The Wires
The Ledes

Thursday, April 19, 2018.

New York Times: "Two years after the sudden death of Prince by accidental fentanyl overdose, one of the lingering mysteries surrounding the enigmatic musician concerned how and where he obtained the powerful synthetic opioid that killed him and whether anyone would be held responsible. On Thursday, law enforcement authorities in Minnesota closed a major part of their investigation, announcing that no one would be criminally charged in the case. The Carver County attorney, Mark Metz, said in a news conference that Prince died after unknowingly taking counterfeit Vicodin that contained fentanyl, but that there was 'no reliable evidence of how Prince obtained' the fatal drug."

Especially if you're into very high-end decorative porcelain, here are some highlights of David & Peggy Rockefeller's collection that will go on auction beginning May 1. Unless you're a Rockefeller, your grandmother's curio cabinet never looked quite like this. To access the full Christie's catalog on the Rockefeller estate objets, start here.

Oh Noes! The Local: "Rome's Jewish community is embroiled in a standoff with Israel's top religious authority after it declared the Eternal City's cherished dish of 'carciofi alla giudia' (deep-fried whole artichoke) not kosher. The crisp golden delicacies are a speciality of the Roman-Jewish cuisine and a prominent feature on menus. But Israel's Chief Rabbinate said the method of cooking the artichoke whole made it impossible to clean properly and it didn't therefore adhere to kosher standards. 'The heart of the artichoke is full of worms, there's no way you can clean it,' said the head of imports of Israel's Rabbinate, Yitzhak Arazi, in an interview with national newspaper Haaretz. 'It can't be kosher. It's not our politics, this is Jewish religious law.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This would be a tragedy. I've had Jewish-style artichokes in Rome's old Jewish quarter, & I'm pretty sure god would approve.

New York Times: Turns out the reboot of "Roseanne" is the result of ABC Entertainment's plan to become the Trump Nation's go-to teevee network, a strategy that began to take shape the day after Trump's election. "The top markets for the debut [of "Roseanne"] read like a political pollster’s red-state checklist: Cincinnati; Kansas City, Mo.; Tulsa, Okla. Liberal enclaves like New York and Los Angeles did not crack the top 20." ...

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If, like Medlar & me, you happened to miss the premiere/reboot of the "Roseanne" show, where Roseanne Barr plays a Trump supporter (as she is in real life),

This video is dedicated to the Wives of Trump. Thanks to a friend for the link:

Here's a related story by Avi Selk of the Washington Post: "Deep-sea anglerfish sex ... is an endless horror. Every. Single. Time. A male anglerfish's first and only sexual adventure results in his becoming permanently fused — by his lips, no less — to the side of a relatively gargantuan female that resembles David Cronenberg's nightmare about the shark from 'Jaws.'”

 

An Outsider Artist Who Changed Modern Painting. New York: "In the 1940s, a 16-year-old girl captured the minds of the art world’s elite. The self-taught Algerian artist, Baya Mahieddine (1931-1988) — known as Baya — is finally being celebrated in the first North American exhibition of her work, at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, through March 31. Baya used gouache as her primary medium, depicting a world without men but full of bright images of women, nature, and animals." Baya influenced, among others, Picasso & Matisse, which is kinda obvious.

I posted this for no other reason than this is the first time I've seen it. But the "national policy" Tommy announces is more true today than ever in American history. To those of you too young to have seen a Carson monologue, I apologize:

ObamaTV. New York Times: "Former President Barack Obama is in advanced negotiations with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows that will provide him a global platform after his departure from the White House, according to people familiar with the discussions.Under terms of a proposed deal, which is not yet final, Netflix would pay Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, for exclusive content that would be available only on the streaming service.... The Netflix deal, while not a direct answer to Fox News or Breitbart.com, would give Mr. Obama an unfiltered method of communication with the public similar to the audiences he already reaches through social media...."

Chicago Tribune: "A new scientific study claims that bones found in 1940 on the Pacific Island of Nikumaroro belong to [American aviator Amelia] Earhart, despite a forensic analysis of the remains conducted in 1941 that linked the bones to a male. The bones, revisited in the study 'Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro Bones' by University of Tennessee professor Richard Jantz, were discarded. For decades they have remained an enigma, as some have speculated that Earhart died a castaway on the island after her plane crashed." Jantz's conclusion is based on measurements of the bones taken by a medical doctor in 1941.

... Michael Rosenwald of the Washington Post has the full story.

Here's the L.A. Times' main Academy Awards page. ...

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
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

Monday
Oct192015

The Commentariat -- October 20, 2015

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "Federal regulators said Monday that they will require recreational drone users to register their aircraft with the government for the first time in an attempt to track rogue flying robots that are increasingly posing a threat to aviation safety. The decision to compel drone owners to register their aircraft represents a policy shift by the Obama administration and a tacit admission by the Federal Aviation Administration that it has been unable to safely integrate the popular remote-controlled planes into the national airspace." CW: Apparently the Second Amendment does not cover drones. Or else the drone lobby sucks compared to the NRA.

** Matt Yglesias of Vox: "The Democratic Party is in much greater peril than its leaders or supporters recognize, and it has no plan to save itself.... Not only have Republicans won most elections, but they have a perfectly reasonable plan for trying to recapture the White House. But Democrats have nothing at all in the works to redress their crippling weakness down the ballot. Democrats aren't even talking about how to improve on their weak points, because by and large they don't even admit that they exist.... The worst part of the problem for the Democratic Party is in races that are, collectively, the most important: state government." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... aside from Matt’s questionable assessment of Democratic self-knowledge, his hypothesis also suffers a bit from the assumption that the party’s downballot problems can be dispelled by more effort or some undefined 'plan.'” ...

... Elias Isquith of Salon: "... while Republicans have big money at the top, they have passionate rank-and-file support at the bottom, too. They have corporate overlords like the Koch brothers, sure. But they’ve also got 'boots on the ground' to make calls, knock on doors, and pass around campaign literature." CW: They also have old people, who vote in off-year elections. But more importantly, they have anger -- and greed -- on their side. The Republican establishment, including outlets like Fox "News," has convinced right-leaning voters that crazy demands are reasonable & that every time Democrats block the crazy demands, they further victimize the American people. GOP voters see even very conservative Republicans, like John Boehner & John Roberts, as part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to deprive ordinary Americans of their god-given right to do whatever the hell they want. That kind of anger does exist among liberals, but it's fringier.

You may see Gowdy's chapeau as a warlock's hat. On the other hand, you may see it as a dunce cap. Whatever the case, you're right.Gowdy "Endangers National Security." Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... Trey Gowdy appears to have accidentally released the name of a CIA source in the midst of a back-and-forth with Democrats about ... its presence in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email account.... The email posted Sunday on the [Benghaazi! committee]’s website included in one instance the name of 'Mousa Kousa,' an alternative spelling of Moussa Koussa, a former Libyan government spy chief and foreign minister. The name appeared to have been redacted in several other instances but was included in a subject line of a forwarded email. The redacted email was released at Gowdy’s direction.... By Monday morning, the committee had replaced the document online with another version in which Koussa’s name does not appear.... A spokesman for [Rep. Elijah] Cummings [(D-Md.), the ranking member on the committee,] said the episode underscored why Gowdy should not have released the email until the State Department completed reviewing the records for public release...." ...

... Michael Isikoff's story on Gowdy's slip-ups is here. ...

... CW: This is hilarious. Last week, Rep. Gowdy said Secretary Clinton had "endangered national security" when she forwarded an e-mail that contained Koussa's name, a name Gowdy asserted was classified. But of course Clinton did not reveal Koussa's name to the public; she sent the information on to another person in the State Department. THEN Sunday, Rep. Cummings announced that, according to the CIA, Koussa's identity was not classified. So Gowdy, in his initial leak of the correspondence, had defamed Clinton over nothing. THEN, in response to Cummings' criticsim (and call for an apology to Clinton), Gowdy himself actually did release Koussa's name to the public -- for the first time. The person who "endangered national security," to borrow Gowdy's words, was not Clinton, but Gowdy. What an ass! ...

... Rachel Bade of Politico: "Three days out from Hillary Clinton’s high-stakes appearance before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, panel Democrats released excerpts from closed-door committee interviews they said showed there was 'no evidence' substantiating 'wild Republican conspiracy theories' about Clinton's response to the Benghazi attacks. The 124-page report concludes that investigators thus far have found no evidence over the course of 54 transcribed interviews that suggests the former Secretary of State had specifically ordered the military to stand down on the night of the deadly attack, or 'personally' directed State’s reduction of security in Benghazi beforehand." ...

... Charles Pierce: "Benghazi Committee Guy Thinks Criticism of His Committee Is the Biggest Conspiracy Since Benghazi." ...

... Brian Beutler: "Ever since Watergate, Republicans have been consumed with the certainty that a similar scandal will one day befall Democrats, and have gone to great lengths to make it so. But when their inquiries run aground, or devolve into partisan witch hunting, they eventually relent, and allow the investigations to fizzle out. The Benghazi committee is flirting with the same fate."

... MEANWHILE. Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "The FBI is investigating claims by an anonymous computer hacker that he stole potentially sensitive files from the private e-mail account of CIA Director John Brennan and posted them online, U.S. officials said. The exposed documents appear to include a roster of senior U.S. national security officials with their phone and Social Security numbers, a log of calls made by former CIA deputy director Avril Haines and a list of e-mail addresses that the hacker claimed were taken from Brennan’s AOL account.... Other U.S. officials said that the FBI had launched an inquiry and that the Secret Service was investigating related claims that the hacker obtained private information from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.... The claims were first reported Monday by the New York Post, which described the unnamed hacker as a 'stoner high-school student.'..." ...

... No Knowledge of Computers Necessary. Sam Thielman of the Guardian has more details on the Brennan hack: "Former National Security Agency technical director Jasper Graham said the highly embarrassing breach of Brennan’s email was likely a 'social engineering' attack, in which personal information supposedly only the account holder would know is used to break in." ...

... CW: It occurs to me that what is needed now is a hacker willing & able to break into Trey Gowdy's e-mail account & reveal that e-mail where he said, "Kevin McCarthy is an idiot." No, wait, he already said that on national TV. Something else, then, like the name of his hair stylist.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Bruce Campion-Smith of the Toronto Star: "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. That title, which seemed improbable a mere 11 weeks ago, is now set to become a reality after the Liberals’ historic, come-from-behind election result, besting incumbent Conservatives and hopeful New Democrats in one of the country’s longest and costliest elections.... Preliminary results had the Liberals at 184 seats, comfortably more than the 170 seats needed for a majority government in the expanded 338-seat House of Commons. It’s a stunning rebound for a party that had been knocked down to 34 seats in the 2011 election and left for dead. The Conservatives won 102 seats, the New Democrats 41, the Bloc Québécois 10 and the Green Party had one seat, won by leader Elizabeth May." ...

... The New York Times story on the results, by Ian Austen, is here. ...

... Robin King of the Toronto Star, linked below: "Polls are closing across Ontario, Quebec and the Prairies and three broadcasters have called the election for the Liberals after the party sweeps East Coast. CBC, CTV and Global news are projecting the Liberal Party will form the next government." ...

... From the Guardian Liveblog 1, linked below: "Although the networks have called victory for Trudeau and the Liberals, it’s not clear whether the latter have enough clout to actually pull off a majority government." ...

... Ian Austen of the New York Times (linked above): "Despite a campaign that was the longest in modern Canada’s history, if remarkably swift by American standards, no obvious outcome has developed as Canadians vote on Monday." ...

... The Toronto Star is posting results here. ...

... (1) The Guardian is liveblogging the election. (2) The Guardian's new liveblog on the election is here. ...

... Peter Edwards of the Toronto Star: On this week's "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver said he was "breaking a [Canadian] election law forbidding foreigners from influencing Canadian elections that comes with a $5,000 fine and six-month jail term to share it.... The good news, for Oliver: he need not fear being sent to the slammer.... Canadian elections authorities explained Monday that there’s no law against foreigners expressing an opinion. They said the legal provision in question — section 331 of the Canada Elections Act — has been on the books since the 1920s and it doesn’t cover people stating their view.... Elections Canada spokesman John Enright ... said the key provision refers to people who 'induce' Canadians: 'To induce there must be a tangible thing offered. A personal view is not inducement,' he added." See yesterday's Commentariat for context. ...

... Also see Cowichan's comment at the end of yesterday's thread: he provides a list of the documents that will suffice to prove your eligibility to vote in Canada. They're pretty much what you need in the U.S. to get a library card. And in all likelihood, you have the U.S. equivalent to a number of them. You must provide two of the listed documents if you don't have a driver's license picture I.D. Cowichan said he figured he had 18 of the type of documents required.

 

Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Obama had time to meet with 'clock kid' Ahmed Mohamed after all. Obama greeted Mohamed, 14, on Monday during the White House's Astronomy Night on the South Lawn. The president personally invited the Texas teenager to the event after he was arrested last month for bringing a homemade clock to school. Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest downplayed the possibility of Obama meeting Mohamed."

Gary Langer & Gregory Holyk of ABC News: "More than half of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of Barack Obama’s job performance, a first in nearly two and a half years. That compares with 71 percent disapproval of the Republicans in Congress, with six in 10 calling their struggle to select a new House speaker a sign of dysfunction within the GOP caucus."

Art Swift of Gallup: "Fifty-five percent of Americans say they want laws covering the sale of firearms to be stricter than they are now, a distinct rise of eight percentage points from 2014. Fewer Americans than last year want the laws to be less strict, and the proportion who want the laws to stay the same has also declined slightly."

Dana Milbank: Sheldon Adelson "has no particular insight into politics. Yet, with the possible exception of the Koch brothers, he exerts more influence over elections than any person in America.... On Israel and Jewish issues, likewise, Adelson’s insights are unoriginal. But he has become one of the most influential American Jewish figures — and a leading voice for Israel hard-liners — just by throwing around a lot of cash.... Nobody would listen to Adelson if he weren’t worth $26 billion."

Catherine Thompson of TPM: "If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) wants to impeach her on day one.... Brooks [said] that he thought Clinton's exclusive use of a private email account as secretary of state violated 'all rules of law that are designed to protect America's top-secret and classified information from falling into the hands of our geopolitical foes who then might use that information to result in the deaths of Americans.'" CW: I beleve some while back I mentioned that Republicans would try to "pre-impeach" Hillary. Apparently, the proceedings are underway. I wonder if Mo feels the same way about Trey Gowdy, the actual publisher of "top-secret and classified information." (Okay, what Gowdy published was not classified, but he said it was.)

Charles Pierce is a bit exercised that ole Judd Gregg (R-N.H.-way back) is playing the class card. It's what Republicans do. They pretend you're just as good as they are & if only you'd vote for them, they would unlease their freeedom, & you'd become as rich as David Koch. It's a con millions of Americans have fallen for again & again. It's "devisive" Democrats, see, who want to keep you down & out & dependent upon food stamps, Obamaphones & other handy goodies to keep close by your hammock.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Josh Marshall of TPM: "Watching things unravel, it's hard not to ask, where'd they find Trey Gowdy? The latest, of course, is that he inadvertently revealed the name of a CIA asset in the course of falsely accusing Hillary Clinton of doing the same. Great work! This is after being reduced to demanding that fellow Republicans in the House stop saying his Committee is abjectly political and designed to attack Hillary Clinton.... Iit all goes back to Kevin McCarthy saying out loud what had long been transparently obvious: that the committee was designed to and was hammering Hillary Clinton's poll numbers. It got a bit more steam when other Republicans starting saying the same thing. But McCarthy's comment was [journalists'] permission slip.... Jjournalists either felt that they needed such a statement to start looking at what this investigation was about.... Everybody knew what was up. But you couldn't say it because doing so violated the 'two, equally valid arguments on both sides' rule.... And that's really not the way it should work."

The Very Brief Campaign of Joe Biden. Tom McGeveran of Politico: "The Washington Post published an item Monday evening to its website with the headline 'Biden to launch a presidential campaign.' But even the fast clickers were disappointed to reach a page on the Washington Post website titled 'Editor’s Note' that read, 'This file was inadvertently published.'... Post congressional reporter Paul Kane, whose byline appeared on the article, was quick to tweet ... this wasn’t news published before it was ready — just a 'shell' story prepared so that the Post could push the button faster in case Biden did announce."

Jay Carney of Amazon, in Medium: “'Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.' If you read the recent New York Times article about Amazon’s culture, you remember that quote. Attributed to Bo Olson, the image of countless employees crying at their desks set the tone for a front-page story that other media outlets described as 'scathing,' 'blistering,' 'brutal' and 'harsh.' Here’s what the story didn’t tell you about Mr. Olson: his brief tenure at Amazon ended after an investigation revealed he had attempted to defraud vendors and conceal it by falsifying business records. When confronted with the evidence, he admitted it and resigned immediately.... [Reporter Jodi] Kantor never asked us to check or comment on any of the dozen or so negative anecdotes from named sources that form the narrative backbone of the story." ...

... Times executive editor Dean Baquet responds: Did not. And you lie. ...

... Jay Carney responds to Baquet's reponse: Did, too. "The bottom line is the New York Times chose not to fact-check or vet its most important on-the-record sources, despite working on the story for six months. I really don’t see a defensible explanation for that failure." ...

... Nick Wingfield & Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times: "In an unusually public tussle over a prominent article, a senior executive from Amazon and the top editor of The New York Times clashed on Monday over the details in a Times article about the Internet retailer’s work culture." ...

...

Presidential Race

Leigh Ann Caldwell & Kristen Welker of NBC News: "Vice President Joe Biden is nearing a decision on if he will enter the presidential race, which could come within 48 hours, two sources tells NBC News."

This Should Work. Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico: "Jim Webb, the longshot Democratic presidential candidate, may run as an independent, his campaign said in an email to reporters on Monday evening. The former Virginia senator, who complained last week about not having enough talking time on the stage during the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas, will hold a press conference in Washington on Tuesday to discuss his options." CW: The move could force one of the other Democratic candidates to take up Webb's main campaign issue: "I'm not getting enough speaking time." I believe Bernie Sanders -- or Larry David -- would be exceptionally good at this.

Carrie Dann of NBC News: "Donald Trump remains the front-runner in the Republican presidential field, while former neurosurgeon Ben Carson holds a close second place, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows. With the backing of 25 percent of Republican primary voters, Trump is at his highest level of support in the poll since entering the 2016 race." ...

... Nick Gass of Politico: "Carly Fiorina's time near the top of the Republican polls may have come to an end, as another national CNN/ORC poll out Tuesday suggests. Just 4 percent of Republican or Republican-leaning voters said they would cast their votes for her in a primary election, down from 15 percent in September."

Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "In 2000, 19 months before Sept. 11, 2001, Donald Trump wrote extensively of the terrorism threat the United States was facing. Trump, who at the time was considering a presidential bid on the Reform Party ticket, went so far as to say that an attack on a major U.S. city was not just a probability, but an inevitability. 'I really am convinced we’re in danger of the sort of terrorist attacks that will make the bombing of the Trade Center look like kids playing with firecrackers,' wrote Trump in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve. 'No sensible analyst rejects this possibility, and plenty of them, like me, are not wondering if but when it will happen.' Trump even mentions Osama bin Laden by name...." ...

... Andrew Kaczynski: "... Donald Trump says there are actually 100 million people who are unemployed in the United States.Trump has previously said the number was 93 million, a number that independent fact-checking site Politifact said was 'way too high.'... As noted by Politifact, Trump is including in his accounting every American of retirement age and those 16 years old and above and represents 'a basic misunderstanding of the labor market.' The Wall Street Journal brutally declared in a headline of Trump previous account, 'Donald Trump Is Right: About 42% of Americans Are Unemployed (If You Include My 88-Year-Old Grandma).'”

I just don’t like the guy. -- George W. Bush, on Ted Cruz, speaking to Jeb! donors ...

... Eli Stokols of Politico: "One donor in the room said the former president had been offering mostly anodyne accounts of how the Bush family network views the current campaign and charming off-the-cuff jokes, until he launched into Cruz. 'The tenor of what he said about the other candidates was really pretty pleasant,' another donor said. 'Until he got to Cruz.'... George W. Bush is well acquainted with his home-state senator, who served as a domestic policy adviser on his 2000 campaign before rising to national prominence by distancing himself from—and often going out of his way to antagonize—the GOP establishment.” ...

... Marc Caputo of Politico: "For the first time, former Florida governor Jeb Bush has fallen into single digits in a home-state Republican primary poll that shows Donald Trump still in front, trailed by Ben Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio. Jeb Bush’s 9-percent, fourth-place showing in the University of North Florida poll is his worst showing in any survey of likely Florida Republican voters." ...

... Ryan Lizza has a long piece in the New Yorker on where Jeb! went wrong. Lizza concentrates on Jeb!'s neo-con foreign policy.

Beyond the Beltway

Carolyn Bankoff of New York: "It's 2015, yet a Rockland County[, New York,] newspaper still managed to publish a job ad specifying that Haitians need not apply." CW: Yeah, most people know enough not to put that in writing; but they won't even interview you if you "sound black" when you phone them abuot the job.

Sunday
Oct182015

The Commentariat -- October 19, 2015

Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "As the [House Benghazi] committee's chairman, Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, prepared to go on television to provide his latest defense of the investigation, the committee's top Democrat, Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, released information undercutting one of Mr. Gowdy's recent allegations about Mrs. Clinton's use of her private email when she was secretary of state. Mr. Gowdy had claimed this month that messages sent and received by Mrs. Clinton included the name of a Central Intelligence Agency source in Libya. That information was 'some of the most protected information in our intelligence community,' Mr. Gowdy said. The fact that Mrs. Clinton sent and received these materials, he said, debunked her 'claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address.' But Mr. Cummings said on Sunday that the C.I.A. had informed the committee that information about the source was not classified." ...

... Here's Cummings' letter to Gowdy. Once again, he lets it rip. ...

... Michelle Lee of the Washington Post: "Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said Sunday on CBS's 'Face the Nation' that he has told Republican colleagues to 'shut up talking about things that you don't know anything about. And unless you're on the committee, you have no idea what we have done, why we have done it and what new facts we have found.'... House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested in a recent Fox News interview that the committee was formed to drive down Clinton's poll numbers. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and Bradley F. Podliska, a former Republican staffer on the committee, also called the investigation politically motivated. Gowdy said McCarthy, Hanna and Podliska are 'three people who don't have any idea what they're talking about.'" CW: Pretty cheeky to say right there on the teevee that your own majority leader doesn't know what he's talking about.

Nancy Cordes of CNN: "After weeks of insisting he would not run for Speaker, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan - according to those close to him - is now open to leading the fractured Republican conference, and seriously considering launching a bid for speaker of the House. But there's a caveat.... Ryan's confidants tell CBS News he will not horse trade with the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 40 or so deeply conservative members who have been demanding changes to House rules and other very specific promises from candidates for Speaker in exchange for their support. Ryan's confidants say he is not going to negotiate for a job he never sought...."

... Yastreblyansky, writing on Steve M.'s blog, has some thoughts on John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan & Democrats vis-a-vis the speaker's job.

Lauren Gardner of Politico: "Last spring's deaths of eight passengers in an Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia called attention to a glaring hole in the nation's rail safety network: railroads' failure to install an advanced anti-collision technology that Congress had mandated in 2008. But five months later, lawmakers are preparing to give railroads years past this December's deadline to put the systems in place -- heeding the railroads' warnings that they would otherwise have to impose a nationwide freeze on rail traffic that could wreck the economy and threaten national security. More than 100 oil, gas, coal, farming, manufacturing, retail and other business groups are also urging lawmakers to postpone the mandate, as are the U.S. Conference of Mayors, local transit agencies, newspaper editorials, more than 150 House members and nearly half the Senate."

Washington Post Editors: "... improper payments [by federal agencies have] ... totaled $1 trillion since fiscal 2003, the first year in which the GAO produced a government-wide estimate.... Three-quarters of the improper payments come from just three programs -- Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit -- all of which are meant to help the elderly and the poor. Nearly 10 percent of Medicare's $603 billion in outlays last year was improperly paid.... Everyone complains about waste, fraud and abuse, but it is remarkable how bureaucrats and special interests can come up with excuses not to carry out the managerial reforms necessary to eliminate them."

Paul Krugman: "... we can learn a lot from Denmark, both its successes and its failures. And let me say that it was both a pleasure and a relief to hear people who might become president talk seriously about how we can learn from the experience of other countries, as opposed to just chanting 'U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!'"

The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling! Ari Rabin-Havt of the Nation: "All the serious people in Washington know we have a debt problem.... There's just one problem. The numbers relied upon by ... far too many ... inside the Beltway, including the Congressional Budget Office itself, are completely bogus. The methodology used by the CBO to create these projections exaggerates the federal government's long-term debt projection by as much as 440 percent, creating a phony fiscal crisis where none exists.... How can there be such a large discrepancy in the numbers?... The CBO assumes that Social Security and Medicare Part A will draw on the general fund of the US Treasury to cover benefit shortfalls following the depletion of their trust funds, which at the current rate will occur in 2034. That would obviously lead to an exploding debt, but it's a scenario prohibited by law."

Reuters: "The US approved conditional sanctions waivers for Iran on Sunday, though it cautioned they would not take effect until Tehran had curbed its nuclear programme as required under the historic nuclear deal reached in Vienna in July. President Obama welcomed 'adoption day', saying: 'Today marks an important milestone toward preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and ensuring its nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful going forward.'" President Obama's statement is here.

Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post: "In a setback for its multibillion-dollar effort to help Mexico fight its drug war, the U.S. State Department has decided that Mexico failed to reach some human rights goals, triggering a cutoff of millions of dollars in aid. The move, which has not been reported previously, affects a small portion of the annual anti-drug funds given to Mexico. But it is a clear sign of U.S. frustration."

Christopher Jensen of the New York Times: "Even as Volkswagen embarks on the task of fixing the emissions systems it disabled on almost 500,000 of its diesel vehicles in the United States, the automaker faces another hurdle: persuading owners to make the repair at all. That's because the software that allowed Volkswagen to fool federal emissions tests also lowered the car's performance and fuel economy while the device was turned on. So for owners, the prospect of having a car's emissions cleaned up, only to have the car perform worse -- whatever the pollution -- is not sitting well."

Alexander Stille of the New Yorker: "The honeymoon for Pope Francis is over -- at least in Rome. The first two weeks of the Synod on the Family have been characterized by open rebellion, corridor intrigue, leaked documents, accusations of lack of transparency, and sharp divisions among the bishops and cardinals. In the first real crisis of his papacy, Francis finds himself in the position of enjoying a rare degree of popularity among the public but facing an unusual degree of dissent within an institution generally so respectful of hierarchy."

Presidential Race

Greg Sargent: "As we continue to wait for Joe Biden to tell us whether he will run for president, a new CNN poll brings us what I believe is the most comprehensive polling yet on which candidate Democrats prefer on the issues -- and Hillary Clinton leads Biden and Bernie Sanders on all of them. The new poll casts doubt on whether there is all that much of a clamor among Democrats for Biden to enter the race."

Matea Gold, et al., of the Washington Post: "As he brags that he is turning down millions of dollars for his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has leveled a steady line of attack against his rivals: that they are too cozy with big-money super PACs and may be breaking the law by coordinating with them. 'You know the nice part about me?' he told reporters in Iowa in August. 'I don't need anybody's money.' What Trump doesn't say is that he and his top campaign aide have connections to a super PAC collecting large checks to support his candidacy -- a group viewed by people familiar with his campaign as the sanctioned outlet for wealthy donors." ...

... Tom McCarthy of the Guardian: "Jeb Bush ... threw a series of punches at Donald Trump on Sunday, saying his rival for the Republican presidential nomination was an 'actor' who was not serious about running for the White House and whose remarks about the 9/11 attacks undercut his 'credibility' as commander-in-chief. True to form, Trump hit back immediately, razzing Bush on Twitter even as the former Florida governor continued to talk on television. In a pre-taped interview with Fox News Sunday, Trump also said that had he been president, 'there's a good chance' the 11 September hijackers 'would not have been in our country'. All but one of the 19 men who hijacked planes and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania entered the country legally on business or tourist visas. One entered on a student visa." ...

... Ezra Klein: "I don't know if Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination. But even if he doesn't, it's increasingly clear he's going to destroy Jeb Bush before he loses. Over the past week, Trump and Bush have been in an argument that basically boils down to the question of was George W. Bush president on 9/11/2001?... Jeb Bush ... argues that his brother was only responsible for what happened after 9/11, suggesting, perhaps, that someone else bore the responsibilities of the presidency on 9/11/2001. Or, to be a bit kinder to his position, he argues that the measure of as president isn't whether something like 9/11 happens, but whether it happens again.... The result is this absolutely brutal interview CNN's Jake Tapper conducted with Bush. 'If your brother and his administration bear no responsibility at all,' Tapper asks, 'how do you then make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi?' Bush's response is almost physically painful to watch":

     ... CW: Jeb! is right about one thing: the Obama administration did not provide the security force Ambassador Stevens repeatedly requested in the months prior to his assassination; in fact, the State Department reportedly reduced the security force. This, of course, is analogous to the Bush administration's ignoring the infamous presidential daily briefing memo titled, "Osama bin Laden determined to attack in U.S." Moreover, no one in the Obama administration is claiming that "Obama kept Benghazi safe," but Jeb! repeatedly claims " my brother kept us safe." While it is true that the Libyan government was ultimately responsible for securing the Benghazi facility, no one at State could have thought Libya was up to the task. ...

... Kevin Drum: "Trump has lately moved on to a more defensible criticism of George Bush, asking Jeb, 'why did your brother attack and destabilize the Middle East by attacking Iraq when there were no weapons of mass destruction?' This is ... interesting ... because it gives us another chance to harass Trump for lying about his opposition to the war during the second GOP debate.... 'I'm the only person up here that fought against going into Iraq.'... So far, no one has managed to find even the slightest record of Trump opposing the Iraq War before it started.... It wasn't until November 2004 -- nearly two years after the war started -- that he finally spoke up."

Say What? Tom McCarthy: "... Ben Carson on Sunday upended a widely accepted narrative of the hunt for Osama bin Laden..., suggesting US ally Saudi Arabia cultivated secret ties with the terrorist leader and knew where he was after the attacks.... Pressed by ABC News host George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Carson [said]..., 'I think [moderate Arab states] would have been concerned, and if we were serious about it ... I think that would have trumped any loyalty they had to Osama bin Laden.' Stephanopoulos said: 'But they didn't have any loyalty to him. The Saudis kicked him out. He was their enemy.' Carson responded: 'Well, you may not think they had any loyalty to him. But I believe otherwise.'"

Beyond the Beltway

Today in Responsible Gun Ownership. Peter Holley of the Washington Post: In Wyoming, a bicyclist shot & killed a combat service dog, who did two tours in Iraq, under conditions that his owner & handler find highly suspicious. CW: I hate stories like this.

Melissa Montoya, et al., of USA Today: "A manhunt was underway Sunday after a shooting rampage at a zombie-themed festival left one person dead, five wounded and pandemonium on downtown streets [of Fort Myers, Florida]. The wounded victims at ZombiCon on Saturday night were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, according to police Lt. Victor Medico. The shooting was the second instance of gunfire downtown within a week. ZombiCon, an annual event in its ninth year, was expected to draw more than 20,000 people." The Fort Myers News-Press story is here.

Packing Heat in the City of God. George Hunter of the Detroit News: "Violence marred a church service Sunday when a man with a brick attacked the pastor, who whipped out his Glock handgun and fired several shots, killing the man, Detroit police said. The incident allegedly happened about 15 minutes into the 1:30 p.m. service at the City of God ministries storefront church on Grand River near Lahser, Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt said. 'The pastor had had issues with the man before,' Dolunt said.... The pastor was taken into police custody for questioning, Dolunt said." ...

... Dear Pastor: In a roomful of people, there is more than one way to subdue a brick-wielding attacker. The other ways do not involve deadly force. Love, CW

Your Heartwarming Story of the Day. AP: "After a California couple called off their wedding, the bride-to-be's family decided to turn the $35,000 event into a feast for the homeless. The bride's mother, Kari Duane, said Sunday that rather than cancel the reception, they invited Sacramento's homeless for a once in a lifetime meal on Saturday at the Citizen Hotel, one of the city's finest venues.... She said they had already paid for a reception that would have hosted 120 guests. About 90 homeless single people, grandparents and whole families with newborns showed up and enjoyed a meal that included appetizers, salad, gnocchi, salmon, and tri-tip sirloin."

Way Beyond

Nicky Woolf of the Guardian: "Canadians head into a nail-bitingly close election on Monday in which the incumbent Conservative, Stephen Harper, is struggling to hold on to power in the face of a challenge by Justin Trudeau's Liberal party." ...

News Ledes

New York Times: "The wave of deadly attacks that has roiled Israel this month hit the southern desert city of Beersheba on Sunday, where a Palestinian armed with a pistol and a knife grabbed another weapon from a soldier, fatally shot him and wounded at least nine other people, including several police officers, according to the police. In the confusion as the attack unfolded, a migrant who was apparently mistaken for a second assailant was shot and seriously wounded by an Israeli security guard, then beaten by a mob. He later died of his wounds, according to Israeli news reports. Witnesses who said they knew the man identified him as an Eritrean asylum seeker."

Reuters: "More than 10,000 migrants are currently in Serbia, stranded by limits imposed further west in Europe, the UN refugee agency said on Monday, and warned of shortages in aid. Thousands of people clamoured to enter Croatia from Serbia on Monday after a night spent in the cold and mud, their passage west slowed by a Slovenian effort to limit the flow of refugees into western Europe."

Saturday
Oct172015

The Commentariat -- October 18, 2015

Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Without a viable alternative to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), some centrist Republicans say they'd have little choice but to seek Democratic help in electing a new Speaker.... Such a scenario remains unlikely, even with the House GOP in apparent disarray.... There have been no formal discussions between the parties about the possibility of a coalition Speaker, and some Democrats have dismissed the notion out of hand."

Kevin Sack & Sheri Fink of the New York Times take a deep dive into the work of the Clinton Foundation & how its work intersected with Hillary Clinton's position as Secretary of State."

Maureen Dowd: "As enjoyable as it is seeing Sidney Blumenthal on the hot seat, Gowdy and Company should have left the email matter to another congressional committee and the Justice Department. They just couldn't stop themselves, any more than they could stop themselves from cutting Democrats out of witness interviews or from trumpeting that Clinton's aide Huma Abedin was going to testify on Friday.... Republicans are still savoring the idea of getting Hillary to raise her hand to take the oath.... But it's going to be less a showdown than a show trial. The verdict is already in. The Republicans are guilty. It's not that Hillary has gotten so much more trustable. It's just that the Republicans are so much less credible."

Elizabeth Drew, in the New York Review of Books, on the Congressional fight over the Iran nuclear deal. First of a two-part series: "The president's congressional victory on the nuclear agreement with Iran had many sources, not least of which were the nature and tactics of the opposition. It might have been more difficult to achieve if the Republicans as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allied American group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), had given any sense that they had thoughtfully considered the deal that six nations reached with Iran, or if they had offered any alternative."

Presidential Race

Alec Baldwin is pretty funny & Larry David nails Bernie Sanders; hate the way the moderator gayifies Anderson Cooper:

Dave Weigel & David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post examine Sanders-style socialism & distinguish it from other socialistic ideologies & policies.

AP: In Alabama, "Hillary Clinton on Saturday said she would champion voting rights from the White House, telling African American Alabama Democrats Republican state policies were 'a blast from the Jim Crow past'. Clinton said Republicans were dismantling the progress made by the civil rights movement, and blasted Alabama governor Robert Bentley for closing driver's license offices in 31 counties where most residents are African American. Alabama requires photo identification to vote. Clinton also mocked the Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush for their opposition to restoring Voting Rights Act provisions which the US supreme court struck down." (See related story linked in Beyond the Beltway.)

T. C. Sottek of the Verge: "Harvard professor and Democratic presidential candidate Larry Lessig had what sounded like a crazy plan: run for president, pass a single bill, then leave the White House. He got enough attention for that plan to raise more than $1 million, but Lessig has since faced a Sisyphean climb toward recognition; he was excluded from the first Democratic debate, and polls very low when his name is actually given to people for consideration. Now, Lessig's campaign just looks like the average sort of crazy. He's running to serve a full term as president, because people just didn't understand the complexity of his original plan. In an essay published at The Atlantic, Lessig announced the change and explained why he was making it." ...

... John Cole of Balloon Juice: Lessig has "also begun to discuss the other issues, although not on his website. He's not too bad on the issues, I will add, but appears to be completely clueless and indifferent regarding the entire political process. Personally, I would not mind him in the debates- yank Webb and Chaffee and put in Lessig."

Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump says he doesn't flat out blame former president George W. Bush that the Sept. 11 terror attacks happened on his watch. But he can think of three reasons why one could hold Bush responsible." CW: Number 1: Immigration policy. Natch. Trump's Reason No. 2 is unfair, too: he cites the fact, correctly, that the FBI, CIA & National Security Council weren't sharing information (and there is evidence they still are not adequately doing so). But the Bush administration could not reasonably have changed that dynamic in the few months Bush had been in office before the 9/11 attacks. If anything, the onus should be on the Clinton (& earlier) administrations -- and of course on the agencies themselves.

CW: Judd Legum of Think Progress does not take the latest Trump-Bush dust-up very seriously: "On Friday, Donald Trump generated substantial controversy when he asserted that George W. Bush was president at the time of the 9/11 attacks.... Calendars from that era indicate that January 20, the day Bush was sworn in as president, occurred some time before September 11."

Meghashyam Mali of the Hill: "The Secret Service is extending protection to GOP presidential contenders Donald Trump and Ben Carson, while beefing up Dem front-runner Hillary Clinton's security, according to a report from Newsmax on Saturday. Trump and Carson will receive agents as early as next week, with each candidate being assigned approximately two dozen agents. The report cites a source close to the agency's planning."

Beyond the Beltway

AP: "Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on Friday asked a state agency to provide driving tests in all Alabama counties one day each month, reversing a decision to permanently shutter rural driver's license offices in the face of budget cuts. The announcement to partly restore the services came after weeks of backlash over a state decision to close 31 part-time driver's license offices in rural areas. While state officials argued it was necessary because of budget cut, critics said the closures saved little money while creating a hardship for people in rural and impoverished areas of the state."

Esther Lee of Think Progress: "A jury acquitted two former sheriff's deputies of involuntary manslaughter on Friday after the death of a black college student inside a Savannah, Georgia jail holding cell on New Year's Day. Matthew Ajibade, 22, died from blunt force trauma after he was tasered several times while strapped in a restraint chair. A Chatham County Superior Court jury did convict the former deputies of lesser charges: Jason Kenny was found guilty of cruelty to an inmate, while Maxine Evans was found guilty of public records fraud and three counts of perjury for lying in her grand jury testimony."

Way Beyond

Jeremy Keehn of the New Yorker discusses the Canadian parliamentary elections, which will be held tomorrow. Keehn focuses on Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal party. ...

... Jim Dwyer of the New York Times has more on the Canadian elections.

News Lede

New York Times: "A military airstrike in northwest Syria has killed the leader of a shadowy Qaeda cell that American officials say has been plotting attacks against the United States and Europe, the Pentagon announced on Sunday. The leader, Sanafi al-Nasr, a Saudi citizen, was the highest-ranking leader of a network of about two dozen veteran Qaeda operatives called the Khorasan Group, and the fifth senior member of the group to be killed in the past four months. His death was announced in a Pentagon statement describing Thursday's operation, which American officials said was a drone strike."