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

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

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel Politi of Slate: "Los Angeles residents got a little surprise when they woke up on the first day of the year and realized one of the city’s most famous landmarks had been vandalized to read 'HOLLYWeeD' — at least for a few hours. Police say the vandal used tarps to change the sign’s O’s into E’s. Security cameras caught the vandal — likely a man — changing the sign between midnight and 2 a.m. but police can’t tell the person’s race or height from the footage, reports KTLA. If caught, the vandal could face a misdemeanor trespassing charge." -- CW 

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Saturday
Nov082014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 9, 2014

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Just days after his party was routed in the midterm elections, President Obama said that he and his White House team had not succeeded in effectively selling the benefits of his policies to the American people, calling it a 'failure of politics' that he must change in the final two years of his presidency. 'It's not enough just to build a better mousetrap,' Mr. Obama said in an interview that was taped Friday at the White House and broadcast Sunday on the 60th anniversary of CBS's 'Face the Nation' program. 'People don't automatically come beating to your door. We've got to sell it. We've got to reach out to the other side and, where possible, persuade'":

Sari Horwitz & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama on Saturday nominated U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch as his next attorney general. If confirmed, she would be the first African American woman to serve in that post":

Thomas Frank in Salon: "Once again, Republicans used their patented brand of fake populism to make Democrats look like chumps.... After deliberately breaking Washington, the Republican Party just rode to power by protesting Washington's brokenness. Having done all they could to enrich the rich and empower the powerful, the GOP has now succeeded in presenting itself as America's warrior for social justice."

Andrew O'Hehir of Salon: "... what the dire 2014 midterms really tell us is that the entire electoral system is on the critical list, stuck in a 'Groundhog Day' wave pattern of bitterness, stagnation and cynicism.... Can anybody, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell included, tell me what the Republicans are for? OK, they're for war and they're for oil. Obama is for those things too, so I guess their problem with him is that he isn't for them enthusiastically enough. Oh, and he's black."

Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Democrats aren't planning a shakeup despite the thumping they took at the polls on Tuesday. Leaders in both the House and the Senate -- including Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- are expected to retain their spots atop the party in the next Congress, while the White House, in similar fashion, says it will keep its top staff largely intact. 'The president is somebody who doesn't make personnel changes just for cosmetic reasons,' White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday."

Mark Stern of Slate: "... conservatives [launched] an unprecedented campaign this election cycle to vote out left-leaning state supreme court judges in Tennessee, North Carolina, Kansas, and Montana.... They were completely and utterly trounced. In all four states, conservatives failed to flip the court; in fact, they failed to oust a single supreme court judge. Aided by progressives and bipartisan state bar associations, the judges fought back and won big.... At the end of the day, most Americans understand that a judgeship should not go to the highest bidder or the biggest spender."

Sarah Kliff of Vox: "The people who wrote Obamacare think the new Supreme Court case is ridiculous.... 'It was always intended that the federal fallback exchange would do everything that the statute told the states to do, which includes delivering the subsidies,' says Chris Condeluci, who worked as tax and benefits counsel for the Senate Finance Committee Republicans during the Affordable Care Act debate.... John McDonough, who worked on the Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee during the health reform debate, wrote in an email. There is not a scintilla of evidence that the Democratic lawmakers who designed the law intended to deny subsidies to any state, regardless of exchange status.'"

Obama Stuns Romney. Again. Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "Mitt Romney said Friday that he was stunned by reports of President Obama's letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 'That the president would write a letter of this nature, in effect legitimizing a nation and a leadership that is violating international norms and is threatening the world, is so far beyond the pale, I was stunned. I was speechless,' Romney said according to Haaretz newspaper and a number of other media outlets." CW: "Speechless" is good, too.

Hudson Hongo of Gawker: "According to Robert O'Neill -- the former Navy SEAL who claims he shot Osama bin Laden -- the Al Qaeda leader 'died like a pussy' and 'knew that we were there to kill him.'" CW: This guy should STFU. His language & assertions are extremely unhelpful. ...

... Here's the CNN report, by Chelsea Carter. With video. ...

... ** Shane Harris of the Daily Beast: "On Tuesday, Fox News will air a highly-anticipated documentary about a former Navy SEAL named Robert O'Neill, who claims to be the man who fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden. Several of O'Neill's former brothers-in-arms are coming forward to say his story is way, way off. In interviews with The Daily Beast, former special operations officials, as well as other sources who are familiar with the events of the 2011 raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, accused O'Neill of misstating key facts and wrongly taking sole credit for killing the world's then-most wanted man.... O'Neill insists that he was the shooter. But others -- including a fellow SEAL who was standing within feet of O'Neill when the final encounter with bin Laden went down -- say another, still-unidentified man likely fired the round that caused a lethal head wound." ...

... Steve M.: "You might think that a guy like O'Neill would be reluctant to put a debunkable story like this out there -- but hey, presumably his check from Fox for that special has already cleared. And, of course, Fox's audience will believe whatever makes them feel good or self-righteously angry, so they'll watch the special anyway, however much its facts have been disputed, the same way they continue to buy Sharyl Attkisson's book #34 at Amazon as I type this), even though her alleged video evidence of computer hacking has been widely debunked."

Arturo Garcia of the Raw Story: "Fox News contributor Keith Ablow shot back on Friday at a former president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) after he condemned Ablow's on-air commentaries about President Barack Obama.... The dispute began following an Associated Press feature on Ablow published on Thursday, in which ex-APA leader Jeffrey Lieberman blasted Ablow's activities. 'It is shameful and unfortunate that he is given a platform by Fox News or any other media organization,' Lieberman said. 'Basically he is a narcissistic self-promoter of limited and dubious expertise.'" Via Garcia, Here's a Media Matters mashup of some of A-Blow's greatest hits:

God News

Jim Yardley of the New York Times: "Pope Francis on Saturday sidelined a powerful American cardinal who has emerged as an unabashed conservative critic of the reform agenda and the leadership style that the Argentine pontiff has brought to the Roman Catholic Church. In an expected move, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke was officially removed as head of the Vatican's highest judicial authority, known as the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. He was demoted to the ceremonial position of chaplain for the Knights of Malta, a charity group." ...

... "Cardinal Burke's Excellent Maltese Adventure." Mark Silk of Religion News Service: Burke's "new position is Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, with the task of promoting the Maltese knights' spiritual interests. The appointment has a certain appropriateness, if you have a taste for Jesuitical irony. Although originally established to care for sick pilgrims to the Holy Land, the Knights Hospitallers (as they were called) soon became a major crusader militia, and through the centuries served the Church as one of its fiercer fighting forces."

Don Babwin & Tammy Webber of the AP: "The Archdiocese of Chicago on Thursday released thousands of internal documents showing how it hid the sexual abuse of children by 36 priests, adding to similar disclosures made earlier this year and fulfilling a pledge by an ailing Cardinal Francis George to release the files before he retires later this month.... [The documents] show how the archdiocese routinely hid the histories of abusive priests by moving them between parishes, did not swiftly remove the men from ministry and in some cases helped them remain priests long after allegations against them were deemed credible."

Be Afraid, Christian Soldiers. Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch: "Rick Santorum recently stopped by the Christian Post for an interview about his latest film, 'One Generation Away,' which is about the supposed persecution of Christians in America. While admitting that 'persecution' in America today is nothing like what Christians in the Middle East are facing, Santorum warned that Christians in the U.S. must nevertheless remain vigilant because the sort of deadly persecution faced by Christians around the world does not just happen overnight." Via Steve Benen. ...

... In South Florida, Christian Charity Is against the Law. Elizabeth Chuck of NBC News: "Two church pastors and a 90-year-old man were charged for feeding homeless people in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, under a strict new city ordinance that virtually bans private groups from handing out food. Despite a looming court date and the threat of being fined or jailed for violating the ordinance, the men said they plan to feed more needy later Wednesday." Via Benen.

Is Not-Religion a Religion? Adele Banks of Religion News Service: "The Oxford-educated man who unsuccessfully sought to be the Navy's first humanist chaplain is suing the Pentagon, claiming unconstitutional discrimination. Jason Heap is certified as a humanist celebrant by the Humanist Society, which joined in the suit and is challenging both the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense for not recognizing the group as an endorser of chaplain candidates."

Beyond the Beltway

Monica Davey & Mary Walsh of the New York Times: "Less than 16 months after Detroit became the largest city in the United States to file for bankruptcy, a federal judge on Friday approved a plan intended to help it escape years of financial ruin and begin the hard work of becoming viable again." ...

... Jordan Weisman of Slate has more on how the deal saved Detroit's world-class art museum.

News Ledes

New York Times: At the Brandenberg Gate, Germans commemorate November 9, an anniversary that of the fall of the Berlin wall, as well as some horrible events in German history.

Washington Post: "U.S. warplanes launched airstrikes on what U.S. officials said was a gathering of Islamic State commanders near the militant-held city of Mosul on Friday, in one of the most prominent assaults on the Islamist group's leadership since the air war started here in August."

Reuters: "Iran sees no alternative to a diplomatic settlement with six world powers on its nuclear program and believes both sides are resolved to reach a deal by a self-imposed Nov. 24 deadline, its deputy foreign minister said on Saturday."

Guardian: "The Obama administration has prevailed in the first court challenge to its controversial force-feedings of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, even as the judge ruling in the government's favor criticized its lack of 'common sense and compassion'. Gladys Kessler, a federal judge in Washington DC, denied Abu Wa’el Dhiab's request to significantly change the manner in which the US military transfers, restrains and forcibly feeds detainees on hunger strike to protest their confinement."

Reuters: "A group of protesters set fire to the wooden door of Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto's ceremonial palace in Mexico City's historic city centre late on Saturday, denouncing the apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers. The group, carrying torches, broke away from what had been a mostly peaceful protest demanding justice for the students, who were abducted six weeks ago and apparently murdered and incinerated by corrupt police in league with drug gang members."

AP: "Tensions between the major powers have pushed the world closer to a new Cold War, former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev said Saturday. The 83-year-old accused the West, particularly the United States, of giving in to 'triumphalism' after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the communist bloc a quarter century ago. The result, he said, could partly be seen in the inability of global powers to prevent or resolve conflicts in Yugoslavia, the Middle East and most recently Ukraine."

Portland Press Herald: "Nurse Kaci Hickox and her boyfriend are leaving Maine next week for parts unknown.... Her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur, withdrew from an accelerated nursing program at the University of Maine at Fort Kent on Friday and said the couple will stay through Monday, after which a state court order expires and Hickox will no longer have to submit to daily health monitoring, inform state officials of travel plans and let them know if her health changes."

Friday
Nov072014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 8, 2014

(From Friday's News Ledes.) Friday Afternoon News Dump. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a new challenge to the Affordable Care Act, potentially imperiling President Obama's signature legislative achievement two years after it survived a different challenge in the court by a single vote.The case, King v. Burwell, No. 14-114, concerns tax subsidies that are central to the operation of the health care law.... It takes only four votes to add a case to the Supreme Court's docket. They may have come from the four members of the court who were ready in 2012 to strike down the Affordable Care Act: Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Once again, it seems, the fate of the law may rest with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr." Thanks to Victoria D. for the lead. ...

... Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "Rather than waiting until Monday to announce its action, which would be the usual mode at this time in the Court year, the Justices released the order granting review of King v. Burwell not long after finishing their closed-door private Conference. By adding the case to its decision docket at this point, without waiting for further action in lower federal courts, as the Obama administration had asked, the Court ensured that it would rule on the case during the current Term. If it decides to limit the subsidies to the state-run 'exchanges,' it is widely understood that that outcome would crash the ACA's carefully balanced economic arrangements. The Court's Friday orders are here...." ...

... Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View provides a good background summary. Plus: "For [Scalia, Thomas, Alito & Kennedy,], a vote to take the case now is a strong signal that they would like to block the exchanges and sink Obamacare with this second legal torpedo.... What seems almost certain is that the other conservative justices have decided to put Roberts to the test.... Its déjà vu all over again." ...

... Moops! Charles Pierce: "This was already a pretty terrible week. It just got worse. Sociopathy gets its day in court, riding on the backs of the Moops." ...

... By way of explanation:

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "It's not every day that the Roberts Court can be worse than even I expect, but here we are: the Court is about to rule that the Moops invaded Spain. It's not 100% that King v. Burwell will be overruled, I guess, but I don't know why else they would preempt the Halbig en banc hearing otherwise.... People with strong stomachs can look at Johnathan Adler, in his palpable excitement about millions of people about to be stripped of their health insurance, claiming that this case is about ... deferring to Congress." CW: I did look at Adler's piece. It's as sickening as Lemieux lets on. Until I realized that Adler is just George Costanza in disguise. ...

... Steve M.: "Politicized Supreme Court plans to murder ObamaCare soon so it won't be an issue in 2016." ...

... Supreme Death Squad. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "In an interview with Talking Points Memo's Sahil Kapur, attorney Michael Carvin claimed that the justices aren't 'going to give much of a damn about what a bunch of Obama appointees on' the lower court that withdrew its decision defunding Obamacare decide. He added that he does not expect to 'lose any Republican-appointed judges' votes' on that lower court, and that he expects Republicans on the Supreme Court to fall in line as well. Though the Court's decision to take this case cannot be explained under the Court's normal practices, Carvin may be correct that it can be explained for purely partisan reasons. Should the justices ultimately side with the doubtful legal arguments raised by the plaintiffs, however, they should have no illusions about what they will achieve. Thousands of Americans will die unnecessarily if the plaintiffs win this lawsuit."

... CW: Everybody Take a Deep Breath. First, let's acknowledge that the five conservative justices on the Court are corrupt. By "corrupt," I don't mean that Nino is taking money under the bench from David Koch (though he is). I mean that they corrupt their interpretations of the law & the Constitution to fit their antidiluvian ideology. Second, let's assume (though this is not necessarily what will happen) that all five conservative justices side with the plaintiffs. This would ostensibly deprive affordable coverage to every eligible person living in a state that opted to use the federal exchange.

     ... But two can play this game. The language in question is four little words, "established by the state" in one obscure section of a 2,000+-page law, language that is clearly at odds with many other provisions of this complicated law, with the intents of the lawmakers themselves & with the IRS's interpretation of the law. (Or, as Steve Benen puts it, "I have never seen anything quite so spectacularly stupid as this case.") Okay. If the Court rules the federally-run exchanges violate that obscure clause, then it's up to the affected states to "establish" their own exchanges. How hard is that? Given all the difficulties that both states & the federal government had in setting up & running the exchanges, it sounds really, really hard. But it isn't. The software is already there. Because the federally-produced & operated software accommodates each individual state's insurance providers & clients, it is state-specific. It isn't just a one-size-fits-all federal mega-site. So the affected states can simply "establish" their own exchanges by copying the federal code or slapping the state seal on the home page. Or something like that.

     ... Of course some red states may not do that, so beneficiaries in those states will suffer. However, taking tax breaks from constituents isn't easy, even for Republicans. So all but the most hardened red-state governors & legislatures will accommodate an adverse Court ruling. Yes, our wonderful GOP Congress also could get into the act by legislating out the tax subsidies, but as long as we have a Democratic president, that won't likely happen either. Go ahead, GOP Death Squad: shut down the government again in an election year for the purpose of killing sick people. That's a campaign winner. ...

     ... This is a stupid case on the merits, & the government should continue to fight tooth-&-nail for its/our side. But a Supreme Court loss here is more of an annoying setback than a catastrophe, if our elected leaders have any sense. As long as the Supreme Court doesn't have an army to enforce its unreasonable opinions, the states & the federal government can cooperate to establish workarounds.

Julie Davis & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "President Obama will nominate Loretta E. Lynch, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, to be the next attorney general, reaching outside his inner circle to fill a key post, the White House said Friday. If confirmed, Ms. Lynch, 55, would be the first African-American woman to be the nation's top law enforcement official. Mr. Obama will announce her selection at a ceremony Saturday...." ...

... Ian Millhiser profiles Lynch's career. Here's a nice tidbit: "Lynch's office is currently prosecuting Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), a former FBI agent charged with 20 counts of fraud, perjury and other alleged crimes related to allegations that he hid more than $1 million in gross receipts while he ran a New York restaurant." CW: Grimm, as you know, won re-election against a complete doofus Democratic candidate: a perfect exemplar of the Democrats' moral bankruptcy I briefly discuss below.

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "President Obama firmly rejected advice from top congressional Republicans on Friday that he delay his promised executive action on immigration reform, dismissing calls from critics inside and outside his party to allow Congress to debate the issue next year. Over a two-hour lunch..., House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and their lieutenants warned Obama that his acting alone on immigration would spoil chances for bipartisan agreement on other issues in the new GOP-controlled Congress.... Obama shot back that he intended to proceed, saying that he had already waited almost two years for congressional action on immigration." ...

... Here's a video of President Obama's public remarks, where of course we don't get to hear him telling McConnell, Boehner & Co., Ltd., that he's not intimidated by their threats:

... Paul Waldman: "Just a couple of days after the election, Boehner is already preparing excuses for why he failed. Why didn't immigration reform pass? Because Barack Obama is a big meanie!" ...

... Dana Milbank: "The president declined to act on immigration before the election. But all the Democratic Senate incumbents in red states that he was trying to protect lost anyway on Tuesday. There is evidence that the combination of low Hispanic turnout and lower Hispanic margins for Democrats doomed some Democratic candidates, including Charlie Crist, who lost his gubernatorial race in Florida, and perhaps Sen. Mark Udall, who lost his reelection bid in Colorado." ...

... Damned if He Does, Damned if He Doesn't. CW: It's worth noting, as Milbank does not, that those red-state Democrats begged President Obama not to take action on immigration before the election. In this regard, & in staying out of all but the bluest of states, the President did what the campaigns asked him to do. Had he not done so, & had these same Democrats lost their races as likely they would have, the blame would go to Obama for refusing to "help his party." It's pretty hard to blame him now for acceding to the calculations of dumb campaign gurus (who, as Whyte O. pointed out the other day, are getting paid handsomely for their bad advice). ...

... Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "For all the finger-pointing among Democrats over Tuesday’s election calamity, the White House, Congress and party establishment all share responsibility for weaknesses that the defeats laid bare, critics say, and should confront them as the 2016 contest takes shape. The problems are fundamental, involving questions of where Democrats focus their party-building efforts, what voters they talk to, and most crucial, what they say to those voters. Missing this year, many Democrats say, was a broad economic message to enthuse supporters and convert some independents." ...

... George Lakoff in TruthOut suggests what's wrong with the Democrats' strategy & what would work better. (CW: See also Elizabeth Warren's column linked below for an example.) ...

... CW: What's wrong with the Democrats' strategy -- and this is evident in Milbank's Complaint -- is that it's morally bankrupt. As Lakoff points out, it concentrates on targeting specific interest groups without providing a big-picture progressive worldview. But that would be too scary, because some of the policies that flow from that worldview -- like immigration reform -- are, oooh, controversial. If Democrats actually had a moral compass, & only some do, they would be a lot more comfortable in pushing controversial policies & in explaining to voters why these polices were right for everybody. ...

Big money wins regardless of which party wins the election. In fact, the more money that is spent, the greater the dependence that is created. -- Rep. John Sarbannes (D-Maryland) ...

... Joe Nocera: "Big contributors want something for their money.... There are two other reasons big money is corrosive to our politics. One is that the need to raise money has become close to all-consuming." The other is that people see no reason to vote when they know that whoever is elected, s/he will be corrupt. ...

...Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the Washington Post: "Before leaders in Congress and the president get caught up in proving they can pass some new laws, everyone should take a skeptical look at whom those new laws will serve. At this very minute, lobbyists and lawyers are lining up by the thousands to push for new laws -- laws that will help their rich and powerful clients get richer and more powerful.... There's no shortage of work that Congress can do, but the agenda shouldn't be drawn up by a bunch of corporate lobbyists and lawyers." CW: Now try to imagine Hillary Clinton writing such a column. Not going to happen. ...

... Gail Collins: "The Keystone XL oil pipeline is so popular! Ever since the Republicans won control of the Senate, it's become the Taylor Swift of political issues.... It's hard to figure where all the enthusiasm comes from.... The only people who would seem to have an intense practical interest in which way this plays out would be Nebraskans who will have to live with the pipeline, and the people who control the tar sands land in Canada. That group happens to include the famous campaign-contributing Koch brothers. So, question answered."

Thomas Mann & Norm Ornstein in the Washington Post: "The pragmatic desire of mainstream Republicans to transcend their 'party of no' label and show that they can actually govern will clash with the forces that continue to pull the GOP to the right and oppose anything the president does. This fight within the party will define the new Congress nearly as much as the battles with a Democratic president." CW: This is a comprehensive piece, replete with details & examples of pitfalls & past pratfalls, so well worth a read.

Lynn Paltrow & Jeanne Flavin in a New York Times op-ed: "WITH the success of Republicans in the midterm elections and the passage of Tennessee's anti-abortion amendment, we can expect ongoing efforts to ban abortion and advance the 'personhood' rights of fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses.... Anti-abortion measures pose a risk to all pregnant women, including those who want to be pregnant." The authors recount horror stories of women arrested or killed because police &/or judges thought they might have planned or attempted to terminate their pregnancies. "... it was precisely the legal arguments for recriminalizing abortion that were used to strip them of their rights to dignity and liberty in the context of labor and delivery."

November Elections

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Republicans beat Democrats at their own ground game."

M. J. Lee of Politico: "California Democratic Rep. Scott Peters has defeated Republican challenger Carl DeMaio in one of the most competitive House races in the country. The Associated Press called the race Friday night, nearly 72 hours after polls closed in the San Diego-area district. Peters, who trailed DeMaio in early returns, currently leads the Republican by 4,491 votes, 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent."

Nathaniel Herz of the Alaska Dispatch News: "The number of uncounted votes in Alaska's tightly fought U.S. Senate race grew by 21,000 between Wednesday and Friday -- and more than 5,000 of those were votes that hadn't been predicted in early accounts of the number of ballots outstanding.... More than 40,000 ballots will likely be counted starting Tuesday, though the number will probably climb even more before then. To win, [Sen. Mark] Begich [D] would have to reverse election night trends and win a substantial majority -- though his allies have pointed out that in the count following Election Day in 2008, Begich overcame a 3,000 vote deficit to Republican Ted Stevens and ultimately won by 4,000 votes."

Alex DeMarban of the Alaska Dispatch News: "If voting trends hold true in Alaska's 40 districts, gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker will keep his lead after nearly 24,000 absentee and early votes are counted starting Tuesday, according to an analysis of voting trends and districts. But that's just part of the picture. There are likely gobs more votes to be counted beyond those.... On top of that, a political science professor with the University of Alaska Anchorage suggests the trends that favored Walker may not hold because an extra-large number of the uncounted ballots are from Republican voters...." CW: Walker is a Republican, running on a "unity" ticket with a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor against current GOP governor Sean Parnell.

(From Yesterday's News Ledes.) Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: "Republican Ed Gillespie conceded to Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) on Friday, concluding a closely watched race that turned into a surprise nail-biter as a wave of support for GOP candidates swept the county."

Presidential Race

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "Following an ABC News report that Fox News contributor Ben Carson is set to air an hourlong ad/documentary* 'introducing himself to the American people' as part of a 2016 Republican presidential bid, Fox News has cut ties with him, according to a Fox spokeswoman." CW: And you thought Fox "News" wasn't ethical.

Beyond the Beltway

Jessica Roy of New York: "Law enforcement and local news reporters in Minneapolis are absolutely outraged that the Minnesota city's mayor, Betsy Hodges, dared to pose with a convicted felon and flash 'gang signs' in the resulting photo. But did she actually throw up gang signs, and is this guy actually a known gang member? Nope and nope!" Also, funny tweet at the bottom of the piece.

News Lede

New York Times: "North Korea has released two Americans who have been held in the country for extended periods, after the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., flew to the country on a secret mission and secured their freedom. In a terse statement issued Saturday by Mr. Clapper's office, the Americans -- Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller -- were described as 'on their way home, accompanied by D.N.I. Clapper.' Officials said they were likely to land on the West Coast, where Mr. Bae and Mr. Miller both live, some time on Saturday night."

Thursday
Nov062014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 7, 2014

NEW. Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "President Obama has invited top lawmakers to the White House on Friday for a luncheon that will serve as his first attempt to break a years-long logjam with congressional Republican leaders. During a Friday morning Cabinet meeting, Obama called the results of Tuesday's midterm elections 'significant' and said he would be listening during lunch for areas where the two parties can work together, especially on manufacturing, boosting exports and early childhood education":

Andy Borowitz: "President Obama is under increasing pressure to work closely and cooperatively with a group of people who are suing him in federal court, the people suing him confirmed today. 'Over the past six years, President Obama has been stubborn, arrogant, and oppositional,' John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, said. 'His refusal to work with people who are suing him is just the latest example.'" ...

... Speaking of Whom.... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "After years of clashes and a grudging truce, fiscal and economic policy was brought back to center stage by the wave of Republican electoral victories on Tuesday, with both President Obama and the new congressional leadership expressing hope that deals can be reached to simplify the tax code, promote trade and eliminate the budget deficit." CW: I can hardly wait. ...

... Jonathan Chait: "House Speaker John Boehner today warned that if President Obama takes unilateral action to ease life for undocumented immigrants, as he has promised, it will kill any chance of a bill passing Congress.... So, if Obama does not act on his own, then the House will act? Well, no. Boehner won't promise that, either." ...

     ... Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post with a reminder: "In June 2013, the U.S. Senate passed an immigration overhaul bill with 68 votes.... The legislation went to the House, where it promptly died. Boehner (R-Hostage) backed down after the more vocal minority in his majority revolted.... All he has to do is allow the Senate immigration bill to go to the floor for a vote in the lame-duck session. Boehner has the power to do what he says he wants done. Why won't he use it?"

Ed O'Keefe & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Republicans openly gloated Thursday about their sweeping midterm victories and said they can finally pass legislation long opposed by President Obama and Democrats.... NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring lampooned the Democrats' turnout, calling it 'The New Coke' of the 2014 cycle.... [House Speaker John] Boehner's litany of legislative proposals and his warning to Obama signaled that he saw little need to extend an olive branch to Democrats.

Jonathan Chait: In their brilliant Wall Street Journal op-ed (linked here yesterday) Mitch McConnell & John Boehner "mentioned three proposals that have any significant fiscal effects....: According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, their three proposals would increase the deficit over the next ten years by $109BB, $73BB, & $29BB respectively. "Of course, all the fiscal proposals they list are related to Obamacare." CW: Congratulations, fiscal conservatives! I wonder how much play this is getting on Fox "News."

Tim Egan: "Maybe it's best to close your eyes and fall into a Rip Van Winkle slumber for the next two years. The party that has refused to govern for half a decade and ran a substance-free campaign will now play at governing and not take up anything of substance."

CW: Are you missing the Party of No yet?

Lori Montgomery & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Democrats are planning to rush a host of critical measures to President Obama's desk, including bills to revive dozens of expired tax breaks and avoid a government shutdown for another year. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is also aiming to chip away at a backlog of presidential nominations to the federal bench and the State Department over the next month, although Democratic aides say they will be unable to process all of the hundreds of pending appointments before turning the chamber over to Republicans. Republican leaders, too, are inclined to clear the legislative decks of must-pass bills so they can start fresh in January...."

Steve Benen: Republicans are now predicting a "100-year majority." They do that quite often.

Via Kate M.

... Here's One Fellow Speaking for a "Large Group." Catherine Thompson of TPM: "A man who called into C-SPAN's 'Washington Journal' Thursday morning referred to President Barack Obama as 'that n***er' before getting booted off the air.... 'This is about race,' he [said]. 'The Republicans hate that nigger Obama.'" ...

... Some South Carolinians don't like exit polls that ask them if they're racists. CW: Because that's unpossible, I guess.

The Party of Nothing, Ctd. Peter Beinart of the Atlantic: "This fall, Democrats ran like they were afraid of losing.... For the most part, Democratic candidates shied away from [hot-button] issues because they were too controversial. Instead they stuck to topics that were safe, familiar, and broadly popular: the minimum wage, outsourcing, and the 'war on women.' The result, for the most part, was homogenized, inauthentic, forgettable campaigns.... Hillary Clinton ... lost to Obama in 2008 in part because she could not overcome her penchant for ultra-cautious, hyper-sanitized, consultant-speak. Yet on the stump this year, she was as deadening as the candidates she campaigned for." ...

... Peter Hamby of CNN: "The strategist in charge of electing a Republican Senate majority thanked Democrats on Thursday for keeping President Barack Obama on the sidelines and building their campaigns around women's issues instead of making an economic argument. Rob Collins, the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told reporters in a postmortem session that Democrats 'sidelined their best messenger' by running from Obama. 'They were so focused on independents that they forgot they had a base,' Collins said of Democratic campaigns." ...

... Correspondent Jordan Klepper of "The Daily Show" elaborates:

... Klepper must be right. Turns out It's Morning in America All Over Again. David Brooks: "Republicans ... establish[ed their] dominant position because ... they have deep roots in four of the dominant institutions of American society: the business community, the military, the church and civic organizations." Bask, people, in the warm glow of conservative rectitude. ...

... Before Paul Krugman snaps you back into reality: "... it's not often that a party that is so wrong about so much does as well as Republicans did on Tuesday.... The story of conservative economics these past six years and more has been one of intellectual debacle -- made worse by the striking inability of many on the right to admit error under any circumstances. Then there's health reform, where Republicans were very clear about what was supposed to happen: minimal enrollments, more people losing insurance than gaining it, soaring costs. Reality, so far, has begged to differ.... And we shouldn't forget the most important wrongness of all, on climate change.... The biggest secret of the Republican triumph surely lies in the discovery that obstructionism bordering on sabotage is a winning political strategy." ...

... BUT Krugman Can't Be Right. Matt O'Brien of the Washington Post: Hedge-fund billionaire "Paul Singer thinks Weimar-style inflation might be coming because he has to pay more for his posh vacation homes and art pieces.... If this is the best the inflation truthers can do, they should probably follow Mark Twain's advice and keep their mouths shut for now. Somehow I don't think Janet Yellen is losing sleep over what people are paying for Picassos."

** Ron Brownstein of the National Journal: "Tuesday's resounding Republican sweep closely followed the script of the GOP's landslide in 2010, and it exposed perhaps even more deeply the limits of the modern Democratic coalition -- while underscoring the party's persistent inability to convince enough whites that they will benefit from activist government.... In the national House exit poll, Republicans carried exactly three-fifths of whites, virtually unchanged from 2012 and 2010.... The only Democrat in a top-tier Senate race who carried a majority of whites was New Hampshire's Jeanne Shaheen, who won."

Jenna Portnoy & Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: Sen. Mark Warner (SortaD-Va.) nearly lost (or did lose -- the election is still undecided; he's ahead by less than 17,000 votes) re-election because he relied on strategies that worked in the past but ignored the state's new demographic realities. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Sometimes very smart people have a hard time abandoning the monuments of their brilliance. And it nearly cost Warner -- and the Democratic Party -- a slam-dunk Senate race."

Democrats Dump Landrieu. James Hohmann & Maggie Haberman of Politico: "The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has canceled its advertising reservations for Sen. Mary Landrieu ahead of the December runoff in Louisiana."

Danny Vinik of the New Republic: "The economy keeps on improving but workers still aren't feeling it.... Job growth is only part of the story. Wage growth also matters and on that front, workers continue to come up short. Wages grew just 0.1 percent last month and have risen just 2 percent over the past year. That's barely keeping up with inflation. If you're wondering why so many Americans listed the economy as the most important issue facing the country in Tuesday's elections, you don't have to look much further than that. Median household income is still below its 2008 levels."

Ben Adler of Grist: "Regardless of their views on the science, [newly-elected GOP Senators] are unanimous in their opposition to actually doing anything about it, and in their enthusiasm for exploiting America's land and water for the benefit of the fossil fuel industries."

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "By a 2-to-1 vote, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the right of states to ban same-sex marriage, overturning lower-court decisions in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that had found such restrictions to be unconstitutional. The long-awaited decision, written by Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ​was the first appeals court to uphold a ban on same-sex marriage, contradicting rulings by four other federal circuit courts. The ruling appeared almost certain to force the Supreme Court to decide the same-sex marriage issue for the nation." ...

... Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "The decision was based largely on the two-judge majority's view that the question whether to move the nation toward same-sex marriage in every state is for the people or the states, and not for judges applying the national Constitution." ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "... Sutton's opinion is likely to be reversed by the Supreme Court. It is very unlikely that the justices would have allowed other court decisions siding with marriage equality to take effect unless they believed that there are five votes on the Court to extend marriage equality throughout the land."

The Law School Con. Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: "In law, as in the nation, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. With lawyers, though, it's the system of professional education that's directly contributing to inequality.... Law schools have continued to cycle students through their doors and load them up with debt, in spite of the reduced demand for legal education (and for lawyers). Eighty-five percent of graduates now carry at least a hundred thousand dollars in debt."

Erik Eckholm: "With a $50 million foundation grant, the largest in its history, the American Civil Liberties Union plans to mount an eight-year political campaign across the country to make a change of criminal justice policies a key issue in local, state and national elections. The goal of the campaign, financed by George Soros's Open Society Foundations, is to slash an incarceration rate that has tripled since 1980. There are currently some 2.2 million prisoners in the United States." ...

... CW: This is another reminder that left-leaning big spenders like Soros, whether or not you agree with their objectives, give money to causes from which they receive no direct benefit, whereas greed/personal gain is almost always the inspiration for right-wing "giving."

Obama is still pen-pals with Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The Wall Street Journal thinks this is a big deal. CW: I think it's diplomacy.

Anne Gearan & Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: "A veteran State Department diplomat and longtime Pakistan expert is under federal investigation as part of a counterintelligence probe and has had her security clearances withdrawn, according to U.S. officials. The FBI searched the Northwest Washington home of Robin L. Raphel last month, and her State Department office was also examined and sealed, officials said. Raphel, a fixture in Washington's diplomatic and think-tank circles, was placed on administrative leave last month, and her contract with the State Department was allowed to expire this week."

Oh, Look. Matt Taibbi is back at Rolling Stone with the story of Alayne Fleischmann, the whistleblower JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon & AG Eric Holder have spent years trying squelch. You can file this under the fruits of the Party of Nothing. ...

     ... Shane Ferro of Business Insider: "The real crux of this story is that the Justice Department really does have enough to go after specific people for specific crimes committed leading up to the financial crisis and chooses to take giant cash settlements instead. No one has to admit they are guilty. The banks continue to exist as they are. No banker suffers the unpleasantness of going to jail. The ones to get punished, ironically, might be the whistleblowers." CW: That's right. Not every banker is too big to jail. Thanks, Eric Holder.

AP-FBI News Service. AP: "FBI director James Comey says an agent impersonated an Associated Press reporter during a 2007 criminal investigation, a ruse the news organization says could undermine its credibility. In a letter Thursday to the New York Times, Comey said the agent 'portrayed himself as an employee of the Associated Press' to help catch a 15-year-old suspect accused of making bomb threats at a high school near Olympia, Washington. It was publicized last week that the FBI forged an AP story during its investigation, but Comey's letter revealed the agency went further and had an agent actually pretend to be a reporter for the wire service." ...

... Here's Comey's letter to the Times. He argues, "That technique was proper and appropriate under Justice Department and F.B.I. guidelines at the time. Today, the use of such an unusual technique would probably require higher level approvals than in 2007, but it would still be lawful and, in a rare case, appropriate."

Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "A Kentucky elementary school teacher resigned from her job after St. Margaret Mary Catholic School kept her out over fears from students and parents about Ebola. Susan Sherman recently returned from doing mission work in Kenya, where there are no current cases of Ebola. The school ... placed her on leave for a 21-day period. Sherman blasted the school's decision as ignorance, because again, Kenya doesn't have Ebola." CW: But Kenya is where President Obama was born, so Ebola.

Gillian Flaccus of the Washington Post: "More than 40 years after [Nixon chief-of-staff H. R.] Haldeman made his last audio diary recording, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda on Thursday released 285 segments from entries spanning from 1970 to 1973.... Mixed in among the accounts of top-level diplomacy ... are revealing nuggets of daily life...."

Presidential Election

Manu Raju of Politico: "Sen. Rand Paul and Kentucky Republicans are exploring the possibility of turning the state's presidential primary into a caucus instead -- a move that could allow him to run for both his Senate seat and president in 2016. The preliminary discussions have begun in the wake of Kentucky Democrats retaining control of the statehouse in Tuesday's elections. Democratic leaders of that chamber have already vowed not to change the law, hoping to force Paul to abandon his Senate seat in order to pursue the White House."

Shushannah Walshe of ABC News: "Yes, the 2016 race for the White House has already gotten started -- and it looks like Dr. Ben Carson is first in the ring. Carson, a famous pediatric neurosurgeon and conservative political star, will air a nearly 40 minute-long ad introducing himself to the American people this weekend, an aide to Carson confirms to ABC News.... [Besides being rude at a White House prayer breakfast,] he also called for a private health care savings plan and a flat tax in a speech that went viral and led to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal titled Ben Carson for President. He is known as a fierce opponent of the president's health care law known as Obamacare." ...

... CW: So answer this -- why is a brilliant doctor stupider than we are? Is he just a selfish prick or is he genuinely naive?

Beyond the Beltway

AP: "Former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps, who resigned abruptly this week, has been charged with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a Rankin County businessman. The 49-count federal indictment, unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Jackson, also charges Cecil McCrory of Brandon with paying Epps to obtain contracts for himself and other companies.... Epps is accused of receiving more than $700,000 from 2008 to 2014. Epps was charged on 35 felony counts including conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and honest services wire fraud. McCrory was charged on 15 felony counts including conspiracy, bribery, money laundering conspiracy and honest services wire fraud. The indictment said McCrory was paid by companies that received contracts from the Corrections Department to run private prisons, including Cornell Group, GEO Group and current contractor Management and Training Corp. The companies were named in the indictment but not charged."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "President Obama authorized Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday to send up to 1,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, roughly doubling the force the United States has built up since June to fight the Islamic State militants who control much of Iraq and Syria."

Friday Afternoon News Dump. New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a new challenge to the Affordable Care Act, potentially imperiling President Obama's signature legislative achievement two years after it survived a different challenge in the court by a single vote. The case, King v. Burwell, No. 14-114, concerns tax subsidies that are central to the operation of the health care law.... It takes only four votes to add a case to the Supreme Court's docket. They may have come from the four members of the court who were ready in 2012 to strike down the Affordable Care Act: Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Once again, it seems, the fate of the law may rest with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr." Thanks to Victoria D. for the lead.

Washington Post: "Republican Ed Gillespie conceded to Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) on Friday, concluding a closely watched race that turned into a surprise nail-biter as a wave of support for GOP candidates swept the county."

New York Times: "Loretta E. Lynch, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, has emerged as a leading contender to be the next attorney general, officials close to the process said, as President Obama looks outside his inner circle to fill a crucial post."

New York Times: "Three days after voters expressed their discontent with the state of the economy, the government on Friday reported further signs of improvement, estimating that employers added 214,000 jobs in October, while the official jobless rate dropped to 5.8 percent. The increase was behind the average monthly employment gain of 227,000 so far this year."

New York Times: "More than 600 American service members since 2003 have reported to military medical staff members that they believe they were exposed to chemical warfare agents in Iraq, but the Pentagon failed to recognize the scope of the reported cases or offer adequate tracking and treatment to those who may have been injured, defense officials say. The Pentagon's disclosure abruptly changed the scale and potential costs of the United States' encounters with abandoned chemical weapons during the occupation of Iraq, episodes the military had for more than a decade kept from view."

Washington Post: Robert "O'Neill confirmed to The Washington Post that he was the unnamed SEAL who was first to tumble through the doorway of [Osama] bin Laden's bedroom..., taking aim at the terrorist leader as he stood in darkness behind his youngest wife. In an account later confirmed by two other SEALs, the Montana native described firing the round that hit bin Laden squarely in the forehead, killing him instantly."

Wednesday
Nov052014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 6, 2014

Juliet Eilperin, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Obama said Wednesday that he accepts the American public's message in the midterm elections that Washington needs to break its political gridlock, even as he will now face a tougher final two years after Republicans won control of the Senate for the first time in seven years. 'I hear you,' Obama said at a news conference in the East Room":

     ... Here's the transcript of the presser, via the WashPo. ...

... Josh Lederman of the AP: "Speaking the afternoon after his party was dealt a punishing blow in the midterm elections, Obama said a new military authorization is one of a few areas where he will seek to work with Congress during the lame-duck session before a new Congress is seated in January. He said the goal was to update an authorization narrowly tailored to the fight against al-Qaida to be more applicable to the current mission against IS extremists in Iraq and Syria." ...

... Dana Milbank is awfully upset that President Obama didn't at least prostrate himself before the public, if not promise to repeal the ACA. CW: If Milbank had glanced at the exit polls, he would understand why Obama doesn't think he made a bad turn. ...

... Jim Newell of Salon: "He's basically the same guy he was the day before the election, and that's going to send many in Washington to their fainting couches." Read the whole post. Also, the Post should buy Milbank a fainting couch. ...

... Which Milbank can share with Ron Fournier of the National Journal: "From all appearances Wednesday, the president won't change -- not his policies, not his style, not his staff, not nothing. Defiant and begrudging, the president said he would meet with GOP leaders, seek their suggestions for common ground, and maybe grab a drink with Senate Majority Leader-to-Be Mitch McConnell." CW: Fournier pulls down a handsome salary for writing this garbage. ...

... AND Charles Pierce is aggravated that the President is polite. ...

... CW: How long does it take for liberals to figure out that railing against Republicans is not Obama's style? (It wouldn't help either, because the majority-white-racists in these here United States would get all askeert of an Angry Black Man.) If I were Obama, I'd do just what he did: concede he could manage sitting down for a drink with McConnell but otherwise deflect Stupid Reporter Questions. ...

... AND here was Pierce yesterday, urging Obama to "make them squeal." CW: I'm drawn to Pierce's mastery of the language & I'm in sync with many of his ideas, but I'm damned glad he doesn't hold a position of power.


Nathaniel Herz
of the Alaska Dispatch News: "A day after Republican Dan Sullivan sprung to the lead in Alaska's U.S. Senate race, his opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, refused to concede, citing tens of thousands of outstanding votes -- particularly those in rural parts of the state. Numbers released by Alaska elections officials Wednesday morning showed Begich facing daunting odds...." ...

... Alex DeMarban of the Alaska Dispatch News: "Candidates in [Alaska's] squeaky-tight gubernatorial race have urged supporters to stay patient, saying the contest is too close to call. Gov. Sean Parnell, hoping to win his second full term but trailing slightly, said in a statement Wednesday it could be two weeks before all the votes are tallied and a winner -- either Parnell or Republican-turned-independent challenger Bill Walker, the top of the 'unity ticket' -- can be determined."

NBC Washington: "NBC News is calling incumbent Mark Warner the 'apparent winner' in Virginia's Senate race, as officials work to certify election results in the razor-close race. Throughout the day Wednesday, Warner hung onto a slim lead over Republican challenger Ed Gillespie."


Scott Lemieux
in Lawyers, Guns & Money: "The in-party -- even in cases where presidents are transformative and/or have bold agendas that deliver plenty to their constituents — rarely fares well in the midterms of term 2. Combined with a very unfavorable map, the fact that midterms massively favor the Republican electorate, and Republicans at both the state and federal level figuring out that the damage you inflict on constituents will actually be held against the party controlling the White House, the Democrats were going to get clobbered, and the 'this proves Obama should have led with leadership by ...' genre is mostly a waste of time. Messaging and position-taking might matter a little at the margins, but there wasn't any magic formula that was going to prevent the 2014 midterms from being a bloodbath at the federal level."

Gail Collins: "Always look on the bright side." ...

... OR NOT. Frank Rich: "The electorate's message could not have been more clear: Having soured on hope and change, Americans voted for change without hope.... The most misleading morning-after-the-election story line is that the Republicans triumphed because the Establishment struck back and shut down the crazy gaffe-prone candidates who have dogged the GOP in the past two cycles.... Scott Brown's ability to lose in this Republican blowout was awesome, though not in a good way."

... This is for contributors MAG & Jack M.:

Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "... turnout among core Democratic groups was lower in 2014 than it was in 2012 or even 2010. Many Democrats would have won if turnout had resembled a presidential election year. But Democrats also lost in states where turnout surpassed 2010, according to an Upshot analysis of preliminary returns and voter turnout data."

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "The lesson of the last decade in politics is not to over-interpret the results of any single election. The dominant trends in American politics were mostly reinforced yesterday: the country is increasingly polarized; the low-turnout midterm electorate benefits Republicans; the Senate will remain closely contested for the foreseeable future; the House will remain the anchor of the Republican Party; Democrats have a demographic advantage in presidential elections. And very little will get accomplished in Washington."

Brad Plumer of Vox: "The outlook for climate policy looks just as dismal after these midterms as it did before -- at least in Washington. True, there were small shifts in attitude here and there. Some Republicans no longer think it's viable to deny global warming outright." ...

... John Light of Grist: The big money environmentalists spent in this election cycle mostly didn't pay off. ...

... FOR Example. Rebecca Leber of the New Republic: "In handing Republicans control of the Senate on Tuesday, Americans effectively voted for the party's hostile plans against President Barack Obama's environmental legacy. Their votes also put the Senate's environment and climate policy into the hands of the worst science-denier in national politics: Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who is almost certainly the next chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee."

Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect: "... the Democrats' failure isn't just the result of Republican negativity. It's also intellectual and ideological. What, besides raising the minimum wage, do the Democrats propose to do about the shift in income from wages to profits, from labor to capital, from the 99 percent to the 1 percent?" ...

... CW: Meyerson is right. In allowing itself to be taken over by special interests, the Democratic party has become a Seinfeld meme: the Party of Nothing. The party can't give up its pretense of "feeling the pain" of the working class, but it also can't afford to alienate its big-money donors by actually doing the things that would better the lot of working people vis-a-vis said big-money donors. Remember, healthcare reform came about only because it was an accommodation to a couple of super-huge industries. (Maybe it would have been an unchallenged success if it included a provision to process all claims thru Koch Industries.) This election was less about Obama than it was about voters' real-life economic hardships. Voters don't think either party will help them. And they're right. Democrats' tepid policy proposals -- $10.10/hour & lower college loan interest rates -- are more insulting than inspiring.

New York Times Editors: "On at least six high-profile and often contentious issues -- minimum wage, marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform, abortion rights, gun control and environmental protection '' voters approved ballot measures, in some cases overwhelmingly, that were directly at odds with the positions of many of the Republican winners."

Ezra Klein's takeaways:

Matthew Yglesias: "McConnell is not the most charismatic politician of our time, but he is arguably the sharpest mind in contemporary politics on a strategic level.... As McConnell told Josh Green, the key to eroding Obama's popularity was denying him the sheen of bipartisanship, and that meant keep Republicans united in opposition.... To prevent Obama from becoming the hero who fixed Washington, McConnell decided to break it. And it worked." ...

I wanted to win. -- Mitch McConnell, explaining his political philosophy

"The Dawning of the Age of McConnell." Evan Osnos of the New Yorker: "... we are entering a period of paralysis.... McConnell has told big donors that he will 'work at every turn to thwart the Obama agenda, and use appropriations and the budget process to force the president to roll back key elements of Obamacare, to water down Dodd-Frank, to tilt toward coal -- to move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline, and to stop Environmental Protection Agency action on climate change,' according to the National Journal. For some Republican senators, that will not be enough. Before the election, Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, refused to pledge his support to McConnell, and offered his own vision of the Senate's priorities, including opening congressional hearings into the actions of the Obama Administration, 'looking at the abuse of power, the executive abuse, the regulatory abuse, the lawlessness that sadly has pervaded this administration.'... Cruz might look like a moderate next to some of his new colleagues; in Iowa, the Republican Joni Ernst, as the Times summed it up, 'wants to ban abortions and same-sex marriage and impeach the president.'"

Lori Montgomery & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Within hours of solidifying their control of Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John A. Boehner were quietly laying plans for a series of quick votes in January aimed at erasing their obstructionist image ahead of the 2016 elections. First up: Action on long-stalled bills with bipartisan support, including measures to repeal an unpopular tax on medical devices and approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.... Pressure to follow through on the party's most conservative priorities was already building Wednesday. Several tea-party leaders gathered at the National Press Club and reiterated their demand that repealing the Affordable Care Act remain the party's priority. In a memo, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) also emphasized the health-care law as a top target." ...

... Here's the Wall Street Journal op-ed by McConnell & Boehner laying out their brilliant agenda. It's firewalled, so unless you're a subscriber, Google "Americans have entrusted Republicans with control of both the House and Senate. We are humbled by this opportunity to help struggling middle-class Americans" ... especially if you feel like making yourself sick. ...

     ... Greg Sargent: "Interestingly, they pledge a new era of constructive governance, even as they also vow to '... repeal ObamaCare, which is hurting the job market along with Americans' health care.' This is just bluster for the base, but still: Those who profess a love of bipartisan cooperation will politely ignore the absurdity of vowing to get government working again while simultaneously vowing to keep up the repeal crusade." ...

     ... Steve M.: "Republicans are still awfully good at concocting (and, through repetition, meme-ifying) lofty-sounding descriptors for not-so-lofty policy goals. (They're also excellent at scaring the crap out of voters with deceitfully negative sounding phrases: 'death panels,' 'death tax,' etc.)"

Nelson Schwartz & Clifford Krauss of the New York Times: "Business interests face a much more receptive audience now that Republicans are poised to control both the House and Senate next year.... [BUT] there is much less appetite on the part of business leaders for wholesale changes to the health care law. For one thing, many of the insurance exchanges are finally working well, and businesses have adapted to the new landscape. Even more important, added demand from the newly insured is likely to increase profits in sectors like hospitals, pharmaceuticals and medical devices."

Ben White of Politico: "Voters want the GOP to fix the economy. Good luck with that.... Even if Republicans manage to overcome internal fissures and unify around a set of economic proposals next year -- a big open question -- there is only a limited chance that any of them will have the kind of profound impact voters might reward in 2016.... Republicans on Tuesday bought themselves a big share of a structurally troubled American economy but may lack the tools needed to fix it. Their best hope, in fact, could be for the economy to finally gain some traction on its own, putting the GOP in position to claim credit." ...

... Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "... Republicans ousted some of the red-state Democrats most inclined to work with them, such as Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, reducing the number of potential Democratic allies.... Mr. McConnell, with few votes to spare, will have to balance the views of a handful of more moderate Republicans, such as Senator Susan Collins of Maine, with those of unyielding conservatives such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas...."

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Two Senate sources say they expect Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to reach out to Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine) and centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) about joining the Senate Republican Conference. Republicans have a 52-seat Senate majority and that could swell to 54 seats depending on the final vote tally in Alaska and a runoff in Louisiana next month. Both are solidly red states."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Wherein Charles Pierce complains that a CNN on-air personality has sold herself to the Republican party: "what is purported CNN 'analyst' S.E. Cupp doing bringing her smart-person glasses into an effort to groom candidates for one party or another, and then going back to opine on her handiwork both on the television and on the Intertoobz?"

AND, in Totally Unrelated News. J. K. Trotter of Gawker: "The Daily Mail is reporting the name -- Robert O'Neill -- of the retired Navy SEAL who plans to appear on Fox News and reveal that he shot Osama bin Laden. O'Neill's father, Tom, confirmed his 38-year-old son's identity to the Mail a week ahead of the Fox News interview scheduled to air on November 12. The Mail's report comes two days after the special-forces website SOFREP -- and an anonymous Gawker commenter -- both claimed that the Navy SEAL was Robert O'Neill."

Presidential Election

Jonathan Chait: "The structural advantages undergirding Republican control of both chambers of Congress are so imposing that only extraordinary circumstances could overwhelm them.... As long as Democrats hold the White House, Republican control of Congress is probably safe -- at least for several election cycles to come.... Hillary Clinton is the only thing standing between a Republican Party even more radical than George W. Bush's version and unfettered control of American government." ...

     ... CW: OR some more messianic left-ish political figure. I just don't see Hillary as the salvation of the Democratic brand. As Frank Rich remarks (linked above), "A cautious Clinton campaign standing for little in particular and distancing itself from Barack Obama could yet be vulnerable, just as such a Democratic campaign proved this year."

Tim Egan on gun control: "... Washington showed the model for other states. If you take the issue out of the hands of cowed politicians and put it directly in front of the voters, the results are as expected -- the will of the people prevails."

Steve M.: "How many people nationwide have heard of Sherrod Brown? Amy Klobuchar? Kamala Harris? Maybe Kirsten Gillibrand gets a bit of national attention, and self-promoters like Cory Booker, Wendy Davis, and Elizabeth Warren get more. But the party doesn't have anything like the GOP hype machine. If you don't work the system yourself, a la Barack Obama, you're nobody.... And that's why Republicans have so many A-list presidential candidates for 2016 and Democrats, with Warren taking a pass, have precisely one."

See today's Comments: