The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, February 11, 2016.

AP: "Sirhan Sirhan was denied parole Wednesday for fatally shooting Robert F. Kennedy after a confidante of the slain senator who was shot in the head forgave him and repeatedly apologized for not doing more to win his release. Paul Schrade's voice cracked with emotion during an hour of testimony on his efforts to untangle mysteries about the events of June 5, 1968. The 91-year-old former labor leader said he believed Sirhan shot him but that a second unidentified shooter felled Kennedy."

White House Live Video
February 11

1:00 pm ET: NOBEL Women presents Girls, Gigabytes & Gadgets

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Scientists announced Thursday that, after decades of effort, they have succeeded in detecting gravitational waves from the violent merging of two black holes in deep space. The detection was hailed as a triumph for a controversial, exquisitely crafted, billion-dollar physics experiment and as confirmation of a key prediction of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity."

New York Times: "... 21-year-old [Arthur Ashe] toppled the tournament’s top-seeded tennis player in a stunning upset on July 30, 1964. We published two photographs of Dennis Ralston, ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time, who walked off the court in defeat. But we didn’t run a single photograph of the winner.... On that day in 1964, he was ranked sixth in the nation and had yet to win a national title. ...

... The 1964 Times story is here. The page has blown up the above photo, worth viewing just to feast your eyes on that gorgeous young man. ...

... The Times is publishing previously unpublished photos of black historical figures & events every day this month. You can see those published to date here.

CW: Not sure if the movie is any good, but Ron Howard's intro is primo. Here's the trailer:

... The New York Times story, by Brooks Barnes, is here. "Kept a secret for months — no small task in Hollywood — 'Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie' was released to coincide with Mr. Trump’s victory on Tuesday in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary."

New York Times: The leader of a group of "aging thieves" who last year pulled off "the largest burglary in England’s history" may have been an ex-policeman. The others have been captured, but "Basil" is still at large & his identity is unknown to investigators. Surely there will be a movie.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

Contact the Constant Weader

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

Constant Comments

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

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

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

Saturday
Sep072013

The Commentariat -- Sept. 8, 2013

David Cloud of the Los Angeles Times: " The Pentagon is preparing for a longer bombardment of Syria than it originally had planned, with a heavy barrage of missile strikes followed soon after by more attacks on targets that the opening salvos missed or failed to destroy, officials said. The planning for intense attacks over a three-day period reflects the growing belief in the White House and the Pentagon that the United States needs more firepower to inflict even minimal damage on Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, which have been widely dispersed over the last two weeks, the officials said." ...

... Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Obama will sit for interviews Monday with six TV networks as he makes his case to the nation for military intervention in Syria." ...

     ... President Obama won't be convincing Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.). ...

... Mike Allen & Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "Retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, former CIA director under President Barack Obama, called strongly Saturday for Congress to back the White House on Syria, declaring that military action against the regime is 'necessary' to deter 'Iran, North Korea and other would-be aggressors.'" ...

... ** Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "The European Union called Saturday for a 'clear and strong' international response to what it said was 'strong evidence' that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government was responsible for a massive chemical weapons attack two weeks ago near Damascus. But the E.U. statement stopped far short of endorsing a U.S. military strike -- something that U.S. officials acknowledged many of the organization's 28 members do not support. E.U. foreign ministers, after listening to Secretary of State John F. Kerry explain the U.S. position on punishing Syria with a limited strike, also indicated that no action should take place until U.N. chemical weapons inspectors release their report at least two weeks from now. A similar delay was advocated Friday by French President François Hollande, whose government had said until last week that it was 'ready' to participate in a U.S.-led military strike against Syria." ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "So while neither intervention nor paralysis is appealing, that's pretty much the menu. That's why I favor a limited cruise missile strike against Syrian military targets (as well as the arming of moderate rebels). As I see it, there are several benefits: Such a strike may well deter Syria's army from using chemical weapons again, probably can degrade the ability of the army to use chemical munitions and bomb civilian areas, can reinforce the global norm against chemical weapons, and -- a more remote prospect -- may slightly increase the pressure on the Assad regime to work out a peace deal." ...

... CW: The New York Times posts this "news analysis" by Sam Tanenhaus on its front page. Tanenhaus claims that "the presidency itself has ceded much of its power and authority to Congress." I'm not an historian, but I think that's bull. "Strong" presidents were strong because their own party controlled Congress or because they concentrated on foreign affairs where the Constitution grants the executive more power. FDR, perhaps the country's most effective president, had both. Tanehaus seems to be of the impression that Reagan was a super-president. Well, no. He made deep concessions to the Democratic Congress, & has often been noted, he could not even be nominated by the Republican base today, even if he did pander shamelessly to the racist element (as indeed he did). If you know better, I welcome your comments. ...

     ... Andrew Rudalevige, a political scientist who teachers a "presidency course," writes in the Monkey Cage, "The idea that presidents have 'ceded' power and authority to Congress? Surely most of it was Congress's to begin with. Especially since the examples given in the paper -- Newt Gingrich's House, George W. Bush's failure to win passage of his proposals for immigration or Social Security reform -- are examples of legislators making legislative choices. Congress is, um, the legislative branch. It certainly is under no obligation to enact presidential requests into law. Indeed, it has a variety of powers even in national security areas." And so on.

... AND Maureen Dowd is into her usual pop psychoanalysis of "Barry." Seems he has a split personality & that's what is making him cede the presidency to Congressional teabaggers. ...

... PLUS, Ross Douthat piles on: "It is to President Obama's great discredit that he has staked this credibility on a vote whose outcome he failed to game out in advance."

Joseph Menn of Reuters: "Internet security experts are calling for a campaign to rewrite Web security in the wake of disclosures that the U.S. National Security Agency has developed the capability to break encryption protecting millions of sites.... Leading technologists said they felt betrayed that the NSA, which has contributed to some important security standards, was trying to ensure they stayed weak enough that the agency could break them." ...

... Al Jazeera has a useful timeline of the publications of Ed Snowden's leaks.

New York Times Editors: "The Justice Department filed a brief last month in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington against two towns for failing to provide adequate legal assistance for poor defendants. The department's filing ... did not take a position on the merits of the plaintiffs' claim, but it starkly described what Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has called the 'state of crisis.' in public defender systems nationwide.... Fifty years after the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant a lawyer, the right to effective counsel remains an empty promise in too many parts of the country. The Justice Department's filing in the Washington lawsuit is an encouraging sign that the federal government is beginning to back up that promise with the weight of its authority."

Dana Milbank, no doubt after extensive research, finds an heroic Republican -- Rep. Adam Kinzinger from Illinois. Kinzinger, among other attributes, is not afraid to call out Ted Cruz for his cheap shots at the President.

Senatorial Race

Contributor P. D. Pepe links to this New Republic essay by Noam Scheiber: "Outside the context of a local politician struggling to fund his agenda, [Newark Mayor & U.S. Senate candidate Cory] Booker's worldview -- the mild suspicion of government initiative, the trivialization of paying taxes as a way to bring about change, the sanctification of corporate do-gooding -- is a few ticks to the right of a Clinton-era New Democrat. Really more like enlightened Paul Ryan-ism. There are definitely worse philosophies. But it's not exactly progressive." CW: contributor Diane's comment on Booker, in yesterday's thread, which inspired Pepe's link, is IMHO, exactly right. And it agrees perfectly with Scheiber's extended observations.

Local News

Chris Smith interviews NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg for New York magazine. The bit other news outlets are picking up: Bloomberg says leading mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio is running a "class-warfare and racist" campaign. ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg set off a firestorm Saturday when he called mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio's campaign 'racist' in a New York Magazine interview. Bloomberg made the case that de Blasio's campaign was 'racist' for using his family to gain support in the black community equating it to him pointing out that he was Jewish to attract the Jewish vote. In previous mayoral campaigns that's exactly what Bloomberg did." Kaczyski lists some examples of Bloomberg's going Hebrew even though he is, according to Kaczynski, "not observant." Via Steve M., who has more.

News Ledes

USA Today: "The man who has become the face of the NAACP ... is resigning effective Dec. 31. In an interview with USA Today, Benjamin Todd Jealous said the constant travel as president and CEO of the nation's largest civil rights organization has kept him away too much from his wife, civil rights lawyer Lia Epperson, and children.... He said he plans to make a formal announcement to his staff Monday morning."

AFP: "Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle on Sunday announced a new technical problem with one of its Boeing 787 'Dreamliners', as the plane was grounded due to a flaw in its electrical system."

Los Angeles Times: "After years of largely bad news, crowds in Tokyo roared in excitement as they watched the announcement, streamed live here, that their city has been selected as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics."

Friday
Sep062013

The Commentariat -- Sept. 7, 2013

"In his weekly address, President Obama makes the case for limited and targeted military action to hold the Assad regime accountable for its violation of international norms prohibiting the use of chemical weapons." -- White House

... Secretary of State John Kerry makes the moral case for a limited Syrian strike in a Huffington Post op-ed. ...

... Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "Warning that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has barely put a dent in his chemical weapons stockpile, President Obama's new envoy to the United Nations [Samantha Power] said on Friday that a failure to intervene in Syria would 'give a green light to outrages that will threaten our security and haunt our conscience' for decades to come." ...

... ** Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "With the United States threatening to attack Syria, U.S. and allied intelligence services are still trying to work out who ordered the poison gas attack on rebel-held neighborhoods near Damascus. No direct link to President Bashar al-Assad or his inner circle has been publicly demonstrated, and some U.S. sources say intelligence experts are not sure whether the Syrian leader knew of the attack before it was launched or was only informed about it afterward. While U.S. officials say Assad is responsible for the chemical weapons strike even if he did not directly order it, they have not been able to fully describe a chain of command for the August 21 attack in the Ghouta area east of the Syrian capital." ...

... Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "A senior State Department official said on Friday that the military strike the United States is planning would not fundamentally alter the military balance in Syria and would likely be followed by a prolonged 'war of attrition' among the Syrian combatants." ...

The fact is [Syrian President] Bashar Assad has massacred 100,000 people. The conflict is spreading.... The Russians are all in, the Iranians are all in, and it's an unfair fight. And no one wants American boots on the ground. Nor will there be American boots on the ground because there would be an impeachment of the president if they did that. -- John McCain, at a townhall meeting Thursday ...

... To Strike or Not to Strike...." Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: President Obama "wants an answer to his question: What, after nearly a dozen years of war, is the country willing to bear?" ...

... Chris Cillizza & Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "A majority of House members are now on the record as either against or leaning against authorizing President Obama to use military force against Syria, according to the latest whip count from the Washington Post." ...

... Dan Nowicki of the Arizona Republic: "Sen. John McCain felt the heat of opposition to U.S. military intervention in Syria on Thursday during a town-hall meeting in Phoenix that exposed the emotions and ethic and religious tensions connected to crisis in the Middle East." ...

... Charles Pierce has a good anti-war column masquerading as a grand slam against Michael Gerson, WashPo columnist & former Bush scribe. CW: One would think that Bushies would have the sense to keep their mouths shut about the wisdom of military intervention in the Middle East, what with how things turned out when they tried it. (In fact, Bush & Cheney have not commented on the plans to attack Syria.) But Gerson is of the impression that we should read & heed his words of wisdom & prognostications on the proposed strike against Syria. ...

Philip "Gourevitch and John Cassidy join host Dorothy Wickenden on this week's Political Scene podcast to discuss how we got to the brink of intervention and what other options might still be available to the President":

Mark Hosenball: "U.S. spy agencies said on Friday that the latest media revelations based on leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden will likely damage U.S. and allied intelligence efforts." ...

... Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times' public editor: "The New York Times has come under fire in the past for agreeing to government requests to hold back sensitive stories or information, but it bucked such requests in publishing a front-page article in Friday's paper. The executive editor, Jill Abramson, told me that while she and the managing editor Dean Baquet went to Washington to meet with officials and gave them 'a respectful hearing,' the decision to publish was 'not a particularly anguished one.' ... The encryption article -- an important story, published courageously -- is a very welcome development." ...

... ** Kevin Drum: "Snowden Disclosures Finally Hit 12 on a Scale of 1 to 10.... [the Times decryption story] is truly information that plenty of bad guys probably didn't know, and probably didn't have much of an inkling about.... But now that's all changed. Now every bad guy in the world knows for a fact that commercial crypto won't help them, and the ones with even modest smarts will switch to strong crypto techniques that remain unbreakable. It's still a pain in the ass, but it's not that big a pain in the ass. For what it's worth, this is about the point where I get off the Snowden train.... It's not clear to me how disclosing NSA's decryption breakthroughs benefits the public debate much." ...

... BUT Ryan Cooper of Washington Monthly: "Instead of even a token effort to target their surveillance to suspected bad guys, [NSA personnel] just take as much as they can possibly get and say 'trust us.' As I said previously, most of these efforts involve weakening crypto implementation protocols throughout the entire internet and building backdoors into commercial software. People might believe the NSA won’t abuse that capability, but I think history shows no one is to be trusted with that kind of secret power. Furthermore, there's no reason in principle that the security holes the NSA is blasting everywhere will only be used by them.... So I think the tradeoff here was definitely worth it." ...

... Simon Romero of the New York Times: "President Obama said Friday that he was seeking to ease tensions with the leaders of Latin America's two largest nations, Brazil and Mexico, over reports that the National Security Agency had spied not only on their nations, but on them and their inner circles as well." ...

... Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "Google is racing to encrypt the torrents of information that flow among its data centers around the world in a bid to thwart snooping by the NSA and the intelligence agencies of foreign governments, company officials said Friday. The move by Google is among the most concrete signs yet that recent revelations about the National Security Agency's sweeping surveillance efforts have provoked significant backlash within an American technology industry.... Google's encryption initiative, initially approved last year, was accelerated in June as the tech giant struggled to guard its reputation as a reliable steward of user information amid controversy about the NSA's PRISM program...."

Ylan Mui & Amrita Jayakuma of the Washington Post: "Americans are participating in the workforce at the lowest level in 35 years..., as lackluster job growth fails to offset the droves of people who have given up looking for work. According to the Labor Department, the economy added a disappointing 169,000 jobs in August. In addition, the government lowered its estimate of the number of jobs created in June and July by 74,000 positions.... Government data showed that only 63.2 percent of working-age Americans have a job or are looking for one, the lowest proportion since 1978. Nearly 90 million people are now considered out of the labor force, up 1.7 million from August 2012." ...

... Neil Irwin of the Washington Post: "Ignore the headlines...; in almost all the particulars, you can find signs that this job market is weaker than it appeared just a few months ago, and maybe getting worse." ...

     ... CW: if you didn't read Krugman on this yesterday, read his column now: "... U.S. economic policy since Lehman has been an astonishing, horrifying failure." (BTW, I see a "Stop Summers" subtext here.) ...

... ** Joe Stiglitz, in a New York Times column, does not rely on subtext when he explains why President Obama should nominate Janet Yellin as Fed chair instead of Larry Summers. Read this. Send it to Obama (I think it appears only in the Times online). Obama may not know much about economics (and really, he doesn't), but he can grasp the compelling case Stiglitz makes.

Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "Richard L. Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., has a bold plan to reverse organized labor’s long slide: let millions of nonunion workers -- and perhaps environmental, immigrant and other advocacy groups -- join the labor federation."

New York Times Editors: "The Group of 20 nations on Friday took an important step toward curbing tax avoidance by committing to exchanging information automatically on tax matters by the end of 2015."

The more I read and the more I listen, the more apparent it is that our society suffers from an alarming degree of public ignorance. -- Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (thanks to James S. for the link)

... CW: There is a simple partial solution to this, & I don't know that anyone has ever suggested it: require students to pass the same test non-citizens must pass to become citizens. (ironically, the current test has mistakes in it -- a few "correct" answers are actually incorrect, but you would still pass with flying colors if you got these questions "wrong.") Many states require students to take competency tests in several fields -- math, reading comprehension, writing, etc. -- to graduate from high school. Just add civics. ...

... OR, the kids could watch "Law & Order" ...

The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable search & seizure. It doesn't say anything about being neat. -- Det. Joe Fontana (a/k/a Dennis Farina, RIP), in an old episode of "Law & Order," to a suspect complaining about the mess detectives were making during their search of his home

Of course Fontana's signature line -- 'We're authorized' -- just might give the kids the wrong impression. -- Constant Weader ...

... Maryclaire Dale of the AP: Justice Ruth Bader "Ginsburg said equality has always been central to the Constitution, even if society has only applied it to minorities -- be they women, blacks or gays -- over time. 'So I see the genius of our Constitution, and of our society, is how much more embracive we have become than we were at the beginning,' Ginsburg said in a far-ranging discussion of her work at the National Constitution Center ..." in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Texas Republican Rep. Bill Flores said at a town hall forum Thursday that if the House of Representatives had an impeachment vote, President Obama would be impeached. Flores said such a vote would be futile because it would fail in the Senate." ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "If this sounds very familiar it's because it is: Texas (of course) Republican (duh) Blake Farenthold said much the same thing only a few weeks ago. Since then we've had Rep. Kerry Bentivolio saying that he's held meetings with lawyers about impeachment and is all set to go, except for the knowing what to impeach him for part, eternal crackpot Sen. Tom Coburn ... has told voters that Obama is 'getting perilously close' to impeachment, and Canadian man with obvious presidential ambitions Sen. Ted Cruz mused that it is 'a good question.' If only there weren't so many pesky Democrats who wouldn't vote for it, and so many damn members of the press asking what exactly was the impeachable part, they would have this in the bag." (Links, expect the first, are original.)

Senatorial Race

Raymond Hernandez of the New York Times: "Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark, the Democratic candidate for United States Senate in New Jersey, is cutting all ties to an Internet start-up that he founded with money from well-connected figures in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, his campaign announced on Friday. Mr. Booker's association with the Internet firm, Waywire, had become an embarrassment for him even as he seems poised to capture the Senate seat in a special election next month."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Voters on Saturday delivered a stinging defeat to the Labor Party, led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, bringing an end to six tumultuous years of leadership and ushering into power a strong conservative Liberal-National coalition. The opposition leader, Tony Abbott, who made his name as a relentless critic of the policies of Mr. Rudd and his predecessor, Julia Gillard, is now in line to become Australia's 27th prime minister when he is sworn in next week...."

Washington Post: "Rochus Misch, who spent five years as Adolf Hitler's square-jawed bodyguard, courier, telephone operator and all-around attendant and was widely believed to be the last surviving veteran of the Nazi leader's bunker as the Soviet army closed in on Berlin, died Sept. 5 at 96."

Washington Post: "NASA's newest robotic explorer rocketed into space late Friday in an unprecedented moonshot from Virginia. The LADEE spacecraft soared aboard an unmanned Minotaur rocket a little before midnight." ...

     ... Space.com Update: " After a near-perfect launch late Friday (Sept. 6), NASA's newest moon probe has encountered its first glitch on the road to Earth's nearest neighbor.... Although the launch was nearly flawless, LADEE ran into some trouble right after its separation from the Minotaur V. The probe's onboard computer shut down LADEE's reaction wheels, which are used to stabilize the attitude of the probe in space, after noticing that they were drawing too much current. But there's no reason to panic, NASA officials said."

Thursday
Sep052013

The Commentariat -- Sept. 6, 2013

Peter Baker & Steven Myers of the New York Times: "President Obama ran into an impasse in his bid to rally international backing for a military strike on Syria as world leaders wrapped up a summit meeting here Friday deeply divided over the right response to what the Americans have called the deadliest nerve gas attack in decades." ...

... ** In his news conference, President Obama said he would be addressing the American people from the White House re: Syria. Sounds as if he's planning a strike sooner rather than later. ...

... Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit here Friday, as the U.S. leader used the final day of the summit to seek broader international support for a U.S.-led military strike on Syria, backing that he hopes would help legitimize military action in the minds of U.S. lawmakers and the American public."

No Surprise Here. Nicole Perlroth, et al., of the New York Times, with ProPublica & the Guardian: "The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents. The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world..." ...

... James Ball, et al., of the Guardian: "US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden." ...

... Worse than the NSA. Martha Mendoza of the AP: "Attorneys suing Google say the firm violates privacy and takes personal property by electronically scanning the contents of people's Gmail accounts and then targeting ads to them." CW: Plus, I see I'm a co-conspirator in this scam as Google g-mails the comments to Reality Chex. Yesterday P. D. Pepe wrote, in part, "@Unwashed: It's from the Latin which literally means to whom (is it) a benefit? Let's all take a guess at whose wheels would be greased." So I guess she should expect to start getting ads for bar soap, Berlitz, tires & STP. Sorry.

David Sanger & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "President Obama has directed the Pentagon to develop an expanded list of potential targets in Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has been moving troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons while Congress debates whether to authorize military action. Mr. Obama, officials said, is now determined to put more emphasis on the 'degrade' part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria -- to 'deter and degrade' Mr. Assad's ability to use chemical weapons. That means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the original target list developed with French forces...." ...

     ... Update: President Obama said in his presser of this piece, "That report is inaccurate." ...

... Stuart Williams of AFP: "World leaders at the G20 summit on Friday failed to bridge their bitter divisions over US plans for military action against the Syrian regime, as Washington slammed Moscow for holding the UN Security Council 'hostage' over the crisis. Despite not being on the original agenda of the summit hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin outside Saint Petersburg, the leaders discussed the Syria crisis into the early hours of the morning over dinner amid the splendour of a former imperial palace." ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama arrived at the Group of 20 summit [in St. Petersburg, Russia,] on Thursday on the defensive as he sought international support for a strike on Syria and confronted the meeting's host and chief skeptic, President Vladimir V. Putin, after a period of deepening tension between the two." ...

... Philip Rucker & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: President "Obama will be doing outreach to key lawmakers on Capitol Hill during his two-day visit to Russia for the Group of 20 summit, deputy national security adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes told reporters here Thursday. On Wednesday, during his visit to Sweden, Obama made five calls to a bipartisan group of senators as part of the administration-wide effort to lobby lawmakers on Syria, Rhodes said." ...

... Richard Simon of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama's hopes of winning congressional approval for a U.S. military strike on Syria could come down to the persuasion skills of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal who was a leading critic of the war in Iraq." ...

... Kasie Hunt of NBC News: "Lawmakers were shown a gruesome video depicting dozens of people killed by nerve gas as part of a classified, closed-door briefing Thursday laying out the Obama administration's case for action against Syrian President Bashar Assad." ...

... ** Tim Egan: "You may think George W. Bush is at home in his bathtub, painting pictures of his toenails, but in fact he's the biggest presence in the debate over what to do in Syria." Read the whole post.

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "... watching Republican pols and conservative pundits get on their high horses about Syria has been pretty nauseating. These are guys who mostly have never met a war they didn't like, and until a few months ago were practically baying at the moon to demand that that President Obama stop diddling around and get serious about aiding the rebels and taking out the monstrous Bashar al-Assad. But now? ... They talk piously about the value of multilateral support; the need to give diplomacy a chance; the perils of regional blowback; the lessons of Iraq; and the fear of escalation if Assad retaliates. You'd think they'd all just returned from a Save the Whales conference in Marin County."

... AFP: "Three Russian warships crossed Turkey's Bosphorus Strait Thursday en route to the eastern Mediterranean, near the Syrian coast, amid concern in the region over potential US-led strikes in response to the Damascus regime's alleged use of chemical weapons. The SSV-201 intelligence ship Priazovye, accompanied by the two landing ships Minsk and Novocherkassk passed through the Bosphorus known as the Istanbul strait that separates Asia from Europe, an AFP photographer reported."

... Michael Holden of Reuters: "Britain has new evidence that chemical weapons were used in an attack on the Syrian capital Damascus, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday. Cameron said scientists at Britain's Porton Down military research facility had analyzed samples taken from an alleged gas attack on a rebel-held Damascus neighborhood on August 21 and concluded they had tested positive for the sarin nerve agent." ...

** Paul Krugman: "Right now, Washington seems divided between Republicans who denounce any kind of government action -- who insist that all the policies and programs that mitigated the crisis actually made it worse and Obama loyalists who insist that they did a great job because the world didn't totally melt down. Obviously, the Obama people are less wrong than the Republicans. But, by any objective standard, U.S. economic policy since Lehman has been an astonishing, horrifying failure."

If you want to know the real reason Republicans oppose ObamaCare, Charles Pierce will enlighten you. It's an existential threat! ...

... Stephen Stromberg of the Washington Post: "As new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation" finds that under the ACA insurance exchanges, 'premiums will vary significantly across the country..., [but] they are generally lower than expected.'"

CW: I know it's difficult to win the prize for Biggest Hypocrite in Congress, but I'd give it to Stephen Fincher (RTP-Tenn.), a strong opponent of food stamps, which are authorized via the omnibus farm bill, because -- sez he -- lazy people who "are unwilling to work" shouldn't eat, and "The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country." Steve Benen: "Fincher collected nearly $3.5 million in taxpayer-financed farm subsidies from 1999 to 2012, including roughly $70,000 just last year in the form of direct payments from Washington."

Presidential Election 2012

Mitt Romney Was Right about Everything! McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed: "... Republicans are suddenly celebrating the presidential also-ran as a political prophet. From his widely mocked warnings about a hostile Russia to his adamant opposition to the increasingly unpopular implementation of Obamacare, the ex-candidate's canon of campaign rhetoric now offers cause for vindication -- and remorse -- to Romney's friends, supporters, and former advisers." ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos lays to rest the Romney-Was-Right meme. CW: In addition, I'd ask -- Who besides the Voice of the Angel Moroni could possibly have predicted that Putin would continue to be an asshole, that there would be trouble in the Middle East & Africa or that ObamaCare would be difficult to implement? ...

... "Mitt the Prophet." Ed Kilgore: "... please, don’t pretend that the heavily financed mendacious shuffle which the Romney campaign represented from beginning to end was in fact some sort of prophetic stance." CW: Yeah, if you flip-flop on every issue, some of your flips or flops are bound to be right. "All of the above" does not a soothsayer make.

Rose-Colored Ronnie

I know that President Reagan would have never let this happen. He would stand up to this. And President Obama -- the only reason he is consulting with Congress, he wants to blame somebody for his lack of resolve. We have to think like President Reagan would do and he would say chemical use is unacceptable. -- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee ...

... Steve Benen: "... Reagan ... did largely the opposite of what Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said he did with regards to the use of chemical weapons.... Indeed, after Saddam Hussein gassed his own people, Reagan dispatched ... wait for it ... Donald Rumsfeld to help solidify the relationship between the Reagan administration and the brutal, murderous Iraqi dictator. Rumsfeld gladly shook hands with Hussein after he used chemical weapons to kill Iraqi dissidents." Read the whole post for a recap of Reagan's looking the other way when our Friend in Baghdad used chemical weapons to commit genocide.


One Way to Get Paid Vacations. Ann Marimow & Lenny Bernstein
of the Washington Post: "Over the past 12 years, John C. Beale was often away from his job as a high-level staffer at the Environmental Protection Agency. He cultivated an air of mystery and explained his lengthy absences by telling his bosses that he was doing top-secret work, including for the CIA. For years, apparently, no one checked. Now, Beale is charged with stealing nearly $900,000 from the EPA by receiving pay and bonuses he did not deserve. He faces up to three years in prison."

News Ledes

Bloomberg News: "Payrolls in the U.S. climbed less than projected in August after smaller gains the prior two months, indicating companies are being deliberate in their hiring as they wait for a pickup in demand. The unemployment rate unexpectedly fell as more people left the labor force. The gain of 169,000 workers last month followed a revised 104,000 rise in July that was smaller than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today...."

AP: "An Arizona woman who has spent more than two decades on death row after being convicted of having her 4-year-old son killed for an insurance payout is expected to be released on Friday while she awaits a retrial of the case that made her one of the state's most reviled inmates. Judge Rosa Mroz of Maricopa County Superior Court set Debra Milke's bond at $250,000 a day earlier, saying there's no direct evidence linking her to her son's death other than a purported confession to a detective. And, the judge said, the validity of that confession is in doubt."

AFP: "Suspected Taliban in Afghanistan shot dead Indian author Sushmita Banerjee, whose book about her dramatic escape from the militants in the 90s became a Bollywood film, police said on Thursday. Police in insurgency-hit Paktika province, in the east of Afghanistan, said they found the body of the 49 year old on Thursday morning, after the militants dragged her out of her husband's home late in the night and shot her repeatedly."

Wednesday
Sep042013

The Commentariat -- Sept. 5, 2013

** Alex de Waal & Bridget Conley-Zilkic of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts, in a New York Times op-ed: "What's missing [in the Obama plan to strike Syria] is a political effort to seek peace. No talks are scheduled. The regional power brokers -- Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which support the rebels, and Iran, which backs Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad -- are at odds. American military action without a peace process involving all actors would only intensify the two-year-old war.... The only aim of intervention should be peace...." The authors incorporate the writings of William Harcourt, a/k/a "Historicus," who argued against British intervention in the American Civil War. ...

... ** Fareed Zakaria in Time: " What exactly is the goal of this military action? The Administration says it is simply to reinforce a global norm against the use of chemical weapons.... The reality is, the U.S. has now put its credibility on the line. It will find it extremely difficult to keep its actions limited in a volatile situation. And were it to succeed in ousting Assad, it would be implicated in the next phase of this war, which would almost certainly lead to chaos and the slaughter or ethnic cleansing of the Alawite sect (to which Assad belongs) and perhaps of other minorities, as happened in Iraq." Read for the last graf on George Bush Pere. ...

... C. J. Chivers of the New York Times: "... many rebels have adopted some of the same brutal and ruthless tactics as the regime they are trying to overthrow. As the United States debates whether to support the Obama administration’s proposal that Syrian forces should be attacked for using chemical weapons against civilians, [a] video [showing rebels killing soldiers in cold blood], shot in April, joins a growing body of evidence of an increasingly criminal environment populated by gangs of highwaymen, kidnappers and killers." CW: The page includes what I surmise is the video; I didn't click on it. ...

... Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "Top intelligence officials in two Middle East countries said they have examined the potential for bioweapons use by Syria, perhaps as retaliation for Western military strikes on Damascus. Although dwarfed by the country's larger and better-known chemical weapons program, Syria's bioweapons capability could offer the Assad regime a way to retaliate because the weapons are designed to spread easily and leave few clues about their origins, the officials said." ...

... Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "In the shadow of a confrontation over whether Syria's government had attacked civilians with internationally banned chemical munitions, a rights group, [Human Rights Watch,] reported Wednesday that Syrian armed forces had repeatedly used cluster bombs, another widely prohibited weapon, in the country's civil war." ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is asking House Democrats for more input in the Syria debate. In a 'Dear Colleague' letter to her caucus -- Pelosi's second in as many days -- the Democratic leader urged lawmakers to voice their concerns about President Obama's proposal for military strikes against the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Pelosi's request is part of a broader effort to formulate a resolution for Syrian intervention that can pass through the House in the face of widespread misgivings from rank-and-file members on both sides of the aisle." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "A divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved an authorization of force against the Syrian government, setting up a showdown next week in the full Senate on whether President Obama should have the authority to strike. The 10-to-7 vote showed bipartisan support for a strike, but bipartisan opposition as well. Republicans voting yes included Senators John McCain of Arizona, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Democrats against the authorization included Senators Tom Udall of New Mexico and Chris Murphy of Connecticut. The Senate's newest member, Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, voted present.... The committee's bipartisan leaders pressed forward with a resolution limiting the duration and nature of military strikes, while Mr. McCain demanded more -- not less -- latitude for the military to inflict damage on the government of President Bashar al-Assad." ...

... Sahil Kapur of TPM: "Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) -- the congressman who yelled 'you lie' during President Obama's 2010 State of the Union speech -- asked Wednesday if the administration's decision to attack Syria was made to distract from other 'scandals' like Benghazi and the IRS." ...

     ... CW: over there on supposedly MSM CNN, supposedly straight reporter Jessica Yellin (Mrs. John King) defended Wilson as a MOC who genuinely mistrusted the President. ...

     ... Steve Benen: "Now, I can appreciate a wild-eyed conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but even by House GOP standards, this is just stark raving mad. First, the 'scandals' Wilson believes in don't exist; things are going fairly well for the Affordable Care Act; and sequestration was Republicans' fault." Benen notes that Wilson was joined by all-around conspiracy loon Jeff Duncan (RTP-S.C.). ...

     ... Charles Pierce comments on Duncan. ...

... Dana Milbank: "Officials say the evidence is incontrovertible that Assad used sarin gas against his people. Lawmakers emerging from secret, classified briefings seem to agree. But while members of Congress are coming around to an attack on Syria, the American public remains skeptical. Why? Maybe it's because the government won't let them in on the secret." ...

... CW: Peter Baker of the New York Times didn't mention this in the story I linked yesterday re: President Obama's joint presser in Stockholm, but it is important. Peter Nicholas & David Gautier-Villars of the Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Obama said on Wednesday that he could order strikes against Syria even if Congress doesn't authorize them, but that 'we will be stronger as a country in our response if the president and Congress does it together.'"

Elections Matter. Jeremy Herb of the Hill: "The Obama administration will begin providing veterans benefits to same-sex couples after the Justice Department said Wednesday it would not enforce a law restricting them. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that the Justice Department would not enforce a federal statute providing benefits only to opposite-sex spouses. The administration's decision is being made in response to the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June."

Explainer-in-Chief. Jason Millman of the Politico: "Former President Bill Clinton, recruited by the White House to explain the misunderstood health law, is looking to play Obamacare peacemaker. In a highly-anticipated speech from his presidential library, Clinton challenged Republicans to finally work with Democrats to improve on President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement instead of constantly trying to undermine it."

... New York Times Editors: "A new Census Bureau report documents the alarming percentages of people in Texas and Florida without health insurance. Leaders of both states should hang their heads in shame because they have been among the most resistant in the nation to providing coverage for the uninsured under the Affordable Care Act, the law that Republicans deride as 'Obamacare.'" CW: Almost all Floridians will pay for the bad behavior of America's Second-Worst Governor & his cohort, first because they have unleashed the insurance industry from rate regulation, & second because calculated into those new, higher rates will be a surcharge to cover Flordians on the George Dubya Bush Emergency Room-Only Plan. (Scott did want to accept Medicaid aid; the doofuses in the state legislature said no.)

Linda Greenhouse on a little-known Oklahoma abortion case that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this term, this one threatening early-first-term "medication abortions." CW: every time I read about men passing anti-abortion laws "to protect women," I get furiouser & furiouser.

Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post: "Current and former White House officials wary of [Larry] Summers have been reluctant to criticize him, leaving the field open for his active team of supporters. But as it becomes increasingly clear that the president is willing to nominate Summers in the face of intense opposition, that reluctance is fading.... Obama and others in the White House who support Summers were deeply impressed by his ability to navigate the financial crisis. Administration officials who endured the tumultuous crisis period -- and many people who didn't -- assume the next crisis is a matter of when, not if. Obama has confidence that Summers would be effective in handling such a crisis, while he barely knows [Janet] Yellen." CW: these "former senior officials" need to be willing to put their names to their Larry-Is-a-Dick remarks if they want me to cite them. ...

... Atrios: "If you think another financial crisis is inevitable, you're doing it wrong. They aren't earthquakes. They aren't 'acts of God.' They're a product of the system. If they're inevitable, it's because you (the people in charge) are presiding over a system that makes them inevitable."

Wednesday "President Obama participate[d] in an event at the Great Synagogue in Stockholm honoring Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat and honorary U.S. citizen who worked courageously to save lives while serving as Sweden's special envoy in Budapest during World War II":

     ... AFP Update: "US President Barack Obama will ask Moscow what happened to Swedish Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg after he was taken into Soviet custody and disappeared in 1945, Wallenberg's family told Swedish media."

The Baby-Cam Is Spying on You. Edward Wyatt of the New York Times: "On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission took its first action to protect consumers from reckless invasions of privacy, penalizing a company that sells Web-enabled video cameras for lax security practices. According to the F.T.C., the company, TRENDnet, told customers that its products were 'secure,' marketing its cameras for home security and baby monitoring. In fact, the devices were compromised. The commission said a hacker in January 2012 exploited a security flaw and posted links to the live feeds, which 'displayed babies asleep in their cribs, young children playing and adults going about their daily lives.'"

Local News

Michelle Smith of the AP: "Gov. Lincoln Chafee is not running for a second term, he said Wednesday in an announcement that surprised his political opponents and closest advisors alike and takes him out of what was expected to be a fierce primary in his new Democratic Party. The governor, who became a Democrat in May, has struggled with poor approval ratings and is a reluctant fundraiser, although he said on Wednesday he liked being governor and thinks he would have won re-election. But he described campaigning as hugely time-consuming, and said the state faces so many serious challenges that he wouldn't be able to effectively be governor and run for governor at the same time."

David Ferguson of the Raw Story: "Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R)'s family and business partner have been receiving payments from a secret Political Action Committee called Real PAC. Half a million dollars of the money donated to the PAC has come from corporate health care interests which -- like the governor and Georgia state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens -- oppose the implementation of the Affordable Care Act ... According to investigative reporter Jim Walls of Atlanta Unfiltered, the PAC hasn’t filed taxes or the required financial disclosures in two years, and the information it did file for 2011 was incorrect. Contributors to Real PAC include Aetna, Humana, Blue Cross, United Health care and other interests that want to keep health insurance premiums and other costs as high as possible." ...

     ... CW: Thanks to contribution James S. for the lead. Here's my favorite sentence in the story: " The PAC's treasurer, former state ethics chairman Rick Thompson, protested that the PAC money is not just for Deal's re-election, but for 'Republican causes.'" (Emphasis added.) The part about Hudgens boasting that he is doing everything he can to obstruct ObamaCare makes me think it's high time the DOJ file charges him & other flagrantly obstructionist officials for failing to comply with federal law. They would squeal to the heavens, but they probably would start enforcing the law.

CW: Gail Collins discusses the New York City mayoral candidates, paying scant attention to Anthony Weiner, who is running 4th in a field of four, if I'm not mistaken. Fortunately, Weiner doesn't need Collins' help in calling attention to himself. ...

... Happy New Year! Kaili Joy Gray of Wonkette has a hilarious take on this "Talmudic dialogue" between Anthony Weiner & a citizen who called Weiner a scumbag, to which Weiner responded that the citizen was a jackass, etc., etc.:

     ... Update. "Married to an Arab": In today's Comments, Haley S. writes that the AP reports, "In another video, released by the Weiner campaign later Wednesday, the man can be heard saying 'married to an Arab,' presumably a reference to Weiner's Muslim wife, Huma Abedin...." I located & listened to a tape posted by TPM, which is here. The confrontation begins at 3:45 min. in. Somebody definitely says "... married to an Arab," but I'm not 100 percent sure it was the same heckler who made the remark. At the moment the remark was made, the heckler was paying his bill, so he might have made the comment to the clerk. But later, during the confrontation, the guy expresses sympathy for Weiner's wife. Weiner himself, notably, vociferously defends himself but never defends his wife, so it's also not clear he heard the "married to an Arab remark," especially since he was leaving the bakery at the time, it was noisy, he was some distance from the heckler & had his back to him. There are three sides to every story.

Gubernatorial Race

Washington Post Editors: Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (RTP) is lying about his poast sponsorship of anti-contraception, "personhood" legislation.

News Ledes

Al Jazeera America: "Thousands of Walmart employees are striking Thursday in cities across the United States, demanding better pay and protesting the firing of those who previously demonstrated against the company -- the country's largest private employer, with 1.3 million American workers. The strike comes just one week after fast-food workers staged walk-outs at fast-food restaurants in 60 U.S. cities to call for hourly pay of $15 instead of minimum wage. According to strike organizers, many Walmart workers earn the minimum wage, which varies from state to state but typically hovers near $7 to $8 per hour."

Al Jazeera America: "The gigantic Rim Fire raging in and around Yosemite National Park began when a hunter allowed an illegal fire to escape, investigators from the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Investigations and Tuolumne County District Attorney's Office reported Thursday."

Reuters: "The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms surged in August to their highest in half a year, with industrial goods manufacturers the hardest hit, a report on Thursday showed. Employers announced 50,462 layoffs last month, up 33.8 percent from 37,701 in July...."

AFP: "Iran will support Syria 'until the end' in the face of possible US-led military strikes, the chief of Iran's elite Quds Force unit was quoted Thursday by the media as saying. Iran is Syria's main regional ally and some analysts believe a wider goal of US President Barack Obama's determination to launch a strike against the Damascus regime is to blunt Tehran's growing regional influence and any consequent threat to Washington ally Israel."

AP: " A 'large' explosive targeted the convoy of Egypt's interior minister Thursday in Cairo's eastern Nasr City district, the first attack on a senior government official since a coup toppled the country's Islamist president two months ago. The minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, survived the attack, which damaged the convoy's cars and injured at least eight people, including two policemen and a child seriously. There were no fatalities."