The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, September 24, 2017.

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

Public Service Announcement

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

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

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

Some highlights of the Emmys:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constant Comments

Monday
Aug112014

Consent of the Governed

Jonathan Chait, in New York:

Obama's immigration plan should scare liberals, too.... The extremism of the Republican Party may have precipitated Obama’s confidence in unilateralism. To think that the cycle will end here, and that a future president won’t claim more expansive and disturbing powers to selectively enforce the law, requires an optimism not borne out by history. In the short run, we will rejoice in the sudden deliverance of massive humanitarian relief to people who have done nothing more than try to create a better life for their families. In the long run, we may look back on it with regret.

Chait is partially right. Any of the three branches of government can easily run amok. Right now we are seeing two branches -- the Congress & the Supreme Court -- do just that. House Republican leadership refuses to bring bills to the floor that would pass with bipartisan support. Many Senate Republicans refuse to cooperate in the writing of legislation. The Supreme Court is dismantling decades of Constitutional law. The only person who has any Constitutional authority to push back on conservative dysfunction, obstructionism, and yes, lawlessness is the President of the United States.

Strikingly, Chait leaves the most important party to governance out of his deliberations. He is forgetting the people: implicit in our Constitution (and explicit in the Declaration of Independence) is the Enlightened principle that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Currently, Congress will not put forward popular legislation. A good example is Congress's refusal to write gun control legislation last year, despite poll after poll that suggested the vast majority of the public -- including gun owners -- favored certain restrictions. Another good example: the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United & McCutcheon cases, each of which drastically cut back campaign finance regulation. Here again, the vast majority of citizens want campaign finance restrictions.

This is not to suggest that popular opinion is always just or wise. It isn't. But in our Constitutional system of government, the governed have little say in what the governors do. We can throw the bums out only at certain prescribed intervals, not -- as with parliamentary government -- in unscheduled votes of no-confidence. In addition, because of the structure of the nation, of the Constitution & of voting districts, we don't throw the bums out even when the majority agrees they're bums.

As a result, the governed actually oppose a good deal of what the governors are doing (or not doing). Today, they disapprove of the Congress by historically huge margins, & the majority also now disapproves of President Obama. The Supreme Court, historically well-respected, now can't muster a majority approval rating. These poll numbers point to the obvious: the governed are highly-dissatisfied with the performance of the governors.

I also do not suggest that governing-by-polling is just or wise. At times in our history (or perhaps even now), the majority of Americans favored an anti-flag-burning Constitutional amendment -- which would be so peripheral as to offend but a tiny aspect of our Constitutional values -- & a balanced-budget amendment -- which would wreak havoc upon our economy during downturns.

Still, it is not "dangerous," as Chait argues, for one branch of government -- in this case, the executive -- to unilaterally enact the will of the people when that will is inherently reasonable & fair. I cannot, for instance, think of any law-abiding Americans who would suffer under an assault-weapons ban. Similarly, the Supreme Court was merely playing catch-up with public opinion when it struck down part of DOMA in U.S v. Windsor

Our form of representative democracy assumes that legislators will legislate, presidents will preside & judges will rule impartially. The Constitutional structure, as it has developed under the two-party system, breaks down, however, if one of the two parties becomes essentially nihilistic, as the Republican party is now.

If the government is to function as the Founders intended, & as the people expect, somebody has to do something. That is the argument President Obama has been making for the past few months. He is suggesting, in a way, a limited form of parliamentary government, the structure of which permits the ruling or dominant party to enact pretty much what it wants, while the opposition has little recourse but to (a) try to sway public opinion against the government, & (b) shout at the prime minister.

In fact, most Americans seem to think we have a pariliamentary form of government. Presidential elections always get the highest voter turnout: that's when the unwashed masses rouse themselves to do their Constitutional duty to vote for the person whom they believe will do the best job of solving problems & moving the country forward. Voting for members of Congress & state representatives, etc., are usually afterthoughts except among highly-engaged voters.

Indeed, as numerous liberal pundits have pointed out recently, Americans think that if there is a problem, it is up to the president to fix it. If the problem persists because of Congressional inaction, the president still bears the blame. In regard to the surge of children crossing the border from Central America, for instance, polls have showed that the public blames President Obama, even though the Congress has refused to fund Obama administration proposals to alleviate the influx.

It is important to stipulate that we have no idea what sort of executive action President Obama will take in regard to immigration reform. But my guess is that whatever he does will fall within the range of the popular consensus. That is, he will use "the will of the people" as his guide, taking into account the limits of his Constitutional authority. This does not mean of course that all Americans will be happy with Obama's edict or that Republicans won't squeal. We have a substantial continent of xenophobes. isolationists & mean-spirited ignoramuses among us, the vast majority of whom vote Republican.

Chait's argument that liberals won't like it when a Republican president goes all-in for executive actions is correct. But I would counter that if we elect a Republican president, the voters will expect him (and it will be "he/him") to "fix things" in a conservative/antediluvian manner. Further, they will squawk if he fails, no matter how complicit the other branches of government. George W. Bush, after all, blew foreign policy big time, and he did it with plenty of help from Congress. But Americans are not blaming Hillary Clinton, et al., for greenlighting the Iraq War (as most Democrats did); the public still blames Bush. (Further weakening Chait's position, Steve M. argues that "a Republican president will do whatever the hell he wants no matter what.")

President Obama has received two huge mandates (2008 and 2012) to run the country. He seems ready, at last, to do so, and to do so by the only means possible when the Congress will not perform its Constitutional functions. Even if I may disagree with the substance of whatever executive actions he takes, I applaud Obama's newly-founded determination to take them.

Monday
Aug112014

The Commentariat -- August 12, 2014

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama said Monday that Iraq had taken a 'promising step forward' in forming a more inclusive government even as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki appeared to resist efforts to replace him as the country's leader. Speaking briefly to reporters from his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard, Mr. Obama did not mention Mr. Maliki but pledged his support for Haider al-Abadi, the man chosen to succeed him. And Mr. Obama vowed to step up his support for a new government in its intensifying fight against Sunni militants":

... Loveday Morris & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Iraq’s president chose a veteran Shiite politician to lead the government on Monday, setting the stage for a vicious political showdown in a country already struggling to contain an extremist Islamist insurgency. Even with the odds stacked irreconcilably against him, the incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, dug in for a fight. He used legal channels to argue that the appointment of 62-year-old Haider al-Abadi, who has been called on to form a government, is invalid." ...

... AFP: "Iran, a key ally of Iraq's sidelined Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said Tuesday it backed the legal process which led to him being replaced, following the nomination of Haidar al-Abadi as premier. The statement was the first official signal that Maliki no longer enjoys the support of his fellow Shiite leaders and politicians in Tehran to stay on as head of government in Baghdad." ...

... Katharine Murphy of the Guardian: "US combat forces will not re-enter Iraq, John Kerry insists, but the US says it will explore more 'political, economic and security options' as the country transitions out of political deadlock with a new prime minister. During a visit to Australia for the annual Ausmin talks, the secretary of state told reporters the US government congratulated Haider al-Abadi on his nomination, and he urged the incoming prime minister to form a new, inclusive and functional cabinet 'as swiftly as possible'." ...

... Anne Gearan: "The United States is ready to offer significant additional economic and military aid to Iraq under a new, less sectarian, government, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Tuesday. The Obama administration is offering the prospect of more money and military backing short of combat forces as an inducement toward the rapid formation of a new government to replace Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki." ...

... Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast: "President Obama got angry at lawmakers who suggested in a private meeting that he should have armed the Syrian rebels, calling the criticism 'horseshit.' CW: While it's impossible to know what would have happened had the U.S. armed the Syrian moderates, Obama's reasoning seems sound. ...

... NEW. ** John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "... what really stands from the [Clinton & Obama] interviews is the strident tone that Clinton adopted in her comments on Gaza and radical Islam. In defending the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's deadly response to Hamas's rocket attacks, she sounded almost like a spokesperson for [AIPAC]. In talking about the threat of militant Islam more generally, her words echoed those of Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, who has called for a generation-long campaign against Islamic extremism -- a proposal that one of his former cabinet ministers dubbed 'back to the Crusades.'" Read the whole post. Thanks to Diane for the lead. ...

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "For the 19 months since Hillary Rodham Clinton departed as President Obama's secretary of state, she and Mr. Obama, and their staffs, have labored to preserve a veneer of unity over how they worked together and how they view the world. On Sunday, the veneer shattered -- the victim of Mrs. Clinton's remarkably blunt interview with Jeffrey Goldberg..., [also linked here yesterday] in which she criticized not just Mr. Obama's refusal to aid the rebels in Syria, but his shorthand description of his entire foreign policy.... Mrs. Clinton is suggesting that she and the president hold different views on how best to project American power: His view is cautious, inward-looking, suffused with a sense of limits, while hers is muscular, optimistic, unabashedly old-fashioned." ...

... CW: Precisely why I don't think Clinton is in any way a shoo-in for the presidency. The majority of Americans now, as usual, are forward-looking. Going back to the good ole days when use of force was the U.S.'s way of solidifying its world leadership is not just immoral, it's "unabashedly old-fashioned." Clinton is the Been-There-Done-That candidate. Nostalgia could have worked in 2008 when the country was traumatized by the economic collapse, but it is far less likely to work now. ...

... CNN gossip reporter Jim Acosta: "Only days after offering a stinging rebuke of President Barack Obama's foreign policy, Hillary Clinton plans to attend a party in Martha's Vineyard alongside the President on Wednesday." ...

... "The Obama Paradox." Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect: Barack Obama "is one of the best-informed and most thoughtful foreign policy presidents we have had in a long time, but his very appreciation of complexity often comes across as indecision. No president ever wins points for being Hamlet. In today's foreign policy crises, there are few good choices. Somehow, this president needs to hold on to his prudence while finding more decisiveness." CW: I disagree with Kuttner on his analysis of the Middle East/U.S. analogy. I think Obama's analogy is apt. I probably disagree with Kuttner's larger point, too, but I'm not well-enough informed to be certain.

Zeke Miller of Time: "President Barack Obama hinted at the possibility of an upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court Monday during a fundraiser for Senate Democrats. Speaking to a group of donors to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on a break from his vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Obama said he needs Democrats to hold a majority this year to fill vacancies to the high court.... A White House spokesperson said Obama did not have a specific vacancy in mind Monday."

Dana Milbank says President Obama should not have gone on vacation: "The highly visible wartime vacation (Obama allowed himself to be photographed on a putting green Saturday with NBA star Ray Allen and retired pro-football player Ahmad Rashad) was not looking any better Monday as Iraq's political crisis worsened, NATO's chief declared a 'high probability' of Russian military intervention in Ukraine and Gaza remained on a knife edge."

Tim Mak of the Daily Beast: "On both sides of the aisle, there is a racial pay gap in campaign politics. Asian, Black and Latino staffers are paid less than their white counterparts, according to an analysis by the New Organizing Institute. For example, African-American staffers on Democratic campaigns were paid 70 cents for each dollar their white counterparts made. For Hispanic staffers in Democratic campaigns, the figure was 68 cents on the dollar.... Jamal Simmons, a Democratic political operative[, said,] 'The problem is: they don't hire African Americans, Latinos in the parts of the campaigns where they spend the most money. The most money in campaigns is spent in communications, polling and data. In those parts of the campaign, it's very much mostly white.... There's a presumption that minorities can't manage "white" issues. There's a presumption that white voters won't like to see a black press secretary, or that white voters won't want to see an African-American or Latino political director."

Alexandra Alter of the New York Times (August 4): Rick "Perlstein's new 856-page book, 'The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,' which comes out Tuesday[, August 5], is proving to be almost as divisive as Reagan himself. It has drawn both strong reviews from prominent book critics, and sharp criticism from some scholars and commentators who accuse Mr. Perlstein of sloppy scholarship, improper attribution and plagiarism." ...

... Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times public editor: "My take: There's a problem here. An article about polarized reaction to a high-profile book is, of course, fair game. But the attention given to the plagiarism accusation is not.... This one comes from the author of a book on the same subject with an opposing political orientation. By taking it seriously, The Times conferred a legitimacy on the accusation it would not otherwise have had. And while it is true that Mr. Perlstein and his publisher were given plenty of opportunity to respond, that doesn't help much. It's as if The Times is saying: Here's an accusation; here's a denial; and, heck, we don't really know. We're staying out of it.... So I'm with the critics. The Times article amplified a damaging accusation of plagiarism without establishing its validity and doing so in a way that is transparent to the reader."

Senate Races

Meredith Shiner of Yahoo! News: "... the path to victory in a state where both [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell and President Obama have approval ratings below 40 percent appears to involve taking a startlingly negative, partisan tone. Tough-talking television and radio ads have begun to flood the airwaves, an assault that will only grow more intense as summer turns to fall in a race whose costs are expected to top $100 million. McConnell and his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, speak as if Kentucky is in the middle of a cultural Civil War."

Mark Leibovich of the New York Times Magazine assesses the Michelle Nunn campaign strategy book that the National Review got hold of last month. Leibovich shows, point by point, how "this document confirms every worst suspicion that people tend to have about campaigns." CW: I don't think most of us needed written confirmation of most of these points. But kind of funny, especially where Leibovich goes into lit-crit mode.

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Zapotosky & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "With his Virginia Beach rental properties hemorrhaging tens of thousands of dollars each year, former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell turned repeatedly to family and wealthy benefactors for large loans, a man who helped manage the properties' finances testified Monday."

Wesley Lowery & Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The FBI on Monday launched a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer, an incident that has set off days of unrest in this St. Louis suburb and pushed the question of racial fairness again to the forefront of national discussion. Michael Brown, a college-bound 18-year-old, was shot and killed Saturday in this small, predominantly African American city after an apparent confrontation with police. His death immediately inspired both solemn vigils and angry protests, which in recent days have left some stores looted, buildings burned and shattered glass in the streets. At least 32 people have been arrested on suspicion of looting." ...

... Alan Zagier of the AP: "Police in riot gear fired tear gas to try to disperse a crowd in a St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black teenager had been fatally shot by a police officer over the weekend. Between two nights of unrest, a community forum hosted by the local NAACP chapter Monday drew hundreds to a sweltering church in Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot multiple times. Witnesses have said that Brown had his hands raised when the unnamed officer approached with his weapon drawn and fired repeatedly."

Mark Stern of Slate: "For the first time since the Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June of 2013, a court has ruled that the constitution does not protect gay couples’ right to get married. The decision, issued by Roane County Circuit Judge Russell E. Simmons Jr., of Kingston, Tennessee, holds that Tennessee's gay marriage ban is rationally related to state interests and thus does not violate the Constitution's equal protection clause.... His ruling, however, may signal the beginning of some rough sledding for gay marriage advocates. Last week, a panel on the 6th Circuit, which covers Tennessee, seemed poised to rule against gay marriage. If they do so, their decision would all but force the Supreme Court to confront the issue head-on."

News Ledes

New York Times: "After two days of defiant speeches and special security units deployed in the Iraqi capital, raising the specter of a coup, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki appeared to back away on Tuesday from his implied threat to use force to stay in power, issuing a statement saying that the army should stay out of politics."

Sky News: "The UN says up to 35,000 refugees have escaped Iraq's Mount Sinjar and are 'exhausted' and 'dehydrated'. The refugees, mostly from the minority Yazidi sect, managed to reach northern Iraq's Kurdistan region through Syria over the past three days."

Hollywood Reporter: "Lauren Bacall, the willowy actress whose husky voice, sultry beauty and all-too-short May-December romance with Humphrey Bogart made her an everlasting icon of Hollywood, has died, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. She was 89." ...

     ... Update: The New York Times obituary is here.

Los Angeles Times: "Actor and comedian Robin Williams committed suicide by hanging himself after first apparently trying to to slash one of his wrists, authorities said Tuesday. Marin County sheriff's Lt. Keith Boyd said Williams hanged himself with a belt in his bedroom, where he was found by his personal assistant shortly before noon on Monday."

Hill: "The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said it has endorsed the use of experimental drugs to help treat victims of the Ebola virus, which more than 1,800 people have contracted in several countries in Africa."

Los Angeles Times: "The NBA announced that Steve Ballmer’s $2-billion purchase of the Clippers had closed on Tuesday, making the former Microsoft CEO the undisputed owner of the team."

New York Times: "An enormous Russian convoy of about 280 trucks carrying humanitarian aid has left Moscow for southeastern Ukraine, Russian television and news agencies reported Tuesday.... President Vladimir V. Putin and other senior Russian officials all insisted on Monday that it was a peaceful convoy coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross."

AP: "A temporary Israel-Hamas truce was holding for a second day Tuesday as marathon, indirect negotiations on a lasting cease-fire and a long-term solution for the battered Gaza Strip were set to resume in Cairo." ...

... Guardian: "Local officials and humanitarian workers began to inspect the latest damage the war had caused in the overcrowded enclave, with assessments indicating earlier estimates may have been optimistic. In Gaza City, which has a population of half a million, 20%-25% of the housing stock had been damaged, said Nihad al-Mughni of the engineering department. Mohammed al-Kafarna, the mayor of Beit Hanoun, a northern town which saw fierce fighting and heavy bombardment, said 70% of homes were uninhabitable. 'Basically the town is unliveable. There is no power, water or communications. There are not the basics for life,' he said."

AP: "Police in riot gear fired tear gas to try to disperse a crowd in a St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black teenager had been fatally shot by a police officer over the weekend. Between two nights of unrest, a community forum hosted by the local NAACP chapter Monday drew hundreds to a sweltering church in Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot multiple times. Witnesses have said that Brown had his hands raised when the unnamed officer approached with his weapon drawn and fired repeatedly."

The New York Times' obituary of Robin Williams is here. David Edelstein's appreciation, in New York, is here. ...

... Hollywood Reporter: "Robin Williams's unexpected death Monday brings to an end the comedian's long battle with cocaine and alcohol addiction."

Monday
Aug112014

The Commentariat -- August 11, 2014

Lolita Baldor & Julie Pace of the AP: "The Obama administration has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces who have started to make gains against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, senior U.S. officials said Monday. Previously, the U.S. had insisted on only selling arms to the Iraqi government in Baghdad, but the Kurdish peshmerga fighters had been losing ground to Islamic State militants in recent weeks. The officials wouldn't say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn't the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations.... The administration is also very close to approving plans for the Pentagon to arm the Kurds, a senior official said." ...

... Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The weaponry is said to be light arms and ammunition, brokered not through the department of defense -- which supplies Baghdad and its security forces with heavy weaponry -- but the Central Intelligence Agency, which is better positioned to supply the Kurdish peshmerga with Russian-made guns like AK-47s that the US military does not use." CW: It's unclear to me whether Ackerman has done additional reporting to confirm the CIA's role or whether he is interpreting the AP story. ...

... President Obama, Saturday, on the U.S. effort in Iraq:

... Terrence Mccoy of the Washington Post: Nuri al-"Maliki, critic& after critic says, has ... shown himself to be a bullish and sectarian political player, one who has alienated or ousted many Kurds and Sunnis from his Shiite-dominated government -- a move that contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. And even after Mosul's fall earlier this year, when such criticism intensified, Maliki didn't temper such unrest with Sunni appointments, soothing words or conciliation.... On Sunday night, the U.S. government announced it was done with Maliki, throwing its support behind President Fuad Masum." ...

Juan Cole, on al-Maliki's move, which looks suspiciously like the beginnings of an attempted coup. ....

We used to restrain Maliki all the time. U.S. Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, deputy commander in Iraq until January 2011

... In this fascinating piece, Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker (April 2014) illuminates how an unnamed C.I.A. agent, with backing from Dubya's Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, chose al-Maliki as Iraq's PM, & how the U.S., under both the Bush & Obama administrations, "created a dictator." ...

... Tim Arango & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times on "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the architect of its violent campaign to redraw the map of the Middle East.... At every turn, Mr. Baghdadi's rise has been shaped by the United States' involvement in Iraq -- most of the political changes that fueled his fight, or led to his promotion, were born directly from some American action. And now he has forced a new chapter of that intervention, after ISIS' military successes and brutal massacres of minorities in its advance prompted President Obama to order airstrikes in Iraq." ...

... Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic: Hillary Clinton "outlines her foreign-policy doctrine. She says this about President Obama's: 'Great nations need organizing principles, and "Don't do stupid stuff" is not an organizing principle.... She used her sharpest language yet to describe the 'failure' that resulted from the [Obama administration] decision to keep the U.S. on the sidelines during the first phase of the Syrian uprising." ...

... CW: What Clinton, & millions of other people, BTW, fail to understand is that in 99 cases out of 100, there is not a "right answer," (though Clinton does admit she's not sure arming the rebels would have stopped ISIS, so she's not an imbecile of the McCain variety). One rare, obvious "right answer" is aiding the Yazidi. But helping Syrian moderates -- as Clinton wuld have done -- would not make ISIS extremists less extreme. You can of course suppress such extremism by various forceful means, as Saddam did for years (and as Clinton suggests doing here), but you have to win hearts & minds to effect lasting change. Force is seldom, if ever, the way to change opinion; rather, it solidifies the views of the opposition, giving them more weapons in their ideological arsenal & making them more extreme. Obama gets this. On the other hand, accommodating extremists doesn't help, either. Obama learned the hard way -- as he tried again & again to accommodate U.S. right-wing extremism. "Don't do stupid shit" is in fact both a strategy as well as a philosophy; it's a crude expression of political realism. ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "... no Clinton interview would be complete without a vague admission that she's running in 2016.... When asked about her own 'organizing principle,' she unveiled a potential campaign slogan: 'Peace, progress, and prosperity.' ... That's definitely an old-fashioned idea. MSNBC notes that 'Peace, prosperity, and progress' was the slogan for Dwight Eisenhower's 1956 campaign, and 'prosperity and progress' was Al Gore's campaign slogan in 2000." CW: Hey, it nearly worked for Al. If only he had added "peace," those Nader voters in Florida probably would have gone for Gore.

Paul Krugman: "Often -- not always, of course, but far more often than the free-market faithful would have you believe -- there is, in fact, a good reason for the government to get involved. Pollution controls are the simplest example, but not unique.... Commonly, self-proclaimed libertarians deal with the problem of market failure both by pretending that it doesn't happen and by imagining government as much worse than it really is.... You shouldn't believe talk of a rising libertarian tide; despite America's growing social liberalism, real power on the right still rests with the traditional alliance between plutocrats and preachers. But libertarian visions of an unregulated economy do play a significant role in political debate...." Krugman also provides reminders, as if we need them, that Almost-Veep Paul Ryan & Red State's Erik Erickson are always colossally wrong. ...

... Also, there are excellent comments in the August 9 Comments section -- too many to pull forward -- re: Krugman's thesis.

Adam Nagourney of the New York Times: "Republicans, who had appeared to hit a high-water mark in control of statehouses in recent years, are seeking to pick off another half-dozen chambers this year, taking advantage of President Obama's persistent unpopularity, anxiety about the economy, and a history of anemic turnout among Democrats in nonpresidential election years. In addition, the party that controls the White House almost always loses seats in statehouses in those years.... This looming battle is a reminder of the enduring political import of the 2010 midterm elections, in which Republicans, powered by the Tea Party and anger over Mr. Obama's health care program, picked up control of 23 state legislatures. These were the legislatures that oversaw redrawing legislative and congressional district lines in most states, typically in favor of the party in power, which has only enhanced their electoral prospects this year." ...

... ** Jason Zengerle of the New Republic writes a compelling, report that puts the GOP's Southern resurgence & ownership of state legislatures in its historical context.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Lame-Stream Media Rising. CW: For those of you holding out hope that any of the major teevee networks could restore some heft & credibility to the Sunday morning news desert, I have come to dash your dreams. Mike Allen (not exactly the pride of journalism himself, as he demonstrates once again in his "conventional wisdom" hat-tip to Russert) of Politico: "Chuck Todd, a political obsessive and rabid sports fan, is the likely successor to David Gregory as moderator of 'Meet the Press,' with the change expected to be announced in coming weeks, according to top political sources. The move is an effort by NBC News President Deborah Turness to restore passion and insider cred to a network treasure that has been adrift since the death in 2008 of the irreplaceable Tim Russert." ...

... AND, as reminder of what Todd thinks of journalism -- Tom Kludt of TPM (September 2013): "MSNBC host Chuck Todd said ... that when it comes to misinformation about the new federal health care law, don't expect members of the media to correct the record.... He disagrees with those who argue that the media should educate the public on the law. According to Todd, that's President Barack Obama's job." ... CW: Todd not only practices he-said/she-said "journalism," he embraces it. Letting "both sides" spin their spin is part of his credo. It's step-aside "journalism." In Todd's view, the Fourth Estate should act as mute observer-recorder, not as a vital check-and-balance to government actors. There has never been a time, of course, when supposed journalists didn't serve as lapdogs or mouthpieces for politicians, but for a major network news organization -- according to Allen -- to imply that such a practice would "restore passion and insider cred" to its news operation is pretty discouraging. And, no, I wasn't expecting them to tap Rachel Maddow. ...

... Update. Driftglass on the Ascension of Todd: "And so [NBC's] decision to stroll 90 feet past David Gregory's office to find another NBC Village-sanctioned 'Both Sides' delivery system for their weekly 'newsmakers and political junkies' Centrist porn makes perfect sense... The problem is that somewhere people with wealth and power -- the people who are footing the bill for all of this -- remain enthralled by the same, monstrous production of the same grotesque lie over and over and over again. The problem is that somewhere those people are still standing and applauding, and will go right on standing and applauding whether their 'Both Sides' fairy tales are reflected back to them through the lens of David Gregory or Chuck Todd or Joe Scarborough or a Pekingese riding a pachyderm." CW: Read the whole post for a fabulous demo of the "both sides" NBC "News" philosophy, as rendered by Poor Greggers in a "Press the Meat" dialog with Chuck hisself (Turness apparently likes to twist the knife. Poor Greggers).

Danielle Rhoades-Ha of the New York Times. Press Release: "The New York Times announced today that Maureen Dowd is joining The Times Magazine as a staff writer. The move will mark Ms. Dowd's return to her roots as a narrative journalist and is the first in a series of expected announcements regarding the magazine's major redesign, set for early 2015. Ms. Dowd will also continue to write her weekly Sunday opinion column." ...

... Joe Coscarelli of New York runs down "Maureen Dowd's greatest hits (as a reporter).

Beyond the Beltway

AP: "A federal judge has extended a months-long moratorium on executions in Ohio into next year as questions mount about the effectiveness of a new, two-drug combination being used to carry out the death penalty."

The Washington Post liveblogs Day 11 of the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell & his wife Maureen.

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "Robin Williams, a comic and sitcom star in the 1970s who became an Oscar-winning dramatic actor, died Monday at 63 in Marin County. The Marin County Sheriff's Office said he appears to have committed suicide. The news of the beloved actor's death rocked the nation. Channels broke into their usual programming to make the announcement, and within minutes, he dominated online trending topics. Williams was hailed as a comic genius was a star of both movies and television for more than three decades. But he also suffered from substance abuse problems."

Wall Street Journal: "Islamist extremists who have overrun swaths of Iraq made a rare retreat in an area hit by U.S. airstrikes and gave up some territory they had won from Kurdish forces, in an early sign of impact from the three-day-old American campaign."

New York Times: "Iraq's president on Monday formally nominated a candidate to replace Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a political breakthrough that also seemed to take Iraq into uncharted territory, as Mr. Maliki gave no signal that he was willing to relinquish power. The nomination of Haider al-Abadi, who is a member of Mr. Maliki's Shiite Islamist Dawa Party, came hours after a dramatic late-night television appearance in which a defiant Mr. Maliki challenged the Iraqi president, Fuad Masum, and threatened legal action for not choosing him as the nominee."

Friday
Aug082014

The Commentariat -- August 9, 2014

CW: No more postings until late Sunday, & light postings for a few days thereafter. I'm traveling for a few days & taking a vacation for a few more.

New York Times: President Obama talks to Tom Friedman. ...

... Michael Shear & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama said Friday that he was open to supporting a sustained effort to drive Sunni militants out of Iraq if Iraqi leaders form a more inclusive government, even as he vowed that the United States had no intention of 'being the Iraqi air force.'” ...

... Mark Landler, et al., of the New York Times on what led to President Obama's decision in Iraq. ...

... Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post -- same subject. ...

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama’s decision Friday to launch airstrikes in Iraq reflected an important shift for a president who had spent months making the case for how the United States could achieve its foreign policy objectives without the use of force. His conclusion: Sometimes there is no substitute for military might." ...

... Julie Davis & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "President Obama drew bipartisan support on Friday from members of Congress for his decision to authorize military strikes in Iraq, but the backing was tempered with substantial concern — including within Mr. Obama’s own party — about his strategy for the operation. Republicans suggested that the administration had acted too slowly and timidly to confront the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and now was moving too cautiously against the group. Some said he should not rule out ground troops. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio accused the president of 'parochial thinking' that had emboldened the enemy and 'squanders the sacrifices Americans have made.'” ...

... CW: Hah! There is no "thinker" more "parochial" than John Boehner, whose worldview doesn't extend beyond John Boehner. ...

... AND then there's Not-President (Thank God) John McCain, in a class by himself (thank god). Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast: "President Obama’s limited strikes on ISIS in northern Iraq are 'pinpricks' that are 'meaningless' and 'worse than nothing,' according to one of his fiercest foreign policy critics, Sen. John McCain. ...

... Juan Cole: "Obama’s hope that the so-called 'Islamic State' can be stopped by US air power is likely forlorn. The IS is a guerrilla force, not a conventional army. But one thing is certain. A US-policed no fly zone or no go zone over Iraqi Kurdistan is a commitment that cannot easily be withdrawn and could last decades, embroiling the US in further conflict." Cole provides some evidence for his assertion.

Peter Hermann of the Washington Post: "The death on Monday of James S. Brady, the press secretary for President Ronald Reagan who was wounded in an assassination attempt in 1981, has been ruled a homicide by gunshot by the Virginia medical examiner’s office, according to District police department’s chief spokeswoman. There was no immediate word on whether the shooter, John W. Hinckley, who has been treated at St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital, could face new criminal charges. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity after he shot Reagan and three others on March 30, 1981."

Michael Liedtke of the AP: "A federal judge rejected as too low a $324.5 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging Google and Apple conspired with several other technology companies to block their top workers from getting better job offers.The Friday ruling by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh concludes the more than 60,000 high-tech workers represented in the 3-year-old lawsuit deserve to be paid more money, based on the evidence indicating their earning power was undermined by the collusion among their employers."

Conservative legal scholar Jonathan Adler in the Washington Post: "Many Republicans and conservatives are upset with the Administration’s approach to immigration, in particular the deferred deportation of illegal immigrants.  There may well be good policy arguments against Obama’s policies, but there’s a strong case the actual law is on the president’s side.... Immigration law is an area in which — for good or ill — Congress has given the executive wide latitude." ...

... Greg Sargent interviews attorney John Sandweg, who helped write the DACA or DREAMers order President Obama signed. Sandweg says, "The president is doing what every single law enforcement agency across the country does: Put in place rational priorities to ensure that limited resources are focused on the populations that pose the greatest threat to public safety and border security.... ICE officers have always exercised discretion.... If you choose to expend resources on those who have been here 15 years and have never committed a criminal offense, that means somebody who has committed a felony is more likely to be able to stay in the U.S.... Longstanding law already allows for individuals who are granted deferred action to gain work authorization." Read the whole interview, plus Sargent's queries of "immigration reform advocate" David Leopold.

CW: Gee, I just got my weekly report, "This Week in News for Senator Rand Paul." It was "Dr. Rand Paul did this" & "Dr. Rand met with So-&-So." But not a word about "The Real New This Week for Senator Rand Paul." No GIF! No video of his running away from young DREAMers! Maybe Dr. Sen. Rand Paul didn't read his press clippings. Maybe Dr. Rand Paul needs to get his eyes examined. ...

... CW: Li'l Randy has some ideas on immigration, which he failed to share with those DREAMer young people, likely because he would send them back where their parents came from. I have allowed Charles Pierce to illuminate, since the original story comes from Breitbart "News," & I don't want to encourage those people. It turns out that, according to Paul, the immigrant crisis is only partly President Obama's fault (for letting some DREAMers stay in the U.S.); Rick Perry shares the blame! (Oddly, this particular radio interview does not make the cut on "This Week in News for Sen. Rand Paul.") As Pierce notes, we are not "we are living through the libertarian moment, at least as represented by Senator Aqua Buddha. This is because 'the libertarian moment' is a scam."

... Sam Biddle of Gawker: "Is there any way to keep white people from using computers, before this whole planet is ruined? I ask because the two enterprising white entrepreneurs above just made yet another app for avoiding non-white areas of your town — and it's really taking off! Crain's reports on SketchFactor, a racist app made for avoiding 'sketchy' neighborhoods, which is the term young white people use to describe places where they don't feel safe because they watched all five seasons of The Wire."

Paul Waldman on the New York Times' decision to call torture, torture: "when [executive editor Dean] Baquet says the Times 'avoided a label that was still in dispute,' what he's saying is that the paper essentially outsourced its judgment on what is and isn't torture to the Bush administration. All that was required to put the matter 'in dispute' was for the administration to declare, beyond all reason and common sense, that things like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and stress positions aren't torture.... So, presumably, if tomorrow the Obama administration decided to refer to Republicans as 'the Hater party,' the Times would no longer use the term 'Republican' in its pages, because now that's 'in dispute.'" ...

     ... CW: AND one does have to wonder why the Times doesn't consider the name of the Democratic party "in dispute," inasmuch as Republicans call it the "Democrat party," which they seem to think is some kind of cleverly derogatory epithet.

Richard Leiby of the Washington Post reviews John Dean's new book The Nixon Defense, which is based on Watergate tapes. "The historical value of Dean’s book — which unspools as a practically moment-by-moment chronicle of the White House machinations starting soon after the break-in — is one thing. The sheer entertainment value of the tapes he quotes is another." CW: The review itself is fairly entertaining.

Congressional Races

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts is not amused that Mitch McConnell's wife Elaine Chao chose to sit on the Board of Bloomberg Philanthropies shortly after Bloomberg gave $50MM to the Sierra Club "to continue funding its campaign to keep new coal-fired power plants from opening and has supported other attacks on coal and coal miners’ jobs.... One has to wonder just where Sen. McConnell is with respect to this, and whether he supports his wife’s continued service on the board of this organization, one whose actions have already cost thousands of coal miners in Kentucky and elsewhere their jobs."

Chas Sisk of the Tennessean: "U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais declared victory in the Republican primary for the 4th Congressional District, as state officials hustled to finalize results from Thursday's vote. Robert Jameson, a spokesman for the DesJarlais campaign, said they do not believe enough ballots remain uncounted to shift the outcome of the race. DesJarlais holds a 35-vote lead over state Sen. Jim Tracy in an unofficial tally." CW: Got that? A 35-vote lead in an unofficial tally & he's sure he won. An asshole in too many ways to count. ...

... Gail Collins counts a few: "Wow, it appears that Republicans in Tennessee just gave a vote of confidence to a right-wing congressman-doctor who has a history of having sex with his patients and encouraging the women in his life to end inconvenient pregnancies by abortion.... As a member of Congress, DesJarlais eagerly and persistently urged that women be deprived of the right to do the very thing that he seems so enthusiastic about when an unwanted pregnancy interfered with his own life.... So, at best, we have a man who made a decision that worked for him at the time. Then he regretted it and changed his moral principles. Then he decided that nobody else was ever going to have the right to make that moral choice for herself, if he had anything to do with it. Some things are really unforgivable.... So how the heck did DesJarlais end up doing so well? Maybe it’s just because he’s already there.... Despite all the whining about unpredictable voters, a seat in Congress is still a hard thing to lose."

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Prosecutors focused on secrecy on the 10th day of the [McDonnells corruption] trial, showing that [Jonnie] Williams kept his own company in the dark about the items he gave the McDonnells while also trying to prove that the McDonnells themselves took steps to hide their financial ties to the businessman.... To win a conviction, prosecutors must show the McDonnells were engaged in a corrupt bargain with Williams. They are allowed to use evidence they worked to conceal the arrangement to make their case." ...

... Theodore Schleifer of the New York Times: "The second week of the corruption trial against [Virginia Gov. Bob] McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, ended much like it began, with the character and foresight of his wealthy donor Jonnie R. Williams Sr. under fire. Mr. Williams is the star witness in the prosecution’s case, which argues that Mr. McDonnell took official action to benefit Mr. Williams’s dietary supplement, Anatabloc, in return for gifts and loans. On Friday, the chairman of the board of Mr. Williams’s company, Star Scientific, testified that Mr. Williams had displayed 'the most egregious errors in judgment.'”

Ahiza Garcia of TPM: "A Democratic candidate for a judicial seat in Plainfield, Conn. was forced to answer questions about her husband this week after a watchdog group exposed his ties to the white supremacist movement.... '"What am I supposed to do? Divorce him? It’s not unusual for husbands and wives to have different views,'" the candidate Anna Zubkova said. CW: Yes, dear. Divorce him. He's a reprehensible scum.

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "The [Texas anti-abortion] law will soon force El Paso’s sole abortion clinic to shut its doors, leaving no abortion providers in all of West Texas. Opponents of the law said that would force women to embark on a lengthy drive to the nearest abortion provider in San Antonio. For women in El Paso, for example, it amounts to a nearly eight-hour, 550-mile trip one way. The state’s lawyers said that no such burden would exist, and that no long drives would be necessary, because West Texas women can go to the New Mexico clinic, 15 miles outside El Paso. But the state’s reliance on the New Mexico clinic is being disparaged by the law’s critics, who say Texas’ use of an out-of-state clinic is contrary to a recent abortion ruling in Mississippi. And it remained unclear whether the Santa Teresa clinic meets the new standards Texas has mandated."

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times: "With Florida’s election schedule in disarray after a judge ruled the state’s congressional map unconstitutional, state lawmakers moved one step closer to resolving the uncertainty during a special session on Friday in Tallahassee. Redistricting committees for both the state House and Senate on Friday approved a redesigned congressional map — drawn in private by the two Republican committee heads, members of their staff and outside lawyers — that they expect will comply with the court’s orders. The redrafted map makes relatively minor changes to the two congressional districts that were ordered redrawn: the Fifth District, held by Representative Corrine Brown, a Democrat, and the 10th District, held by Representative Daniel Webster, a Republican.