Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

... has been cancelled due to a change in management.

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, January 20, 2017.

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

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

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

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

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

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

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

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

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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."

Friday
Aug222014

The Commentariat -- August 23, 2014

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser ... to President Obama, vowed Friday that the United States would 'do what is necessary' in Syria to protect American interests and said that direct military action was possible against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS." ...

... Anne Barnard of the New York Times: "The extremist militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have attacked Syrian troops with new ferocity in recent weeks, taking over three northeastern military bases, beheading scores of soldiers and seizing new territory. The jihadist offensive has prompted some panicked supporters of the Syrian government to sharply criticize the leadership, questioning why it appeared to allow ISIS to build a base in the northern Syria province of Raqqa over the last year while claiming the Syrian Army was fighting terrorism."

Adam Taylor of the Washington Post on the logic of not paying ransoms.

Natalia Zinets and Dmitry Madorsky of Reuters: "The United States demanded Moscow remove an aid convoy it sent into rebel-held eastern Ukraine without permission on Friday, accusing Russia of a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of its former Soviet neighbor and threatening more sanctions.... NATO's top military commander said the movement of trucks looked like a disguised attempt to reinforce separatist forces. The Western defense alliance said Russian troops had been firing artillery across the border and within Ukraine in a major escalation of military support for pro-Moscow rebels since mid-August, a defacto charge that Russia was already waging war."

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "The Obama administration rolled out a plan on Friday to protect access to copay-free birth control for women in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling. A new 'proposed rule' by the Department of Health and Human Services lets female employees of for-profit businesses, like Hobby Lobby, obtain birth control directly from their insurer, at no extra cost, if their boss opts out of covering the service in the company's insurance plan for religious reasons. The move extends an accommodation that already exists for non-profit organizations, which are allowed to refuse to cover for birth control.... The religious owners can pass the cost on to the insurer so that they're no longer complicit in what they view as sin.... In the same announcement, HHS also unveiled an interim rule tweaking the nonprofit accommodation, in an effort to put an end to a separate lawsuit against it. Instead of informing the insurer or third-party administrator directly, the new rule says, an objecting employer will have to notify the government, which will inform the insurer." ...

... digby: "I wonder how they're going to react now. Because we know that this isn't really about them violating their conscience don't we? It's about preventing women from getting birth control. I'm sure they have something else up their sleeves." ...

... Irin Carmon of NBC News: "... it's far from clear that the new accommodations will mollify all of the plaintiffs now that it's clear the end result will be women getting no-cost contraception.... Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown Law School who has written extensively about the contraceptive cases, wrote in July of the letter option, 'I think it is likely that most of those organizations will not be satisfied: They will argue that such a "fix," too, violates their rights under RFRA, because their act of opting out will continue to establish the legal authority for the government to require another party to provide coverage.'" CW: Exactly. The plaintiff's case, in a nutshell: If sinful, libidinous sluts insist on sleeping around, God has the right to make them have babies.

Jim Finkle & Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "A cyber attack at a firm that performs background checks for U.S. government employees compromised data of at least 25,000 workers, including some undercover investigators, and that number could rise, agency officials said on Friday. The breach at Falls Church, Virginia-based US Investigations Services (USIS) exposed highly personal information of workers at the Department of Homeland Security's headquarters as well as its U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection units...."

Nate Raymond & Jonathan Stempel of Reuters: "Goldman Sachs Group Inc has agreed to a settlement worth $1.2 billion to resolve a U.S. regulator's claims the bank sold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac faulty mortgage bonds, the regulator announced Friday. Under the settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the conservator for the two government-controlled mortgage finance companies, Goldman Sachs said it agreed to pay $3.15 billion to repurchase mortgage-backed securities from Fannie and Freddie.

Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday issued an apology for cracking two Asian-themed jokes during a speech Thursday night at the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce. 'My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologize. Sometimes I say the wrong thing,' Reid said in a statement to The Hill." ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Reid has also made a career out of saying such odd things -- so much so that few tend to notice stuff like this. He's like Joe Biden; he's almost built up a gaffe immunity by committing so many small-ish gaffes." Blake has a short list of Harry's Greatest Gaffes.

Washington Post Editors: We will no longer use the term "Redskins" to describe the D.C. football team. ...

... Annys Shin of the Washington Post: "The editorial board is separate from the news-gathering side of the organization, which Executive Editor Martin Baron said will continue to use the team's moniker."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Steve M. makes a good point: Rand Paul gets good press because the press corps is always "desperate for a Republican to love." (CW: Think of former "maverick" John McCain.) ...

... CW: I'd add this: The press's desperation to find lovable Republicans may be a product of its need to continue writing those formulaic he-said/she-said stories. It's hard, for instance, to write a story about climate change policy when the "she-said" side consists of climate change deniers like Sen. Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist Rubio (R-Fla.). He-said/she-said stories are the practical applications of a theoretical journalistic standard of objectivity. In adhering to this model, the reporter is prohibited from writing, "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said blah-blah. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) retorted blah-blah, which is a laughably ignorant crock."

Beyond the Beltway

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "On a night of sultry heat, about 150 protesters gathered enough steam for one brief but lively march down West Florissant Avenue late Friday. They turned back when police cars blocked the road. No arrests were reported. Until that only march of the night after 10 p.m., protesting had been sporadic, with crowds small all evening. Friday's gathering, nearly two weeks after Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, 18, was peaceful. Through the night, the numbers of marchers, police and news reporters was down significantly from the assemblies of the previous nights."

I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my lord savior, but I'm also a killer. I've killed a lot. And if I need to, I'll kill a whole bunch more. If you don't want to get killed, don't show up in front of me, it's that simple. I have no problem with it. God did not raise me to be a coward. -- St. Louis County Police Officer Dan Page, in a video of a speech delivered at a 2012 Oath Keepers meeting

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "A police officer involved in the protests over Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, has been relieved of his duty after video surfaced of him describing black people as 'little perverts' and Barack Obama as an illegal immigrant. Dan Page -- who was seen live on CNN earlier this week threatening to arrest the network's anchor Don Lemon -- was recorded in April giving a speech in which he railed against Muslims and gay people, saying: 'I'm into diversity -- I kill everybody.'" ...

... St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Also Friday, Glendale Police Officer Matthew Pappert was suspended after posting on Facebook that the Ferguson protesters were 'a burden on society and a blight on the community,' according to posts preserved by news and opinion website 'The Daily Caller.' Another post that appears to come from Pappert says the 'protestors should have been put down like rabid dogs the first night.'" The story has more on St. Louis County police officer Dan Page, including comments from Chief Jon Belmar. ...

... CW: With the attitude apparently common among the St. Louis area police cohort, it is hardly any wonder that white policemen shoot & abuse black men & others for specious "reasons." ...

... Tim Bross of Bloomberg News: "The Missouri grand jury that will decide whether to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown includes nine whites and three blacks, a state court judge said.... The prosecuting attorney has no role in the selection of the jurors, according to Paul Fox, the judicial administrator for St. Louis County, which doesn't include the city of the same name. [Judge Carolyn] Whittington today ordered the release of the current grand jury's makeup. Fox said that the racial breakdown of the grand jury roughly reflects the makeup of the county." ...

... Michael Wines & Frances Robles of the New York Times: "Much remains in dispute about Officer [Darren] Wilson's fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old whom he stopped as Mr. Brown was walking home about noon on Aug. 9. But the question of whether Officer Wilson's actions were objectively reasonable will likely be at the crux of that debate." ...

... A Report that Isn't. Jason Sickles of Yahoo! News: "A police report on the death of Michael Brown is missing key information and violates Missouri open records laws, an ACLU attorney told Yahoo News on Friday. The two-page document, which the Ferguson Police Department released only after pressure from journalists and civil liberties advocates, is largely redacted or left blank. The most egregious omissions are the victim's name and a description of the offense -- the fatal shooting of Brown."

From earlier this week:

Matt Zapotsky, et al., of the Washington Post: "A day after portraying his wife, Maureen McDonnell, as the troubled instigator of his entanglements with wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell on Friday said that Williams, too, had led him astray. 'I misjudged Jonnie Williams,' McDonnell (R) testified at his public corruption trial. 'I thought he was a true friend. I had no idea that he would come into federal court and make false statements against me to save himself.' ... In each case, after blaming his wife for initiating such [financial] arrangements [with Williams], McDonnell spent even more time detailing his role in finalizing them." CW: What a weasel. ...

... Gail Collins: "Bob McDonnell has told the jury a lot about his firmness in rejecting some of the goodies that Maureen wanted -- like a designer dress for the inaugural. However, he seems to have been far less resolute when Jonnie Williams was doling out things he liked: a luxury vacation, or the use of a private jet. McDonnell told his sons to give back expensive golf clubs (the sons ignored him), but then he accepted a custom golf bag for himself." CW: And the Rolex!

... BUT maybe Bob's defense should be that all Republican governors are crooks. ...

Illustration by Donkey Hotey.Adam Nagourney & Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin played a greater role than previously known in arranging for wealthy contributors to donate to a powerful conservative organization in his home state as it battled a two-year campaign to recall Mr. Walker and Republican lawmakers, according to court documents released Friday.... The investigation has pulled back the curtain on the ways politicians and their aides seek to get around the welter of state and national campaign finance restrictions to accommodate donors, and it has clouded the White House prospects of Mr. Walker." ...

... Patrick Marley, et al., of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Gov. Scott Walker prodded outside groups and individuals to funnel millions of dollars into Wisconsin Club for Growth -- a pro-Walker group directed by his campaign adviser -- during the recall elections in 2011 and 2012, according to court documents unsealed for a short time Friday afternoon. The documents form much of the basis for prosecutors' theory that Walker's campaign and conservative groups illegally cooperated to help him and other Republicans. Walker and the groups deny they broke any laws, noting two judges have sided with them. Among the funds that flowed into the Wisconsin Club for Growth was $700,000 from a company trying to build a massive open-pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin. Soon after the 2012 recall and general elections, Walker and Republicans eased environmental regulations, helping the firm." ...

... The documents are here.

Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times: "California lawmakers Friday passed a bill to get police officers who check on troubled individuals to find out whether they own guns, a response to the rampage near UC Santa Barbara last spring that left seven people dead and 13 wounded."

Jonathan Cooper of the AP: "The state of Oregon filed a lawsuit Friday against Oracle America Inc. and several of its executives over the technology company's role in creating the troubled website for the state's online health insurance exchange. The lawsuit ... alleges that Oracle officials lied, breached contracts and engaged in 'a pattern of racketeering activity.' Oracle was the largest technology contractor working on Oregon's health insurance enrollment website, known as Cover Oregon. The public website was never launched, forcing the state to hire hundreds of workers to process paper applications by hand. The website's failure became a political problem to Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is running for re-election."

News Ledes

AFP: "Islamist fighters in the Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) coalition said on Saturday they have captured Tripoli's battered international airport after many days of clashes with nationalist militiamen."

New York Times: "The huge scale of the fraud [in the Afghan elections] -- involving perhaps more than two million ballots out of roughly eight million reported cast, according to independent international estimates -- has stymied efforts to achieve a democratic transition. Secretary of State John Kerry has intervened twice to keep the campaigns in agreement on a unity government and a complete audit of the vote, but the process has repeatedly broken down in disputes."

Washington Post: "White-tarped trucks from the controversial Russian convoy that provoked a dramatic escalation of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine began returning to Russian territory Saturday after delivering supplies to the war-torn city of Luhansk, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in the capital Kiev for a symbolic show of support and behind-the-scenes efforts to ease rising tensions. Russia had sent the aid convoy of over 200 trucks into rebel-held Ukrainian territory Friday without permission.... The maneuver came amid reports from NATO that Ukrainian troops were coming under Russian artillery fire from inside their borders. A top Lithuanian diplomat was also killed in ongoing violence." ...

     ... ** UPDATE: Ukrainian officials said "that Russians had loaded sophisticated military equipment onto the vehicles before they left. Col. Andriy Lysenko, Ukraine's military spokesman, said that trucks that had driven into the territory 'under the guise of humanitarian convoys' had crossed back into Russia on Saturday morning after being packed with Ukrainian-made equipment used to produce an advanced aircraft-tracking system, as well as ammunition for small arms."

Reuters: "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for an urgent resumption of peace talks on Saturday as violence continued unabated in the Gaza Strip with Israel carrying out air strikes and militants firing rockets. Gaza health officials said five people, including two children, were killed in an Israeli strike on a house in central Gaza. Three more Palestinians were killed in other strikes." ...

... AFP: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday vowed harsh retribution against Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza, after a mortar round fired from the Palestinian territory killed an Israeli child." ...

... Democracy Now!: "More than 467 Palestinian children have died since July.... According to the World Health Organization, more than 3,000 children have been injured, of which an estimated 1,000 will suffer from a lifelong disability."

... CW: Res ipsa loquitur.