have nothing whatever to do with religion? When Nino gets out his dictionary. Now, in Elena Kagan, Scalia has met his match:

What Kagan has done [in the Abramski v. U.S. straw purchase case], in a neat twist on Scalia's analogy, is to highlight the ambiguity and contingency of language. And that, for Scalia, is something that can never be acknowledged, because it would lay bare the game he plays. His approach has always been to reach for a dictionary; find, in one edition or other, a definition that drives toward his predetermined decision; and express, eyes wide with disbelief, utter amazement that anyone could even think of seeing it any other way.

News Ledes

Guardian: "Islamist militants have attacked Iraq's largest oil refinery in the city of Baiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, as Iran raised the prospect of direct military intervention to protect Shia holy sites." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Refinery workers, eyewitnesses and an Iraqi Army officer reported the seizure of Iraq's biggest oil refinery by Sunni extremists on Wednesday after army helicopter gunships failed to repel their attack. But other Iraqi officials, including the commander of the garrison defending the refinery in Baiji, asserted that fighting was still going on inside the huge grounds of the facility, which had been shut down by the violence."

AP: "Ukraine's president said Wednesday that government forces will unilaterally cease fire to allow pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country a chance to lay down weapons or leave the country, a potential major development to bring peace to the country."

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Georgia inmate Marcus Wellons was put to death late Tuesday for the 1989 rape and murder of a Cobb County teenager in the state's first execution where the source of its lethal-injection drug was cloaked in secrecy. Wellons' execution received heightened scrutiny because it was the first one in the country to be carried out since a botched execution occurred in Oklahoma seven weeks ago."

Monday
Jun162014

The Commentariat -- June 17, 2014

Elections Matter. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama on Tuesday will announce his intent to make a broad swath of the central Pacific Ocean off-limits to fishing, energy exploration and other activities, according to senior White House officials. The proposal, slated to go into effect later this year after a comment period, could create the world's largest marine sanctuary and double the area of ocean globally that is fully protected."

Ziad Al-Sanjary & Arshad Mohammed of Reuters: "U.S. and Iranian officials discussed the crisis in Vienna on the sidelines of separate negotiations about the Iranian nuclear program, the two sides each said. Both ruled out military cooperation. A U.S. official said the talks did not include military coordination and would not make 'strategic determinations' over the heads of Iraqis." ...

... Alissa Rubin & Rod Nordland of the New York Times: Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki is not interested in "the political reconciliation with the Sunni Arabs and Kurds that his international allies in Washington and Tehran have insisted is his country's only possible salvation." He'd rather play commander-in-chief. ...

... Gary Brecher, the War Nerd, explains ISIS & its operational policies & talents. Thanks to contributor Patrick for the link. Patrick notes that Brecher's piece is an entertaining read. If you don't want to know much about the crisis du jour but think you should, here's a painless way to inform yourself & impress your friends & neighbors that you know more than half the senators who sit on the Foreign Relations Committee. ...

... Guardian reporters have a more sober-sided & "terrifying" (the paper's headline) description of ISIS. ...

How to Settle the Crisis in Iraq
Wherein I Save the Best for Last

CW: I was just thinking, "At least Paul Bremer has had the sense to take his Medal of Freedom & head for the hills rather than pipe up now on Iraq." Wrong. Here he is in the Wall Street Journal, opining on President Obama's "feckless" mistakes & what Obama must do to correct them. ...

... Bremer is apparently enjoying his return to the limelight. He appeared on CNN and on NBC's "Today Show," too. My special congratulations to the network producers who thought it a good ideas to book this incredibly disastrous "manager" of Iraq to offer his sage advice. The news ladies gave Bremer a bit of a hard time. ...

     ... In case you've forgotten Bremer (which is a good idea), here's a reprise of the low points of his glorious tour of duty.

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Sen. John McCain said he spoke to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough over the weekend as sectarian violence in Iraq swelled." And McCain gave McDonough a piece of his mind, blah blah David Petraeus blah blah surge blah blah. Also, bad news for Baghdad: "'I don't believe Baghdad will fall,' he told reporters Monday evening.... I am pretty confident that [ISIS] won't take Baghdad."

Scott Lemieux in Lawyers, Guns & Money: "Wow, I see that Fred Kagan has teamed up with Mr. Bill Kristol to tell us what to do about the colossal disaster they and their allies made out of Iraq. Goody! Admittedly, they have plenty of company among the idiots who brought us this catastrophe. Of course, none of this stops Kagan from getting an uncritical-to-fawning profile from the newspaper that hired Kristol to write the worst regular op-ed column in known human history. It contains this rather chilling passage." ...

... Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Kristol, Kagan have an idea: Let's put troops in Iraq! ... As always, I'm struck at the magical powers that Kristol, Kagan and their colleagues attribute to military power.... None of [what they suggest] sounds even remotely plausible." ...

CW: Please click on this page to give Tom Tomorrow a hit. Thanks. ...

... Shorter Fred Kagan: We've screwed up so much, so badly in Iraq that we can ill-afford to stop screwing up. -- Matt Yglesias, ca. 2006, on Kagan's rationale for the 2007 U.S. "surge" in Iraq ...

... Even Pat Robertson Makes More Sense Than Kristol-Kagan. Until He Doesn't. David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Televangelist Pat Robertson on Monday blasted former President George W. Bush for selling Americans a 'bill of goods' before the Iraq invasion, which led to the violence that is currently sweeping across the country.... In the end, Robertson reckoned that there would be conflict in Iraq until an Antichrist appeared before the Second Coming of Christ." Yup. The solution to the Iraq crisis is the Second Coming. I would like to know why neocons haven't thought of that. It's so simple.

Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "An individual cannot walk into a gun dealer's shop and buy a gun for someone else by claiming to be the actual buyer, a deeply split Supreme Court ruled on Monday. A form demanding to know who the actual purchaser is, the majority ruled, has to be answered truthfully, or else the transaction is illegal. The practical effect of the ruling is likely to be shutting down, or at least cutting back on, an active market in gun-buying by 'straw purchasers' .... The majority opinion by [Justice Elena] Kagan was supported in full by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Sonia Sotomayor."

Edward-Issac Dovere & Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "Monday, the White House announced Obama will sign an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This will be a week of the administration trumpeting its gay rights record...." CW: Notice how the Politico writers frame the story as one that's all about Obamas' seeking "a political boost" for his gay rights activism, as opposed to even hinting he's doing the right thing.

Lenny Bernstein of the Washington Post: "A report released Monday by a respected think tank ranks the United States dead last in the quality of its health-care system when compared with 10 other western, industrialized nations, the same spot it occupied in four previous studies by the same organization. Not only did the U.S. fail to move up between 2004 and 2014 -- as other nations did with concerted effort and significant reforms -- it also has maintained this dubious distinction while spending far more per capita ($8,508) on health care than Norway ($5,669), which has the second most expensive system." ...

     ... Here's the Commonwealth Fund's summary of the report.

This Link Is Dedicated to Contributor Unwashed Who Had a Close Encounter Yesterday with the Subject. Robert Costa & Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: Why not Paul Ryan for House majority leader? He's perhaps the best-known member & "is well regarded across the spectrum in the fractious House Republican Conference and would be a unifying figure." He doesn't want the job.

Martha Stewart Just Wants to Make Money. Hilary Stout of the New York Times: "A New York judge on Monday ruled that J. C. Penney unlawfully interfered with an exclusive merchandising agreement between Macy's and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.... At the root of the dispute was a December 2011 agreement between Penney and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to sell an array of her home products, like rugs and bath towels, in Penney's stores. Macy's sued both companies, contending that the pact violated a five-year-old deal it already had to sell many of the same housewares exclusively. Earlier this year, Macy's and Martha Stewart settled their legal battle under confidential terms and their partnership continues."

Dana Milbank: "Representatives of prominent conservative groups converged on the Heritage Foundation on Monday afternoon for the umpteenth in a series of gatherings to draw attention to the Benghazi controversy.... What began as a session purportedly about 'unanswered questions' surrounding the September 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya deteriorated into the ugly taunting of a woman in the room who wore an Islamic head covering." CW: I suspect there's money to be made in hatemongering, too. If you don't have Martha's talent for making "good things," then doing bad things is one alternative career path. ...

... AND Let's Not Forget Impeachment! Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "A Republican congressman thinks a vote to impeachment President Obama would pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Speaking with the Gary Sutton radio program on Monday, Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said a vote to impeach Obama would 'probably pass' the House."

Congressional Elections

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times: "With the midterm elections only months away, efforts to carry out some of the country's strictest photo ID requirements and shorten early voting in several politically pivotal states have been thrown into limbo by a series of court decisions concluding that the measures infringe on the right to vote.... The court decisions have gone both ways, but several have provided a new round of judicial rebukes to the wave of voting restrictions, nearly all of them introduced since 2011 in states with Republican majorities.... And, with challenges still going through the courts, voting rules and requirements remain uncertain in several states before the midterm elections."

Government for Sale. High Bidders -- Charles & David Koch. Ken Vogel & Darren Goode of Politico: "During a closed-door gathering of major donors in Southern California on Monday, the political operation spearheaded by the Koch brothers unveiled a significant new weapon in its rapidly expanding arsenal -- a super PAC called Freedom Partners Action Fund. The new group aims to spend more than $15 million in the 2014 midterm campaigns -- part of a much larger spending effort expected to total $290 million...."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Just as the federal government reached an agreement on Tuesday with SunTrust Banks over questionable mortgage practices, the government's talks to resolve Citigroup's mortgage issues grew increasingly tense and veered toward a lawsuit.... The Justice Department is also in settlement discussions with Bank of America."

New York Times: "Julian Koenig, who is widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most innovative advertising writers -- a creative force behind an array of memorable campaigns, including for the original Volkswagen Beetle and the enduring environmental brand Earth Day -- died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 93."

New York Times: "Daniel Keyes, the author of 'Flowers for Algernon,' the story of a man with an I.Q. of 68 who temporarily becomes a genius after surgery -- a book that inspired the film 'Charly,' starring Cliff Robertson -- died on Sunday at his home in South Florida. He was 86."

Los Angeles Times: "Los Angeles Air Force Base[, which is in El Segundo,] was on lockdown Tuesday as authorities investigated reports of a suspicious man roaming the facility. A spokeswoman at the base confirmed that it was sealed off as of 1:45 p.m." ...

     ... CW: My best guess: the "suspicious man" turns out to be Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) looking for former IRS employee Lois Lerner, whom he believed the Obama administration was planning to secretly fly out of the country to a location where Issa has no subpoena power.

Sunday
Jun152014

The Commentariat -- June 16, 2014

As if June 15 Never Happened.

Paul Krugman: "You should judge leaders by their achievements, not their press, and in terms of policy substance Mr. Obama is having a seriously good year. In fact, there's a very good chance that 2014 will go down in the record books as one of those years when America took a major turn in the right direction."

Mark Landler & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "As President Obama weighs airstrikes against marauding militants in Iraq, he has concluded that any American military action must be conditioned on a political plan to try to heal Iraq's sectarian rifts, a senior administration official said on Sunday." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "The United States is preparing to hold direct talks with Iran this week on how to counter the Sunni militant group, according to The Wall Street Journal. And, to top it all off, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who pushed a resolution authorizing war with Iran over their nuclear program last year, is all for working with our old foe." ...

... Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker: "It is not difficult to imagine a multinational war, fought along a five-hundred-mile front, and along sectarian lines, waged ultimately for regional supremacy.... The 'divine conquest' of Mosul by a group of Islamic extremists is a bitter consequence of the American invasion. For now, there seems to be very little we can do about it."

... David Ferguson of the Raw Story: "We at Raw Story's Oh God Here We Go Again desk ... marvel at the Big Brass Ones on some people who feel the need to offer their opinions about how the U.S. should conduct itself with regards to recent rise of extremist elements in [Iraq] and the loss of two of its major cities to al Qaeda. These people seem to believe that their previous dire wrongness on everything about the topic of Iraq shouldn't preclude them from opining about our nation's current course of action, goodness no." Ferguson names "seven people who need to STFU about Iraq right now." CW: Several readers recommended this column. It's a fine one. ...

... Which Is Why I Don't Watch the Sunday Shows. ... Emily Arrowood of Media Matters: "NBC and ABC's Sunday news shows turned to discredited architects of the Iraq War to opine on the appropriate U.S. response to growing violence in Iraq, without acknowledging their history of deceit and faulty predictions." Paul Wolfowitz on NBC; Bill Kristol on ABC. "Holding Wolfowitz and Kristol up as reputable sources on U.S. intervention in Iraq, the broadcasts explained neither the roles the men played in dishonestly crafting the Iraq War nor their woeful records of predicting its outcome and aftermath." ...

... Bush's British Baby Brother Blair. Patrick Wintour, et al., of the Guardian: "Tony Blair has urged western governments to recognise that they need to take an active role in the Middle East, saying the west should consider military options short of sending ground troops.... Blair was speaking on UK morning TV shows after writing a lengthy essay setting out how to respond to the Iraq crisis, including his belief that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not the cause of the country's implosion." ...

    ... You can read Blair's bizarre claims here. ...

... ** Chelsea Manning has a very interesting piece in the New York Times about her experiences & observations of the chasm between what actually went on in Iraq while she was stationed there & what the U.S. media reported. ...

... CW: As for me -- & (unlike John McCain, Bill Kristol, et al.,) I claim absolute ignorance here -- I have a hard time understanding why Iraq needs to be "saved." It's a fake country anyway, cobbled together over the centuries by its various foreign conquerors (most recently, the British) & settled by people from different areas, different ethnic backgrounds & different religious beliefs. Why not home rule? Breaking up may be hard to do, but it's better than more sectarian violence. Please feel free to set me straight. ...

     ... Here's how Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute would answer my questions: Al Qaeda! I'm including this link only because Kagan's piece is receiving a lot of media attention. He might be an expert on some of the problems, but I'm not buying his "solutions." ...

... NEW. Here's the exchange between Katrina Vanden Heuvel & David Brooks that NPR aired Friday & which some commenters have mentioned:

Starbucks U. Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "Starbucks will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement with Arizona State University, the company and the university will announce on Monday."

Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "Staff members at dozens of Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country have objected for years to falsified patient appointment schedules and other improper practices, only to be rebuffed, disciplined or even fired after speaking up, according to interviews with current and former staff members and internal documents. The growing V.A. scandal over long patient wait times and fake scheduling books is emboldening hundreds of employees to go to federal watchdogs, unions, lawmakers and outside whistle-blower groups to report continuing problems, officials for those various groups said."

Emmarie Huettemann of the New York Times: "Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, said Sunday that he saw a troublesome division within the Republican Party, as he discussed his stunning primary defeat, which many are assessing for possible evidence that the Tea Party is regaining steam among Republicans. Though Mr. Cantor said in a separate interview, on CNN's 'State of the Union,' that the party's internal struggles 'pale in comparison' to its differences with Democrats, he said Republicans need to resolve their party's own clash." ...

... David Carr of the New York Times: "It's now clear why the primary defeat of the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, came so completely out of the blue last week: Beltway blindness that put a focus on fund-raising, power-brokering and partisan back-and-forth created a reality distortion field that obscured the will of the people. But that affliction was not Mr. Cantor's alone; it is shared by the political press.... The big miss by much of the political news media demonstrates that news organizations are no less a prisoner of Washington's tunnel vision than the people who run for office." ...

... Laura Ingraham Has an Excellent Sense of Humor. If You Like Sick Jewish "Jokes." David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Sunday argued that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) -- the only Jewish Republican in Congress -- had lost his seat because he couldn't 'take a joke' after she suggested trading him to the Taliban over his support for immigration reform. At a campaign rally for Tea Party-favorite Dave Brat in early June, Ingraham said that President Barack Obama 'could have just traded one Eric Cantor' to the Taliban for prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl." CW: AND thanks, ABC News & Jonathan Karl, for giving that loud-mouthed bigot Ingraham more exposure. Luckily, Bill Kristol was there at the table for "balance" or something. (Another of the people who should STFU re: Iraq. See Media Matters story above.) ...

... NEW. As P. D. Pepe highlighted in a comment the other day, not everybody cares about the demise of Eric Cantor's once-anticipated House speakership. I don't expect most Americans to keep up with political news, but when the House majority leader loses his seat in a primary, a sitting U.S. senator -- who is in a similar primary predicament -- ought to at least know about it:

Patricia Sullivan of the Washington Post: "One of the most historic journalism sites of the past half-century will soon vanish, following a decision by the Arlington County Board on Saturday to demolish the building and parking garage where FBI official Mark Felt secretly met with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate investigation. The County Board unanimously agreed to allow Monday Properties to replace its two 12-story, 1960s-era buildings at 1401 Wilson Blvd. in Rosslyn with a 28-story residential tower and a 24-story commercial building." Via Margaret Hartmann. CW: In the South, history only matters if there's a Confederate hero in the mix.

Presidential Race 2016

James Hohmann of Politico: "Establishment forces officially wrested control of the Iowa Republican Party from supporters of Rand Paul on Saturday, a development the victors said would help save the state's first-in-the-nation presidential caucus from being marginalized.... The transfer of power to those loyal to Gov. Terry Branstad -- which has been in the works for months but was completed on Saturday -- increases the likelihood that center-right GOP candidates, such as Chris Christie or Jeb Bush, will choose to compete in the caucus. It also jeopardizes next year's [Ames] straw poll: Branstad said the annual ritual has 'outlived its usefulness,' and other critics say it's become a spectacle that raises a lot of money for the party but has little significance politically. Pro-Paul forces, however, enthusiastically support the event and want to keep it going."

A Shocking Surprise. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Previewing a possible 2016 presidential matchup, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), a leading Republican White House contender, blasted Hillary Clinton as unfit to serve as the nation's commander in chief. Speaking at the Iowa Republican convention on Saturday, Paul declared the 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi the most concerning scandal of the Obama administration and laid the blame at Clinton's feet."

Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times: At a "retreat" for Republican political donors which Mitt Romney organized, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie "framed the bridge scandal as a media conspiracy against him after he won 61% of the vote in his gubernatorial race in a Democratic state. His opponents, he said, were trying to prevent him from getting any 'more altitude.'"

News Ledes

Politico: "President Barack Obama has notified Congress that up to about 275 U.S. military personnel are headed to Iraq to help the State Department relocate some staff from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to the U.S. Consulates General in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman."

New York Times: "The Sunni extremist militants threatening Iraq seized another northern city on Monday in a battle with the Iraqi Army after having ambushed a convoy of untrained Shiite militia volunteers, killing at least 29 in the first lethal encounter between Sunni and Shiite combatants since the government started mobilizing thousands of Shiites to supplement the country's faltering armed forces." ...

... Washington Post: "Al-Qaeda renegades captured another major town in northern Iraq on Sunday, forcing hundreds of families to flee into the surrounding desert as their country descended into a new round of bloodletting. The fall of the religiously mixed town of Tal Afar to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) raised the specter of deepening sectarian violence. It came as the U.S. government announced that it was drawing down staff at its embassy in Baghdad."

Reuters: "Russia cut off gas to Ukraine on Monday in a dispute over unpaid bills that could disrupt supplies to the rest of Europe and set back hopes for peace in the former Soviet republic."

AFP: "At least 48 people were killed when suspected Shebab militants from Somalia stormed into a Kenyan coastal town and launched a major assault on a police station, hotels and government offices, officials said on Monday.'

Friday
Jun132014

The Commentariat -- June 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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

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