The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, September 24, 2017.

Weather Channel: Hurricane Maria, a Category 2 hurricane, is increasingly likely to bring a brush of at least tropical storm-force winds and rain to parts of the East Coast later this week, in addition to its more certain impacts of coastal flooding, high surf, and rip currents."

Public Service Announcement

September 9: The New York Times reports that Equifax is doing nothing to protect you if hackers to its system gained access to your personal information. In fact, Equifax has a plan to make money on your misfortune. Reporter Ron Lieber has some suggestions about what you can do to protect yourself from Equifax & its hackers. Equifax is providing no good way to find out if you've been affected; it is apparently just trying to hook as many suckers as it can into getting a "free" account, but you can bet it won't stay free. Read the story if you'd like to feel helpless & enraged.

The New Yorker has links to Lillian Ross's stories here. The New Yorker is subscription-only but allows non-subscribers to read six stories a month, so if you're not a subscriber, you may want to open the page in a private window.

Mrs. McCrabbie: When the Emmy folks are looking to give out prizes next year, they should think Jimmy Kimmel.

Some highlights of the Emmys:

... To watch the whole monologue, go to YouTube & type something like "stephen colbert monologue emmys". There are quite a few pirated copies up right now, but CBS will certainly take them down, so none will be posted here. The Washington Post has some of the transcript here.

Former star of "The Apprentice" finally gets his Emmy:

Kim Weeks in the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton revealed this week she turned to an esoteric breathing technique popular among yogis to heal from her devastating election loss.... By bringing this kind of breath work into the mainstream, Clinton has introduced the world to a practice that has both proven mental and physical health benefits.... In nadi shodhana, the process of literally alternating breathing between the right and left nostril also helps balance the right and left brain, the right and left lungs, and the right and left sides of the body. Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to slow down a rapid heart rate and to lower blood pressure." ...

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Okay, I tried it. I can do the left nostril but not the right. That stressed me out.

Hill: "Melissa McCarthy brought home an Emmy this weekend for her memorable impression of former press secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live. The actress won an Emmy for best comedy actress on a comedy series at the Emmy’s creative arts awards Sunday, according to the Associated Press. The awards are a precursor to the main show next weekend." Spicer panned McCarthy's impression.

New York Times: "Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, plans to step down from the magazine in December after a 25-year tenure, leaving the role that established him as a ringmaster of the Hollywood, Washington and Manhattan power elite. Mr. Carter’s influence stretched from the magazine and entertainment worlds into finance, literature and politics, where President Trump, a target of Mr. Carter’s poison pen for decades, still bristles at the mention of his name. One of the few remaining celebrity editors in an industry whose fortunes have faded, Mr. Carter — famous for double-breasted suits, white flowing hair and a seven-figure salary — is a party host, literary patron, film producer and restaurateur whose cheeky-yet-rigorous brand of reporting influenced a generation of journalists.... Spy[a magazine Carter co-founded,] took special glee in attacking Mr. Trump, whom the magazine memorably deemed a 'short-fingered vulgarian.' (The insult stuck: just last week, Mr. Trump referred to his 'too big' hands during a visit to Houston.)"

New York Times: "Tronc, the publisher of The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, announced on Monday that it had acquired The Daily News, the nearly 100-year-old tabloid that for decades set the city’s agenda with its gossip, sports and city coverage. The deal represents the end of an era for The News, which was long a voice for New York’s working class. It may also signal the end of the political influence of its owner, the real estate magnate Mortimer B. Zuckerman, who often used the paper’s bold, front-page headline — known as 'the wood' — for commentary about candidates and politicians, locally and nationally."

Guardian (Sept. 4): "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a third child, Kensington Palace has announced. The announcement was made as the duchess was forced to cancel an engagement on Monday because of extreme morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum."

Speaking of Finland, as we were in relation to Donald Trump's complete lack of concern about Russian aggression, a remark he repeated in front of President Sauli Niinistö of neighboring Finland, because who cares?, the Finnish police procedural "Bordertown," which is streaming on Netflix is pretty good. Not sure if it comes dubbed, but Mr. McCrabbie & I like to listen to languages, so we were fine with subtitles. The "bordertown" borders Russia. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie 

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

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

Constant Comments

Tuesday
Aug262014

The Commentariat -- August 27, 2014

Side-Stepping Congress to Save the World. Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress. In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world's largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. To sidestep that requirement, President Obama's climate negotiators are devising what they call a 'politically binding' deal that would 'name and shame' countries into cutting their emissions."

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "United States Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican from Florida who once advocated for a broad immigration overhaul that would have included a path to legal status for people now in the country illegally, urged President Obama [in a letter] on Tuesday not to take unilateral action on the issue even to slow the pace of deportations.... In an interview..., Mr. Rubio said he found that the 'fundamental impediment' to an overhaul was that Republican lawmakers and many voters did not trust Mr. Obama to carry out enforcement provisions. By taking unilateral action to suspend deportations, Mr. Rubio said, the White House would be 'proving them right' and would 'further exacerbate the divisions.' Rubio's new immigration plan: border security!" ...

... Peter Hamby of CNN: Marco Rubio "... the Florida senator and likely presidential candidate, was the headline speaker at a 'Faith and Freedom' barbecue fundraiser for Rep. Jeff Duncan, the tea party-backed congressman who represents what many Republicans consider the most conservative House district in the state.... Rubio ... was quickly interrupted by a group of protestors -- self-identified DREAMers..., who loudly heckled the senator for abandoning last year's sweeping immigration package.... The audience of nearly 1,200 conservatives jeered the protestors as Rubio waited for them to be escorted out of the Anderson Civic Center, scolding them in the process. 'We are a sovereign country that deserves to have immigration laws,' Rubio said. 'You're doing harm to your own cause because you don't have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States.' The crowd cheered him on." ...

... Greg Sargent has a good post reminding us how far Rubio & other Republicans have descended on immigration reform. ...

... NEW. Obama Is Not Listening to Marco. David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "The White House is considering proposals from business and immigrant rights groups that are pressing President Obama to provide hundreds of thousands of new green cards for high-tech workers and the relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents."

Maureen Dowd: President Obama "dispatched Eric Holder to Ferguson, and deputized Al Sharpton, detaching himself at the very moment when he could have helped move the country forward on an issue close to his heart. It's another perverse reflection of his ambivalent relationship to power." ...

... CW: I would like to know exactly how Dowd thinks Obama "could have helped move the country forward" on race relations. Maybe Marco Rubio has some ideas. Or Cornel West! ...

Jonathan Chait: "The political subculture of anti-Obama leftists has entered a phase by this point in the Obama presidency where the truth of its worldview is so well-established to its own adherents that it requires no exposition. Tom Frank, an anti-Obama leftist, interviews Cornel West, another anti-Obama leftist, in a conversation so deeply marinated in shared assumptions that, at one point, both interviewer and interviewee agree that nobody disagrees with them.... Because they cannot conceive of any limits to Obama's power, betrayal and haplessness are the only causes they can imagine for their distress." CW Note: Some readers thought I should link the Frank-West interview, tho I had already decided against it. Well, it's linked now.

BTW, Simon Maloy of Salon has a good response to Dowd's previous column excoriating President Obama (from way back on Sunday), which you could just apply to today's Dowd column excoriating Obama.

Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Tuesday named Kevin J. Counihan, who ran Connecticut's successful health insurance marketplace, as the chief executive of the federal marketplace serving consumers in 36 states." ...

... MEANWHILE.... Andrea Peterson of the Washington Post: "A former acting director of cybersecurity at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was convicted on child pornography charges, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday. Timothy DeFoggi, 56, was convicted of 'engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, conspiracy to advertise and distribute child pornography, and accessing a computer with intent to view child pornography.'" ...

     ... CW: Wouldn't you think a cybersecurity expert would know how to hide his Web identity? DeFoggi worked for HHS during the Obama administration (not clear if he's a civil servant or a Sebelius hire). His disgusting little sexual proclivities aside, his carelessness is another indicator of the ineptitude of HHS. Maybe the new team can fix it.

Down the Donut Hole. Kelsey Snell of Politico on Burger King's move from the U.S. to Canada (via it's purchase of Tim Hortons, a Canadian donut shop chain): "Even the loss of the Whopper and fries won't budge Congress.... The impotent Washington response to losing an iconic American fast food company over a tax issue is a reflection of just how dysfunctional Congress has become -- and a stark illustration of how far apart the two parties are on tax reform. Simply put, many Democrats want to ban these so-called tax inversions, where companies flee U.S. taxes by taking headquarters overseas. Republicans say the solution is cutting corporate taxes to make the U.S. more competitive. And not surprisingly, broad tax reform has gone nowhere."

Helene Cooper & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "The United States has begun to mobilize a broad coalition of allies behind potential American military action in Syria and is moving toward expanded airstrikes in northern Iraq, administration officials said on Tuesday. President Obama, the officials said, was broadening his campaign against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and nearing a decision to authorize airstrikes and airdrops of food and water around the northern Iraqi town of Amerli, home to members of Iraq's& Turkmen minority. The town of 12,000 has been under siege for more than two months by the militants." ...

... Aaron Miller of Foreign Policy explains why air strikes against ISIS in Syria won't work & why President Obama will initiate them anyway. ...

... Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: "Bill Kristol wants to bomb first and figure it out later. News at ten. During a Monday interview with Laura Ingraham on the ongoing situation in Iraq, the Weekly Standard founder discussed his desire to forgo national debates and simply bomb ISIS forces immediately." ...

... ** George Packer of the New Yorker: "Among the many reasons to mourn [James] Foley's death is the loss of his reporting, and of reporting in general, from Syria. News of the civil war from Western media organizations has been dwindling as security has deteriorated, and it is now likely to dry up. Local Syrian reporters face an even greater threat. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that at least eighty journalists have been kidnapped since the start of the war and at least seventy have been killed, almost all of them Syrians, and almost all in 2012 and 2013." Read the whole post. Packer points out the huge disservice Darryl Issa, John McCain, et al., do to developing & maintaining sensible U.S. foreign policy.

Zach Carter of the Huffington Post: "House Republicans are agitating to dramatically curb federal bank regulators' ability to combat money laundering, calling for changes in decades-old financial fraud standards in an effort to aid payday lenders."

Melinda Deslatte of the AP: "Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Obama administration, accusing it of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards. The U.S. Department of Education has used a $4.3 billion grant program and federal policy waivers to encourage states to adopt uniform education standards and testing. The Republican governor says that 'effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum" in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content.'"

Kathleen Hennessey of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama said Tuesday that he is working to 'regain the trust' of the nation's veterans by improving their access to quality healthcare and education as he struggles to recover from a scandal that thrust the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs into the spotlight earlier this year. 'We are going to get to the bottom of these problems. We're going to fix what is wrong,' Obama told thousands of veterans gathered in Charlotte, N.C., for the annual American Legion conference.... Shortly before Obama's remarks, the White House announced a series of policy changes and public-private partnerships aimed at easing service members' transition to civilian life":

Jonathan Chait: Paul Ryan picks his favorite books, accidentally forgets Atlas Shrugged. Never fear. According to Chait, one of Ryan's picks "is a weird, rambly, mostly unoriginal recitation of free-market homilies" & another "is a work of genuine derangement on the same intellectual level as the sorts of unpublishable hand-scrawled diatribes that I used to scan through when I sorted the mail as a magazine intern.... So it seems the lesson Ryan has drawn from the harmful publicity surrounding his Rand fixation is not that he shouldn't associate himself publicly with crackpot authors but merely that he should find different crackpot authors."

... CW Note: Ryan's reading list provides more evidence of his perpetually child-like mind. Some commenters to yesterday's thread discussed the book & film Being There, about a simple-minded man whom the Very Serious People all take very seriously. I believe we have found the real Chauncey Gardiner, & he is about to become chair of the House Ways & Means Committee. Worth remembering: Mitt Romney thought this inchoate goofball would make a great president.

Shock! New College Board History Exam Does Not Insist the U.S. Is the Greatest Country Ever. Nor does it name Newt Gingrich & Phyllis Schlafly among great Americans. Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "The National Review on Monday published a piece claiming that the College Board's new framework for the AP U.S. History exam was the result of a leftist movement to change the way American history is taught.... According to [NRO blogger Stanley] Kurtz, the College Board's redesign of the exam is linked to an 'attack on American exceptionalism' and 'a highly politicized and left-leaning approach to American history.'" ...

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. -- Barack Obama

For the rest of Obama's comment, see this piece by Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post.

... CW Note to Kurtz: American "exceptionalism" is an opinion (or a belief), not a fact. Ergo, it has no place in teaching curricula, other than in, say, attempts to decipher what drove Dubya's foreign policy views. As an underpinning of U.S. policy, American exceptionalism it is just as valid as whatever they're teaching North Korean kiddies about North Korean exceptionalism. It's a crock. In my opinion.

Beyond the Beltway

Maureen McDonnell's lawyers are presenting her defense today in the Bob & Maureen McDonnell corruption trial. The Washington Post is liveblogging testimony here. ...

... Matt Zapotosky & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell concluded his nearly 24 hours on the witness stand Tuesday by telling jurors he regretted taking lavish gifts from a businessman, but firmly insisting he never promised favors in return. 'I, as governor, allowed my life to get out of balance,' McDonnell testified, agreeing that he and his family should not have accepted as many luxury goods from Jonnie R. Williams Sr. 'That was my error.'" ...

... Here's the Post's liveblog for Tuesday. ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Five days of grueling, often contentious testimony by Bob McDonnell, the former Virginia governor accused of corruption, ended Tuesday with an apology from Mr. McDonnell for accepting so many gifts and so much money, but an emphatic denial that he had conspired with his wife to sell his office. The federal trial, already 22 days long, could go to the jury as early as Wednesday. Lawyers for the former Virginia first lady, Maureen McDonnell, must present her defense, but her lead attorney promised that it might take only three hours."

Walking While Black in Beverly Hills. Anthony Kurzweil of KTLA: "A film producer who was in Beverly Hills to attend a pre-Emmy party Friday night was handcuffed and detained for about six hours before authorities investigating a nearby bank robbery realized they had the wrong man." The "suspect," Charles Belk, is black. The Beverly Hills police released a statement saying "A witness then positively identified Belk as the second suspect, according to the news release." Because all black people look alike to people in Beverly Hills. ...

... Worse. Shopping While Black in WalMart. Travis Gettys of the Raw Story: "Surveillance video shows an Ohio man talking on a cell phone, leaning on a toy gun, and facing away from officers moments before police shot and killed him in a Walmart store, according to an attorney for the man's family. John Crawford III died Aug. 5 after police were called to Walmart in Beavercreek, near Dayton, by another shopper who reported a man carrying what appeared to be an AR-15 rifle. The 22-year-old Crawford was instead carrying an unpackaged MK-177 (.177 caliber) BB/pellet rifle he picked up in the store's toy department.... Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine [R] announced Tuesday handed the case over to a special prosecutor...." ...

He was doing nothing more, nothing less than just shopping. -- Michael Wright, attorney for John Crawford's family

... Kim Palmer of Reuters: "... lawyers for the family of John Crawford III, who was shot and killed by Beavercreek police earlier this month, said his death was unjustified, demanded that all surveillance video of the shooting be released and called for the case to be turned over to federal authorities."

Lauren Raab of the Los Angeles Times: "An instructor at a shooting range in Arizona died Monday after a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot him in the head with an Uzi he was showing her how to use, the Mohave County Sheriff's Office said. Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City was shot Monday morning, airlifted to a medical center in Las Vegas and pronounced dead shortly before 9 p.m., the sheriff's office said." CW: I'm not sure the girl is the killer here. No one in his right mind would give a child an Uzi. ...

... Susie Madrak of Crooks & Liars: "Just another one of those tragic accidents that so often happen with responsible gun owners!"

It turns out Krugman has been wrong all along. The U.S. is in danger of becoming the next Greece. Greece, New York, that is. Sahil Kapur of Think Progress: "Earlier this year, the Supreme Court gave its blessing to local governments that want to open their public meetings with religious prayer. It was a victory for the town board of Greece, N.Y., which stressed that it was fighting not just for Christian prayer but for the right of all people express their views regardless of their faith. In a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines, the Court ruled against the Jewish and atheist plaintiffs, who argued that the practice violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Less than four months later, the town of Greece has adopted an invocation policy that excludes non-religious citizens and potentially shuts out faiths that aren't well-established in the town, according to a top secular group."

Mireya Navarro of the New York Times: "A 33-story glassy tower rising on Manhattan's waterfront will offer all the extras that a condo buyer paying up to $25 million would expect, like concierge service, entertainment rooms, and unobstructed views of the Hudson River and miles beyond. The project will also cater to renters who make no more than about $50,000. They will not share the same perks, and they will also not share the same entrance. The so-called poor door has brought an outcry, with numerous officials now demanding an end to the strategy. But the question of how to best incorporate affordable units into projects built for the rich has become more relevant than ever as Mayor Bill de Blasio seeks the construction of 80,000 new affordable units over the next 10 years. The answer is not a simple one."

Gubernatorial Races

Mark Caputo of the Miami Herald: Former Florida Republican governor-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist easily won his primary race, but the general election battle between current Gov. Rick Scott (RCrook) is a toss-up. "While each solidifies his base and tries to snatch as many independent voters as possible -- anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of the electorate -- Crist and Scott also have to warily eye the Libertarian Party's nominee, Adrian Wyllie, who could draw as much as 9 percent of the vote, according to one recent poll." ...

... Politico's report, by James Hohmann, is here.

The New York Times Editors pointedly make no endorsement in the Democratic primary for governor of New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who most certainly will win the primary & likely the general election, has one primary opponent, "Zephyr Teachout, a professor at Fordham Law School who is a national expert on political corruption and an advocate of precisely the kind of transparency and political reform that Albany needs. Her description of Mr. Cuomo as part of a broken system 'where public servants just end up serving the wealthy' is exactly on point, but we decline to endorse her because she has not shown the breadth of interests and experience needed to govern a big and diverse state."

Noam Scheiber of the New Republic argues that the Wisconsin gubernatorial race is "a very big deal," & its result "could shape U.S. politics for years to come."

Congressional Races

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "The GOP primary in Arizona's 1st district remained too close to call hours after polls closed Tuesday night. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Republicans' best- and worst-case candidates to take on Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) this fall were just a few hundred votes apart.... As of 4:30 a.m. EST, Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, the establishment pick..., led rancher Gary Kiehne by just 291 votes, 15,168 to 14,877, about half a percentage point difference.... A win by Kiehne would deliver Democrats their best shot at holding onto a seat that routinely ranks at the top of the party's most-vulnerable list. Republicans won it at the presidential level twice, and Kirkpatrick lost it once before, before going on to narrowly win her seat back in 2012 against a flawed challenger in a favorable Democratic year." ...

... Alexandra Jaffe: "Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers defeated former Arizona State University quarterback Andrew Walter for the chance to take on Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) this fall.... Rogers' nomination gives Democrats an early and easy opportunity for attacks, due to comments during her unsuccessful 2012 congressional run when she suggested she wants to see Social Security 'phased out.'"...

... Alexandra Jaffe: "Former state Rep. Ruben Gallego defeated retiring Rep. Ed Pastor's (D-Ariz.) choice to succeed him, former Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, in a fiery primary fight on Tuesday night.... Gallego ran a ground- and youth-focused campaign that utilized data and technology to facilitate voter outreach in the young district, and he drew the support of a number of national progressive groups." ...

PLUS. Mary Beth Faller of the Arizona Republic: "Diane Douglas defeated incumbent John Huppenthal in the Republican primary for Arizona superintendent of public instruction on Tuesday.... During the campaign, Huppenthal faced relentless questioning about controversial comments he posted on local political blogs using pseudonyms -- including remarks that people who receive public assistance are 'lazy pigs' and that Spanish-language media should be shut down." CW: Huppenthal led the effort to ban Mexican-American studies in Tucson public schools. Via Roque Planes of the Huffington Post.

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: All Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to be is Senate Majority Leader.

** Alec MacGillis of the New Republic: "... what is going on right now in Wisconsin's Sixth Congressional District is truly historic, and demands more attention. The district, northwest of Milwaukee, has been represented for nearly half a century by only two men, both of whom were standard bearers for a brand of moderate Republicanism that has all but vanished from the landscape. The latter of the two, Tom Petri, is retiring after 35 years in office, and the Republican primary earlier this month to replace him was won, very narrowly, by Glenn Grothman, a proudly polarizing state senator (pictured above) considered by many to be the most radically conservative member of the Wisconsin legislature." ...

... Here's the August 13 story by Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast, which MacGillis links.

Hice, et al. BuzzFeed Photoshop.... Meet a strong runner-up for Worst-Congressman-in-Waiting, Jody Hice. Hice won the primary in Georgia's ultra-conservative 10th District, currently represented by serious loon Paul Broun, who gave up his seat to run for Senate. (He lost the primary.) Hice is expected to easily win the general election. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: Hice "really loves freedom. He calls himself a 'constitutional conservative' and LOVES the Founding Fathers.... Hice also loves to naturally share Founding Fathers quotes. Unfortunately, many of them are fake." Kaczynski provides ample examples.

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "Three top Republican Senate candidates heaped praise on the political network built by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference held by the brothers this past summer, according to audio of the event. Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst and Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton directly credited donors present at the June 16 retreat in Dana Point, California, for propelling them forward. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told attendees that his race would likely be decided by the presence of 'third party' money -- an obvious pitch for generosity from the well-heeled crowd." ...

... Greg Sargent: "... this ... undercuts GOP complaints about the Dem strategy of targeting the Koch brothers and linking GOP candidates to them. Republicans have fretted that this is all about a concerted strategy to 'demonize' big GOP donors."

Peter Suderman of Reason: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS "is knocking ... [Democratic Senators Mark Pryor (Ak.) & Kay Hagan (N.C.)] ... from the left -- criticizing both candidates for wanting to cut and reform entitlements.... These shallow, shell-game attack ads are meant to play on voter fear and confusion about important policy details, but what they end up revealing is the party's own fear and confusion about how to answer some of the biggest policy questions of the day." Via Paul Waldman.

Elise Viebeck of the Hill: "Republican Senate candidates are staying silent on President Obama's latest changes to the birth control coverage mandate even as the policy catches flak from the religious right.... The lack of response reveals would-be GOP senators' extreme caution as they approach the birth control debate at this point in the election cycle."

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "One of the longest-running shows in television history suffered its worst tragedy this week when an audio technician for the reality program 'Cops' was accidentally shot and killed by police while trying to film a robbery in Omaha. Officers thought the suspect was shooting at them. They opened fire, killing the suspect as well as Bryce Dion, 38, a seven-year veteran of the show. When police examined the suspect's weapon, they discovered it was a pistol that fired only pellets." ...

... New York Times: "The Omaha police chief said Wednesday that the fatal shooting of a crew member filming the television show 'Cops' by one of his officers was an 'unfortunate incident' and that it appeared that the three officers involved had acted professionally.

New York Times: "Tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed from Russia into an unbreached part of eastern Ukraine in recent days, attacking Ukrainian forces and causing panic and wholesale retreat not only in [the] small border town [of Novoazovsk, Ukraine,] but also a wide section of territory, in what Ukrainian and Western military officials described on Wednesday as a stealth invasion. The attacks outside this city and in an area to the north essentially have opened a new, third front in the war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists, along with the fighting outside the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk."

Washington Post: "The mother of Steven J. Sotloff, an American journalist who was captured last year by the Islamic State, has made a video plea to the head of the terrorist organization asking for her son's release. In a video released Wednesday, Shirley Sotloff asks Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to 'please release my child. And as a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over.'" Story includes video.

Guardian: "The US has said little about Mount Sinjar since 14 August, when Obama declared the siege broken, but recent satellite imagery and interviews with Yazidis still on the mountain indicate a humanitarian emergency continuing to unfold."

New York Times: "A number of United States banks, including JPMorgan Chase and at least four other firms, were hit by hackers in a series of coordinated attacks this month.... The hackers infiltrated the networks of the banks, siphoning off gigabytes of data, including account information, in what security experts described as a sophisticated cyberattack."

AP: "Syrian rebels, including fighters from an al-Qaida-linked group, seized control of a frontier crossing with Israel in the Golan Heights on Wednesday after heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, activists and rebels said. The capture of the post along Syria's de facto border in the Golan held more symbolic value than strategic, but rebels said it would provide relief to nearby villages that were under siege by government troops."

Washington Post: "An open-ended cease-fire between Hamas and Israel was holding Wednesday after seven weeks of warfare that killed more than 2,200 people."

Washington Post: "Ukraine accused Russia on Wednesday of stepping up military activity in the annexed territory of Crimea and sending in troops to help separatists near a key seaport in southeastern Ukraine."

New York Times: "Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, said on Wednesday that French prosecutors had placed her under formal investigation over a murky business affair that dates to her time as finance minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy."

Monday
Aug252014

The Commentariat -- August 26, 2014

Mark Landler & Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a precursor to airstrikes there, but a mounting concern for the White House is how to target the Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar al-Assad." ...

... Oren Dorell of USA Today: "Briitish intelligence said a London rapper who traveled to Syria last year to fight with Islamist militants is suspected of beheading American journalist James Foley last week, according to the British newspaper The Sunday Times.... A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said U.S. intelligence officials have yet to confirm the killer's identity on the video showing the killing and continue to work the case.... British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 identified the killer and named Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 24, as a key suspect, The Sunday Times reported, citing unnamed officials. Abdel Bary, also known as L Jinny or Lyricist Jinn in London, left a budding music career that included appearances on BBC Radio in 2012, several British newspapers reported." ...

... Luke Harding & Fazel Hawramy of the Guardian: "The United Nations said on Sunday it had evidence that fighters from Islamic State (Isis) had killed as many as 670 prisoners in Mosul and had carried out further abuses in Iraq that amounted to crimes against humanity. Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said Islamic State and allied fighters were committing 'grave, horrific human rights violations' on a daily basis. These included, including targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, trafficking, slavery and sexual abuse, Pillay said." ...

... The hawks on the Washington Post editorial board call for "boots on the ground" against ISIS.

Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian: "An American journalist who was freed after almost two years of captivity in Syria is believed to be in the custody of the US embassy in Tel Aviv, where he is likely to be undergoing medical checks and preliminary debriefing. Peter Theo Curtis, 45, was handed over to UN peacekeepers in the village of al-Rafid, close to the boundary between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria. He had been held by Jabhat al-Nusra, an affiliate of al-Qaida, since autumn 2012."

David Kirkpatrick & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Twice in the last seven days, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have secretly launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli, Libya, four senior American officials said, in a major escalation of a regional power struggle set off by Arab Spring revolts. The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied to American diplomats that their military played any role in the operation, the officials said, in what appeared a new blow to already strained relations between Washington and Cairo." ...

... CW: As contributor Haley Simon asks, "Anybody else wondering how it was that the US had 'no idea' that Egypt and the Emirates were bombing Libya given their worldwide surveillance of everybody? We surely do suck at whatever it is that the NSA is doing."

Connie Bruck has a long piece in the New Yorker on AIPAC, which has captured nearly every legislator in Washington, a fearsome fact given Israel's right-wing, militaristic government. CW: Another reminder that we will never have representative government without a Constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform.

** Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "The Veterans Affairs Department says investigators have found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a VA hospital in Phoenix, deflating an explosive allegation that helped expose a troubled health care system in which veterans waited months for appointments while employees falsified records to cover up the delays." ...

... Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: "Three months after a veterans' health care scandal rocked his administration, President Barack Obama is taking executive action to improve the mental well-being of veterans. The president was to announce his initiatives during an appearance before the American Legion National Convention that is fraught with midterm politics. The president's address to the legionnaires Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the latest administration response to the health care lapses that led to the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in May."

The Tie Goes to the Republicans. Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "... more than 200 times in the past six years that the [Federal Election Commission] has split votes, reflecting a deep ideological divide over how aggressively to regulate money in politics that mirrors the partisan gridlock in Congress. But instead of paralyzing the commission, the 3-to-3 votes have created a rapidly expanding universe of unofficial law, where Republican commissioners have loosened restrictions on candidates and outside groups simply by signaling what standards they are willing to enforce." The rule is: it's legal if the members of the commission vote 3-3.

** Peter Mancuso in the Washington Monthly. The militarization of police forces in only part of the story: "That larger story begins many years before our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It involves a tit-for-tat escalation of armaments between criminals, citizens, and police departments that has been egged on by America's arms manufacturers and gun rights groups.... [The] call to increase police officer fire power was further exacerbated by the fact that state legislatures failed miserably in the face of the gun lobby to curb the sale of some of the most powerful and lethal firearms that posed threats to police officers across the country in the first place.... New huge profits for weapons makers [by opening up the law enforcement market for heavier firepower] meant increased contributions from these same firearms manufacturers to the National Rifle Association, (NRA).... The NRA's unabated, vigorous, and highly successful marketing strategy, wrapped the whole sales pitch in 'Second Amendment' parchment and a 'Red, White, & Blue' ribbon for the American public market." Read the whole post. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "It’s actually a bit worse than Mancuso suggests. The arms race between police departments and lawbreakers created an atmosphere of spectacularly lethal violence (even as violent crime rates actually went down) that made it easy for the gun lobby and its paymasters to argue that every single citizen needed to become his or her own police force, as heavily armed as the cops and robbers. 'Army of One' indeed. So we aren't just witnessing the consequences of the 'militarization of the police.' It's the militarization of America, which happens when you deliberately destroy the state monopoly on means of lethal violence.... [This is an] angle that libertarian folk like Rand Paul do not want to pursue: cops bulking up with military hardware as part of an arms race created by Second Amendment absolutism."

Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "House Republicans have hired D.C. law firm BakerHostetler to provide legal representation to sue President Obama. House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-Mich.) signed a contract on Monday for BakerHostetler to represent the House in the civil action lawsuit in a U.S. district court against the president.... The contract authorizes the House general counsel to pay BakerHostetler $500 per hour for 'all reasonable attorney time expended in connection with the litigation.' However, the contract states that the legal costs will not exceed a 'firm cap' of $350,000 that 'will not be raised.'" ...

... CW: There is some good news here. It turns out that Miller, who is the only woman committee chair -- appointed after multiple news sites noted that all of the House committee heads were white guys -- actually gets to do something more substantial than keeping the coffee room stocked & ironing her colleagues' shirts. Always look on the bright side.

Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "As the shaded quadrangles of the nation's elite campuses stir to life for the start of the academic year, they remain bastions of privilege. Amid promises to admit more poor students, top colleges educate roughly the same percentage of them as they did a generation ago. This is despite the fact that there are many high school seniors from low-income homes with top grades and scores: twice the percentage in the general population as at elite colleges.... As Anthony P. Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, put it, 'Higher education has become a powerful force for reinforcing advantage and passing it on through generations.'" ...

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: Our educational system is largely to blame for the lack of gender & racial diversity in high-tech companies.

Vauhini Vara in the New Yorker: "The problem with [the DOJ's multi-billion-dollar settlements with big banks] isn't that banks' relief efforts don't have a wider scope; it's that by describing the settlements in grandiose terms, banks and officials risk misleading the public about the scope, which, at best, can confuse people and, at worst, can set them up to fall victim to fraud." CW: Actually, the point seems to be to mislead the public.

The Whopper Challenge. Danny Vinik of the New Republic: "The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday evening that Burger King is seeking to buy Tim Horton's, the Canadian coffee and donut chain, to lower its U.S. tax bill.... The deal is structured as a 'tax inversion' which allows Burger King to switch its official tax jurisdiction from the United States, where the federal corporate tax rate is 35 percent, to Canada, where it is 15 percent.... If it sounds ridiculous that an American company can purchase a foreign firm and suddenly avoid the U.S. corporate tax system, that's because it is." ...

... Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider: "There has been talk of legislation to limit tax inversions, but in this political climate, the idea of anything actually passing both houses of Congress seems very slim. So earlier this month, the White House said it may use an executive order to limit tax inversions, though it remains unclear how much teeth any executive order would have.... Greg Valliere of Potomac Research says that Burger King's actions are a direct statement to the White House and the Treasury, basically daring them to back up their warning with action." ...

... AND This Tidbit. Richard Rubin of Bloomberg News: "Two top Republican lawmakers profited from a corporate tax-avoidance maneuver that the U.S. Treasury Department is seeking to curb. While U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp have resisted calls for a crackdown on companies adopting overseas addresses to pay lower taxes, both have made money off one of the deals. They also have investments at risk of losing value because of government action.... Their actions are legal.... Still, the two lawmakers, who have more sway over tax policy than any other House members, are invested in deals that Obama and other Democrats say are wrong and unpatriotic."

Libertarian Ascending? Hah. Ed Kilgore: Pew Research Center discovers even "self-identified libertarians aren't much 'libertarian,' either." Here's a funny bit: "These findings of the non-particularity of 'libertarian' views, mind you, is after Pew has melted the category down from 17% of the public to 11%, since a lot of 'libertarians' could not accurately distinguish 'libertarian' from 'communist' or -- get this -- 'Unitarian.'"

... The Pew Research findings are here:

Self-described libertarians tend to be modestly more supportive of some libertarian positions, but few of them hold consistent libertarian opinions on the role of government, foreign policy and social issues... In some cases, the political views of self-described libertarians differ modestly from those of the general public; in others there are no differences at all.

Charles Pierce reviewed the Sunday shows yesterday, & he remains unkind to Chris Jansing, who filled in as host for the rudderless "Press the Meat": "... the Dancin' Master's old place ... was later turned into a Rand Paul infomercial by guest DJ Chris Jansing. Prior to that, of course, Jansing let [Rep. Mike] Rogers [R-Mich.] deliver the kind of old boogedy-boogedy that's going to make his new show a hit among the canned-peach shut-ins of his target audience." ...

... CW: It occurs to me that Chuck Todd's new show may not be a hit with "the canned-peach shut-ins." Maybe the NBC Chipmunk has the same "problem" David Gregory had: he's just too young to connect with the shut-ins. Ergo, the most popular Sunday morning show today is anchored by "onetime military advisor to the House Of Rurikovich Bob Schieffer." If a network want an actual audience for its Sunday news show, it would have to turn over the airwaves to the likes of John Oliver or Jon Stewart. This week's guest host: Chris Rock. No, it's not gonna happen. The networks, aware that they are dying, have advanced along the Kubler-Ross model to Stage 5 (acceptance), whereas many viewers are stuck at an earlier stage -- anger or depression. ...

     ... CW Update: Oh, I must have been wrong. It turns out the new & improved "Press the Meat" will have "more edge":

The show needs more edge. It needs to be consequential. I think the show had become a talking shop that raked over the cold embers of what had gone on the previous week. The one-on-one conversation belongs to a decade ago. We need more of a coffeehouse conversation. -- Deborah Turness, President of NBC News

     ... CW: Wow! I'm really looking forward to hearing a "coffeehouse conversation" between Newt Gingrich & Mary Matalin. I guess Chuck will play the part of the hippie waiter. Maybe a bona fide newsmaker like Dick Cheney will drop by & order a cup of GI Joe. It will be like SNL just carries right through to Sunday morning. Eddddgy! ...

... [Emmy Awards host] Seth Meyers made a sardonic joke about network television holding an awards show and giving all the trophies to cable and other services. 'That would be crazy,' he said. 'Why would they do that?' ...

... TeeVee for the Well-Heeled. Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times: "There is an exhilarating confluence of talent and opportunity at places like HBO and Showtime. Shows like 'Breaking Bad' and 'True Detective' are more inspired than movies, telling stories that are a complete vision rather than a committee-dulled compromise. But it's increasingly obvious that the most rewarded series are also the ones that penalize audiences with costs that add up and count many viewers out."

Beyond the Beltway

Here is the Washington Post liveblog of the Bob & Maureen McDonnell corruption trial.

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "A pivotal moment in the corruption trial of Robert F. McDonnell and his wife began Monday as a prosecutor aggressively opened his cross-examination of the former Virginia governor. In a series of rapid-fire questions, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry asked whether McDonnell denied key facts about his relationship with businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. -- who prosecutors say bribed the first couple in an effort to curry favor for his onetime company." ...

... Here's the blow-by-blow by Washington Post reporters.

Elisa Crouch of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Hundreds of mourners gathered at a St. Louis church this morning for the funeral of 18-year-old Michael Brown...." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Darryl Fears, et al., is here. The New York Times story, by Monica Davey, is here. ...

... Annals of Journalism, Ctd.

... CW: I can't help it -- I love the way Fox "News" covered Brown's funeral. Here's the headline: "More White House officials at Michael Brown's funeral than Thatcher's." Here's the lede: "The White House sent three officials to attend Monday's funeral for Michael Brown in St. Louis -- three more than it sent for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral last year. The administration's handling of the Brown funeral already has started to raise comparisons between the two." Yessiree, the first think I thought of in regard to Michael Brown's funeral was how many Obama administration attended Margaret Thatcher's funeral. "Started to raise comparisons"? I wonder who might be doing the comparing. It appears Fox "News" has launched a new school of journalism: self-referential reportage.

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post with a few of the "outraged" responses to the New York Times' profile of Michael Brown (profile linked here yesterday). ...

... Margaret Sullivan of the New York Times: "Two words -- 'no angel' -- have become a flash point for many of the difficult, contentious, entrenched issues that have arisen in Ferguson, Mo. On Twitter, in my email queue and across the Internet, many Times readers are angry and disappointed about the use of those words, which have become yet another Ferguson-related hashtag. Let's get the obvious out of the way first: That choice of words was a regrettable mistake." ...

... CW: All-in-all, I'm with Steve M. on this: "I read John Eligon's New York Times profile of Mike Brown this morning and came away with the impression that it was a largely positive portrait. Then I went online and realized that I was supposed to be appalled by it." ...

     ... CW: I do think the Times made two mistakes, neither of which was the fault of the piece's author, John Eligon, who is a young black man. (1) The Times published the Brown profile on the day of Brown's funeral; ergo, readers are looking for an obituary-type remembrance, not a warts-and-all profile. Obituaries, unless the subjects are primarily famous for their notoriety, tend to be rather kind glosses. (2) The Times published the Brown profile side-by-side with one of Brown's killer Darren Wilson, & that piece found no specific fault with Wilson; rather, it seemed to explain the factors that might have led to his wantonly shooting dead a black man. Max Read of Gawker highlights the problem with that ill-conceived editorial decision. ...

... ** Matthew Yglesias of Vox: "Michael Brown didn't do anything as a teen that I didn't — but only one of us got killed.... But since the officer who apprehended us managed to handle the situation without killing us, the NYPD and the New York Times never felt the need to air our dirty laundry in public.... Angels, it turns out, are pretty rare. But if you look the right way, you don't need to be one to survive into adulthood." CW: This is the same point that Aqua Buddha boy -- and others -- have made. Acting like a jerk, including doing illegal things, is something in which probably most young men & many young women engage. It's a rite of passage. Some get caught by law enforcement. Few of the youthful miscreants end up dead or even with a criminal record. That small percentage goes way up for young black offenders. ...

CNN plays an audio recording of the shots that killed Michael Brown. Holly Yan of CNN: "In the recording, a quick series of shots can be heard, followed by a pause and then another quick succession of shots. Forensic audio expert Paul Ginsberg analyzed the recording and said he detected at least 10 gunshots -- a cluster of six, followed by four":

... Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "... the average black person's friend network is 8 percent white, but the average white person's network is only 1 percent black. To put it another way: Blacks have ten times as many black friends as white friends. But white Americans have an astonishing 91 times as many white friends as black friends.... A full 75 percent of whites have 'entirely white social networks without any minority presence.' The same holds true for slightly less than two thirds of black Americans." ...

Presidential Race

Chuck Lindell & Tony Plohetski of the Austin American-Statesman: In a 60-page motion to dismiss, Rick Perry's lawyers argued that "The two-count indictment ... defies common sense and should be dismissed 'immediately if not sooner' as a violation of the U.S. and Texas constitutions.... The wide-ranging attack argued that Perry's criminal charges were based on state laws that are unconstitutional or, at the very least, were misinterpreted -- constituting an improper attempt to criminalize politics and limit gubernatorial power in 'intolerable and incalculable' ways." ...

... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post followed Rick Perry around New Hampshire for two days. Here's what he learned about Perry: He really wants to run for president again.... The dude is stylish.... He's decided which foreign policy lane he wants to occupy in 2016. Perry wants to be the hawkish, authoritative voice on national security.... He likes retail politics." ...

... Brian Beutler: Rick Perry's biggest gaffe in the 2012 primary debates, in the eyes of the GOP faithful was "Not the time he drew a blank, under pressure, about his desire to abolish the Department of Energy, but the time he called Republicans who oppose in-state tuition for so-called DREAMers heartless." He's making up for that now in his border antics & is setting the bar for all Republican presidential hopefuls: "Perry is helping to establish a theoretical baseline -- militarized border, maximum deportation of low-priority offenders -- that will become policy if a Republican manages to win the presidency in 2016."

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) is gearing up for a presidential primary challenge against Hillary Clinton and hopes to capitalize on Democratic concerns over Clinton's coziness with Wall Street banks. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, plans to travel to two crucial presidential battleground states next month."

Senate Races

Larry Sabato, et al., in Politico Magazine: "... the midterms are far from over. In every single one of the Crystal Ball's toss-up states, (Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina), the Republican Senate candidate has not yet opened up a real polling lead in any of them. Democratic nominees have been running hard and staying slightly ahead, or close to, their Republican foes.... As we've said many times, 2014 should be a Republican year, with GOP gains in both houses of Congress. Yet Republicans have a terrible record of beating incumbent Democratic senators, going back to their last good year in this category, 1980."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index reached a milestone on Tuesday, closing above 2,000 for the first time ever, if just barely. It was a lazy day of trading that picked up on some encouraging signs in the United States economy, but not enough for sustained optimism in the market."

ABC News: "A third American hostage held by ISIS has been identified as a 26-year-old American woman who was kidnapped a year ago while doing humanitarian relief work in Syria. The terror group is demanding $6.6 million and the release of U.S. prisoners for the life of the young woman, whom a representative for the family requested not be identified."

New York Times: "A 33-year-old American who was fighting for the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was killed in recent days in a battle with a rival group in Syria, a senior American official said on Tuesday. The authorities identified the man as Douglas McAuthur McCain, of San Diego. According to a human rights group that tracks the conflict in Syria, Mr. McCain was killed in a battle in Marea, a city in northern Syria near the Turkish border. Mr. McCain had been on a watch list of potential terrorism suspects maintained by the United States government...."

New York Times: "Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday reached a long-term cease-fire after seven weeks of fighting, according to officials on both sides, halting the longest, bloodiest battle either side has experienced in years -- but without resolving many of the bigger issues underlying the conflict."

New York Times: "Burger King Worldwide agreed on Tuesday to buy the Canadian restaurant chain Tim Hortons for about $11.4 billion, creating one of the biggest fast-food operations in the world -- with a little help from Warren E. Buffett. As part of the transaction, however, the American burger giant will move its home to Canada, where the combined company's biggest market will be."

Washington Post: "Ukraine said Tuesday its forces detained a group of Russian paratroopers who crossed the border into eastern Ukraine, and the U.S. ambassador to Kiev warned of a possible 'Russian-directed counteroffensive' by pro-Moscow separatists, raising tensions between the two countries as their presidents attended a regional summit."

Sunday
Aug242014

The Commentariat -- August 25, 2014

President Obama returned from Martha's Vineyard to Washington Sunday to face multiple crises. ...

... CW: I've been ignoring tiresome complaints that President Obama played golf while Ferguson burned, etc. -- see, for instance, Maureen Dowd's 800-word whine -- but now I'll let Andy Borowitz cover the "issue": "G.O.P. chief Reince Priebus ripped President Obama on Sunday for consuming three meals a day while on vacation in Martha's Vineyard. 'With international crises boiling over in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, it's unconscionable that the President is having breakfast, lunch, and dinner,' he said." ...

... AND Bob Cesca is helpful, too: "... in the interest of history and the obvious inability of Republican concern-trolls to actually do the research themselves, I decided to set the way-back machine to the beloved Ronald Reagan presidency. Here's a series of harrowing events from the 1980s, along with the comparatively AWESOME optics from Reagan, the now-sainted chief executive. The photographs are all from the specified dates." In every photo Cesca reproduces, Ronaldus Maximus is vacationing while bad things happen around the world. Shocking! ...

... Steve Benen: "The political world's preoccupation with President Obama's vacation is excessive, but it also obscures a more salient point. Republicans and pundits may be outraged that the president took some time off and played some golf, but Congress is in the middle of a much longer break -- and lawmakers have some work to do. In his latest Sunday-show appearance, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) complained bitterly about the White House's foreign policy before turning his attention to ISIS.... 'One of the key decisions the president is going to have to make is airpower in Syria.' ... I hate to sound picky, but ... under our system of government, [Congress is] supposed to play a role in these 'key decisions,' too.'" See more on McCain's views, linked below.

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "The last time the economic policy conference held [In Jackson Hole, Wyoming,] every August devoted its agenda to labor markets, it was 1994 and the Federal Reserve's vice chairman scandalized the audience by suggesting central banks worried too much about reducing inflation and not enough about unemployment. Twenty years later, heresy has become gospel. Leaders of the world's major central banks made clear in speeches at this year's conference, which ended Saturday, that they were focused on raising employment and wages. The pursuit of lower inflation has been replaced by a conviction that inflation is actually too low for the good of the economy."

Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent. The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people's travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology." ...

... CW: Here's a suggestion, people. If you're going to go out & commit a crime, leave your cellphone at home. Otherwise, who cares if Nursultan Nazarbayev (see Way Beyond the Beltway, below) knows where you are?

Katie Thomas of the New York Times: "... an examination of [Medicare's] rating system [for nursing homes] ... has found that ... many ... top-ranked nursing homes have been given a seal of approval that is based on incomplete information and that can seriously mislead consumers, investors and others about conditions at the homes. The Medicare ratings, which have become the gold standard across the industry, are based in large part on self-reported data by the nursing homes that the government does not verify."

Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal interviews Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "The turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., and the controversial stop-and-frisk policy in New York City illustrate a 'real racial problem' in America, one that recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have done little to help, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told The National Law Journal. The high court was 'once a leader in the world' in rooting out racial discrimination, the justice said in a wide-ranging interview late Wednesday in her chambers. 'What's amazing is how things have changed.'"

Travis Waldron of Think Progress: "ESPN announced Saturday that it would give its on-air broadcasters, analysts, and personalities the option to avoid saying the name of Washington's professional football team, a day after the Washington Post editorial board joined the list of publications that will no longer print the name and ESPN's Keith Olbermann used his show to call on the network to institute such a policy." CW Note: The Post's newsroom (which includes sports news) will continue to use the term "Redskins.'"

From the Sunday Morning Shows:

Keith Laing of the Hill: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Sunday that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is 'one plane ticket away from U.S. shores.'" CW: This confuses me: I thought the terrorists were coming in via the U.S.-Mexican border. ...

... Talking Points, Delivered. ...

... (1) Kyle Balluck of the Hill: "Speaking on CBS's 'Face the Nation,' [Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)] said James Foley's murder last week 'really brought home this [ISIS] threat.'" (Foley is from New Hampshire.)

... (2) Keith Laing: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday called for President Obama to target leaders of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria after the beheading of an American journalist [James Foley] last week." ...

... (3) Mario Trujillo of the Hill: Sen. John "McCain said the recent beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by ISIS will hopefully work as a catalyst for the administration to define a comprehensive strategy in Iraq and other parts of the world. The United States has launched more than 90 airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS. 'This is an administration, which the kindest word I can use is "feckless," where they have not outlined a role that the United States has to play. And that is a leadership role,' he said." ...

... AND OMG, Journalism! George Stephanopoulos Fact-Checks Peggy Noonan. Steve Benan calls "The exchange [between Noonan & Stephanopoulos] ... one of my favorite of any Sunday show this year." When Peggy describes Rick Perry's indictment as "local Democratic overreach," George points out that the special prosecutor who brought the case is a Republican, which phases Noonan, but doesn't stop her. Benen: "... the Republican columnist had nine days to get the basic details straight.... Local Democrats had literally nothing to do with the indictment.... Democratic officials in Travis County recused themselves from the case, and the prosecutor in this case, Michael McCrum, worked in the Bush/Quayle administration. What's more, McCrum, who enjoys a solid reputation as a credible attorney, was appointed to oversee this case by a Republican judge." ...

... Update. Jason Easley of PoliticusUSA Charge Chris Jansing with committing more journalism: "Chris Jansing was the fill in moderator on Meet The Press, and without David Gregory or Chuck Todd, Republican talking points about the threat of ISIS to America were strongly challenged." Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. Charles Pierce, in a piece linked below, is less kind to Jansing, calling her out for being "remarkably useful" to Rand Paul. (In fairness to Jansing, she is not her own assignment editor.)

Glenn Greenwald doesn't think tech giants like Twitter should censor content because, um, they're really big companies. ....

... Driftglass respectfully disagrees.

Presidential Race

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a 'war hawk' and added that if she decides to run for president in 2016 voters will question whether she wants to bring the U.S. into another war in the Middle East. Paul, himself a potential 2016 candidate, made the comments during an appearance on NBC's Meet The Press." ...

... CW: I think Clinton is ahead in all polls now, but that's probably mostly name recognition. I suspect there's an excellent chance that Paul would beat Clinton in the presidential race. When Frank Rich suggested it nearly a year ago, pundits scoffed. But Americans are at heart a hopeful people, & they want something new in a president. This helps explain Obama's win over Clinton in 2008, & Bill Clinton's win over Pappy Bush in 1992. Yes, Aqua Buddha boy, the self-certified ophthalmologist, former plagiarist & Friend of Racists has some baggage, but Hillary Clinton has more. Besides, most Americans don't know about Li'l Randy's weirdness, & they're familiar with Clinton's history. And Randy's little indiscretions won't matter much. Clinton can't run on "Rand Paul technically kidnapped a woman 30 years ago." ...

... "Rand Paul Offers Free Eye Exam With Deportation." Jonathan Chait posted this piece Friday, but it's worth reading now, for the fun of it. ...

... Charles Pierce zeroes in on Li'l Randy's Guatemalan entourage, which included "ratfker" David Bossie & wonders in virtual print what Paul is doing palling around with ratfkers: "Why, you might almost think that Aqua Buddha is running a scam on everyone, and that he is more than willing to play foul, and to deal double, to get what he wants." ...

... BUT if you really want to know what Rand Paul's immigration policy is, Simon Maloy of Salon can say with certainty that he really doesn't know. Maloy tracks Paul's multiple flipflops & sidesteps (CW: sounds like the makings of a new dance craze -- soon all the cool white tweens will be doing the Randango). "Rand Paul is an exceptionally sensitive political weathervane. Whatever the dominant Republican position is on immigration at any given time, you'll find Rand Paul pushing for it." ...

... AND here's a prime example of Clinton's Total Tone-Deafness. Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Hillary Clinton ignored reporters' questions about the racial conflict in Ferguson, Missouri, on Sunday at the end of a book-signing event in Westhampton Beach, a vacation enclave near her rented summer house. Clinton, the potential 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful who has been vacationing in the Hamptons since the first full week of August, has not yet commented on the situation in Ferguson...."

Paul Krugman: "Rick Perry doesn't know the secrets of job creation, or even of regional growth. It would be great to see the real key -- affordable housing -- become a national issue. But I don't think Democrats are willing to nominate Mayor Bill de Blasio for president just yet."

Beyond the Beltway

Sara Burnett of the AP: Michael Brown's funeral is today. "His father, Michael Brown Sr., has asked protesters to take a break Monday and observe a day of silence so the family can grieve." ...

... John Eligon of the New York Times profiles Michael Brown. ...

... Monica Davey & Frances Robles of the New York Times profile Darren Wilson.

... Matt Sledge of the Huffington Post: Eddie Boyd III, one of three black cops on the Ferguson police force, "resigned from St. Louis city police under a cloud of suspicion. Missouri tried to make sure he couldn't walk the beat. But one officer with a history of allegations of hitting children found a willing employer in the Ferguson Police Department." Via Margaret Hartmann of New York. ...

... Ryan Reilly & Ashley Alman of the Huffington Post: "A Ferguson police officer who helped detain a journalist in a McDonald's earlier this month is in the midst of a civil rights lawsuit because he allegedly hog-tied a 12-year-old boy who was checking the mail at the end of his driveway." The incident occurred while Justin Cosma was as officer with the Jefferson County sheriff's office. Shortly after the incident, the Ferguson police department hired him. Also via Hartmann.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Worse than Bush. Robert Mendick of the Telegraph: "Tony Blair gave Kazakhstan's autocratic president advice on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime. In a letter to Nursultan Nazarbayev, obtained by The Telegraph, Mr Blair told the Kazakh president that the deaths of 14 protesters 'tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress' his country had made. Mr Blair, who is paid millions of pounds a year to give advice to Mr Nazarbayev, goes on to suggest key passages to insert into a speech the president was giving at the University of Cambridge, to defend the action." ...

... Erik Loomis of Lawyers, Guns & Money: "Tony Blair is like the love child of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Lanny Davis. Combine neoliberal economic policies, warmongering, and profiting off of advising dictators and you have quite the individual."

News Ledes

AP: "A Liberian doctor who received one of the last known doses of an experimental Ebola drug has died, officials said Monday. Separately, Canada said it has yet to send out an untested vaccine that the government is donating."

Washington Post: "After 49 days of war, the armies of Israel and Hamas appear to have run out of new ideas -- but not bombs. They are now slugging it out in a lopsided war of attrition. As rumors fly that another cease-fire could be imminent, Hamas and Israel are groping for a diplomatic solution that could allow both to declare victory -- or in the case of Hamas, at least avoid an obvious loss."

New York Times: "Extremist fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria seized a military base in northern Syria on Sunday from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, further solidifying control inside their self-declared Islamic state spanning the Syria-Iraq border."

Washington Post: "Ukraine charged that Russian forces crossed into eastern Ukraine early Monday in military vehicles, including tanks, as Russia vowed to send a second convoy into the country this week to deliver humanitarian aid to areas held by pro-Moscow separatists."

AP: "French President Francois Hollande dissolved the government on Monday after open feuding in his Cabinet over the country's stagnant economy."

Saturday
Aug232014

The Commentariat -- August 24, 2014

Matt Apuzzo & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "Jolted by images of protesters clashing with heavily armed police officers in ]Missouri, President Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of the government's decade-old strategy of outfitting local police departments with military-grade body armor, mine-resistant trucks, silencers and automatic rifles, senior officials say. The White House-led review will consider whether the government should continue providing such equipment and, if so, whether local authorities have sufficient training to use it appropriately, said senior administration and law enforcement officials. The government will also consider whether it is keeping a close enough watch on equipment inventories, and how the weapons and other gear are used." ...

... Alex Kane of AlterNet, in Salon: "... One group of people is decidedly happy about the militarized response in Ferguson: those who work in the weapons industry. The array of police forces -- the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the St. Louis county and city police and local Ferguson officers -- that descended on the largely black Missouri city have used the products these corporations are selling in abundance.... Many of the corporations' products that are being turned on protesters in Ferguson will be put on display next month -- in Missouri."

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times on voter suppression laws in Arizona & Kansas that have created a two-tiered voting rights regime: voters will be allowed to vote only in federal elections & be disallowed from voting in local elections if they do not provide birth certificates, & in the case of married women who have changed their names, also marriage certificates. The issue will come before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals this week; if the states win, then those now eligible to vote in federal elections only will be disenfranchised there, too.

"Blue-State Diaspora." Robert Gebeloff & David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "Over the last few decades, residents of many traditionally liberal states have moved to states that were once more conservative. And this pattern has played an important role in helping the Democratic Party win the last two presidential elections and four of the last six. The growth of the Latino population and the social liberalism of the millennial generation may receive more attention, but the growing diaspora of blue-state America matters as well." CW: I would credit this as the Air Conditioning Effect. Thanks to MAG for the link.

AP: "Vice President Joe Biden says the U.S. is prepared to help Iraq pursue a federal system that would decentralize power away from Baghdad. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Biden says Iraq is making progress in forming a new government. But he says sectarian divisions are fueling extremist movements like the Islamic State. Biden says federalism is emerging as one approach to Iraq's future. He's alluding to a plan he proposed in 2006 that would see Iraq divided into three semi-independent regions for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds." Vice President Biden's Wash Po op-ed is here.

Armartya Sen in the New Republic on the need for a global plan -- & philosophy -- for energy distribution & power production. CW: Reading this, it was impossible for me not to imagine the Jim Inhofe-Marco Rubio contingent reactions to Sen's analysis & not to realize anew what horribly ignorant, inadequate politicians we elect. And how much that matters.

Alleged Serial Auto Thief Darrell Issa Feigns Concern that Obama Violated the Hatch Act. Lauren French of Politico: "Darrell Issa issued a subpoena for White House documents Friday, throwing more fuel on his summer-long feud with David Simas, the director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. Issa ... wants documents on the creation of Simas' office and trips the president took in 2014.... Issa is asking the White House to turn over documents related to Obama's June trip to Minnesota and July trip to Colorado. Both trips were billed as officials trips, even though Obama attended fundraisers for Sen. Mark Udall and other congressional Democrats.... President George W. Bush's White House and previous administrations had a similar office during his tenure, but Obama shut it down during his first term after the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that the office misused taxpayer funds and violated the law. Obama administration officials have stressed that the new office run by Simas was restructured to avoid Hatch Act violations. The White House has dismissed Issa's interest in Simas' office as a political stunt."

Beyond the Beltway

James Hohmann of Politico extracts some of the most damaging passages from the Friday-docudump of in the Gov. Scott Walker corruption investigation. CW: Even if what Walker did was not illegal -- and it sounds as if it was -- this tiny peak into the shear tawdriness & greed which is the American Way of Politics will probably disgust you.

Tarini Parti of Politico: "A Florida judge ruled Friday that the state's reconfigured congressional map will take effect for the 2016 elections, a victory for Republicans that allows this year's races to proceed under the existing lines."

Alan Zagier of the AP: "Tensions briefly flared then subsided late Saturday night and early Sunday in Ferguson as nightly protests continued two weeks after a white city police officer fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old. Police reported only a handful of arrests, and traffic flowed freely along the West Florissant Avenue commercial corridor near the suburban St. Louis apartment complex where Ferguson officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown six times in the middle of the street on Aug. 9." ...

... The St. Louis Post-Dispatch report is here. ...

... Chris Campbell & Chris McGreal of the Guardian: "Supporters of Darren Wilson ... on Saturday staged a rally outside a St Louis pub.... In Ferguson on Saturday, Ron Johnson, the state highway patrol captain who was brought in after criticism of tactics applied by local police, walked at the front of a march organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Johnson, who is black, and St Louis county police chief Jon Belmar, who is white, helped to carry an NAACP banner."

... Julie Bosman & Joseph Goldstein of the New York Times: "Just after noon on Saturday, Aug. 9, Michael Brown was shot dead by a police officer on Canfield Drive. For about four hours, in the unrelenting summer sun, his body remained where he fell.... Local officials say that the image of Mr. Brown's corpse in the open set the scene for what would become a combustible worldwide story of police tactics and race in America, and left some of the officials asking why." ...

... From One Racist Police Force to Another. Carol Leonnig, et al., of the Washington Post: "The small city of Jennings, Mo., had a police department so troubled, and with so much tension between white officers and black residents, that the city council finally decided to disband it. Everyone in the Jennings police department was fired. New officers were brought in to create a credible department from scratch. That was three years ago. One of the officers who worked in that department, and lost his job along with everyone else, was a young man named Darren Wilson." Wilson came from a troubled home & turned to policing for "stability." Last year he divorced his wife. CW: Way, way down in the story is this interesting note: Wilson was moonlighting as a security guard someplace & was supposed to work the night he killed Brown. So on top of whatever other problems Wilson may have had, he also was probably dog-tired from working two jobs.

Witness for the Defense. Laura Vozzella, et al., of the Washington Post: Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell claimed in testimony in his corruption trial that he managed the family finances, but his wife Maureen messed everything up. ...

... CW: If Bob was "managing" the finances, he was doing a piss-poor job, making real estate investments the couple could not afford. It actually seems as if Maureen was trying -- in a foolish way -- to get the family out of the financial jam Bob had engineered, & Bob was swooping in to close the deals she was proposing to snake-oil salesman Jonnie Williams. It's pretty hard to believe he had no idea what was going on when he was the chief loan negotiator. It's also pretty hard to imagine he thought Jonnie was making loans & outfitting the family -- including Bob -- in fancy duds for some altruistic motives or out of admiration for Governor Bob. Some men might get away with the naif defense, but the governor of a state -- who also is a lawyer & a former state attorney general -- would be expected to be more savvy than that.

Presidential Race

Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider, republished in the Houston Chronicle: Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "new political action committee unveiled a T-shirt featuring Perry's mug shot. The back of the shirt features the mug shot of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose character Perry has repeatedly tried to attack while making her the poster child of his pushback. The caption under Perry's mug shot says he's 'wanted' for 'securing the border and defeating Democrats.' Lehmberg's side says she's 'wanted' for 'driving while intoxicated and perversion of justice.'"

News Ledes

Guardian: "Libya has lurched ever closer to fragmentation and civil war this weekend after Islamist-led militias seized the airport in the capital, Tripoli, proclaimed their own government, and presented the world with yet another crisis. Operation Dawn, a coalition of Islamist and Misrata forces, captured the airport on Saturday in fierce fighting against pro-government militias after a five-week siege that battered parts of the capital."

New York Times: "Richard Attenborough, who after a distinguished stage and film acting career in Britain reinvented himself to become the internationally admired director of the monumental 'Gandhi' and other films, died on Sunday. He was 90."

Los Angeles Times: "Ninety to 100 homes in Northern California have been red-tagged -- that is, labeled unfit to enter -- after a 6.0 earthquake struck near Napa early Sunday, and there have been more than 50 aftershocks, but a large follow-up earthquake is now unlikely, state officials announced." The San Francisco Chronicle story is here.

New York Times: "An American freelance journalist held captive for nearly two years by Al Qaeda's branch in Syria was freed on Sunday in a handover to United Nations peacekeepers in the Golan Heights. The freelance journalist, Peter Theo Curtis, from Boston, was abducted near the Syria-Turkey border in October 2012. He was held by the Nusra Front, the Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which has broken with the even more radical Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS."

Washington Post: "The British ambassador to the United States said Sunday that authorities are 'close' to identifying the Islamist militant who beheaded American journalist James Foley. Speaking on CNN's 'State of the Union' and NBC's 'Meet the Press,' Ambassador Peter Westmacott said advanced voice-recognition technology is helping authorities identify the man, who spoke with a British accent." ...

     ... Guardian UPDATE: "The US has unequivocally denied paying any money at all to the Syrian extremist group that until Sunday held an American journalist hostage. Whatever prompted Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s chosen affiliate in Syria, to release Peter Theo Curtis, the government of Qatar, increasingly a regional power broker, was involved."