The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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 Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

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

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

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

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

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

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

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Monday
Dec152014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 15, 2014

Peter Baker & Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times attempt to explain why CIA Director John Brennan gets away with murder & torture: "... in the 67 years since the C.I.A. was founded, few presidents have had as close a bond with their intelligence chiefs as Mr. Obama has forged with Mr. Brennan. It is a relationship that has shaped the policy and politics of the debate over the nation's war with terrorist organizations, as well as the agency's own struggle to balance security and liberty. And the result is a president who denounces torture but not the people accused of inflicting it." CW: Seems that even though Obama got a dog, he still believes he has friends in Washington. And he's picked some pretty dicey "friends." ...

... Noah Schactman of the Daily Beast: "The Obama administration is withholding hundreds, perhaps even thousands of photographs showing the U.S. government's brutal treatment of detainees.... Some photos show American troops posing with corpses; others depict U.S. forces holding guns to people's heads or simulating forced sodomization. All of them could be released to the public, depending on how a federal judge in New York rules...." ...

[Chuck] Todd continued to press Cheney, pointing out that '25 percent' of the CIA's 'turned out to be innocent.' 'Is that too high?' Todd asked. 'Are you okay with that margin —' 'I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective,' Cheney said. 'I'd do it again in a minute.'

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senior Bush administration officials are making a coordinated push to discredit a damning Senate report on CIA interrogation tactics authorized during President George W. Bush's first term.... [Dick] Cheney, along with other Bush administration officials, blasted the Senate report as one-sided and misleading. Michael Mukasey, who served as attorney general under Bush, slammed the report as a 'disaster.'... Karl Rove, a longtime senior political adviser to Bush, said on "Fox News Sunday" that interrogation techniques were carefully designed to fall short of torture, a point Cheney made as well on NBC." ...

... Andy Borowitz (satire): "In an appearance on NBC's 'Meet the Press,' on Sunday, former Vice-President Dick Cheney told host Chuck Todd that he was 'sick and tired of Americans being ashamed of our beautiful legacy of torture' and that he was organizing the first 'National Torture-Pride March' to take place in Washington in January." CW: The march would probably get a good turnout. ...

     ... Jessica Schulberg of the New Republic: "Only 11 percent of self-identified GOP-ers were willing to rule out the use of torture entirely, and over half approved of tactics like sleep deprivation, physical violence, forced nudity, waterboarding, and the threat of sexual violence.... Today, 24 percent of Americans say the use of torture against suspected terrorists is never justified...." ...

... Here's Rove explaining to Chris Wallace that torture isn't torture if it's "'designed' to let the victims live." ...

... The Triumph of Dick Cheney. Digby in Salon: "The brother of the unrepentant president who ordered torture is today considered the most serious Republican candidate for the White House and there can be no doubt that he would continue those practices. The opposition will do little more than make tepid complaints and, if history is any guide, even Democratic presidents of the future who object to such tactics will feel compelled to protect them after the fact. He accomplished exactly what he set out to do all those decades ago. If a White House can get away with ordering torture and bragging about it, it can get away with anything. His cruel legacy is complete." Thanks to safari for the link. ...

What I'm especially troubled by is John Brennan on Thursday really opened the door to the possibility of torture being used again.... I intend to introduce legislation to make it clear, for example, that if torture is used in the future there would be a basis to prosecute. -- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)

... Brian Lowry of Variety: "While the [Senate] report called into question the efficacy of torture, as the Washington Post's Terrence McCoy put it, 'That's not how it looks on TV. Harsh interrogation, as an effective means of eliciting crucial information, has become firmly entrenched in popular culture.'... Not only has torture become more frequent since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, but the acceptance of those depictions in entertainment has been cited as a point of reference -- and even an endorsement of the tactics.... It seems reasonable to ask whether pop culture -- along with news operations whose 'News Alert' headlines stoked post-Sept. 11 fears -- has been partially complicit in cultivating the conditions that allowed torture to be deemed a viable option."...

... CW: Hmmm. It does seem Hollywood director Kathryn Bigelow is more disturbed by elephant poaching -- which is truly awful -- than she is with torturing humans, which she describes as "complicated." She certainly bought into the "torture work" theory in an interview last year with Stephen Colbert. regarding her film "Zero Dark Thirty," which portrays torture as producing "actionable intelligence." As Scott Shane of the New York Times reported two years ago, "In a message sent Friday to agency employees about the film, 'Zero Dark Thirty,' [then-Acting CIA Director Michael] Morell said it 'creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding Bin Laden. That impression is false.'" Too bad President Obama passed over Morell for the top job. He surely has a better idea about the effectiveness of torture than does Obama's choice John Brennan, who defended torture last week & suggested the U.S. could use it again:

I defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to make sure this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis.... Our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attacks, capture terrorists, and save lives. But let me be clear. We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. -- John Brennan, last week

Does that even make sense? -- Constant Weader

... ** One Definition of "American Exceptionism." Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: Basically, in Cheney’s world, nothing Americans do can be called torture, because we are not Al Qaeda and we are not the Japanese in the Second World War (whom we prosecuted for waterboarding) and we are not ISIS. 'The way we did it,' as he said of waterboarding, was not torture. In other words, it was not really the Justice Department that 'blessed,' or rather transubstantiated, torture; it was our American-ness.... Neither [Dick Cheney nor John Brennan ]would call what the C.I.A. did torture. Each, in his own way, suggested that American torturers have not faced a reckoning so much as a lull in their business.... This President has told his agents not to torture, and Brennan says he can work with that, while the C.I.A. waits for instructions from the next one."

Harry's Last Hurrah. Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "After [Harry] Reid (D-Nev.) exploited a weekend rebellion on immigration by rogue Republican senators as a $1.1 trillion spending bill was up against the clock, the Senate will move ahead this week on key executive branch nominations submitted by President Obama that appeared to be stalled not long ago.... Beginning Monday, Reid plans to set in motion votes for Vivek Murthy to serve as surgeon general, Daniel Santos to take a seat on the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and Frank Rose to serve as an assistant secretary of state. Then, Reid will set up votes for Antony Blinken to serve as a deputy secretary of state and Sarah Saldaña to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. It is unclear whether Republicans will allow Reid to accelerate the process."

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: Elizabeth Warren hasn't taken Larry Summers' advice to keep her head down, & her decision has paid off. "She's remained outspoken, but has become even more influential.... For the 300 former Obama campaign officials who last week urged her to run in 2016 -- she is the one they've been waiting for."

Paul Krugman: "The Masters of the Universe, it turns out, are a bunch of whiners. But they're whiners with war chests, and now they've bought themselves a Congress.... The people who brought the economy to its knees are seeking the chance to do it all over again. And they have powerful allies, who are doing all they can to make Wall Street's dream come true." Read the whole column.

Jim Tankersley of the Washington Post: "The American economy has stopped delivering the broadly shared prosperity that the nation grew accustomed to after World War II. The explanation for why that is begins with the millions of middle-class jobs that vanished over the past 25 years, and with what happened to the men and women who once held those jobs. Millions of Americans are working harder than ever just to keep from falling behind.... Those workers have been devalued in the eyes of the economy, pushed into jobs that pay them much less than the ones they once had. Today, a shrinking share of Americans are working middle-class jobs, and collectively, they earn less of the nation's income than they used to." ...

... CW: Weirdly, Tankersley puts the blame for this phenomenon on various economic factors & never once even mentions the political factors that have grossly exacerbated middle-class economic woes. Thus, the story, which could have been an important one, ends up being nothing more than an excellent example of how the media give Republicans a pass for their stupid, cruel "free-market" philosophy & policy prescriptions. If you wonder why Republicans get away with destroying the economy, here's a big part of the answer. Fortunately, a few of the commenters get it. (Others crazily blame "the national debt." They have been carefully taught -- in this case, by the WashPo/Pete Peterson cooperative.)

Don't Count on the Kids. Sean McElwee of Salon with a sobering reality chek: "... while social liberalism will continue to be a political winner, economic liberalism may be tougher to sell to white millenials. Additionally, while white millenials say they want to live in a racially equitable society, they are no more likely than their parents to support policies to make that society come about."

Annals of "Justice," Ctd.

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "Police aggressively questioned the tearful girlfriend of a young black man they had just shot dead as he held a BB gun in an Ohio supermarket -- accusing her of lying, threatening her with jail, and suggesting that she was high on drugs. Tasha Thomas was reduced to swearing on the lives of her relatives that John Crawford III had not been carrying a firearm when they entered the Walmart in Beavercreek, near Dayton, to buy crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars on the evening of 5 August.... After the case was handed to a special prosecutor, a grand jury decided in September that [the shooter, Officer Sean] Williams, and another officer involved should not face criminal charges. Williams was in 2010 responsible for the only other fatal police shooting in Beavercreek's recent history." CW: So if you're a friend of a victim of a white-police-on-black shooting, expect the cops to abuse you, too.

David of Crooks & Liars: "A Texas police officer was placed on administrative leave on Friday after he reportedly used a Taser on a 76-year-old man after the suspect had already been forced to the ground. The Victoria Advocate reported that 76-year-old Pete Vasquez was driving a work-owned vehicle back to his place of business on Thursday when 23-year-old Officer Nathanial Robinson pulled him over for an expired inspection. Vasquez said that he explained that the car belonged to a car lot, and that the dealer tags made it exempt from having an inspection." CW: The elderly person's name is Vasquez; the copy's name is Robinson & he's whitey-white-white. What do you expect? ...

... Heather Alexander of the Houston Chronicle: "Two police officers opened fire on an apparently unarmed man during a traffic stop in southwest Houston Friday night, allegedly shooting him three times for not following commands. HPD officers pulled over the car the man was a riding in for an illegal lane change around 9:30 p.m.... As standard procedure, both officers have been put on three-day administrative leave and will receive psychological support...." The passenger, identified as Michael Paul Walker, is black.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker writes a long autopsy of the New Republic.

Terrence McCoy & Fred Barbash of the Washington Post: "After days of silence, Sony Pictures Entertainment acknowledged a voluminous, embarrassing leak of internal e-mails and other materials on Sunday, warning numerous media outlets in a strongly worded letter against publishing or using the 'stolen' corporate data exposed by unidentified hackers." ...

... Aaron Sorkin, in a New York Times op-ed: "I understand that news outlets routinely use stolen information. That's how we got the Pentagon Papers, to use an oft-used argument. But there is nothing in these [Sony] documents remotely rising to the level of public interest of the information found in the Pentagon Papers.... So much for our national outrage over the National Security Agency reading our stuff. It turns out some of us have no problem with it at all. We just vacated that argument.... As demented and criminal as it is, at least the hackers are doing it for a cause. The press is doing it for a nickel."

News Ledes

AP: "Five people escaped from a Sydney cafe where a gunman took an unknown number of hostages during Monday morning rush hour. Two people inside the cafe were earlier seen holding up a flag with an Islamic declaration of faith that has often been used by extremists, raising fears that a terrorist incident was playing out in the heart of Australia's biggest city." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging the hostage crisis. So is the Sydney Morning Herald. ...

     ... Guardian Update: "Two hostages and a gunman are dead after a 17-hour armed siege in Sydney's Martin Place ended with police storming the cafe. Four people were also injured as the siege ended in a chaotic shootout in the early hours of Tuesday." ...

... New York Times: "The gunman who seized hostages in a downtown Sydney cafe and was killed in a police raid early Tuesday was known to both the police and leaders of the Muslim community as a deeply troubled man with a long history of legal trouble, including a pending case involving the murder of his former wife."

Saturday
Dec132014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 14, 2014

Ed O'Keefe & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "The Senate approved a sweeping $1.1 trillion spending bill Saturday night to fund most of the federal government through the next fiscal year." CW: You might want to read the whole report, as it's mostly about how pissed senators are at Ted Cruz (and Mike Lee). It's a straight report, but amusing nonetheless, especially as it reiterates how the Cruz move played into Democrats' hands & embarrassed Mitch McConnell. ...

... Democratic Senators voting against the CR: Blumenthal, Booker, Boxer, Brown, Cantwell, Franken, Gillibrand, Harkin, Hirono, Klobuchar, Levin, Manchin, Markey, McCaskill, Menendez, Merkley, Reed, Sanders (I), Tester, Warren, Whitehouse & Wyden. ...

... Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "A vast majority of the Senate disagreed with Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) assertion that President Obama's executive order on immigration is unconstitutional.... Only 22 senators voted with Cruz and 74 voted against his point of order." ...

... "Does Not Play Well with Others." Manu Raju, et al., of Politico: "The fiasco has turned many of Cruz's colleagues openly against him, a dynamic that might bolster his cred with the tea party wing of the party if he makes a run for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2016, but could also leave him vulnerable to attacks that he's more troublemaker than leader -- able to shut down the government or stall votes but unable to advance a proactive agenda." ...

... Ramsey Cox: "The Senate spent nine hours on procedural votes that will allow Senate Democrats to confirm 24 more of President Obama's nominations before adjourning for the year. The rare Saturday session was prompted by objections from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) over the government funding bill. 'Because of Sen. Cruz's actions and Republicans' inability to stop him, Democrats will end up confirming more nominees by the end of this Congress than we would have been able to otherwise -- including several key executive branch nominees and up to 12 of President Obama's judicial nominees," said Adam Jentleson, [Harry ]Reid's spokesperson." ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Senate convened for a rare Saturday session after a bloc of conservative senators upended plans to quickly pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill. But a backstop measure to extend current government funding until Wednesday was approved Saturday afternoon, averting a potential government shutdown that would have started at midnight.... 'I think it is critical for the Senate to have an opportunity to have a clear up or down vote on funding President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty. I am using every tool available to help bring about that vote,' said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)." ...

... David Espo & Donna Cassata of the AP: "Their power ebbing, Senate Democrats launched a last-minute drive Saturday to confirm roughly 20 of President Barack Obama's nominees, and several Republicans blamed tea party-backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for creating an opening for the outgoing majority party to exploit." ...

... Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The secret negotiations that led to one of the most significant expansions of campaign contributions in recent years began with what Republican leaders regarded as an urgent problem: How would they pay for their presidential nominating convention in Cleveland in two years? The talks ended with a bipartisan agreement between Senate Democrats, led by the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and House Republicans, led by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, that would allow wealthy donors to begin giving more than $1 million every election cycle to each party's national committees. The agreement drew intense criticism from both liberal Democrats and Tea Party-aligned Republicans.... It is now headed for likely passage as a rider in a $1.1 trillion spending bill loaded with provisions sought by banks, food industry lobbyists and other special interests. It continued to draw fierce attacks as lawmakers prepared to vote on a final spending bill, even as Democratic leaders privately defended the addition as a necessary compromise to forestall more aggressive efforts by Republicans next year to whittle away at other campaign funding restrictions."

Darryl Fears of the Washington Post: "Thousands of demonstrators streamed down Pennsylvania Avenue on Saturday, shouting 'Black lives matter,' 'Hands up, don't shoot' and 'I can&'t breathe' to call attention to the recent deaths of unarmed African American men at the hands of police. The peaceful civil rights march led by families of the slain and organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network drew a wide range of Americans -- black, white, Latino, Asian, young and elderly." ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer & Elena Schneider of the New York Times: "Thousands of people marched along the National Mall on Saturday to protest the deaths [of black men & youths by white policemen], mirroring protests planned around the nation Saturday, ranging from hikes in canyons in the West to marches down the streets of the nation's urban centers.... Around the nation, from California to Kentucky to Manhattan, activists came together on Saturday for a National Day of Resistance. In New York, protesters gathered at Washington Square Park and walked north on Fifth Avenue while chanting, 'Hands up, don't shoot,' and 'Justice now.'" ...

... AP: "Three cardboard cutouts of black men were found hanging by nooses on Saturday on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. A school spokeswoman, Amy Hamaoui, said ... the effigies appeared to be connected to a noontime demonstration nearby planned to coincide with a national protest against police brutality dubbed '#blacklivesmatters'. The effigies appeared to be life-size photos of lynching victims. The effigies had names of lynching victims and the dates of their death." ...

"An undercover police officer, who had been marching with anti-police demonstrators, aims his gun at protesters after some in the crowd attacked him and his partner." AP photo.

... CW: Can't imagine how protesters guessed the guy with a gun was a cop. ...

... Nikki Woolf & Jessica Glenza of the Guardian: "An undercover California highway patrol officer who infiltrated protests against police violence in Oakland pulled a gun on demonstrators after his and his partner's cover was blown." ...

... Us v. Them. Brendan O'Connor of Gawker: "New York City's largest police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) is encouraging its members to sign a form letter asking Mayor Bill De Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito not to attend their funerals if they are killed while on active duty."

Scott Shane of the New York Times: "... the Senate report ... represents the fullest public account by any branch of government of the C.I.A.'s secret prison program. It exposes some of the mistakes made in the agency's rush to grab people with possible links to Al Qaeda.... Until 9/11, the United States had officially condemned secret imprisonment as a violation of the basic international standards of human rights. But like the prohibition on torture, it was set aside in the frantic effort to stop another attack. The Senate Democratic staff members ... counted 119 prisoners who had been in C.I.A. custody. Of those, the report found that 26 were either described in the agency's own documents as mistakenly detained, or released and given money, evidence of the same thing. The C.I.A. told the Senate in its formal response that the real number of wrongful detentions was 'far fewer' than 26 but did not offer a number." ...

... Jane Mayer of the New Yorker: "It didn't have to be this way. There have been a number of true 'torture patriots,' many of them at the C.I.A., who Obama and Brennan could have praised while sending a very clear message to the Agency and to the public. They are the officers who blew the whistle on the program internally and externally, some of whom have paid a very high price for their actions.... As David Luban, a professor of law at Georgetown University and the author of 'Torture, Power, and Law,' suggested in the Times, there are many forms of accountability for torture, and one of the most meaningful would be to honor the real torture patriots -- those who tried to stop it. What a better week it would have been if Obama had." ...

... Charles Pierce: "I think it's possible that the barbarians in the White House tortured people in order to produce statements they could use to validate further their bullshit case for their bullshit war. Even I don't want to believe that we were ruled for eight years by that species of monster. If that is the case, however, somewhere at the CIA there's a memo, and somewhere there's somebody in a cubicle that knows where the memo is, and who knows the phone number of a reporter." ...

... Steve M.: "What's revealing about [an exchange between Dick Cheney & Bret Baier of Fox "News"] is that Cheney is asked about brutality and asserts that the only alternative is indulgence. Right-wingers can't imagine any possible middle ground.... In the same way that they believe every liberal or moderate alternative to their economic ideas constitutes hardcore socialism, right-wingers think you can either treat prisoners their way or turn their prisons into spas. If you disagree with them, pampering is what you're advocating, according to the right."

Steve also has a very good post on why Democrats have lost white men. It's about the economy, stupid.

Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "For decades, officials at Bob Jones University told sexual assault victims that they were to blame for their abuse, and to not report it to the police because doing so would damage their families, churches and the university, according to a long-awaited independent report released Thursday. Bob Jones, an evangelical Christian institution in Greenville, S.C., displayed a 'blaming and disparaging' attitude toward abuse victims, according to 56 percent of the 381 current and former students and employees who replied to a confidential survey and said they had knowledge of how the university handled abuse cases."

God News

Kimberly Winston of Relgion News Service finds some swell Christmas cards for the cynical.

"The Christmas Resolution." Scott Kaufman of the Raw Story: "For the third time in four years, Colorado Representative Doug Lamborn (R) introduced a resolution intended to defend Christians against the so-called 'War on Christmas.'" Via Steve Benen.

Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times: "The U.S. Senate passed a defense policy bill Friday that would allow a 43-foot cross to remain atop Mt. Soledad in San Diego, possibly ending a 25-year legal battle. A provision in the $577-billion measure calls for the federal government to sell the land beneath the cross to the Mt. Soledad Memorial Assn., which has pledged to retain the cross as part of a war memorial." Also via Benen.

Josephine McKenna of Religion News Service: "The Roman Catholic Church in Australia acknowledged that 'obligatory celibacy' may have contributed to decades of clerical sexual abuse of children in what may be the first such admission by church officials around the world. A church advisory group called the Truth, Justice and Healing Council made the startling admission Friday (Dec. 12) in a report to the government's Royal Commission, which is examining thousands of cases of abuse in Australia. The 44-page report by the council attacked church culture and the impact of what it called 'obedience and closed environments' in some religious orders and institutions."

Jon Shirek of WXIA-TV Atlanta: "Wednesday night, in a stunning reversal, the Kennesaw[, Georgia,] City Council said they plan to approve the new mosque that they rejected last week.... Council members did not say why they were changing their votes to Yes. But they knew that the city was facing a certain, and expensive, lawsuit by the Muslims claiming that the city was violating their Constitutional rights." Via Benen. ...

... MEANWHILE, in a nearby community, Gideons is intent upon distributing Christian Bibles to children at public schools even though it is aware the practice is illegal. In fact, as Hemant Mehta reports, according to an attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, "The Gideons operate by deliberately avoiding superintendents and school boards. They advise their members to seek permission at the lowest level of authority. Usually, they target teachers and principals."

"Sorry, Fido." No, Pope Francis didn't say dogs would go to heaven. ...

     ... David Gibson of Religion News Service: "When The New York Times went with the story [that Pope Francis told a little boy he would see his dog in heaven], along with input from ethicists and theologians, it became gospel truth.... There's only one problem: none of it ever happened." The Times story is here, now with a lo-o-ong correction.

But Maybe Horses. Danielle Avitable of WJTV, Jackson, Mississippi: "Reverend Edward James of Bertha Chapel Missionary Baptist Church dressed his horse, Charlotte, in a makeshift wedding dress to protest same-sex marriage. 'The horse is to show the ridiculous idea of two men getting married,' says James." CW: If this guy has enough imagination to dress up a horse, why can't he imagine that "two men" would want to marry for the same reasons a man & a woman do?

News Lede

Guardian: "International negotiators at the Lima climate change talks have agreed on a plan to fight global warming that would for the first time commit all countries to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, agreed at United Nations talks on Sunday, was hailed as an important first step towards a climate change deal due to be finalised in Paris next year."

Saturday
Dec132014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 13, 2014

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Sen. Ted Cruz [RTP-Texas] ... has blown up the Senate leadership's plans to have a peaceful weekend by forcing round-the-clock votes on President Obama's nominees and the $1.1 trillion omnibus.... Because of objections from Cruz and his ally Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the Senate will begin slogging through procedural votes on nominees starting at noon Saturday and vote to end a filibuster of the omnibus spending package at 1 a.m. Sunday morning." ...

... Ashley Parker & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Senate on Friday struggled to pass a $1.1 trillion spending package notable for its expansive spending on military and disease fighting abroad, as well as its scaling back of financial and environmental regulations at home. In a late-night twist that is emblematic of the dysfunction plaguing the 113th Congress, partisan maneuvering in the Senate disrupted what leaders on both sides had expected to be a relatively smooth path toward final passage.... Lawmakers plan to reconvene on Saturday and work through the weekend if necessary." ...

... Dave Clarke, et al., of Politico: "Wall Street's success in using the year-end spending bill to weaken a provision of the 2010 financial reform law shows how it plans to wield its clout in the months ahead -- slowly and methodically, piece by piece, leveraging the legislative process. But the sudden uprising by liberals led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also showed that Wall Street's toxic reputation will continue to dog its efforts in Congress.... 'This is an absolute outrage,' former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the law's namesake, said of the deal. 'This is a road map for stealth unwinding of financial reform.'" ...

... Brian Beutler summarizes what "we learned from the raucous debate over the omnibus. Elizabeth Warren is a bigger powerhouse than we thought.... Democrats are divided tactically ... [and] substantively.... Republicans mostly agree ... that they shouldn't shut the government down again.... Obama's priorities are clearer.... Democrats will thus have a hard time playing populist." ...

... Gail Collins offers up an "opinion primer" so you can speak intelligently about the CRomnibus at holiday gatherings. ...

... CW: Collins doesn't mention the "pension reform" in the CRomnibus. As KPCC (NPR) reports, "If you're one of the million or so Americans who work for supermarkets, drive trucks, or build homes, your pension could shrink. Some private pensions are in trouble - they're underfunded and not enough new workers are contributing to the pool. The federal agency that bails out pension funds is also running out of money. A deal that allows these pensions to cut pensions for already retired workers was crafted by retiring Northern California Congressman George Miller, the top Democrat on the Education and Workforce Committee. Critics say it opens the door to slashing pensions in other industries as well." Roll Call: "A statement from Teamsters President Jim Hoffa ... said [pension changes in the bill] would result 'in an untold number of retirees losing a substantial percentage of their fixed income should reductions be required.'" ...

... OR This. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Democrats who voted for the giant spending bill on Thursday night received, on average, twice the campaign contributions from the finance/insurance/real estate industry as their colleagues who voted against it." CW: If you think this is a coincidence, I have some swell derivatives I'll sell you. ...

... For a comprehensive review of the bad policies crammed into the CRomnibus, I'd go with David Dayen's summary for the Fiscal Times. His conclusion: "The precedent for making changes on signature issues by tucking rollbacks into must-pass legislation has been set, without much presidential objection, or indeed, with the White House's active cooperation. 'It shows that conservatives can use must-pass legislation to repeal the regulatory state,' said one GOP aide this week. And while big theatrical fights may get waged over single provisions, dozens of others can get pushed through under cover of darkness. In other words, elections have consequences." Dayen also notes that "Obama marginalized the Democratic party" & that almost all of the "policy riders ... benefiting one donor or another [which], offers a window into how Washington will operate in 2015 and beyond." ...

... AND this, from Dylan Scott of TPM: "The CRomnibus ... prohibits the Health and Human Services Department from transferring funds from other sources to fund the [risk corridor] program. The practical impact, one policy expert told TPM, is that HHS can therefore only use money brought into the program to make payouts, effectively making it revenue neutral.... Any negative effects on insurance companies -- and then, by extension, Obamacare -- are a policy win for Republicans, who have derided risk corridors as a taxpayer-funded bailouts." Thanks to Victoria D. for the link. ...

     ... CW: I don't think this is a very big deal. The risk-corridor program was designed to be self-sustaining, except perhaps in the first year or two of the program, when, with no experience history, there was a "risk" that it would have to get a public assist. If it isn't paying for itself in future years, HHS should be able to tweak the numbers to make it revenue-neutral anyway.

** Ali Soufan in the Guardian: "The Senate report exposed an orchestrated campaign of deception and lies while I was an FBI agent. But here's the worst part: the lies haven't stopped.... One of the hardest things we struggled to make sense of, back then, was why US officials were authorizing harsh techniques when our interrogations were working and their harsh techniques weren't. The answer, as the long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report now makes clear, is that the architects of the program were taking credit for [the FBI's] success [in using normal interrogation techniques to gain useful intelligence]." ...

... Steven Reisner in Slate: According to "recent revelations in James Risen's new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War..., it appears that senior staff members of the American Psychological Association ... colluded with national security psychologists from the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House to adapt APA ethics policy to suit the needs of the psychologist-interrogators. Now, the APA, under enormous pressure because of the allegations reported by Risen, has agreed to an independent investigation to be conducted by David Hoffman, a former inspector general and federal prosecutor.... Other major national organizations of physicians, psychiatrists, and nurses all determined that their ethical obligations prohibited their members from participating in these interrogations." ...

... "I Am Not a Doctor." Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "Former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden on Thursday defended revelations from Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats that the agency used rectal rehydration on detainees. 'These were medical procedures,' Hayden said during a tense interview on CNN's 'The Lead with Jake Tapper.' He added that the method was used because detainees were dehydrated, and that giving them intravenous fluids with needles would be dangerous. 'I'm not a doctor,' he said. 'What I am told is that this is one of the ways that the body is rehydrated.'" The interview is here. Tapper was astounded: "You're really defending rectal dehydration?" ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "For the record, Physicians for Human Rights says that using the procedure 'without evidence of medical necessity' is in fact 'torture.' And, for the record, they are doctors." ...

Contrary to the CIA's assertions, there is no clinical indication to use rectal rehydration and feeding over oral or intravenous administration of fluids and nutrients. This is a form of sexual assault masquerading as medical treatment. -- Dr. Vincent Iacopino of Physicians for Human Rights

... CW: Both Tapper & Hayden make a big deal of the fact that the Senate staff did not talk to CIA witnesses. On that point, Daphne Eviatar of the Huffington Post: "One of the biggest criticisms of the Senate report is that it didn't interview witnesses, but the Senate committee has explained that was because many would not have been able to speak about their role while under investigation by the Justice Department." ...

... AND Nino Weighs In: Torture Is Totally Constitutional! AP: In an interview with Radio Television Suisse, conducted Wednesday after the Senate report was released, & aired Friday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said "nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists." CW: Scalia uses the right's "ticking timebomb" defense of torture, which intelligent people know is an absurdist argument. Funny he didn't say anything about torture's being immoral & a violation of our international treaties (at least as reported by the AP). Worth bearing in mind: this brilliant jurist (and moral cipher) also says that the Court is okay with putting an innocent person to death. So naturally, torture is cool. ...

     ... As Paul Waldman notes, "So: torture? No problem. A mandate to buy health insurance? A horrifying affront to liberty."

Bob's Bad Day. Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The federal agency that will play a pivotal role in guiding the sentence of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell has recommended that the onetime Republican rising star spend at least 10 years and a month in prison, according to several people familiar with the matter. The guidelines recommended by the U.S. probation office are preliminary, and even if finalized, U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer is not required to follow them. But experts said that Spencer typically heeds the probation office's advice, and judges in his district have imposed sentences within the recommendations more than 70 percent of the time in recent years."

Pete Williams of NBC News: "Attorney General Eric Holder has decided against forcing a reporter for the New York Times to reveal the identity of a confidential source, according to a senior Justice Department official. The reporter, James Risen, has been battling for years to stop prosecutors from forcing him to name his source for a book that revealed a CIA effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear weapons program.... But now, according to the Justice Department official, Holder has directed that Risen must not be required to reveal "information about the identity of his source.... The federal judge overseeing the case, Leonie Brinkema of Alexandria, Virginia, gave the government until next Tuesday to declare how much [Risen] would be required to reveal in court."

Here's Jeff Johnson's full interview of President Obama (video & transcript). David Hudson of the White House provides a transcript of excerpts regarding race relations.

Here's Colbert's interview of President Obama. Part 2 is here. A brief extended portion is here:

Danny Vinik of the New Republic on Elizabeth Warren's big week. He holds out hope she will decide to run for president.

Issa's Last Stand. Natalie Villacorta of Politico: "House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has subpoenaed MIT economist Jonathan Gruber for all documents related to his government work on the Affordable Care Act. At a committee hearing this week, which was prompted in part by his controversial comments about the passage of the ACA, Gruber refused to provide details about how much he was paid by federal and state governments for his consulting services on the health care law." CW: Issa's chairmanship of the Oversight Committee ends with this Congressional session. ...

... Barbara Morrill of Daily Kos explains why: "Saddened that his recent hearing into the Kenyan plot to destroy America by providing health care to millions was largely overlooked because of a pesky report about torture, or maybe because this is his last chance to put on a show, Republican jackass Darrell Issa is at it again." ...

... OR, as Dave Weigel of Bloomberg Politics, reports, Issa's motivation is more sinister: "It's one final pearl dive, albeit one that incoming Chairman and Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz will happily strap on the SCUBA gear for. The goal, as before, is to find Gruber gabbing about something that could bolster the legislative arguments for states to undo the ACA, and bolster the legal arguments for the Supreme Court to rule against the government and argue that state exchanges were never meant to have subsidies."

Darryl Fears of the Washington Post: "With the families of slain black men and children walking with him, the Rev. Al Sharpton will guide a traditional civil rights march from downtown Washington to the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, but it won't be the weekend's only demonstration. In other parts of the nation, a number of younger activists say they will gather in areas as part of a broad National Day of Resistance to protest recent grand jury decisions to not indict officers in the deaths of Eric Garner of Staten Island and Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo." ...

... Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post: "Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer last month, died from a 'gunshot wound of torso with injuries of major vessel, intestines and pelvis,' according to an autopsy released on Friday. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's report ruled Rice's the death a homicide." ...

... Mary Kilpatrick of Northeast Ohio Media Group: "Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice, is expected to join the Rev. Al Sharpton and the families of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin Saturday in Washington D.C. to lead a march against police brutality and excessive force."

In yesterday's commentary thread, Akhilleus pointed to a piece that's a good demonstration of all that's wrong about the right. Eric Hananoki of Media Matters: "Allen West heavily plagiarized from a viral Internet story in a piece attacking the Obama administration for purportedly ignoring the deaths of law enforcement officers. West lifted at least six paragraphs (including typos) from the story, which was previously posted on sites like Yahoo! Answers, Free Republic, Facebook, and the comments section of various websites." The fabulous coda: "West concluded the column by claiming, "I write this missive because I despise hypocrisy." He previously decried plagiarism by Sen. John Walsh (D-MT) in an October 14 post." ...

... Hananoki has updated his piece, & this too is hilarious: "The following sentence has been added to the piece, just before the series of paragraphs Media Matters highlighted as originating with the viral story: 'Then I came across a widely circulated email and viral internet post about a number of stories that seem to have dropped off the radar of the mainstream media, and conveniently ignored by the Department of Justice.' That sentence replaces one from the original version in which West had credited the research in the article to himself, writing: 'I decided to do a little checking and scouring for some information. And it didn't take long to find proof of hypocrisy that reaches the highest levels -- the White House.' The post now includes italicized paragraphs where West had previously committed mass plagiarism. He has also fixed the three plagiarized typos that were originally identified by Media Matters. There is no indication in the post that it has been changed." A staff member fell on her sword for West, claiming she "inadvertently failed to transcribe the quotation marks. As Hananoki notes, her "explanation doesn't pass the smell test." ...

... CW: Not only is the entire post based on a lie (see Hananoki's piece), right-wing "ideas" are so crass & strident & fact-free they lack any originality past making up shit. West, a one-term Congressman, is now head of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), (Oxymoron Alert!) a conservative think tank, which described him as a "visionary leader." His "vision," alas, is entirely plagiarized. There is no vision on the right, unless dystopia passes for vision these days.

Thursday
Dec112014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 12, 2014

New York Times Editors: "When the long-lost grail of bipartisan compromise finally re-emerged on Capitol Hill this week, the spending bill for 2015 turned out to be weighted with some of the most devious and damaging provisions imaginable for good government. Written in secrecy, presented as the take-it-or-leave-it alternative to a government shutdown, the bill, which narrowly passed the House Thursday night, includes two regressive 'riders' aimed at warming the big-money hearts of donors who leave Congress increasingly vulnerable to special-interest corruption." ...

... Rebecca Shabad, et al., of the Hill report on some of the arm-twisting that got the bill passed: "The bill's passage, as a result, was a remarkable victory for both Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama, who were able to cobble together the votes for passage." CW: So Boehner & Obama were "victorious" over the citizenry. Congratulations, fellas. And you wonder why the public holds these guys in low regard. ...

... Greg Sargent is fairly sanguine about the deal. ...

... Charles Pierce, not so much. ...

... Thursday @ 9:05 pm ET: MSNBC is reporting the House will vote "shorty" on the appropriations bill to fund the government. ...

     ... Update: @ 9:50 pm ET, the spending bill passed the House 219-206, with 57 Democrats voting for it. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Hang tight for another Orange Man crisis." ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Just hours before a possible government shutdown, House leaders were struggling to shore up support for a sweeping bill to fund most of the federal government, change campaign finance laws and make it harder for the District of Columbia to legalize marijuana. The White House said President Obama supports the bill and would sign it, but also criticized lawmakers for using the 1,603-page bill to tweak financial regulations and campaign donation limits.... In a notable public break with the White House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used a floor speech to blast Obama and Republicans for backing the bill." ...

     ... Update. New Lede: "A sweeping bill to fund most of the federal government for the next year, change campaign finance laws and make it harder for the District of Columbia to legalize marijuana passed the House on Thursday even as Congress plans to give itself more time to avert a government shutdown and complete unfinished business."

... Emma Dumain & Matt Fuller of Roll Call: "Unsure whether they have the votes to pass a trillion-dollar federal spending package, House GOP leaders on Thursday afternoon delayed a final vote on the 'cromnibus.' They did so with mere hours to go until the government is set to run out of funding, and just before the House was scheduled to vote." ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "With just hours to go before a scheduled government shutdown, the Democrats launched a lobbying blitz to counter calls made by Obama and other White House officials urging passage of the bill. Leading the charge was Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, who is up in arms over the face that Obama has agreed to accept a GOP rider to undo parts of the 2010 Wall Street reform law as part of the package. 'We don't like lobbying that is being done by the president or anybody else that would allow us to support a bill that ... would give a big gift to Wall Street and the bankers who caused this country to almost go into a depression,' she said. 'So I'm opposed to it and we're going to fight it.'" ...

... Peter Schroeder & Kevin Cirilli of the Hill: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday sought to rally opposition to the $1.1 trillion government funding bill, spearheading a revolt on the left that has put her influence in the Democratic Party to the test. The Massachusetts liberal pleaded for House Democrats to withhold support for a government funding package due to a provision she said would change the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to let 'Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money.'"

Mark Mazzetti & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "John O. Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, defended the agency's use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation tactics on Thursday, sidestepping questions about whether agency operatives tortured anyone. Mr. Brennan, responding to an excoriating Senate report detailing years of brutal interrogation tactics in secret C.I.A. prisons, criticized only those officers who he said went 'outside the bounds' of the guidelines established by the Justice Department. Those guidelines allowed for waterboarding, a week of sleep deprivation, shackling prisoners in painful positions, dousing them with water, and locking them in coffin-like boxes." CW: So the Democrats' very own Dick Cheney. ...

... Rosa Brooks of Foreign Policy: "Writing in the Wall Street Journal, former CIA Directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden and three former CIA deputy directors insist that all that waterboarding and rectal feeding wasn't pointless: 'It led to the capture of senior al Qaeda operatives ... [and] the disruption of terrorist attacks ... [and] added enormously to what we knew about al Qaeda as an organization.' Besides, they say, the SSCI report leaves out the all-important 'context' -- which is that everything the ACLU insists on calling 'torture' happened way back when things were really scary.... [But] in real life you don't get actual ticking bomb scenarios, with their certainty, simplicity, and urgency. In real life, you get ambiguity and uncertainty.... The insistence that 'torture works' just leads to more slippery slopes.... Once we start justifying immoral actions based on their utilitarian outcomes, there's no principled place to stop." ...

... Kimberly Dozier of the Daily Beast: "A top CIA official in charge of the agency's interrogation program claimed he was unaware of some of the most gruesome techniques revealed by the Senate's torture report. Working from CIA documents, the report said detainees were made to stand on broken limbs, or forced to take in food or water rectally. But Jose Rodriguez, head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center at the time, said the newly revealed abuses caught him off-guard, too.... Rodriguez's narrative of those early years of the war on terror appears to be contradicted in part by the Senate report." ...

... Putting Torture "in Context," Ctd. Matt Spetalnick & Bill Trott of Reuters: "One of the two psychologists who devised the CIA's harsh Bush-era interrogation methods said on Wednesday that a scathing U.S. Senate report on the torture of foreign terrorism suspects 'took things out of context' and made false accusations. 'It's a bunch of hooey,' James Mitchell told Reuters from his home in Florida when asked for his response to the Senate Intelligence Committee's findings released on Tuesday. 'Some of the things are just plain not true.'" CW: It sure looks like the torture proponents are all working off the same talking points memo. ...

Digby has an excellent post in Salon on another secret torture report, the "Panetta Review," a taste of which Sen. Mark Udall revealed in his Senate speech (embedded in yesterday's Commentariat). According to Udall, here's the smoking gun: "The Panetta Review found that the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Congress, the president, and the public on the efficacy of its coercive techniques." ...

     ... Driftglass: "If CIA and top White House goons and National Security officials really did conspire to create and execute torture policy while keeping the Commander-in-Chief in the dark for years, then what happened can only be described as the first coup d'etat in American history." ...

... ** Frank Rich: "Whatever credit [President Obama] deserves for shutting down our government's practice of torture is mitigated by his refusal to hold anyone accountable for the crimes committed in our country's name." Read the whole commentary.

... Tim Egan contrasts reactions from Dick Cheney & John McCain to release of the Senate torture report. "As McCain walked off the [Senate] floor, with the cautious gait of a man physically hobbled by his service nearly a half-century ago, Senator [Dianne] Feinstein kissed him on the cheek. It was a way of saying thanks to a war hero whose words, if this country believes what it preaches, will outlast the scowling remarks of a chicken hawk. ...

... Duped! Adam Serwer in BuzzFeed: "Most damningly -- and politically conveniently -- the report somehow manages to combine harrowing details of torture while exonerating nearly every top official whose job it was to prevent it from happening, and place the blame on a powerful political entity that is the most likely to emerge unscathed: the CIA itself."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Thursday to authorize the military campaign against the Islamic State, a party-line decision that raises difficult questions for Republicans and intensifies a debate over war powers that has split President Obama from many in his own party. The 10-to-8 vote put on display an unusual alliance between some Democrats and some Republicans as well as contemplations about morality, obligation, constitutional prerogatives and the proper balance of power between branches of government."

Rachel Bade of Politico: Republicans are planning multiple attacks on the IRS, gutting appropriations, forbidding it to do its part in administering the ACA, disallowing its regulatory oversight of PACs & cutting taxpayer services as well as audits.

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "The share of prime-age men -- those 25 to 54 years old — who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent. More recently, since the turn of the century, the share of women without paying jobs has been rising, too. The United States, which had one of the highest employment rates among developed nations as recently as 2000, has fallen toward the bottom of the list." ...

... Amanda Cox of the Times looks at what these non-working men are doing,

"Mad as Hellas." Paul Krugman: The latest flare-up in the long-running Greek economic crisis "is what happens when an elite claims the right to rule based on its supposed expertise, its understanding of what must be done -- then demonstrates both that it does not, in fact, know what it is doing, and that it is too ideologically rigid to learn from its mistakes.... There's a real lesson in its political turmoil that's much more important than the false lesson too many took from its special fiscal woes."

Cecilia Kang, et al., of the Washington Post: "The hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment has escalated into a humiliating public crisis for the company as deeply held secrets -- including business practices, pay disparities and ugly personal feuds -- continue spilling onto the Internet in ways that experts say could damage the Hollywood studio for years to come.... The consequences for Sony have been swift and devastating since the attack became public last month, exposing the company to potential lawsuits and backlash from key Hollywood players. The inside drama revealed this week was the unraveling of a high-profile project at Sony to produce a biopic of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs -- the movie was eventually lost to a rival studio." ...

... Michael Cieply & Brooks Barnes of the New York Times: "Salaries of its top executives. Unpublished scripts. Sensitive contracts. Aliases that stars use to check into hotels. Those are just some of the disclosures from a devastating hacking attack on Sony's movie studio last month. But among all of the information that has spilled forth, perhaps nothing has riveted Hollywood more -- and laid bare the machinations at the highest levels of the film industry -- than a humiliating email exchange between Amy Pascal, Sony's co-chairwoman, and the producer Scott Rudin over Angelina Jolie and a planned Steve Jobs biopic.... Mr. Rudin referred to Ms. Jolie as 'a minimally talented spoiled brat' and pressured Ms. Pascal to shelve 'Cleopatra.' .... 'This is not about salacious emails being batted around by Gawker and Defamer,' Mr. Rudin said on Wednesday. 'It's about a criminal act, and the people behind it should be treated as nothing more nor less than criminals.'" ...

... Those Rich, White Liberal Obama Supporters Are Racists, Too. In the latest revelation, Sony Pictures chair Amy Pascal & producer Scott Rudin exchanged e-mails making fun of President Obama's race, stereotyping him as someone who would prefer movies starring & about black men. Matthew Zeitlin of BuzzFeed first reported the e-mail exchange. ...

... Cecilia Kang: "Thursday, Pascal apologized, breaking weeks of silence on the building and damaging leaks." ...

... Mike Fleming of Deadline: "Producer Scott Rudin has issued a public apology for the racially insensitive comments that surfaced last night in an exchange of hacked private e-mails between him and Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Amy Pascal." ...

... If you can about Hollywood backstabbing, Sam Biddle of Gawker has the scoop on some exchanges re: the making of the Steve Jobs biopic.

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "A woman charged with shooting and killing her ex-husband and stepdaughter has strong connections to groups advocating for expanding open carry gun laws in Texas. Local news outlets on Wednesday reported that Veronica Dunnachie was arrested and charged with shooting and killing her ex-husband and step daughter." ...

... Adam Weinsten of Gawker has more.

Top model Beverly Johnson, in a Vanity Fair essay, recounts how Bill Cosby lured her to his home & drugged her in the 1980s. Johnson has not previously revealed this incident publicly.

CW: I haven't followed this because it's a stupid story, but in case you were wondering if Harvard professors are pricks, well, yeah. Clint Rainey of New York: "Harvard-educated Harvard professor Ben Edelman has now apologized for threatening legal action against Sichuan Garden for overcharging him $4, and now Boston.com, where four of the top five stories right now involve the academic, breaks the news to readers that he may have done something similar in 2010." Make that serial pricks. Here's the Boston Globe's latest, by Hillary Sargent.

Presidential Election

Joshua Green & Miles Weiss of Bloomberg Politics: "Jeb Bush has a Mitt Romney problem.... Bush's recent business ventures reveal that he shares a number of liabilities with the last nominee, Mitt Romney, whose career in private equity proved so politically damaging that it sunk his candidacy.... BH Global Aviation is one of at least three such funds Bush has launched in less than two years through his Coral Gables, Fla., company, Britton Hill Holdings. He's also chairman of a $26 million fund, BH Logistics, established in April with backing from a Chinese conglomerate, and a $40 million fund involved in shale oil exploration, according to documents filed in June.... 'Running as the second coming of Mitt Romney is not a credential that's going to play anywhere, with Republicans or Democrats,' says John Brabender, a Republican consultant and veteran of presidential campaigns. 'Not only would this be problematic on the campaign trail, I think it also signals someone who isn't seriously looking at the presidency or he wouldn't have gone down this path.'" ...

... Ed Kilgore thinks Jeb's "Mitt problem" makes Mitt look better to GOP fatcats: "f you're going to run a candidate who is perceived as 'the second coming of Mitt Romney,' why not go with the original." ...

... Ben White & Maggie Haberman of Politico: "While some people close to Romney insist he hasn’t moved from saying he has no plans to run, the 2012 Republican nominee has sounded at least open to the idea in recent conversations, according to more than a dozen people who've spoken with him in the last month. In his private musings, Romney has sounded less than upbeat about most of the potential candidates in the 2016 Republican field, according to the people who've spoken with him....

CW: Aw, c'mon, Mitt. There's this guy:

Running for the presidency's not an IQ test. -- Rick Perry, the GOP's dumb candidate, touting his bona fides.

Perry, dumb as he is, seems to be aware that a dumb Texas governor can become president. -- Constant Weader

Running a close second in the contest for dumbest GOP presidential candidate is Scott Walker, who wrote to a Jewish constituent, "Thank you for you letter regarding the Menorah Display. Yes we would be happy to display the Menorah celebrating 'The Eight Days of Chanukah' here at the Courthouse.... Thank you again and Molotov." ...

... As for Perry, he's totally cool with "the Jews":

News Lede

Guardian: "Attempts by opposition parties in Germany to bring Edward Snowden to Berlin to give evidence about the NSA's operations have been thwarted by the country's highest court. The Green and Left parties wanted the whistleblower to give evidence in person to a parliamentary committee investigating espionage by the US agency, but Germany's constitutional court ruled against them on Friday." ...

... CW: Forget Ed Snowden. The lede is an excellent example of why every newspaper should ban use of the passive voice. Using it twice in one lede is extraordinary.