The Wires
The Ledes

Sunday, June 17, 2018. "Gunfire blasted through a celebrated community event in Trenton early Sunday morning leaving one person dead and 22 injured, police said. The 24-hour Art All Night event is meant to honor local artists and held at the historic Roebling Wire Works building on South Clinton Avenue. The shooting erupted shortly before 3 a.m. Authorities said the shooting did not appear to be a targeted incident but a dispute between individuals that eventually led to an exchange of gunfire with police.... One of the suspected shooters is dead, according to Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri. The 33-year-old man is believed to be shot and killed by police, Onofri said. A second suspect is in police custody. Neither has been identified."

Read more here:

NAFTA No, NAFSA . North American Free Soccer Agreement. Washington Post: "The World Cup is returning to the United States, and this time, Mexico and Canada are along for the wild ride. A North American joint bid won the rights Wednesday to host the 2026 edition of the celebrated soccer tournament, defeating Morocco and bouncing back from an unfathomable U.S. defeat to Qatar in voting for the 2022 event eight years ago. The member associations in FIFA, the sport’s governing body, favored the North American effort, known as the United Bid, in a landslide vote, 134-65."

... Washington Post: "It was Justify’s moment, after all. In a dazzling display of power and durability, the late-blooming colt who didn’t race as a 2-year-old proved Saturday he couldn’t be worn out as a 3-year-old, thundering to victory in the Belmont Stakes to claim a place in history as the sport’s 13th Triple Crown champion. After a 37-year drought in which the feat seemed impossible, Justify became the second horse in four years to achieve it, tutored, like 2015 predecessor American Pharoah, by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Before Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, which Justify won by 1¾ lengths over surprise second-place finisher Gronkowski in a 10-horse field, the massive chestnut colt with the white blaze had won the Kentucky Derby by a 2 1 /2-length margin, becoming the first since Apollo in 1882 to win the classic without running as a 2-year-old. Two weeks later, Justify weathered torrential rain and a blanket of fog to win the Preakness Stakes, setting himself up for the Triple Crown bid."

Masha Gessen of the New Yorker on "The Americans." Mrs. McC Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the show's finale, & you plan to, see it before reading Gessen's post.

You may want to cut the sound on this video so you don't go nuts before you get to move overseas:

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I found this on a political Website, so that's my excuse. Juliana Gray in McSweeney's: "The Incel Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." It begins,

"Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like an equal redistribution of sexual resources.
Let us go, through certain half-considered tweets
and form tedious arguments
about entitlement.

"In the room the women come and go
Talking of Maya Angelou."

Read on. Incels, in case you don't know,  (a portmanteau of 'involuntary' and 'celibacy') are members of an online subculture who define themselves as being unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one, a state they describe as inceldom. Self-identified incels are almost exclusively male and mostly heterosexual," according to Wikepedia.

New York Times: "A thousand-year-old English castle echoed with the exhortations of an African-American bishop and a gospel choir on Saturday, as Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle, an American actress, nudging the British royal family into a new era. Ms. Markle, who has long identified herself as a feminist, entered St. George’s Chapel alone rather than being given away by her father or any other man, a departure from tradition that in itself sent a message to the world. She was met halfway by Prince Charles, her future father-in-law and presumably the future king of Britain. Prince Harry, who is sixth in line for the throne, has long called on Britain’s monarchy to draw closer to the daily life of its people. But the most extraordinary thing he has done is to marry Ms. Markle, an American actress who is three years his senior, biracial, divorced and vocal about her views. Their choices at Saturday’s wedding, many of them heavily influenced by black culture, made it clear that they plan to project a more inclusive monarchy.” ...

Serena Williams, at the When Harry Wed Meghan rites.... Anthony Lane of the New Yorker attended the nuptials & reports back: "Love, as warmly recommended by the preacher, held sway. The sole unpleasantness that crossed my path took the form of a burly fellow wearing a fascinator, with ripped jeans and mirrored shades: not an outfit that I will soon forget." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you are wondering what a "fascinator" is, so was I. There were hundreds of them worn to Windsor Saturday. It's a ridiculous thing that otherwise sensible women attach to their heads. We are not fascinated.

Shorter Wedding:

This is the WashPo's live coverage of the wedding of Britain's Prince Harry & American actor Meghan Markle. You can supersize it:

The Guardian is posting updates re: the wedding of Britain's Prince Harry & American actor Meghan Markle. "The Queen has announced the titles given to the married couple. Prince Harry, or to give him his formal title, Prince Henry of Wales, has been made Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel.So he will be His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex and, once married, Meghan Markle will become Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex."

Josephine Livingstone of the New Republic reviews The President is Missing: "... there’s an ickiness to this book, and it lies in gender politics. It’s just not possible to engage with Bill Clinton as a public figure without thinking about his relationship with the 22-year-old Monica Lewinsky. America is undergoing a revision of its original interpretation of that incident, one in which people newly recognize her youth and her vulnerability. Wrong was done by her, and that is more widely understood. Clinton can’t expect readers not to think about that. And yet during the publicity tour for the book, he has responded to questions about Lewinsky with great churlishness. To boot, the book ends with the revelation that the villain all along was feminism." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This novel needed a woman's review. As for Livingstone's note about #MeToo revisionism, I was horrified by Bill's abuse of Lewinsky in real time. And I was equally horrified by Hillary's attempts to get her husband out of the jam of his own making. I didn't understand why I was nearly alone among liberals in what I found to be obvious abuses of power, but I now see it was blind partisanship, of a quality & quantity not different from stupid Trumpbot loyalty. I never thought Clinton should have been impeached; I thought he should have resigned.

Ha Ha. Anthony Lane of the New Yorker reviews the newly-published novel The President is Missing by Bill Clinton & James Patterson. "Writing, like dying, is one of those things that should be done alone or not at all.... Bill Clinton, who can write, has hooked up with James Patterson, who can’t, but whose works have sold more than three hundred and seventy-five million copies, most of them to happy and contented customers for whom good writing would only get in the way." Lane runs down the plotline of this thriller, & he says the story includes "no sex'" even tho there as sexy female assassin (of course there is) who is after the fictional president. Lane goes out of his way to diss Patterson's writing. "Somehow, 'The President Is Missing' rises above its blithely forgivable faults. It’s a go-to read." Mrs. McC: Tho not by me.

Here's a Guardian interview of Harry & Meghan:

Constant Comments


Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling


The Commentariat -- Dec. 21, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Samantha Masunaga of the Los Angeles Times: "South San Francisco drug company KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Monday that it terminated its chief executive, Martin Shkreli, last week. KaloBios also said Shkreli resigned from his position on the company's board of directors."


Doyle Rice of USA Today: "The winter solstice -- marking the longest night and shortest day of the year -- is Monday night. The solstice occurs at the same instant everywhere on Earth. In the United States, it happens at 11:48 p.m. ET Monday (or 10:48 p.m. CT, 9:48 p.m. MT and 8:48 p.m. PT). In Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, that means the solstice actually comes on Tuesday."

Harry Goes Out with a Billion-Dollar Bang. Eric Lipton & Liz Moyer of the New York Times: "As congressional leaders were hastily braiding together a tax and spending bill of more than 2,000 pages, lobbyists swooped in to add 54 words that temporarily preserved a loophole sought by the hotel, restaurant and gambling industries, along with billionaire Wall Street investors, that allowed them to put real estate in trusts and avoid taxes. They won support from the top Senate Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, who responded to appeals from executives of casino companies, politically powerful players and huge employers in his state. And the lobbyists even helped draft the crucial language. The small changes, and the enormous windfall they generated [$1BB in future tax obligations], show the power of connected corporate lobbyists to alter a huge bill that is being put together with little time for lawmakers to consider. Throughout the legislation, there were thousands of other add-ons and hard to decipher tax changes."

Jonathan Chait: "People Who Were Certain Climate Change Is Fake Are Now Certain That Paris Can't Stop It." ...

... Here's one for contributor Marvin S. Jessica Prois of the New Republic: "Voluntary Birth Control Is A Climate Change Solution Nobody Wants To Talk About.... Access to voluntary birth control -- which typically means pills, condoms and IUDs -- to reduce the 40 percent of unintended pregnancies per year worldwide will cut our collective human carbon footprint, and an increasing number of countries are factoring this in to their climate change plans, experts point out."

Benjamin Siegel of ABC News: "President Obama said [Donald Trump] ... is 'exploiting' Americans' anxieties about the economy and American society.... The president also called [Ted] Cruz's plan to 'carpet bomb' ISIS 'terrible for our national security.'... In a wide-ranging interview before leaving for Hawaii, Obama also discussed the fight against ISIS, and the threat the group poses to the United States.... " Here's the full interview, by Steve Inskeep of NPR:

AP: "President Obama on Sunday paid tribute to Zaevion Dobson, a 15-year-old high-school football player from Tennessee who died on Thursday night after he shielded three girls from gunfire. 'Zaevion Dobson died saving three friends from getting shot,' Obama said, using Twitter. 'He was a hero at 15. What's our excuse for not acting?'"

Anthony Faiola & Souad Mekhennet of the Washington Post: "The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have brought into sharper focus the rise of a new breed of jihadists, one that blurs the line between organized crime and Islamist extremism, using skills honed in lawbreaking in the service of violent radicalism. The Islamic State is constructing an army of loyalists from Europe that includes an increasing number of street toughs and ex-cons.... Rather than leave behind lives of crime, some adherents are using their illicit talents to finance recruiting rings and travel costs for foreign fighters even as their backgrounds give them potentially easier access to cash and weapons, posing a new kind of challenge to European authorities." ...

...AFP: "The Islamic State group may have stolen 'tens of thousands' of blank passports that it could use to smuggle its fighters into Europe as refugees, a German newspaper reported Sunday. The Welt am Sonntag cited Western intelligence sources as saying that IS could have acquired the stolen travel documents in areas of Syria, Iraq and Libya it now controls."

Presidential Race

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "The debate was lively, informative, and civil.... And excluding, for a moment, Martin O'Malley, it reaffirmed the choice facing Democratic voters: experience, moderate reformism, and vigorous engagement abroad (Hillary Clinton) versus passion, an assault on privilege, and an abiding skepticism about overseas military engagements (Bernie Sanders)." ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "When [President] Obama was mentioned [during the Democratic debate], it was generally in passing.... On foreign policy, [Hillary] Clinton distanced herself even more from Obama. As she has in the past, she noted that Obama rejected her advice on what to do about Syria when the civil war there first started.... There is a natural tension between Obama's interest in polishing his legacy and emphasizing every achievement in his final months in office and Clinton's strategic need to respond to the real problems that voters face. But if the balance gets too out of whack, Clinton risks running a campaign that seems more like a repudiation of Obama than one that defines her as his natural heir."

The Ghosts of Campaigns Past:

Chris Danner of New York: Hillary Clinton's campaign reps Sunday walked back her debate claim that Donald Trump has been a feature of ISIS recruitment videos. "... it's also worth noting that extremist expert Seamus Hughes told Reuters that ISIS's official propaganda channels haven't mentioned Trump or his comments at all, and as the Associated Press notes, ISIS-linked attackers typically point to Western airstrike campaigns in Syria as their primary motivation. So while it's possible that Trump[s comments are being used in some kind of official recruiting capacity -- and that's definitely something ISIS-watchers are worried about -- the evidence may be limited, and even if a Trump-citing recruitment video exists, Clinton's campaign seems to be making it clear that she hasn't seen it."

Paul Krugman: "... [Donald] Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz now commands the support of roughly 60 percent of the primary electorate.... The antiestablishment candidates now dominating the field, aside from being deeply ignorant about policy, have a habit of making false claims, then refusing to acknowledge error.... Bluster and belligerence as substitutes for analysis, disdain for any kind of measured response, dismissal of inconvenient facts reported by the 'liberal media' ... have long been key elements of the [Republican] party brand.... While [George W.] Bush;s debacles in Iraq and New Orleans eventually ended America's faith in his personal gut, the elevation of attitude over analysis only tightened its grip on his party, an evolution highlighted when John McCain ... chose the eminently unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate. So Donald Trump as a political phenomenon is very much in a line of succession that runs from W. through Mrs. Palin, and in many ways he's entirely representative of the Republican mainstream.... In case you're wondering, nothing like this process has happened on the Democratic side."

Jose DelReal of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump defended Russian President Vladimir Putin against accusations that he has assassinated political adversaries and journalists, responding to criticism from his rivals over his embrace of praise from the Russian leader. 'Nobody has proven that he's killed anyone. ... He's always denied it...,' Trump said on ABC's 'This Week' on Sunday. 'You're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, at least in our country. It has not been proven that he's killed reporters.'" CW: Sure, Donald, because the Russian justice apparatus would definitely haul Putin before a tribunal. Read the whole story: Trump goes on about Hillary, even criticizing her for taking too long in the bathroom. There is, BTW, a good explanation for Clinton's late return to the debate podium -- it's the same one women experience all the time: restrooms for women in sports (and some other) venues are afterthoughts. Thus, Donald has added a sexist criticism to an already-sexist reality.

Bradford Richardson of the Hill: "GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump says the Republican National Committee (RNC) should disqualify candidates from primary debates who have failed to file paperwork to get their names on the ballots in major states." CW: He's right. Except it isn't necessary to insult low-polling candidates to the make the point, as Trump does: "When you're at like, this guy [former New York governor George] Pataki, he's been at zero for months. He couldn't get elected dog-catcher in New York. The guy's at zero for months. And he keeps on staying and staying."

Queen for a Moment. Justin Moyer of the Washington Post: Even a beauty pageant can turn into disaster without Donald Trump's direction. The host of the Miss Universe pageant -- which Trump sold shortly after Univision dropped the pageant in the wake of Trump's derogatory remarks about Mexicans -- crowned the wrong woman.

Donald Trump is the Cicero -- or the 8-year-old -- of the Republican party. Shon Arieh-Lerer of Slate compiles the evidence.

Kira Lerner of Think Progress: "Six of the Republican candidates vying for the presidency ... Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee ... have signed a pledge promising to support legislation during their first 100 days in the White House that would use the guise of 'religious liberty' to give individuals and businesses the right to openly discriminate against LGBT people."

NEW. Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) ended his long-shot presidential bid Monday, telling supporters in a web video that he succeeded in changing the conversation about how to fight the Islamic State." CW: Sadly, it seems certain now that I will never be First Lady. Lindsey was my last, best chance. Not that Hillary won't leave Bill & marry me. Always look on the bright side. Even if she won't let me pick out the china.

Why Ted Cruz's Senate colleagues hate him.

Beyond the Beltway

Jesse McKinley & James McKinley of the New York Times: "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Sunday that he would seek out and pardon thousands of people who were convicted of nonviolent crimes as teenagers but have since led law-abiding lives. Envisioned as a way to remove stubborn barriers to employment, housing and other services, the pardons would be available to anyone who was found guilty of a nonviolent felony or misdemeanor that was committed while they were 16 or 17, provided they have spent at least a decade without any additional convictions. Under his plan, Mr. Cuomo intends to invite those people to apply for -- and virtually be assured of receiving -- a governor's pardon, as long as they meet several other criteria."

Drill, Baby, Drill? Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "In recent months, at least 93 coastal communities -- from small beach towns on the Delmarva Peninsula to the wealthy and politically powerful cities of Charleston and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina and Savannah, Ga. -- have joined a revolt against a pro-drilling movement that once seemed unstoppable in the Republican-dominated South.... The Obama administration is expected to finalize by early spring a plan that could allow limited oil and gas development off the coasts of four Southeastern states -- Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. All four have heavily supported drilling in the past.... Many of the region's most prominent elected officials continue to support offshore drilling, which industry officials say would bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic revenue.... But other politicians, regionally and nationally, have spoken against the [Obama administration] plan."

AP: "A St Louis police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old VonDerrit Myers Jr last year has resigned after being accused of driving his patrol car while intoxicated and crashing into a parked vehicle."

Way Beyond

Sam Borden of the New York Times: "Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, two of the most powerful figures in global soccer, were barred from the sport for eight years on Monday morning after being found guilty of ethics violations. The suspensions were imposed by the independent ethics committee of FIFA, soccer's international governing body. Mr. Blatter, who is FIFA's longtime president, as well as Mr. Platini, who is the president of UEFA, European soccer's governing body, are prohibited from taking part in any soccer-related activities while barred -- a sanction which, in Mr. Platini's case, seemingly ends any chance that he will be able to run in February's special election to fill the post Mr. Blatter has already said he would vacate."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Six members of the NATO military mission in Afghanistan were killed by a Taliban suicide bomber on Monday while on patrol near Bagram Air Base, the largest remaining American military base in the country, officials said." ...

     ... New Lede: "In one of the deadliest attacks against American forces in Afghanistan this year, a Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove into a military convoy near Bagram Air Base on Monday, killing six American soldiers, United States officials said."

CNN: "Just hours after his 28-year-old grandson [Jeremy Carter] died, a shaken former President Jimmy Carter broke the news to his Plains, Georgia, church and then taught Sunday School according to the church's minister."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 20, 2015

Presidential Race

Thank you, good night, and may the force be with you. -- Hillary Clinton, closing the debate

Philip Rucker & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "The Democratic presidential candidates presented competing visions for defeating Islamic State terrorists and clashed passionately at a debate here Saturday night over tax policy, the power and wealth of Wall Street, gun control and other domestic issues."

Cathleen Decker, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "After two days of intense Democratic infighting, Bernie Sanders apologized for his staff's snooping into Hillary Clinton's campaign files at the opening of a cantankerous presidential debate Saturday that underscored sharp differences among the candidates on foreign policy, combating terrorism and raising taxes."

Dan Roberts & Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "Deep divisions between the Democratic presidential candidates opened up in New Hampshire on Saturday night, as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred over military intervention in the Middle East, healthcare, taxes and their support for big business."

Alan Yuhas of the Guardian highlights key points that emerged during the debate.

Jonathan Martin & Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Hillary Clinton largely looked past her Democratic rivals in Saturday night's debate, instead repeatedly assailing the Republican field, led by Donald J. Trump. She called Mr. Trump a threat to the nation's safety, saying he was fast 'becoming ISIS' best recruiter.' Deflecting persistent attacks from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland over gun control, Wall Street and foreign military entanglements, she accused Mr. Trump of undermining the fight against terrorism."

CW: It struck me that one person who didn't get much mention during this debate was Barack Obama.

The Guardian is liveblogging the debate. The Los Angeles Times' liveblog is here. ...

... The Washington Post is running an annotated transcript.

He is becoming ISIS's best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists. -- Hillary Clinton, during the debate ...

... Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "Hillary Clinton has claimed that ISIS is showing videos of Donald Trump's comments about Muslims in an effort to 'recruit more radical jihadists.'... It is unclear whether the former secretary of State was speaking metaphorically or had evidence to back up the specific charge that footage of Trump was being used." ...

... Louise Jacobson of PolitiFact: "We were unable to find any evidence to support this. The Clinton campaign did not provide any evidence that this is already happening -- only that it could be happening, or that it may in the future. If ISIS was using Trump for recruitment videos, we would expect a frenzy of media coverage over it."

Here's the Washington Post's fact-check of claims candidates made during the debate.

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "... Bernie Sanders apologized to Hillary Clinton on Saturday night for his campaign's inappropriate viewing of proprietary voter information that was gathered by her campaign.... Sanders was critical of the DNC's response -- temporarily shutting off his campaign's access to the database -- which he said he said had the effect of 'crippling our campaign.'" CW: Very disappointing. I was hoping for a childish brawl.

Hadas Gold of Politico: "Whether grilling Bernie Sanders for details of his single-payer health proposal or nearly leaping out of her chair to challenge Hillary Clinton on the merits of her proposed no-fly zone in Syria, ABC's Martha Raddatz was an animating force of Saturday's Democratic debate."

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: How to Watch the Debate: "On television: ABC is kicking off its programming at 8 p.m. eastern and the two-hour debate is expected to start around 8:30 p.m. Online: The debate will be streaming on and it will be available for viewing on the network's mobile apps, and on Apple TV, Roku and Xbox One. Login credentials or other forms of authentication will not be required. On the radio: People who prefer hearing but not seeing the political action can listen to the debate on ABC Radio. Social media: Facebook and Twitter will be buzzing with #DemDebate chatter for anyone looking to monitor the conversation surrounding the debate in real-time." ...

... CW: Also, too, you can watch it on a New York Times page.

Callum Borchers of the Washington Post: "... intentional or not, O'Malley and Sanders are right...: A small ABC audience helps Clinton, who leads the nominating race by 25 points nationally and by about that same amount in Iowa (New Hampshire is closer). She's the default nominee and has been for, well, years. For voters to latch on to someone else, they need to see someone else. And to see someone else, they need to be watching Bernie and Martin, not Dorothy and Toto."

Amber Phillips of the Washington Post previews some of the issues that may come up in Saturday's Democratic debate. Tops on her list: the voter data breach. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The Democratic National Committee laid out a detailed timeline Saturday of what happened when Senator Bernie Sanders's campaign aides gained access to and copied Hillary Clinton's proprietary voter data during a technological glitch, revealing new details to explain why it had blocked Mr. Sanders's team from seeing its own data.... During Saturday night's debate, Mr. Sanders repeated his complaint that the punishment was unfair, but he also apologized to Mrs. Clinton. His campaign also said Saturday that it had suspended two aides over the matter. It had earlier fired its national data director." ...

... The DNC's defense of its actions -- described above as a timeline -- is here. ...

... ** David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "... it's undeniable that the Sanders campaign gleaned valuable information.... It's also quite clear that most of the statements the Sanders campaign made as the story progressed -- from the claim that the staffers only did it to prove the security breach, or that only one staffer had access -- were simply not true.... In this context, it made sense for Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC to suspend the Sanders campaign's access to the data until it could determine the extent of the damage, and the degree to which the Clinton campaign's private data had been compromised. As it turns out the ethical breach by Sanders operatives was massive, but the actual data discovery was limited.... The Sanders camp's reactions have been laughable.... The Clinton camp did nothing wrong in any of this. Sanders campaign operatives did, and then Wasserman-Schultz compounded it by overreacting." ...

... John Wagner of the Washington Post: [Bernie] "Sanders's supporters responded to the dispute [with the DNC & the Clinton campaign] by opening their wallets. By the end of the day Friday, the campaign had collected more than $1 million, the vast majority of it over the Internet, according to the person close to the campaign...." ...

... Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico: "Bernie Sanders has gotten more individual donations than any other presidential candidate ever through the campaign's off-year -- topping President Barack Obama's mark of 2,209,636 donations through Dec. 31, 2011 -- his team announced following Saturday night's Democratic debate. Sanders passed Obama's re-election total during the debate, his communications director Michael Briggs said."

Since we're talking about the Democrats' debate, might as well reprise the last GOP debate:

Apparently, this actual ad ran during the airing of SNL:

... Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. Steve M.: "On one level, this is cringe-inducing. On another level, the ad ... makes him seem like a harmless suburban dad.... The jokes are the usual tiresome right-wing attacks -- Lois Lerner! Obamacare! -- but done up this way, they seem almost gentle.... Cruz has been working hard to make himself seem human and relatable.... This is scary. Cruz could be the nominee, and much of the public really might fall for this sort of thing and imagine that he's not really a bad guy, and certainly not the dangerous extremist he actually is.... Because most people don't follow politics very closely, Cruz's awfulness is not self-evident to the broad public." ...

... Whaddaya Mean, "Dangerous Extremist"? Kevin Cirilli of Bloomberg: "... Ted Cruz said Saturday that he wants one of the Senate's most vocal opponents of illegal immigration as his homeland security secretary. 'For anyone who wonders, "Can we really secure the border?" I've got three words for you: Secretary Jeff Sessions'; Cruz told a Saturday rally in the Alabama, the state that Sessions has represented for four terms in the Senate." CW: In 1986, Ronald Reagan couldn't get out of committee Sessions' nomination to a federal judgeship. Maybe the Senate wouldn't confirm Sessions to a Cabinet post either. Of course it was a very different Senate back in the day; for one thing, Sessions wasn't a member.

Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Donald Trump doubled down Friday on his love for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and said there's 'a lot of truth' to earlier comments he made about the U.S. killing people like Russia." Includes audio, sadly, absent a British accent (see yesterday's Commentariat). ...

... Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Saturday that anyone who criticizes the warm compliments he has swapped with Russian President Vladimir Putin is simply 'jealous as hell.' Although Putin has been accused of a lengthy list of human rights violations, Trump has maintained that Russia could be a powerful partner for the United States -- and one that could help the country save some money." ...

... Benjamin Oreskes of Politico: "Four years ago Mitt Romney... definitively stated that Russia was America's biggest 'geopolitical foe.' This week, the far-and-away Republican poll leader Donald Trump gave Vladimir Putin a big, wet kiss.... Trump's warm embrace of the Russian president has shocked and alarmed the Republican establishment.... As the United States and its allies try to beat back Russia's intrusions into Ukraine and Syria, Trump has ruffled countless feathers by cozying up to the Russian leader.... 'Important distinction: thug Putin kills journalists and opponents; our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants,' Romney tweeted."

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: Jeb!'s "strategy to save his faltering campaign now involves attacking Mr. Trump, forcefully and frequently.... Nonetheless, Mr. Bush still sits in single digits in the polls, and New Hampshire has become a must-win state for him." ...

... OR, as Joanna Walters of the Guardian suggests, Jeb!, after asserting that "you can't insult your way to the presidency" a la the Donald Trump model, tries to insult his way to the presidency by calling Trump a "jerk" & other stuff.

Other News & Opinion

** Andrew O'Hehir of Salon on the U.S. political landscape. Hint: it's mighty bleak. I'm sure some of you can find nits to pick with O'Hehir's assessment, but I find it depressingly accurate.

** Carlos Lozada of the Washington Post: "Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America explains the U.S. today.

Eric Yoder of the Washington Post: "President Obama has finalized a pay raise for federal employees in January, the last step in a year-long process that started and ended at the same number, 1.3 percent. Obama issued an order Friday evening making the raise effective for most federal employees, as of the first full biweekly pay period of the new year, which will start Jan. 10 for most." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine published Friday, [former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel] said he remains puzzled why [Obama] White House officials tried to 'destroy' him personally in his last days in office, adding that he was convinced the United States had no viable strategy in Syria and was particularly frustrated with National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who he said would hold meetings and focus on 'nit-picky' details." The interview is here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "For the past two years, the Pentagon has acknowledged having a severe problem with sexual assault in the ranks. Military leaders have promised Congress, the White House and their own troops that they are redoubling efforts to protect victims and punish offenders. But those pledges­ have been undermined by a string of previously undisclosed cases­ in which soldiers entrusted with key roles in the campaign against sexual assault and harassment have, in turn, been accused of committing those very offenses, according to a Washington Post investigation.... Last year, the [Army] fired or reassigned 588 people from their jobs as victim counselors, military recruiters and 'positions of trust' after background checks revealed a history of sex crimes, child abuse, drunken driving and other offenses."

Michael Rosenwald of the Washington Post: "Spooked by a year of high-profile rampages, hundreds of companies and organizations ... are racing to train their workers how to react to a shooter in their workplaces. And after decades of telling employees to lock down and shelter in place, they are teaching them to fight back if evacuating is not an option. The idea: Work as a team to disrupt and confuse shooters, opening up a split second to take them down. The paradigm shift in response -- from passive to active -- has been endorsed and promoted by the Department of Homeland Security."

Where Assault Rifles are "Good, Clean Fun." Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "In his Oval Office address on Dec. 6, [President] Obama expressed the exasperation shared by millions of Americans: How can we not limit weapons that can kill dozens in minutes? Why would any sport shooter need extra hand grips and a magazine holding 30 or even 100 cartridges? Many gun enthusiasts express deep exasperation of their own. They argue that most non-shooters do not understand the technology and appeal of modern weapons that are widely used for target shooting and, increasingly, hunting. They say proposed bans would do nothing to prevent crime or even lessen the toll of mass shootings.... Variants of the AR-15 design, a civilian version of the military's M-16 without the capacity to fire in automatic bursts, have in recent years been the highest-selling rifles in the country...."

Brian Bennett, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "The Pentagon is considering increasing the pace and scope of cyberattacks against Islamic State, arguing that more aggressive efforts to disable the extremist group's computers, servers and cellphones could help curtail its appeal and disrupt potential terrorist attacks. Military hackers and coders at Cyber Command, based at Fort Meade, Md., have developed an array of malware that could be used to sabotage the militants' propaganda and recruitment capabilities, said U.S. officials...." ...

     ... CW: Weirdly, I think this is kinda what Donald Trump has in mind when he says he wants to "shut down parts of the Internet," even though he doesn't know what he's talking about. Hillary Clinton, who admitted she didn't know how to cut off ISIS's lines of communication, suggested something similar in last night's debate, tho she isn't stupid enough to have described the process as "shutting down parts of the Internet."

Beyond the Beltway

Elahi Izadi of the Washington Post: "Old Dixie Highway is no more in Riviera Beach, Fla. Instead, motorists are driving on President Barack Obama Highway. Riviera Beach officials renamed the portion of the highway in their city limits, and the new sign carrying the name of the nation's first black president went up Thursday. Old Dixie, officials said, paid homage to an era that glorified slavery." CW: Old Dixie Highway is the main street of many towns along Florida's east coast. Here's hoping other towns get with the Riviera Beach program. (But I'm not counting on it.) (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

News Lede

AP: "Kenyan authorities are interrogating several suspects who were on an Air France flight from Mauritius to Paris that was forced to land early Sunday in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa after a device suspected to be a bomb was found in a lavatory. A few passengers are being questioned, said Kenya's Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery, speaking at a press conference at the Mombasa airport. Bomb experts are inspecting the device to see if it was an explosive, he said."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 19, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Amber Phillips of the Washington Post previews some of the issues that may come up in tonight's Democratic debate. Tops on her list: the voter data breach.

Eric Yoder of the Washington Post: "President Obama has finalized a pay raise for federal employees in January, the last step in a year-long process that started and ended at the same number, 1.3 percent. Obama issued an order Friday evening making the raise effective for most federal employees, as of the first full biweekly pay period of the new year, which will start Jan. 10 for most."

Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine published Friday, [former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel] said he remains puzzled why [Obama] White House officials tried to 'destroy' him personally in his last days in office, adding that he was convinced the United States had no viable strategy in Syria and was particularly frustrated with National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who he said would hold meetings and focus on 'nit-picky' details." The interview is here.

Elahi Izadi of the Washington Post: "Old Dixie Highway is no more in Riviera Beach, Fla. Instead, motorists are driving on President Barack Obama Highway. Riviera Beach officials renamed the portion of the highway in their city limits, and the new sign carrying the name of the nation's first black president went up Thursday. Old Dixie, officials said, paid homage to an era that glorified slavery." CW: Old Dixie Highway is the main street of many towns along Florida's east coast. Here's hoping other towns get with the Riviera Beach program. (But I'm not counting on it.)

"My Fair Donald." Prejudice & vitriol sounds evah-so much more palatable when delivered with an upper-crust British accent. British English comedian and actor Peter Serafinowicz provides the voice. Thanks to MAG for the link:


White House: "In this week's address, the President celebrated the end of the year tradition of list-making with a year-in-review list of his own":

Sarah Parvini, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "During a stop on their way to Hawaii for the holidays, [President] Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama came to [San Bernardino to] meet privately with the families of the 14 victims killed two weeks ago in the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001":

Camila Domonoske of NPR: "President Obama wrapped up 2015 by taking another round of questions from the press. At the traditional end-of-year news conference Friday afternoon, Obama began with a list of achievements, including the legalization of same-sex marriage across America and progress made toward addressing global climate change":

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "President Obama commuted the sentences of 95 drug offenders Friday, more than double the number of commutations he granted earlier this year in July, in an effort to reduce prison crowding and give relief to drug offenders who were harshly sentenced in the nation's war on drugs." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Bill Chappell of NPR: "President Obama has signed a $1.1 trillion funding bill that will keep the federal government running until Sept. 30, 2016. Earlier on Friday, the Senate gave final congressional approval to the bill, which includes nearly $700 billion in tax breaks." ...

... David Herszenhorn of the New York Times: "Congress on Friday morning overwhelmingly gave final approval to a sweeping, year-end fiscal package that includes a $1.15 trillion spending measure as well as $620 billion in tax breaks for businesses and low-income workers. The bill now goes to the White House, where President Obama has said he will sign it." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) "said Friday that he would block the nomination of the Navy's second-ranking civilian leader until the service reconsiders its decision not to punish a prominent admiral accused of retaliating against several whistleblowers.... The move ... escalates the pressure on Navy leaders to take action against Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, the commander in charge of the service's SEAL teams and other elite units.... Losey, a prominent figure in the military's secretive Special Operations forces, once commanded SEAL Team 6, the clandestine unit known for killing terrorist targets such as Osama bin Laden. He now leads the Naval Special Warfare Command and previously served as a top military aide to the White House."

Julia Preston of the New York Times: Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-TP-Va,), "the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is raising new questions about the fiancé visa granted to the Pakistani woman who with her husband carried out the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., saying her application shows she may not have met a core requirement for the visa.... Mr. Goodlatte is a fierce critic of the Obama administration and has argued that visa vetting is lax."

David Chen of the New York Times: "When Hunter College High School announced in March that it had received a $1 million donation -- the largest ever in its century-long history -- from a member of the Class of 2001, many graduates were stunned to learn who the young donor was: Martin Shkreli, a multimillionaire pharmaceuticals executive.... If the charges against Mr. Shkreli are true, his flunking out of Hunter, the prestigious Upper East Side school known for its Ivy League-bound students, was just the first in a series of failures that he would try to overcome with money, his own or other people's.... When asked this week whether Hunter was considering returning the money, a press officer declined to comment." ...

... Guardian: Community Solutions, a homeless charity "that was given a donation worth thousands of dollars by notorious pharmaceuticals entrepreneur Martin Shkreli has said it is giving the money back on moral grounds." ...

... Sarah Karlin of Politico: "Martin Shkreli, who became a lightning rod for criticism about drug price gouging, resigned as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company announced this afternoon, a day after he was charged in a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme unrelated to the company." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Reuters: "After deliberating for most of the year, Isis Pharmaceuticals has announced it will change its name to avoid being confused with the militant group Islamic State, also known as Isis. The biotechnology company said it will be called Ionis Pharmaceuticals starting 22 December and also changed its stock exchange ticker symbol to 'IONS' from 'ISIS'."

Christian Davenport of the Washington Post tells the story of Blake Percival, the whistleblower who exposed USIS for doing background checks on only a portion of the federal government hirees the company had contracted to vet. "USIS, the government contractor that had done the background checks on Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, filed for bankruptcy and went out of business." After four-and-a-half years, Percival just received a $6 million award for reporting USIS, which had fired him for trying to end their practice of dumping cases the company was hired to investigate. "After the attorneys' cut, Percival's share before taxes would be $3.3 million, he said." (Also linked yesterday.)

Liberals Can Be Creeps, Too. Anna Merlan of Jezebel: "Major progressive public relations firm FitzGibbon media abruptly shut down [Thursday] amid numerous allegations that its founder Trevor FitzGibbon sexually harassed and sexually assaulted female staffers. One woman who says she was harassed during a job interview said Friday that FitzGibbon obliquely propositioned her for sex and demanded nude photos of her, and when she declined, the job offer disappeared." ...

... Here's an earlier, related story by Merlan.

Somini Sengupta & David Sanger of the New York Times: "For the first time since the nearly five-year-old Syrian civil war began, world powers agreed on Friday at the United Nations Security Council to embrace a plan for a cease-fire and a peace process that holds the distant prospect of ending the conflict. A resolution adopted unanimously by the Security Council reflected a monthslong effort by American and Russian officials, who have long been at odds over the future of Syria, to find common national interests to stop the killing, even if they cannot yet agree on Syria's ultimate future."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

James DeHaven, et al., of the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Just over a month before Sheldon Adelson's family was revealed as the new owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, three reporters at the newspaper received an unusual assignment passed down from the newspaper's corporate management: Drop everything and spend two weeks monitoring all activity of three Clark County judges. The reason for the assignment and its unprecedented nature was never explained. One of the three judges observed was District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, whose current caseload includes Jacobs v. Sands, a long-running wrongful termination lawsuit filed against Adelson and his company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., by Steven Jacobs, who ran Sands' operations in Macau." ...

... Ravi Somaiya & Barry Meier of the New York Times: "The assignment was handed down by corporate management over the objections of the newsroom, the paper reported. No reason was specified for the assignment, the paper's editor, Michael Hengel, said in an interview on Friday, and the material, which the paper said amounted to 15,000 words, was never published."

Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times' public editor: "A Times article Sunday reported that the U.S. government had missed something that was right out there in the open: the jihadist social-media posts by one of the San Bernardino killers.... It was certainly damning -- and it was wrong.... The executive editor, Dean Baquet ... said that some new procedures need to be put in place, especially for dealing with anonymous sources, and he said he would begin working on that immediately.... He said [the reporters'] sources apparently did not know the difference between public and private messages on social-media platforms.... The Times need to fix its overuse of unnamed government sources. And it needs to slow down the reporting and editing process.... If this isn't a red alert, I don't know what will be." (Emphasis added.) (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... CW: Excellent. The Times is relying on anonymous sources so ignorant don't know the difference to a private e-mail & a public Facebook post. And nobody at the Times thought even to ask for the URLs of the alleged public postings to see for themselves that they actually existed (which they didn't). This is incredible. I've been a source for reporters at less prestigious newspapers than the Times, & the reporters always check out my tips or allegations. I would be horrified if they didn't. ...

... digby: "'Mr. Baquet rejected the idea that the sources had a political agenda that caused them to plant falsehoods. "There's no reason to think that's the case," he said,' [citing Sullivan]. That ... is just absurd. There is every reason to think that law enforcement sources who consistently leak erroneous information that is politically harmful to one party might have a political agenda. It's certainly happened before." ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "... the New York Times helped lead the nation to war by promoting false stories from 'anonymous' sources that merely sought to use the paper as an influential mouthpiece for their own claims -- an effort the Times eventually, begrudgingly itself admitted the error of -- and for us to be back in that same position now, with editors still quite certain in multiple front-page stories that their 'sources' didn't mean any harm by passing on the incendiary-but-false information -- suggests that such editorial skepticism is remarkably difficult to come by." ...

... Gary Legum of Salon: The Times story "feeds the general climate of paranoia and fear of Muslims that has taken hold in the country, particularly on the right wing.... Mistakes of this sort are like tossing gasoline on a fire." ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "The New York Times has attached a three-paragraph editor's note to a front-page Sunday story on the abilities of the U.S. government to surveil the online communications of the San Bernardino, Calif., assailants, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik.... There's a problem here.... The New York Times is attempting to preserve the structure and feel of a story about federal government misfeasance in a world where there appears to be little or no misfeasance. Consider the new-look lede: It appears to fault immigration officials for failing to uncover Malik's online views on jihad. Well of course they failed in that pursuit: Those views were expressed in private -- and quite possibly encrypted -- communications. There should be no expectation that they would be uncovered by immigration officials.... This is an attempt to retrofit a factually poisoned article with replacement parts that don't fit." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Presidential Race

Alvin Chang of Vox: "'Tis six days before Christmas and at 8 o'clock at night, Democrats have a debate -- and viewership may be light. But seriously, folks, debates have never been scheduled like this before.... Usually the national parties want people to see their candidates onstage, which is why we've never had a debate this close to Christmas, much less on a Saturday. It is free media.... Republican debates are garnering record viewership, and it's paying off as far as engaging their party." The most charitable explanation is that the DNC is incompetent. "But there's some speculation that the Democratic National Committee scheduled debates on times people don't watch specifically to protect frontrunner Hillary Clinton." ...

... Deck 'em All with Boughs of Holly (or other available bludgeons). CW: Yes, but tonight, maybe Hillary & Bernie will get in a fight! ...

Ben Jacobs & Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has regained access to the Democratic party's master voter file after a day of conflict and litigation between the insurgent Vermont senator and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).... In a statement, the campaign announced that the DNC 'capitulated' and expressed its confidence that it would be able to return to normal by Saturday morning.... The lawsuit filed with a federal court in Washington reveals that the agreement to use a shared computer system for voter registration and supporter data included a provision for a 10-day notice period for any changes to access." ...

... Maggie Haberman & Nick Corasantini of the New York Times: "A fight between the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party's leadership went public on Friday, on the eve of the year's final primary debate, as the Sanders camp accused the party of actively trying to help Hillary Clinton." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... New Lede: "A fight between the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders and the Democratic leadership went public on Friday as the party punished the campaign over a data breach and the Sanders camp sued the party and accused it of actively trying to help Hillary Clinton.... Late Friday night, the national committee and the Sanders campaign said they had come to an agreement to restore the campaign's access to the voter file by Saturday morning. The D.N.C., however, will continue to investigate the breach, according to a statement from the chairwoman, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida." ...

... Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "Brian Fallon, a Clinton campaign spokesman, called into CNN [Friday] night, very angry about the reported 24 separate intrusions by the Sanders campaign. He said this was a clear 'act of theft, stealing data from the Clinton campaign,' and Sanders isn't living up to that 'different kind of campaign' he promised. 'They were very productive,' Fallon told Wolf Blitzer. 'They were like kids in a candy store, Wolf. They had about 40 minutes where they ran wild.'" ...

... Ruby Cramer of BuzzFeed: "Hillary Clinton’s campaign is calling for rival Bernie Sanders to undergo an 'independent review' following the data breach that her top officials described on Friday evening as theft and a possible 'violation of the law.' Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, and spokesman, Brian Fallon, laid out the demands in a conference call with reporters on Friday...." ...

... Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico: "Bernie Sanders' campaign on Friday threatened to sue the Democratic Party for suspending its access to the national voter database, saying the move threatens to undermine the Vermont senator's presidential run. Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager, held a press conference on Friday in which he described how the Democratic National Committee was unfairly choking off the 'lifeblood' of the campaign." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Maryalice Parks, et al., of ABC News: "Now, it has come to light that the Sanders staffer may have downloaded and exported the Clinton campaign's data, and it may have been more than one Sanders staffer that accessed the information, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said today. Sanders campaign officials defended themselves during a news conference today, saying they are running a 'clean' campaign and that they in fact 'alerted' the DNC two months ago that campaign data was available to others." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Greg Sargent: "... based on what we know at this point about what happened, preventing the Sanders camp from accessing voter data for any meaningful length of time is not tenable.... One point that can be made right now is that the DNC needs to restore Sanders' access to the data as quickly as possible." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "PPP's newest national Republican primary poll finds Donald Trump holding his largest lead yet in the wake of Tuesday night's debate. He's at 34% to 18% for Ted Cruz, 13% for Marco Rubio, 7% for Jeb Bush, 6% for Ben Carson, 5% for Chris Christie, 4% each for Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee, 2% each for John Kasich and Rand Paul, 1% each for Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum, and less than 1% each for Jim Gilmore and George Pataki.... To put some of these findings about real modern day issues and Trump voters in context, 41% of his voters think Japanese internment was a good thing, to 37% who don't. And 41% of his supporters would favor bombing Agrabah to only 9% who are opposed to doing that. Agrabah is the country from Aladdin." ...

... Elizabeth Brown of Reason suggests six other fictional countries "we should bomb once we're done with Agrabah." Ferinstance, Candyland: "Obesity epidemic, hello." ...

... Eric Peoples: "We should set up a no fly(ing carpet) zone at least." Via Daily Kos.

** Dana Milbank cites some horrible, bigoted messages he received from Trump backers after he wrote that Trump was a bigot & a racist. And, no, his mail wasn't all against "Mo-slimes," as some writers called Muslims. Because Milbank is Jewish, he was treated to many slurs of Jews, too. "... the Trump-backers' venom is without precedent. His supporters surely aren't all bigots -- but he is bringing the bigoted in from the cold.... Is this what Republicans stand for? Is this conservatism?" ...

... CW: Milbank's column puts the lie to the notion that fear is the basis for Republicans' "unease" with a pluralistic society in which they are about to become a minority. Milbank's "correspondents" are consumed with hatred for all manner of people they perceive to be somewhat unlike themselves. No one who can be "otherized" -- and almost all of us can be -- is immune to their animosity. Trump -- and to only a slightly lesser extent, the entire Republican establishment -- has made hatred of "others" not just acceptable but desirable. It's "traditional." Republicans are "real Americans." The party has been running on bigotry for decades. All Trump has done is more clearly expose the twisted soul of the party.

Gail Collins: "Modern tradition holds that you can't win Iowa (first in the nation!) without selling your soul on ethanol.... This season, the trick for Republicans is to oppose the ethanol program on principle, while simultaneously making it clear they don't intend to do anything about it.... The most hard-core anti-ethanol candidate is Ted Cruz.... 'Oil companies give him a lot of money,' [Donald] Trump sniped.... The Cruz campaign says its man is a principled enemy of 'all energy-specific subsidies.' This is arguably true if you buy the extremely convenient theory that humongous tax breaks don't count."

David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: For a "consistent conservative," Ted Cruz changes his mind a lot.

Sean Sullivan & David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: Marco Rubio "often seems to advocate two positions at once. He tells voters that he has a personal view on the subject -- whether abortion, immigration, Syrian refugees or gay marriage. But he also has a view of what is politically possible. Which, usually, is not what he personally wants. That tactic allows Rubio to offer two right answers to the same question, and lets him carve out wiggle room on topics where none seemed possible.... But the extent of his equivocation on key issues has left many Republicans, including his supporters, wondering what he really believes." ...

... CW: Besides, it doesn't matter too much what Marco thinks, because as a senator, half the time he doesn't vote anyway. No, that's not an exaggeration. ...

... Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Sen. Marco Rubio missed Friday's Senate vote approving a massive $1.8 trillion end-of-the-year spending bill and tax package -- a day after he suggested that he could try to slow the legislation down. The Florida Republican ... was the only 2016 contender to miss the vote, which is the Senate's final vote of the year. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), three other presidential candidates, all voted against the legislation. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a fourth GOP presidential candidate from the Senate, backed the bill.... [Rubio] has missed more than half of the Senate's votes since October." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Rebecca Shabad of CBS News: "Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, on Friday defended his decision to skip a major vote in the Senate that afternoon to fund the government through September, and he took a swipe at a GOP rival [Rand Paul] who called on him to resign from Congress.... 'Here's the other point about Senator Paul.... He's the only person running who likes politics so much, he's running for two offices at the same time. I mean he wants to be a senator and president,' Rubio said."

Beyond the Beltway

Lisa Foderaro of the New York Times: "... some critics [of Donald Trump's] are demanding that his name be removed from ... a state park. The park is in Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York, straddling the Taconic State Parkway. Called (no surprise) Donald J. Trump State Park, the property was donated to the state in 2006 after Mr. Trump's plan to develop a golf course there was derailed by environmental and permitting roadblocks. Since then, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has made virtually no investment in the 435-acre park, which has no dedicated maintenance staff and, unlike most Trump properties, exudes a feeling of decay and abandonment."

Matt Grubs & Chris McKee of KRQE Albuquerque: Gov. Susana Martinez (R-N.M.) told a 911 dispatcher to "call off" the cops who were responding to a noise complaint at a Santa Fe hotel where the governor was holding a staff party. "On several occasions, Martinez pressures the dispatcher and hotel staff to reveal the identity of who made the complaint. The dispatcher and hotel staff refuse." Martinez later apologized for her "mistake." "The Governor also denies that she was intoxicated during the incident."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Kurt Masur, the music director emeritus of the New York Philharmonic, who was credited with transforming the orchestra from a sullen, lackluster ensemble into one of luminous renown, died on Saturday in Greenwich, Conn. He was 88."

New York Times: "An airstrike that mistakenly killed Iraqi troops on Friday was carried out by an American plane, United States officials said on Saturday. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said he had expressed his condolences to the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi. Mr. Carter did not offer a detailed explanation for the errant airstrike, which the Iraqi government said killed at least nine Iraqi soldiers, but said, 'It seemed to be a mistake that involved both sides.'"