The Ledes

Friday, January 20, 2017.

Washington Post: "The world’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, was extradited to the United States on Thursday night, whisked away from the country where he built an empire that delivered tons of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the world." -- CW ...

     ... New York Times Update: "While most Americans were turned toward Washington and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump..., prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn held a news conference on Friday morning detailing the charges against Mr. Guzmán, who was flown out of Mexico on Thursday afternoon and arrived that night at MacArthur Airport on Long Island.... The government’s detention memo also gave an early glimpse of the case against Mr. Guzmán. It said that prosecutors planned to call several witnesses who would testify about the staggering scope of Mr. Guzmán’s criminal enterprise: including its multi-ton shipments of drugs in planes and submersibles and its numerous killings of witnesses, law enforcement agents, public officials and rival cartel members." -- CW 

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

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 

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Washington Post: "The Kennedy Center Honors showcased the breadth of American music Sunday night [Dec. 4] with emotionally charged performances celebrating the gospel roots of Mavis Staples, the honeyed vocals of James Taylor and the Southern California harmonies of the Eagles. The 39th annual celebration of lifetime achievement in the performing arts also honored actor Al Pacino and pianist Martha Argerich in a three-hour party that offered a wistful goodbye to Barack and Michelle Obama, who were hosting their last Honors tribute. The sold-out audience stood and cheered for several minutes when the president and first lady were introduced."

A Night at the Opera. Los Angeles Times: "The curtain rose on Act 2 of 'The Daughter of the Regiment,' revealing the figure of a tiny woman barely visible in a large dome chair with her back to the audience. Suddenly, she swiveled around — and there was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Cheers and prolonged applause rang out from the crowd at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night even before Ginsburg, a life-long opera lover who was making her official operatic debut, opened her mouth to speak as the imperious Duchess of Krakenthorp.... Her biggest laugh came when — in apparent reference to the bogus 'birther' campaign against President Obama — she asked whether [the character] Marie could produce a birth certificate and added: 'We must take precautions against fraudulent pretenders.' Ginsburg herself wrote her dialogue, in collaboration with ... [the] dramaturge for the Washington National Opera...." -- CW 

Bruce Springsteen performs at Hillary Clinton's rally in Philadelphia, November 7:

Washington Post: "Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday evening in London, becoming the first American ever to take home the prestigious award. His satirical novel 'The Sellout' beat five other finalists for the $60,000 prize, which also essentially guarantees substantial new sales and interest around the world. Amanda Foreman, chair of the Booker judges, called 'The Sellout' 'a novel for our times. . . . Its humor disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.' Originally published last year in the United States, 'The Sellout' is an outrageously funny satire of American race relations. The protagonist, a black man whose father was killed by police, wants to reinstitute segregation in his California town. He eventually lands before the Supreme Court in a bizarre case involving slavery. 'The Sellout' also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in March." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Comic actor, movie star and America’s best friend Bill Murray tried to sum up the emotions of being honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night [Oct. 23] at the Kennedy Center. 'My theme tonight is what is it like to be beloved,' a straight-faced Murray told the crowd at the end of the two-hour salute. 'It’s hard to listen to all those people be nice to you. You just get so suspicious.'”

Hill: Actor Bill Murray "spoke with President Obama, who congratulated him for winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a White House official said. Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if he met with Murray, Obama said 'absolutely,' but didn’t reveal what else they discussed."

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The Commentariat -- Sept. 1, 2014

The History of Labor Day:

Maybe for you, as for most Americans, the holiday simply means a weekend away:

E. J. Dionne on the Market Basket walk-out. ...

... Arthur T. Demoulas addresses Market Basket employees:

Fuck the U.A.W. -- Rahm Emanuel, re: the auto industry bailout, according to Steve Rattner

... "Why white men hate unions." Edward McClelland in Salon on the evolution of union demographics. ...

... Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "... a flood of recent cases ... accuse employers of violating minimum wage and overtime laws, erasing work hours and wrongfully taking employees' tips. Worker advocates call these practices 'wage theft,' insisting it has become far too prevalent. Some federal and state officials agree. They assert that more companies are violating wage laws than ever before, pointing to the record number of enforcement actions they have pursued.... Many business groups counter that government officials have drummed up a flurry of wage enforcement actions, largely to score points with union allies. If anything, employers have become more scrupulous in complying with wage laws, the groups say, in response to the much publicized lawsuits about so-called off-the-clock work that were filed against Walmart and other large companies a decade ago." CW: They said/they said; Who's to know? ...

... Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post on the real reason for economic stagnation: "From the end of World War II through the late 1970s..., major U.S. corporations retained most of their earnings and reinvested them in business expansions, new or improved technologies, worker training and pay increases. Beginning in the early '80s, however, they have devoted a steadily higher share of their profits to shareholders." ...

... CW: I wonder how much this has to do with the ballooning of MBA's & what-all business schools have been teaching the kids. There's a chicken-&-egg issue here; young people who opt for MBAs are probably not, on the whole, the most socially-conscious. But doesn't that leave you with institutions devoted to teaching little dickheads how to be bigger, more ruthless dickheads?

** NEW. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Some of the factual assertions in recent amicus briefs would not pass muster in a high school research paper. But that has not stopped the Supreme Court from relying on them. Recent opinions have cited 'facts' from amicus briefs that were backed up by blog posts, emails or nothing at all.... Some 'studies' presented in amicus briefs were paid for or conducted by the group that submitted the brief and published only on the Internet. Some studies seem to have been created for the purpose of influencing the Supreme Court. Yet the justices are quite receptive to this [sic.!] dodgy data."

Erin Cunningham & Abigail Hoslohner of the Washington Post: "Iraqi troops aided by U.S. airstrikes entered the besieged town of Amerli on Sunday, residents and Iraqi officials said, breaking a months-long blockade of the Shiite Turkmen village by Islamic State militants that raised fears of a massacre..... The U.S. strikes around Amerli on Saturday appeared to swiftly tilt the balance in favor of Iraqi forces." ...

... Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "After a week in which [President Obama] was criticised for failing to develop military plans for tackling Islamic State militants inside Syria and taking a relatively cautious approach to Russian incursions in Ukraine, senior figures [of both parties] in Congress took turns to demand greater US intervention." ...

... Martin Matishak of the Hill: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), "the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that President Obama has perhaps been 'too cautious' in confronting the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)." ...

... Timothy Cama of the Hill: "The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on Sunday sharply criticized President Obama's lack of a strategy to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Speaking on 'Fox News Sunday,' Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said statements from the White House last week that it does not yet have a firm strategy on ISIS are indicative of the Obama administration's foreign policy failures." ...

... Martin Matishak: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday said President Obama's responses to the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine             (Fill in the Blank)            ." * ...

     * A few weeks ago, Jon Soltz, in the Huffington Post, wrote a piece laying out some of the wrong calls McCain has made regarding military policy & our international military adventures. Soltz can't figure out why John (pronounced "wrong" McCain is the most popular guest ever on the Sunday shows. Via Heather of Crooks & Liars. ...

... ** Steve Coll of the New Yorker: "If the United States is returning to war in the region, one might wish for a more considered vision than Whack-a-Mole against jihadists."

... In case you were unaware of it, Howie Kurtz is still on the teevee, ostensibly watchdogging the media & wondering what-all is wrong with it from his Fox "News" perspective (having been dumped from his slightly more respectable perspectives, in the last instance for "serial inaccuracy"). Driftglass tuned in Sunday morning.

CW: I can't help seeing Bibi Netanyahu as Baby Vladimir. Of course Putin hasn't directly killed hundreds of Ukrainian children. Too bad U.S. politicians haven't the guts to say, "Bibi, that BFF thing has a limit, & you're over the top." If Israeli voters want to stick with Netanyahu or another hardliner, the U.S. should cut off funding & transfer of military equipment. Nearly as long as there has been an Israel, I have been an ideological supporter. Not anymore. See Sunday's News Ledes.

Paul Krugman: "For years, pundits and politicians have insisted that guaranteed health care is an impossible dream, even though every other advanced country has it. Covering the uninsured was supposed to be unaffordable; Medicare as we know it was supposed to be unsustainable. But it turns out that incremental steps to improve incentives and reduce costs can achieve a lot, and covering the uninsured isn't hard at all. When it comes to ensuring that Americans have access to health care, the message of the data is simple: Yes, we can." Read the whole column.

AP: "Fearing a Russian invasion and occupation of Alaska, the U.S. government in the early Cold War years recruited and trained fishermen, bush pilots, trappers and other private citizens across Alaska for a covert network to feed wartime intelligence to the military, newly declassified Air Force and FBI documents show. Invasion of Alaska? Yes. It seemed like a real possibility in 1950."

Beyond the Beltway

Collier Meyerson of msnbc: "The St. Louis County police officer who was recently suspended after video surfaced of him threatening to 'kill everybody' and who shoved CNN's Don Lemon on live television in Ferguson has retired. Officer Dan Page, a 35-year veteran of the force, had his last day on August 25th. Sergeant Colby Dolly, aid to the St. Louis County Police Chief, told msnbc by phone that Page is expected to receive his full pension." CW: And before he got a chance to kill everybody. ...

... Denise Hollinshed of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Ferguson "Police officers ... began wearing body cameras on Saturday as marchers took to the streets in the most recent protest of a shooting two weeks earlier by a city officer that left an unarmed teenager dead. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said his department was given about 50 body cameras by two companies, Safety Visions and Digital Ally, about a week ago. The companies donated the body cameras after the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson." ...

... Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times: "After raising more than $400,000 for the police officer who killed an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo., two online donation pages appear to have been shut down by their organizers without explanation this weekend." Thanks to James S., for the link.

Gubernatorial Race

CW: Yikes! I was asleep at the wheel on this. The primary was August 9! AP: "Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he lost his bid for re-election in a Democratic primary because of his decision to call a special session to legalize gay marriage. Republicans are allowed to vote for Democrats in Hawaii's open primary, and Abercrombie said they chose to vote against him because of his support for gay marriage and because they think his party rival, state Sen. David Ige, is an easier target to beat in the general election.... Abercrombie, who spoke to reporters in his office, lost to Ige by a stunning 2-1 margin, the first time a Democratic governor has been unseated in a Hawaii primary."

Presidential Race

Ken Vogel of Politico: "Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Pence, Rick Perry and Ben Carson all sounded like presidential candidates in weekend speeches to conservative activists ... [at] a conference organized by an influential Koch-backed group. The would-be candidates touted their small-government bona fides and hammered prospective Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama on issues ranging from the Middle East to health care to Obama's golfing. Cruz and Perry got among the lustiest responses from the nearly 3,000 grass-roots activists at Americans for Prosperity's annual Defending the American Dream summit. But Paul and Pence, who on Thursday night dined privately with a more exclusive group of major donors and VIPs including AFP foundation chairman David Koch and columnist George Will, appear to have made the best impressions on the elite and moneyed class." ...

... Erin Durkin of the New York Daily News: New York"City pols blasted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) Sunday for taking a swipe at the Bronx in a speech to a conservative group. Cruz invoked the borough's bad old days high-crime image, saying he was tired of hearing northern pols like Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) 'lecture' about immigration. 'Now, I understand that Manhattan is very concerned with their security with the Bronx, but it's a little bit different on 2,000 miles of the Rio Grande,' he said in a speech Saturday to the group Americans for Prosperity. That got a rise out of city Democrats who represent the borough."

News Ledes

Guardian: "The UK and US governments have criticised, in unusually strong language, Israel's decision to approve one of the largest appropriations of Palestinian land for settlement in recent decades. The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said he deplored the move as 'particularly ill-judged'."

Al Jazeera: "Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shia armed volunteers have retaken more northern towns from the Islamic State group, killing at least two of its senior fighters, sources have told Al Jazeera. A day after breaking the siege in the town of Amerli north of Baghdad, government forces retook the town of Sulaiman Bek on Monday, removing another key stronghold of the Islamic State group." ...

... Guardian: "Barack Obama on Monday formally notified Congress that he had authorised targeted air strikes in Iraq to help deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged Shia town of Amerli, the White House said in a statement."

Washington Post: Pakistan's "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was clinging to power Monday as protesters stepped up their assault on government buildings while the capital was gripped with fear and confusion about whether the country's powerful military will step in to defuse the tension. As the demonstrations calling for the prime minister's resignation enter their third week, Sharif is trying to navigate Pakistan's worst political crisis in more than a decade."

Guardian: "The American government on Monday asked North Korea to release three Americans currently held in the communist country, after foreign media outlets were allowed to interview detainees. 'Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request the [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] release them so they may return home,' said Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the State Department, in a statement. 'We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.'"


The Commentariat -- August 31, 2014

Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times: "Just when it seemed the right wing couldn't get any more divorced from reality around here, a local conservative group has launched a protest against what it sees as a pernicious cultural touchstone. Labor Day.... To the Freedom Foundation, a business-backed Olympia think tank, the day is evidence of the power of unions, which to members equals the decline of America. Rather than stoop to taking a union-backed day off, they plan to fight the power by ... working all day Monday instead!"

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "If the world seems troubled by all manner of calamities these days, President Obama does not want Americans to worry too much. After all, he said Friday, 'The world has always been messy'; it is just more apparent because of social media. And, he added, today's geopolitical threats are far less perilous than those of the Cold War." ...

... Yeah, well, stories like this kinda grab the reader, Mr. President ...

... Mitchell Protero of McClatchy News: "Nearly half of Syria's population has been displaced either internally or externally as refugees in the worst humanitarian crisis to strike the Middle East in at least a century, according to new data released by the International Rescue Committee." (Emphasis added.) ...

... Secretary of State John Kerry, in a New York Times op-ed: "In a polarized region and a complicated world, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria presents a unifying threat to a broad array of countries, including the United States. What's needed to confront its nihilistic vision and genocidal agenda is a global coalition using political, humanitarian, economic, law enforcement and intelligence tools to support military force."

Pam Belluck of the New York Times: "Five years after it exploded into a political conflagration over 'death panels,' the issue of paying doctors to talk to patients about end-of-life care is making a comeback, and such sessions may be covered for the 50 million Americans on Medicare as early as next year.Bypassing the political process, private insurers have begun reimbursing doctors for these 'advance care planning' conversations as interest in them rises along with the number of aging Americans." ...

... CW: My experience is that Medicare is already covering end-of-life consultations. I had several long meetings with hospital staff, including doctors, plus extensive assistance from hospice providers during my husband's final days. Medicare covered his entire bill except for a small co-pay.

Nicholas Kristof: "... those of us in white America [should] wipe away any self-satisfaction about racial progress. Yes, the progress is real, but so are the challenges. The gaps demand a wrenching, soul-searching excavation of our national soul, and the first step is to acknowledge that the central race challenge in America today is not the suffering of whites."

Pinch Gets Hitched. Flash Presides. New York Times: "Gabrielle Elise Greene, a partner in an investment firm, and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the chairman and publisher of The New York Times, were married Saturday on Martha's Vineyard. The ceremony, at the Outermost Inn in Aquinnah, Mass., was led by Flash Wiley, a friend of the couple...."

Senate Races

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "In black churches and on black talk radio, African-American civic leaders have begun invoking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, along with conservative calls to impeach Mr. Obama, as they urge black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, in which minority turnout is typically lower.... [Rep. John] Lewis is headlining efforts to mobilize black voters in several states with competitive Senate races, including Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina. The drive is being organized by the Congressional Black Caucus, in coordination with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Other steps, such as recruiting N.B.A. players to help register more African-Americans, are also underway."

Thursday, before Mitch McConnell's campaign chair Jesse Benton resigned his post (in a classic late-Friday-night-before-a-holiday-weekend announcement), Rachel Maddow aired this segment on the developing scandal:

... CW: This will be entertaining. I'm so sorry Benton didn't stick with Mitch a while longer. McConnell isn't talking, & apparently neither are Ron & Randy Paul. ...

... Joseph Gerth of the Louisville Courier-Journal: "... there has been no allegation of improprieties in the McConnell campaign. That and the fact that Benton quit quickly ought to help insulate McConnell from too much fallout.... The impact on Rand Paul, however, could be greater than any trouble McConnell might see." ...

... Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly reminds us: "Benton's motivation for joining up with McConnell was pretty transparently to help Rand Paul's career, and particularly his presidential ambitions. This became clear when a former aide to Ron Paul named Dennis Fusaro released a recorded phone conversation in which Benton said he was 'sort of holding my nose for two years' while he worked for McConnell 'because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit for Rand in 2016.' ... McConnell's effort to cozy up to the Paul family has backfired. Benton's effort to 'hold his nose for two years' has failed."

... BUT. Joseph Gerth: "Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has put a little more distance between him and his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, but the race remains within the margin of error, according to the atest Bluegrass Poll. The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for The Courier-Journal and three other news outlets, found that McConnell holds a 46 percent to 42 percent lead among likely voters over Grimes. Libertarian David Patterson gets 5 percent of the vote, and 8 percent remain undecided. It's the third consecutive Bluegrass Poll that has found McConnell improving his chances for re-election in November." ...

Beyond the Beltway

Florida's Alternative to ObamaCare: Pet Insurance. Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: "Six months after the launch of a $900,000 alternative to the Affordable Care Act, Florida's Health Choices program has only signed up 30 subscribers and administrators say they are considering offering pet insurance if it will help draw more customers.... During that same period, nearly 984,000 Floridians have enrolled in private coverage under Obamacare, leaving nearly 764,000 Floridians who are too poor to afford subsidized plans and unable to qualify for Medicaid...." The state legislature has refused to adopt the ACA's Medicaid expansion. ...

... The Tampa Bay Times story, by Tia Mitchell, is here.

God News

Frank Bruni: "Mightn't religion be piggybacking on the pre-existing condition of spirituality, a lexicon grafted onto it, a narrative constructed to explain states of consciousness that have nothing to do with any covenant or creed?"

Valerie Tarico of AlterNet: "Did the historical Jesus exist? A growing number of scholars don't think so."

Kim Archer of the Tulsa World: "Oklahoma County District Court Judge Bernard Jones has ruled unconstitutional a portion of a law that allows the use of public funds to send special-needs students to private religious schools. State Attorney General Scott Pruitt said he would appeal the ruling.... The judge's order has been stayed pending appeal.... Jones is the second district court judge to strike down the law as unconstitutional." Oklahoma's constitution prohibits "the use of public funds for private religious institutions." Via Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist.

Coming This November. Charles Pierce: Former child teevee star & current "godbothering nuisance" Kirk Cameron has made a movie about the War on Christmas "aimed at Bible-banging shut-ins and fringe Christianists loop-de-loops...." According to the Blaze (Glenn Beck's journoblog),

'Saving Christmas' [is] ... a comedic narrative that weaves together educational elements that, through a character-driven storyline, address these common complaints and critiques.

... CW: Oh, I'll bet it's "comedic." Here's the trailer:

News Ledes

New York Times: "Israel laid claim on Sunday to nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land in a Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem -- a step that could herald significant Israeli construction in the area -- defying Palestinian demands for a halt in settlement expansion."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia called on Ukraine on Sunday to begin talks on 'the statehood' of that country's rebellious southeast, a vague and provocative turn of phrase he used while demanding that the Ukrainian government negotiate directly with pro-Russian separatists."


Tan and the Man

Because of the international impact of this controversy, it deserves its very own blogpost.

Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "A Republican Congressman Is Actually Upset About Obama’s Tan Suit. Republican Rep. Peter King of New York ... blasted President Obama for wearing 'a light suit, light tan suit' to talk about the threat of ISIS on Thursday.

There’s no way any of us can excuse what the president did yesterday. When you have the world watching… a week, two weeks of anticipation of what the United States is gonna do. For him to walk out — I’m not trying to be trivial here — in a light suit, light tan suit, saying that first he wants to talk about what most Americans care about the revision of second quarter numbers on the economy....'" -- Peter King, on right-wing NewsMaxTV

... Later, Rep. King clarified his angry remarks about Obama's suit by appearing on CNN to say he was still angry about Obama's suit. With the whole world watching Pete on the international network, Pete chose not to wear a tie. Hey, it's summer. AND casual Friday. But he surely looks angry.

The suit was a metaphor for his lack of seriousness. -- Peter King, on President Obama's tan suit, on CNN

... CW: You're right, Peter King. That's why when I saw this snap of you wearing a tan summer suit in a season that appears to be summer, I was flabbergasted. Maybe the world isn't watching you at this particular moment, but -- my lord -- is this how you dress to represent a city that has a whole week! -- twice a year! -- dedicated to fashion???? Have you no shame, Sir?

... AND here you are, discussing the Troubles no less, in a tan sports jacket. And sweater. It must be winter. Are you even wearing a tie? As Scott Shane of the New York Times reported a few years ago, "Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army." And here you are with Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, dressed like a bum or a college professor. Look at Gerry there, all decked out for a wake in a proper dark suit & tie. The look of dispproval on his face tells you just what he thinks of your outfit. All of Ireland is watching. There's no excuse....

... Both photos via Joe Coscarelli of New York, who has a point: "Peter King has never discussed much of substance, so his point may still stand."

President Obama, Thursday. President Reagan, way back when, with Pope John-Paul II. John-Paul would go on to become a saint. Reagan would go on to rot in hell for insulting God, the Pope & the whole of Christiandom by wearing a tan suit to meet with God's representative on earth.

Oh, P.S. Those effete artistes of the fashion industry loved the suit.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Akhilleus for inserting the appropriate musical accompaniment:

... AND thanks to MAG for suggesting the appropriate comedic accompaniment:


The Commentariat -- August 30, 2014

Erik Eckholm & Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "A federal judge in Austin, Tex., blocked a stringent new rule on Friday that would have forced more than half of the state's remaining abortion clinics to close, the latest in a string of court decisions that have at least temporarily kept abortion clinics across the South from being shuttered. The Texas rule, requiring all abortion clinics to meet the building, equipment and staffing standards of hospital-style surgery centers, had been set to take effect on Monday. But in his opinion, Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court in Austin said that the mandate placed unjustified obstacles on women's access to abortion without providing significant medical benefits.... Texas officials immediately vowed to appeal the decision, while abortion-rights advocates were elated." The AG is Greg Abbott, the GOP gubernatorial nominee. Yeakel is a George W. Bush appointee.

Carol Anderson, in a Washington Post op-ed, argues that unrest is Ferguson was really the result of "white rage," not "black rage." ...

... CW: I'd quibble with Anderson's terminology, except as it applies to police overreaction, but her overall point is well-taken. As she demonstrates, most of what she calls white rage is contained, redirected at blacks in socially-acceptable formats. Once in awhile, of course, politicians slip up, as with Rick Santorum's blah-people half-gaffe, but usually they manage to contain their repressive agendas within race-neutral frames. And I do think for many conservatives, these policies are race-neutral. But not class-neutral. Their goal is to maintain the status-quo, to perpetuate an aristocracy in which they & their progeny, of course, remain on top. That certain ethnic groups will be forever overrepresented in the underclass is a by-product of their class-perpetuating objective, not a principal purpose.

Dana Milbank proves his Very-Serious-People creds by going full-on deficit hawk. Apparently, it is unpossible for Milbank to imagine that a future Congress would raise taxes & Social Security contributions & close corporate tax loopholes. He is right, of course, to suppose that any Congress controlled by Republicans would not act to responsibly pass legislation to improve the economy & thus reduce the deficit (& need for government borrowing) during good times. The long-term projections do look grim under current law, which is of course the basis for the CBO projections.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Alice Ollstein of Think Progress: "Just a few hours after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) went public with accounts of sexual harassment from her fellow lawmakers, a cadre of mostly male reporters took to the airwaves and Internet to question her credibility. Politico's senior congressional reporter, John Bresnahan, posted 'I challenge this story. I don't believe it' on Twitter in response to Gillibrand's interview. Bresnehan later deleted the tweet and called it 'moronic.'" ...

... CW: Really, Bresnahan? I'd like to see your reporting on that. See, when an actual journalist calls a public official a liar, he does so when he has produced some, um, evidence for his charge. Who's your source? Harry Reid? David Vitter? Oh well, Bresnahan, you're as good a reporter as that person who trolled Reality Chex the other day. Congratulations. You moron. ...

... Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: GOP operatives Frank Luntz & Rick Wilson tweet that Gillibrand has not named her accusers because ... obviously they're Democrats. ...

... Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "... to anyone who has spent more than a few minutes on Capitol Hill, none of [Gillibrand's encounters] should seem surprising." CW: I guess that means Bresnahan, Politico's senior congressional reporter, just phones in his work. Probably does all of his reporting off of C-SPAN. I'd suggest the Politico editors pop for a Metro card for Bresnahan, so he can get over to the Capitol from time to time & actually see the ole boys in action.

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Less than three years after she embarked on a new and lucrative career as an NBC News special correspondent, Chelsea Clinton said on Friday that she would leave that position. In a letter posted on her Facebook page, Ms. Clinton said she had decided to depart NBC News to focus on philanthropic work at the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. She and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, are also expecting their first child this fall."

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Lawyers on both sides [in the Bob & Maureen McDonnell corruption trial] Friday made their closing arguments in a case that has generated soap-opera buzz since the former first couple of Virginia pinned their defense largely on a brutal self-dissection of their own failed relationship."

Tom Wilemon of the Tennessean: "In a move that could mean health coverage for thousands of Tennesseans, Gov. Bill Haslam [R] said Thursday that the state may soon submit a proposal to Washington to expand Tennessee's Medicaid program but did not release any new details on how it might work. This would be the first time for the governor to actually submit a plan. If approved by federal officials and the state legislature, the plan would help Tennesseans caught in the coverage gap of the Affordable Care Act, which has left 162,000 Tennesseans without health insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation."

Stephanie Nebehay of Reuters: "The U.N. racism watchdog urged the United States on Friday to halt the excessive use of force by police after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman touched off riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Minorities, particularly African Americans, are victims of disparities, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said after examining the U.S. record." CW: Another fine example of why the right considers the U.N. an enemy.

Joel Currier of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Two police officers are no longer working at their departments due to their actions during the protests in Ferguson. A Glendale police officer suspended last Friday after commenting on Facebook that he thought Ferguson protesters should be 'put down like rabid dogs,' has been fired, officials say. Meanwhile, a St. Ann police lieutenant resigned Thursday after he pointed an assault rifle at protesters and cursed at them, officials said. Lt. Ray Albers had worked for the department for 20 years. Glendale Officer Matthew Pappert, suspended with pay last week, was fired Thursday after an internal investigation wrapped up Wednesday...."

Joaquin Palomino of the AP: "The California State Senate gave final legislative approval on Thursday to a bill that would require certain replica guns to be painted bright colors or made transparent to prevent police from confusing toy guns for real weapons. The bill, which passed the Democratic-led chamber by 22-12, was introduced by Democratic state Senator Kevin De Leon after Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies fatally shot 13-year-old Andy Lopez Cruz in October after mistaking an imitation pellet rifle for the real thing.... The bill narrowly passed the Democratic-controlled State Assembly earlier this week. A bloc of Republicans and Democrats opposed it, saying toy guns were already painted bright colors, and that the law would make it easier for criminals to conceal weapons by painting them." ...

... CW: The bill covers "toy, imitation or 'copycat' guns & "all BB, pellet and airsoft guns." That would include the MK-177 BB/pellet rifle, which looks like this.

... You can buy it at WalMart for $43.43. It comes in black & tan. Outfit not included. ...

... This is the gun that John Crawford was carrying (or leaning on) in an Ohio WalMart when police shot him dead. Crawford reportedly picked it up in WalMart's toy section.

Senate Races

Hmmm. Elizabeth Titus of Politico: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, announced his resignation late Friday, citing potential distractions over renewed attention to a scandal from the Iowa 2012 caucuses. A longtime associate of Ron Paul and his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Benton was the surprise choice to run the McConnell campaign in Sept. 2012 -- even before the current election cycle began. Benton's departure comes days after a former Iowa GOP state lawmaker pleaded guilty to charges of accepting money to change his endorsement in 2012 from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul. Benton was the chairman of Paul's 2012 campaign and has been mentioned in documents surrounding the case. He has not been accused of wrongdoing in the case.... A source familiar with the situation said the Paul case has been all over the local press and McConnell officials were concerned it could become a serious distraction during the final months of the campaign." ...

... Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader: "Benton's name has surfaced in connection to a bribery scandal dating to his time as former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's political director during the 2012 presidential election. On Wednesday, former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty to accepting $73,000 from Paul's campaign in exchange for his endorsement and to obstruction of justice for lying about his involvement. Sorenson's guilty plea included two sealed documents, which could threaten to involve Benton." ...

... Matea Gold of the Washington Post: "A top [Ron] Paul campaign official, Dimitri Kesari, was involved in efforts to pay Sorenson for his support, according a state independent counsel investigation. Benton, who is married to Paul's granddaughter, served as chairman of the campaign. It is unclear if he knew about payments made to Sorenson, but emails published last year indicate he was involved in efforts to get him to defect from the Bachmann campaign."

Katie Glueck of Politico: "A Mississippi judge on Friday dismissed state Sen. Chris McDaniel's challenge of longtime Sen. Thad Cochran's June Republican primary runoff victory." ...

... Goeff Pender of the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger: "Judge Hollis McGehee ... agreed with Cochran's lawyers that a 1959 state Supreme Court ruling imposed a 20-day deadline for McDaniel to file a challenge, first with the state Republican Party. McDaniel didn't file his challenge of the June 24 GOP runoff until 41 days after the election."

Presidential Race

"This Is Mighty White of You." Charles Pierce: "Hillary Clinton finally about recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. What she said appears to have been written by nine consultants, eight people from marketing, seven lawyers, six ESL valedictorians, and Mark Penn. She feels very bad about the stuff that happened, as stuff sometimes will happen, because it is stuff, and it happens. Or something." After this fair summary, Pierce reproduces the full text (or what I hope is the full text), with commentary. CW: To those who complain President Obama is "too deliberative," wait for President Hillary. And wait. And wait.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Since Monday, more than 200 Ukrainian volunteer soldiers have been trapped in the southeastern town of Ilyovaisk, surrounded by separatists they say have been freshly supplied with troops and high-tech weapons from Russia. Food and ammunition have dwindled, and the death toll is mounting.... Russian President Vladimir Putin focused international attention on the trapped soldiers Friday by calling in a statement for a protected route to allow them to retreat, even as evidence mounted of a broad incursion into Ukraine by Russian troops and military vehicles." ...

... Guardian: "... Vladimir Putin, has hit back at accusations that he has effectively invaded Ukraine, accusing Kiev's forces of behaving like Nazis in the conflict in the east and ominously threatening to take his standoff with the west into the disputed Arctic."

Guardian: "America's newest war in Iraq has cost over half a billion dollars so far, according to Pentagon estimates, all before President Barack Obama decides upon a strategy against Islamic State (Isis) militants. Rear Adm John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters on Friday that daily military operations in Iraq since 16 June, when the White House informed Congress it had ordered up to 275 US troops to bolster embassy security in Baghdad, have cost on average $7.5m."

New York Times: "An experimental drug has shown a striking efficacy in prolonging the lives of people with heart failure and could replace what has been the bedrock treatment for more than 20 years, researchers said Saturday. The drug, which is being developed by the Swiss company Novartis, reduced both the risk of dying from cardiovascular causes and the risk of being hospitalized for worsening heart failure by about 20 percent in a large clinical trial."